Unwelcome : A safe harbour

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You learned a long time ago

That this world was not a place that welcomed you

That there was no one there

Holding the door open with a smile

Saying : How nice to see you

Come on in

And rest a while

You learned to keep as quiet as you could

About what you felt and thought

While bursting apart at the seams

Denying the body you lived within

Was a simple human body

Needing so very much more than this

Endless corridors with closing doors

And backs turned

The failure to admit all of this to your mind

Meant that it was your aching body

That kept the silent score

Of what you never

Were allowed to know

With your mind

Until your hunger grew too insistent

And set you on a search to find the one who said

I know you

And love you

And accept you totally

Please come in

You are more than welcome

Here

Please take a seat

For here you will find

Acceptance

A safe harbour

A space to be

Seen and loved and known

Why anxiety and logic don’t mix : relationships and insecure attachment

Reading the book I recommended yesterday Anxious in Love is putting into perspective for me why things can hurt and go so wrong for us who suffer PTSD, Complex PTSD or anxious and insecure attachment in relationships.  As the authors point out in Part 2 :  Connecting With the One You Love different parts of the brain are operating for us and our partners who don’t see what all the fuss is about when we respond with anxiety to certain events or triggers.  I am being taken back with every word to my last relationship where I would get an hour long lecture on how wrong I had things to be responding in the way I did with little empathy shown.

In anxiety our forebrain (or rational brain) is emotionally hijacked by the lower brains (hind brain and mid brain) where centres such as the amygdala lie.  Being responded to with logic as most of us know is tantamount to having a red flag waved in front of the face of a raging bull!!!!  But we also need to understand our partner may be coping with the situation in the best way they know how while lacking a more complete understanding of how rationality has flown out the proverbial window.

In this situation what is called for is developing the ability to intentionally respond rather then becoming reactive.  The solution is for each partner to understand and have an attitude of curiosity about what is happening for the other.  It’s something an old therapist of mine would bring up a lot about by ex saying “its just sad he cannot have an attitude of curiosity about what is occurring for you”.  To be told you are bad or wrong for responding as you do is just terrible and I think its a key to so called Borderline Personality Disorder sufferer’s struggle.  Perceived abandonment when triggered can send us into a cascade or spiral that takes is into the darkest place for days and if we are left alone in it too long for some the feelings (what therapist Pete Walker calls the abandonment melange) can lead to suicide, addiction and other self destructive mechanisms of coping.

What Carolyn Daitch and Lissah Lorberbaum, authors of Anxious in Love offer instead is a way of each partner entering the other’s reality for a time to validate it, both the non anxious partner and the one who suffers anxiety.   As sufferers of insecure attachment we can learn to understand our partner’s reactions and can learn to voice our needs in relationship in a less angry, attacking or accusative way.  Often non sufferers who operate from the higher brain just do not understand the severity or intensity of our responses to triggers.

Lack of emotional flexibility is one of the hardest legacies of anxiety reactions in relationship, it shuts down emotional attunement between partners and makes an open dialogue impossible.  Being able to set a time out when we know we are being triggered and our brain is going into hijack mode is useful, and hopefully our partner will accept it if we let them know what is going on with us.  The alternative is they respond with emotional distance/withdrawal themselves, judgement and anger (being triggered themselves), misunderstanding or protest which can be very difficult.  The more we can talk through these reactions and responses in our relationships the better change we have of resolving conflict and growing empathy and attunement.    The more we can step into their shoes and understand what is happening the more we can make an “appeal to reason” while explaining what underlies our reaction.

Some partners may be even triggered by us saying what has triggered us, though. They may respond by telling us “that’s all in the past” but in that case they need to work to understand how emotional hijacking works and show empathy in any case.  A person who is not willing to do this for those of us with insecure or anxious attachment may not, in the long run, be the best partner for us.

More detailed techniques for reconnecting are given in the book in later chapters of Part Two but today I thought I would just share what I have learned from the book so far for those not in the position to purchase a copy at this point in time.  The book is building on my knowledge of many years of trying to deal with anxious attachment and its destructive effect on some of my relationships.

