Welcome to my Blog
As we behold, we actively transform the image.
When we first enter the world, our families embrace us, cradling us in their arms. My autoethnographic work describes kinship from the vantage point of an adopted child. This reflection guided me to an understanding of a relational approach to living on Earthship. Through the resolution process, writing to transform my relations, my perceptions evolved as my metamorphosis enfolded. And as my perceptions were transformed through the walkthrough, on the “medicine wheel of life”, I was able to behold a transformed image of Earthship. I saw how the Earth is a sacred container, holding us together.
Our Alpine chalet holds together our family in a “holding environment” that allows us to live a lifestyle that values the international relations we have cultivated while living in a ski tribe on the mountain. We ski, hike, make good family meals, play the piano, and enjoy the comfort of our home. In the summer we decorate the balconies with geranium pots and hanging baskets. Our home is filled with special objects and books from our relatives that remind us of our family lineage. Our chalet has provided us with a beautiful lifeplace where Angelo and I have raised our children.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit Priest and scientist wrote about the Noosphere. His vision of the evolutionary process described an awakening of planetary mind. The growing level of awareness that we are experiencing individually as well as the increased connectivity that we are developing globally, can be understood through the concept of the Noosphere.
As we move towards more “glovircal” ways of living-global and local or “glocal”, connected by virtual interconnectedness, we must find ways to develop the vitality of our lifeplace. Our relationships shape us in numerous ways. As we increase our connectivity on a global scale, we become more aware of our oneness. Dr. Lazlo refers to this historical period as the Akashic Age, an emerging new paradigm that underscores our interconnectedness. We can use this period of global crisis as a catalyst to activate driving forces as we engage in the conflict resolution process.
Storying is a way to connect and reinforce our relationships. Earth-human relationships are fundamental for our survival as we are facing Anthropocene or the 6th phase of extinction. Our ability to consciously guide and shape our relatedness will allow us to home in to a bright future, living in/on Earthship. As we connect to our inner compass, we can steer Earthship towards a flourishing future. Hear the call to activate the homing in mechanism as we lift ourselves and our planet up to experience ever more coherent ways of flourishing on Earth.
The Human Energy website offers information about the Noosphere and a film series that reinforces our shared evolutionary process and experience of emergence. Come sit around the camp fire and listen to this Third Story.
Human Energy website:
Stewardship is a fundamental concept, referring to how we are stewards of what we have been given. Stewards must take care of their land and organizations. Stewardship also evokes the responsibility that we have to pass on all that was ours during our lifetime to the next generation. Intergenerational responsibility is at the core of stewardship. We must take good care of all we have been bequeathed. In Switzerland there is a way to manage the land referred to as the commons. The pastures, mountain glaciers and water sources, ski slopes and pastures are all part of the commons that are managed by the “bourgeoisie”.
My husband Angelo’s grandparents, Catherine and Emile, were stewards of the land, the pastures and their herds. Catherine was the village midwife and cared for all the women in Isérables when they gave birth. She also cared for her large family of 12 children.
This unique Alpine culture is our inheritance. Not far away is the Great Saint Bernard Pass and Hospice that cared for the travelers walking over the pass, a historic metaphor for hospitality. The traditions of our region provide interesting examples of stewardship and caring for the commons.
Living in harmony with our bioregions entails tending to the gardens, the pastures, the herds, as well as the wellbeing of families and communities. The quality of the land gives rise to our ability to flourish. Even the microbes in the land influence our health and wellbeing. These connections are increasingly understood in biology and medicine. “Old Friends” or microbes allow us to keep our internal balance, influencing our immunoregulation.
Women in the village of Isérables wore a traditional costume until the 1980’s when the mountain villages became more accessible. However, some women still choose to wear their costumes. Women is Switzerland only got the right to vote in the 1971, however women in the Upper-Valais were an important example of progressive women’s suffrage in 1957. Today, women continue to seek more fulfilling and egalitarian ways to participate in society, holding up their half of the sky.
Isis, the Egyptian Goddess stood for motherhood. In my name Susie Riva, you can play with the letters, rearranging them to read Isis Rises. My name resonates with the rising feminine energies that are so needed in today’s world. Let us rise together, co-constructing a Culture of Care for our Common Home.
Here is an article about our “Old Friends”:
Here is an article about the commons:
Here is an article about Alpine Wellness:
Here is a link to an article about the Valais:
The Egyptian traditions speaks of the weighing of the heart, suggesting that the heart must be as light as a feather to pass into the afterworld. Going to the Egyptian museum in Torino and the British Museum in London to see the Egyptian collection allowed me to ponder the meaning associated with the scarab.
Scarabs also represent synchronicity in Jungian psychoanalysis. These sacred beetles can be found in museums and on our walking paths. Recognizing the signs and deciphering the synchronicities is part of the meaning-making process.
