The mother wound we carry

I wanted to share the following excerpt from Mark Wolynn’s excellent book on inherited family trauma : It Didn’t Start With You.   It is one of the most important books I have ever read, just sad I heard about it over 2 years ago and only just bought it.  What he shares of his own experience and understanding with healing multigenerational trauma in both his own life and lives of his clients is nothing short of remarkable.  He also uses the latest research conducted into epigenetics to support his claims showing how early stress and lack of nurture affects our neurological structure even in the womb, as well as how inherited trauma of a grandparent or great grandparent can be carried and communicated even along paternal (as well as maternal) streams of inheritance.  It is changing the way I am thinking about my own mother nurturance wound and the addiction that grew out of it.

To put it simply, we receive aspects of our grandmother’s mothering through our own mother.  The traumas our grandmothers endured, her pains and sorrows, her difficulties in childhood or with our grandfather, the losses of those she loved who died early – these filter, to some degree, into the mothering she gave our mother.  If we look back another generation, the same would likely be true about the mothering our grandmother received.

The particulars of the events that shaped their lives may be obscured from our vision, but nevertheless, the impact of those particulars can be deeply felt.  It’s not only what we inherit from our parents but also how they were parented that influences how we relate to a partner, how we relate to ourselves, and how we nurture our children.  For better or worse, parents tend to pass on the parenting they themselves received.

These patterns appear to be hardwired into the brain, and begin to be formed before we’re even born  How our mother bonds with us in the womb is instrumental in the development of our neural circuitry.  Thomas Verney says, “From the moment of our conception, the experience in the womb shapes the brain and lays the groundwork for personaltity, emotional temperament, and the power of higher thought.”  Like a blueprint, these patterns are transmitted more than learned.

The first nine months outside the womb function as a continuation of the neural development that occurs within the womb.  Which neural circuits remain, which are discarded, and how the remaining circuits will be organised depend on how the infant experiences and interacts with the mother or caregiver.  It’s through these early reactions that a child continues to establish a blueprint for managing emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

When a mother (or father) carried inherited trauma, or has experienced a break in the bond with her mother (or father), it can affect the tender bond that’s forming with her infant, and that bond is more likely to be interrupted.  The impact of an early break in the mother – child bond – an extended hospital stay, an ill timed vacation, a long term separation – can be devastating for an infant.  The deep, embodied familiarity of the mother’s smell, feel, touch, sound, and taste – everything the child has come to know and depend on – is suddenly gone.

“Mother and offspring live in a biological state that has much in common with addiction,” says behaviour science writer Winifred Gallagher.  “When they are parted, the infant does not just miss its’ mother, it experiences a physical and psychological withdrawal… not unlike the plight of a heroin addict that goes cold turkey.”  This analogy helps to explain why all newborn mammals, including humans protest with such vigour when they are separated from their mothers.  From an infant’s perspective, a separation from mother can be felt as “life threatening.” says Dr, Raylene Philips, a neonatologist at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.   “If separation continues for a prolonged period,” she says, “the… response is despair….  The baby gives up.”

In my early life, I knew that feeling of giving up.  It came from my family.  What my mother didn’t get from her mother affected what she was able to give to me and to my sibling.  Although I could always feel her love shine through, much of her mothering was infused with the traumas in our family history – specifically the fact that her mother, Ida, lost both of her parents when she was two.

Orphaned at two, my grandmother was raised by her elderly grandparents, who earned a living peddling rags from a pushcart in the Hill District in Pittsburgh.  My grandmother adored her grand parents, and often lit up with she shared memories about how much they loved her.  But that was only part of the story – the part she could consciously remember.  A deeper story lay beneath her reach.

Before Ida was a toddler, perhaps even in the womb, she would have absorbed the sensations of her mother’s distress caused by the constant arguing, the tears and disappo8ntmets.  All this would have had a profound effect on the crucial neural development taking place in Ida’s brain.  Then, losing her mother at age two would leave her emotionally shattered.

It’s not only that my mother was raised by an orphan who couldn’t give her the nurturing she never got from her mother, my mother also inherited the visceral trauma of Ida’s separation from her mother at an early age.  Although Ida was present physically in my mother’s life, she was unable to express the depth of emotion that would support my mother’s life.  That missing emotional connection also became part of my mothers’ inheritance.

