That’s what I blurted out between sobs when I broke down in my therapist’s office.
Ten years ago I was living the life of a desperate, overeducated urban housewife. All I needed was a reality show with gossipy cohorts. I’d moved back to NYC just in time for a major recession, slipping into financial dependency on an increasingly abusive partner, who misconstrued my deep-rooted emotional issues around procuring and managing resources as a gold-digging scheme against him. His contempt for me was eating us alive. “I tried being nice.” he said, as he moved us from a sunny, centrally-located apartment with a private balcony, to the far reaches of town, in a housing project with low ceilings, paper-thin walls, and a ground-floor view of the parking lot. This moving-on-down came despite his six-figure salary with enviable job security.
One night I was jolted awake by a nightmare in which I was walking alongside a snake who suddenly coiled up to strike my ankle. The dream was so vivid that I had kicked my leg behind me as if it were real. Too shaken to fall back asleep, I found myself in the kitchen staring at the lineup of helpers I had enlisted to get me through the night: a bowl of Cheerios, a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, and a bottle of Godiva Liquor. The Cheerios were for the brooding inner child in me who’d been preventing me from adulting fully. My domestic partner was the reason I could afford the Godiva Liquor, and also the reason that I needed the Pepto-Bismol.
The next day I was in my therapist’s office for the mental health version of an urgent care visit. In response to my outburst of utter despair, she was professionally and morally obligated to ask if I had been contemplating suicide.
Thank Gaia I find human behavior endlessly fascinating, and was committed to understanding how my early trauma and tribal misogyny had affected me. My proclivity toward psychology balanced out the emotional upheaval that is par for the course of psychotherapy. If not for my weekly sessions, and for the fact that it had been drilled into me since I was a little girl that it’s a mortal sin to leave behind any kind of mess for someone else to clean up, I might not be here today to blog about this.
My amazing journey since, dissecting my issues around resource procurement and independent adulting, has led me to some mind-blowing discoveries, not only about myself and my birth tribe, but about humanity in general. For example, the contrived modern paradigm for resource procurement, in which a great majority of adult humans are separated from natural resources and reduced to a child-like state of dependency on remote resource hoarders is unnatural and regressive. As you’ll see by reading on, I lived this scenario as an infant. I knew instinctively that I had been placed in a precarious position, despite my mother’s nonchalance, entranced by contrived worlds being played out in our living room via television. My anxiety around being confined away from natural resources was justified. Humans who live much of their lives on the proverbial hamster wheel in a fog of angst for the same reason are oppressed. Collectively as the civilized world, we are losing out on their full potential. The planet is paying dearly for this disconnect as well. Joni Mitchell was right: We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden, at least in some capacity.
Below is some of what else I’ve learned, besides the fact that if your partner shows up in your dreams as a coiled snake then it’s time for an exit strategy. Heads up for fans of my scalarious stories, it’s heavier in content and more straight-forward in tone.
Let me know you’re out there, wontcha?
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When I was in my mid-thirties, I was showing the man I was dating at the time memorabilia that I had brought to Los Angeles from New York, where I grew up. Included in the mix were a pair of thirty-five-year-old hospital bracelets: one about the size of my wrist, the other so tiny that I could barely fit two fingertips in it. Yellowed with age, I could just make out the matching identifying info “Girl Baccala”. I knew that the tiny bracelet was from when I was born. Odd thing was, I’d never consciously made the connection to the adult-sized bracelet. “That one was for your mother.” my man said matter-of-factly. I burst into tears, overwhelmed with a sense of loss, even though my mother was still alive, and we kept in touch. The sense of loss was for the natural bonding she had failed to establish with me once we left the hospital together as mother and daughter, and for a childhood deprived of the safety and nurturing needed to develop into an emotionally-healthy, independent adult.