Because the experience of attunement with a significant other is powerful, ruptures in attuned connection bring about a sense of absence, loss, and even distress.  Yet those ruptures in attunement are inevitable in all relationships, no matter how solid.  There are times when you just fall out of sync with one another.  It’s important, therefore, that you both have the ability to repair ruptures when they occur.   Just as quickly as you fall out of sync, with some flexibility you can repair the disconnect and engage one another in attunement again.

Anxious In Love, p. 98

Defeat

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It was so hard to hear you yesterday

So defeated my darling

You are usually the one so full of hope

And in the situation you find yourself

Sometimes I wonder how on earth you cope

And manage every day

To keep soldiering on

All you ever think of

Is how to protect me

How to care for me

And when I get angry because things go wrong

And I have not one clue

What is going on

Over there in that hell you inhabit

Then I forget to remember you are doing your best

All I feel is my frustration

At the fact trauma seems to find me

Over and over again

 

So many times it seems I bled

From the wounds of others

I was the one who cared

The one with a bandage

Ready to say there there

Because I knew too for years

How it felt to be traumatised

Or abandoned

Or left for dead

Oh my god the things it does to your head

And so I gave love

As I knew I must

But sometimes the anger well it rages inside

Why oh why God did you give me this life?

 

But then just as the storm seems to have totally consumed

And almost sucked all the air from the room

A bright sun will suddenly burst free from the clouds

And like a dead Jesus pain disappears

Only leaving a shroud

And then I know defeat is not really the end

Just a stepping stone on the way

To a new healing

A new understanding

A new way of living

A new victory

A brilliant resource for anxious attachment

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If like me you suffer from anxiety or anxious or insecure attachment issues you may find the above resource very helpful.  I have not read the entire book yet but its already given me so many tools not only to manage my anxieties in relationship but just anxiety in general.  There are a number of practical exercises you can do and the authors explain the way to recognise triggers, ask in a caring way for a time out without triggering your partner’s own issues, self soothe then find a way to reconnect from a calmer space where you can speak from your heart rather than from your trauma or defences.

Those of us with anxious attachment and Complex PTSD can really struggle to hold onto loving relationships and relate in a loving way.  This is a resource that actually gives strategies that are useful and will help you to understand more about how anxious attachment affects your relationships.   I highly recommend it.

Pain of early separation from our mothers and its impact on relationships

Pain of early separations from our mother can haunt us for a long time and we may not always know what the pain is about. It’s an issue that Mark Wolynn, San Francisco based therapist on multigenerational trauma addresses at length in his book It Didn’t Start With You : How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.  The separation may not have been physical alone, it could be just that our mother was undergoing a depression, grieving a loss or being unseen and unnurtured by her own mother did not know how to be fully present for us.  (According to Wolynn the original problem or disruption often lies a generation or two back and we may be unaware of it).  We feel the loss and absence keenly and such feelings can cause us to actually turn away when our mother tries to connect with us another time.

Wolynn shares just such a story on page 175 about a baby Myrna whose mother leaves for three weeks.  On her return as she waits and longs for her daughter to run to her Mryna’s mother experiences instead a daughter who turns away becoming even more distant.  Rather than understand her daughter’s reactions and look for a way to restore the bond Myrna’s mother instead encourages her independence.  The mother loses sight of her child’s vulnerability, so where did it go for Myrna?  Answer in short.  Into the unconscious.

Of course later when Myrna fell in love, love was experienced as a minefield and its something I can relate to as will anyone with insecure, avoidant or anxious attachment.  Vulnerability of needing another opens up a pit of loss we do not fully understand and we can relate by sabotaging things further should we choose to deny or repress our true need feelings and vulnerability.

Mark Wolynn talks of interruptions to the flow of love and energy between parent and child a lot in his book.  He knows a lot about it as he pursued a path of so called ‘spiritual bypassing’ seeking a healing he could not find in ashrams and through meditation (though he does use visionary meditations with a clients ancestors in order to effect healing of past wounds carried on).  Wolynn did not heal his early trauma with his mother until years later understanding how its roots lay far back in his own mother and grandmother’s history and eventually becoming a therapist himself.

When our early experience with our mother is disrupted by a significant break in the bond, shards of pain and emptiness can shred our well being and disconnect us from the fundamental flow of life.  Where the mother-child relationship remains severed, empty or fraught with indifference, a stream of negative images can lock the child in a pattern of frustration and self doubt.  In extreme cases, when the negative images are continuous and unrelenting, frustration, rage, numbness, and insensitivity to others can emerge.

