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’.

Anderson.jpg

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.

Left all alone

Left all alone with our wounds where do we go?  When the ones we turned to for help have failed us where do we go?  We can only turn back towards ourselves but we have problems if we cannot trust a mind within that can also turn against us, for those of us who suffer with an inner persecutor and then attract those who are only too happy to persecute us not knowing the true depths of our pain or wounds we are in grave danger there within our own heads filled with voices of others and of society that do not always speak the truth and often may not even see our true self or struggles.

When I witness someone struggling with this dynamic it breaks my heart but it also reminds me of the many times I found myself in exactly this situation.  Some people will oh so eloquently tear us to shreds, telling us how we are failing them and ourselves when the truth is they just do not know what we are fighting or struggling with on any day.  Being led to believe that we are less thank=, that we are not good enough, that we don’t deserve empathy and kindness and care hurts us deeply. It can wound our self protective instinct and the true self always has a protest and has to hide it deep within or else it comes out sideways, in the worst case we turn it agaisnt the self in self harm or possibly even suicide.

My current therapist often quotes British analyst D W Winnicott to me when she says “anger or delinquency is the last cry of the true self”.  Our authentic self needs to live even if that self is subverted and distorted to other forms of expression and it is only us who can stay with our reactions and make sense of them from deep within the self (but only if we have developed sufficient ego strength which is not a given but must be formed as result of healthy development.)  Since dissociation is a huge part of developing ego splits offs of parts of us from conscious awareness others could not bear it is not easy to hold all of this alone, nor hold onto our own reality and sanity or self integrity in the midst of it.  And this is the reason why a lot of us need a lot of help and one of the reasons why when the person we turned to for help fails us we suffer a double extreme dose of pain and hurting and frustration.  That person let us down and often they may have turned it back around on us, blaming us, this may echo what parents or siblings or teachers or other care givers did to us when young and it takes work to get out from under it.

Ideally we would have a loving adult self within as a centre of consciousness that could help the child in us when we were struggling but this part of us is only birthed through the parent’s help and if they could give it we need to look elsewhere for it.   When therapy failed me I looked to certain others such as Margaret Paul who recommended this inner bonding process to me, but it was still necessary to find a better therapist than the ones I had before who had their own limits and hidden dependency issues they transferred and played out in our therapy relationship.

Ideally for those of us with lots of attachment wounds we need to find a very skilled therapist with good boundaries but also one prepared to extend themselves a great deal for us.  I was told this on advice of someone who acts as a teaching therapist and has been a psychotherapist in practice for over 40 years.  We should not be blamed for having a ‘difficult’ reaction to being abandoned once again in therapy or emotionally in other ways.  We should not be led to believe we did something to cause it by being ‘too extreme’  or ‘too sensitive’ (which is an accusation often used on people with BPD).  No matter how old we are the inner child in us deserves empathy.

I don’t think anyone with serious attachment wounds ever lashes out deliberately to hurt others.  They are lashing out due to an empathic failure of some kind occuring.  The accusation may be that in lashing out we are causing harm to the other person and lacking empathy for them, there may be some truth in this, because a wounded inner child cannot see that everyone has limits and differing degrees of depth of psychological understanding.  The most we can understand is that others do their best, just as we do, it can be however that their best is not good enough for us or helpful for us at that point in time and in worst cases it can cause extreme damage.  Then the relationship needs to be let go with no accusation on either side, unless the other is trying to blame us for just being who we are and vice versa.  But we will still be left with a lot of pain and confusion inside that we need positive mirroring to work through.

