Every day for a few hours my body re-enacts the experience of being pulled this way and that of pendulating between the lived reality of life and the unconscious feelings, thoughts and associations which perhaps make up my unconscious and its processes. In talking this through with my therapist yesterday she was explaining how she sees humans as living with different levels of awareness along a spectrum or continuum that stretches between body and mind, between biology and psychology. One of the impacts of trauma is a mind/body split which we work to repair in the context of therapy and healing.
As babies we have yet to develop a fully functioning ego (in the meaning of ego here representing a focus of consciousness within us that makes us aware of the distinction between inner body and its sensations, desires, feelings, emotions and needs and the outer life of the world and other people and their feelings, emotions and needs, the borderline, if you will of ego).
Prior to development of this centre of awareness babies are just immersed fully in the experiences of the body and biology with its seething mass of sensations, hungers and needs which as yet don’t have names. Babies and later toddlers are totally dependent on the capacity of the early environment to respond to, recognise and meet these needs, and to soothe the powerful sensations, needs and hungers in a way which helps the baby or child to regulate powerful sensations, feelings and needs. Lack of understanding, adequate response and recognition or empathy leads to fractures, splits and scarring that may take a long time, if ever to fully understand connect and repair.
Some therapists speak of a “holding environment” which supports the baby and its needs and some people speak of therapy as a holding environment, but these are not the only ones. A good therapist or friend or support group helps us to engage with what is felt in the body, being and experience in a way which makes sense to the mind and gives a feeling of rightness and connection.
This is an involved and complex subject, but where I am going with this is towards a realistion of the fact that body reality and memory can contain all kinds of imprints and sensations of which we have different levels of awareness into. Some of us are very in touch with our body and its needs, others of us, due to a difficult holding environment haven’t developed as good an awareness.
As a recovering addict my belief is that what happens in addiction is a substitution onto substances of needs that were not fully addressed, without our awareness that this is what is happening for quiet some time into our recovery.
Some of you who have been in recovery programs may be aware of the attention that is drawn in early recovery to the acronym H.A.L.T. We are taught to ask when we feel attracted towards the addictive substance to check in with our awareness to see if we are too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Within this exercise is a recognition tha addictions become more powerful as a means of self soothing when we have become split off from our body and its feelings, hungers and needs.
As babies and toddlers we will go through all kinds of experiences as we interact with the holding environment in our quest to express, live and fulfil our needs. In so called borderline conditions our needs will often not be met adequately, they may also be actively shamed, ignored, frustrated or invalidated. We then internalise that shame, ignorance and invalidation and may turn against the body and its needs which never the less don’t go away but continue to push for fulfilment from the unconscious level in the body, through powerful emotions and seemingly addictive longings. Healing from trauma of a wounding or non nurturant holding environment requires a long process of becoming aware of the splits that can form as we turn against the body and its needs, or become deaf to its signals.
People with borderline personality disorder suffer from a dual abandonment when they seek connection in that, lacking a sufficiently healthy way of recognising and voicing powerful needs, due to early and powerful experiences of invalidation they go overboard in expressions of rage, need and pain and are then abandoned again. Only when their needs and their power are empathised with can they emerge to a level of consciousness less centred in the body and more centred in the mind along the continuum of body/mind.
The wind may have to blow like a tournado and tear everything apart before it becomes a powerful wind of change that can assist healing for the borderline, for they are no longer a little child but live powerfully influenced by the needs and emotions of the unconscious inner child which only make themselves known in outbursts of affect that are difficult to differentiate and express from a more adult level of consciousness.
Growing beyond childhood, learning ways to express and be effective in recognising and meeting our needs in the outer world may involve for some of us a stormy time of recovery in which we are blown and buffeted about by deep feelings that have not been easy to differentiate, recognise, understand or express. And we often need help with this.
The healing path out of a traumatic and traumatising past is tumultuous and as we become aware and grow we do feel ourselves buffeted by the inner wind of spirit trying to blow out obstacles on the way to freedom of expression and being.
Lately in blogs I have been sharing some of the meditations from my favourite daily reader in recovery, Tian Dayton’s book One Foot in Front of the Other. The following is one of my favourite readings. In it she expresses in words a process I often feel occurring for me in recovery and had a difficult time making sense of. Maybe it will speak to you too. For on this path of healing, often the way is stormy and the storm may be a necessary precursor of change, needed for life to evolve and situations to shift and change in a way which assists rather than hinders our inner growth.
Just as hot and cold air generate wind, so do the hot and cold forces within me generate an inner shift in temperature, clouds that gather and become heavy burst inside of me and tears pour out. When I integrate my dark side with my light side, my cold with my hot, my chaos with my rigidity, my love with my hate, my intelligence with my ignorance, I experience an emotional wind. I have a pressure within me. I toss and turn inside and am pulled in opposing directions. I can do nothing about his but accept it; it is a natural combustion that accompanies change. But I can be less afraid of it, I can shelter myself, warm myself, find thing that stabilize me as I move through this period of deep, inner change. Trying to avoid this kind of inner wind is like wishing for weather never to change. It’s not realistice or even desirable.
If I am alive, I am subject to change. I know an inner wind simply means change and integration is happening.
The fear of change may be something that we feel from inside in response to the unpredictable and at time confusing path of learning about who we are, as a result of what happened to us and how we can grow and heal as a result of this knowledge. It may be something that is projected on us from without by people who lack a truer recognition of the conundrum our past development left us with.
As we go through this stormy process of change we need to find holding environments that help us to recognise and validate our inner feelings and reality when the push for change and recognition is powerful rather than invalidating us for expressing at times painful truths. The pain that we experience on the healing path may be necessary in order to learn lessons. It may be a developmental pain, growing pains if you will. We must avoid environments which actively shame or invalidate our process due to others ignorance and fears which can be hard to do as we may tend to be magnetised towards such invalidating environments. Or perhaps in developing awareness we may no longer need to avoid them as much as we have developed stronger muscles and awareness around them in such a way that we can self protect effectively even in the midst of a negative onslaught.
The storm of anger we feel in response to invalidation must be experienced in order to move us forward, for it often contains the power and energy we need to free ourselves from old attachments which keep us locked up in prison chambers too tight which stop our wind, breath and emotions from moving through us, informing us, transforming us into the fully developed beings we were intended to be.