You see throughout my infancy my mother dissociated from me. Instead of maintaining fairly consistent physical and/or visual contact with me, she routinely left me in my crib in another room of our NYC basement apartment for hours on end, following an extreme interpretation of the cry-it-out method that entered our culture after my great-grandmother lost four children in two days during a plague in Sicily. More on this in my short story “Rose the Jew”. As a general rule, my mother tended to me only if it was time for my bottle (Breast feeding is for sissies.) or if I needed a change of diapers. Instead of coming to me and hugging me when I cried for her in distress, she turned up the television or radio to drown out my cries for her. To soothe her own crippling anxiety, my mother chose a habit that she’d picked up as a teen to rebel against her own negligent mother. Ironically it’s one that provides oral stimulation similar to sucking on mother’s nipple: smoking cigarettes.
Since my mother had been subjected to crib abandonment herself, I suspect that my distress was a trigger for her. Likely the more that I cried from the other room, the more that I dredged up her own dreadful experience of being ignored when distressed and crying for comfort. Instead of realizing that she had the power to change the outcome— and heal herself in the process— she blocked me out, never stopping to think about the devastating damage she was causing to my developing brain and nervous system. Infants are not designed to be separated from their mothers for extended periods and then ignored when they cry out in distress, as anyone who’s spent time watching our chimp cousins can attest. I understand that primary caregivers who are busy as heck need to put baby down sometimes. The last thing I want to do is chastise mothers juggling work and motherhood. If anything I hope that my story drives home the point that as a civilized society we have an obligation to provide caregivers with the emotional and tangible resources to fulfill their responsibilities to their dependents of nurturing them through adolescence and beyond.
Also, I understand that the weaning process includes self-soothing training. However, it is critical to the development of the infant that the process be done gradually, carefully, and at the right stages of development. Otherwise it completely backfires and the infant grows up to be yet another angst-ridden human unable to self-soothe in a healthy way, ergo susceptible to a whole host of unhealthy ways to cope: cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, dominating and exploiting other humans from afar, just to name a few.
When I managed to escape my crib and crawl across two rooms to be with my mother, she promptly returned me to my crib, eventually confining me in it with a carriage strap. As a result, my resting mode became one of existential dread as I was separated from my lifeline, confined in an unnatural environment, alone and helpless. As far as my little infant brain could tell, I’d been left for dead.
My mother’s maltreatment of me in my infancy thwarted my emotional development beyond words. For starters, my relationship with my mother was fubar, make that FUBAR. Without my mother physically and emotionally bonding with me or perceiving me as a lovable, valuable, investible extension of herself, I was little more than a burden to her, especially in a patriarchal culture that reduces females to a lower tribal status straight out of the gate, so to speak. I touch on my mother’s lack of empathy in Pee & Circumstance. Without my mother’s protection I was an easy target for males desperate to prove their manliness by controlling tribal resources, females included. By the time I entered first grade I had been subjected to emotional, spiritual and physical abuse. As I grew, not only would my mother condone my abuse at the hands of damaged aggro members of our tribe, double-victimizing me for their inability to control their rage and aggression, on more than one occasion she actually aided in the abuse. When I was a fifteen, my mother helped lock me out of the house and then mocked me as I attempted to get back in, triggering my crib trauma by separating herself from me in my state of distress and responding callously to my appeal to her humanity. This type of abuse and worse would continue throughout my adolescence and beyond, until I could afford to move out in my twenties.
My mother’s early rejection and subsequent maltreatment of me also left me believing that I was inherently repulsive, ugly at my core. I carried a visceral sense of self-loathing that was compounded by the abuse by those around me that I describe above. Scapegoating exists because aggro humans often excel at “making a killing”. Desperate enablers admire this trait so much that they allow aggros to show off their predatory prowess by abusing their victims with impunity. Damaged humans in general need someone to dump their ugly on. In my teen years I developed intense anger toward my mother for failing to nurture and protect me. One of my biggest regrets is being verbally abusive to her then. I had yet to understand the complexity of the situation, or how my mother had been a pawn to the patriarchy and a victim of crib trauma herself.