Psychopathic behaviour can be the result but the key result if often a form of pathological narcissism – an inability to truly connect and take in love.

According to Wolynn the majority of us have experienced some kind of break in the bond with our mothers.  Many though, got enough of what was needed to be able to maintain healthy relationships later in life.  Many of us were not so lucky.  Ideally disruptions to attunement need to be healed in the context of any relationship.  How we deal with them are important as are the beliefs about our inherent lovability.  According to Janet Woititz adult children of addiction and trauma believed they will only be loved if they act in a pleasing happy way.  No relationship can survive like this and neither can we.

Knowing what happened in the bond with our mother and the impact it had on our attachment style as well as inherent negative self beliefs and development of what Wolynn calls ‘core sentences of separation’ is vitally important if we wish to heal.  We can become conscious of these, work to understand how they may be influencing our present and do inner work to change negative core beliefs we may have absorbed unconsciously so they do not continue to play our in our relationships.  I have found so much help myself reading Wolynn’s book which I shared from extensively in my blog last year.  It is well worth a look if you struggle to maintain healthy loving relationships in your own life and are working to understand how the flow of love between you and a parent (not only your mother) is impacting you in later life.

(Examples of core beliefs which negatively impact our capacity to love and be loved are :  I’ll be left:  I’ll be abandoned. I’ll be rejected.  I’ll have nobody.  I’ll lose control.   I’ll be helpless.  I don’t matter.  I’m too much.  I am not enough.  I’ll be annihilated.  I’ll be destroyed.  I will push love away.)

A grief deeper than I can name

A grief deeper than I can express or name is bursting out of me lately.  After years of working through my anger and frustration and disappointment with my parents I am seeing and feeling a much deeper reality that lay beyond my own needs, wishes, hopes and dreams.  I am fully experiencing the truth that my parents did the best they could with what they knew and I am feeling even more deeper grief for the lost children in them that had to go on in such harsh conditions.  I am even feeling the same for my much older brother and followers of this blog for some time will know of the conflicts I had with him just prior to my Mum’s death in December last year.

He is America for six weeks at the moment at the house he owns over there.  My cousin asked me on Friday, why don’t you go over.  Simple answer.  Never been invited but then my brother would not.  When I asked him how he is spending his time now his wife went back home he told me he goes for three hour long walks and about the deer that come into his garden then and leave their pooh.  I had a dream the other night I was in a cave and there was deer pooh everywhere and I had bare feet but where ever I trod I could not escape the pooh which was then ankle deep.  I understand that this is actually a dream about grief and about the messy uncontrollable world of emotions that my family found so problematic and me too with my descent into addiction from a very young age.

My brother was 39 when my father died and they worked together for years.  Mum would tear up when she told me of how she went into their office one day in the year after Dad died and my brother was sitting there wearing his cardigan. This is a man whose own wife never once told him she loves him and told my mother after Dad died she needed to toughen up and ‘stand on her own two feet!’ What the fuck else did my Mum do for most of her childhood?  Anyway leaving aside my sister in law who is incredibly severe and scary I feel for my brother so much and realise what is hidden under the words he does not say.

I’m feeling for my Mum and Dad too and I feel them over in the land of the passed with so much love in their hearts for me.  I feel them as they guided me to Scott who also lost his Dad a year before me at 21.  Don’t ask me how I know this, I just do.

I just came home from the veggie markets crying listening to one of my most favourite songs If You Wait by London Grammar.  This song is so evocative and it blows my emotions wide open.  At times the grief I feel feels too large for my body and I wonder if what I carry is not only personal but ancestral for I feel the connection to my maternal great great grandfather so deeply at times.  He entered an institution for alcoholism later in life, never having been able to grieve for the mother he lost at 12 years old (the same age my father lost his father!).   I think of how each of my sisters and were also left by men and of how now I have been trying to help someone get out of a life and death situation overseas where war is just about to be declared so we can come together and start a new life.  And how terrified I am that he will be killed before we can finally meet.