….

In order to end the cycle of inherited trauma in my family, and ultimately for my own healing, I realised that I needed to heal my relationship with my mother.  I knew I couldn’t change what had happened in the past, but I certainly could change the relationship we had now.

My mother had inherited her mother’s stress patterns, and so did I.  She would often clutch her chest and complain about feelings of agitation in her body.  I realise now that she was unconsciously reliving the fear and loneliness that rippled through our family, the terror of being separated from the one she needed most – her mother.

There is much more to the story of family patterns Mark inherited and finally uncovered and discovered after a long journey of seeking outside for answers to his own psychological anxiety and trauma issues.   Reading his account has made so much sense to me of the symptoms of separation anxiety I experience at exactly the time of day my own grandmother, widowed in her early 30s, left my own mother (aged 8) alone to go and clean offices.  The two times of day were 4 to 8 pm and in the early hours of the am.  These are the times of day I experience my own anxiety/panic issues.  I had a growing sense developing in later months that what I was experiencing at those times was not mine alone, that it didn’t start with me.  And that was the exact time of day I had my head trauma injury in 2005 a year after my husband and I separated as I ran from him and my mother out of fear they would not support me in my own deep grief which I now know relates to a mother separation wound going back 4 generations.

Mark’s evidence and experience of his own and in his clients life (which I will share more remarkable examples of in a following post) backs up my own.  His work with inherited family patterns is so important that I am going to make it focus of my following posts.  This is important knowledge so many of us need to have, in order to heal and end deeply entrenched patterns of emotional blindness, ignorance and blame that keep us separated from a profound psychological understanding.

Broken / insecure attachments and anxiety

I am getting more awareness around my own anxiety issues these days.  I borrowed a book from the library on male borderline personality disorder and reading the section on attachments reminded me how much we can suffer and how insecure we can feel when in childhood early attachments were a source of pain.  If they were non existent or unreliable or if we suffered physical or emotional abandonment when young, then we never got to establish that sense of secure trust and holding that I mentioned in my post on the mother wound yesterday.  And without this it is nearly impossible to establish a secure sense of self.  We may struggle for a lot of our life with anxious feelings around being close, reaching out, establishing intimacy and depending and relying on others.

In a post I wrote a while back on avoidant attachment https://wordpress.com/post/emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/35898

I addressed how avoidance can be a response to being let down and emotionally abandoned as well and then that pattern is replayed.  Those of us with avoidant attachment may attract those with insecure attachment (really we are both insecure but one of us is invested in NOT showing it).  It can be hard for both parties to see their part and then the relationship can be full of hurt, misunderstanding and frustration.

This week I have managed to organise to have two outings with friends and that is a difficult issue for me.  I am anxious prior to meetings at times and then I am anxious also in initiating contacts too.  As an empath I often fear being overwhelmed.  Developing a sense of trust in new relationships where I am no longer as invalidated as I have been in the past is taking time, but it is happening.

Its important to know what our attachment style or difficulties are in life, especially if we have known past abuse, abandonment or trauma.  This lessens the self blame we can feel for ‘not being like everyone else’.   If we can explore our past as well as the things in childhood or friendships that hurt us or overly trigger our anxiety and core wound we are better placed to find boundaries to deal with it.  I had to let one friendship go last year because each time I organised to meet up with this girlfriend she would be up to half an hour late.  It wasn’t just once that it happened but nearly every single time.  The last straw was when she turned up late to take me to a radiation appointment.  I chose to get myself there and she was upset when I told her I was annoyed.  What she didn’t realise was that every time she ran late without doing me the courtesy of letting me know she was forcing me to carry anxiety.  As a over scheduler who was always doing too much, her relationships got to bear the brunt of her own tendency to have poor boundaries.  I have felt better not spending time with her though I do honestly miss aspects of our friendship but caring for myself meant I had to set my boundary.

Dealing with the ongoing effects of insecure attachment is not easy.  Its not our fault that we suffer from the affects of earlier abandonment or abuse or inconsistency.  It was not until I read a book on attachment styles earlier in the year that I learned that those with anxious attachment do better if they don’t have to deal with those who have an avoidant style.  If we do we are endlessly triggered and that is not good for our stability, ongoing emotional and physical well being or mental health.  If we were not sufficiently held when young we may not be aware of what is healthy and recovering a sense of self means we need to find out what is best for us and not endlessly settle for less or second best.   ‘To gain we have to know we have value and the power to ask for what we want and need or express distress if it is necessary or will help our connections and intimacy with another to grow.