Also burdened with a deep-rooted sense of futility and neediness, I was susceptible to abuse by anyone who held power over me, especially males. The archaic gender roles and repeated teachings throughout my childhood that a rage-prone, über-manly-man entity rules the universe and is righteously above criticism, conditioned me for easy exploitation by manipulative, callous males driven by an insatiable need to dominate. I tended to shrink around forceful, intimidating energy, especially in enclosed environments such as traditional office environments, which during the early years of my career lacked protective, nurturing energy. Attempting to obtain resources while removed from Nature triggered both the distressed mindset of a helpless infant in a basement apartment, and the submissive position I held in my tribe’s house of worship, where decorated males run the show from an elevated platform while the rest of us sit or kneel down below, repeating what we were told and vocalizing only in agreement until we were rewarded for our submissiveness with a taste of food and in the old days drink, and permission to leave. In my desperate, reparative quest for mother’s love, I was even more responsive to herd mentality than the average child. Expressing my disagreements with my tribe’s book of misogynistic fairy tales would’ve left me ostracized and removed from tribal resources. Already considered lowly because of my gender and lineage (born to the daughter of the matriarch, not the prodigal son) I had been brainwashed to equate challenging the status quo with putting myself in a most precarious state of food insecurity and expulsion. Who wants to end up worse than Eve: expelled from Eden without Adam beside her?
Despite being an excellent student with an IQ in the top two percentile, I struggled to initiate and complete even relatively simple tasks in non-academic (safe) environments, due to crippling performance anxiety and claustrophobia that began in the crib. After all, my first experience solving a problem shattered my whole perception of myself navigating my immediate surroundings. Initiating and successfully completing my part of the single most critical task of my life: connecting with and appealing to mother to share her resources with me, resulted in solitary confinement with no food or Nature in sight. I deeply and subconsciously associated giving my all, trying to reach a goal, especially under pressure, with courting death. I had a hyperactive response to stimuli, and difficulty discerning what stimuli around me was safe and necessary, and what could be ignored, aka sensory disinhibition.
As I grew into a young woman, my mother viewed me as competition. Instead of being proud of my abilities and achievements, she was threatened by them. Likewise by my independent streak and critical thinking. It’s as though she could only tolerate me if I were perfectly aligned with her worldview and unable to leave. When I decided to relocate across the country for post-graduate studies, she boycotted the family send-off from the airport and spoke derisively about the top university I was attending. This was her emotionally-stunted way of saying that she didn’t want me to leave. That’s the most heart-wrenching thing about damaged people in our lives, isn’t it? They are incapable of treating us well even though they desperately want us to stick around.
It wasn’t until I enlisted the gentle guidance of a licensed psychotherapist that I was able to begin the healing process. It’s taken over a dozen years of regular dialectical behavior therapy sessions just to be here now, writing about my mother’s maltreatment and how it affected me. I needed to clearly, fully, and deeply understand that it was unnatural and wrong, and that my successful attempt to connect with my mother face-to-face should’ve resulted in the reward of comfort and security, as Nature intended.
I needed to explore the vast array of emotional issues and cultural forces that drove my mother to suppress her maternal instinct toward her own daughter who, of all of her children, physically resembled her the most. My mother was very much a product of her environment, severely compromised by pathological mental-illness that was exacerbated by a toxic, patriarchal culture idolizing male aggression. After three generations of damaged mothers, the vital nurturing component of our culture had been all but decimated. Enter capitalistic and cultural influences. Thousands of humans near and far, alive and long dead, influenced my mother’s behavior on a daily basis as they reduced her to worshipper, or consumer, or viewer. They were able to get into her living room and into her head and hold her attention via sophisticated means with sizable resources. Yet not one human in her intimate space was incentivized to guide my mother back to her innate maternal state of caring for her young.
