Articles and Essays

ASH

ASH

Strange house we must keep and fill.

House that eats and pleads and kills.

House on legs. House on fire. House infested

With desire. Haunted house. Lonely house.

House of trick and suck and shrug.

Give-it-to-me house. I-need-you-baby house.

House whose rooms are pooled with blood.

House with hands. House of guilt. House

That other houses built. House of lies

And pride and bone. House afraid to be alone.

House like an engine that churns and stalls.

House with skin and hair for walls.

House the seasons singe and douse.

House that believes it is not a house.

~ Poet laureate Tracy K Smith
Professor at Princeton University and Pulitzer Prize winner

 

Since publishing my first book over 10 years ago, I work primarily with adult daughters of compromised mothers and, across the board, one unifying characteristic underlines their pain. Deep within the psyche of each wounded daughter is an unspeakable, metaphorical homelessness. In ASH, Tracy Smith captures the visceral vulnerability of living in a female body. A haunting, bone chilling fear that hides behind desire and denial. I’m taking the liberty of interpretation, of course, viewing this poem through the lens of my research on mothers and daughters… always finding evidence.

Nothing quite captures the primitive longing of what I call Mother Hunger™ better than ASH. The silent hunger in an un-mothered daughter who constructs a “house of lies” to hide the shame. A “house that eats” to numb the pain. The woman who builds a “house of guilt” from love gone by, never quite settled, or sure of why. Much like an “engine that churns and stalls”, her heart stays trapped behind its walls. A “lonely house… afraid to be alone”.

with warmth,
Kelly McDaniel, LPC, NCC, CSAT

Cultural Beliefs

Chapter Two of my book Ready to Heal discusses a confining, cultural impasse that exists in our culture for women. If your romantic and relational choices regularly leave you cold and empty, exploring the inherited cultural/sexual double bind that sets you up to feel this way will help unravel unwanted beliefs driving your choices. You might be able to discuss the Four Cultural beliefs in a group of women. Identifying shared pain and confusion is both healing and bonding.

 

Being Still

Be still…what do you find inside your heart? Is there fear? Restlessness? Anger? Hurt? These emotions can be intolerable to “sit” with. Emotional pain is physical: our body resists it. It’s challenging to find the sweet spot deep inside us, the silence that comforts our being. Can you sit with yourself and invite your deepest emotions to join you? If you’re like most of us, you may not have tried, or you tried, but gave up after a few minutes feeling hopeless or ridiculous. Isn’t it ironic how often we expect friends, family, or lovers to “be with” us when we can’t “be with” ourselves? Try a moment today…even if it’s simply 2 minutes of silence. Light a candle, curl up in a blanket and see what happens.

First Love

A mother’s love guides our “inner compass”, letting us know when we’re safe and when we’re loved. If her needs engulfed us, we struggle to identify our own desires and ambitions. If she was abusive, terror is our baseline “normal”. If we lost our mother (early death, adoption, or lengthy hospitalization), our normal is abandonment.

Solitude vs Loneliness

Do you feel the difference between solitude and loneliness? How do you distinguish? Sometimes, solitude is nourishing, a time to reflect and enjoy your own company. However, for women healing from addictive habits and mother hunger, loneliness feels cruel, confining, and punishing…an inescapable cavern. May you find comfort in the cave of loneliness today.

Self-Awareness

The concept of a “self” is foreign country for women healing from Mother Hunger. Without a safe early attachment relationship, forming a “self” is congested with survival strategies. As a result, many women are without an “inner compass” to direct life choices. We flounder through life responding to the needs of others, addictively chasing happiness without self-awareness. Unfortunately, there is no short cut to well-being…the “persistent nagging” will stay by our side until we lean into healing mother hunger, and reclaim our buried “self”.

Trust

One of the saddest legacies of Mother Hunger® is that women aren’t to be trusted. As much as you long for connection, the work it takes to cultivate a female friend is too taxing. Pictures like this may create feelings of irritation or longing. This is normal. But as you heal, this will change. You can measure your progress by noticing the women around you. Do you have a friend who knows all your secrets? Do you have a friend you admire without feeling threatened? Do you have a friend you can laugh with?

Heart Break

Dear broken hearted,

 It is said that time heals all wounds. Time may dull the pain of a broken heart, but it cannot fully heal the wound. Unlike a broken bone, heartbreak has no cast. Most of us recognize that healing a broken bone requires a “time-out” from routine, but life rarely permits anyone the necessary space to tend a broken heart. 

 This leaves us each with the monumental task of finding and taking time to heal.  Usually, we’re drowning before we find a refuge.

 How do you allow yourself room to cry? To rage? To grieve? Do you retreat into food, exercise, work, or sex? Or do you find a trusted friend who will hold you while you mourn?

 When we face the death of a loved one, a community mourns with us.  We have a service, a funeral, a meal, a memorial of some nature.  But when a lover betrays us, or we betray ourselves in love, where do we turn?

 Perhaps you haven’t felt the comfort of an unbiased witness, someone who sees the best in you without a personal agenda. You haven’t known safety in a relationship.  You’ve been used, shamed, or forgotten.  Perhaps you’ve misused another for your own gain, hiding from the insecurity deep within your soul.

 Living in isolation is like treading water without a raft.  You may stay afloat, but daily, it takes such energy and effort that giving up sounds like a relief.

 When you no longer want to tread water, it’s time to reach out for help. 

 With love

Kelly