A “STAR” Autobiography

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Category: 
Graduate Profiles

By Bill Williams

I am a middle child, born fourteen months before T.J. arrived and almost four years after Roger’s birth.

My older brother Roger spent his entire life rebelling against any form of authority or responsibility, including parents, teachers, employers, marriage, parenting, armed services, the veteran’s administration and finally life. On the other hand, my younger brother T.J. made humor and being a lost child his survival choices to escape the frightening risk of being seen or taking up much space.

Both of my brothers died fairly young. T.J. died in 1998 at fifty-four from a rare lung disease that produced scars across the bronical tubes and slowly removed his oxygen supply, leaving him without any space to even breathe. Roger died in 2002 at sixty-four from the physical effects of alcohol abuse.

My dad was the only one who openly portrayed any power in our family. Anger from children was not allowed, any display of it was met with dad’s belt or a switch. Not only was the pain felt, but also seen—you would wear the physical markings that came along with it for several days. Dad was adamant that kids were suppose to obey all his rules, always be seen but never heard.

Much of Mom’s anger was directed at dad and leaked passively. I got the clear message she sent—do not be like your dad. While Roger released much of his anger at me through betrayals, tricks and physical abuse, I turned my own anger inward, denying to myself and others that I felt any anger or rage. Thus the anger and rage in me became a huge shadow which I thought must remain hidden from everyone in order for me to be loved.

While I was the only child that was not an accident but actually planned, I believed my survival demanded that I must do everything they asked of me in order to avoid the pain and humiliation of dad or mom’s anger. Without a doubt, this was a survival decision that I made in the first year of my life, and one that controlled my way of being in the world up until age fifty.

When I arrived at my first STAR Workshop, I had already spent three intense years in therapy trying to understand why, after my last child left for college, I could no longer manage or suppress the pain, the feelings of betrayal, the loss of safety and the loss of trust in my marriage. In the safety that I found at STAR, my rage became my hammer and every memory of trickery and betrayal became the nails I could hammer on for the duration of the workshop. A year later I returned to STAR to hammer, with my fifty years of suppressed rage, for another seventeen days.

While writing this bio, I had vivid memories of my struggle at STAR to understand my shadow. The harder I tried to grasp it, the more it stayed hidden from my awareness. This is often how the shadow manifests itself. My shadow around anger and rage, I am convinced, was also part of my dad’s shadow and his dad’s shadow that they both masked with religion.

While at some level I always knew that I had to keep my anger and power (my shadow) hidden to survive in my family, I had no conscious awareness of how doing so prevented me from living a joyful life.

I will be eternally grateful to STAR and Barbara for helping me to reclaim my anger and personal power, parts of me I desperately needed to live the life I was intended.