I’ve been working on myself for nearly three years now and my relationships still suck. At times they suck the life energy out of me and kill the enthusiasm I’ve been gifted with for my creative projects. The reason that these relationships are misshapen, malformed, useless and painful is because like most people, I’m a human being whose ancestors lived through times of war, destruction, grief and loss and for the most part did not receive the emotional support to heal and grow their spirit. They passed down the trauma to their children and grandchildren and subsequent generations because they were not given the guidance to be present with their own pain to break their spirit free of it. Those of us blursed with sensitivity, we are canaries in what is becoming a toxic coal mine of human interactions. Have you noticed how little people actually pay attention to each other? Many people talk at and not with each other, at least this is how it is in my family.

Because of the shock of suddenly finding myself at midlife living a life that doesn’t reflect my personal values, I started working on my mental health nearly three years ago and I don’t yet have a positive mental state clear of anxiety, worry, anger, pain and overthinking. Though I’m better these days, I still feel anger and disgust at other people’s careless ways and sometimes it takes me days to realise that it’s actually my own pain behind these irritations which I experience.

The anger and darkness that descends on me can feel like a dead end from which there’s no escape. In times like these I’m reminded of the story of Theseus, who was able to defeat the monster Minotaur with help from the ingenious Ariadne. Minotaur was part man, part bull, born of an unnatural union between a sacrificial bull and Pasiphae, the queen of the Greek isle of Crete. When the Minotaur grew so did his appetite and to protect his people from the beast, the King put him in the centre of a labyrinth inside the Palace of Knossos.

The Minotaur: An Angry Monster Within

What I’ve experienced is that anger ultimately is a pain response. When there’s a final straw put on an unhealed wound there is an explosion of red hot life energy and that provides temporary fulfillment. Just as a hungry Minotaur has to be fed, the outbursts of fury and the taste of life that comes from them erupt time and time again. To date, this has been the only way I’ve kept an unhealthy relationship with my brother alive. Unfortunately for us, our relationship was not lovingly crafted with conscious intention from our parents. As the older sibling, my job was to police my brother and keep him out of trouble. The dynamic has not changed despite both of us being in our 40s and I am now consciously wanting out of the role I’m playing in my brother’s life.

For most of us, a nuclear family made up of a mother, father and siblings is what we were brought up in and where we were wounded. Many of us had to hide our true nature because it was unacceptable to our parents, cut off from ancestral wisdom, in their limited and limiting experience of the world.

I know how frustrating it was for me growing up, wanting to hold onto my personality, fascination with death, mythology, darkness and depths many people don’t dare delve into. I felt ashamed of the “childish things” I wanted to experience in my life, like writing plays and musicals and had never considered up until now how my brother’s personality was deformed to fit into the narrow parameters of what is acceptable for a middle class, government family raised in the shadow of a paternal lineage with military and police professions.

What woke me up from my delusions of having a healthy mature relationship with my brother was when I allowed myself to see that he was not there for me. He pretended, but there was nobody there behind an amicable mask. I felt rage, disgust and hatred for him and myself and it gave me a glimpse of the raging bull that I must face within myself.

How does one face the monster, the source of pain head on, slay it and find one’s way out of the dead end and back to life? Awareness that the monster is there, raging and consuming you, taking your energy and thoughts away from your work is a very good start. You may be a first born like me, trying everything in your power to force your sibling to do the “right thing”. You may be experiencing frustrations with an emotionally absent partner and all your efforts to force him to feel something are going to waste.

It is now time for me to face the monster and end the tyranny. And let’s be clear, it is my own tyranny, my monster and I am The One sucking my own life energy by trying to impose my will onto others. Truth hurts, and it wakes us up and heals us.

The Labyrinth: An Analogy for Life

The creative life is full of uncertainty. In reality, all life is creative and it means entering the uncertainty of the mystery, over and over again.

No matter how much you hedged your bets, put yourself in the safest, most boring, 9-5 cubicle job you could find, where you don’t have to interact with people or be exposed to the mess of life, there are still no guarantees that everything will go according to your plans. Everyone forgets this from time to time. We are all inside this mysterious labyrinth with light and dark and will run into dead ends, ghosts and monsters.

I make the mistake of thinking that things will be straightforward when I create my own projects. They are the work I’ve created for myself and I’m in full control, right? The truth is that I have no control of the outcome. Will people see value in my new book? Will they want to sponsor it? Will the concept for “Live the Gift” go over people’s heads? Is it too sophisticated, too idiotic, too much or too little for the audience I’m writing for? I have no way of knowing without getting in there and creating it first. Sometimes fear leaves me feeling empty and uninspired and this is when the Minotaur comes out, looking to tear into an innocent victim. And who is the whipping boy in my life? That would be my brother, the one who always seems too numb, too out of it to get involved in anything our family does. He must have unhealed wounds running deep within him to be that cut off from other people. I beat myself up trying to engage him emotionally and then I beat him up for not feeling my frustration with him (and it’s like beating up Darth Vader. I get hurt, he probably feels nothing).

So I turn to him, the worst person who can emotionally support me as I have to go through the darkness of fear, resistance and thoughts of “am I good enough?” and “who am I to be writing this?”. My fear of rejection seals my fate and my brother just stands there numb, unable to hold my hand or the space I want to create with him. What I desire is a true relationship and can I blame him for running away? All his life, I’ve been the enforcer, the one forcing our parents will on him to do his homework and go to a good school. No wonder the guy shrinks at the sight of me…

And in this moment I am here sacrificing the Minotaur, my monstrous past relationship with my brother, so I can navigate my labyrinth with humanity and reunite with divinity on the other side.

Ariadne’s Thread: A Creative’s Intuition

In the story of Theseus and the Minotaur’s labyrinth, the true hero is Ariadne, the woman who falls in love with Theseus and offers him a simple gift. She gives him a red thread to hold onto which will guide him through the labyrinth. She holds onto one end, as wise mentors can ground and orient us, and after Theseus slays the monster, the red thread leads him back to Ariadne. For a creative navigating her own work, the red thread is intuition and we often forget it is there wanting to serve us.

With the monster slayed (for now) I can strengthen my red thread (receiving aid from wise mentors, people like Kath Prior  Melissa Indot and Allahna Jayla) and enjoy whatever is to be found within the labyrinth. The labyrinth has many gifts in it, never doubt that. You will find gold, and treasures and wildflowers, skulls, bones and letters. Such is the adventure of a life lived in acknowledgment of our spiritual nature. It is full of beauty and we forget what a beautiful, rich, sustaining and supportive creation we are all a part of.

Over to you…

When you’re with your family, do you sometimes feel trapped in a labyrinth and you’re hitting dead ends?

Now, imagine that perhaps they’re hitting dead ends with you. Are you growing and expanding or is fear keeping you from exploring your full potential?

Can you see how you may be running away from bliss, love and true connection?

Take some time to meditate, journal, make art or watch a movie you love or listen to an album you adore. All of these pleasures are deeply healing and will reconnect you with your true self. You will find your way home to your values and the strength to go out there and do the work that’s waiting for you.