Raising my children, raising myself
On this page, you will read some of the feedback I received from clients, as well as students.
by Yasmine Al Zaben
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
Certificate of Holistic Studies, Munira Nusseibeh School of Holistic Studies
A thesis presented on my journey of self exploration, awareness, development and healing spanning over the past four years. Learning how to connect with my mind, body and spirit and how to integrate life’s big and small experiences into a learning experience that has enriched my life and provided me with tools to raise my children and raise myself.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Munira for being my guide on this expedition; I am humbled and grateful for this experience. For my partners and my soul mates in life, mama, baba, Leen, Mohammad, Dana, Omar, Maryam and Sharif. And to my grandparents Mamie Omarine, Mamie Victorine and Jido Mustafa who always made me feel loved and accepted when I felt otherwise.
“As soon as you decide to dedicate yourself to tour true path and make that the central priority of your life you become aware of an overall process taking place in your life. This life process carries you through inner landscapes that change the nature of your personal reality. You begin to see cause an effect relationships between your inner personal reality and the outer world.” – Barbra Brennan- HANDS OF LIGHT
The coinciding of my journey of self-awareness with becoming a parent could not have happened at a better time, simply because those two processes happening simultaneously have had a profound effect on each other.
My journey towards conscious awareness involved reliving many of my childhood wounds, looking at disturbed emotions originating in my childhood, closely observing how my present is colored by my past, how my emotional and physical reactions are invoked when I am in transference. I had to take a close look into my beliefs, into my internal blueprint of reality that I have constructed during childhood and perhaps even before leaving my mother’s womb.
Having my children come into this world at the same time as I was going through this deep experience of exploration was eye opening; at one moment I was looking at my own childhood experiences and in the next moment I would have them simultaneously play out in front of me by observing my children.
When I became a parent, I truly thought I would be my children’s teacher, but I am coming to the realization that they are my teachers as well. Our children come to us so we may recognize our psychic wounds and heal them. I hope that by working to understand myself, I will provide my children with a sense of vitality and freedom to experience their own emotional worlds without restrictions or fear.
TAKING THE PLUNGE & MOTHERHOOD
I started this journey because I knew that there was more to life than the reality I was experiencing, I wanted to understand myself, I was searching for a deeper meaning, and I had a deep longing for a connection with a force greater than myself. I had done a few rounds of spiritual shopping before starting on this path, but I wasn’t satisfied, there were lots of bits and pieces but it didn’t all really come together for me.
This journey has taken me from seeing and living through the eyes and perception of the child in me towards being open to the possibility that there may be another reality. A reality of self-awareness where I am able to my observe myself, gently and without judgment; to witness as my emotions and triggers unfold, to allow these emotions to flow through my body, acknowledging transference and responding in a constructive way - to reality as it is - not to reality how i see it.
This path, along with becoming a mother has taken me deep into my emotional past, evoking feelings that I have suppressed for years, and realizing that unless these unpleasant emotions and experiences from childhood are integrated they will never leave, and will continue to show up in the present, in the future and in my children.
Transitioning into motherhood itself was also a complex time for me, I lost the identity I had known up until that point, and many aspects along with it: my career, my go getter attitude, my intellect, my sex appeal, my individuality; I changed physically and emotionally . But, it also presented a spiritual awakening for me, where I experienced my intense capacity for giving and nurturing, I transcended my own self wishes and was present for another human being, constantly being brought back to the present moment.
I transformed willingly without resistance. This new deeply intimate relationship struck directly into my core, my feelings took on an intensity I had never felt before: joy, love, guilt, fear, heartache, responsibility, confusion, insecurity, happiness. Having to care for another human being, confronted me with my higher self: in my capacity to love, give and be patient, but also confronted me with aspects of my lower-self such as; fear, my need for control, power, and perfection.
I am convinced that making sense of my own childhood experiences will have a profound effect on how I parent; by Improving the coherence of my own life’s narrative my relationship with my children is bound to be impacted. By freeing myself from constraints of my past i see the potential to offer myself my children an authentic and liberating relationship with life.
Before delving into the facets of my being which were influenced by my childhood I wanted to understand why unresolved childhood issues come up in adulthood? Why do events from our past continue to influence the present? Why do we experience transference, or more correctly, why are we always in transference? Why do past events continue not only influence the present but also continue to shape how we construct our future? The answer lies in the study of memory.
Simply put, memory is the way the brain responds to experiences and creates new brain connections and there are two types of memory: implicit and explicit. Implicit memory is a form of non-verbal memory that is present at birth and is responsible for generating emotions, behavioral responses, perceptions and the encoding of bodily sensations. Research shows that the brain, even in young infants make generalizations from repeated experiences. These generalizations (or beliefs) create a filter that patterns the way we channel our perceptions and construct our responses to the world, they form a perspective and state of mind that directly influences the way we perceive and the way we respond in the future. Through these filtering patterns we develop characteristic ways of seeing and being. This continues in life and we continue seeing and perceiving through the eyes of a child.
