Fear of Insanity Narcissism and Denial of Feeling : more insights from Alexander Lowen

the experience of horror (in childhood) makes one question one’s sanity.  What one is experiencing does not make sense, it doesn’t accord with one’s image of reality which even a baby has on a biological level.  To avoid the resulting mental confusion, one must dissociate and deny all feelings.  As long as one sticks to logic, one is safe.  But feelings are life, and one cannot fully avoid emotional experiences no matter how coolly one plays it.  The narcissist faces the risk of being overwhelmed by feelings and going wild, crazy, or mad, should his defence of denial break down.  This is especially true of anger. Every narcissist is afraid of going crazy, because the potential for insanity is in his personality.  This fear reinforces the denial of feeling creating a vicious cycle.

Reading the above paragraph again in Lowen’s book today gave me more insight into my brother, who threatened to walk out on me last October when I got angry with him.  It reminded me of terrifying incidents he faced in childhood and of how my father did pretty harsh things to him as a boy as his own childhood had been similarly harsh.  I was in tears again last week after yet another conversation with my brother where we was working as hard as he could to split off all expression of emotion.  I usually leave every interaction with him crying or disturbed in some way.  Now instead of feeling angry I  just feel really sad for him as I don’t ever think he will look at the roots of his own workaholism.  Once again I shed heaps of tears after I got off the phone on Thursday.  It is not that he is an unkind person either, all time the conversation revolved around helping my sister and I to get the best interest possible on the money Mum has left us.

It is now never the less a great comfort to me to be able to say I now know I am not crazy and I know why his side of the family have sidelined me before as well as other members of my family, looking upon us with such distain and disapproval due to our emotions.  That said I am also aware of the charge of anger that I have carried which I know I inherited from my mother’s side of the family.

Collapsing into a state of helplessness may be one response to such terror or violence in childhood.  Flight or fight may be two other  responses but both the later would often be blocked by an abusive parents.  Escaping or fighting back may be shamed or made  impossible as was the case of Bill whose story Lowen covers in Chapter 7 of this book.

Bill did not feel any anger.  He denied his anger, just as he denied his fear.  Instead, he adopted an attitude of submission and attempted to understand the irrational behaviour of his father, and others,  His submission to his father may have had a lifesaving value, but almost cost him his life.  (Bill was later on nearly killed by a hitchhiker he and a friend picked up on the side of the road who began to attack them.)

Lowen explains how Bill then came to fear his own anger.

(he).. believed that if he lost his head he might kill someone.  But to lose your head is equivalent to going crazy. Bill was terrified of the potential craziness in himself as he was of the craziness of others.  When I made this interpretation to him he remarked, “Now I know why I became a psychiatrist.”

Not everyone will be able to contain their rage from such incidents, others will act it out.  Lowen tells the story of David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam”, serial killer who murdered 6 and wounded 7 others.

What then are the dynamics that precipitate a seemingly sane person into insane action? … there must be some subconscious force.. This force is the denied feeling of anger.  Because the anger is denied, it is not experienced, which would give he person some control over it.

Many narcissists develop an ego unconscious split in these circumstance which means at times such subconscious forces can erupt and cause havoc or be projected on others.  Such and effect is called flooding…. an overwhelming feeling or excitation which ..”(temporarily drowns us)…in the torrent of sensation.  Imagine a river overflowing its banks and sweeping across the surrounding country side.  In a similar way the gush of feeling wipes out normal boundaries of the self, making it difficult for the person to distinguish between inner and outer reality.  Reality becomes confused and nebulous….. (there is a sense of) nothing solid to cling on to.  The person feels ‘at sea,’ estranged.

Such estrangement is not dissimilar to dissociation although Lowen compares it to disorientation.   The flooding of something we held down can make us dizzy, it may erase normal consciousness for a time.  It may well be what we experience in a panic attack (repressed or split off lively life energy or anger).  We can also be overwhelmed by pleasant sensations and if our sense of happiness or joy was also supressed or shamed in childhood we can begin to get fearful of insanity when we start to feel energised or even happy.

In the bioenergetic therapy Lowen used feelings which have been repressed or shut down are helped to liberate by the therapist who assists in the process so flooding and disorientation is not as intense as it would be if we were misunderstood or unsupported in the process.

The problem is that those damaged in childhood continue to carry split off emotions such as anger and sadness into adulthood, we may even attract relationships with others who act them out for us or vice versa, one partner can then pretend they are okay, it’s just their partner that is the problem.

