How safe do you feel to say what you need to say or feel to be true?
When I was growing up didn’t feel safe to express how I really felt. I was used to hiding a lot of things that I did wrong, because I had learned I wasn’t able to depend on support or understanding. Recently I read the following comment here : https://anupturnedsoul.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/a-must-read-on-npd-narcissism-living-without-feelings/
“growing up with narcissists, I learned fairly early on that I was not allowed to express myself in any way at all unless it was in a way the narcissists wanted me to do so (and even that could be wrong). If I expressed myself in a way which upset them (which is easy helped to do and pretty much everything can upset them, trigger them and get you shot because of it), then there was censorship hell to pay for it. They need control more than they need air, food, or other vital things for basic survival. I learned to shut up and listen (with more than just the ears). But that too could be perceived as a threat by them.”
Reading this helped to make sense of the continual questioning and deliberation that goes on within my head as I argue with myself about my right to feel what I need to feel and say what I need to say. It can all get very tangled inside my head when this is going on. So many questions about how others will react if I say something especially insights I have into the depths of things.
It was a number of years ago I became more conscious of this hyper-vigilance I experienced and then I met a narcissist and outbursts and emotional cut offs could be the consequence of expressing myself in a way that challenged him. Today I see the parallels with early relationships.
A while back after my eldest sister died I came across some letters she had saved that my mother wrote when I was a young child. The clear thing that came out of reading those letters for me was the realisation that my mother just did not get me, that her ability to empathise and link into her youngest daughter’s mind, emotions, heart and need for self expression was severely limited. I know this in many ways was a result of her own lonely childhood, a childhood in which she had to learn to be quiet, hide her fear and loneliness and had next to no validation.
Lately I have come to see, after a very long and painful journey of trying and failing to be seen by significant others that I have put in mother type roles that it was not my fault that my mother just did not get me and that that earliest relationship, as well as the one with my father who remained silent in the face of abuse set me up for painful relationships. I had no caring siblings to turn to either, in fact my closest sister who was 8 years older was fairly nasty a lot of the time. My elder sister who was kind left home after marrying and moving overseas when I was three.
Somewhere along the way growing up I came to believe I was not good enough, that things were my fault which actually were the result of a faulty upbringing and stressful and traumatic incidents occuring at key developmental transitions. I cannot note down here all the significant failures that have mirrored these earliest ones, which set up a blue print for my life and relationships and for shame. But I can say now, that after having gone through about five significant failures within the same lesson or pattern in the past three years where significant others have tried to re-shame me, I am now able to recognise what is hurtful and safe and what is affirming and frees my spirit.
Having affirmation from certain people both online and in my life over the past two years has helped me to recognise the earlier empathetic failures for what they were, outside of my power to control and not caused by me.
I must say that sadly as part of my own difficulties when I was struggling during my late 20s and early 30s I got caught up in the New Age movement for a long time. I actually now recognise that at that time I was working for a narcissistic boss within the New Age industry. It was around the time I went through the Saturn return and was gettting into more and more problems with alcohol.. I was not yet aware of the difficult part lack of affirmation and just downright suppression of who I was as an individual by significant others had played in my life, but I was being driven unconsciously by these wounds into more and more painful relationships and so I was desperately reaching for answers. But some of the answers of that movement were that I had chosen abuse for myself.
I no longer believe this to be true. I now see it as an outgrowth of multi-generational woundings and legacy. I now know that victims do exist and we can and are victimised by forces beyond our control playing out both personally and collectively. Sadly many abusers have an investment in us remaining victims and in blaming us for things that are outside of our control, we even do it to ourselves as a result of being victimised. It is part of the way abusers operate and this idea stops the victim from knowing they were a victim and getting angry enough to moblise the energy to bust out of the pattern and reclaim our own power. And at one level although I don’t believe we chose it, we can learn from it and turn the wound into a blessing.
Often for those of us scapegoated and conditioned to be submissive, taught to fear our own anger and aggressive/assertive impulses, power only comes with the capacity to get angry enough to throw off victimhood and hold up the psychic shield to poison and projections.
Quite a few years back following the end of my marriage and an accident in which I had suffered a head injury while boarding with a family who were emotionally abusive I went for an astrology reading with Melanie Reinhardt. As part of the session she told me about a book by Peter Levine, who has done extensive research into trauma in animals and how this relates to trauma in humans. The book is called Waking the Tiger and in it he calls attention to the need of the traumatised animal to mobilise aggression in the face of threat in order shake off entrapment.
