If we want any aspect of our world to change - whether it be family systems or political systems - we have to meet the parts of us that uphold the status quo.
You know, the wildest thing is that after all the trees I planted, all the kids I taught, all the volunteers I’ve organized, all the people I’ve counseled, all the money I’ve donated, all the votes cast, all the ranting and raving, all the writing, all the researching,
all of it trying to make this world a little less self-destructive,
The most potent action I’ve found isn’t an action at all.
It‘s looking at the darkest corners of my being and letting my heart bathe it all in profound acceptance.
It sounds so cheesy, but I swear it’s true.
We just can’t be that helpful to anyone or anything if we’re committed to delusion. And in the midst of our trauma and fear and pain, if we lose touch with our feet on the ground, most of us are.
When I was 17 years old, my mom and I were engaged in a vicious fight. After I retreated to my room, she came upstairs and told me, “You think you have it so bad? When I was your age, my mother jumped out of a window and killed herself!”
That was the first time I learned of my grandmother’s suicide. An act she committed in front of most of her 11 children.
I stood there in shock, not just for obvious reasons, but because a clear image emerged that gripped me: I saw myself at the end of a long line of my female ancestors, and before me stood a huge, drooling, fanged beast. The message of the image was clear:
“Now it’s your turn.”
I had never heard of intergenerational trauma, that our ancestors’ traumas leave marks on our DNA, but that’s clearly the insight I was having looking back. No one in my family knew that I had been struggling with deep depression and chronic suicidal thoughts for several years, but in that moment I knew that my grandmother’s pain and mine were inextricably connected. And now it was my turn to face that beast.
Facing that beast, both my unconscious pain and the pain of my culture, has radically changed my view of myself and the world, as well as the way I hold myself and walk though this world.
Our pain, our patterns, touch everything in our lives. And when billions of people play out these patterns, we have the world we see now. No amount of political upheaval, education, tree planting, or activism will change the world so deeply and so permanently as when we face the beasts within us.
And love them to death.
Look for yourself.