I just reread one of my poems Girl Behind Glass about how when we seek for love outside from caregivers who will mirror and help us to access our true self and find nothing but emptiness or are ignored how we then have no choice but to turn back within often in sheer desperation.
As I was reading the poem it also occurred to me that in the absence of this real honest to goodness present love we actually use the solution of denial and lying to ourselves about what we did not receive, saying that we really did or if we didn’t it was probably our own fault or else there is something wrong with our perception. This terrible denial solution leads us to turn against our inner world and to suffer from a profound inner schism.
I have just remembered while writing this the double bind theory of schizophrenia proposed by Gregory Bateson some years ago. In this theory the child accurately perceives that a parent feels a certain way but when they offer that perception to the parent, the parent denies it which leaves the child questioning his or her own perception. Its like looking in a distorted mirror and being returned a distorted reflection. I tried to write a post about this a few years ago on WordPress called the Inverted Mirror. I was never sure how well expressed my struggle to explain this confusing dilemma of perceptual distortion was though, an ongoing inner conundrum for me with my own self doubt formed by years and years of never being fully validated or learning how to self validate well.
I am thinking a lot about this today because I am seeing how much I also engage in a form of denial or just push aside perceptions and insights I can have into people. My therapist notices it all of the time. No sooner do I cut to the heart of something when an inner voice comes into to offer the opposite point of view or point out how ‘here I go again mixing things up”. It truly is awful.
In the past it had been extremely difficult for me to be consistently able to stand by my own point of view and examining this dilemma I think it comes out of having to make choices to spend time with those who are not real or nurturing or wholey loving and honest due to there just being no one much like that around when I was growing up and even later in life. It is becoming clearer and clearer to me how deeply alone I was growing up and well into late adolescence and early adulthood when multiple traumas hit.
The deep sense of aloneness and emotional hunger forced me to look in all the wrong places for connection as I grew and then turn increasingly to addiction to numb my true feelings about it. Even well into sobriety trusting my inner feelings, being able to connect to them, feel, name and honour them without fear or shame has been a huge challenge for me.
It could be a breakthrough at the moment to finally be seeing all of this. It hurts though to finally have to face the depth of emptiness I have felt rather than run or blame myself for it as I have done while on some level also feeling liberating. I guess from here on in in my journey of recovery it’s all about taking on board the truth that from now on in if I really want to recover I need to be my own best friend instead of giving myself away or putting my own thoughts, needs, feelings and perceptions down. I see how I can devalue myself because I don’t feel the same as a lot of other people out there who operate on a more superficial level. Trying to fit into their world only hurts me as it fails to nourish me at the same time.
One of the symptoms of childhood emotional neglect due to therapist Jonice Webb is poor awareness and understanding of our emotions as well as a tendency to feel much guilt and shame as well as feeling that there is something deeply wrong with us for being ourselves or feeling what we do. Lack of consistent and honest mirroring in childhood of emotions left as with a deep void inside which we cannot know because our ego (or conscious centre of self) was not able to form well and relate to its inner contents completely or in a healthy nurturing way. This leave us with two other symptoms : feelings of emptiness as well as suicidal thoughts and feelings at times.
If we lack a reference point to connect to the true self our true self grieves deeply within us and longs for a pain to be known which we sadly see as some sign of our deepest flaw and inadequacy, rather than something we are powerless over when unconscious of it as well as a result of things done or not done to us or for us in childhood.
How we escape from this dilemma is first of all becoming aware of the fact that we suffer in the ways that we do. The tendency to blame ourselves and feel shame for things that were far beyond our control doesn’t allow us to fully heal until we can embrace and know the underlying causes. We long and ache and suffer while blaming and shaming ourselves for so doing, until one day enlightenment dawns often after an exceedingly long and drawn out battle. And on the journey the void within needs both a witness and a container to help us make sense of it.
Facing the abandonment depression alone (our deepest core psychological emptiness or abyss) is challenging in the extreme and is accompanied by what therapist James Masterton has called the Six Horsemen of the Psychic Apocalypse and we need all the help we can on the path of dealing with these : depression, panic, rage, guilt, helplessness (hopelessness) and emptiness. Its no easy journey to live with the consequences of being unheld, unloved and unmirrored in childhood and the last thing I am seeing we need to do on such a journey is blame ourselves for something over which we were at an earlier time completely powerless over. If we continue to do so we will just never break free and find our true inner locus of power and perception.