I am not a mechanism,
an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because
The mechanism is working wrongly
That I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul
To the deep emotional self
And the wounds to the soul
Take a long long time,
Only time can help
And a certain difficult repentance
Long, difficult repentance,
Realization of life’s mistake,
And the freeing oneself
From the endless repetition
Of the mistake
That mankind at large
Has chosen to sanctify
This poem written by D H Lawrence was a powerful medicine for me when I put down alcohol in 1993 and started to work through some of the pain and damage that led me to reach for substances and was doubled by using that method of coping.
I quoted it to a boss of mine in 2001 when I left the last job I have ever worked in. The environment was one of the major Universities in the United Kingdom. Within the past six months a new accounting package had been instituted, this along with other major stresses was causing the staff problems and one of the senior administrators was recommending that her staff go on medication.
Her words to me were this: “sometimes we need a little something to kick start the machine.”
My response including an excerpt of this poem, I later saw was recorded on my personnel file.
It was a plea for a different way of looking at the situation and a manifesto for my belief in a life of recovery free of medication and other forms of pharmaceutical mood altering as a way of covering over circumstances, which in increasing anxiety offered no real solution to the source of that anxiety.
At the time I was a year and a half into pyschotherapy and a deep period of grief and depression was happened for me, as old wounds were emerging to be relived and released.
For some reason this incident was on my mind when I started to write this blog quiet some months ago following a troubling conversation with a friend, suffering from depression and anxiety who has been recommended to go on Lithuim due to a panic response to an absence by her therapist that is triggering earlier abandonment issues still not dealt with. “Why have I agreed to this?” she asked me, “I must be going crazy.”
My own bottom line is that I feel I do not have the right to tell people what is right or wrong, what they should or should not do, though I will speak up when I feel someone is being hurt, as at the University. I try to help friends who like me, at times are confused and questioning to listen to their own heart and soul and be kind and loving to themselves. I know how difficult I find this to do myself at times and it is for me the daily practice I have committed to heading into this new year.
At the time my heart was troubled for my friend and I felt disturbed by a a therapist who offers no deeper insight into the source of my friend’s feelings and distress that may validate for her what she is experiencing at present. I felt, but did not say, that she was surrendering her own power to this therapist.
As she explained it to me the therapist tried to railroad her with two alternatives : hospitalisation or drugs due to the fact she said she was feeling like self harming. The truth is that at the time my friend was struggling with all kinds of family pressures and there were things she could do to help herself feel better which she was not doing.
It also became obvious to me as we spoke more that she KNEW deep in her heart that she was abandoning herself by choosing to go on the medication. Despite sensing all of this I knew I could not advise her beyond saying “listen to yourself, trust yourself” and deep in my heart I heard a deeper silent plea : don’t betray yourself, the love you seek, the truth in you it is real.
I knew her struggle at a very deep level, as it has been my own too with one difference. I dealt with the abandonment feelings through journaling, 12 step meetings and inner work.
My friend was at this time also wracked with guilt. She felt she had passed on deep abandonment issues to her daughter (which to a degree she had) but she has also tried so very hard to be a good mother considering the history she has. I tried to remind her that she hasn’t really abandoned her daughter, at certain times she has been absent due to the difficulties of her own wounds and healing process, which was both beyond her control and part of a much larger legacy.
Reflecting on our conversation I was reminded how hard we can be on ourselves and how sometimes in our distress we reach outside only to be led astray. The healing comes in knowing we are human, we have limits and defects, at times we are ignorant or blind and make mistakes, but at all times we are doing the best we can.
The truth is we do make choices that can cause pain for ourselves and others and yet all of this is part of our healing process of the deeply human process of living. Hard as it is there is sometimes no coming to consciousness without pain because the truth is if we knew better we would have done better.
I certainly know myself looking at some of the difficult things I have done in the past, they came out of a struggle to survive. Also I do believe that a lot of what we are carrying these days has deeper roots that can be hidden under layers. Healing is like unpeeling an onion, we only get to see one layer at a time and often many layers have to peel off for us to reach the core.
Deep therapeutic help would recognise and acknowledge triggers in the present that come from the past history of trauma, it would not abandon the sufferer and label them behaviour that is threatening or inconvenient or seek to medicate it away, at least this is my belief.
It has been my experience that quiet a number of common day therapists out there are lacking in their ability to contain raw, primal anger, pain and grief. (And I also ask could they not in taking a position of power and authority be projecting their own wounding history onto someone unconsciously?).
It seems to me that the onus to heal ourselves falls back upon us as the recovering ones to take responsibility and to make sense of the pain we may go through when abandonment trauma repeats and replays or is projected onto the therapeutic situation.
Maybe the central lesson of abandonment is for us to front up and not abandon ourselves any further, to recognise the repeat of an old pattern replaying in the present and the finding of ways to be with this in the context of healing. And a large part of this process means to find ways of relaxing and leaning into the wounds and injuries we have carried in order to reap from them healing and understanding. This is where the treasure lies. After speaking to my friend I opened my daily meditation book and read the following entry which seemed to me extra pertinent at present.
Where the Treasure Lies.
I see today that the door within myself that I was so afraid to enter, the feelings that I was so afraid to feel, the pain around me I tried so hard to ward off, were the passage into my own soul, once I surrendered to them.
Whenever I have bumped up against parts of my life that I thought I could not bear or handle, that is where the gold turned out to be. The hardest times in my life were what launched me into the best parts of myself and my most alive, deep, and productive times.
Today I see with a sort of surprise and wonder what these periods in my development as a person did for me. What I thought were the problems foisted on life by me were, in some way the gifts given to me. Some were the fault of others, some were my own making, but they were all just me; much of my pain has been my own blindness, what I would not or could not see.
Liberation is in seeing and just being. I use where I stumble as a point of entry into more of life.
Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave, that was so dreaded, has become the centre.
Source: One Foot in Front of the Other, Tian Dayton
I think of the times I ran away from the cave, of the damage I did in retreating from what needed to be faced, but could not, at least not at that time. There was a lesson to be learned from the running and the running bought me to the next stage where only more pain could drive the reality of the lesson home.
And so after some days of nursing deep wounds, guilt and regret I find myself in a place of insight and peace. I have been to several meetings this week, voiced out what has been festering inside, ridden through the anxiety and the wave has landed me back, at least for a time on more solid ground.
I sit quietly in my own cave tonight grateful for a reprieve from the pain of the weekend and in awe of the fact that in facing what I can and bearing with it, I am in time restored to a place of peace and serenity within which I feel fully the fruits of self empowerment. When I have the courage to stay with and express even my deepest darkest defects and feelings they dissolve in the light of day or lead me to more awareness and compassion for my own struggle. I am not a mechanism. I am a soul. My soul has all shades of feeling. I am grateful for this knowing, this awareness.