I awoke thinking a lot about responsibility this morning. Often we can be made to feel we are responsible for things we are not, like others feelings if we trigger something painful for them. Often we try to dodge responsibility for the things we are responsible for : our own self care, reactions and happiness. If you break it down responsibility is the ability to respond rather than react and if we have a lot of internal pain that may not be fully conscious its only natural that we will react before we have gained or built the ability to respond. We should not be too tough on ourselves for this.
I am speaking about this today because lately in therapy I am still unpacking what went down in the last painful relationship which ended just over six years ago. At the end my partner tried to make me responsible for things that were having an impact on him that I did with no intent to harm and which were not harmful only difficult as they went against what he wanted and needed. Looking back I did my best and at times I was triggered into a lot of anger by things he said and did all because it resonated with deep scars of my painful past history. I didn’t ever full dump on him, usually I would take myself off and scream my frustrations alone, but even this triggered him as I learned he had watched his father kick his mother in the stomach when she was pregnant amidst other very bad abuse.
Unfortunately he was taught to fear his own feelings of vulnerability and then they were projected onto me, which was not my fault. If I had a deeper awareness of the impact of his full history at the time there are things I would have done differently. I showed a lot of empathy (as much as was possible for me, which is quite a lot) but due to the pain of his past he needed someone who was very aware and able to respond, most especially to take themselves out of the firing line when he went into one of his rants which came from a deep place of pain that he was not really willing to take responsibility for.
At the beginning of the relationship I listened over and over and over and over about all the pain of his past relationships, problem was, it was always the other person who was to blame for not fulfilling needs left from childhood that had a huge emotional charge. I had my own unmet childhood needs. In the end the conflict of the two caused a massive rift that finally tore us apart. I carried much of the blame for the ending but working it through in therapy I am being given reality checks all the time by my therapist. Yesterday I said to her “Katina, I feel ashamed that my relationship did not work.” She asked me why. Examining it I see I was demanding of myself a perfection or ability to respond with greater consciousness than I had at the time. I moved into it to quickly, collapsed my boundaries too soon and then absorbed lots of his pain as empaths do. I got warning signs early on but my abandonment schemas did not allow me to heed them. I see now that I have to take responsibility for my part, whatever painful and emotionally abusive and damaging things my ex did to me.
Freedom to respond, also means the freedom to make choices. Most particularly choices about how and what I do with my emotions and who it is safe to express them to. For those of us who grew up without a good emotional compass and good boundaries this takes a lot of repair work later in life. Undifferentiated emotion which I feel lies behind a lot of so called ‘borderline’ conditions takes so much time to work through. Early deep pain can cause us to erect defences against the painful wound of vulnerability and feeling very small because we did not get a chance to grow into and understand all of our complex, intense emotions.
I was googling on emotional sensitivity and BPD yesterday what came up is that some of us are just born extra sensitive. We are more responsive to stimuli and so we need an extra supportive, emotionally intelligent early environment. Sadly so many of our parents could not provide this. Should we blame ourselves for feeling deeply and at times experiencing intense feelings of rage? No it wasn’t our fault. We don’t really have the right to dump those feelings on others but its only natural they will arise in certain triggering situations. What we need is understanding of ourselves and how we react and respond and why. This is the only thing that will free us to make better choices in the future.
We need to know what we need as highly sensitive persons. We may need a lot of quiet time for example. We may be triggered by noise or busy environments. We also must realise we will not do very well in relationships with emotionally insensitive persons. These are just too triggering at least until we know our own and other’s boundaries well.
As emotional sensitives we pick up a lot of non verbal cues due to our sensitivity but also have to be careful at times that we are not reading old hurts onto new situations and reacting inappropriately. This is where we need our words to explore our feelings, responses and other people’s motives. For example to say “When you did ______ I felt _____ or thought _______ is that what you meant?” Of course this will only help if the person is not being dismissive or emotionally abusive to us.
It is becoming clearer and clearer to me lately that our ability to respond to life in a constructive and healthy way for us requires of us a good degree of self knowledge. We need a deep relationship with our inner world and our past pain. We need places to explore this. We need to express and unpack the painful charge of terror and fear and anger and sadness that past experiences have left with us. This is where I feel that the world of blogging is so helpful. Here we have a forum to express what is true for us, a forum in which we can gain support. A forum in which we can dare to be nd express our inner truth. And we also need a loving place inside of us that we can go with all of our pain and issues.
In his book The Presence Process Michael Brown talks about how we all have a place of presence with in us. Some may call it a witnessing consciousness. This place is eternal and timeless. It knows us well. It has been there through out all we have endured. It is a force field that contains the pain of our past experiences but is not damaged by them. This field of presence has the ability to contain us. It can enable us to witness our story but knows at some deeper level we are not fully defined by it, we are deeper than what happened to us. For we are beings in which presence is seeking to live and emerge so we can live freer of the past conditioning that we endured when we came to the earth plane as spirits. There is for me, something profoundly comforting in this idea. I guess it comes close to the notion of a Higher Power that I first felt after my first AA meeting back in 1993. But rather than a higher power that is above and beyond me (or us) I see it as a presence that is within and all around us.
In the Gnostic Gospels, Jesus said “the kingdom of heaven is within you and all around you”. Also in the bible “when two or more of you are gathered together in my name I am there.” For me this speaks of what happens when we are present together and hold a loving open space free from criticism and judgement where we are able to express and respond. I like to think it may be the truest and purest and most loving experience we as humans may be capable of, more important indeed than all of our outer explorations of time and space. Here within this loving presence may we begin to dwell increasingly together or alone. Here may be learn deeper truths about how and why we respond as we do.