Lowen points out in his book Narcissism : Denial of the True Self the connection between being called ‘mad’ (as in insane) when one is actually angry.

To say a person is mad may mean that person is either crazy or angry.  What this tells us is that anger is not an acceptable emotion.  Children are taught very early on to curb their anger; often they are punished if, in the course of an angry reaction, they hurt someone.  Disputes, they are admonished should be settled amicably and with words.  The ideal is to have reason prevail over action.

But conflicts can not always be settled amicably, with reasoning.   Tempers may flare.  I don’t mean one has to resort to physical violence to express an angry feeling.  Anger can be expressed in a look or by the tone of one;s voice.  Once can assert with feeling.  “I am angry with you.”  Some situations do call for the physical expression of anger.  If violence is used on you it may be appropriate to fight back.  Without the right to strike when one is hit, one feels powerless and humiliated.  We have seen what that can do to the personality.

I strongly believe that if children were allowed to voice their anger at their parent’s whenever they felt they had a legitimate grievance, we would see far fewer narcissistic personalities.  Giving a child this right would allow a real respect for the child’s feelings.

Lowen goes on to site an experience of watching a Japanese woman being hit by her daughter in anger.  He explains how in Japan a child is never disciplined before the age of 6 because they are regarded to be innocent  and such children don’t end up disrespectful or misbehaving.  However when the right of angry expression is denied a child it has an adverse impact and then there are the parents who cannot express their own anger with a child in a healthy way and use punishment instead.  Lowen doesn’t negate the need for discipline, only the use of power and control in the face of a child the parent does not have a healthy way of relating to and helping to develop emotionally.

Such repression of anger in a person in childhood means anger stays present in the person’s system much later in life.  In his bioenergetic therapy Lowen helps patient to discharge repressed anger so that it does not stay trapped inside.  However as he points out, the fear of ones anger and belief it will prove one is insane is a difficulty that many narcissistically injured person’s face on the path to healing.

For narcissists to know themselves, they have to acknowledge their fear of insanity and to sense the murderous rage inside that they identify with insanity.  But they can only do this if the therapist is aware of those elements and is not afraid of them.  I find it helpful to point out to my patients that what they believe is insane – namely, their anger – is in fact sense if they can accept it.  In contrast, their behaviour without feeling, which they regard as sane,is really crazy.

The behaviour without feeling that Lowen mentions here in fact leads to the growing or development of what he calls a thick skin, a protective defensive layer which will allow no real feeling for self or others in those with a narcissistic defence,

such denial is achieved by deadening the surface to stimuli, its effect is to rigidify the ego.  … the result is a diminishing of the ego’s capacity to respond emotionally to reality or to change reality in line with one’s feelings.. the ego’s safety lies in a deadened body, with little emotion.  Yet this very deadening creates a hunger for sensation, leading to the hedonism typical of a narcissistic culture.

But true feeling is then increasingly hidden behind a façade and the building charge of need and hidden feeling is defended against.  Thus addictions come to play a role in diverting attention from the truth.

By contrast those who develop a borderline defence to such negation actually become excessively thin skinned, unable to throw off hurts lodged deep inside from the past often from unfeeling narcissists.  Their work is to understand the source of pain and not project it onto the present, understanding how deeply its roots lie hidden in an often unconscious past.

 

 

 

 

Give in

Born.jpg

Give in to your grief

Allow the full force of your tears

To flow unimpeded like a river

Don’t freeze up

Or lock it all inside

Don’t believe those who tell you

Its better to put on a smile

If really the smile is not yet the result

Of allowing yourself to be real

Honest and true

To all that lives inside of you

I speak as one who knows

Who was taught to hide

To fear self expression

And lock the way I really felt inside

I learned to fear that anger and grief

Would come with a tide

Of disapproval from others

But in denying me my feelings

They denied me true life

And forced the truth into addictions

And much as I tried to blame them

They were not at fault

Just teaching what they learned

But now I know

That freedom only comes

When we give in to what we feel

And allow it to drop us to our knees

And find the real

For only through doing so

Through this kind of surrender

Can we find the way through

And allow life to carry us forward again

Find the strength and courage

To rise again

And live a fully embodied life

What is right in front of us

These are just some thoughts I have contemplating this afternoon.  Why is that when life places things before us, right under our noses so to speak we end up rejecting them, or we dismiss them and think our meaning or life or purpose exists in some far off place or grand project rather than what is served up to us by life?

