The importance of containment and soothing

After three exceedingly tough days where all of my trauma symptoms went over the top and I got stuck back in a deep pit of anguish and I gained some deeper insight into my struggles with love and connection, today started with a very loving, connected chat with my best friend in Sydney which immediately set my day off on a good note.

I am so grateful that I have one friend I can bear my entire soul with over the phone.  We can’t meet up as we live so far away from each other, but we are on such a similar wavelength that talking to him soothes me in a way helping me to feel wrapped in a cosy blanket.    I know he feels the same as we each show empathy and validate each other, most especially on the tough days, but on some tough days I don’t manage to reach out.  I get stuck back in that deep alone, disconnected from any human warmth place that I have known so many times in my past.

This friend just happened to be a very good friend of my ex partner and when our relationship hit the wall my friendship with him survived.  He knew all the ins and outs of things that happened and of my ex partner’s foibles and wounds and it was so good to speak to him as yesterday I was feeling so sad for the fact of how our love could not win through our mutual defences and heartaches.  I recognised today how strong these feelings are for me at this time of year.  We got together in April and had some months of very cosy love and connections before early wounds and cracks started to appear in our relationship.

Yesterday I had a day of seeing more deeply and with greater clarity than I could before what went wrong.   I then saw how I tried to make one of us wrong for it not working out, but the truth was (and this heals my heart to even say it) I do know now, six years out, that we both did the very best we could with what we both knew at the time.  We both had so much abandonment trauma in our pasts.

Reading back on our emails I understand more of deep hurt from his own childhood that my ex was carrying and how it tended to get projected in blame when he didn’t get the support he needed.  I was limited in my own ability to support emotionally as I had not ever been supported emotionally in my life either.  I guess we tried our best to support but in the end it didn’t work out.  Over the years he said some very nasty things to me out of his own pain.  Often I would just withdraw and not lash back, often escaping to the bathroom to put my hands over my ears.  At times I could sooth him but at other times when my own abandonment wounds were triggered and he didn’t understand I flew into rages and really hit the wall, which triggered all of his scary past of a father with major addiction.

In the end we couldn’t give each other what was needed and that triggered all the intense pain of a past in which I never got what I needed but had to revolve around others to get some scraps.  The final blow from him was a very nasty email calling me horrible things all coming out of hurt.  At that point I hit back with all guns blazing and now I see if I could have acknowledged his own projected hurt under the words, soothing may have helped us come through, yet as I edit this and as my friend said to me today, Deb it wasn’t your fault.

This morning I was crying about all of this with my friend and saying how I fucked everything up, how lately I feel I am not moving forward.  My wise, loving, patient, kind friend said to me that he didn’t agree.  “You just have to keep moving through and being as strong as you can be to build a life of comfort for you,” he said, that is what he is doing as his marriage is also far from ideal and little empathy is ever shown to him.

Our conversation has made me reflect a great deal on how containment, comfort and understanding are the healing soothing balm or salve that we most sorely need applied to our sore, scarred, traumatised or wounded places.  When we are understood in a loving way, when people can see deeper into our soul and not react or get drawn into wounded reactions or help us to shine a light on them we do better.

The traumatised body/soul is often one that has known little in the way of positive, soothing love and containment as well as empathy.  Wounding and trauma ark up our fear, fight, flight responses.  A harsh insensitive environment is one in which we feel the need to be constantly on alert, we then become ultra attuned to scoping out threats and its difficult to relax.  Negative scenarios run through our head and get triggered by new ones. If we were left alone in difficult or stressful situations we internalise all the drama inside with no place to pour it into.  We lack loving soothing self talk and other soothing, calming strategies that would allow our systems to rest and be relaxed back into a zone of calm.

I have begun to associate this kind of background with one that is likely to generate panic attacks within us, as well as a tendency to look for things to self soothe that often don’t soothe us at all or may lead to health complications, such as addictions.

This morning I was able to share with my friend how lately I have noticed how I use food to self soothe but sometimes not the right kind of food.  Lately my body is fairly quick to alert me to when it is not in a state of calm or is reacting to my feeding my face when really I need to just take care of and nurture myself in other ways.  All of this as I have shared before, tends to happen when I am at a critical time of day that most reminds me of times of feeling and being alone… the few hours of homecoming and the period in which I preparing food for myself and my dog.

Lately at these times I am trying to become more mindful of what is going on inside me.  I am aware how I can ark my own nervous system up with anxious thoughts.  This was the time of day in my past that I most lacked loving containment as a child.  I was left alone a lot and I used to eat to fill the emptiness.  I do not struggle with a weight issue but I still struggle with food.  Food is one of the ways I use to soothe myself and thinking about it today I saw how few other self soothing strategies I really have and how this is an area it is so important for me and others with Complex PTSD to work on.

If we come out of trauma we need to develop loving inner parents, we need to find places and spaces of calm.  We need to honour our body and soul’s need to move more and rest at the right time, times of expansion and times of contraction.  We need to watch what we take in, in terms of food and other soul nourishment and how what we take in or expose ourselves to affects our trauma body.    We need to watch our thoughts and notice when we may be triggered into a downward negative spiral.

For myself  I also need to understand how meeting a hostile defence from others when I attempt to open up some area of concern affects me and how I react in the wake of it.

Really positive self soothing in all its dimensions is so essential for the traumatised body and soul, loving compassion and containment is essential for those of us who have suffered trauma, abuse or neglect.  The later leaves us with a lot of emptiness and difficulties with knowing the right ways to care for ourselves, how to reach out, how to identify and reach our for what we really need, how also to create comfort from within, in terms of good boundaries.  In the absence of good sources of containment and nurture we learned to survive alone in the best way we knew how but often look to the wrong thing.  So much of our recovery demands that we learn the best places, spaces and sources of soothing for our soul.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s