A vasana is an archaic, usually troublesome, behavior pattern linked to an earlier traumatic incident that is triggered, often explosively, in the present.
And so I did look and found this vasana. I report it because I think it’s useful to be able to source (or get to the bottom of) our vasanas, rather than simply accept that they’ll always be there and we’ll always be controlled by them. To raise them to awareness is the first and most important step to not being under their control.
What I saw was that, when my mother left my father, my mother, my brother and I entered a time of acute poverty. That was painful enough but, unbeknownst to me, my mother still pined for my father.
Moreover, some of her best friends deserted her because in the Sixties a woman who had separated from her husband was viewed as a “detached pirate,” a person looking to take their man away. She was perennially suspect and no longer welcome at the family gatherings of some of her best friends.
And, I think, through a combination of being financially challenged, the disappointment of some of her friends turning against her, and missing my father, she went downhill. She became hooked on barbituates and finally died in a house fire, falling asleep with a cigarette in her hands.
I was left saying to myself that I could have recognized the signs of her decline and I did not do enough to stave off her tragic end.
Always my mother behaved beyond reproach, but the tide, in the Sixties, was mostly against her. Decent communication between men and women was poor or non-existent. Concepts were crude, even if they were in the process of emerging from the Dark Ages of a lingering Victorian sentiment. And conformity was high after the regimented Second World War.
But it’s that message that plays on me now when I see people around me slipping into financial difficulties. I didn’t do enough in the situation and I could have. That’s the vasana that goes off.
I don’t want to make anything more out of it than to report it. In the face of it my stress levels go up because I remember the impact of losing my mother and begin to feel panic. The decision I made back then (every vasana has a decision within it) was never to fall asleep again when people were sliding into difficulty because I could lose them.
That’s how vasanas work: the present looks like the past and proves to be the trigger for the reaction. But the thing we’re reacting to in the present is seldom the source of the upset. The event in the past is. Until we become aware of the real triggering event and allow it to work its way through us, we respond automatically, again and again.
Worse, each time we respond automatically, it adds another layer to the whole mechanism, until at the end of our lives we’re like petrified wood, continually going off over this and that.