The sacred heart is also an important Christian metaphor. Jesus points to the sacred heart in many paintings in statues. Heartways open up to us through transformative practices, forgiveness, and grace. Making peace with the past allows us to walk forward in a more lighthearted way.
Peacemaking involves engaging on multiple levels. However, peacefulness can be found in mediation, and other practices like prayer and mindfulness that we can incorporate into our daily routines. Making peace with all our relations is a lifelong endeavor and a daily practice.
Our family histories can be transformed when we engage in autoethnographic practices that bring us to a form of narrative coherency. Dr. Daniel Speigel uses the term mindsight to describe this interconnected vision. The mind-body in an interconnected system influenced by the field of the heart. Writing and praying can facilitate the transformative process.
Mediators also contribute to world peace initiatives. And Thomas Berry writes about yet another form of peace, the “Peace of Earth”, that is dependent upon human decision in this era of Anthropocene. Berry wrote about a cosmology of peace in the Dream of the Earth. The “Peace of Earth” arises from hopefulness. He suggests that we can find guidance in the dream of the earth for the task that is before us. My experience suggests that we have the innate capacity to home in to our hearts, and connecting to our inner compass, to find our way into the future.
Integrated relationships lead to resilience and wellness. Social engagement fosters our wellbeing. Working on our inner state of being can contribute to fostering strength in the face of adversity. We can create a culture of presence, by attuning to our inner compass, and resonating in a world of trust where we give our best effort while facing planetary challenges. Kindness and compassion can light up the world, opening relational heartways.
Here is a lecture from Dr. Seigel that explains the importance of brain integration:
Here is a picture of a scarab in the British Museum:
Here are pictures of a beetle on a path near our chalet:
In chapter 37, I explain how I met Rusty Schweickert in Boulder when I was a young college student attending a conference at the University of Colorado. The picture of Earthrise as well as his personal experience, witnessing the beauty of Earth from space, created a paradigm shift for the entire human race. The awe that he felt brought forth fundamental questions he had about the meaning of life on Earth.
In an interview, he explains that we are at the point of what he calls “cosmic birth” referring to a concept about Earth’s birthing process, using the metaphorical comparison of human birthing processes. His explanations allow us to understand where we are in the cosmic birthing process.
Epigenetics ushers in yet another major paradigm shift. We are the Keepers of Earth, Keepers of Life and our Genome. We are also Shepherds of our planet’s biodiversity. Hidden within the symbol of the Shepherd may be an archetypical enigma about how to care for life on Earth. How can we expand our circle of caring to include all the creatures and the Creation? Schweikert’s telling the story of space exploration brings us to a new level of coherency, offering a vision and explanation of the unfolding trajectory of wordlings.
Link to a Newsweek interview with astronaut Rusty Schweickert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3vHNl6NMdw
Listen to Rusty Schweickert explain his vision of Cosmic Birth: https://apollospace.com/rusty-schweickart-apollo-9-beyond-film/
Moral Imagination’s definition in Britannica is as follows:
Moral imagination, in ethics, the presumed mental capacity to create or use ideas, images, and metaphors not derived from moral principles or immediate observation to discern moral truths or to develop moral responses. Some defenders of the idea also argue that ethical concepts, because they are embedded in history, narrative, and circumstance, are best apprehended through metaphorical or literary frameworks.
Autoethnography creates the capacity to imagine more just lifeworlds through narrative inquiry. Poetic representations also contribute to forming ideas about what is good and just, right or wrong, in our lifeworlds. When living in an Alpine winter mountainscape, I ski on of fields of snow crystals that reverberate lifegiving energy to my family of snow dancers. Rumi, the Sufi poet, invites us to meet in a field beyond judgements of right and wrong. In this field of transcendence, we get a glimpse of our personal representations of the good life by connecting to our moral imagination.
Living in the Alps, highlanders have a different perspective than those living in the valley. We develop different world views that arise from our cultural landscapes. From the top of the mountain, I ask, “What lifts you?”. This chapter moves the story line towards what Kenneth Gergen refers to as “narrative slope”.
Climbing to the top of one side of the mountain, leaving the past behind, I ski down the other mountainside towards a vision of a bright future. On this side of the slope, using my ability to perceive through the lens of moral imagination, I envision enriching relationships that bring forth more just societies. I invite you to come ski down this narrative slope with me. Here, we leave behind the snow fields on high, walking through blooming orchards that hold the promise of ripening summer apricots, plums, pears, and apples.
