Finding a home within our own hearts : reflections on family, dependency and therapy

The more time I spend with family lately the more damaged I see they are with dependency and attachment issues, just like me.  Last night we went to a rare dinner put on by family friends and I saw so much more about my family I had not fully seen before and today I woke up with this realisation.  I can no longer look for nurturing in my family I have to find it outside and deep within my own heart.   It was a dark cold winter morning and I cuddled up to my dog Jasper for one of the first mornings in weeks as I cried while stroking his soft fur.  I realised how once I was like him, totally dependent and with a lot of needs, needs for food, for comfort, for protection, for shelter.  On some levels I had this but what I realised last night, in childhood no one really saw me deep inside in my emotional self, everyone was there going through the motions, so caught up in outside business concerns and it was all about duty and work and presenting a good front to the world and also about serving others and their needs.

When I was 5 just a few years after my oldest sister married and left Australia my Mum and brother ran a restaurant, so I was without a Mum at home six nights a week.  I remember many years ago my godmother sharing how shocked she was that Mum could leave my sister and I six nights a week, but she was just repeating a family pattern.  My other sister was sharing last night how she went to the restaurant on Saturdays and took the bookings, when she was about 13, I also went to work in the family business at the same age.  As I sat there looking at and listening to my sister last night I was struck my how much of her own self has been swallowed down, she eats and eats and eats and eats while I have a problem trusting that I can digest my own food.    I was on some level filled with compassion for my sister and for all of us.

On the other side of me Mum was sharing about her own inner loneliness and about how none of the family show any interest in the country where my Dad was from.  My nephew is off on a huge European holiday which involves a 900 km cycling tour, they are leaving their daughter behind alone in Australia and I remember my parents did the same when I was only 16, the age my grandniece is now.  They will be close to Holland but made not attempt to contact relatives there.   Then it occurs to me that Dad went back to Holland only a few times after he left and never wanted to spend much time there, he wanted to be far away, so in many ways my nephew is acting naturally out of the unconscious past he carries from my father.

I then logged on to read such a powerful blog on dependency and therapy.  I am interested about how many people are sharing about this issue at present.  I think it has to with Mars being in Cancer the sign of need, emotions, attachment, mothering and dependency.  It is very hard for us to admit the inner child’s longing and need to depend when so long ago we were taught that we needed to deny these longing and needs and or defend against them.   However much we deny such needs as well as the pain of having them shamed, devalue or unmet, we take them with us into each new relationship and the therapy relationship is usually the most important one where we get to examine them in the light of transference and counter transference.

I broke my first serious attempt at therapy after my therapist took a month long break, at that stage deep pain was opening up and I was overloaded.  I ended the therapy and moved back home to Australia.  I then was lucky enough to be referred to a therapist who told me this.  He said to me “Deborah with the degree of damage you have gone through you need a therapist who will be there for you 24/7.  A lot of therapists don’t operate in this way but for you, this is what you need.”  Unfortunately that therapist was not in the town I lived in but in the years I survived without therapy (due to fear) he was always open to talking to me on the phone whenever I needed, he never abandoned me.

I have in the past been abandoned by therapists at times when I really needed their support, turns out they had their own limits and boundaries that did not work for me.  In the end I found my current therapist and I don’t have as many demands of her, I know I can hold but I also know when I need to let the deep pool of rising feeling or insight flow out into her mind in order to be washed over and contained for a while, we need this, especially if as young ones we were left alone holding enormous undigested feelings as is the case in those of us who suffer from borderline issues and deeper narcissistic injury.  We should not feel ashamed for needs that as children we had to hold back out of deference to parents who didn’t know how to cope with ours.    Our therapists need to be strong containers for us, for deep old feelings we hold from younger times can be powerful and deeply threatening for some therapists.  We need to be wise in choosing our therapist.   Once we find the unconditional support we are able to feel held and in being held we are learning how to hold ourselves and find a home for all we feel deep with our own, we learn to trust ourselves and to know that even painful feelings we may have been shamed for are so essential to our wholeness.

Lately I ask my heart to open wide enough to encompass all of what I feel.  I tell the shaming inner critic to get off the back of my inner child and take a hike,  I feel the love that my therapist has consistently shown me being mirrored back.  It has been a very long journey to get to this point and from deep within my heart I see that others too hold such damage and suffer their own inner critic often feeling lonely deep inside but not always realising it and I hope for them to find the love both within and without from consistent reliable people who will help them to know that everything they know and feel deep makes sense and matters, even fear of depending.

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