TEACH ME

A lovely poem on embracing our healing and struggles.

Blooming Butterfly

Hey Guys!

Yessss, I’m back with another post this week. However, today I have a poem to share. I know its been a few months since I shared anything like this on here but I have been writing, a lot in fact. April being National Poetry Month, I’ve been trying to write more or less daily together with my friend Stacy. (She’s doing a thread of her poems on her Twitter: @stacykirui)

Today’s piece is about healing: allowing yourself to embrace the lows, allowing yourself to be soft.

soft

Teach me how to heal:

To embrace my mess, to let you go.

To mend my brokenness and make someone else my person.

Teach me that this is non-linear and this means time.

Teach me that the feeling of sad and tired will suddenly overcome me in the midst of conversation and that it’ll be okay for me to use tears to rinse…

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Treat anger with tenderness

Anger.png

I just read a lovely post on grieving.  https://naijawomanchronicles.com/2017/01/18/the-five-stages-of-grief/ and it made me reflect upon how tied together grief and anger actually are and it made me raise this question, how much more aware and more skilful could we be as a society if we had a deeper understanding and empathy for what actually can lie at the base of anger and how often grief and anger are connected?

Anger and aggressive outbursts can be a huge factor in all kinds of Complex PTSD situations.  The frustration or thwarting of essential longings and needs in a person’s life leave huge scars as we are literally wired for connection and soothing.   To be highly traumatised due to abuse or other injury means to be have all senses on high alert, and anger is a justifed and often deeply compounded response or affect of what occurred to a person who was consistently invalidated or suffered huge lacks or losses that were beyond the person’s control.  Having a sense of how and why the person may be in pain and how anger comes from underlying pain means we are in a better situation to show love and compassion which are soothing elixars which help to calm the person down, rather than incite more pain and anger in them.

One of the reasons I feel strongly drawn to the teachings of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is because he puts a strong emphasis on this kind of approach when dealing with intensity and anger.  As a very active advocate for peace and sensitive compassion much of his teaching concentrates on taking a soft emotionally attuned approach to the deeper wounds, grief, loss or injuries underlying anger.  I highly recommend his book Anger : Buddhist Advice for Cooling the Flames. 

In this book he explains how the best approach to a person who is suffering is to be told “I see your suffering and pain, I care about it, I would really like to be able to help or be there for you”  In this situation we don’t advise, we don’t say what we wish or hope for the person we just offer our help and our care and our love.  We don’t try to admonish the person or tell them they need to get over it, or should be at peace, we just acknowledge with kindness and empathy the deeper sensitivity or wound that may underlie the behaviour.    We can say things like “I see you are angry and that’s okay”  we can ask for feedback, we can accept where the person is and if they are still angry or won’t be appealed to in this way we may take some distance.

One of the sentences that most appealed to me in the post I mentioned above was the one that said that anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.  What might happen if when the anger was expressed we were not so scared but could see into the heart of the person crying out to love and be loved or crying out due to the losses or grief from other times?  What would happen if we could respond from this place?

I know personally how hard that is to do as I shared in a post the other day I broke up with an ex when he was really angry about something that hurt.  At the time I was blinded to the hurt beneath the anger.  I know the anger and hurt was also associated to far more than the incident with me that only served as a trigger. And for those other wounds I was not responsible and I was also powerless over the other person’s response and his anger.  After it all blew over I tried the best way I could to show love.  By then the relationship was over, but it served as a very painful reminder to me of how grief and anger can be so closely intertwined and how important it is for purposes of connection and communication to understand this connection.

Anger is just one of the five stages of grief explored in the post mentioned but it seems to be a most essential one as anger can express itself in all kinds of mysterious ways when we are grieving the loss of something or someone that was so important to us.

Invalidation?

Just asking for some feedback here.  How to you feel when people say to you they ‘hope you find peace’ when you have just posted a blog on something you are working through?  The way I feel is that they have elevated themselves into a superior position.  I could be wrong, this could be coming our of oversensitivity or defensiveness.

