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  • Mj Pettengill

Becoming Undaughtered: Part 2


News Girls, Lewis Hine, Delaware
News Girls, Lewis Hine, Delaware

Knowing where one ends and the other begins is an essential aspect for maintaining healthy familial bonds. I emphasize this. It was glaring when raising my daughter. We share many common traits, yet like all humans, we have our unique differences. Celebrating them is helpful but not always possible when you are in it.

Even when we think we know what is going on, we don’t. In the peak of our own inner-dialogue, we may talk ourselves into thinking that we have all the answers, but we don’t. According to our set of rules, we know what’s going on, but that is a false notion. Yes, trust your intuition, but it’s yours. It is a guidepost, but their intuition is part of the game when they join. They may or may not be aware of this, but keep your hands on your own wheel. Of course, if someone asks for directions, pull out your compass and ask them to find theirs. Know that getting lost is typical; embrace it. There is strength, and there is wisdom in seeing in the dark, navigating unknown, rough territory. Playing it safe inhibits growth. Of course, there is a difference between carelessness and trust. Figure it out. If you really can’t, that’s okay. Ask someone you trust and get the multi-compass view. We always operate from our own core—our instrument panel. This is true for everyone. Until we accept this, we will continue to make the wrong turns, insisting that we know the way. During the first five years of our lives, what happened to us is still very much a part of our program. We will get lost. Anything else is limiting. Until we are willing to sit in the silence necessary to view our operating systems, we will continue to collect and hang on too tightly to the glitches, wounds, and information pumped into us along the way. We are a sum of those fragments of ourselves that we may not even remember, and they are often fueling us. To become whole again, we must trace back to the events that caused the initial fragmenting and call them home. This is the act of re-membering. How do you become whole? Not overnight. You take your time to remember the events in your own life that may have caused you to shut down or part of your soul to break away. You take another look at your mother, father, grandparents, and more. Provide space for them. Instead of hating or blaming, ask yourself why they may have behaved a certain way. Become aware of their triggers and how different or similar they are to yours. Do you see yourself in them? Do you think that this person had it out for you? I’m certain that this is not the case. But maybe it is. Get out of your own head long enough to wonder what they may have endured. Try to imagine each as a whole being, not just in the role of relative and caregiver. They had a life before you, just as you had a life before your offspring, should you become a parent. Visualize those before you as children. Ask yourself what happened in their lives that they either did or did not overcome.

Then, ask yourself which part of you remains loyal to them, their wounds, grief, and suffering. Without guilt and with a loving heart, let it go. Imagine, if you wish, embracing a childhood version of this person and telling him/her that it’s okay now. Envision this respectfully, on their behalf. You are not erasing it; you prevent it from having a free pass to harm and hurt beyond the event. It’s over. After acknowledging, leave it in the past. There is a way to have compassion without owning. It is a fine line, but you can find it. If you cannot, you can draw it yourself. We do manifest the pain and torment of those who came before us. And we do so usually without knowing. The wounds of those who came before us likely inhabit our beings without our knowledge. To become aware is to take note of habits, moods, and senses that wash over us that don’t seem to make sense. We can still be loyal to our ancestors without taking on or owning their pain. It brings me back to that word, acknowledgment. Express in prayer, thought, or meditation that we know that they suffered, and we care and honor their experience, but it is their history. We wish to end the suffering for them, ourselves, and future generations. I will share an example of manifesting in this way. Someone I know was a caregiver for her mother for most of their adult lives. They shared a strong trauma bond—respectfully, classic codependency. There were much sickness and heartache in the family.


Near her closing days, the mother suffered a massive leg injury that required dozens of stitches and months of wound care and rehabilitation. The significant harm done to this woman was at the hands of others. At this point, a lifetime of unfortunate circumstances began piling up on the mother and her family. The daughter/caregiver turned herself inside and out, taking care of her mother, who never returned to good health again. Shortly after her mother passed, the daughter discovered a suspicious (small) mole on her leg in the same place as her mother’s injury. In the name of possible skin cancer, she had it removed. There was a complication from this outpatient surgery, leaving the daughter with dozens of stitches in the precise location of her mother’s injury. When she showed me her wound, I was aghast. It looked exactly like her mother’s. It was in the same place, and if you had a photo of them side by side, you could not tell the difference. I saw them both. Within weeks leading to the mother’s death, the daughter underwent the same back surgery that her mother did. The daughter’s surgery did not go well, and she is having another, just like her mother did.

When the daughter tells me about these experiences, I note that it is identical to her deceased mother. When describing her conditions, she even says, just like Mom. It is fair to say that this person is unconsciously manifesting her mother’s pain. Whether this is an extension of sacrifice, out of loyalty, or sympathy, I do not know. The similarities are striking. It is no coincidence. I believe that she has taken on her mother’s suffering. It is imprinting on her, and somehow she identifies with it. It is her way of maintaining a connection to her mother. This is a bold example. There are much more subtle nuances of inhabiting the wounds of our ancestors.

We dwell in a complex web of memories, DNA, and collective experiences. I am aware that family members are living out their own experiences according to their blueprints. This is to be expected, encouraged, and honored. As much as I think I know or comprehend, I cannot force or change another. We are at the helm of our own vessels. Unless we are asked to assist others as they sail through the waters, none of it really matters. The important thing now is to know how to swim. So, if you fall overboard, do that. Swim. You may lose sight of the shoreline, or the current may pull you off course. But you can always roll over on your back and rest, float, and then turn back over and keep swimming.