“You do not exist for me. I curse you and and this house!” I stood there frozen and miserable as my mother spewed her anger at my husband and me after we had told her that she must find somewhere else to live and get a job. She was 61 years old—the same age as I am now. She had taken residence in an upstairs bedroom where she snacked on ice cream and chocolate. She rarely went out. My mother’s life was tragically in tatters as she made one excuse after another for finding herself in Charlottesville without work and home. There was always someone else or some outside force beyond her control to blame. She was the innocent victim—especially at my hands.
Nor was that incident the first or the last time she would do this. These words that so erased me, made me irrelevant—though, I am sure spoken unconsciously out of her fear, despair and desperation—revealed a very deep truth about my original wound in this life. Even now as I write this, it takes the breath out of me a bit. I was invisible and unseen, and, on top of that, also badly used and misused by her.
In my shamanic training with author and teacher, Alberto Villoldo, I learned the term, “the original wound.” It is defined as the patterning and imprint in the psyche, physical and energy bodies of our initial trauma. This then becomes a blueprint for subsequent experiences. The nature of this trauma arises out of a particular set of soul challenges through lifetimes that we are meant to use to evolve our consciousness. Within this framework, while curses can certainly be very detrimental and even bind us unconsciously through lifetimes, they contain within them great potential for radical transformation. In psychological terms, they can penetrate into the psyche and result in much emotional and mental confusion, insecurities, brain fog, depression, anxiety, and even physical illness. When curses are uttered in sustained, trauma-inducing environments and relationships where shame and blame are parried about like a commodity, their toxicity is compounded. They can capture us in a destiny line filled with more and more misery.
Under these circumstances, it can, in some cases, take great time and effort to unravel the deeply buried and unconscious bindings in the psyche they create.
My mother went by Marti. It was a shortening of the given name that she hated—Martha—and reflected her dynamic, rebellious and liberal nature. She was an intellectually, artistically and spiritually gifted woman who, tragically, for herself and others, never manifested her true potential. Born in 1936 in a time when women were still duty-bound to fall seamlessly into the roles of wife, mother and housewife, she lived a life she self-reportedly resented and constantly struggled against. Marti felt like a prisoner of the societal and cultural expectations of women. She herself said that she “was born into the wrong body.” As she put it, “I should have been born a man.” Marti also frequently expressed her resentment at the burdens and limitations her children and marriage put on her even as she also loved us intensely. At least there was that—love, though mixed with intense resentment and ambivalence.
My mother was deeply troubled and sadly very abusive of me until she died in 2001 when I was 40 years old, just ten years after that curse. Indeed, throughout my life, she made clear in multiple subtle and overt ways that my sovereignty, individuality and authenticity did not exist outside her needs, wants, projections, and desires, even as she enlisted me to be her caregiver and personal servant. As a child and teenager before I could step into at least geographical independence, I was trapped in a lonely, cold, secret warzone. As an adult, there was no middle ground to walk with my mother: I either succumbed willingly to her demands (and, God help me, I had to look happy while doing so), or I would be shut out in a freezing zone of lovelessness. But even more darkly, particularly in her last years, Marti would come to wish me and my life destroyed. If she could not be happy and if I could not play the part of the doting daughter willing to sacrifice myself as she went down in flames, then I did not deserve any success or joy.
At the time, it was but six months after Marti had arrived in Charlottesville with all her belongings crammed into her little Toyota Camry expecting me, out of a distorted sense of entitlement, to rescue her from what she viewed as a lifetime of victimization. To make matters worse, and not coincidentally given this dynamic, soon after completing my PhD in a graduate department that was similarly abusive, I was in a job where I was being badly treated. I had also begun to recognize that my marriage was not destined to make me happy. It took many years to realize that I had entrained myself to an underfunctioning, profoundly wounded alcoholic. Of course, this is what happens with our original wounding: we unconsciously recreate the same scenarios until we awaken to the pattern and heal it.
In my 30s and early 40s, I often said that my relationship with my troubled mother was the “central story of my life.” Happily, since then, there have been so many other experiences, relationships and events that my identity is no longer subsumed by her in the way it once was. It is also because of the conscious and determined commitment I made in my early 20s to heal.