I would not ever say to someone on a blog I hoped they could soon ‘find peace’ or ‘move on’.  I would rather allow them to work stuff through and trust they would feel more peaceful if they were affirmed or received, if that was meant to be.  That is just me and I would be interested to know other’s opinions.

Finding the lost father inside

DAD

When I wrote my last post I actually had in mind to write a post on fathering as one aspect of self parenting.  This absent or overly patriarchial father experience in our childhood leaves us with huge deficits.  Dad is the one who should ideally help us to separate from Mum at the right time in our development.  We need him both to see and admire us but also to set us healthy boundaries for self assertion and expression in the world.  In modern times I am sure mothers can also do this for us but its the father who will give us the guidance to go out into the world and slay the dragons we might need to that block our way or hold us back and often he is the one that should help us in our separation from Mum, but what happens when he just isn’t there?

The overbearing or patriarchial father is one who may try to impose his will on us, and set too firm boundaries, blocking the expression of our true self in the world or forcing us to pursue a false agenda, if this happens its hard to find happiness, we may feel thwarted or cave under due to pressure from stronger wills, thinking we don’t have the right to say ‘no’ to what isn’t right for us, and squashing our ability to stay strong to deep soul impulses and find ways to honour them.

In my background I got a lot of the later at times, having other’s will imposed on me.  My Dad may have seen me foundering after my accident and my sister’s trauma.  I was.  I had just graduated in the year I had my accident from school, but the final months were aborted due to being holed up in hospital, then I went into teaching as I wasn’t strong enough to travel and live in Sydney to do the social work degree I wanted to do.  The following year I left to go North to Uni due to difficulties with all the trauma going down following my older sister’s cerebral bleed but I got overwhelmed without structure and support and then got involved with an addict and my own alcohol consumption was affecting my ability to study.  Deep inside I was terrified of what was occurring, I wanted to go home to Mum and Dad and go back to my teaching but when I got back I was told there would be no argument, I would go into secretarial studies.  Deep down I was SO ANGRY but that would not have been permitted.  So I just went to the course and on weekends started to binge drink and use drugs.

The next 13 years played out with me stuck in secretarial or personal assistant jobs that I did well at but addiction was there in the wings as my soul was restless and deep down on an unconscious level I was not living the life I would have chosen to create for me.

When I suffered further trauma in 1990 with an ectopic pregnancy and a major relationship broke, I finally found the courage to quit my secretarial job and move in another direction but my addiction was firmly in place and I could not develop the good internal fatherly boundaries to develop the career in alternative health I was studying towards.

Eventually I got sober, I married, I found a good job in a bookshop but when my ex husband and I decided to move back to England I went back into secretarial. I had outside interests developing in sobriety into psychology and astrology but I was not sure of how to make a career of them.  I started the psychological astrology course in 2001 and completed only 6 months when I felt the pull back to Australia.  My older sister with all the trauma was being moved to a home and my Mum fell over and was in a lot of distress.  I felt that if I stayed in the UK I would be abandoning them, so my husband and I came back but I was immediately depressed.  I still could not break from the need I felt to fix my Mum and sister, so my marriage ended.  I tried briefly to return to England and my course but had an accident again and so I came home and then I got stuck in another relationship in which I really did not develop my own interests outside.

All along as I review everything with the benefit of hindsight, I see how I have not had a very positive loving father inside to steer or guide me.  I sought out therapy I am sure for this reason and Katina, my therapist and I were discussing yesterday how now therapy will not be so much about containing and holding my pain and grief, and mothering my lost child, but more about working to find healthy ways to develop and express and find meaningful purpose outside what has been a deeply enmeshed family situation over the past years.  It is now up to me to be both loving mother and father to myself with the help from those who can be of assistance, its time to leave the past pain in the past to the degree that I don’t let it keep me stuck or mar either my present or future.

