Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Like Father, Unlike Daughter: Misunderstandings in the Borderline Family


What is the 4th way?

Hell if I know, but apparently I’m going to find out. My techno-illiterate father somehow managed to go on-line, purchase, and express ship a book to me (read: he got my mother to do it). It’s called The Fourth Way.

The Fourth Way mainly addresses the question of people's place in the Universe, their possibilities for inner development, and transcending the body to achieve a higher state of consciousness. It emphasized that people live their lives in a state referred to as "waking sleep", but that higher levels of consciousness and various inner abilities are possible.

The Fourth Way teaches people how to increase and focus their attention and energy in various ways, and to minimize daydreaming and absentmindedness. According to this teaching, this inner development in oneself is the beginning of a possible further process of change, whose aim is to transform a man into what he ought to be.

Basis of teachings

The Fourth Way focuses on the ability to constantly perform "conscious labors" and "intentional suffering."

Conscious Labor is an action where the person who is performing the act is present to what he is doing; he is not absentminded during his act, and or is "remembering himself." At the same time he is striving to perform the act more efficiently.

Intentional suffering is the act of struggling against the desires of the physical body such as daydreaming, pleasure, food (eating for reasons other than real hunger), etc... In Gurdjieff's book Beelzebub's Tales he states that "the greatest 'intentional suffering' can be obtained in our presences by compelling ourselves to endure the displeasing manifestations of others toward ourselves" 

Gurdjieff claimed that these two acts were the basis of all evolution of man.

The Fourth Way's focuses on raising the level of consciousness a person can experience, with the ultimate aim of creating a permanent higher level of consciousness. Specific methods are employed to achieve this aim, some of which are described below.

Self-Observation

One aspect is to strive to observe in one's self the certain behaviors and habits which are usually only observed in others, and to observe them in one's self as dispassionately as one may observe them in others; to observe one's self as an interesting stranger. Another aspect is to attempt to discover in one's self an attention that can differentiate between the actual thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are taking place at the moment, without judging or analyzing what is observed.

The Need for Efforts

Gurdjieff emphasized that awakening results from consistent, prolonged efforts. These efforts are the ones that are made after a person is already exhausted and feels that he can't go anymore, but nevertheless he pushes himself.

The Many 'I's

Many I's is a term which indicates the different feelings and thoughts of ‘I’ in a person: I think, I want, I know best, I prefer, I am happy, I am hungry, I am tired, etc. These feelings and thoughts of ‘I’ usually have nothing in common with one another, and are present for short periods of time. They tie in directly with Gurdjieff's claim that man has no unity in himself. This lack of unity results in wanting one thing now, and another, perhaps contradictory, thing later


And yes, my father was a hippie. A hyper politically active hippie that lead protests on Washington and organized college campuses throughout the 70’s, but a hippie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Eastern Philosophy. After I lost faith in my pagan upbringing I turned to Taoism and Chinese/Zen Buddhism for grounding and enlightenment. I still do. But when I read these descriptions I hear, “Suppress the Self, Suppress what you feel, Suppress what you need… in the name of higher understanding and awareness”. At no point is there any kind of validation for how you feel or recognition that it is actually ok to be human. I’ve been exhausted for years and I’m still pushing myself; will continue to push myself… but it’s not such a simple matter as read a book and be healed! 


I’ll read his book. I’ll take in what he wants me to know. I’ll see if I can apply it to my life. It would be nice if he would do something similar for me though.

I hate the holidays. Going back to visit my home state and my parents is always very triggering if not outright devastating. They are guilting me to move back… “Your sister misses you”… “Your mother misses you”… “You can probably transfer and get a job closer to home”… etc, etc.

They just want me to be happy, but what they don’t understand is that being near them is what makes me unhappy. I can’t tell them that it is the act of coming home that makes me miserable.

I was a heartbeat away from not travelling back for the holidays this year. My mother was very upset and guilting me. She wanted to call me but I told her I was not up for it. So my father called me instead. Lectured me, and told me I should read some books to help me manage my stress response.

::sigh:: I KNOW he means well. I do. Unfortunately I also know that he is completely incapable of grasping the nature of my disorder and the fact that I simply function in a way that is different than he does. It’s like trying to describe a kernel panic to a Windows Vista user. Pointless.