 

When anxious

Ocean.jpg

When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.

Rainer Maria Rilke

 

 

 

 

I was the shyest human ever invented, but I had a lion inside me that wouldn’t shut up. 
- Ingrid Bergman

Struggles with guilt : insights into anxiety

I awoke struggling with a lot of guilt this morning.  As much as I can write that its not okay for the critic to beat me up, its also important that as an adult I take responsibility for my own life and feelings.  The complication is that so many of my current feelings date back and are connected to old feelings and hurts, emotional absences and injuries from the past.  When I put the sole focus on those I can become resentful and bitter, hurt and angry which is fair enough but if those feelings are poisoning or affecting certain choices I am making today I am in trouble and not only am I in trouble but others around me are too.

The issue that I am struggling with this morning is my financial dependency on my mother.  Much as I express here all my angry feelings with my Mum she has tried to compensate in many ways for what she failed to give me by providing financial support when I have needed it.  As a result I have chosen not to work for the past 10 years following my accident which gave me a head injury and focus on my healing and recovery work.   Although I posted a post yesterday on how that is the most important work for me, at times I don’t fully believe it.  I feel that I could have been more responsible as an adult for myself financially.

Then I go through all the guilt over the chain of inner causes that contributed to the financial difficulty we had back in March when due to a real estate agents pressure I put in an offer for a townhouse that I then wished to retract but could not, he had kept us pinned at the house on the day of the auction when it was passed in and pressured for an offer that day, knowing that if we made that offer then we would have not cooling off period and no way out.  Due to the fact I had not properly read the contract I was not aware.  I made a mistake and I have had to own it, but my Mum has been the one who paid up.

I was willing to lose the deposit but due to my mother’s issue with money she was not prepared to let it go and so bought the place herself rather than see the deposit forgone.  She has tried to rent it since then but no renters have been willing to take it on and then a few weeks ago she asked me to consider moving into it and I have once again been stuck in a back forward process of trying to take the easier way and move in which means surrendering my older cottage but also the creative beautiful aspects of it.  One part of me says why not just let this place go.  It was my mistake that led to the problem and really as an adult I should own it, not depend on my Mum but it was a failure too on her part on the day when I turned to her for help on that day that made me make the offer and she also left me alone while chatting to her friend at the time the auction was taking place which gave the agent space to move in and try to force my hand by putting in the high bid the owner wanted when no one else was bidding.

All of this is interesting to me as I am in the midst of reading the book Power Over Panic at the moment and in it the author Bronwyn Fox explains how it is the passive perfectionist who most often ends up with an anxiety condition.   She suffered from anxiety and panic attacks herself so she knows what is involved in recovery and the point she makes is that it is our fear which drives so much of what contributes to the condition in the first place, fear of not being all things to all people, fear of being selfish if we care for ourselves and put our own needs first, fear of disappointing others and being real and then fear of the anxiety or panic itself which is what keeps the attacks going.

As I have been reading this book I have seen our own family pattern with poor boundaries and interpersonal connections of truth and emotional honesty.   Our family pattern is to always ‘do the right thing’, swallow our own feelings and needs and then to over extend ourselves and not take good care of our boundaries and body.   And then this can also dovetail into a very strong adult child pattern of taking on responsibility for what is not our issue due to feeling we are responsible for others, which leads to emotional caretaking and then emotional, physical and spiritual depletion.  We also loose our own deeper connection to joy if the inner critic is always driving us with its perfectionistic project and not letting us rest in and find what lights up our own hearts independent of other demands or our own inner pressure to help or be the good guy.

As I look at it I see my Mum has at times helped us too much in the wrong ways.  I went to another meeting yesterday of my Al Anon group and there were a couple there whose son has recently entered into recovery.  They were sharing about how they needed to support him but not too much and to his own detriment, for our recovery is really a personal issue, how others treat us can trigger us ultimately as much as people would like to argue that it doesn’t, but becoming an adult also means learning about what is triggering and taking the steps for self care.