The tobacco farmer in Kentucky, for example, was too busy providing for his own family the only way he knew how. I can’t begrudge him for that. It is the cannibalistic and co-dependent paradigm of greed-driven capitalism, and the breakdown of community, that failed us both, and exploited my mother’s emotional weaknesses. I was collateral damage. My mother had been deliberately blinded to her own intrinsic power, and to the fact that she could make a long-lasting positive impact on the precious infant that she had carried inside of her for nine months. All she had to do was pull herself away from frivolous distractions and be present for me, an act that didn’t even require pure altruism as physical contact between a mother and child provides a natural high for both of them. It would’ve been a much healthier and productive choice for her than cigarettes or being a passive observer to fictional worlds on a screen.
Only through taking a deep dive into such influencing factors was I able to forgive my mother for her neglect and cruel treatment of me. Her mental health was dealt a dreadful blow during her own infancy and then her brain was hijacked by other factors way before I was born. Humans who never met her and never witnessed how their efforts affected her daily behavior or enabled her to ignore her infant were granted access to her intimate space via electronics and technology. She dissociated from the most beautiful, precious part of herself: the phenomenal power of a mother’s love for her child, and the power of nurturing energy in general, including its capacity to heal the broken inner-child of one’s own psyche. Through dehumanizing me, my mother dehumanized herself. My mother once slammed the door on the face of a friend who’d brought her infant daughter over for the first time. Decades later she responded in a similarly anti-social way toward a relative who popped in with her infant daughter. Being in the presence of a mother and infant daughter disturbed her.
Forgiveness has made space for perspective and gratitude. The problem that my mother and I faced is timeless and universal. Had I been born in China when it was a one-child nation, for example, there’s a good chance my mother would’ve completely abandoned me like so many desperate, disenfranchised Chinese mothers did with their infant daughters when they felt that their own survival hinged on raising a son. Had I been born in a region where female genital mutilation is practiced… Let’s just say I’m lucky to be alive with my entire vagina intact. I’m grateful that I possessed the tenacity and whatever else it took to survive such a precarious infancy, childhood and adolescence with Nature’s intended nurturer and protector incapacitated and dissociated from me. That is no small feat, especially in NYC during one of its most dangerous eras.
The bond between mother and her children, like that of Gaia and us humans, is a sacred one that should be treated as such. Unnatural interference from desperate, damaged and depraved dominators whose co-dependent parasitic existence is contingent on exploiting their fellow humans’ weaknesses is driving humans to dehumanize one another, dehumanizing the entire species in the process. We need as many humans as possible to be emotionally healthy and properly socialized. Those who have been damaged by trauma, especially during their early development, owe it to themselves and their fellow humans to look inward and do the work involved in healing themselves, getting back in touch with their empathy, and reconnecting to Nature. The future of humanity and the Planet depends on it. MB
Thank you Attachment Parenting International for sharing my story with your subscribers.
Pasty little girl needed some sunshine. Bottom photo in Nice, France during a semester abroad.
It’s not easy summing up what it’s like to come around to mental wellness and independent adulting after decades of debilitating anxiety and self-limiting behavior. In a nutshell I have fixed a bunch of glitches in my brain. I’m hoping that my blogs might be helpful in some way to any of you who’ve ever felt trapped or lost in your own life, as I felt in mine up until recently. Maybe you’re just here to gawk. That’s fine too. Feel free to reach out with a quick message through that blue button at the bottom right of your screen. Donations appreciated too, of course.