Frightening lessons in love : Jeanette Winterson

Unconditional love is what a child should expect from a parent even though it rarely works out that way.  I didn`t have that, and I was a very nervous watchful child.  I was a little thug too because nobody was going to beat me up or see me cry.  I couldn’t relax at home, couldn`t disappear into a humming space where I could be alone in the presence of the other.  With the Depressed Dead wandering around the kitchen, and mice masquerading as ectoplasm, and sudden fits of piano playing, and the sometime revolver, and relentless brooding mountain range of my mother, and the scary bedtimes – if Dad was on nights and she came to bed it meant all night with the light on reading about the End Time – and the Apocalypse itself was never far away, well, home wasn`t really a place where you could relax… Ask for reassurance and it would never come.  I never asked her if she loved me.  She loved me on those days when she was able to love.  I really believe that is the best she could do.

When love is unreliable and you are a child you assume that it is the nature of love – its quality – to be unreliable.  Children do not find fault with their parents until later.  In the beginning the love you get is the love that sets.

I did not know that love could have continuity.  I did not know that human love could be depended upon.  Mrs Winterson’s god was the God of the Old Testament and it may be that modelling yourself on a deity who demands absolute love from all of his children but thinks nothing of drowning them (Noah’s Ark), attempting to kill the ones who madden him (Moses), and letting Satan ruin the life of the most blameless of them all (Job), is bad love.

True, God reforms himself and improves thanks to his relationship with human beings, but Mrs Winterson was not an interactive type; she didn’t like human beings and she never did reform or improve (or repair????)  She was always striking me down, and then making a  cake to put things right, and very often after a lockout we`d walk down to the fish and chip shop the next night and sit outside on the bench eating from newspaper and watching people come and go.

For most of my life I have behaved in much the same way because that is what I learned about love.

Add to that my own wildness and intensity and love becomes pretty dangerous.  I never did drugs, I did love – the crazy, reckless kind, more damage than healing, more heartbreak than health.  And I fought and hit out and tried to put it right the next day.  And I went away without a word and didn’t care.

Love is vivid.  I never wanted the pale version.  Love is full strength. I never wanted the diluted version.  I never shied away from love`s hugeness but I had no idea that love could be as reliable as the sun.  The daily rising of love…

It was never too late to learn love.

But it is frightening.

Jeanette Winterson  

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal

Parts of my mother my living sister carries.

It’s a very interesting dynamic I have with my 8 year’s older sister.  I have shared about our relationship on here a lot before about how the close loving bond I hoped for from her never seemed to be there and I wonder how much of it comes out of fear on my part, because of all the family members she carries a lot of my Mum’s perfectionism and wariness or shyness around people.  My Mum lost her own father at 7 and had to fend a lot for herself, there was just no protective parent there to care for her as her mother had to work.  My oldest sister who died in 2014 and had the brain trauma was born when Mum was only 22, Mum was 30 when my living sister was born and 38 when I was born, so we have large gaps in ages and I know that when my two sisters were born life was very different for both parents.   My two older sisters also got to have relationships with my mother’s parents in a way I did not as my mother’s step father who married her Mum when she was 14 died when I was only one year old.  An astrologer told me years ago that as the sensitive baby I had absorbed and lot of that sadness.   As Poppa lay dying they would take me to the hospital to sit on end of his bed in my basinette.   Was it any wonder I was called ‘the tissue queen’, as I am reading sensitive kids are born with acute radar and are absorbers.

Anyway my older sis was more involved with me as Mum went out to work all the time leaving me alone, she looked at me with eyes of love.  My second sister got to be the good girl who was the one who geared herself around helping the family to function in its business drive which consumed most of every day.  She was not happy to have to take care of me after school a lot of the time and at times I got bullied.  I still longed for my sister’s love and I have realised yesterday though she sometimes says she loves me I don’t feel it and I wonder why?  As a perfectionist also when she comes over to my house I cannot but help feel she is casing the place and she told me the other day my dog is fat while another friend told me she feels he is a good weight.  I told this to my therapist yesterday and we smiling over how people’s perceptions can vary. At the same time she was kind enough to come over unannounced on Sunday with an easter bunny for me which really touched me but when I see her walking down the drive my first reaction is fear.