The interesting thing about implicit memory is that when it is retrieved and emotions or bodily sensations or interpretations are activated, the individual does not sense that anything is being recalled- or that this internal experience is being generated from a past experience it truly feels like a sense of being.
Explicit memory is created after the first birthday and has two components: factual memory which becomes available at 18 months and autobiographical memory which begins to develop after 24 months. Autobiographical memory involves a sense of self and time, and requires the prefrontal cortex (the front of the neo cortex) to be developed. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for a wide range of processes including autobiographical memory, self-awareness and the regulation of emotions. Research shows that the prefrontal cortex is extremely impacted by early interpersonal experiences, which is why early relationships such as those with our caregivers have such an impact on our lives. This part of the brain continues to grow throughout life and as such so are the possibilities for personal growth.
MY QUEST FOR CONSCIOUSNESS
“Every human being senses an inner longing that goes deeper than the longings for emotional and creative fulfillment. This longing comes from sensing that another, more fulfilling state of consciousness and a larger capacity to experience life must exist.” – Pathwork lecture 204, “What is the path?”
In my quest for consciousness I had to explore the facets of my being; the anatomy of my psyche, the inner landscapes of my crazy beautiful mind, I explored my wounds as well my conditioning, my belief system, my negative intentionality and where I actively seek negative pleasure. I had to connect to my neediness and vulnerability, my unresolved authority issues, as well as always feeling like I was in a courtroom having to judge or be judged.
I got to work on releasing my mask, accepting my lower self and identifying with and expressing my higher self. A lot of this came with an internal struggle. I met my wounded child, who felt uncelebrated, betrayed, rejected, criticized and inferior. When trying through a guided meditation to connect to my inner child I had an extremely strong reaction, I hated her and rejected her; it was a powerful experience ending with giving her unconditional love and acceptance. This is when I started to understand what it means to accept my-self.
I met my lower self, and I got to know –you name it- everything from jealousy to the urge to kill. I met fear, pride and self-will; I also met pettiness, selfishness, destructiveness, self-destructiveness, jealousy, negativity, judgment, criticism and the need for control. Integrating this darkness, feels much better than rejecting it, I accept it as part of my being, and its energy a part of my vitality. I also came to experience being attracted lower-self characteristics in others, and learned how to claim this energy in its pure form without the distortions.
I wore not one mask but all three, changing it from situation to situation thinking that I am being cunning or clever by superimposing an idealized self-image, not realizing that my inauthenticity was probably as clear as then sun. I wore the mask of serenity with the world, the mask of love with my circle of friends and acquaintances and the mask of power with my family. I still catch myself wearing the masks.
My defense structure started becoming clear, and I could identify with each of the defenses, and 3 years on, I can say (but with no certainty) that I am psychopathic 40%, oral 20%, masochistic 20%, rigid 15% and schizoid 5%.
I learnt that the crazy authoritarian judgmental voice in my head that never shuts up is my Superego, now I recognize it, greet it and ask it to politely leave. I am aware of the negative pleasure I derive from my relationships and situations, and how I keep on recreating these situations. Learning to let it go hasn’t been easy, I really truly enjoyed it.
It has been difficult to explore and release my negative intentionality which – after a significant struggle and soul searching- says: “I don’t trust that life will be good to me, so I want to cheat it- I want to stay under the radar so to speak, If I don’t have it all, it won’t notice me or take anything from me or hurt me”, it also says: “Life, if I embrace you fully, you will hurt me, so I will embrace you half-heartedly”. I was so afraid to explore my negative intentionality, and I kept beating around with bush, but finally when I came to terms with it, I felt such a sense of relief and liberation. I am still working on releasing my negative intentionality and I am not there yet but am setting my positive intentionality here for it to come to light:
“I intend to give all of who I am to life, I will trust that my freely giving self will be appreciated and returned. I want to be a full participant in the give and take of life” and
“I give my best to life and I deserve the best from life. I am a divine manifestation of God, no less and no more than every other human and natural expression of life force on this planet” .
I came to see my shadow both in light and darkness, suppressed emotions from which I was cut off, a part of my psyche that I had been divorced from, aspects, both positive and negative that I was afraid to face in myself but able to recognize in others. I enjoyed meeting my shadow and I’m excited by its hidden positive potential.
And finally, I connected my higher self, which I always knew existed, but connecting with it after having met my lower-self brought on a whole new meaning. Being able to distinguish between my mask as a distortion of my higher and my real higher self sometimes presents a challenge for me. I feel that my higher self can take many dimensions, I see it on the personality level, but I also truly feel that it goes beyond that expanding to unite with God. When I connect with my higher self, I feel such a deep connection with my divine essence that in that moment nothing else matters. I have to say though, when writing this, I procrastinated about writing about my higher self, and struggled in claiming it, I know it is there, and I have had many beautiful, transformative experiences with it, but my superego came into play and I sensed painful shame and ridiculousness, in claiming it. Experiencing how deeply I have been imprinted with parental oppression of my spontaneous expressions and how I practice self-repression was painful.