Relational research also contributes to moral imagination by co-constructing ways to improve the human condition with research design. This relational approach to problem-solving gives value to transformational processes. Here is a video with Ken Gergen and Sheila McNamee, Taos Institute founders, talking about relational research. I did my PhD. with the Taos Institute, benefiting from the knowledgeability of these pioneering social constructionists. Autoethnography is an important method that they discuss in their conversation.
Ken Gergen and Sheila McNamee: Invitation to Conversations About Constructionist Practices in Research
Here is the book Moral Imagination, The Art and Soul of Building Peace, by John Paul Lederarch that explores conflict resolution using ethnographic approaches.
Here is a picture taken in our orchard in Isérables.
Here is a picture of my son Nils, skiing up the mountain.
Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” relationship, the Seven Arrows Medicine Wheel, as well of the saint’s lives are connected by their ability to bring us to higher levels of perception. We experience a form of relational transformation as we are lifted by sacred practices to see the interconnected nature of life and the divine working within all relationships. Spiritual traditions use different languages and representations. Religion can be understood as what we “rely” on, or what we are dependent upon and have confidence in.
Encountering the divine can happen as we journey through life. There is the inner and the outer journey. We can encounter great thinkers through their writings, and we can encounter sacred places through pilgrimages. There are different ways to gain higher knowledge that often transforms our perceptions. When we are lifted, we can see the sacredness of life.
The pain experienced by orphaned and adopted children is understood as the primal wound. It is a wounding that happens when babies are separated at birth from their mothers. The term “innocents” is used in reference to the Biblical story of the innocent babes that were killed by Herod. When I journeyed to Florence, Italy, I went to visit the first orphanage that was built in the 1400’s, known as The Hospital of the Innocents. Connecting with this historical site that received and cared for abandoned children brought me to a sacred place. As I prayed and gave thanks for all those who have cared for the innocents, I became even more consciously aware of the pain of mothers and children who have suffered the consequences of being separated at birth.
This inner and outer journey provided an encounter with higher knowledge through the historical understanding of the evolution of caring for abandoned children as well as the spiritual experience of connecting with these life histories. Through the ages, children like me, and my sister Cathy, have been cared for when the circumstances of our births didn’t allow us to remain in our families. Visiting the museum and attending the mass held there, allowed me to sublimate my personal experience through journeymanship, connecting even more deeply with the story of the innocents.
Here is the link to the museum:
Here is a documentary film that tells the story of the innocents.
The Innocents of Florence: The quest to save 600,000 children
The Golden Pocket Watch that fell into my lap, brought a needed form of recognition at a threshold moment of my life. As I found the courage and strength to complete my doctorate, this timepiece arrived in a package with a letter that bequeathed the pocket watch to me. This capping moment has come to represent divine timing or synchronicity as well as the confirmation that my ancestors were “watching over me”.
The thought of “passing on the Golden Pocket Watch” has also made me consider what I value and what I want to pass on to my children. This idea of transmission is a central theme that thickens in my storyline. The watch-giving tradition passes forward love from ancestors to future generations, creating a line of inheritance.
Gnothi Seauton, “know thyself” is an invitation to Self-discovery so that we can ultimately recognize our own worthiness. It is also a pathway taking us to the heart of contemplation. As we decipher the enigmas engraved in the timepiece of our life, we experience wholeness. Once knowledge is gained, there is a need or growing desire to pass it on either through family lines of inheritance or fellowship and scholarship. My book has become a teaching story. My website is a way for me to share what I know with educational resources that can be accessed online. Adult online education engages life-long learners in journeyship.
Here is a picture of the Golden Pocket Watch, my transitional object:
Here is an article about the adult learning:
Here is the link to Harry Potter’s Golden Snitch that contains flesh memory: https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Flesh_Memory
The Showings were described by Julian of Norwich, the first woman known to have written in English. She writes of divine love and her personal experience of how God showed his face to her. In Chapter 33, I share my pilgrimage to Turin to visit the Holy Shroud with my daughter Jessica. I also tell of my visit to Bologna where I discovered a sculpture of Jesus made from the Holy Shroud.
Through these pilgrimages, I felt that I had encountered Jesus in an even more tangible way, standing before the Holy Shroud and then later discovering the existence of the sculpture. There is debate about the authenticity of the Holy Shroud, however I invite you to discover the Holy Shroud, as the question is answered in the eye and heart of the beholder. What do you see?
As I prepared this chapter’s message, I realized that this part of the story had fallen into chapter 33 without me previously noticing. Thirty-three is the age Jesus was when he was crucified and died. It is also the age I was when I found my birth parents. Again, I have been blessed with yet another showing.
Here are links to documentaries and articles that can take you to the Holy Shroud of Turin, and to Julian of Norwich’s showings of divine love.