Anyway I don’t know if this blog has a theme.  I just woke up and needed to write down some of the things I am struggling with in my own head.  I had pretty much made the decision I am not going to move into the town house but commit to this place despite all the responsibility such a decision entails.  Winter is a hard time as my house is very cold and really needs a better heating system.  But winter will not last forever and is a time when its good for the emotional psyche to get in tune with the swing of nature and look inwards.   Even as I type this I know I could make another decision and make the best of it and I realise how lucky I really am to have so much choice and the support that I do.

I never fully got the emotional support I needed in the past. I came from a family where we were taught to serve others more than understand and respect our own inner boundaries, feelings and needs.  I see how the pattern has replayed and how so much of it was deeply unconscious.  In a post yesterday I was sharing how we can only say we are free to choose when we are fully conscious of all of these unconscious patterns and factors which makes me question a point that Bronwyn makes in her book on anxiety and panic  attacks.  We develop these conditions not because we are bad or weak but due to the fact that we have lot to learn and become conscious of.  Being diagnosed with such an illness or condition is actually a wake up call to our inner self to begin to become more conscious and aware and to take care of what most needs support, comfort and nurturing in our own lives.  If we beat ourselves up for suffering with them we cant really go forward on our recovery and being kind and compassionate and loving to ourselves is an enormous part of overcoming such conditions. If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks I really highly recommend the book.  I am learning a lot from it.

Angry with my family

Anger

I am not going to deny my anger any more.  I have legitimate reasons to be very angry at my family and my mother and sister in particular for what they put me through following the end of my marriage and even in the years before where I was just never treated with support, empathy and love.  I am sick to death of denying the truth to myself, rationalising it and minimising it.  I just spoke to my therapist and she said my anger needs to flow out and I need to find ways to do that today… write about it in your blog, draw it out or scream it out, do what ever you need to do to get it out of your system she said to me and so this blog is part of that process.  Internalised, invalidated anger has been kicking around inside my system for so long, it resulted in my accidents and in my alcoholism.  Part of my recovery is that I need to speak about it and value and validate my inner self and inner child.

I recognise what happened when I spoke to my mother yesterday when writing my blog A hollowed out shell was that by crying and becoming really vulnerable my Mum roped me into compassion.  Earlier on I had ended the conversation when she was once again telling me I needed to forget about things and put them behind me.   She called me back out of guilt to ask me to dinner and at first I said no and then wanted to relent when she showed me how much pain she was in and how insecure and unable to truly express herself she feels.  While I feel compassion for her I cannot let that over ride my own anger about what happened to me for it is anger that lets me know something hurt me deeply and wasn’t okay and that then helps me set some kind of boundary.  If I get told I shouldn’t have it or feel it that is invalidation abuse pure and simple and if the person is trying to guilt me out of it that is worse abuse.  Full stop! No argument, no debate!

I had a difficult day yesterday.  I noticed I got onto You Tube and posted some videos in two posts which although they had interesting insights don’t really help me to cut to the depth of dealing with the trauma and anger I am still carrying from the head injury that happened to me 12 years ago as the result of my sister and my mother’s meanness. At that stage I needed support and help to heal and grieve and know my truth, but I see how impossible this is to attain from anyone in my family they were just not that awake to the inner self or emotional realities.  My Mum is close to waking up but she seriously needs therapy.  I am sick of trying to be her therapist.  It isn’t my job really and she often told me that its not a good idea to go to others with your problems.  Her bottom line is that you need to work things out alone but that comes from a childhood where she was left alone and had to figure things out all alone.  Yesterday she was touching into deep realities and she told me how she feels so helpless and alone with no one much to talk to about all the things she goes through.  I want to say “well Mum get some therapy” but she never would.  So I end up being the font of all compassion but my compassion now is only prepared to extend so far when no recognition of past hurts or any apology has been forthcoming.

