If I am ruthlessly honest with myself, about myself, sometimes I find myself in bed with my mother.
I’d have to be ruthlessly honest to see that my different struggles with several different women are actually the same struggle deep down inside.
Trust me, I don’t want to be in bed with my mother. I think I’d have gotten over it, and her, by now. Fortunately, being ruthlessly honest is one of those things that I am able to do often these days.
Honesty is a muscle that I have been strengthening.
My girlfriend is amazing and I have intentionally upped my game this time. But, if I am honest, when I wake up in the morning to my girlfriend, sometimes there is faintly in the background, an already chattering conversation about her in my head.
Fortunately, my mother is still alive and well. That means that any unfinished business with her gets triggered directly by her. Often. Unfortunately, that unfinished business seems to also sneak its way into my relationships with other women, much of the time.
So, there she is in my bed again this morning. My mother. The mother of my childhood. Ruthlessly honest is not always fun.
When I wake up, there is a faint already chattering conversation going on in my head about what she (my girlfriend) wants me to do. There is a sense of obligation about how I need to be a good little boy and make her happy. I wake up into an already ongoing struggle chattering in my mind about how what she wants me to do is in conflict with, is a struggle with, what I need to do as a man.
Never mind that she is still asleep.
If I am honest there is an ongoing, beneath the surface, struggle with my girlfriend, my mother, and a female client, all of whom I need to interact with today. Honestly, my struggle is the same with each of these women.
The struggle is with the idea that she wants something from me. Something that is in conflict with what I want from me. The struggle is with being a good little boy versus being a man in my own power.
The truth is the struggle is not over there. The struggle is over here, inside of me.
The truth is my girlfriend is very mature and stands completely on her own two feet. She wants me, but she doesn’t need me. The guy she is in love with is the one who stands tall in his own truth. She has no interest in me playing small. She is big enough for me to be my own biggest and best self.
I’ve trained myself to recognize the obligated little boy when he shows up. The chattering conversation actually starts in my body. The words in my mind are toxic. The toxic conversation with myself is in my throat and in my arms. There is an almost nondescript wanting to vomit deep down in my stomach.
The chattering in my head is a reaction to an old energy stuffed down in my throat, arms, and stomach. The ongoing chattering informs every word I type on this keyboard, every impulse to stay focused as I write, and my desire to be the man I really am. The wounded little boy isn’t always chattering inside me, but right now he is.
What makes me a better man now is my awareness of the difference between my wounded little boy talking and my integrated mature self speaking.
There’s power in telling the truth about it.
Today’s already chattering conversation about my struggles with women (you know, my mom) is a pre-verbal, learned knowing that I stored in my body as a very young child, long ago. The chattering conversation is not really a chattering of words but a chattering of a feeling in my body. The words come after.
Having been divorced twice now and having also had at least ten lovers in as many years, I am starting to want to get my hands on the steering wheel of my own relationship patterns.
At 52 years old, playing the field isn’t attractive anymore.
I have developed a capacity to hunt down deep driving forces within myself. I have developed the muscle for sometimes telling the radical truth about myself, to myself. It is a practice of getting quiet, looking for it, and feeling the feelings.
Recently I took my wounded little boy, inside of me, by the hand and let him know that I would never let him go. I’ve committed to listening and being there for him. I stuffed him away deep when I was 12 or 13 years old. But now I am embracing him and bringing him back into the light of day.
Maybe there is a deep truth to the idea that “every woman is my mother” and that “every man is my father”.
I’ve noticed that most of what I call “thinking” in my life is not really thinking. For me, thinking would be a creative, self aware and powerful act. Much of what I call thinking is actually reacting to a set of information already stored in my body at a pre-verbal level. The already chattering conversation in my head that I woke up to today, and the background “thinking” I will do much of this day, is actually an automatic response to my deep emotional world.
Suppressing unmet needs is normal. I stuffed unexpressed emotions and traumas down into my body long ago. The decisions I made about my mother (and about all women) long ago were the result of experiences too intense and too painful for little boy me to process and deal with.
My childhood was as good and wholesome as anybody else.
No real tragedies to report. Yet, life can feel overwhelming sometimes, especially to a small child. Any child.
Sometimes I saw my parents argue loudly. Sometimes my dad would yell. Sometimes my mother would suppress her own voice and feel hopeless. Life could be confusing and scary sometimes. My parents were humans doing the best they could without any real access to their own deep emotional worlds bubbling up to the surface.
As a small child, I took overwhelming feelings and words I was afraid to say and stuffed them down deep in my body where I wouldn’t have to deal with them. Not consciously anyway. The adults didn’t have to teach me how to do this. I saw how the adults were stuffing their own feelings and not saying what they really wanted to say.
As a little boy, I decided that I “have to be a good boy” to keep the loving attention of mom. Someone else might have decided that being a “bad boy” was the best way to get mom’s attention. As the oldest of four kids, “good boy” was my role.
Right before I met my current girlfriend, I decided to stop doing the chaotic dating dance. I noticed a repeated pattern of how I was showing up with the women I was dating. I stopped. I woke up.
When I wake up in the morning to my girlfriend laying there next to me, I am vigilant about what is going on inside of me.
If I want to create a powerful, clear and honest relationship with my lover, I had better figure out how to create an honest relationship between me and my inner world first.
Before I can even see her, hear her or feel her, I need to become strong and clear. See deep inside of myself, hear my suppressed voice and especially feel what wants to be felt deep within.
If I want vastly better relationships, I need to look deep at what is bubbling to the surface. I need to feel the bubbling emotion and heal it.
Be well along the journey.
This article originally appeared on Teddy’s blog.
Photo: sara biljana/Flickr