The Man in the Shroud
The Shewings of Julian of Nowrwich
Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love
Explanatory models provide a framework to explain how our illnesses and conflicts are affecting our bodies and relationships. The body is the vase or sacred container filled with verses or narratives, expressing our life experiences. The interconnected nature of the mind-body can also be understood by looking at the concept of archetypes, symbolic representations fashioning our becomingness.
Questing for my origins led me to transformational practices. Along the journey, I not only found my birth family, but my intellectual family. My intellectual family and my books that have been faithful companions, provided the springboard for me to muster the energy to change my circumstances.
Embracing Viriditas, a concept from Saint Hildegard von Bignen, allowed me to perceive the generative energy forces that were present in my environment. And as the virtual reality expanded through the new technologies that were made available, I connected with these greening powers, weaving virtual relational templates. In these expanding spaces of becomingness, my mind-body, incorporated the virtual. My odyssey’s sails filled with divine guidance or mediatorship. As I ventured into new dimension of relating, my Self-transformation moved to platforms that ultimately allowed me to connect, relate, and belong in more fulfilling ways. Within my circle of relations, we became more wholehearted, rooted in the Earth, and the sky.
After attending a medical anthropology conference in the countryside near Bologna, I traveled by train to Florence. While visiting the Family Matters exhibit in Florence in 2014, I discovered artwork that portrayed the transformation of the concept of family. The exhibit brought together modern art and photography to represent these changes, underscoring the artistic expressions with social science perceptions that allowed visitors to contemplate these changes through discourses on family matters. Virtual links allow us to investigate the past and contemplate the present in ways that offer new lines of flight. Our conscious awareness is future-forming. Knowledgeability transforms intergenerational life trajectories.
Here is the link to the Family Matters Exhibit in Florence:
Here is a link to the Healthy Hildegard website:
Saint Hildegard von Bingen was a visionary, doctor of the church, and playwright. Here is a picture of her artwork:
Belonging: Designing My Medicine Shield
Part three introduces the third and final section of the book that begins with exploring the meaning-making process. This chapter is filled with symbolism. I describe my stained-glass window that was inspired by a Medicine Shield that I found in the Seven Arrows book, many years later realizing how much they resembled drawings from Jung’s Red Book.
I speak of running on my favorite footpath that like an old friend, I am forever happy to encounter. I also tell the story of being called to run higher to hear my calling on Poppy’s last day on Earth.
But most importantly the quintessence of this book is found in this chapter, explaining how this part of the book presents meaning-making methods and evidence to my own theory that “each of us are inhabited by a primal urge and capacity to home in”. Homing IN to the good life is an endeavor I share with you my dear readership. This is a call to arms, armoring ourselves with Self-Knowledge or gnothi seauton. Inspired by visions of potentiality, may we walk together like heroes on what Joseph Campbell describes as The Heroes Journey.
Here is a picture of Poppy, my dear grandfather, holding me in his arms.
Here is a link to The Greater Good Magazine website at the University of Berkeley, California:
Gnothi Seauton-Here is a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as an explanation of the Greek tradition.
Belonging is a challenge for international citizens that have become world citizens or wordlings. There are different forms of bringing people into a community. There are various models including assimilation, integration, and inclusion. When we leave our hometown to study or for work, we move into new communities. Often there are barriers to belonging that we never considered before, lines of separation that we hadn’t previously noticed. Policies recognizing inclusive integration and give value to diversity foster belonging.
My way forward has been journeymanship or life-long learning. Understanding history, being able to analyze behavior that I believe is inappropriate, and finding solutions, are all part of my approach. But I have also had to find the courage to fight for what I believe in, refusing to accept assimilation while striving to demonstrate the values of inclusion.
As a double national, I am able to benefit from being both American and Swiss, but I must also adhere to the rules that govern both of my countries. There are advantages to having dual nationality, but there are also increasing challenges to being both.
I was attracted to Switzerland as a young girl. The beauty of the Alps as well as the book and film about Heidi, opened my heart to a different way of life in the mountains. Later, different Swiss scientists and adventurers inspired me. I have tried to pass on the good life to my children, choosing to model what I consider to be the best of both worlds.
Here is the website showing the Solar Impulse adventure that Bertrand Piccard embarked upon, inspiring us to sour above borders, towards a world of renewable energy. His innovations are piloting us into the future.
Solar Impulse link:
Here is a link to European policy on inclusive integration:
Our perceptions or how we “see” each other, and the world influence our becomingness both individually and collectively. There are hidden layers of meaning in all that surrounds us. Lifelong learning allows us to engage with the world in a more meaningful way. Each era builds on the artwork of the past. Science and art come together in our cosmologies, offering explanations for our lifeworld. I have included an article that shows how artwork from the Renaissance incorporates forms from the anatomy of the human brain. Hidden in the art forms are anatomical depictions of the brain. Here, the perception of the Godhead comes to life in sacred artwork.
