Part 10: The Power of Abandonment
Opposites tend to attract to create a greater whole, allowing people access to parts of themselves that they may have disowned in their early years. The challenge is that accessing and accepting these disowned parts is difficult and painful, because not only will we see these disowned parts, we will also see how we compensated as unconscious victims when we lost those parts. This is why these power struggles, per Hendrix in Getting The Love You Want, are important in helping us regain what we lost.
Toward the end of the NOSC and Relationships chapter, I gave a brief outline of Hendrix’s work, and how it ties into the Miller book. I’ll add another story to illustrate how this is working for me.
In coming from a maladaptive perfectionist family where the word “enough” is never in our vocabulary, a pattern that has driven me my whole life is: “I’m unlovable if I don’t achieve.” We tend to be hard on ourselves and hard on each other. The advantage to this is everyone can more or less stand on their own two feet, and we think if the world could operate a little more in this way (without the maladaptive part) where people did their best to make sure they could take care of themselves first, the world would be a better place.
I don’t mean this in a selfish way, but more in line with the spirit of the airline attendants’ mantra: “in the event of a rapid change in cabin pressure, place your own mask over your nose and mouth before assisting others.” If everyone took care of themselves and someone gets into trouble, that’s one person in trouble. But if one person is in trouble and someone who hasn’t taken care of him/herself tries to help, and gets into trouble, now that’s two people in trouble, and double the burden on society as a whole.
Then I run into people who give with no thought of payback, and while I admire them, I wonder whether or not they might sometimes interfere with the universe’s lessons. They will also admit that at times they get aggravated that they don’t always get something back when they give, and they have a tendency to beat themselves up over this when I think that is only human.
Yet, while I’ve known all of this from a rational level, when I was in the middle of a power struggle I had an additional insight. In looking at my family’s history, I focused mainly on the fortunes our family built from nothing, and our family did as well. Not once did I ask who owned the farmhouse where my grandmother, dad, and his older brother hid out during WWII when my grandmother abandoned the rest of the family in Taiwan and had to make her own way. This person was completely invisible to me.
This was further validated when I finally asked my dad about the family who owned the townhouse, and this was his response:
I’ve forgotten so much of Karuizawa, it is sad, because there was so much fun stuff to tell. I can’t even find the farmhouse on Google Earth. I recall returning there around 1950 and probably many years later, because I remember meeting girls that were 4-5 years old during the war that were then almost grown up, and I was surprised that those wide streets that I had remembered were just unpaved narrow country roads with few houses so it had to be many years later. Both times, we had no trouble finding the farm house because nothing was built up yet and Amma (our grandmother) took us there. Now that street is called “Karuizawa Ginza” and all house-to-house with no open areas. Tell me more about what you guys remember about what I had told you, so it might jog my memory. Did we ever take you guys to Karuizawa? I don’t think I have any photos of Karuizawa trips. The owner was a Japanese carpenter-farmer who built Japanese houses (with rice glue, not nails!) and grew potatoes (we helped him cut potatoes, dip the cuts into ash, and plant them in spring, and hand-picked off the potato beetles that were a real menace). I faintly recall that his hame might have been Hayashi-san. Mom remembers nothing of Karuizawa, so I never took her there. I really have to write all this down.
This was my sister’s response shortly after dad’s response:
Um - well sis, your memory way trumps mine in this case, as I don't even remember the stories about hiding out in a farm house.
Now, here is the interesting part. In trying to delve into further details, my dad said that my grandmother brought 12 diamonds with her, and since she was in charge of the purse strings in Taiwan, he has no idea how much money she may have brought with her since he was only six. Any other witnesses are also long gone, he’s the only one left, so we won’t ever know the whole story. But this is what he says:
I am pretty sure no one could or did help her. She had the whole thing planned out ahead of time before she left Taiwan is my guess. Not the details, which changed from day to day, but the basic survival plans — she needed no help, is my feeling. She was always in total control. She would often disappear for an entire day going to farmers to buy food and lugging all that home by herself…
I will admit this is our family’s mindset in general, although I find it hard to believe that this would be true all of the time, especially in the middle of a war, living as a foreigner. As I said, we will never know the whole story, but to me, this doesn’t detract from the point I am about to make. The focus of our family has always been to put on a pedestal those two ancestors who created massive fortunes. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my sister, our two cousins in Japan, and I owe our lives to some unsung hero or heroes who helped my grandmother out during the war, who gave with no expectation of payback since this was before she made a fortune.
In other words, I think this mindset of always being a forward thinker, always being in control, always being perfect, led to this pattern that drove me as an unconscious victim: “I am unlovable unless I achieve”, and I think this pattern rendered me blind to the achievements of others, making me diminish other people. My initial reaction at seeing this at a deep level was violent and visceral. It was as if I’d been eating dinner, and suddenly noticed that there was a giant turd on the dinner table.
If we are able to get past these painful moments and see them through, we would look back and realize how amazing these moments really are. They are a chance to grieve, put the turd in the trash can, and disinfect the dinner table.
And for those neck deep in roller coaster relationships full of trauma and drama, the choices are to stay on the treadmill of endless misery, playing out over and over again unconscious patterns as the ever-doomed Tantalus, or read Harville Hendrix’s Getting The Love You Want, and begin the hard work necessary to become truly whole.