On top of the crib abandonment and trauma that I describe above, my brain had been hacked by my tribe’s sexist cult, the manipulative doctrine of which was written thousands of years ago by unevolved, misogynistic males with a very specific, limited agenda for MY LIFE, based on my body’s ability to procreate, and their inflated sense of entitlement to tribal resources, the female bodies of future generations included. If only they could get my pesky little brain out of the way, which unfortunately for me they managed to do for decades by getting to me young, as my already damaged sense-of-self from crib trauma was still developing. They did it through brainwashing my entire tribe, who as cult pawns betrayed my natural trust in them to guide me into successful adulting. Even females in my tribe were mentally-enslaved collaborators in a sort of emotional daughter-slaughter. All of them had been brainwashed with sexist fairy tales from a psychologically manipulative playbook on how to condition every new generation of females to remain child-like even as they grow physically. This way we could propagate more brainwashed cult members, yet remain dependent on males for survival and therefore too desperate to push back on aggro, controlling behavior. The progress of humanity and the mental-wellness of followers be damned. With countless self-limiting, self-sabotaging bad lessons being fed to me by my cult/tribe on a regular basis throughout my formative years, my intelligence and keen social instincts actually worked against me.
By the time I hit puberty, I had a woefully atrophied sense of agency over my very being. I’d been groomed to be attractive to aggro males who would bring home the bacon and conform easily to my tribe. Male tribal members felt casually entitled to judge and approve my potential suitors based on whether he shared their “values”, which is code for inclination toward female oppression. Each family gathering was an unofficial confirmation hearing of whoever I was dating at the time. If my selection did not meet the males’ approval, if he showed any sign of having progressive leanings then the self-appointed judges had plenty of passive/aggressive ways to let us know. Death by a thousand micro-aggressions. The goal of my coupling up had little to do with my emotional well-being and everything to do with me propagating the cult and its sexist teachings.
Two things saved me from my tribe’s reductive and oppressive master plan for me: childhood summers in a natural environment, and attending public school in an extraordinarily diverse neighborhood, where kids who looked nothing like me felt like siblings as we regularly spent time together in a pleasant, collaborative space with a nurturing human in charge. We were like kittens in a mixed litter. We grew together as a group. I learned about different religious beliefs as well as evolution and science. Each year I’d come home with a class picture, and each year my mother would sit with me and ask me to name every one of my fellow students so that she could write it down in the space provided in the photo envelope sleeve. Through this simple exercise, my mother taught me that humans, in all varieties of skin tones and hair textures, are unique and equally important. As mentally-ill as she was (pathologically), my mother was beautifully human in this way.
Being mentored at a young age by teachers who fed my hungry, growing brain with facts was a bright spot in my childhood. Positive female role-models leading our classes with confidence, kindness, and discipline was huge for me. Unlike ancient scribes and their archaic notions held by my cult/tribe on what I should do with my life based solely on my reproductive equipment, my teachers encouraged me to express myself and let my individuality be seen. What I had to say mattered. I thrived in a nurturing environment where it was clear that those in charge had my best interest in mind, and where aggressive behavior was not tolerated. In contrast to the volatility I experienced at home, school was a safe zone. I rewarded my teachers’ investment in me with enthusiastic class participation and straight A’s.
In my mid-twenties I narrowly and clumsily escaped the first phase of my tribe’s master plan for me of marriage to a suitor of their liking, causing regrettable collateral damage in the process. A few years later I flew the coop solo to make my way to a more natural environment. My biggest challenge lay ahead: freeing my mind from the cult brainwashing and debilitating anxiety that drove my self-limiting and self-sabotaging behavior.