Our lives too, are sacred artworks. We look to the heavens for guidance, in the hopes of discovering the best path forward. Our understanding of consciousness and our interpretations of the Divine are multi-layered and socially constructed. The Renaissance artists painted images of Transfiguration, emerging from Christian theology.
The patterns in our lives might be transgenerational patterns transmitted to us, however as we grow old, and become conscious of the patterns that constitute us, we can choose to weave new patterns into the fabric of our lives, weaving together the human and the divine. These multilayered patterns are forever transformed and transfigured. When we connect and reverberate the light of the stars that shine down upon us, we find guidance and inspiration. The heavenly stars even fill our lives with moments of epiphany, when a sense of deeper meaning is revealed to us, allowing us to find our way. Epiphanies can come in the form of insights as well as encounters. Transfigured patterns are woven with these golden threads that sparkle and shine, illuminating our soul’s deepest wishes.
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may,
I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
David was a golden boy, who benefited from the incredible era that followed WWII and all the opportunities in the United States that were offered to men like my father. I was his first child. He offered me a wonderful upbringing. He took me on adventures like hiking in Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming, a hike my birth parents had also done with their children. It seems my families had been walking on intersecting paths. But David had also made decisions that had caused great pain in our family circle. I spoke weekly with my grandfather Harland, to convince him of the importance of forgiveness.
When David died, I spoke at the funeral, offering my story about David, my father. When I looked out into the faces of those who had come to the funeral, I saw my birth parents, and my father Michael’s supportive smile as I honoured my father David. This moment appeared surreal.
Adopted children often fall “Far From The Tree”, the title of Andrew Solomon’s book. Parents like to see their reflections in their children’s faces. Adopted children cannot offer that possibility to the parents who raise them. I tried my best to be a Mossman, cultivating their ways, and passing on what I believed to be their values, a form of cultural inheritance. But I came to understand the importance of passing on the biological bloodline, and just how gratifying that can be when facing the reality of one’s mortality. This insight came to me as a young mother.
When my father passed on the golden pocket watch, a family heirloom, to my biological sister’s son, I became aware of my difference that I hadn’t perceived growing up. Though I had three boys, David’s choice to bequeath the pocket watch that had belonged to my grandfather, Harland, passed over my family line.
It took time and grace to heal what seemed to be a gesture that overlooked my family, accentuating the difference of being the adopted child. But I came to understand that the golden Cross pen that my father had given me, the pen that had survived a fire, was indeed a symbolic object that suggested my becomingness through authorship. I end this chapter writing, “And my inheritance is this amazing story.”
Here is a link to information about Solomon’s film:
Here is a link to an interview about Solomon’s book:
This chapter is at the core of my book. As I had gone through the reunion process, establishing life-long relationships with my birth family, expanding my relational matrix, my own family grew. Jessica was my 40th birthday present. She arrived when I was balancing my full-time job and raising our young children. The challenges of balancing work and family are central sociological questions that are eliciting transformational processes not just in individual families, but throughout the Western world.
Jessica, our 5th child’s name, means “God behold”. While expecting her, I fell to my knees under the pressures coming down upon me. But in that humble position, I found a grace that has accompanied me even more consciously ever since her arrival. Every Christmas season I am reminded of the words from the well-known Christmas song, “Fall on your knees and hear the Angels voices”. Receiving Jessica into our family forced us to reconfigure our relationships just as one carefully places the figurines in the nativity scene, making a special place for baby Jesus.
“Trying to fit in,” seemed to exemplify the feelings expressed in this chapter. I was the adopted child who learned to fit in to my adopted family, only to later need to go through the same process to “fit in” to my birth family. Adaptability seems to be a quality that is necessary during all phases that mark the process of adoption, the search, and reunion. Our reunion turned in to a long-term bonding process.
In this blog post, I have included articles about adoption and reunion to offer research perspectives for my readership. Kinship in the context of adoption and reunion requires a form of resilience that allows family members to overcome the difficulties of complex family relationships. Our family fist looked for likenesses to solidify our relationships in our birth family. But as time went on, we were able to respectfully embrace our differences too.
By sharing family experiences, we got to know each other and make memories that have ultimately linked us. Not only did Cathy and I become part of the Wylie family, but all our relations shifted to incorporate a new matrix of relationships that brought all our families together in a loving embrace. My book is yet another relational space to celebrate our coming together as we look back, reading our lives.
When my grandparents, Marnie and Poppy died, I said adieu by writing poems for their funerals. I was called to the top of the mountain to run on Poppy’s last day of life, watching the sunset on his life, I ran with a growing sense of purpose through his continual love and support. Poppy died when a friend from Tibet was staying with us. She had been in the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and gave me books signed by the Dali Lama. She was in Switzerland trying to raise funds for a school for handicapped children when my grandfather passed away.