Its curious because today I fell into a big heap after a slow start and I began to get very strong images of my maternal great, great grandfather as he struggled with his own addiction after leaving his home of Cornwall in 1874.  I thought of his pain and of how he in the end was of no help to his family.  His wife left him with 16 children after they moved to New Zealand and those children all had to struggle to find their way in the world.  Some remained in NZ but several migrated to Australia and my maternal great grandmother and my grandmother went to Victoria.

My grandmother met her husband in Victoria and he had at that stage served on the frontlines in various offensives in the First World War, including Lone Pine.  He was only 16 when he joined up in 1916 and from what I know he developed his own addiction as a result and also was gassed so suffered in that way too.  He died when my mother was only 7.

The theme of the absent father occurs like a repeat along my mother’s side of the family.  On my father’s side it may have been similar in that my father’s dad died in 1932 when my father was only 12 and he may also have been a victim of war.  I do believe these imprint themes of the lost, traumatised or emotionally wounded or absent father play down and show up in my chart in the Sun (ruling father) being squared by Neptune (planet of grief, loss, disappearance, vacancy or deep confusion and longing – the longing aspect stronger with Neptune in the sign that so much needs deep passion and attachment : Scorpio).

Having this kind of understanding for me highlights why I struggled so with my masculine, assertive and fatherly side.  That part of me is not very strongly developed within, I have struggled with boundaries for most of my life and addiction as well both of which are Neptunian issues.  I get a bit upset when I lose things, or think I have misplaced things, or when there is a mess or confusion around.  I had a dream about this the other night where my ex had come into a house where I had left piles of mess lying around and tidied up and beautified the place.  But mess at times can be creative too, its in the ability to bring some order to the chaos and confusion that so much art is born.

Fathering myself at the moment seems to be an emerging theme.  I need to spend some time thinking about the skills I do have and how I can put them to good use.  My astrology is important to me and I have always longed to teach it, its just at times I lack the trust in my own capacity to express.  Fathering is the thing that will get me out of emotional overwhelm and unrequited longing at those times when such feelings are counter productive for me.  It is the part that will get me to engage and go for what I want, rather than retreat or just throw up my hands and say it is all too hard.

The past years I have spent focused on my mother wound have born some good fruit, but endlessly focusing on what has been missing is not going to help me today.  Today I have to work to put in and create from what seem like empty spaces.  I need to sit with emptiness for as long as it takes for something to emerge and when it does I need to help it in its quest for life.  To move forward, to grow, to attempt, to try, to express whatever goodness I can in my life.   I feel so sad that I have not been able to sustain this kind of goodness at times but I do hope that this goodness will emerge if I can only keep a positive focus and find that lost father deep inside.

Disconnection, perfectionism, reconnection

The feeling and imprints of being disconnected, of being in the words of AA “so far from human aid” are so deep and such repetitive themes for me I am realising lately , and that felt sense or inner experience gets triggered at certain times of the day and the two times accompany the times of my accidents : early morning and dusk/early evening which have deeper ancestral echoes of past times of loneliness and disconnection for my Mum.

In these space of disconnection/trauma my energy starts to spin around itself and this is like the trauma vortex Peter Levine shows in one of his books on trauma which cycles inwards and down with repetitive thoughts accompanying of all the ways in which I have fucked up.  What stops it is being able to connect to something or someone true for me outside of myself who hears me and I hear them.

This morning it was a very important post from one of my most valued fellow bloggers, Rayne, on facing her own feelings of suicide and death thoughts   In that post Rayne shared how her connection with her therapist bought her through to the other side.  Before reading this post I felt like I was literally drowning in my own phlegm and at the same time a huge rain shower came with a torrential down pour, I really was in a dark place and it did feel as if I was literally drowning.

I then had a lovely connection from someone new to me who is on a very similar path and reading her blog warmed my soul.

I am aware that this trauma imprint of separation/disconnection/drowning is something my own mother carried,  my dusk/dinner time trigger points were also times she was alone.  And I am learning Mum never helped me know how to nurture myself.  I put all my focus out on trying to engage with a mother who was revolving her energy around her and my father, not me.  Dad didn’t engage with me at this time of day, both engaged with Scotch Whiskey and I am coming to realise more and more how alone I felt and how I could not know how to attach and so in time I started to use alcohol and drugs too.