It seems so easy to wake up each morning (for me) with a negative monologue running around in my head.  Listing all of my defects, all the reasons why I cannot participate and then when life does not go according to plan, say a person is late I can start to rebel and think of how I can wrest back control so as not to be so inconvenienced.  But then my anxiety grows and there is an inner tussle or an argument.  If I was just patient and did not allow my triggers to kick in, displaced my attention on something else the anxiety and negative reaction would no longer be the focus and my mood shifts.  Well I actually tried this today and I just let the cascade of anxious reactions in my body run their course instead of reacting or trying to change the circumstance or person and in time everything worked out fine.

For me these insights could all be coming to light as in a days time Mars opposes the Sun exactly at 4 degrees of Aquarius and Leo shedding a full moon light on my deeply entrenched Mars (action/frustration/assertiveness) patterns.   I saw a lot today about not only this event to day but also about past time knee jerk reactions which ended up making my life just way more difficult where as if I could have contained my feelings in a more effective way rather than knee jerking the pain both to myself and to others could have been minimised. What I have learned lately is that its okay to be angry but its not okay just to lash out, for one thing most people are not going to understand the intensity of the response containing as it does a backlog of feelings from a host of other events and experiences.   And once I can find my words in a more assertive way I have a far better chance of being heard and taken seriously.  I also do not end up re-enacting the rage or anger on my own body where it causes me even more pain or anxiety or depression.

So today I am saying a big ‘Thank You’ to Mars retrograde.  I do appreciate the lessons tough as they seem to have been over past weeks and years, being frustrated or delayed was not a reason to give up but a reason to keep digging and seeking or looking for the lesson in the delay or experience in order that I could grow through the process.

 

Combust / errupt /apologise

There is a pattern that I go through inside when I have a massive reaction to something or am pushed or push myself too far. Due to the way anger was expressed or not expressed in my family I have never been good at it, nor at self assertion.   I think it goes back to both parents not having advocates when they were young both having lost their Dads before adolescence.  At home Mum would storm around and errupt and Dad would just laugh or seek distance.  It is something I have shared about in other posts.

Today when I felt this anger just rumbling away and then unleashed it on someone I thought of my father particularly.  I thought of all he put up with from my mother and older brother and then I thought of how he ended up with stomach cancer from an ulcer.  I get gut problems myself when I feel stressed.  I thought of his Chiron Venus Pluto wound and of the legacy he may have bequeathed me by never asserting a boundary with my Mum nor apologising to her when he needed to.   I know I am getting a powerful message too from my inner self.

My pattern is to hold onto my anger and upset for a long time.  I try my best to manage it alone and to please others by trying hard to be there and be responsible and be noticed, redoubling my efforts when I fear a connection may be broken, but at times the problem is I think I can be too responsible and getting noticed by doing something is not always the best thing.  Anyway today I blew it off in a text message and felt immediately better as I was aware I had over stretched myself over past weeks and was starting to feel resentful about it but swallowing that resentment. Problem is now I feel that I need to apologise for blowing off when really I know my therapist would tell me that I don’t.  I dont need to apologise for expressing resentment that my own needs aren’t getting met but I do get into an argument with myself telling myself it is my responsibility to care for me and set my boundaries rather than blame others.  So on it goes.  The bottom line is surely that my anger is a message for me rather than for anyone else!

I just got myself out for a little while after a very intense morning and am about to have lunch but I also thought the best thing may be to write a post about it to get some feedback from others who may go through a similar pattern.  So I am asking, when you get angry do you feel guilty in some way. Do you feel like you need to apologise?

I know at times I DO need to apologise and at others good friends will understand I reacted in the way I did for a legitimate reason because at that time I was pushed to my absolute limit after a long time of trying to just push through and grin and bear it.   At these times when Mars in on my case (and over the next few weeks it squares natal Neptune in my third house which is a transit in which we often feel we are forced to swim through mud) I need to keep a handle on it.  I don’t want to sever good relationships but neither do I want to collapse again because asserting myself and my needs at times feels so goddamn scary.  Feedback much appreciated.

Another clash with my brother

My brother called last night to tell me my sister was finally admitted to the care facility at the hospital.   I made the mistake of trying to address some of what I had found out had triggered my sister feeling so anxious with him and he just shut me down.  The first thing that triggered my reaction of feeling so angry were the words ‘she was in a highly irrational state’ this from a man whose daughter said to me ‘Dad will rationalise until the cows come home.’  He then said he didnt want to get involved in any complicated analysis of what my sister is thinking and feeling, it was in no way complex, she was terrified of not ‘measuring up’ something her best friend told me when I let her know my sis was in hospital.