Thinking about it astrologically my sister has the Moon in Virgo which is where my Mum’s Venus was.  Mum’s Venus was triggered by retrograde Mercury in Sagittarius back in December when all the trauma occurred that led to her death.  This was hitting the aspects that hit my older sister’s Mercury in Sag being triggered by Neptune at the time of her cerebral bleed.   As some of you know my grand niece (her granddaughter and my Mum’s great granddaughter) ended up having a seizure during that visit while at my mother’s house and that precipitated a chain of events that led to my mother’s death 7 days later following a fall.  I know it’s all interconnected really.   My grand niece is a very sensitive little girl and I cannot help but feel she picked up on something.  After some time on medication following my Mum’s death my nephew now tells me she is fine, no more medication and no seizures which makes me realise the family unconscious is such a powerful thing and Neptune which rules the collective unconscious was opposing my grand nieces Mars in Virgo back in December during the visit and seizure time last year.

Anyway I digressed or followed a flow here as I started to write about how lately I am becoming aware of what my sister who still lives is carrying of my Mum, how it has in some way kept her a prisoner and how she longs to be more free.  This was made clear by comments she made while having a cup of tea here with me on Sunday.  I started crying while she was here and my therapist seems to think that due to the fact my sister’s emotions are repressed with medications, as a sensitive person I am picking up on her sadness.  I am not sure whether it’s that or that she just triggers my own wound when she comes around and I start to feel that carried familial anxiety and trauma.  Even when she was hospitalised several times for depression when I visited I would often cry while with her and the last time was just after my older sister died and Mum and had to clear her room from the care home alone due to lack of any other help. We then went to visit my sister whose family decided she was too ‘ill’ to attend her older sisters’ funeral… so sad….:(

With her strong Pisces I also feel my sister carries some multigenerational pain of the ancestors as her birth date is the death date of one of my great great grandmother’s baby siblings two of which had the same name Eliza Jane and died in infancy.  My sister also has a lung condition that I have felt for a long time goes back to the trauma to his lungs my grandfather suffered during his time being gassed during World War I.  I cannot prove this but intuitively I know it and Mark Wolynns’ work on ancestral trauma being carried multigenerationally shows how epigenetics affects ancestral descendents cells.  I have written several posts about his work which I will link to below later.

Anyway what prompted me to write this blog was reading the following excerpt in a Jungian book on the archetypal mother

the queen has divided her mother’s image into good and bad and kept the good parts for herself.  Everything that was unpleasant about that relationship she plans to give her sister, whom she already detests.   Her rejection of the bad mother is so complete, the queen even forgets to take that piece along on her trip.

It made me wonder how much of the bad mother I often project onto my own sister when I feel unseen by her and unwanted.  Is what I think I see and feel true or not, does it come out of my own psychology. Most certainly my sister keeps her emotions close to her chest and doesn’t display them readily.  I don’t really ever remember seeing her cry.  Or could it be that it is true what I am reading about in my book on high sensitivity, that as the feeling child I do give expressions to emotions my sister finds hard to feel.  My therapist was quick to point out to me yesterday how loving I am about family members even when they hurt or ignore me or sideline my feelings.   As the baby I always longed for their love but what I am learning is that no one else can help me understand my own self or heal my hurting places but me.  I dont want to make my older sister all bad because she has good parts its just that a lot of her is repressed due to the trauma she underwent through several hospitalizations and harsh shock treatment.   I treat her tenderly as I have seen all she went through and at times it really, really breaks my heart but is this sorrow mine to carry?

Holding to our boundary?

I guess every victim of emotional neglect or abuse has a struggle knowing what’s what, who is really harmful and better not to be around.  Feeling anxious when we receive a call from one of our ‘triggers’ can be a trigger, but due to our past holes in development we don’t alway feel we have the right not to take the call.  I just read a post on unconditional love and part of me thought, yeah, I am not sure that I believe in that any more.  Giving people the benefit of the doubt or trying to be stronger or a bigger person is what a Good Guy with the feeling we dont have a right to legitimate needs or boundaries is taught to do by conditioning.

