On the 26th of July 1986, shortly after 10 pm, a little boy is born on a bi-polar planet called earth. That little boy is me, Philippe. I am the fruit of the union of two opposite sexes and delivered by an aunt I later learned was manic-depressive (as bi-polar was then called), with my umbilical cord tightly wrapped around my neck. The stage for my life-stream was set.
But is what I just described really the origin of my experience?
It is a question that in later years would often cross my mind, along others such as : “Why am I here at all?”, “What am I to do here?” and “What is this all about in the first place?”. I am sure you, the reader, will recognise at least a few of these questions. I invite you on this journey through my individualised experiences, and the succession of insights I had along the way, with the intent of sharing certain aspects you might recognise; aspects which might assist you in gaining a new perspective.
I have indeed myself placed my experiences in varying perspectives throughout my life, some of them making me feel more joyful and others, often times, less than happy. We have of course the tendency to explain everything in the light of the latest perspective we have gained. In a way, this whole narrative is the manifestation of that, but in order to respect the flow of the events, I will try as much as possible to reflect the state of mind I was in at that moment. At the end of each chapter then, I will interpret that phase of my life in light of my latest perspective, so that the shift becomes more apparent.
But let’s go back to my origins. I was conceived, it would seem, exactly nine months before my birth, on the wedding night of my parents. I have no active re-collection of that moment of course, but I’ve learned a lot through the stories I heard along the years. My mother Nancy, who came of what you could call ‘a bourgeois family with a twist’, entered with my father Thomas, son of a self-made man with an interesting history, on the 26th of October 1985, in (what has been dubbed at times) the ‘magical state of wedlock’. It was a colourful event, for a variety of reasons. While the prime minister of the time had a special military flight arranged to be able to attend, and the priest of the little Flemish commune of Pulle was rejoicing in what he called “the marriage of the century”, my mother was still wondering whether she was making the right choice. She was crying that night, mulling over the dream she had had a few days prior, where she married a man without seeing his face, only exclaiming ‘Nooooo’, once she realized what she had done. Her fear was that she might have done it in real life too and would be henceforth forever confined to a gilded cage. Such was the state of my Mami while my body was developing in her womb.
The cause for my mother’s turmoil was that a few weeks before her marriage, her first big love, an aspiring interior architect had come to see my mother with his brother-in law and proposed to her, even though she was engaged to my father already for several months. Jacques, was more the passionate than the intellectual type, my mother told me later. It was the reason their relationship had ended a few years before. Jacques felt he was somewhat inferior – or so I have been told – and could not offer everything my mother was looking for intellectually; and I can well imagine that the passionate aspect – with its high-flaring game of attraction and rejection – played its role too.
My mother had struggled with that break-up, maybe even had a bout of depression, which in any case had impacted and delayed her graduation at university. Once graduated, she felt she had seen it all and was ready to explore the world, when one night something unexpected happened. While on a date with a guy she had agreed to have a drink with, rather out of pity and to muffle his insistence, another man came to sit at her table while the former went for a leak. “Qui va à la chasse, perd sa place”1said Thomas, and with that act and those words set in motion the events that allow you to read this narrative.
We are now down to the first encounter of my parents. Is that my origin? Let me go even further down the line, to the physical origin of my parents; as all grandparents are instrumental in the formation of one’s DNA, both literal and figurative.
The father of my mother, who I would come to call Daddio, was known as a bon-vivant and a plantrekker2– as we say in Dutch. He had created a variety of little business in his younger years, but eventually came to inherit the modest meat-processing factory of his own father. He did this much against his wishes, but with soon 5 children to feed, it seemed the sensible thing to do. He searched and found his solace in Jazz and dreamed of going to the U.S.A. In later years he invested in real estate and wrote a jazz column for an obscure little paper, using his press card (the real reason for this exploit) to get for free into all the concerts he could manage.
Of Mamiche, the mother of my mother, I don’t have many stories to share; simply for the reason that not a lot of stories about her were handed down to me. I know her as a gentle and kind grandmother, who had been a housewife and (part-time work) partner to my grandfather during the years of their marriage after having modelled a bit in her teens. Not being able to find her way in the U.S. when they had finally made the step to seek out a life there, she focused on her children upon their return. They were educated in French, as all children ‘of good families’ ought to be, even if they were living in the Flemish city of Antwerp. Ever concerned with presenting well, and later preserving well, she developed a particular interest in doctors and eventually remarried to a general practitioner.
My grandmother on my father’s side, whom we call Omi, is what I would call the archetype of duty and familial unity. Proud of her German ancestry, she is reliable, devoted and moderate. Even well in her nineties she is still self-reliant, keeps complaints to the minimum and just goes on and on. As she herself did not always have the closest family ties – notwithstanding her adoration of her father – she put enormous importance on family. “Family is the most important thing” she would stress time and again.
She had had my father after 2 miscarriages and he became her favourite, even though she was as strict with him as with the others. “You let a child cry if it’s crying, it will soon enough learn that there is no sense in that” she would tell my mother, who as a first-time mother had very different feelings about this at the time. Just as with her own father, Omi would put my grandfather on a pedestal, thus reinforcing a very patriarchal worldview.
Daddy, as we would call the father of my father, was indeed the patriarch of the family. Having met my mother in the German School and after having been part of the Hitler Jugend and the Flemish government-to-be in Germany during WWII, he spent his 18th birthday in prison. There he said to his cell mate “from now on things can only get better” and with that attitude, he became a self-made man. Starting as a chicken farmer he soon took over my grandmother’s family business3and build it to 100 times its size. Later he would invest and serve on the board of several companies, many of them large multinationals. At the same time, he wrote about his experiences and became an advocate of sorts for what he would call “common sense”. He was a smart, gentle and warm person, but nonetheless a tough standard to live up to.