Instead of making babies I focused on healing the damaged child within. It took a dozen years of psychotherapy— and a lot of painful lessons well before then— to learn how to be self-sufficient. Once a safe distance from my oppressive cult/tribe, I had to relearn the very act of doing, parsing it apart from the deep-rooted dysfunctional fear of my own power that had been enmeshed with it starting in the crib, and then reinforced by misogynistic messages that permeated my cult and broader culture.. I had to rewrite the false narrative that only when I erred were my powers suddenly and miraculously supernatural like a witch’s, causing exponentially more harm than even the most egregious mistakes of my male counterparts. I had to learn to stay present even and especially as I struggle. I had to change how I perceive myself as existing in my environment. I had to change how I navigate through my environment, how I register stimuli, and how I react to it. I had to recalibrate the amount of energy I needed to engage with people and objects around me. I had to get comfortable letting the energy of others in, but only the right others. I had to create healthy boundaries between myself and aggros, or damaged friends who could be great fun and even come through for me in my hour of need, yet due to their own unresolved issues around feminine power would become abrasive whenever my most competent and confident self emerged. Sometimes the creation of healthy boundaries sounds like “Bye”. I had to spend time being fully present in Nature every day: to listen to birds chirping, to smell dirt, and to feel a soft breeze on my skin. I had to quit chemical stimulants such as caffeine and pseudoephedrine. I had to stop being mistaken for a speed freak. I had to find healthy energy boosts, like a song and dance break to let loose without judgement. Added healing bonus around this one, as I’d been strongly discouraged from self-expression by my tribe. I had to retrain my taste buds to crave real food. I had to retrain my brain to sleep soundly, giving myself extra time to wind down by reducing evening screen time and going to bed earlier. I had to find creative ways to motivate myself to do those necessary tasks that in the past I’d find creative ways to avoid because they caused anxiety. I had to do things that scare me. I had to learn how to wait, and to simply be sometimes. For me, the passing of time had been skewed when my mother separated from me way too soon and for far too long. The anxiety from that was compounded by being raised around a volatile adult male whose PTSD would cause him to rage out if I didn’t drop everything and respond to his beck and call immediately.
I had to cut back on distractions and enjoy the natural high of being productive. I had to pause to acknowledge the positive results from projects that I initiate and complete. I had to get comfortable owning such accomplishments and sharing them without guilt and fear of showing up the males in my tribe. I had to prove to myself over and over that I am perfectly capable of obtaining resources and utilizing them wisely with my own Gaia-given sound judgement.
It saddens me that males in my tribe, like the ancient scribes who normalized female oppression, view feminine capabilities as an existential threat to be controlled with an iron fist. It’s too late for those ancient scribes, although I’d really like to bring ’em back to life just to let them know that they wrote one helluva sexist chapter book series that would enable the most depraved and destructive world leaders to rise to power, as many a manipulative male would selfishly exploit the false notion held by millions that an über-aggro manly-man is entitled to reign over Earth and all of Her resources with impunity, including precious human resources.
Generation after generation of females being conditioned to idolize male aggression and shield males from accountability for their barbaric behavior has thwarted all of our emotional growth and deprived us of a nurturing, emotionally safe environment needed for optimal functioning and human progress.
The critical life lesson that overindulged and unevolved males who troll progressive females have not learned is that through forgiving females from their past who have damaged them, especially their mothers who did so when their sense-of-self was developing, they’ll free up space for the type of healthy self-love that allows a positive and more appropriate response to their fierce and fabulous sisters who refuse to enable their sociopathic behavior. Humanity needs damaged males to do the unpleasant but necessary work of looking inward. We need them to go through the process of healing so that they can focus their energy and strengths on more productive endeavors than attacking misperceived threats, like a dog barking at the mailperson day in and day out, never comprehending that these workers are only coming up the driveway to do their job and leave. Everyone deserves to earn a living without being attacked by territorial animals.
The dysfunctional shielding I describe above is partly due to cult teachings, and partly due to something more primal: each tribe needs its physically strongest and most aggressive to protect resources and the tribe itself from annihilation by “outside” aggressors. However, the civilized world can no longer afford to allow the most unevolved parts of humans: tribalism, lack of empathy, selfishness, greed, aggression, as well as a dysfunctional, insatiable need to dominate any and all resources, hold us all back and destroy the Planet at the same time. This is why we need as many females as possible emancipating themselves from a child-like state of emotional and financial dependency on males and grow into independent adults with their own resources, which would help leverage the type of positive change that feminine, nurturing sensibilities foster.
Since I started blogging I’ve received quite a bit of positive feedback from readers. I’ve even inspired a high-school buddy to craft her own stories. That’s what keeps me going. We who have transcended trauma not hating the world but sharing our journey with others are part of the nurturing movement that the world needs right now in full force. MB