Last week I wrote about Sisterhood and the importance of feeling like you have a tribe. I’m following on from that this week and I’m going to write about the feeling of not fitting in. I’m not talking about in general, in society, at school or work but the feeling of not fitting in with the pack you were born into. Your family.
Growing up feeling like I didn’t feel fit in with my own family was soul destroying and very confusing but it’s only now I’m coming to terms with what this was, what it meant and how I can live with it throughout my life.
Estrangement will be a topic for another time but I will start with looking at one of Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fairy tales; The Ugly Duckling. It has such a powerful message of self-image, acceptance and the importance of kindness to others.
For the last two centuries this story has been one of the few to encourage successive generations of ‘outsiders’ to hold on till they find their own.
The Ugly Duckling
The story tells of a plain-looking little bird (the Ugly Duckling) born in a barnyard.
His brothers and sisters as well as the other birds and animals on the farm tease him for being plain and ugly, so he runs off to live with a flock of wild ducks and geese until hunters shoot down the flock.
Alone again, the Ugly Duckling finds a home with an old woman, but her cat and hen also tease him, so he doesn’t stay there long.
In his wanderings, the Ugly Duckling comes across a flock of migrating swans, and he wishes to join them but can’t because he’s too young and can’t fly well enough. When winter sets in, a farmer rescues the Ugly Duckling, but the farmer’s children and other animals frighten him with their noise and teasing, so again, he flees. He spends a cold and lonely winter hiding in a cave until springtime, when the flock of swans comes to the lake near his hiding place.
When the Ugly Duckling approaches the swans, he’s delighted to find that they accept him and treat him like one of them. When he looks at his reflection in the lake, he realizes, to his astonishment, that he’s matured into a beautiful swan himself. When the swans fly off from the lake, he spreads his wings and joins them, finally having found a family who accepts him.
To quote the book Women Who Run with the Wolves:
“Many women had parents that surveyed them as children and puzzled over how this small alien had managed to infiltrate their lives. Others, looked to the heavens whilst ignoring, abusing or giving her the old icycle-eye.
Now we must spend less time on what they didn’t give you and more time on finding the people you do belong to.
You may not belong to your original family at all. You may match them genetically, but temperamentally you may belong to another group of people.
You may belong to your family perfunctorily while your soul leaps out, runs down the road and is gluttonously happy munching spiritual cookies elsewhere!”
The Exile of the Unmatched Child
“Girl children who display a strong instinctive nature often experience significant suffering in early life. From the time they are babies they are taken captive, domesticated, told they are wrong and improper. Their wildish natures show up early. They are curious and have gentle eccentricities of various sorts, ones that, if developed, will constitute the basis for their creativity for the rest of their lives.
Considering that the creative life is the soul’s food and water, this basic development is excruciatingly critical.
Generally, early exile begins through no fault of one’s own and is exacerbated by the misunderstanding, the cruelty of ignorance or through the intentional meanness of others. Then, the basic self of the psyche is wounded early on. When this happens, a girl begins to believe that the negative images her family and culture reflect back to her about herself are not only totally true but are totally free of bias, opinion and personal preference. The girls begins to believe that she is weak, ugly and unacceptable and this will continue to be true not matter how hard she tries to reverse it.
In some parents’ fantasy, whatever child they have will be perfect, and will reflect only the parents ways and means. If the child is wildish she may be subjected to her parents attempts at psychic surgery over and over again for they are trying to remake the child and more so trying to change what her soul requires of her.
Through her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak it’s truth, she is pressured to be silent.
Pressure to be ‘adequate’ in whatever manner authority defines it can chase the child away, or underground or set her to wander for a long time looking for a place of nourishment and peace.”
It is this ‘looking for a place of nourishment and peace’ which has led me and so many of us down so many wrong roads. Looking for something, anything to make us feel like we belong, make us feel better, content and happy.
“The ugly duckling goes from pillar to post trying to find a place to be at rest. While the instinct about exactly where to go may not be fully developed, the instinct to rove until one finds what one needs is well intact. One keeps knocking on the wrong doors even after one knows better! It is hard to imagine how a person is supposed to know which are right doors if one has never been shown a right door to begin with.
However the wrong doors are those that cause you to feel outcast all over again.
This is the ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’ response to exile.
When a woman turns to repetitive compulsive behaviour that causes decline instead of sustained vitality in order to salve her exile, she is causing more damage because the original wounded state is not being attended to and she incurs new wounding with each foray.
This like putting some medicine on your nose when you have a gash in your arm. Different women choose different kinds of wrong medicine. Some choose the obviously wrong, such as bad company, overindulgence that are harmful or soul-stealing, things that can first build a woman up and then tear her down to the ground.
The solutions to these bad choices are several-fold. If the woman were able to sit herself down and peer into her own heart, she would see there a need to have her talents, her gifts and her limitations respectfully acknowledged and accepted. So, to begin healing, stop kidding yourself that a little feel-good of the wrong sort will take care of a broken leg.
Tell the truth about your wound, and then you’ll get a truthful picture of the remedy to apply to it.
Don’t pack whatever is easiest or most available into the emptiness. Hold out for the right medicine. You will recognise it because it makes your life stronger rather than weaker.”
So my lovelies, we need to remove and heal the new wounding, peeling off each destructive behaviour, the bad company and what is hurting us.
We need to peer into our hearts, be truthful about our wound and surround ourselves with what will help us heal.
Whose with me?