I am also aware we are deep in the final shedding time prior to the New Moon Solar Eclipse in Leo on 11th August.  It falls  smack bang on my North Node In Leo.   So much is coming to light from deep within my own shadow and unconscious as well as that of the family.   I know I can bear whatever happens but lately I feel so many echoes around me. Echoes within echoes within echoes resounding along a long corridor of time.   I am in the antechamber awaiting a new birth, what ever comes to pass.

Dialogues with my inner critic

I have been trying to use active imagination with the force of the inner critic inside me lately.  For those who dont know active imagination is a way we can dialogue with an inner psychic force inside us, Robert Johnson Jungian therapist addresses it in his book Inner Work but my talks with the critic were also inspiresed by another book called Freedom from your Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approcach.  

One of the things my inner critic does is drive me hard.  As a child growing up we were not allowed to play or have fun until all our chores were done.  A friend in later years said it was like coming to a military operation in our home.  We had to iron our own school uniforms, polish our shoes and clean our rooms I also learned to run around after my mother who would get herself in a state of apoplexy at any sign of mess.  In later years when my older sister was in the care home for acquired brain injury she would laugh uproarously about an incident at a farm when Mum got chicken shit on her shoe.

It was a bit mean come to think of it for as an emotionally neglected child my mother had no one at all there for her.  Her father died when she was 7, her own mother had no war pension and had to work afternoons, evenings and mornings just the times she should have been home for her daughter.  Mum got her own dinner, she made own breakfast, got herself ready for school (where she was abused and punished and used to clean the Nun’s chapel or stood in the corner for not doing home work COME ON!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!)  Those were harsh times during the 1930’s coming out of the depression years and First World War into the intense climate of the Second during which she met my Dad.

Dad was the oldest of a fatherless family too, fleeing Holland just prior to German occupation in 1938.  He was hell bent on becoming a millionaire.  My godfather, his best friend told me this when I got into addiction recovery in 1993-1996.  We had many chats because my father died when I was 22 and I never knew his history over which he remained quite silent like many of his generation.

Anyway back to my inner critic who I call Mr A and my therapist calls The Annihilator.  He often wont let me rest and the other morning when he was off on a rant I just gave him a hug in my active imagination then I put an ice pack on his head.  It was a while until he calmed down but I got a good insight into what lay beneath just as when one time I stopped my Mum mid flight in an OCD cleaning spree to hug her and she also burst into tears!!!

I have been grieving a lot more since this incident.  The self punishing voices are still there but I am able to bring them out and ‘unblend’ from them (a term used in the second bood mentioned above.)  My child inner often gets tormented by Mr A he blames her for everything, including a host of things that never in a million years could be her fault.  But of course this is what happens to those of us emotionally neglected in childhood.  But we can take back control over these inner forces if our desire to love and seek the truth is stronger than our possession by them, if we are willing to do the inner work to make them more conscious.

As Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss point out in the second book our Critic is so often hostile to our Inner Child but we can learn to change this by self compassion and in the process our compassion for the wounds of those who abused us also grows.  We know they were hurting and did the best they knew, even if it was in no way good enough, we are on an evolutionary trajectory in regards to that carried or inherited trauma.

The dark place of abandonment

Being made to believe we are not okay as we are and certainly not deserving of someone’s love and relationship does affect us so very deeply.  I am revisiting the work of abandonment therapist Susan Anderson lately.  I was lucky to be guided towards her book From Abandonment to Healing just over 13 years ago when my marriage ended and I found myself in a very dark place.

This was not the first time as abandonment has been a pretty much constant theme for me starting with my older much loved sister leaving home when I was only 3 to marry and start her own family and live overseas.  My Mum wasn’t emotionally available to me at all, she worked all the time and when she was home we had to duck and weave around her compulsive cleaning, there was never a place to rest and my Dad also vacated through his own addictions (minor ones) when he was around he wasn’t really there.  Later in life after I nearly lost my life at the tender age of 17 in a motor vehicle smash up he was hard line forcing me to go to secretarial college in the painful aftermath of my older sister’s breakdown and cerebral bleed.  Later I saw her abandoned too at her most vulnerable time and was back at home when she tried to take her life in 1982 when I was only 20 years old.

