4th May 2014
A friend put up a post on facebook about the wall coming down in Germany 25 years ago.
It always gives me a bit of a shiver, because I think, gosh where would I be today, if that wall had not come down. I was 16 years old when it happened, so it was still soon enough for me to adjust easily.
I have been doing a bit of thinking about my childhood and my life in East Germany lately and how it might subconsciously still effect me. I have been reading books about behavior & believe patterns and subconscious thinking. Our subconscious mind takes up 98 percent of brain, only very little do we do with our conscious mind. Lots of our behaviors are “programmed” before the age of 7 in our subconscious mind and without really consciously knowing we apply those behaviors again and again in our life. Subconscious patterns and behaviors / beliefs are hard to change.
I have been battling with a negative mindset for so long now. I didn’t really know where is was coming from, as I lead a happy life really. Some of things I don’t like that come up consistently are anger, negativity, guilt, worthlessness, not deserving, not being good enough, underlying tension and worry about everything on the planet, fear etc etc
I have been experimenting a bit with EFT / tapping and went to a session with a EFT practitioner and I told her that I didn’t really know where all this is coming from, as in general I am happy and have nothing much to worry about. When we were tapping it transpired that those things are more than likely related to my childhood and my upbringing in East Germany.
That got me thinking, because I always said when questioned about it, that I had a happy childhood and had everything I needed. Life was simple, I was looked after well, fed well and my parents worked their butts off, to give us everything we needed / wanted. We all had our own room, 2 gardens to roam in, dad even build a swimmingpool for us, lots of yummy food that grew there etc, we had clothes to wear and my parents had jobs and we had a huge house to live in and lots of family and friends around. So what – I have got nothing to complain about really…
But to get back to those emotions – I had a think about where they might have been generated. From when I was little I was told, we had to be careful what to say to who, because the secret service was everywhere. As I learnt later after the wall came down and people got to see their files, there were husbands spying on wifes, kids on their parents, close relatives, friends and colleagues. There was a constant underlying fear, of being busted by someone you trusted. And who could you trust anyway – you never really knew. My mum worked in the research part of a film factory, so she knew she was being monitored, all of them working there were, so they could not leak the research to the west. Mail was checked, parcels opened. She knew she was being watched. She refused to view her file after the wall came down. She said it wouldn’t make any change now and she didn’t want to be disappointed with people who might have been close to her. So here are the first 2 Fear and Trust. Two emotions I have always struggled with in my adult life. I have been pretty much taught from a very young age, that I could only trust myself.
Other memories are of school life. Every morning we came to school the teacher said “Are you ready” and we had to respond “we are always ready” along with a weekly school gathering by the flag in our uniforms. We had regular military trills, marching through the village, running around with gas masks on carrying our teachers on stretchers around the school preparing to be ready for inevitable attack of the evil capitalistic countries that surrounded us. All that along with the brainwash that only the Russians and Cuban’s were our friends, along with a few other ostblock countries. I remember we were not allowed to wear clothes that sported advertising slogans from the offending countries like Nike, Addidas or other brandnames. I remember one child having to go to the principal’s office and having a Nike logo cut out of his jersey. I remember having to go to the principal myself because I was reading one of those leaflety trashy love stories that one lucky classmate got from west germany
I remember one year our little school from the tiny little village had the honour to being driven in the bus all the way to Berlin in our uniforms to have the huge pleasure to march past the president and wave and cheer and look happy. I remember waiting in a side allay for hours and hours until it was our turn to walk past him with strict instructions as to what to do and what not to do. What a performance, what a lie, what a staged dishonest display of untruthfulness so they could show the capitalists how happy we were and how we loved our president. Lots of us knew it was bollocks, some were into it, but no matter what we thought about it we had to go along with it. Here are a few more emotions– Dishonesty, the feeling of being used, fear, sarcasm…
I remember limitations / the feeling of no possibilities – once I told my mum I would like to be a jewellery maker. The answer was that there was only one apprenticeship a year for the whole country and that you had to be a party member and very special to get that. My parents were not party members, so we had none of the privileges. We had no phone and no car. One had to wait for 25 years until the application for a car was approved. One had to get married to be able to apply for your own flat. I wasn’t able to go to ballet, because that was in the next town and mum wouldn’t allow me to take the bus after school all by myself. The only activity that was offered in our village was shooting, so I leaned shooting on paper goals instead.
I remember the artists having limitations as to what to sing about, a certain percentage of their songs had to include praise to the state and to the system. Here are the next emotions – negativity, hopelessness, not deserving, not worthy, impossible, limitations everywhere, no free expression of creativity. My children go to a waldorf school now and it makes my heart leap when I see what possibilities they have, all the things they get to try and to be able to express themselves and be themselves freely. The world is full of possibilities for them and that’s how it should be.
I remember my dad telling me how he became a chainsmoker. With 19 he had to enter the military service and was stationed on one of the watchtowers in Berlin by the wall. They had guns and were instructed to shoot. If they didn’t shoot they would go to prison or worse. He said he smoked one cigarette after the other, because he was so scared that somebody tried to escape while he was on duty. He said he prayed every night that nobody would try to get over the wall and he is an atheist. He said he kept thinking what he was going to do if somebody came along. He said he thought rather than shooting he would have run himself which meant more than likely being shot himself, he couldn’t kill one of his own people being desperate to get out of there. More emotions – More fear, being shut in behind that wall, being forced to do things that one can’t comprehend.
