EMBRACE, definition: hold (someone) closely in one’s arms, especially as a sign of affection, especially as in: one’s orphaned parts
Early in life, our egos masterfully and poignantly craft survival strategies in response to the caregiving we receive from our imperfect parents: in that process we abandon some parts of ourselves and come to depend on the rest to handle what life brings. To maintain these strategies – we commonly call our them our “defenses” – we push these young ones away, out of sight, out of mind. They don’t get a chance to grow up along with the rest of our personality, to unfold with our soul.
Ultimately, these abandoned parts can become somewhat unruly in the ways of young children who demand our attention – whiny, hanging onto our knees, “inappropriate,” prone to tantrum or meltdown.
Eventually we may recognize these as behaviors of the younger parts of our adult personality that need growing up. That, in fact, our wholeness lies in embracing what we have been pushing away. And then we may need to do deep and forgiving work to nourish and integrate these orphaned parts of our humanity.
Well into my mature adult years, chronic disappointment and sorrow at the emptiness of not being met, not being understood, extended their shadowy, unacknowledged, and undermining influence into every single relationship.
I found 1001 ways to disengage, clam up or cut out early: anything to avoid that emptiness, to reject or abandon before I could be rejected or abandoned.
I am well-spoken, apparently at ease in the world, and not without professional accomplishments or spiritual “progress.” But my mother had worn black mourning velvet to school for months after her mother died. And I was profoundly shaped by her grief-stricken childhood.
Before I could take in the melancholic and disappointed child in me, embrace her and give her a place, grow her up, I had to sort out my own griefs from my mother’s. And before I could do that, I had to feel the depths of my own.
the face of the deep
by Sara Eisenberg
i am a boneless world suspended
ballooning out on breath,
a wisp of silk.
over and over
i launch myself into,
mingle materially with
emptiness, barren and
I come up
against cloth black against
darkness, the shape of my mother,
herself a mirror covered