This is the writing of Jerilyn Brownstein, MSW, a psychotherapist with a private practice in New Paltz, NY and in NYC. I feel that the journey that Jerilyn describes is one we all experienced or are experiencing. How wonderful to know we don’t have to go it alone.
“I was born 45 years ago.
I died 17 years ago — and I was reborn –slowly, deeply, painfully, beautifully into the person I am still becoming. My personal story begins with giving birth to my first child and encountering the death of who I knew my Self to be. It was a messy death. I was meeting, letting go of and experiencing parts of myself that I could not reconcile. Carl Jung’s definition of spiritual maturity is: the ability to hold polar opposites without coming apart. I had never felt such extreme inner shifts nor did I know they could be worked with, let alone held. I felt incredible love for my son – I was aware for the first time in my life that I would die for someone. I touched intimacy and a sense of connection with my son, my self, my soul, and the universe that I had never experienced before. But right up close – next to all those big beautiful feelings I felt the shadow side just as strong. I felt isolation, disconnection and fear. Sometimes I weathered intense storms of disorientation and even had the taboo lightening bolts of thought that no one ever speaks out loud – I had thoughts of wanting to leave or kill my child. Little did I know this was the beginning of building my spiritual maturity muscles.
During the first two years of mothering I wrote and read intensely. The brave authors I read became my support group. Being a psychotherapist by day and a spiritual seeker by night, I was blessed with being curious, stubborn, and insightful — I refused to frame my experience as pathological. One of my teachers said, “Nothing in nature is wasteful.” So I framed my experience as a laboratory and studied it. What I stumbled into, that I could not find in the mainstream culture, was that this was not a mind suffering with disease. Quite the contrary, encountering so many different and difficult aspects of myself was the actual path to my Self. I began to see motherhood as an initiation – an irreversible crossing over into unknown inner-terrain. To be transformed by mothering, I chose to enter this new landscape visiting unknown, undeveloped, misunderstood, and mysterious parts of myself. Mothering has become a path for me to know my self, soul and spirit more deeply. Looking at the unfolding of my journey through this lens I continue to feel able to meet all aspects of my life in a more full and unique way.”
I will publish Part 2 of Jerilyn’s story and speak more about the work she is doing with mothers shortly.