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Soulcentric Parenting: Creating a Secure and Authentic Self

February 6, 2007

The first time I heard about “cutting” was this summer after my vision quest. I attended an intensive and met a  teenage woman there with her mother who shared that her middle school sister had several friends who cut themselves. I assumed it was one of those things kids experiment with and then grow out of it. Boy was I wrong! How wrong was I? Let me count the ways…

[edit: 12/04/2007] It turns out that it is often something kids experiment with and then grow out of.

In trying to relate to cutting on an emotional and personal level – I can remember as a teenager being SO ANGRY that I used to scratch my arms with my fingernails. I felt like I needed to let the blood out of my veins because the pressure was so intense. In my family of origin – I was the “emotional one.” The person who expressed the anger, sadness, fear, and joy for the rest of my family. When those emotions were suppressed and disapproved – I experienced it as a build up of pressure in my blood veins. Thankfully – in time I learned ways to express and really feel my emotions.

I was the one who was “out of control” in a family that placed a lot of value on being in control. I learned a lot about what can’t be controlled with my father’s illness and death. I think it took an event that was that extremely painful to trigger my “awakening.” Having a gifted therapist – Salmon boy – was certainly a huge factor in my growth through grieving. He introduced me to James Hollis, Robert Johnson, Jean Shinoda Bolen and more importantly he introduced me to the Soul Poets – Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Rilke, Rumi and others. Salmon boy gave me just the right resources for my stage of dvelopment at the time – The Wanderer in the Cocoon.

But for an adolescent – the developmental task in a soulcentric world is Creating a Secure and Authentic Self. Bill Plotkin’s new book takes each of the eight stages of the soulcentric model and expands on them. I am anxiously awaiting its publication. Until then – I am working from my notes from the intensive. The Self that is being created here is one that generates adequate amounts of both social acceptance and self-approval. Honestly – until my father’s death – my primary task in life was very much in this stage of development. Bill argues that most of us in an ego-centric culture never move beyond this stage and into soul initiation which leads eventually to a community of initiated elders who then mentor the earlier stages of development. He also argues that people should not become parents until they are initiated into a life of soul. I was about 15 years late on that recommendation.

Combining my experience of a solo vigil and fast, the SDW intensive, the Sweet Darkness Intensive, and my intense work with Salmon boy – I really re-evaluated myself as a parent and what my job is. I began to see my role as creating a “safe-enough” and loving container in which my son can do the tasks of adolescence. It is so much harder than I anticipated and this year has brought so many highs and lows. His pain parallels so many of my experiences – it just hurts my heart to feel there is little I can do to support him through this solitary passage.

One of the most painful things Salmon boy told me last week was to give him more space. It is hard to hear that I need to separate my anxiety from his painful experiences so that he can learn to navigate on his own.

I love the imagery of the light house…

A light house doesn’t get off it’s point and start yelling at ships that there are rocks nearby, even though it knows that they are there. Instead it just carries on being the best lighthouse it can be – the ship has to choose whether to be guided by it or not. So I need to allow myself to be more of lighthouse – and less of a “Mom.” Ouch.

I just re-read what I wrote and it seems so disorganized and disjointed. I have an urge to edit it that I will resist because these are all the pieces that are floating around trying to come together. It feels important to have them all here in this chaotic form.

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