I haven’t talked much about family and how we deal with each other. I’m not the most equipped to do this as I ran as far from them as I could as soon as I could. But I do know that not only do we have different perspectives, we have very different ways of thinking and processing the world around us.

I was stressed beyond measure, not responding well to the pressure, and my response was to hide from the world and shut myself off. I was angry that they couldn’t understand that what I needed was to be relieved of the social pressure they pile on me. They tried to structure and control my entire life growing up. It’s not surprising that I rebelled the way I did. My father at least, still tries to control my responses. He still invalidates my response.

He still thinks it’s something that I can simply think my way out of. Read a book, do some meditation, grow up, suck it up, solve your problem.

He yelled at me that they couldn’t help me if I didn’t communicate my needs to them. But what I need is to be away from the environment that damaged me in the first place. He doesn’t want to hear that.

He thinks everything is in my mind. Which, I suppose is valid, because everything in one form or another is our the mind, but there’s a difference between throwing a tantrum and having a brain that is hard wired in a way that is functionally opposing to what you recognize as normal.

I understand that he doesn’t know what it’s like. I  understand that I don’t know how it is to think like him. I also understand where he probably gets this mentality. He was raised with a diagnosed schizophrenic mother (though in retrospect it seems that she was actually bipolar), and an abusive, alcoholic father.  My grandfather was military his entire life, travelled constantly, was rarely home, drank when he was home, divorced my grandmother, then remarried ‘for the kids’, while raising them in Catholic school. My father rebelled against him, to no surprise, and him, my aunt and uncle had to essentially raise themselves.

I UNDERSTAND why he thinks I should just be able to suck it up and deal. I understand what he had to go through growing up. However I don’t think it’s ever occurred to him to try to understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of his conversations.

It’s hard. I feel completely misunderstood. I know this is a classic Borderline thought… feeling misunderstood. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. He actually does not understand me. 

7 comments:

  1. I am so sorry you are going through the family guilt. I TOTALLY know what you are going through because my family is a shame based/guilt based family and i just arrived in my home state last night and am sitting in my old bedroom as i type this. i love my family but i love them so much more from afar. this house and my family is toxic and i do so much better when i am away from this place... but because of the guilt and shame they put on me for not wanting to come home and spend the holidays with them, i don't really get a say. i've been away for 13 years now and married for 5 years and i still can't get away. good luck!

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  2. Owow, I don't think you're out-of-line at all when you say your parents misunderstand you. You know they undoubtedly love you and want you happy, but that doesn't make up for the disconnect. I don't like going home either. It's hard because I know my parents did nothing wrong really, did the best they could, lived their own hell. But living at home sucked, it was sad, it was controlling, it sucked. "me" says it perfectly! "I love my family but I love them so much more from afar". Good luck with the trip Haven. Em

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  3. Considering I not only ran but ran to the other side of the globe to a country I didn't know anyone and didn't speak the language of just to get away from my "family". I definitely can understand the anxiety you feel. I can't even live in the same country as them even though they wouldn't know I lived there. Just the thought of our feet touching within the same boundary lines throws me into a full blown panic attack. Again no words of advice. Unfortunately I'm no buddha but I do undersatnd. {hugs}

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  4. My parents have never understood me, either. But then again, my parents wanted me to become a Catholic priest when I grew up (yeah, right!) so you should see the kind of books they got for me. Hint: everything is a sin. In fact, whatever you're doing right now, at the exact moment you're reading this comment, is probably also a sin.

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  5. mmm haven,it sucks when your own parents don't understand you-i know the feeling.
    Just focus on their good intentions..maybe your interactions will become easier then..
    when my mom says something that is utterly non-helpful,i try to remember that her bullshit is well-intended.Obviously,it has helped with my parent-child issues so far!

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  6. In the end i found value in my family after i stopped labeling them as the bad ones.

    Once i forgot what had happened, tried to just start fresh, i saw them as nothing more than regular people. Maybe your family just wants to start fresh.

    I'm sorry you go through these feelings though. Know that there ARE people who care and are willing to help.

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  7. "It’s like trying to describe a kernel panic to a Windows Vista user."

    Bahahahahahaha

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Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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