Dad ended up dying when I was only 23 and that was followed by my then partner (who I had two terminations of pregancy to), ringing me at 4 am in the morning just a few days after my father died to tell me not to bother joining him overseas as he didn’t love me any more and had found someone else.  Do you believe that later when our paths crossed in Greece I slept with him only to come home one night and find him in bed with someone else only to be accused of being ‘mad’ when I reacted to it poorly?  Luckily at that time I was with other friends in Greece and the owner of our B and B deplored my ex’s behaviour.  Never the less I internalised the abandonment seeing it as due to a flaw in me.

I won’t go into the pain of three more similar ‘leavings’ of exs over a period of 18 more years, often on the back of being told there was something wrong with me.  What that ‘something’ I now know was terror and fear pure and simple and Susan Andersons’ newer book which I just bought Taming The Outer Child : Overcoming Self Sabotage and Healing from Abandonment explains how very real changes in our neurochemistry involving the amygdala leave us with an over active fear, flight and fight response which is automatically triggered in any new relationship or prospective interaction  (and not only with new potential partners, from my experience).  This reactive pattern she gives the name Outer Child and it can sabotage and lay to waste new connections but not only that leaves us with cumulative Post Traumatic Stress as a result of our abandonment trauma or ‘schemas’.

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As I sat with my sister yesterday after she tried on the clothes I bought for her and saw how much of her self love had been decimated I thought it is criminal what people are telling her, I know her fixation on clothes and looking good are symptoms of her abandonment but its not only that, the roulette wheel of psychiatrists and medications has left her depleted, she went down the exercise route but withouth any psycho dynamic therapy and no emotional recovery buddies.  She is not able to express and read as I am and that works against her.   I know new clothes will not fix that deeper wound to her self esteem but I think it doesn’t hurt to be there to try as it’s getting so much colder here and she has no warm jumpers and when people tell her ‘its all in her head as she has lots of clothes’, that to my mind is pretty invalidating and harsh.

I seem to have gone a little off track here but what I am trying to address in this post is how our abandonment at another’s hands can leave us questioning our own use, meaning, value, beauty and goodness and how healing involves not internalising those feelings from someone else.  In her earlier book Anderson uses the acronym S.W.I.R.L. to describe the process of working through a recent abandonment which may trigger far earlier ones.  (Shattering, Withdrawal, Internalisation, Rage, Lifting).

The true abandonment as adults is then self abandonment which occurs as we internalise false beliefs about our value and worth and fail to understand or validate reactions to abandonment and its deeper triggers. For sure we may not be perfect and have wounds and scars and reaction patterns we need to understand and work with : the process Anderson outlines in the second book, but we are not worthless because we have been abandoned or gone through loss and all our feelings and reactions make complete sense once we understand their roots and work to understand our own history and self sabotaging behaviours.

From this position we should be showing compassion to those who have suffered emotional abandonment not be taking out a big stick to hit them over the head with.   For healing involves compassion, wisdom and tenderness both to others and to our inner child that bleed from very real wounds in earlier life.

You asked me

You asked me if I can open my heart to him And reveal the scars I carry inside Lonely places left Which a father and mother’s love should have filled And I break down at the question

I do not know how I would find the words to express what I carry inside And the one time I opened my heart He shut the door on me I was the flood that he feared would overpower him Holding up a painful mirror he could only deny And my hurt and anger, passion and truth was the loose cannon that he feared would blow him to pieces

How can I explain that with some people there is no way to have our feelings understood?  How can I explain that some people are like rocks? We can only dash ourselves against Ending up bleeding And this is why I now just want to walk away Because there is no place where I can stay And fall to pieces In order to reassemble as me

But at least with you I can express this truth You give me a way To get these feelings out You let me scream and shout The truth I was forbidden to tell all those years ago And you remind me that the one who hurt me Blamed me and then ended up trying to take her own life  Because facing the pain of what she did was too much to bear

I have stayed close and let myself bleed from these wounds while they said What’s the matter? And really you are a demon Well excuse me if I no longer seem to care as much as I did But when I walk away I will not pretend that my heart is not breaking And that I was ever mistaken about the spiritual emptiness at the heart of this family that stole so very much from me

The fear of true feelings that underlies narcissism

Ive watched and read a lot on narcissism in my time of dealing with my own and other’s wounds but this video is the one that most clearly articulates the inherent scars that underlie the disorder and keeps us off the blame spectrum.   It also explains to me a lot of what I went through in struggling with repressed feelings and with those in relationships who did not want to deal with theirs.   Well worth a view.