Cutting ties, can it be part of the bodhisvatta path?

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Cutting ties, can it be part of the bodhisvatta path?

Postby ErnestineV » Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:35 pm

I am trying to decide what to do for my own mental health and my husband's, and I'm unsure how to proceed. I don't want to do anything that would be contrary to the path either... I follow the Mahayana lineage (Shambhala).

My sister is a very hurt, confused and fearful person, and this has put her in a position where she is constantly running from problems and as she has never dealt with the trauma of her past, she ends up going to all the wrong people for shelter. She was abused when she was a child, and for the past 6 years has refused to go to counselling. My parents and I have tried to be there for her, and I think we have done some good, but she seems to only be reinforcing the same patterns. I've moved past hurt and have moved to anger. I cannot protect her, and I cannot protect my parents or my siblings from her outbursts or stints where she leaves us for days, but without me saying to my parents (my mom in particular, who always contacts me to give me "updates" and looks for advice, only occasionally implementing it) that I cannot hear anything more about her until she is already ACTIVELY getting help and showing a commitment at some level to making her life better, and that I cannot have her in our house either until that happens, I can't see how I can be at peace with this. I am not strong enough to handle the hurt on its own without converting it to anger...and I am tired of trying.

Am I ok to cut ties in this way? Should I be trying a different tactic in dealing with all the turmoil this has brought up? Is it idiot compassion to stick around and keep trying when it only keeps getting progressively worse and is negatively affecting me and my husband? Or am I disregarding the (perhaps unattainable) intention to get to a place where I could be a boddhisattava and will welcome chaos? Gah. Confused and frustrated. Welcome any clear direction/interpretation of the dharma - I'm tired of the new age psycho babble that seems to be so focused on the self. I need a broader picture - I can't see the forest for the trees at this point.

Thank you everyone. Look forward to some constructive advice. :)

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Re: Cutting ties, can it be part of the bodhisvatta path?

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:10 am

Can you help her? If so, help. If not, don't.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. If she doesn't want help you can't help her.

Also your mother doesn't want advice, she just wants to vent to her "good daughter". Ask her to knock it off.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Cutting ties, can it be part of the bodhisvatta path?

Postby wisdom » Sat Dec 24, 2011 4:17 am

You and your mother should both go see a therapist together and get advice from them about what to do. I am neither a psychologist nor a realized master, but my opinion on your sister is this, to put it simply...

She is seeking to establish her self identity and obtain a sense of power and control. She lost her sense of power when she was abused, and probably her sense of self. She needs space. Let her do what she wants. She clearly cannot be controlled and continuing to act like she can is just perpetuating an illusion, the sooner everyone stops trying to control her, the better. Reinforce whatever is good in her, such as her dreams, hopes, aspirations, and so forth. Keep silent about things you disagree about, don't argue with her, condemn her actions, judge her, or let her draw you into drama. If you reinforce whats good, and keep silent about whats bad, she will feel like you see the good in her and accept the bad. She will feel accepted for who she is, which will help her obtain a sense of self. It will also establish trust in you, which in turn will act on her unconsciously to be more susceptible to agreeing with what you say or have said. Thus, since you've already suggested therapy, she might come around and decide she needs it, and even think its her own decision.

You should refrain from telling her what to do, from judging her actions, even with the intention of helping her. You've already tried that and it hasn't worked, shes not listening. She goes to these other people for support because they don't judge her, don't try to control her, don't tell her what to do, don't pressure her to see a therapist, so she feels accepted. Even if you were abused as well, everyone handles abuse differently. For many people it comes with a loss of a sense of power, and later manifests as rebellion and seeking to establish ones power in unhealthy ways. So she needs to be allowed to do that.

Cutting her off completely would be bad. In addition to supporting whats good and refraining from commenting or judging whats bad or that you disagree with, you should stay in touch with her. Facebook her, send her gifts for her birthday or Christmas. That way when she comes to her senses, she will feel she has someone she can go to. She won't feel like her family has disowned her, in which case she might just go further down the spiral.

I also highly recommend and strongly suggest you read this book:

It will help you get some perspective on this situation from a more universal angle.

In addition to that you should meditate on this situation as universal, many people go through this, many young girls, many sisters, many families. Its happening everywhere, its because of how our society is set up, because of how much mental and emotional problems everyone has. A man abuses some young girl, or something of that nature, because of his emotional and mental problems, and she in turn develops mental and emotional problems. In both cases the people are suffering, and in both cases the peoples suffering usually arose as a result of either prior abuse or a broken home, or both. Its a pattern, and its widespread.

Also meditate on the fact that the condition of the normal deluded mind is, as you said, confused, afraid, running from the past, not wanting to face past trauma. Thats the natural condition of most people to a lesser or greater degree. Different people handle it differently, but if you see someone you think is "normal" don't think they are any different than your sister in this respect.

Your anger is because you don't understand why your sister is doing what shes doing. Intuitively you know its because she was abused, but you don't understand the karmic causes and conditions that shaped her into what she is today, into how she is acting today, so its upsetting. Reading that book will help, reading other books on psychology will help as well. In addition to this, meditating on your own mind, the way it works, and becoming aware of all your subtle delusions and so forth will help immensely. But you have to be willing to fearlessly acknowledge yourself. The better you know your own mind, the better you will know the minds of others. Our ultimate nature and mind is that of Buddha, and since everyone shares this nature, the closer you get to your ultimate nature, the more you will naturally understand how everyone around you works.

Psychology is more or less the study of the causes and conditions that lead a person into certain psychological states. We can frame the whole thing in terms of Buddhism to a limited degree, and say that psychology is the study of how the aggregate of the self is shaped and formed by the aggregates of the six senses. In psychology its known that certain events, for example, are likely to lead to PTSD, while others are likely to lead to depression, and others to some other problem. Its the observation of the formation of mental habits and patterns, so in my opinion its a valuable thing to learn. Pop psychology is mostly useless, and while many people like Jung, its not really useful in terms of trying to help people in a direct manner. Basically Jungian psychology is not primarily concerned with how an individuals abuse leads to behavior later in life.
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Re: Cutting ties, can it be part of the bodhisvatta path?

Postby Quiet Heart » Sat Dec 24, 2011 4:40 am

First of all, Yes, you clearly need a break.
Take a meditation retreat for your own well-being...however it can be done most easily within your tradition.
Think of it as a spiritual renewal "rest and recuperation" break, that requires isolation from your family and family problems.
If only for the reason that you need to as you put it, "see the forest and not (only) the trees".
You can not clear dirty water from a pool by digging around in the need to let the mud settle before it will start to clear.
So do that first.
You can not help someone else if your own mind is troubled, can you?
Next about your sister. Yes she has many problems as you described. But only she, herself, can free her own mind from those demons.
As Bob Marley sings in his song, "Redemption Song", "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind."
All YOU can do is to as clearly and quietly explain that to your sister....and maybe your mother also.
If your sister DOES recognise that point, then SHE can "emancipate herself ffom mental slavery" too. But that must be your sister's choice.
Regarding your mother, of course, she is worried about her daughter. She is turning to you for reassurance...not really for advice. Your mother KNOWS what she must do, she is looking to you to give her the strength to do it. You have to decide how you respond to that need.
And finally, for you, about becoming a boddhisattava. That is not a thing (not that I am even close to being one) that you get or learn as I concieve it.
It's like a seed, that you plant and must feed and water for it to grow.
So, for that reason, tend your own garden if you want your own flowers to bloom.
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach
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