Second reason for anger and terribly acute body symptoms over the past few days has been unresolved issues with my living sister.  She was so awfully mean to me at the aforementioned time, telling me I was a selfish little girl and that I had had a shit of a life and she pitied me.  Oh and also going behind my back to my nephew (my older dead sister’s son) who I was really establishing a close relationship with and telling him how jealous I was of her.  Luckily at that time (just under 3 years ago now) he told me and I confronted her on the day we putting a party on for my mother.  I wish I had just walked out for at first she tried to deny it and then she said he had no right to tell me and then that she thought it was true.  But what I actually think is true is that the situation was the reverse and narcissists always believe they are so wonderful that the universe is jealous of them, why I do not know when the are such superiority junkies looking down their noses at all and sundry.  I have never been that person, as those who know me and have told me its just NOT ME.

Anyway she has softened somewhat in later years and actually did give me a grudging apology about what occurred in 2005 when I confronted her and Mum about it 2 years ago around this time of year.  But it was in no way an apology that came from her heart or truly recognised the damage done and the other day when she rang me about my tooth issue concerned to see how I was, it was I who ended up apologising to her for reacting to the horrible way she traated me.  Did I need to apologise  NO!  And my inner child is very upset with adult me about it and let me know as I woke up with shocking PTSD symptoms yesterday.  Whenever I see my sister my anxiety level goes through the roof and I was telling my therapist today that it was because I feel there is a lot of anger and hurt my body is carrying and the only way it has to come out is as anxiety.  But the mixed up irony is that as anxious as I feel I try even harder to bond with her and its a trauma bond and end up having an extra coffee with her even though its not really good for me to do it, because I feel she may be lonely.

I am aware as I write all this out it may seem like sour grapes to some.  I don’t really care as what you think isn’t my issue.  But what I need to know and see more clearly which is why I am putting it out there in black and white is how I can over ride my own impulses and intuitions. I often find my inner critic attacks my real attempts at feeling the truth of my feelings and most particularly that includes genuine expressions of anger.

Katina, my therapist was today reminding me that as much compassion as I feel I also need to remind myself that its okay to be angry.  So many of the messages around me growing up in family and Catholic school were based on anger being a ‘bad’ or negative emotion, when really anger is a signal of something from our deepest, truest inner self.  If we deny or over ride our own angry impulses we end up in such strife.  I have had so many accidents due to traumas from my past or pain replaying over in the present moment and this is one of the saddest facts about trauma,  it tends to attract more of the same to us but most particularly for those of us who were taught to value compassion, rationalisation and excuses over valid expression of anger.  So many times I have been told I better be careful as anger is dangerous, but this is only the case when it is not cleanly and clearly expressed, or if it is expressed aggressively.   We need to be so mindful of where our sore angry spots lie because when triggered they are signs of something from the past that needs to be dealt with or is calling for our awareness or attention, if we don’t pay attention we are in trouble  It won’t do us any good to act our anger out on those who really are just triggering a massive back log of past stuff but we still need to be aware that such people aren’t good to be around on a long term basis.  I am sad to say that goes for my family at present, much as I long for their love, when they are around it comes with huge reminders of pain from the past.  I have not ‘let it go’ yet, it hasn’t let go of me.

Its difficult writing this, as I was the television was just turned on by some automatic process.  I went over and Jasper my dog had his ear on the remote but what was most interesting was that it was a show called Compass and was on a priest’s life, and at that moment in time he was speaking of the ‘false ego’ that has to die if we want to fully embrace our humanity.  It made me question the wisdom of hanging onto my anger.  Maybe my sister had changed now and has soften, maybe she regrets what she did to me all of those years ago.  Maybe my mother wishes she hadn’t been so cruel to have chosen my sister over me when I was ‘too sad’ grieving at the end of my marriage.  I truly don’t know the answers to these questions.  Is my anger coming from ‘false ego’?  Is that why the television automatically came on?  I don’t know either but I am putting this in my blog as part of the mental process I go through on a day when I am trying to make sense of and deal with this anger from the past and the deep wound in me that gets triggered around this time of year.  I feel less angry now after writing this.  I have attempted to express my true reality, for what it is worth.   And I appreciate any feedback or any sharing from others about how you have dealt with your own anger.

And in the interest of openness the following are just a selection of anger quotes I came across on line :

 

 

Time Out

Lay down with it

I have been taking time away from blogging and electronic media, time to get closer to being, to the present, to feel my soul and to what arises in that space.  I am seeing with great clarity how I hammer myself with criticism and how much that comes out of old pain.