I remember very clearly one day about a year after enrolling to get in an MA program having an argument with my boyfriend. He lived in the country outside Charlottesville, about 15 miles from me. There had been a snowstorm the night before. He called to cancel our date that night, citing his fear of driving on snow and ice. I, deeply in love with him and rationalizing that I myself would not let anything get in the way of seeing him began to rake him over the coals. He resisted the pressure, though with a lot of guilt in his voice. Finally, lashing him with some words designed to drive that guilt ever more deeply into him, I hung up. I sat there upset. Suddenly I heard my mother’s voice excoriating my father and realized I had acted just like her. I was horrified. Suddenly, I felt and saw two paths before me: I could become just like her and go down the path of being abusive to others, or I could choose a different way—a way of healing. It was a decisive moment as two potential destiny lines appeared very clearly. Such is the nature of these types of choice points in our lives. We do have free will.
So many of us have had a parent or parents who, because of their own confusion and unhealed traumas, and because of unprocessed, untransmuted and unconscious ancestral patterns and wounds, have done harm to them. In my 40-year career as a university professor in which I have mentored many students, and in the 15 years since I have been a trauma-informed therapist-shamanic healer, I have heard so many difficult and even shocking stories. Some of them make my hardships pale in comparison. Yet, against all of this, I hold that every single person’s story matters.
In the field of psychology, it is recognized that every person is unique in how they experience traumatic stress. For one person, falling off a bicycle as a child could be a profoundly difficult event, while for another, it is hardly registered. It all depends on so many factors: personality, temperament, conditions at the time (Was there abuse of some kind? Was the child an orphan and living in a foster home?), the causes and conditions surrounding the fall (Were they pushed? Were they distressed by something? Were they shamed because they were afraid? Did they get hurt?), and the way it was handled afterwards by adults or peers (Did someone see and come to help or not? Were they blamed and shamed? Were they comforted and encouraged?). Depending on so many conditions, seen and unseen, one child may pick up the bike and try again immediately; another may never try to ride again and remember it with dread.
Yet that child can grow up and decide, as I did to walk a destiny line of healing. As we face our shadows, we are able to access sovereignty and authenticity to create the life we want. Knowing we have choices and acting on them courageously is not only key to our own happiness, but also to how we become part of a higher destiny line for humanity and the planet. These shifts in perception and, thus in our actions, can make all the difference.
This way of seeing things has been hardwired into me despite everything—even despite the risk that I could have become much like Marti due to temperament and conditioning. Though there will always be challenges—as the Buddha put it, we will inevitably experience the pain birth, illness and death. Following his next statement, I know that there is a way out of suffering. I am mostly in charge of that process. Herein lies the magic of understanding destiny lines and the ways we can harness our highest potential.
From the point of view of reincarnation, which I hold as a given and central to destiny lines, while we may have easier lives, we also have existences that are hard along a spectrum of intensity. This is not punishment, as karma has often been interpreted, nor hell, as it could be interpreted in Christianity. It is a result of the ways we are part of a field of consciousness in which spirit and soul seek to manifest in multiple forms, domains and identities as part of an infinitely unfolding creative, holographic matrix. In the midst of all experience, from pleasure to pain, ecstasy to hardship, joy to despair, balance and harmony is always being sought. There is so much to love, so much love for us, as well as powerful pathways through which we can exponentially grow, evolve and serve others. A single destiny line in one life is merely a continuation of the one before. We continue to evolve in lifetimes after the present one.
Such is our human challenge in every incarnation: Can we magnetize the luminous destiny line leading us to a consciousness where pain in body and mind is no longer experienced as suffering? Can we use the fuel of our original wound as the catalyst? Can we thus find the source of love that is at the heart of the experience our soul's have chosen? Our suffering is a pathway to lead us there—as I have discovered along the way in my healing engagement with my original wound.
There is no hierarchy of suffering in the great dimensions soul and spirit. There truly are only streams of experience designed at their core to stretch us personally and collectively towards ultimately embracing our medicine and remembering our divine nature in a field of compassion and love. Indeed, it is through our pain that we find interconnection with all beings. When we share and heal our losses, betrayals and grief, we open our hearts and recognize ourselves as one with the human family and All Our Relations on this beautiful Earth. We then gain courage to face the travails of the world around us and activate a wish to serve through our unique gifts and talents.
Thus, so much benefit can come when we are able to speak the truth about our original wound, and, even more importantly, take that first important step on our healing journey. I assert that it is a mission critical not only to ourselves, but to our families, communities, humanity, and our Earth Mother, particularly in these perilous and promising times. As we enter into the shadows in our body, mind and psyche of our original wound, we can find a stream of love and light within ourselves and in the very fabric of creation. We become part of a Great Wave of Peace that has been growing inexorably over many generations. So, my—and your—story begins and evolves along a luminous destiny line of soul. spirit and light. We do it together when we heal the original wound.