Of course we can go much further back in time, to answer the question of my – of our – origin, but at the moment this suffices.
So why did I choose to share exactly these snippets of information? Why start this narrative in this way? The answer is that all of the above are stories, the stories that were most influential for me. Or more correctly, the stories I gave most importance to.
For not only in marketing it is “all about the story”, also in every-day life we tend to base who we are on stories. We create our identity around these stories, picking and choosing certain events we have experienced – or even just heard about – and giving them a particular weight. That is how we define ourselves, and by defining ourselves we – consciously or unconsciously – confine ourselves. With every labelling of experiences that confirm a pattern that we have created over time, we add a new thread to the cobweb that keeps us constricted. A new layer to the onion, that seemingly becomes increasingly difficult to peel.4
As I said before, these were the stories about my origin I gave the most weight to (and through which I have inadvertently formed my identity), which subsequently got accentuated by the bi-polar persona I created in my early teens. Indeed, you read that right, I created the bi-polar persona myself, in part based on these stories. Let me walk you again through them and give you a glimpse of what I mean.
Let me start with my birth. That we currently experience a bi-polar world, where everything exists of opposites rather than oneness, is something I probably don’t have to explain to you. It is something we have all collectively bought into. Something we have all collectively agreed to, otherwise things wouldn’t be the way they are. But does it have to stay that way? Try to answer that question for yourself. And more importantly: do you want it to stay that way?
You might think that what I am suggesting is ludicrous. How can all that be changed, how can we live in a non bi-polar world? As this writing exercise develops, I will propose certain avenues that are currently not particularly mainstream, yet, at this moment, I leave you with the following reflections: Was it mainstream a hundred years ago to advocate for equal rights between men and women? Was it even imaginable a decade or two ago to see mainstream TV shows or movies centred around gender fluidity? Clearly what we are deciding as a collective of how things should be is continuously evolving; and evolving at a faster and faster rate. As we shift the way we look at things, more and more possibilities open up. The more we let go of stories around how things have been in the past – and thus should always be perpetuated in that way – the faster we will enjoy a higher degree of freedom and joy.
So, the origin of my bi-polarity lies in the fact that I bought into the belief that the world should exist of opposites. I later accentuated it with the stories I described above. The question of whom my mother should marry, reads as a choice between intellect versus passion – and that is the way it has always been presented to me by her. Both grandmothers were housewives, but one was concerned with appearances and the other with duty. Both grandfathers were business-owners, but one was concerned with doing only the strict minimum and the other with being exemplary on all domains.
I also gave importance to the other stories, such as the one of the umbilical cord. Let me show you how that worked in my self-destructive state of mind. Whenever I would feel low, the following ideas would pop up: “I already tried to hang myself in the womb, you see I never wanted to be born in the first place?”; “My aunt has been labelled bi-polar and you see who was the person to deliver me?”; “No wonder I often felt like I live in a terrible prison even though I’ve grown up with all the (financial) possibilities somebody could wish for; my mother felt she had chosen a gilded cage and cried on the day of my conception.” And so on.
Of course, I don’t say I have been thinking these things consciously every second of the day, but subconsciously this was running non-stop in the background in those lower states. I gave importance to all of it and subconsciously it spurred the question, who should I be like? Like my father, intellectual and self-assured, like my mother, pensive and sensitive, a bon vivant like Daddio or a pillar of the community like Daddy, concentrating on appearance, or on humble duty? So much attention was given to these stories – and to looking outwards – that I couldn’t see inwards. I only knew I was an expansive person and so I tried to do all of the above, to emulate everyone (albeit some to higher degrees than others) while still giving it my own twist. I just wanted to be myself, even though I didn’t remember who that was. That’s when I decided to create the manic-depressive persona. What a wonderful way to get lost in the game.
So who am I? And what is my origin? Let me give you now my latest perspective. I am, just like you, the creator essence itself that has chosen to localise itself to have a series of experiences, to observe those experiences and to learn – expand – from those experiences. You could say that I am – just like you and everyone else on this planet and beyond – God, the Creator itself. Or Source, if you prefer the terminology of the spiritual community.
What word you put to it doesn’t really matter. You and I are everything that ever was and ever will be, the field of pure potentiality, that has individualised itself and taken a certain set of parameters to play, observe and learn by surpassing those parameters.
So my soul, that localisation, that individualisation of everything that is, has chosen to take on the human experience at this time, with the parameters I have described above.
I know your parameters are different, your life stream is completely different. You could ask: how does all of this relate to me? I didn’t grow up in a rich family, I didn’t even know my grandparents!
Well, first of all, your soul has also chosen to be on this bi-polar planet at this time. Secondly, the fact that you have made it thus far reading, means that you too are looking for ways to surpass the current level of polarity in one way or another. However, rest assured, I am not saying that what I am proposing is the definitive – let alone the right – way to do it. It is just information that came to me, which I have given my own flavour and am here sharing with you. What you do with this information is entirely up to you. It is yours to reject, to ignore, to adopt or to transmute.
Still here? Well then let me propose a little exercise. Take pen and paper and look at the stories in your life which you have given importance to. It can be anything. It doesn’t have to be exclusively centred around your family, it can be about other relationships, work endeavours that you perceived as a failure or that you are on the contrary very proud of, etc. Take your time to take a look at all the stories that you have allowed to define you, write them down and then look at them again. Do you still want to define yourself by these stories? If so, perfect. However, if there are stories where you say: I don’t know why I gave so much power to this, I feel this is keeping me back, then let them go. Just say: story about … I’m not going to play with you anymore.
Don’t expect miracles to happen! Yet becoming aware of what your subconscious mind has been able to play with to keep you in a certain stagnant state is a beautiful first step. So for now, happy writing!