I had to end the conversation with my brother as I was so angry and I woke at 4 am feeling how the anger was sitting in my body and I ended up growling like a wild lion in the middle of the night and then when I settled down my little dog Jasper gave a little bark.  I know he picks up on things as when my brother came around the other day and invaldiated me he left the room immediately we sat down to talk.  Gotta love how animals just act on their instincts as far as humans are concerned.

When I called my sister’s friend back and got angry she got panicked and said ‘don’t get angry with him, he’s just putting up defences and its not only his loss but his sister’s loss as well.’  I wasnt bothered by her trying to calm me down, it was for my own good and is a sign when I dialogued with my inner child/self I need to have stronger boundaries around him and lower expectations.  I should have learned this by now as long time followers will know I’ve been here countless times before.

When I have expressed either sadness or anger with my brother its like he has seen it as some kind of flaw, error or weakness in me. My therapist said as much yesterday.  I then become the ‘bad’ one (for being angry/’mad’) and need to be distanced from which can leave me questioning if I really am bad and sane at all.  Around his family I am constantly made to feel lower than pond scum, and his wife is a rigid narcissist with a lot of blocked feelings and looks upon hugs and other displays of affection as weakness.

Truth is this morning I felt sadness and compassion for my brother but not enough to want to have contact with him much.  I want to handle all my own affairs independently although I did ask him for some help as Mum’s ashes have still not been collected and there is so much to do with sorting out her unit and my sister’s collapse means its not possible for her to do it and I understand why.  But part of me doesnt want to spend any extended time in his company. I felt hatred for him last night and murderous rage to be totally honest!

I know staying angry with my brother probably wont help and will only do me damage.  Good thing was last night I saw how it affected me bodily and in my gut and digestion.   It took a lot of work to get going today as I was awake from 4 to 6 am and then up at 8.30.  But I am getting through.  The mowing people came to clear the yard today and I was able to speak to my nephew who gets how I feel and is so supportive in encouraging me to keep good boundaries.  His advise was ‘to put on my Scobby Do mask’ with my brother.  I am not a good mask wearer would just rather keep a distance but I know letting out my emotions with him is not a good idea as it is not with any narcissist who sees feelings as a sign of irrationality and weakness.  What is most important is that I don’t end up making myself feel bad or wrong for feeling or finding healthy ways to express and contain them.

We have feelings for a reason

In many ways the rational enlightenment, which was a critical turning point in human history together with the ascendency of patriarchal forms of social control put paid to so called ‘irrational’ feelings.  At the same time both forces created an enormous split between mind and body, a split we are working hard to understand and heal, a split that leaves us many of us lost, disconnected and disempowered.

I love how synchronicity works, most especially where my blog is concerned as this evening I was re reading a very important section in a book I have referenced before by Andrea Mathews, Letting Go of Good and that section, titled Understanding Your Inner World : Your Internal Messaging System addresses the issue of repressed feeling.  Shortly after reading it I came across a link to another post that had been reblogged by a follower on the work of author and therapist Mama Gena (aka Regina Thomashauer) and in the words of the author of that blog

She discusses how our patriarchal society trains us to control and stifle our emotions, which causes them to fester. She writes “our patriarchal society doesn’t honor grief. (Or rage. Or longing. Or jealousy. Or frustration–just to name a few).”

According to Mathews, following the rational enlightenment

Emotional people, or people who are in touch with internal message, such as intuition, came to be thought of as unstable.  This was because emotions and other internal stimuli could not be trusted or relied upon at the time.  They are here one minute and gone the next.  They make us do things we later regret. They drive us insane or to a proximity of insanity.  They make us worry, ruminate, and do all kinds of other things with our thoughts that are not at all rational.  No.  We need to turn off emotions and other internal stimuli in favour of thought.  Thought is always rational.  But, of course, this is not true.

What we have done in the name of reason is repress.  We have repressed emotions, intuition, discernment, and other internal stimuli, as well as awareness of actions, words, thoughts and anything else we consider to be unacceptable.  We have, in fact, repressed awareness of our own inner world.  And of course, any time we repress awareness of our own inner world our thoughts are not going to be very reasonable – or rational – because they cannot now come from wholeness but from only one segment of who we are.  Thought that exists without a direct connection to emotion, intuition, or other internal messages, or which exists relative to a bunch of connections to repressed material is not going to be reasonable  Indeed repression make us more unstable – not less.