TRANSFORMATION AND THE ROAD AHEAD
In my journey to transformation, every time I release my anger, shame or my fear – which always involves an internal struggle- my heart opens, a deep sense of relief comes over me, things start to make sense. My sense of hatred and rejection for myself start to ease. I want to be at peace with who I am, with my dualistic flawed sacred self.
After going through and experiencing my childhood wounds I now feel like I no longer identify with them as much as I used to. At one point identifying with my wounds was the only way I knew how to exist, it provided an explanation for my behaviors and an excuse for my shortfalls, someone or something was responsible for my pain. I consciously release my parents of the responsibility of wounding me; I was never wounded to begin with. Honestly, I have had enough of the old masochistic narrative, and there’s a clearing in front of me to create a new narrative. I no longer want to operate from my wounded inner child, or my perfectionist, self-repressive, judgmental adult self. The road ahead is life long, it requires discipline and courage to be honest about myself however dark or beautiful I may be. I want to engage in life and feel its pleasure.
I don’t want to pretend to be something I am not – in the words of Eva as spoken to Susan “if you don’t pretend to be more than you are, you will dare to be all that you are”.
I am consciously expanding into my awareness more of who I am. I understand that for pain to be released it must be experienced, which means having to strip naked of my defenses against pain in order to grow. I am still shyly undressing.
I accept my past and thank it, because without it I would not have gone through an awakening to begin with.
Living with awareness and consciousness isn’t a destination, it is a life long journey of hits and misses, aware, conscious and mindful in one moment, but not in another – I understand that to become conscious is simply to remain as a witness to what unfolds.
Whether we like it or not, our children are influenced by our emotional baggage and only until a personal transformation occurs and consciousness comes into the way we parent does the dynamic shift.
Without realizing we bind our children by tying them to our approval, attaching their sense of being to how they are judged by us. I experienced this first had, and my whole sense of being was molded by how I thought I was viewed by my parents. I consciously release my children from the need for my approval.
Celebrating our children’s being and not their actions allows them to exist without the pressure of our parental expectations. Showing them it’s their spirit that means the most and validating their existence is what will allow them to blossom into adults who don’t seek validation from the outside and celebrate who they are out of their own sense of validity .
We need to accept our perfectly flawed selves and dualities in order to accept our children for who they are. Accepting them for who they truly are, allows us to be there for them as they need us to be. By showing them that we are humans with flaws, parents who make mistakes, and adults who don’t always have the answers or ‘have it together’ allows our children a space for growth without having to disguise their imperfections or overcompensate for their weakness. We have to demonstrate self-acceptance in order for them to accept and integrate their dualities early in life.
Learning to ‘stay with the feeling’ and allowing the wave of emotion to pass has taught me that my emotions no longer have the power to overwhelm me as they once did. It is crucial to allow children to do the same, when children are permitted to feel their feelings they are able to release them surprisingly quickly and not become overwhelmed by them or carry them over through the years.
I am convinced that being an aware and mindful parent, respectful and compassionate, allows children to fully experience themselves in the moment. Being mindful means having intention with actions, with intention you purposefully choose your behavior with your child’s emotional well-being in mind , knowing that every interaction with your child can have a profound effect on how they see themselves in the future.
Having said all this, I am aware that even when coming to understand myself well, and as mindful as I am, and despite my purest intentions, my children will have their own experience and make their own journey through life. All I want is to supply them with a secure foundation, and hopefully an integrated sense of self which supports them through the journey.
My relationship with my children is a sacred relationship that presents ongoing opportunities that call for higher self-awareness and evolution, so: to my two little teachers in life, my favorite gurus, this is for you.
Onwards and HUMBUG !
Susan Thesenga. The Undefended Self. Pathwork Press, 1988.
Shefali Tsabary. The Conscious Parent. Namaste Publishing 2010.
Daniel J Siegel and Mary Hartzell. Parenting from the Inside Out. Penguin, 2004.
Barbra Ann Brennan. Hands of Light. Bantam Books, 1988.
THE CONSCIOUS PARENT, Shefali Tsabary, PhD, Pp 5-10.
PARENTING FROM THE INSIDE OUT, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed., Pp 45-47.
PARENTING FROM THE INSIDE OUT, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed., Pp 45-47
PARENTING FROM THE INSIDE OUT, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed., Pp 45-47
The Undefended Self, Susan Thesenga, Pp 240-241
The Undefended Self, Susan Thesenga, Pp 240-241
THE CONSCIOUS PARENT, Shefali Tsabary, PhD, Pp 39-43
THE CONSCIOUS PARENT, Shefali Tsabary, PhD, Pp 6-10
THE CONSCIOUS PARENT, Shefali Tsabary, PhD, Pp 12-25
Munira Nusseibeh, Words of Wisdom, 2016