My two grandmothers could not be less similar. Henrietta, my mother’s mother, was overtly aggressive and would express herself all too distinctly to anyone who displeased her. She terrified me and anyone else who came within her range. She was also very smart and very talented, which made her even more threatening. She was an angry person in an angry world. She let everyone know about it. In a way she was a transparent and open person. Just not very good company. She obviously felt bad inside, bad in a way that she could neither hide nor change.
Carrie, my father’s mother, was a saint, good to everyone. If you gave her a gift she would give it away to someone more deserving. Everyone loved her, except for people in her family circle who always felt uncomfortable with her. Her inner anger was usually totally disguised, unless she was threatened or disagreed strenuously with something. At which times she turned into a fire breathing monster. She obviously felt bad and insecure inside, bad in a way she felt necessary to conceal with an angel act. Bad in a way that she could neither hide nor successfully change.
My mother could never stand her mother-in-law and felt guilty about it. Years after my father’s death I explained to my mother that Carrie was a total fraud. My mother felt better immediately and thanked me.
Who are you really?
You can always sense when some is not really what they seem to be. Usually a sense of unease when you are with them. You can’t spot what is wrong, you just know that something is askew.
How genuine are you? Do you ever ask yourself how you really are inside, how much of your true feelings you express, how much of your true feelings are within your awareness? It’s an interesting question. It’s hard to be happy when you are deceiving yourself. One of the paths to happiness is to understand the greatest mystery of your life, your inner self. Why is this difficult?
Because we are infinitely capable of self-deception. We can blind ourselves to what’s happening in the outside world, and we can blind ourselves to our own inner thoughts and processes. Sigmund Freud called this process a defense mechanism, a way to protect ourselves from traumatic thoughts and memories. Have you ever known someone who could not remember anything from their childhood? I have a friend like this. The little bit he does remember is a horror show. The lost memories must be much worse. We forget traumatic event to protect ourselves, which seems like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately we also learn to make unacceptable parts of ourselves invisible, unknowable and not able to frighten us anymore. Unfortunately the memories are still there, buried, invisible but active. Like the deep inner anger that propelled both my grandmothers, the anger they passed on to their children by being harsh and severe with them. Downright nasty, from the tales my parents told me.
The Past Doesn’t Have to Define Us
We all have had bad childhood experiences. An inevitable part of growing up. We all have parts or our own nature that are hidden, yet drive us from time to time. Part of happiness is to gradually and gently explore these hidden areas in a forgiving way. Right now, at this very moment, you are the inevitable product of all your experiences, your heredity, and everything the environment has thrown at you. You can’t escape it. The first step is to accept the inevitability of who you are today, right now.
The encouraging part is that you can change who you are for the better. Not immediately, not right now, but over time. You do this by accepting everything that is your life right now, deciding the things you would like to change over time, and setting up an environment that makes this possible. More on this in a later blog.
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