I am 23 years out of active addiction but I am only just getting a stronger hold on some of my other patterns now.  That is many years of recovery.   I also think my natural difficulty with attaching and engaging with healthy others has at time stymied my recovery.  But reaching out and really connecting is for me a healing balm, for my heart lives to be connected to others and that connection is stronger and healthier when I am connected to myself.

Yesterday I had a far better day due to the fact I connected with three positive people.  I met my cousin for a coffee and our friendship has grown over the past year.  Sadly a legacy of our familial disconnection is that my Dad was so distant with her Dad, my Dad’s younger brother.  We are healing that now and I can talk to her with great honesty about my past and she shares with me her own struggle to be a good parent and get help for her son who has needed assistance to work through some psychological issues.  My cousin is comfortable talking about death, grief and emotions in a way other members of my family are not and that helps me as I naturally express how I feel, it is so essential to me that I can be with others who can also express how they feel and not shy away from emotional matters in the way my family do.

I think one of the reasons I really struggled last week was that on the third anniversary of her death my oldest sister’s name was not mentioned once by any of my family.  I knew they were probably thinking of her, but in our family the deeper, painful issues are shied away from, all hidden under the surface.  We eat and drink over them.

In a way for me now it is okay on one level to recognise this, there is so much pain and trauma in my family that can never be healed.  I am also learning that its not my responsibility to heal it for anyone else.  I think one of the big delusions I carried in my sobriety was that I could and would in some way heal the legacy of mutigenerational alcoholism, trauma and emotional neglect legacy for my family.  I now see that is hubris, the most I can do is work to understand.

The truth is everyone in my family has been affected and few have wanted to acknowledge the roots of it.  I think my brother trying to bring attention to the way Mum treated Dad the other day was all part of him trying to make sense of things and wanting to open up a dialogue but Mum could only leap to a defensive position.  There are much deeper layers to the way my mother developed as a person and most especially developed striving defences of perfectionism and control as a result of the painful empty legacy of her past.  This has reverberated on all of our lives along the generational line, but most especially in the lives of her daughters.  I think my Dad just wanted to relax more, he never could as someone was always pushing him on, his defence was to go AWOL, he didn’t abuse alcohol but used it to take the edge off.

Much as I have had compassion for my Mum, what I do not have compassion for is her not being able at times to say a genuine, ‘sorry’! The amount of times she has allowed us to take the wrap for her bad behaviour and control mechanisms is huge.  My brother the other day was trying to lift the lid on something and Mum wasn’t going to go there.  Maybe she might at a later date.

For myself at the moment though I just need to keep remembering to focus on all of my recovery tools.  I need to start doing more to nurture and nourish the good connections I do have,  they are there, just at times I check the impulse to reach out due to fear.     I also need to stop reaching out to my Mum all the times in hopes of getting the empathy and attention that is so absent.  My Mum is a vey self centred person.  I think a lot of it has to do with having no siblings and zilch emotional attention and nurture.

Thinking about it today I realised fear was actually the underlying emotion that drove my mother.  Fear of not being able to survive materially, fear of not being good enough, this later fear fostered in climate where no one championed or fathered her.  In the absence of that she learned to ‘pull herself together’ and put on a shiny perfect face that hid far deeper insecurities inside.  She pushed and pushed and pushed in an effort to try and perfect us and the home environment but to a point where there was no place of being or rest.  I feel it finally killed my father to be honest.

And sadly my brother as the oldest also learned to push himself and my Dad too, later when they got into business.  My older sister was separate for a time but then tried to come back and push and compete and well and then had her cerebral bleed.  And in the face of all of this, as the youngest I was the observer and my other sister just became the lost child and learned to try and assist the oiling of the family machine.  Is it any wonder she broke down later in life when all of that familial conditioning was trying to dismantle itself?