.. most of us don’t want to know what goes on in our inner world… we suspect that we will find badness and all kinds of pain, betrayal, secret darkness and angst that we just don’t want to have to wade through… there is also a large contingent of spiritual leadership… that teaches that our so called “negative” thoughts and emotions are dangerous to our well being.   According to these teachers, our thoughts are always supposed to be positive and our emotions are always supposed to be set on bliss, and when they are not, that is evidence that bad old ego has stepped up and taken hold of us. …. Much like the old traditional ideas about the devil, these ideas about ego set us up for a battle between various aspects of the identity.  They do NOT facilitate an awakening to the authentic Self.  They simply have people struggling and striving to rid themselves of an essential part of their being, in much the same way that the Age of Reason did.

..These teachings and those that remain from the Age of Reason have a very similar result – self-betrayal….(but) our emotions, our desires, our intuitions, and our discernment are essential to understanding both the identity we have and the authentic Self.  We will not come to understand either, nor will we heal any brokenness until we have come to understand the inner world.

And those emotions which are most helpful to us are very much a part of our inner world and exist for a reason.  In the following chapters of that section of her book Letting Go of Good Mathews deals with the emotions which she sees as critical to our internal messaging system along with intuition, discernment and desire.  We literally cannot survive nor thrive well until we have learned what these emotions have to teach us.  In an earlier post I already shared a post taken from that book on fear as one of the internal messengers that come as protector and teacher.

The other three emotions explored by Mathews are as follows :

  1. Resentment
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness/Sorrow

I am sure many of us out there have been educated at one time or another to believe that one or other of these four emotion is bad or negative in some way but really, as Mathews explores in chapters devoted to each, each has a message for us, a message that we ignore or dismiss at our peril.

Resentment comes to teach us when we are overstepping our boundaries and not sufficiently honouring ourselves. When we have been hurt or shamed or our anger invalidated.   Resentment makes us feel something over and over again until we pay attention to that something and deal with it.   If it is something we cannot change we need to walk away or at least put up boundaries.

Anger comes as a cry of authenticity from our true sense of self to let us know if we have been diminished or treated unjustly in some way,  “when we forget (anger), it comes up to remind us that we exist, that we are real, that we are here in the room with others by whom we wish to be seen and heard, and that we matter.  We have a primal need to exist, to be real, to be here, and to matter to ourselves.”  Anger will let us know when something that is not okay is happening to us.  Abusers or drainers may try to convince us anger is a selfish emotion but anger always exists in tandem with assertion so we can take action to self protect and self care, so “anger is an energy that must be heard and authenticated”, most importantly by us.  Buried anger will make itself known in psycho somatic ways if we don’t listen to it and take heed.   Anger cannot be denied without difficult consequences.

Sorrow or sadness is an “admission that we are not in control…(letting us know) there has been a searing loss…. Sorrow knows that what we wanted is gone.”  According to Mathews the purpose of sorrow is to get us to acceptance, the more we accept sadness and allow ourselves to grieve, rather than block, defend and deny our grief, the more transformation can happen in our lives, or opening to deeper spiritual truths.  Good sorrow (well grieved) can cleanse us, clear away fog and toxins, ground us and make us more human and authentic, as well as emotionally available.

Mathews worked with addicts in recovery and in every case she saw how those who resorted to addiction had denied or somehow negated their true sorrow over a loss.  Many blamed themselves in some way and she tells the story of Jared in her book a man whose mother was murdered when he went out one night to a friends place and never spoke about the torment he carried inside, until it emerged in group therapy.  Through grieving and finally externalising the blame he had held silently within and drank over for years he moved towards a new acceptance and understanding of loss.  Love of his self which had been so absent before grew out of this experience, as it will for all of us when we finally have compassion and understanding shown to us which will help us to show to ourselves the same by and through honouring our true feelings.

Mathews concludes with these words.

When we make time to be with our emotions, listening to their wise messages, they often leave us with powerful and transformative shifts towards healing.

When we deny ourselves this process, when we continue to engage with the lie so widespread in a toxic and rapidly deconstructing patriarchal split mind-set, we cut ourselves off from the true source of our healing, which always lies deep within our selves and within the emotions that so often hide deep within buried under our thoughts about them.

