Reflections on emotional recovery : the role of shame and self doubt

I would love to say I have a firm grasp on my life and my recovery but at times I lose my way and I doubt myself.   I second guess things and sometimes its hard to listen to my inner voice and I also doubt my own strength.  At times it seems easier to look to or lean on others who seem to be stronger but actually may be struggling, just like me.  I am not sure at times how to balance a pit of unresolved need from childhood that I buried in my addiction with being an adult and taking care of myself.  And this last upset with a friend which spilled over into a huge upset with my therapist ended up rattling me to the very foundations and had me questioning over and over the role of my expectations in relationships with others.

I was quiet scared to meet with my therapist yesterday afternoon.  Some harsh words had been exchanged as I felt dropped on Friday and then when that opened up really bad trauma from way, way back as well as the imprint of being thousands of miles overseas having suffered a dangerous head injury, I screamed out to the telephone on her voicemail in the middle of the night.  The next day, overcome with remorse I called again to apologise and she sent a text to say she would not have contact with me until my session in three and a half days time.  I am really not sure how I survived that.  It was one of the most painful things that has happened to me since my ex left me five years ago.  I only managed to pull through by being able to share what had happened with a few close friends.

By yesterday I was terrified that I would be abandoned again.  Would I turn up at Katina’s rooms to find she had decided not to see me.  Anyway I bravely forged forward and we both got to face off across the room and explain our side of the story and my therapist was honest enough to say that she was very frightened herself.  The reason she didn’t want to phone or text she said was that she was frightened of rupturing our connection which we have been building for just under a year now.  I could understand that on one level, but on another her inability to be brave (I was not going to get angry with her I just needed to talk through what had happened the day before) also leaves me with a lot of questions.  But I have decided to continue on as I realise her desire to keep our relationship safe came from care.  Still it leaves me with some doubts.  But at another level I feel that now our connection can go on and I can start to make some steps forward in a way that I am more conscious of my abandonment wound.  I am more conscious of how old things get retriggered in the present and that I still look to others like I am a little child trapped in the past rather than a fully grown adult.

The fact is I don’t want to stay trapped in this abandonment wound for the rest of my life.  I guess I have been feeling small, raw, stripped and scared lately because layers of denial have been peeled away in the past few months.  I have had to do some work so that I don’t reshame myself for having very big feelings left over from childhood.

One of the things that I heard Susan Anderson author of The Journey from Abandonment to Healing discuss on a radio programme that links to her website on the weekend was that as children we naturally learn to self abandon in the absence of empathy and containment and turn against our feelings. Recovery expert John Bradshaw describes this state as a condition of toxic shame certain feelings get bound in shame, such as fear, anger and sadness, even joy and enthusiasm and freeing ourselves from these binds or trances is the only way we can engage with our original pain and do the recovery work of feeling and releasing our original pain.

I have realised lately that rage can only take me so far, and often the rage occurs due to a disabling of assertive reactions against being hurt or blocked in some way which I was not allowed to have.  This leads to the genesis of inner self doubt and self sabotage and so in some way we need to turn the rage and anger and shame around so that we learn to use our assertive impulses to self protect and for self care.  We need to do a certain amount of grieving for what we lost due to shame binds and abandonment and toxic shame. We need to learn to trust our feelings and no longer doubt them and use them as guides to positive action.  But we should not be stuck in shame and grief all of the time for we have a right to happy lives and healing can only come for us and the pursuit of what will bring us joy rather than heartache if and when we learn to trust our true selves and our deeper instincts.

We also need to get a handle on ‘defects’ or ineffective ways of coping that no longer help us thrive.  At one time they helped us to survive  But now they may need to be surrendered in order that we can come back into relationship in a healthy way, with ourselves and with others.   The end of self doubt means the end of depotentiating our self expression and no longer feeling shame about who we really are deep inside and what we truly need and want.

Shifting this into astrological language, astrologer Liz Greene has said in lectures on Mars the planet of assertion and self will that the key to a healthy mars energy is knowing what you want and going for it.  With my own blocked Mars conjunct Saturn tied up with confusing aspects from Neptune the planet of sensitivity and undoing this has not been easy and recovery has meant for me getting a good look at what happens when self assertion is not validated and we don’t learn to assert in a healthy and balanced way.

6 thoughts on “Reflections on emotional recovery : the role of shame and self doubt

  1. I’m working on ridding my soul of the toxic shame created by abandonment. Some days I feel successful, other days not so much. On the days that I don’t feel it, I think I’m doomed. It’s frustrating and I cry and I don’t think I’ll ever get better. But then, the next thing you know, I have some good days. I think it’s going to be like that for the rest of my life, but if I keep focused on the process and not on the results, I will end up having many more good days than bad days. Best of luck to you:)

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that Jamie. Today I had one of those terrible mornings full of regret and feelings of failure and deep, deep shame. It turns everything black and I cant see the good nor see realistically, especially after I spend time with my older siblings who got more of their needs met.
      I was thinking this morning of the concept of bi polar because like you some days I am buried down deep under piles of shame/shit and on others I emerge and I am noticing lately that now the shift can happen within one day, so I must be making progress. Anyway this is all food for another blog. I so value your comments and sharing your own journey here for me and other readers. Once again thank you so much ❤

      1. Watching others in the family get their needs met while yours don’t is excruciating. When I let myself get caught up in that, it just makes me feel more worthless. And when I feel worthless, I start feeling all of those negative thoughts, and eventually I say to myself, “wait a minute…what happened to all my progress?” That’s when I realize I’ve let my work slide. If I’m lucky enough, I’m able to stop fixating on whatever it is that started the slide (usually something completely unfair and hurtful to me), and start fixating on my process…my work. But this is NOT EASY to do! Sometimes, I feel like I’m crazy, too. But I know I’m not. I often feel exactly as you just described in that last paragraph of your response, and for the shift of emerging from the darkness to happen in just a day…yeah, that’s progress, girl!

        ….and I value being able to read about your journey, too:)

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