I can see all of this now and know why my suffering was so strong.  I see why and how I became a substance abuser in my teens and I feel grateful that I could arrest that at age 31 and get sober.  But the real work of recovery began 6 years in and there was so much to feel, heal and work through.

There is so much grief in realising that what we needed and wanted as a child to grow and be nurtured was missing. Its difficult and painful to live with residues of trauma which were a result of emotional neglect that then drove us on to yet more trauma and abuse and neglect.  It is so much to take on board.  But what is most important is that on some level we can express and vocalise our pain, panic or distress, that we can reach for compassion and a deeper understanding, that we can turn around and embrace our wounded self and the wounded selves of others in love.  For if there is a Jesus figure or a Christ or God force in the Universe well isn’t that just about love?  Isn’t that force about understanding our wounds?  Isn’t it about the capacity to bear with suffering and trials in order to gain wisdom and to grow in love? And isn’t it also about learning that when we reach beyond and share our own and other’s truth and pain, connection and healing is born out of endless disconnection, suffering and fear?

And at the end of a lonely road when we find the missing father to be absent, just as Christ did, don’t we then have to grow that father inside?  Isn’t it now our responsibility to be the father we always needed? To find the strong boundaries for self care?  To find the strong voice to cry out or speak up for what is real and true? And to find the power to leave our victim self behind, knowing that past suffering was real but does not have to mean a totally disempowered, disconnected present?

 

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Learning to Suffer With Joy

I was fortunate to find this wonderful blog through the writers comment on one of my posts. This one is beautifully expressed.

Breaking Abuse

I have learned to suffer with joy.

This past October, in a talk that resonated deeply with me, President Russell M. Nelson addressed the members of the LDS church, speaking about Joy and Spiritual Survival. (click here to read full text)  In our women’s support group I asked the members if they’ve had any success feeling joy during their journey of recovering from abuse. For the most part, everyone had a hard time attaching the word joy to their journey of healing. This is understandable as the pain that is a part of abuse recovery is excruciating! There are days, weeks, months and even years of agony and the depression and anxiety that accompany this journey tend to swallow up the aspects of our lives that can qualify as joy.

So how can we find joy? What are some things that we can do now, even in the midst of…

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The importance of containment and soothing

After three exceedingly tough days where all of my trauma symptoms went over the top and I got stuck back in a deep pit of anguish and I gained some deeper insight into my struggles with love and connection, today started with a very loving, connected chat with my best friend in Sydney which immediately set my day off on a good note.

I am so grateful that I have one friend I can bear my entire soul with over the phone.  We can’t meet up as we live so far away from each other, but we are on such a similar wavelength that talking to him soothes me in a way helping me to feel wrapped in a cosy blanket.    I know he feels the same as we each show empathy and validate each other, most especially on the tough days, but on some tough days I don’t manage to reach out.  I get stuck back in that deep alone, disconnected from any human warmth place that I have known so many times in my past.

This friend just happened to be a very good friend of my ex partner and when our relationship hit the wall my friendship with him survived.  He knew all the ins and outs of things that happened and of my ex partner’s foibles and wounds and it was so good to speak to him as yesterday I was feeling so sad for the fact of how our love could not win through our mutual defences and heartaches.  I recognised today how strong these feelings are for me at this time of year.  We got together in April and had some months of very cosy love and connections before early wounds and cracks started to appear in our relationship.

Yesterday I had a day of seeing more deeply and with greater clarity than I could before what went wrong.   I then saw how I tried to make one of us wrong for it not working out, but the truth was (and this heals my heart to even say it) I do know now, six years out, that we both did the very best we could with what we both knew at the time.  We both had so much abandonment trauma in our pasts.

Reading back on our emails I understand more of deep hurt from his own childhood that my ex was carrying and how it tended to get projected in blame when he didn’t get the support he needed.  I was limited in my own ability to support emotionally as I had not ever been supported emotionally in my life either.  I guess we tried our best to support but in the end it didn’t work out.  Over the years he said some very nasty things to me out of his own pain.  Often I would just withdraw and not lash back, often escaping to the bathroom to put my hands over my ears.  At times I could sooth him but at other times when my own abandonment wounds were triggered and he didn’t understand I flew into rages and really hit the wall, which triggered all of his scary past of a father with major addiction.

