God knows healthy self caring boundaries are not easy for those of us who came out of emotional neglect and struggled to know that what was ‘wrong’ with us, was not who we really were. With emotional neglect in childhood (which often happens in what appear to be ‘loving caring homes’) the deep confusion over never being understood, fully related to, met, or mirrored by parents, siblings or care givers, or worse being dismissed or led to believe our needs, reactions or impulses were wrong can leave lasting scars, problems with self love and boundaries, vulnerability to further emotional abuse and a sense we must erase unacceptable part of ourselves to ‘make nice’ or belong.
It was really only when I began to work on my emotional arrests a fair way into sobriety that I came to do battle, mostly with my second sister and Mum as those two individuals seemed to ‘get’ my true self least. It was always different with my older sister who wound up so badly disabled physically and emotionally in the care home for acquired brain injury, she always got me, and even though she could shut me down at times. With Jude I always received the ‘loving gaze’, instead of the ‘death stare’ I so often got from my Mum and other sister… When I consider that both my second sister and Mum had Saturn in Scorpio squaring my Moon and Mars as well as conjoining my natal Neptune in the third house it all makes sense.. I felt deeply the things they would not allow themselves to feel or felt shame for : deeper primal feelings and urges.
Emotional neglect leaves us unable to have insight into and empathy for ourselves.. it can also leave us with poor inner and outer boundaries.. if we also took on the mantle of ‘sick’ or deficient one in the family, becoming what Jungian analyst Sylvia Bretton Perrera calls ‘scapegoat identified individuals’ or what Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls ‘instinct injured’ it can take a long time to feel safe to express our urges, instincts and emotions as well as our assertive drive for personal wants, feelings and needs..
When my collapse came 9 years into sobriety and I was left by my ex husband, abandoned and alone in our old house by the coast I did not understand all of this fully.. I made the attempt to break away to the UK only to have the second head injury…. there was so much unrequited attachment pain and longing.. I was pouring out my confused self in letters and cards to my older sister and being besieged by images of Jesus and the two Mary’s that were perhaps all very archetypal… I am grateful I found some holding there in Glastonbury for a time, before I made the painful decision to come back home again in 2005…. I went back to the coast and got involved in a damaging relationship and suffered more narcissistic abuse and emotional neglect but all the time I was learning.. When that broke I came back home in the middle of 2011 and finally found the right therapy in 2016 after about 5 attempts with other therapists and body workers…
These days I have the growing feeling that the core of me is far more expressive of my true self and less ‘shame bound’. I am able to have my rebel yell in relationships and know the Lion’s roar comes from my true self and sense of righteous justice to live as me. The introjected voice of what I called ‘the killer’ is not as strong as it was..indeed this voice began to make itself so powerfully known from 2004 onwards when I withdrew to go into almost total social isolation, that impulse was judged but I now see it was necessary and healthy in some way.
A therapist was essential for my journey of positive mirroring.. I had to move away from AA as I got involved in a damaging relationship with a woman with narcissistic issues for a long time in the fellowship, which was a shame… but knowing how deeply entangled the relationship with my older sister was and how much this woman reminded me of her, it all makes sense..
Today I realised how far I have come when the day started out dark and rainy but I no longer feel dark and rainy inside.. I knew what to do today to take care of myself.. get myself out for a drive and a coffee to watch the wind surfers by the lake, let Jasper rest cause its rainy… get him a bone on the way home and some lovely nutritious things to eat.. sit down and write my blog, do a bit of tidying up but don’t get all OCD about it, listen to music I love… all of these things help to brighten my day. We will also need a good walk, fresh air and exercise later… though I did lots of stretching this morning.
Setting limits with those wanting to call on my kind empathic nature has been essential too. I am more than happy to help those who want to help themselves but if you just want to pull on me to compensate for something in yourself that is missing I cannot just sit and keep listening.. I am often used as a mirror and that is fine as we all reflect each other in some way, but I also need my solitude and quiet time.. what I would called inner digestion and gestations time.
Lately I have found so many people reaching out to me on social media, those who have sick kids, missing parents, loss, struggles with studies, money, finding work… in the end I can be a friend but I have a limit to how much I can help, because I also have to take care of myself… this has been one of my most important lessons for me to learn with high empathy as well as emotional neglect…
Another critial thing has been learning not to shame myself for what was not my fault and maintain some humility as well as recognising that sadly in my family the gold in me was not really recognised but had to be relegated to the shadows in order to be approved of.. at times I identify with the fairy tale of Cinderella… and a past therapist mentioned she saw this theme in my life too…. but I am beginning to realise lately that a lot of the shame that was dumped on me by others was not fair… and my lesson has been coming to accept that despite my wound and deficits I do have value and something meaningful to contribute..
I was reading up on the sixth and seventh steps this week which speak of the central concept of humility which is gained through a realistic self appraisal of our strengths and weaknesses, as well as our past wounds or shame bound areas, as well as an understanding of when we are acting these out.. It also involves being able to be teachable and know what we do have to express of value, this takes some time, especially for those of us with emotional neglect who often felt ourselves to be misfits..
My gut feeling is the world needs us right now, most of all because we know how to be with our inner selves rather than run.. We know how to be real and vulnerable because we can acknowledge is where our true super powers lay. Also strength rests in acknowledging the light and strength and gifts we did gain as a result of our journey to here…these to me are the gifts of coming to understand the lie of emotional neglect : that we had no intrinsic value at all apart from how we appeared or of what ‘use’ we could be to others. For sure we are put on this earth to give and bear witness to the light but we are also put here to acknowledge our sacred need for authenticity and self care.
Related posts :