Here is a link to her work: https://tibetanparliament.org/81761-2/
Walt Whitman’s poem written for President Lincoln, incorporates lilacs, the flowers in bloom at Lincoln’s burial, that have a heart shaped leaf. Marnie too died when the lilacs were blooming in the back of the farmhouse at Black Bird Bend Farm. Here is a link to Whitman’s famous poem:
Here is an analysis of this famous poem:
This chapter investigates the difficulties that surfaced when I found my birth family. Attending my sister Michelle’s wedding and meeting my sister Cathy, who had just reunited with our family exposed challenging dimensions that revealed dark archetypical forces existing within Swiss society. Though the patriarchal powers within the school system emerged to hinder me from reuniting with my family, I pushed forward. I was determined to be with my family at my sister’s wedding. As I organized my way home, I begun to realize my vulnerability as a foreign woman. Even though I had Swiss citizenship, I was treated as though my Swiss rights didn’t apply. But over the years my own matriarchal power has strengthened. Scholarship has allowed me to combat social injustice for myself and others.
I have included a full book by Franceska Falk on migration and social innovation that tells the stories of other migrant women in Switzerland. These women had the courage to initiate social change. I am also adding a link to Jung’s writings and concepts where you can delve into the concept of archetypes. These two resources offer my readership further avenues of investigation, looking into the themes of otherness, migration, and the archetype of the“outsider” or foreigner.
After we all came together, I started asking questions. I was convinced that family secrets were coming through as repeating family patterns. I was compelled to understand. I felt that it was time to unravel the family history that had been spun, weaving together story lines that covered up relationships that needed to be recognized.
Here is a book that addresses transgenerational psychology. Often, family patterns are transmitted in an unconscious manner. Their relation patterns often appear as synchronicities or serendipity that appear to stress the connections that beg to be revealed and brought into the light. This transgenerational transmission can be observed in our family’s case study.
This approach goes “beyond what is transmitted consciously from generation to generations to bring to light what is transmitted trangenerationally, that is, what transmitted without being “assimilated” because it was never verbalized and remains hidden among unspoken family secrets (Schützenberger 1998, 4).”
The Ancestor Syndrome
Transgenerational Psychotherapy and the Hidden Links in the Family Tree
Anne Ancelin Schützenberger
Being other or otherness is part of the adopted child’s experience. However, my life-trajectory took me on a journey that led me to live away from my homeland in Switzerland, accentuating my feeling of otherness. Living in a new homeland, where I had to adapt, made me more sensitive to other migrants and their situations. I am a “love migrant” that has an empathetic connection to other migrants. I understand the Minority Stress Model and its effects on well-being. I also have an empathetic connection to the experience of different forms of racism and social justice. I have added articles to read about otherness. The first article examines the intersectionality of stigma, the second article expresses otherness in an artistic manner, the experience of otherness that evolved within the visual arts. These articles all illustrate otherness in its various forms. Even though I might look the same as my adopted family, I have always been sensitive to being other. This sensitivity has been able to be used in a positive way and is linked to my lifework.
The challenges that I faced during the transition from being a stay at home mother to becoming a full-time working mother happened as I began my European Master’s Degree in Mediation. The model my birth mother Ruth Ann provided allowed me to make the transition, as I “homed in” to her example.
That period also corresponded with tensions in my relational matrix. As my old world crumbled, and the earth shook under my feet, I was forced to let go of what my life had been, letting God guide me to a new place in my relational network. I had to learn to embody the change, integrating the many relational changes that our reunion had brought. However, it was not only the reunion, it was the loss, and the fear of losing the places and relationships that I so wanted to hold on to that gnawed on me.
When my adopted father sold our family farm on terms, the story of the Native American Indian’s Ghost Dance took on even greater meaning for me. The loss of the native lands, the hope for transformation that was embedded in the dance ritual, and the strong desire for reconciliation that ended in devastation at Wounded Knee where all aspects the Great Plains history that enfolded changes that swept through the prairie grasses ending in a massacre.
The change that was shaking my life like an earthquake, bringing down the social constructions of my life’s relationships, rattled me. I was forced to look at what I believed constituted, “Nebraska, The Good Life”. Moving from loss to gratefulness, I walked through the pain in search of a place where the different parts of my evolving Self could find refuge. Through the process of concrescence, the different facets of my identity sculpted a new container and a new life trajectory. As I wailed, danced, and hoped, my ancestors headed me in a new direction. There was no going back. I somehow sensed that I needed to invent a ritual of reconciliation. To affirm life and to survive I entered into an integration process that emerged from life crisis. With the strong intention to become whole, I found metaphors to transform my life story. I began to lifescape a hopeful future.
