Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.
Bessel van der Kolk
Pain and abuse or trauma can make us harden and contract. Some of us erect steely defences, we fight or we may take flight. Others of us just collapse in a big heap with our insides spewing out all over the metaphorical floor. In any case pain, abuse or trauma can and does change us and fosters in us certain reactions.
I had the thought as I awoke early today to a soft morning after gentle rain had fallen (which was like nature mirroring my inner world as last night when I wrote about tears as the gentle rain, the skies were clear. But isn’t our grief just like this? It comes in shower, storm or a wave and washes us through.) The thought I had was that my soul is often in grieving for my false or fighting self that had to push through all the pain and trauma alone. My therapist and I were talking about how the inner critic forms yesterday in the vacuum left by a parent’s lack of availability or as a way to please and how it then becomes unconsciously melded to us, until we do the inner work of uncovery and recovery. We wouldn’t survive without this push to bring us through. Many collapse in depression or inward turned anger and take their lives or end up with such a compromised auto immune system that all kinds of diseases can result. Last night I was reading a post of someone who endured two terrible losses and ended up with fibromyalgia due to the complex feelings she struggled to express, process and understand.
I have always been a great believer in the soul which I see as a kind of deeply authentic internal witness that knows all about us. I was drawn to the work of Carl Jung and Jungian therapists such as Thomas Moore, Robert Johnson, James Hillman and Marion Woodman in my early sobriety because they spoke of the importance of this soul and how its symptoms are cries for healing that may sometimes fall on the deaf ears of our false self who had to turn away or compromise.
I remember a few months back when I was beginning to open up to a lot of grief in therapy, Kat my therapist, said to me so wisely : “these are the tears of your true self.” At the age of 54 trauma and my own defences have stolen from me so many life opportunities . As I look back at past relationships I also see how I blame myself for wounds I was not conscious of. My emotional hunger made me bond with inappropriate people far too early. My emotional neglect meant I did not have strategies of self care. And when I was in rampant addiction there was really no real me to show up to protect or be truely intimate even though my soul longed for this deep intimacy.
What I have realised is that for me to ever find such a form of intimacy, it is going to need to come from my own soul first. After years of validation I needed my current therapist so desperately but I cannot tell you the amount of times my inner saboteur, critic and nay sayer has tried to get me to abort this last therapy. I wonder why a part of me would fight something that helps me so much.
Anyway this morning I woke up soft. I woke up just before dawn. I made sure not to contract my muscles and to try to breathe deep into my belly as part of my pattern of trauma involves unconsciously holding my breathe. I was trapped in the car in 1979 for a long time and had to be cut out. I had a collapsed lung so it was hard to breathe and they were behind me trying to put on a mask. I held my breathe in my family to put my own needs back and try to revolve around Mum to be seen. I tried so hard to do everythign right. Yesterday as I was crying with Kat in therapy I heard a deep inner voice say : “you better get everything right and perfect, or there will be hell to pay.” Part of my own defence and ancestral defence is to try to make order out of chaos. I know often in adult children of alcoholics meetings I would hear how this reaction was a response to the chaos of a parent’s addiction. In our family the addiction was my great great grandfather’s, My grandmother and mother carried both the trauma imprints and reactive imprints. With my Neptune in Scorpio in the third house I know it is my fate to bring awareness to all of this so I can free myself but first I have to see it and realise that maybe such deep rooted patterns are not always easy to change. I need to have patience with myself and practice self compassion while still trying to set limits and boundaries of self care so I am not driven all the time by the emptiness of my childhood neglect. Only self care will help in this situation. A false self develops as a survival strategy and it takes time to release it. I am engaged on this process.
I have a lovely book on the soul by Deepak Chopra that he wrote as a response to the 9/11 attacks called The Deeper Wound : Recovering The Soul From Fear and Suffering that I rediscovered earlier this year. In it there are 100 poweruful meditations with a core saying to help us get in touch with our souls, that soft wise inner part of us that just sees and knows beyond all the fears, insecurities and strategies of the false self or wounded ego.
I am making a practice of letting these meditations soak in as a kind of healing balm when I am forced to push or fight something it may be better to open up and surrender to. I don’t doubt my soul knows what is required to embrace my fractures. I just have to trust and stay open and soft enough to let that healing in while staying strong and setting boundaries for good self care.