In the end we couldn’t give each other what was needed and that triggered all the intense pain of a past in which I never got what I needed but had to revolve around others to get some scraps.  The final blow from him was a very nasty email calling me horrible things all coming out of hurt.  At that point I hit back with all guns blazing and now I see if I could have acknowledged his own projected hurt under the words, soothing may have helped us come through, yet as I edit this and as my friend said to me today, Deb it wasn’t your fault.

This morning I was crying about all of this with my friend and saying how I fucked everything up, how lately I feel I am not moving forward.  My wise, loving, patient, kind friend said to me that he didn’t agree.  “You just have to keep moving through and being as strong as you can be to build a life of comfort for you,” he said, that is what he is doing as his marriage is also far from ideal and little empathy is ever shown to him.

Our conversation has made me reflect a great deal on how containment, comfort and understanding are the healing soothing balm or salve that we most sorely need applied to our sore, scarred, traumatised or wounded places.  When we are understood in a loving way, when people can see deeper into our soul and not react or get drawn into wounded reactions or help us to shine a light on them we do better.

The traumatised body/soul is often one that has known little in the way of positive, soothing love and containment as well as empathy.  Wounding and trauma ark up our fear, fight, flight responses.  A harsh insensitive environment is one in which we feel the need to be constantly on alert, we then become ultra attuned to scoping out threats and its difficult to relax.  Negative scenarios run through our head and get triggered by new ones. If we were left alone in difficult or stressful situations we internalise all the drama inside with no place to pour it into.  We lack loving soothing self talk and other soothing, calming strategies that would allow our systems to rest and be relaxed back into a zone of calm.

I have begun to associate this kind of background with one that is likely to generate panic attacks within us, as well as a tendency to look for things to self soothe that often don’t soothe us at all or may lead to health complications, such as addictions.

This morning I was able to share with my friend how lately I have noticed how I use food to self soothe but sometimes not the right kind of food.  Lately my body is fairly quick to alert me to when it is not in a state of calm or is reacting to my feeding my face when really I need to just take care of and nurture myself in other ways.  All of this as I have shared before, tends to happen when I am at a critical time of day that most reminds me of times of feeling and being alone… the few hours of homecoming and the period in which I preparing food for myself and my dog.

Lately at these times I am trying to become more mindful of what is going on inside me.  I am aware how I can ark my own nervous system up with anxious thoughts.  This was the time of day in my past that I most lacked loving containment as a child.  I was left alone a lot and I used to eat to fill the emptiness.  I do not struggle with a weight issue but I still struggle with food.  Food is one of the ways I use to soothe myself and thinking about it today I saw how few other self soothing strategies I really have and how this is an area it is so important for me and others with Complex PTSD to work on.

If we come out of trauma we need to develop loving inner parents, we need to find places and spaces of calm.  We need to honour our body and soul’s need to move more and rest at the right time, times of expansion and times of contraction.  We need to watch what we take in, in terms of food and other soul nourishment and how what we take in or expose ourselves to affects our trauma body.    We need to watch our thoughts and notice when we may be triggered into a downward negative spiral.

For myself  I also need to understand how meeting a hostile defence from others when I attempt to open up some area of concern affects me and how I react in the wake of it.

Really positive self soothing in all its dimensions is so essential for the traumatised body and soul, loving compassion and containment is essential for those of us who have suffered trauma, abuse or neglect.  The later leaves us with a lot of emptiness and difficulties with knowing the right ways to care for ourselves, how to reach out, how to identify and reach our for what we really need, how also to create comfort from within, in terms of good boundaries.  In the absence of good sources of containment and nurture we learned to survive alone in the best way we knew how but often look to the wrong thing.  So much of our recovery demands that we learn the best places, spaces and sources of soothing for our soul.