Carl G. Jung’s Red Book was only published in 2009, illustrating his transformational process that allowed him to develop his fundamental concepts. Ira Progoff studied with Jung, voyaging to Bolligen to learn more about Jung’s work, later developing the Intensive Journal Process and Depth Psychology. Their work has informed my own autoethnographic process. Autoethnography is a social science method that draws upon recollecting and remembering. By going deep within, the Self reveals images, dreams, and archetypes that offer a power to endure and survive enkindled by the meaning-making process.
Here are videos that share Jung’s life and work.
Here is rare documentary footage of C.J. Jung at Bollingen:
Inheritance of Dreams:
Here is a paper about Ira Progoff’s work that uses the Intensive Journal Process for holistic transformation.
Here is an interview with Ira Progoff:
Here is a video that tells about the Ghost Dance, Sitting Bull, and Wounded Knee.
Here is an article about transgenerational trauma and Native Americans:
Chapter 20 shares Cathy’s letters to Ruth Ann and Michael as well as the written responses from Ruth Ann. But Chapter 20 begins with Ruth Ann’s letter to me that explains that I have another sister. When I received the packet of letters, I was overcome with emotion. Far from my American family, I was hit by the news that added on another layer to our family memoire. On top of the mountain, as Fall weather brought cold temperatures, falling leaves, and changing colors in the forests where larch trees were starting to turn golden, my heart was again broken open. I especially felt for my newly found sister and my mother, as I integrated the complexity of the unfolding storyline. The golden relational bond that we had forged was secure enough for us to work through the stories about the circumstances of Cathy’s birth as well as bringing Cathy into the family circle. Giving recognition to what Cathy’s birth had meant for my young parents meant looking more deeply into the relational and societal context of our births.
Here is a picture of our reunion, the first summer that we met with Grandma Kay surrounded by her great grandchildren in 1996.
Here is my maternal grandmother, Grandma Kay, surrounded by her grandchildren. I finally joined the clan, much later!
Here is my birth parents’, Ruth Ann and Michael’s, wedding picture that Grandma Kay included in the photo album that she made for me.
The pictures in my new family album were both the pictures that represented the life that I had not shared with my birth family as well as our reunion photos caught on film and etched into my heart. My life trajectory integrated a parallel relational reality. After meeting my birth family, we had many reunion celebrations that brought together the matrix of my many relations. My adopted family, birth family, and close family friends all came together in a reunion performance.
The family album that my maternal birth grandmother, Grandma Kay, had made for me attested to many years of family gatherings that I hadn’t been part of. But our reunion suddenly offered us the chance to add new pictures of togetherness. These pictures and happenings all framed my new becomingness. And though Grandma Kay died a little over a year after our first meeting, she was able to bear witness to our reunion. The Three Fates tapestry is a metaphor for the loom of life that miraculously stitched us all back together. Lachesis, the drawer of lots had chosen reunification, permitting Clotho the spinner to rethread our heartstrings, tugging and pulling us all back together before Atropos ended Grandma Kay’s life.
The triumph of this unique “fate” seemed to be an incredible synchronicity and even a miracle of divine timing. The links to Medjugorje, show the miracles that have taken place at this pilgrimage site, including my Great Uncle Bob’s rosary that turned gold. Though miracles are rare and often contested, the miracle of our reunion is the kernel of this story. Medjugorje is a place of prayer and reconciliation where The Queen of Peace asks us to pray more. I can only wonder if Father Bob, a priest, had prayed for our family’s reconciliation on his pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Though there is no one explanation for our coming together, ultimately Grandma Kay’s prayers were answered, and I was welcomed into the family circle.
The Three Fates
This tapestry that was originally made in the Netherlands from wool and silk in the 16th century is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, represent Death in this tapestry, as they triumph over the fallen body of Chastity. In mythology the Fates controlled the span of human life; Clotho was the spinner, Lachesis was the drawer of lots, and Atropos represented the inevitable end to life.
This is a fragment from a larger tapestry, from a series based on the poem I Trionfi (The Triumphs), written by the Italian poet Petrach between 1352 and 1374. The poem described a series of allegorical visions.
Tapestry 'The Three Fates' ('The Triumph of Death'), Flemish, early 16th century.
When I walked off the plane to meet my sister Michelle all eyes were on us. Not only did we look so much alike, but we had the same mannerisms and laugh. My children also watched me physically unite with my sister. For the first time meeting someone that looked so much like their mother. It was beyond imagination to finally be together. Michelle was the first child that Ruth Ann and Michael were able to keep and raise. Michelle’s beauty attracted all my family and friends that swarmed around us as the sweet smell of reunion filled the air.