I experienced depths of rage yesterday I thought may blow me apart.  It didn’t but today I have a dull headache, feeling all that anger had a big impact on my body so this morning I sat quietly with Jasper stretched out beside me, listening to my soul, listening to my old pain, feeling the enormity of it, seeing judgements the critic was trying to rain down then hearing the strong uprising of love, self forgiveness and compassion from deep within, feeling myself float in an ocean of peace way beyond the agony of the deep twisting pain I was in yesterday.

As I was contemplating there it occurred to me how shallow the critic is in its judgements and observations.  It doesn’t see the full deep complex humanity of things, it thrives on absolutes and black/white categories, wrong/right, bad/good polarities.  In no way does it embrace the mysterious totality, it narrows our heart’s space, confining us and others in that toxic prison.

In contrast the open expansiveness of self love and forgiveness frees our souls from breathless confinement.  Pain eclipses our view of all rational reference points while forcing us to travel much deeper below the surface of things.  We penetrate mysteries and feel restored to depths difficult to communicate, we feel the release of peace, a wide open vista, often only after those terrible days on which the intensity of our sadness, fear or anger felt completely overpowering.   On these awful days, difficult as they are we are recognising, feeling and releasing something.

Yesterday showed me how much resentment I have towards my mother over things from the past.  There is always a trigger and on Tuesday it was finding out that I have to wait 3 months to have the infected tooth removed and that there was no way they would move anything to accommodate me earlier despite the fact that the infection is painful and having a negative impact on my system, despite the fact I was crying in pain, despite the fact I was led to believe the tooth would be coming out next month.

This put me back in that old powerless painful place where there is nothing I can do get the help at the time I needed the help, and yet despite this and the fact my therapist offered me an extra session to make up for the one we will miss today,  I didn’t take it, which made me see that sometimes I don’t reach for the things I want or need because I feel I shouldn’t or should put my needs on hold and I see now how the two are related for in childhood I was indeed deeply powerless over things my mother did, ways she held us hostage in fear, ways in which our bodies drenched in fear had to lock down into anxious hyper alert while waiting with anxious trepidation to see what may be flung at us or fly through the air possibly to hit us!!!!  Powerless, powerless, powerless and then my father DID NOTHING.  HE JUST LAUGHED!!!!

After writing that sentence on one level I can laugh too, but I also see how for a child these things are not funny, they are deadly serious, they are full body/soul experiences which engage every molecule and cell with in us and lock the effects in tissue deep inside until a later time when old cell, trigger, imprints are once again engaged.  And then we blame our selves or others blame us because we have frozen, gone mute, collapsed, rationalised or got paralysed.  WTF!!!  Inner, outer critic you see nothing, you know nothing!

Re sent ment.  Anger we resend over and over and over again, replaying it in our systems, replaying it in our relationships, both in the partners we attract as well as the way we react or fail to react and yet this anger is our vital life’s energy and blood, it is the part of us that makes us know something is happening to us that isn’t right, the pain of the splinter we swallow and that continues to roam around inside of us shows the place where we most need to bestow on our own soul and process awareness, consciousness, present attention and love.

Today I am going easy on myself.  Today I am not going to replay that old pain over and over and over again.  Yesterday I finally got to scream it out over the phone with my Mum but not ‘at’ her.  Yesterday I finally got my body and soul to say HOW MUCH IT ‘F’ING HURT!!!  Today I have maybe on some level ingested the anger to such a degree that body spasm is letting me go and the concertina of pull in/push out symptoms working out are abating as my body has shown me how much of the pain it carried had so little to do with me and was about a far larger and longer generational history playing out.  The anger coming at me wasn’t mine but being powerless and on the receiving end of it meant I then got that upload or down load of anger and fear like a shot of adrenaline into my system.

And today I got to forgive myself for all the pain that caused so many ill effects, for in the end I was never to blame.  I was never a bad person.  I was only a person who was struggling with the impact of so much,so often alone.   And I was the one who said, when I got sober, something deeper is going on here and I am going to break the cycle and turn back within to find out what it is.