Stormy, stormy, stormy skies and a forest fire

If you want

Well this post has been kicking around in my drafts folder for well over a  year now.  I was unsure whether to post it.  I am having a clearing out of these old banked up post at the moment (with Saturn and Jupiter now both retrograde), this one was a reflection on sadness and anger using the metaphors of stormy skies and forest fires:

We’ve had a week of storms and it never fails to impress me how often weather mirrors my mood.  Is it that nature is echoing the deep internal space I find myself in?  Is it that my inner life is resonating with the elements and nature?  It pleases me to think so and to realise that both may be true.

I love these lovely dark afternoons after the storm has passed.  You hear the distant thunder roll and rumble as it passes on for its next destination leaving behind a deepening green that is fecund and full of positive ions leeched into the surrounding vegetation.  What a harsh summer had made so dried out, dusty and barren has been transformed into something soft and plumped out.  This can be how it feels for the soul once it breaks open to the sadnesses held inside for so long that then falls down like rain making the soul that was once parched, full and hydrated, no longer so desiccated.

There is a completeness, filling up and satisfaction that comes as you realise that truths that you hid from have been revealed in a way which would not have been possible before the onset of the tears.  It may have been years that you held the truth of these things inside your heart but with the tears they are made apparent.

Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in her myth of the Handless Maiden the tears soften the soul and keep the predator at bay.  When the Devil comes to take the daughter of a miller for his own he cannot take her due to the fact she cries.  I think of people I know who have allowed their souls to be hardened in resentment, who had put up defences against hurt and healing, who never would wish to be made vulnerable by tears.  But I also think of the times that tears for me have hidden anger within them and then the shedding of the tears bought no relief as the real revelation had not yet been made.

Deepening the metaphor of the storm and thinking how I am still witnessing the outplaying chorus of thunder around me this afternoon of the thunderous moods of my mother that would come upon her.  We knew to brace and lock down in preparation for the fury of a cleaning session which would be undertaken with a lazer beam intensity that could not be interfered with and would brook rage if it was.

I think of my own thundering around the house at times when anger that has rumbled around inside me for days and rattled the cages of my being and then burst out upon the dog.  Poor little Jasper scarpering outside to the refuge of the garage, looking at me with real pain in his deep brown spaniel eyes and my tears and regret that follow as I see an old pattern repeating.  Poor little darling is having to weather the storm that the landscape of my porous soul absorbed only to replay later.  Jasper is now me and I have become my mother and only realise it later after he fury and the storm has passed.

Anger that is channelled in a constructive direction can enliven what was once unenergised and barren but should it become a roaring forest fire that decimates everything, much is lost and its true value was obscured while old historic anger lay claim to our soul.  We may live to regret deeply words and actions that cut away good with the bad or we may awake freed from a parasitic attachment that did not serve us well if what needed to be cut away from was part of a necessary shedding.

These for me are some reflections on the metaphor of storms and feelings.

Letting go of numb

The following extract comes from Tara Brach’s book True Refuge : Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.  Interestingly it concerns a woman who Tara was working with in therapy who as a young child had her long hair cut off by her mother as it was too much bother. I was sharing in a post a few days ago how this also happened to me and the trauma of it was felt when I went to the hairdresser late last week following my Mum’s death.   The woman in question, Jane, had also had her mother die a few years before the time she was seeing Tara.  In therapy she was sharing how the pain of this event had awakened in her heart through intense feelings of fear, felt as a claw “pulling and tearing at my heart”.  What followed was an outburst of anger towards her mother for subjecting Jane to this ordeal.

The anger soon turned into deep sadness as Tara worked with Jane encouraging her to feel the pain and grief deeply in her body, and in time it transformed into peace.  Jane had reached some deeply powerful realisations as a result.

Brach writes the following in her book :

Carl Jung wrote, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parents.”  The outer domain of our unlived life includes all the places where we’ve held back from pursuing and manifesting our potential – in education and career, in relationships and creativity.  But it is the inner domain of our unlived life that sets this suffering in motion.  Here we find raw sensations, the longings and hurts, the passions and fears that we have not allowed ourselves to feel. When we pull away from the energetic basis of our experience, we turn away from the truth of what is.  We make a terrible bargain.  When we separate from the felt sense of our pain, we also separate from the visceral experience of love that allows for true intimacy with others.  We cut ourselves off from the sensory aliveness that connects us with the natural world.  When there is unlived life, we can’t take good care of ourselves, our children, our world.

