Wednesday, October 28, 2015

You Got To Dance With Them That Brung You

I am joining Kate Motaung and others who are writing every day in October. My intention is to record my reactions and feelings about Brené Brown's newest book, "Rising Strong". You can find the other posts I have written here.  

   "Nostalgia sounds relatively harmless, even like something to indulge in with a modicum of comfort, until we examine the two Greek root words that form nostalgia: nostos, meaning 'returning home', and algos, meaning 'pain'.

   Family stories are important to me. My family came to America when I was two years old and we have tales of courage and strength which define us. While we have recorded and honored those stories, the trauma associated with those stories have been pushed to the side. I wanted to make a genogram of my nuclear family to illustrate the emotional patterns that I see. A theme emerged, loud and clear. Life was uncertain and to deal with uncertainty you need to feel less and act more.  My father had a list of thou shalts to offset uncertainty. 

  • always have money in the bank
  • don't go into debt
  • own your own land
  • get a higher education
My mother's list was more domestic but equally strong.

  • keep a clean house
  • beautify your space
  • learn some skills
  • trust in God
  • take a walk everyday outside
  • don't talk too much
   This lists look logical and very wise. I agree with them all but there was an element of controlling and bullying from my parents to accomplishing these "thou shalts". When Brené Brown says "You got to dance with them that brung you" I get it. My family of origin left the good and the bad. Life does not deal only good cards and we must play with the cards we are dealt. 

" Sometimes, the deep love we feel for our parents or the sense of loyalty to our family often create a mythology that gets in the way of our efforts to look past nostalgia and toward truth."

     We didn't talk about emotions in our family. We did,  however, react loudly and openly when our emotions were triggered. Forthrightness was more important that tact. This forthrightness looked like truth, smelled like truth but it was just a smoke screen for hiding vulnerability. Living through war left deep scars and when those scars never healed, a tough layer of bravado hid the pain. My father also struggled with Bi-Polar Mental Disorder. He provided for our family with herculean effort but I did not feel secure in the changeable moods that settled on our home. My mother became an 'over functioner'. She became rigid in her routines and controlling in her responses. I pushed against both of them to become my own person. In a family where emotions were taboo you can't really admit your might have felt trauma. Trauma is a word that is laden with comparison. I can't call my experience traumatic if yours is more serious and life threatening. Balderdash! Trauma means a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. For this reason owning our stories is vital to our ability to become whole-hearted. As we rumble with the trauma the delta emerges between confabulations and truth. 

"Of all the things trauma takes away from us, the worst is our willingness, or even our ability, to be vulnerable. There is a reclaiming that has to happen."

I am going through the reclaiming. It means seeing the past as uncomfortable. The hopeful outcome is to feel more and love more. I am deeply grateful to parents who loved me and wanted a better life for me. Their sacrifices are not left unspoken. By seeing them more truthfully I feel even more connected. 

"In the rising strong process, looking back is done in the service of moving forward with an integrated and whole heart." 


  1. Gabriele, from my point of view, I identify with so many of the points you raise here. Abusers thrive on creating an environment of uncertainty which essentially denies the abused their sense of self, through a loss of security and certainty. This makes them second guess everything, causing a loss of so many aspects of self. (I have to say I started crying about half way through - bad day today - so will come back to continue reading later). Powerful stuff. Thank you.

    1. I'm sorry you had a bad day. The mud you have slogged through will continue to leave residue.

  2. I agree with Helen- this is powerful, and I also identify with a lot of the points. I agree that, in order to move forward, it is important to face the past truthfully and be able to acknowledge the bad as well as the good, and also to acknowledge feelings about events that we may not have been able to express at the time. The reclaiming is not an easy process but I love how you describe the hopeful outcome- "to feel more and to love more", to feel connected and to move forward with an integrated and whole heart- that is definitely something worth working towards.

  3. Carly, you have been so interesting to share with. I feel like you get it.


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