It’s going to be some time until I can totally forgive others, but I know I am on the way.   Forgiveness is starting with myself and its what I must live, if I ever really want to be free.  It seems so clear to me that forgiveness can only come AFTER we have lived through and fully acknowledged the painful consequences of what hurt and damaged us and found the deeper reality, painful as that is.   I may never be able to forget all that I was powerless over but allowing the opening of a peaceful place of self forgiveness and unconditional acceptance inside reveals to me an expansive space within which everything can be met with love even hate, resentment and anger, if these two are, as I suspect, just darker forms of soul expression.   Such an opening shows me that peace is possible, does exist,  out in an open field where the sun shines on a new day free of the strangle hold of pain and is found when pain is accepted and entered deeply rather than resisted, only then can it perform its alchemy on our soul.

Mindfulness and panic attacks : some insights from Debra Campbell.

We are not problems to be addressed or sentences to be corrected. (Our) fault lines have a beauty and history that reach back before words.  They must be honoured.  They can’t completely be talked away, although this can help.  They won’t be bulldozed into non existence.  The past that put them there cannot be changed .  It can be tolerable, even good, to sit with the fault lines, with ourselves, in the courage and grace of being with what is.  Although the cliffs of the fault lines are dangerous, their genesis holds many clues about our personality formation, the wisdom of our feelings and some cautionary tales.

Mindfulness is a way of living with more awareness and less judgement, connected to a deeper sense of self.  In great panic and anxiety, alone on the cliff face, it can be the cable that holds you from plummeting and that gently reels you up from a fall.

The above excerpt is from the chapter on Mindful Love in Debra Campbell’s book Lovelands. In it she addresses a client, Alex’s panic attacks which were crippling and entirely overpowering in their severity.  I must say suffering the same up to two or three a day meant that the information in this chapter moved me to tears by the end.

Debra worked with Alex to develop a mindfulness practice which would allow Alex to stand present with himself through the abject terror of his panic attacks.  As Debra explains there were fault lines and deep fissures in Alex’s development.  His father had never fully parented him, leaving him with out a feeling of safety in life.  As  a young child, Alex had watched terrifying movies with his Dad which makes me feel his father must have gone through some kind of terror that he was passing onto his son or at the very least showing a lack of protection to his son’s developing consciousness.

Alex became obsessed with the darker side of life, this was what his childhood had opened him up to but his father had never really provided him with the support or resources he needed to cope in a life in which he often felt unconsciously overwhelmed.  In end Alex needed help with this and with Debra’s  assistance, guidance, support and love over time he learned how to self parent.

Staying mindfully with ourselves is the deepest form of self parenting.  But often we need a guide or midwife along the way for our soul, for alone we often get sucked into deep crevasses and fault lines not of our own making especially if we lacked attunement, protection, guidance and support in childhood to deal with big feelings.  Mindfulness practice gives us a  way forward to breathe and focus on the love in our hearts that can contain the fear, emptiness, loneliness, frustration, confusion and pain, a way of seeing that they are residues of a deeply unconscious past that can dog us well into adulthood, a painful past that doesn’t need to be a life sentence but does need to be understood.

Mindfulness can help us to become aware of some of the story lines we are running around our fear, and a deeper understanding of how our fear of our fear is the most challenging issue, keeping us stuck and preventing us navigating the crevasses which have lessons for us, without getting stuck there.

Often the origin of the attacks stems from a combination of factors or from being under too much stress for too long.  An exhausted soul’s fight or flight mechanism may mistakenly smell unseen danger everywhere, becoming hyper vigilant and increasingly activating the false alarm of panic with little or no reason.

Understanding when and why this is happening to us is very important.  The connection Debra makes in this chapter between being too overwhelmed often and left with out protection speaks to me of emotional neglect.  I got an enormous insight into my own panic attacks in this chapter.  I was moved to tears.  In the end Alex made friends with himself in the midst of his attacks and life became less frightening.

Concluding the chapter Debra has this to say :

Mndfulness helps you find the capacity to be with the inevitable pain that life dishes out.  Of tremendous value to me was finding such a practical everyday way to become less afraid of my depressive and anxious demons that drove me relentlessly back to my faultlines.  I had found a way to make friend with every part of myself and see every thought and feeling as an event, neither good nor bad, unless I decided it was so.

She ends the chapter by saying mindfulness, in opening her insight into her flaws also enabled her to glimpse new hope and possibilities not by trying to shut the door on or run away from them but through looking them closely in the face and not being turned to stone like Medusa.