The feelings you are trying to ignore are like a screaming child who has been sent to her room.  You can put earplugs in and barricade yourself in the farthest end of the house, but the body and the unconscious mind don’t forget.  Maybe you feel tension or guilt.  Maybe…. you are baffled by intimacy or haunted by a sense of meaninglessness. Maybe you fixate on all the things you need to get done.  You can’t live in a spontaneous way because your body and mind are still reacting to the presence of your distressed child.  Everythingy ou do to ignore her, including becoming numb, only strengthens your link with her.  Your very felt sense of who you are …is fused with the experience of pushing away a central part of your life or running from it.

In shutting down the passion, hurt and pain she had experienced as a young girl whose precious hair was butchered, Jane had locked herself into a numb and anxious fragment of who she was.  Yet something in her was calling her to live more fully.  By beginning to contact her body’s experience, by touching ground, she was opening the door to what she had been running from.

Traumas of this kind may seem inconsequential, but really they are not.  Something was done to us we didn’t want or need and had no power over and feelings do remain.   The true self in Jane probably loved her long hair,  it wasn’t all just about ego and looking a certain way, hair does hold our power and is connected to our heads which are such a vital part of our being. To be subjected to something that upset us and then to be laughed at for reacting (as Jane was) leaves a scar and a powerful subliminal message.  Going numb to it does not mean the feelings go away, they need to be dealt with, with compassion and sensitivity.

When anger is denied

Afer sharing a reblog of Twinkletoes post on Anger Turned Inward yesterday I have been thinking a fair bit about the subject.   Anger turned inward ties into issues of feeling unsafe expressing strong feelings, feeling powerless, frustrated, neglected and ignored when we really needed help and validation.  There is a deep despair and grief that we are left with when we are not responded to with empathy or helped to be effective with expressing our wants, needs and frustrations as children.  If we have no where to go with these feelings we often repress them or they fall to the level of our body.

If we were raised in a far older family we may have been left alone or ignored all the time. We may have been on the receiving end of bullying which is projected shame and may be due to the frustration of older siblings who were left alone to take care of us in the absence of parents or carried their own pain due to lack of emotional receptivity and nurture, we are then on the end of the projection of that siblings pain as well that gets dumped into us, and if we can’t express that to anyone its a set up for a host of later painful feelings of emotional isolation and depression

Some of us like my fellow blogger and I were sent to our rooms when angry.   I wasn’t locked in mine but I still felt alone there with my ‘big’ feelings I didnt quite know how to manage.  But I also know my Mum had those big feelings too and Dad didnt know how to cope so would go awol, laughing and joking about it (which on one level was better than exploding) however that was a set up for me for a passive aggressive emotional style.

In the passive agressive style we don’t feel safe enough to set boundaries or say no or even allow for the fact we have needs which may differ from others.  We may equate self assertion with abandonment, if we were on the receving end of a lot of aggression when young we may come to fear self assertion believing it can only happen in a way that hurts and we may either fear hurting others or losing their approval.  If we have known the deep pain of feeling abandoned we fear being the one who abandons others and so we can end up putting other’s needs first.

In my own family I didnt see healthy self assertion modelled a lot and being left alone I learned to try to be needless and wantless, after all there was no one there so I was better to lock it all away or deny it.  I think at a young age I learned to escape into books and TV.  I can still do this at times.  I remember in a past relationship if my ex called and a show was on I liked often I would not take his call.  That may or may not be okay, I am not sure but surely connection to a human should be more important than a show.

I have learned a lot through reading. I sometimes think readers of my blog may get a bit frustrated though as I am always blogging about something I have read.  Escape is not always a bad thing, only when it diverts us from dealing with life and complexities.  That said some complexities we may wish to side step, if we are an empathic intuitive.  We don’t always have to be emotionally available.

Anyway there are some good books out there to help with understanding the role anger plays in our lives and whether or not we have learned to express it in healthy way and listen to what it is telling us in functional ways or repress and deny it leading to depression and auto immune problems.  I have written blogs on the subject in the past but often they get buried way back due to the way my blog is set up and the fact that now, 4 years on I have a lot of posts.

For information of those who would like it though, some of the books on anger I have found especially helpful follow:

John Lee, The Anger Solution : The Proven Method for Achieving Calm and Developing Long Lasting Relationships.