I remember those precious parcels from West Germany. When they arrived the whole family felt as if it was Christmas, birthday and New Year in one day. Those 2nd hand clothes were treated like treasures, the chocolates saved up for special, the pens only used on special occasions. I remember one parcel arriving with a note in it that I still have – they removed some balloons at the boarder because they had a coffee brand name on it. I remember advertisements on TV of all the fabulous things they had in the west. I remember my first visit to my penfriend who took me to clothes shops in a real shopping mall – it felt like fairyland and paradise in one and I didn’t know where to look first. I still remember buying my first real jeans and a flash green fur jacket – my mum didn’t recognise me when I came of the train.
I remember Christmas time when they imported real oranges and bananas. Every family was only allowed a certain amount. I remember people standing in long lines in front of the shops when they arrived and I remember my dad going off on his motorbike to another village to get another kilo of oranges, standing in a long line again. I remember mum putting them in a big bowl under the bed and sharing them around in the evening. Oranges and Bananas were special once a year treats.
I remember being told that people who had phones, cars, nice things, money were either involved with the government or secret service or had wealthy family in west germany.
Here is the next emotion/ belief: there is a lack of things, I don’t deserve nice things, the people who have nice things must be bad.
I remember after the wall came down very distinctively the feeling of worthlessness and being scared. Every family was given $100 welcome money. Reluctantly my parents packed us all up and we went in the train like pretty much every other family to West Berlin to pick up our $500. I remember the train being so full, it couldn’t actually leave, because it was on a lean. I remember going over the border and the first shop was a petrol station shop. We all went in and had a look around. A lady shop assistant asked us if she could help us. Before we had a chance to answer the male shop assistant said “you can’t help THOSE people” with the most disgusted look on his face.
I felt like a beggar, like sinking into the ground. In those days it was pretty obvious who came from where, just from the clothing and lost looks. I remember standing in a huge line at the bank, waiting to get this precious money with my parents suffering, because they felt like beggars too. I remember walking down by the Brandenburger Gate, where a big boarder strip was there with the barb wire and security installations. Little did I know that I would walk through that gate many more times without giving it a second thought.
I remember going to another couple of shops who had pretty much empty shelves, because everything had been bought by people who picked up their money and grabbed anything they could get their hands on. Later when I lived in Berlin myself friends told me that they couldn’t even buy bread in those days, because the shops in Berlin were just emptied by all the people coming from the east. We went back home without having bought anything, feeling down, insecure, little, poor and scared. I remember my mum having a good cry not knowing how she was going to feed a family of 5, not knowing if she was going to be unemployed, not knowing what was to come. I remember feeling paralysed – picking up on that fear. After all we had been told all those years that they are all bad people in the west and now they got hold of us.
I remember getting letters from my penfriend in west germany with photos of school trips to England and Spain. I remember looking at them and thinking I am not going to be able to ever get to those countries. By that time I was a teenager and beginning to consciously realise that I was actually living in a big prison. I could feel that wall, I knew I was different, I knew I was caught, I knew I did not have freedom.
I had buried all those memories and never really given them much of a second thought. I just got on with life and enjoyed my newfound freedom after the wall came down. But ever so often I have little flashbacks.
When taking my husband back to Germany and walking along the marked wall on the ground, my stomach turned. I knew I had a lucky escape. When crossing a river in Laos and standing nearby Mt. Everest in Tibet I had a sudden realisation how amazing it really is that I can have this experience. When I was pregnant with my second child I went for a short trip to Rarotonga because of my husbands’ work and turned the TV on while having a rest and seeing the celebrations of the 20 year unification of Germany. Wow what a flashback – now I was sitting in a hotel in Rarotonga with my second child in my tummy from my Kiwi husband. If anybody had told me that 20 years ago I would have declared them completely and entirely mad. When taking a homeopathic remedy called Granite that made me realise that I still had that wall inside me somewhere, a wall I had erected myself over the years to protect myself and realising that I actually didn’t need it anymore.
Freedom has a real meaning to me. Because I wasn’t free for 16 years of my life and because I think I made the most of my freedom, once it was available to me. For many people the change came to late or they were not brave enough to embrace it or too numbed by fear, doubt and worthlessness.
I remember going to an exhibition a few years after the unification about all the ways people tried to escape, how Kanu / Kajak sales were monitored, how people build boats, balloons, dug tunnels, tried to swim the baltic sea and got creative to escape. Lots of them lost their lives in the process. Lots of lives were destroyed or disrupted by this system. Some of the non-conforming prisoners where even “sold” to the west. I had a friend in Berlin, who wanted to change the system in the East for the better. He was imprisoned for a few years and then driven to West Germany against his wishes. West Germany paid money for those people to be released. He had a wife and daughter in the East. The wife had to certify not to have any contact with him, otherwise she would have been imprisoned too and their daughter given to an orphanage. He has never been able to re-establish a proper relationship to his daughter after the wall came down. It was a daily reality. If you weren’t doing what you were told you were in real serious trouble.
It also amazed me that after 25 years of the wall coming down its presence is still there. Not everybody would agree with me, but when I go back to where I grew up I can still feel the presence, I can still feel that there is no complete equality / transformation yet. Lots of people living there have lived on a different planet for a big part of their life and that past is still present.
Next time I write about all the nice things in my childhood – this almost sounds a bit depressing, but it has all been part of my life.
*The images on this site were taken from google images/ they are not my own.