A large part of depression in vicitmised people, those who have been abused or traumatised, is that our instinctive impulse to lash out has been demonised, stifled or suppressed or it is judged not as a symptom of a desire for freedom, health and recovery, but as a symptom of a disease or mental illness. I have always been drawn to the understandings of such therapists as James Hillman and Thomas Moore who see in the symptom not evidence of malaise but signs of the soul telling us about the nature of the wound and need for healing.
Recently I have been reading the book Animal Madness by Laurel Braitman. In it there are some very interesting stories of animals taken from the wild who then rebelled against the abuse of their captors, in some case taking lives or causing permanent wounds.
One of the saddest stories is of Tip, the Asian elephant donated to the city of New York by a circus owner, Adam Forepaugh. Five years into his incaceration within the Central Park elephant house, Tip began to display violent behavior directed towards abusive trainers and captors. The public began to call for Tip’s death and he was deemed to be “mad”. In the end Tip was executed.
Braitman writes :
“(Tip) was deemed mad not because he was rabid or demonstrably insane but because he acted violently toward the men who sought to control him, keep him in chains, and diminish his sensory, social, physical, and emotional world to a small barn. His badness caused his madness, his madness cemented his badness. Tip was a victim of the human tendency to punish what we misunderstand or fear.” P. 71.
Tip’s remains now lie in the American Museum of Natural History. I could not help but identify with Tip’s story. I felt an outrage for him, as I feel at times so much of a longing for the wild self within that has integrity at the core and knows deep down the truth of what is needed, what got thwarted and frustrated and which has suffered amidst psychic abusers the painful consequences of lashing : being demonised further.
I saw this pattern in my eldest sister’s life, who ended her days in an institution. I have lived the pain too of trapped immobility in which true feelings and felt needs had to be repressed and I have felt the freedom that comes with the mobilisation of expressing, assertion and aggression that when operating in allegiance to the True Self enables us to liberate ourselves from confinement.
I have witnessed silencing of his impulse in loved ones, the burying of it deep inside the belly with meds designed to blunt the truth, to numb the rebel yell that would have brought freedom as it struck fear into the hearts of those who wanted certain truths and realities silenced or extinguished.
The capacity to mobilise our own assertive impulses and express our truth which may have been buried or atrophied after years of invalidation or abuse is so essential to our birth as individuals, we need our rebel yell to break free of unhealthy enmeshment with those who may have unconscious investment in denying aspects of a self that may threat or confront them. And so, unsafe as it feels at times to say what we need to say, we must somehow find the courage to sound out our voice and challenge those who would silence us.
The price of speaking our truth may at times lead to exile. In mythology the scapegoat is sent into the desert with the sins of the collective on its head. In reality the sin of the collective may be the shadow qualities that could not be accepted or expressed beyond the bounds of what controlling forces deemed acceptable.
In a family in which feelings are denied or hidden, it is the passionate one who will be demonised. I witnessed this scapegoating caper playing out last week. I finally understood why the demonised person had needed to be as detached as she was. And why many years ago she advised me to get far away. But critical lessons have come for me with not running, with facing into the heart of the dark dynamics because enmeshment must be broken in the place we stand, and true psychic and emotional separation cis not necessarily always obtained with distance.
As I tune in with my minds eye while writing I see an image of Saturn bearing a scythe standing on the right hand side of my inner child, holding her hand. I am alone on one level and cannot return to what was once cosy because Saturn is asking for something to be cut away. The sacred cows of psychic blindness must be slaughtered and comfortable cosy enmeshment sacrificed. I dreamed this image in a dream many years ago in a deep dark meadow in England many slaughtered cows lay on the ground.
Breaking free of the fear of censure and ostracism that often is the price of living true to our core, and releasing the projection of shame that does not belong to us is a journey we who may have been scapegoated must face. Exile may be necessary for a time from places, groups and family members who cannot allow the shadow qualities a place . It may even have been our task to carry that energy. Healing comes with the recognition that exile is the beginning of a journey to a new land in which we will discover the freedom of being released from a confining straight jacket which bound us up too tightly.