This book is great as he explains very clearly the concept of age regression which is similar to an experience of an emotional flashback that can intensify the way we responde to incidents which trigger old experiences of pain, neglect or abuse.  He gives techniques for unpacking the past triggers.  Just understanding when we are age regressed helps us a lot in our emotional recovery.

Beverley Engel, Honour Your Anger : How Transforming Your Anger Style Can Change Your Life.

Dr Les Carter, The Anger Trap : Free Yourself from the Frustrations That Sabotage Your Life.

And for those whose passive aggressive anger style may come from a fear of abandonment due to displeasing others a very helpful book on learning to self assert honestly is :

Harriet B Braiker, The Disease To Please : Curing the People Pleasing Syndrome.

I am sure there are many other wonderful books out there.  There is no substitute for good therapy to work with the roots of anger and self assertion as these are such important issues when we are dealing with depression.   I hope some of this information may be of help to others.

Tussle : a conundrum

Difficult night’s sleep last night after the revelations that came to light yesterday about my older sister (who is now dead) and her suicide attempt.   I felt very enmeshed coming out of yesterdays meeting with a family friend who is the oldest daughter of my god parents.  The background is that my godfather, Piet, left Holland with my father in 1938 to go to Indonesia.  Growing up Uncle Piet was more like a father to me, especially in later years after I got sober.  He validated my pain and struggle in my emotionally neglectful family to a great degree.  It was with he and my Godmother I went to stay after returning from overseas at 25.  I went there (overseas) a few months after Dad died and stayed 2 and a half years.  There was no place back home with my mother who was on the phone pleading with me to come home after sending me away and then told me when I arrived home she was remarrying.   I left shortly after to live in another town and my God parents took me in.  They took me back in when I fell pregnant in the darkest final years of my addiction and needed to have a termiantion as the sac with the baby ruptured.  My sister told me many years later my Mum was questioning whether she should support me or not at that time.  Thanks a lot Mum, when I needed you when the fuck were you ever there!!!  (This is past anger I am working on it!)

I woke in the middle of the night with all of this going around and around in my head.  A photo of my godfather sits on my bedroom table.  It was taken on the day of my wedding in 1993, he gave me away and we are hugging in the photo.  I cried a lot last night with missing him.   He died in 2003.  He was more emotionally there for me than my father ever was but perhaps if Dad had lived it may have been different.  The difference was Piet was not hell bent on becoming a millionaire and sadly in later years my Dad had less to do with him because Piet was only a ‘lowly’ mechanic.  I use that word to convey my Dad’s bias not mine

My Godmother and I had a difficult relationship after Piet died.  I felt upset because in final years they were trying to paint him as angry and full of dementia.  What was happening was that his maternal abandonment (his mother died when he was only 3) which had never been dealt with came to the fore.  His daughter was telling me yesterday how she spent a lot of time with him in the later years talking about it.  What if she had not done that and just tried to judge him as my Godmother did?   I knew myself what he had endured and it was a part of our bond.

I like to believe my Godfather is around me in spirit.  I was praying to him last night.  I know he was in no way a perfect father and had heaps of flaws but he was the one male figure I felt close to.

I am having some residual anger towards my Mum.  My sister wanted to strangle her for all kinds of reasons.  I can get it.   I still have empathy for my Mum though, but at times its tough as she has never owned her own part in emotional abandonment.   She wants me to go and pick her up tomorrow night to take her to a function 10 minutes away.  Partly I dont want to do it.  I want to tell her to get a fucking taxi.   I dare not say it!  There I go miss ‘nice girl’.  Maybe I need to be honest.  Luckily I have therapy today so we can discuss this.  I try to compensate when I know my Mum and my other living sister are in pain.  My other sister’s suicide attempt 4 years ago came up yesterday too.  It was the first time Mum could unburden her story about it with someone.  I wish to God my Mum was in therapy, all this pain is too much to carry alone, its why her pelvis fractured several times and why she is now on constant pain meds.  Feeling the feelings and being honest enough to face her part in things would free her.  But she wont do it.  I do feel compassion but I no longer want to sacrifice my life.

I am a bit scared at the moment as I have been reading a book on Radical Forgiveness in which the author claims that failing to forgive often leads to cancer and that often a broken heart proceedes breast cancer.  I had my heart broken in the few years before my cancer appeared.  I also had a lot of anger to my Mum in those years.  I want to heal it, but suppressing or denying it wont help either.  Its a conundrum for sure but at least its one I am gaining greater insight into lately.   Feedback and comments greatly appreciated