When love is absent and real care and empathy, where do we go?  What we experience is a terrible numbness, emptiness or void, a soul pain that often is not understood intellectually but since our body is really the home of our soul, somewhere inside our bodies know and yet for a child in this situation what can we do.  When we cannot leave physically, we choose a form of dissociation, its something I have been thinking a lot about while reading writer Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography.   Many of us escape into books or tv or we start to write from a young age.  Like me Jeanette never had her boundaries respected, her adoptive mother violated them and read her diaries, she threw out and burned all of her books.  Jeanette wrote in the quote I posted yesterday that she learned early on that anything could be taken, and the only thing that could not was her what was inside, her capacity to express and to create.  For some of us, however, if our insides are invalidated and we are told we are bad or selfish it can be hard to hold onto the internal reality, too.

The abuser who wants control over us wants to destroy our reality as well as our understanding of them as a perpetrator so they turn it around on us, we are the ones who are selfish or too vulnerable or too sensitive for just feeling normal feelings that any caring emotionally connected person would.  I had a commenter on one of my blogs yesterday tell me that feelings will get us in trouble, yes if we dont know how to use them as internal messaging systems and I dont think the person really got the jist of the post.   This does not apply to feeling ‘bad’ which is a feeling that may be grown by thoughts that we are incompetent in some way when really that is just a form of depression or an introjected voice talking to us inside our heads.

Dissociation for many of us was a way to survive trauma.  It was a way of preserving the inner self, the problem comes when we turn self protection and externalised fear into global concepts where we feel the entire world is bad and not to be trusted.  As survivors we will always be wary and we need good boundaries.  We need to know what hurt us was valid and not just all in our imagination as we will often be told by gaslighters.  We need to trust our feelings not fear them and then put them to good use.   We may also not ever need to forgive certain abuse and this need to forgive may be something that is forced on us by moralistic people.   Abuse is not okay, its not okay to trammel a sensitive person and lead them to believe their reality is skewed when they are trying to be who they are and express their true and real selves.   I had to leave one Al Anon group when two members told me I was not allowed to express anger over my Mum’s abandonment of me as a child.  While I know my Mum went through something similar she never allowed herself to be angry at her own mother and as a result she never had good emotional awareness or strong boundaries later in life.  The pain meds she was on in the end ruined the last years of her life.

I have watched two siblings struggle with anger and self assertion.  I have seen them cut down when they were trying to break free but also I have seen them become manic with the unresolved fear and anxiety we all absorbed in our family home was not contained or made sense of in therapy only treated medically with a cocktail of drugs.  I’ll be damned if I will shut up about it.  I makes me angry and so, so sad.  My living sister is not able to be emotionally and assertively present in any way these days and she is collapsed as a person.  In the end she could not break out of her feeling wounded prison.   It makes me cry,  especially leading up the anniversary of my older sister’s death which occured on Easter Sunday in 2014.

Knowing who we are.  Holding to our boundary.  Knowing what we feel makes perfect sense these things can only come out of the long hard painstaking work of emotional recovery and these things are not given to us we have to earn our right to boundaries over and over again and we struggle so remorsefully with self doubt as our ego strength was never encouraged.  As children we were not helped to develop a heathy ego or good boundaries, in fact we were conversely actively stymied in our emotional education and so we have work extra hard now.  And we cannot afford to open once again to emotional invalidation from those who would try to convince us our boundaries are wrong or there is something wrong with us for protesting neglect, abuse or betrayal, that it is wrong to have an ego and that we should come to love everyone unconditionally.  Yes hurt people hurt people and we can have compassion but if that means we lose our own passion for rigourous emotional health and self care that kind of over compassion can be dangerous.