Reading Angela’s piece on The Burden of Being the Feeling Bearer had me pause. For a while now, I’d forgotten this was my role growing up. I’d forgotten - conveniently - what a toll this took. But the reminder has been most timely.
Only a week ago I was leading a workshop for therapists and coaches and remember mentioning interactions with my father as an example of being knocked off centre. Still. After half a century of being his daughter, I’m still knocked off centre when he says certain things, looks a particular way, attempts to control the outcome in his own inimitable style. Aaauuuugh. Sometimes I get caught in the historical conditioning of judgment: “for heaven’s sake, after all this time, how come you can’t just be with him, calm and centered? How come you teach this to others and it’s still so hard for you?” Blah, blah, blah.
Having said all that, my ability to tolerate his larger-than-life presence has massively improved over time. All that grounding and centering before knocking on his door, before picking up the phone, in the midst of our conversations really does make a difference. For as Angela points out, not only am I feeling my own feelings (historical helplessness, inadequacy, rejection) I’m also experiencing his feelings (very similar ones) as well. A deep sense of inadequacy and abandonment, liberally mixed with narcissism, enables him to interact without considering the impact. Impact? What impact? [Naive, surprised expression] Mr. Congeniality's minimal self-awareness offers little scope for change. As someone close to me would say, with a hint of sarcasm, “deep joy.”
Yet, on my best days, I am able to declare gratitude for all this. Family life prepared me in some of the best ways possible to be an effective therapeutic-coach; I can’t imagine being anything else, I love my calling. So deep joy it is, really.
If you resonate with being the feeling bearer of the family and would like a safe place to explore healing and recovery, please email or contact me.