“Who would I have been if we had grown up together?” I kept asking myself this question, as if there could have been another life trajectory. Would I have gone back to New York and modelled while Michelle performed in Broadway Musicals? I had won a modelling contest and experienced what it was like to be photographed in the Big Apple, staying at the Waldorf Astoria and walking through Central Park. But didn’t go back to try my luck as a model. I wondered, “Would coming together make us more complete?”
As we melted into each other’s embrace, we bonded for life. After a few days together in Omaha we took off with baby Yann to Washington D.C. to meet our parents, Kaitie, and then Ryan at West Point. On our family vacation we drove to Cold Spring, New York, where I bought a handmade Wedding Ring Quilt, a symbol of our reunion.
Ruth Ann and Michael had been so young when we were born. The iconic picture of them on my father’s motorcycle captures the mood in 1966 when the Beatles were singing, Revolution.
As we came together, we too knew that everything was going to be all right!
“If truth is the object of its quest, the word is the portal through which it passes. For the word is our only access to truth, both the truth of what we know and the truth of what we are” (Patterson, 1988, 2).
Our letters and phone calls gave life to our transformational process. But our convergence also trigged physical reactions that were connected to deep sub-conscious memories of trauma embedded in the mind-body. As we stood naked and exposed before each other, we risked reexperiencing the pain from the past so that future joy could be found ‘somewhere over the rainbow’.
As a connected with my birth family, I needed to assure my birth mother that our bond of unconditional love would never be questioned. In this chapter, you can read my letter to my adopted mother Jan. My adopted father Dave had often discussed Greek philosophy and Gnothi Seuton, the Greek wisdom tradition of Self-knowledge. He would say to me “Healer heal thyself; healer know thyself.”
Bringing the voices together in a ‘communiverse’ (Gergen, 2020) set in motion a healing process not just for me, but for the entire relational matrix. Here are links to articles, books, and websites that can offer more insight into Bakhtin’s philosophies. We were all asking, “Who are you?” Then we had to pause to listen to the responses that came back to us like echoes bouncing off mountain faces.
Literature and Spirit:
Voicing Relationships: A Dialogic Perspective
In Theory Bakhtin: Dialogism, Polyphony and Heteroglossia
Love letters encapture a promise that is at times mysterious to comprehend. Getting a love letter lights up the heart like a Christmas tree. The love that comes in an envelope makes the heart jump with hope that declarations of love can indeed fulfil the profound longing that we all feel deep inside. Offering loving words and knowing that those words of love are addressed to us personally, take one on a journey that seems to surpass all notions of time and space. The entanglement of loving heartstrings, when awakened, can traverse time. The power of love can pull the other through the veil of whatever separation has been put in place.
In my story, I was pulled towards my parents that were living next to where I had grown up, just 45 minutes away. We had been separated at birth, however an incredible force beckoned us together to reunite. Quantum entanglement brought us to each other.
Our letters were powerful testimonies of a miracle. Finding each other brought a kind of inexplicable joy. I waited with impatience for each letter my parents sent me to arrive from across the Atlantic. I thirsted for their response. I was satiated by their words. Their letters felt like they were linked to my soul’s salvation.
I later kept our first letters in a special box with the picture of our first family meeting in New York. Later, I placed our many correspondences in my great-grandmother Savidge’s trunk at the foot of my bed. When I began writing my story, I wrote in flow, spilling my story onto the page as if pouring water from a pitcher. Only later, did I go back into the special box and trunk to revisit our letters and integrate them into my story to give voice to our correspondence.
After I met my brother Ryan, he sent me a gift, The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy, that is an exchange of postcards, between writers that never seem to meet up. It is an artistic form of love story. That story seemed to resonate with our family’s reunion, as our paths had criss-crossed for many years, just missing each other, moving in parallel lives. Then, there was a convergence, a meeting point on our lifelines that brought us all together. In the film “Love Letters”, the mystery of entanglement is expressed in a story linking lovers through time with letters that arrive in mysterious ways.
My story too encapsulates a mystery. Synchronicity traced a path using heartstrings that could reach through the veil, bringing us together in the written space of our first love letters that we exchanged. Our correspondence became the rope that pulled us back together. But in chapter 16, there are other love letters to discover. There is the love affirming letter that I wrote to my adopted mother Jan. There is a letter from my husband Angelo too. We were all writing to connect and affirm the bonds that held us tightly together, the relationships we wanted to keep and reinforce as well as the relationships we wanted to build.
Here is the film Love Letters:
Here is the Griffin and Sabine Trilogy:
Here is the letter from my brother written on a card from his tour in Africa:
Here is a box that holds some of our first letters with the picture of our first meeting in New York:
Author of Homing In: A Story Mandala Connecting Adoption, Reunion and Belonging