Thinking about my sister : some reflections

It’s quiet painful at times not seeing my sister who is still in psychiatric care, but it would be just as challenging possibly seeing her.. I recall how when, in her darkest moments, she would cling to me like I was a life raft with a silent pleading to help her, to stop the pain but no matter how often I told the doctors or my nephews that something other than drugs was needed nobody seemed to be able to hear me. And that Christmas at the coast where they were laughing so callously at Robbie Williams newly sober and struggling with his weight, I got so triggered I stormed out only to later return collapsing crying as my brother in law looked on in some kind of regret.

It was not easy being the only sober one, but far better than being medicated. Even though I still struggle so much with feeling safe in my body and endure those cascades trying to manage alone at least I am not in care and yet it sometimes seems I cannot rest. It is an independent, free life, never the less, I can cook and clean and get out walking and engage in life if I choose, in a way my sister no longer can..

When I talk to our Mum’s closest friend who was there and tried to be there for my sister, but not possibly in the way she needed we both feel sad for the wasted life.. My sister had that brief spurt of being able to function from October 2019 to July 2020, she sold the place she was forced into by family after other hospitalisations and collapses and moved into Mum’s unit but that did not work well for her.. She was still so enmeshed and there must have been so many emotions she was finding it hard to deal with and then the issue of one son who tried to help but so often seemed to cause her a lot more problems…

My way was to run on or away independently. As the youngest I went off alone anyway after Dad died.. I had no one but a lot of brief affairs, often with wounded men.. the exception being a lovely man called Tony Cooper born on the same day as me I met in Greece the following summer who saw I was drinking too much and wanted to help me. In time I got involved with someone else from the land of my ancestors migration, New Zealand, Simon. We did grow close but between my alcoholic melt downs due to buried grief and his difficulty understanding and commitment issues I was then dumped again. It seems I just never knew how to make sensible choices around men, possibly because I had not yet begun to deal with Dad’s emotional distance and early death or yet began to arrest my addiction to drugs and alcohol..

There are things you can only learn about yourself by living through and making so many mistakes if you have attachment trauma.. I am often the one rejecting dependency and then getting involved on the unhealthy end.. I truly do not know either what it is to be supported or let others take their own burdens on.. I step in too impulsively and then it all derails.. Its such an enormous juggling act. And something else about co-dependency occurred to me during my last therapy session with Katina where I was crying and crying over feeling so defective and broken that so often I find it hard to own what is beautiful, good, true and ‘right’ in me.. According to Melanie Beattie that, apparently, is a very strong sign of having had emotional abandonment and neglect shown towards one’s true self. Taking my own needs and longings seriously instead of dissing them is taking me a lot of time.

Any way in my blog all I can show to the world is this mixed up self of mine. I know I have no answers… Having the chiropractic done has not made things better I ended up wetting and shitting myself in bed last night.. I was swallowing pineapple and brazil nuts and magnesium and tumeric with cardamon with lemon juice and ginger about 12 pm after waking from a brief sleep in which I could not get up to wee fast enough. Later I lost some of my bowel but had on some pads and it was not too bad..It is so hard trying to manage all of this trauma that relates back the gut brain link and so many emotional and ancestral issues around my head injury.

God knows the body is a mysterious thing.. I had a very powerful dream before waking at 7.30 am. I was back on a very long strip of deserted beach and it seemed to be a metaphor for how it was to be in that last relationship when I ended up all alone at the coast house after the second head injury derailed my attempt to move back overseas.. My ex husband was telling me to go home and I had no support at all. I went to an ashram in the end and then a B and B for a while but it all got a bit much.. I did make some lovely spiritual friends then some of whom I still keep in touch with.. and I did things my free spirit loved like dancing and chanting and being in nature at the beautiful Challis Wells gardens in Glastonbury where I had so many visions of Christ.. I also used to love going to the small Magdalene Church there where people would leave prayers and wishes scattered over a simple altar.. it was there my ex husband told me in October 2005 he had met someone else and so I went home ending up in complete isolation at the house Dad built 7 years before he died

It was there in March 2007 that I met Phil and he made me feel I was too much of everything he did not like and wounded in my capacity to support his dreams. But what of my own? Why were my feelings always such a nuisance?.. It hurt a lot he hurt me so much and I tried I kept trying each time he told me something was wrong I tried not to be that but in the end who can erase themselves for love. its a strange thing but in the dream last night around the deserted dunes so like the ones in the isolated surfing spots he used to take us both during the years 2007 to 2010 I thought I had lost the keys to my car but when I checked my jacket pocket they were in the one on the right side (masculine/action side).. That may be an indicator of what Kat said to me about my growth in therapy that the toxic inner critic/saboteur is not derailing me as much as Phil was the outward manifestation of that negating critical force in my life from 2007 to early 2011 when we finally broke up.

Scott often says to me that the person who does not love you as you are and wants to change you into someone else will leave you as soon as they find that person.. But the problem was not that Phil did not love me as I was, it was that I DID NOT LOVE MYSELF ENOUGH TO SAY A BIG FAT NO TO ABUSE.

I listened yesterday to a newly published talk by Eckhart Tolle on not nourishing grievances with ex partners.. I can truly say I now know why I was treated that way by someone who refused therapy but told me I needed it. In the end maybe it was better for him to blame me.. and I am sure, at times, I was not immune to blaming him either.. it was not meant to last and it was fated to be as the astrological signifactors of our meeting time showed in both our charts.. On this life journey by some kind of weird happenstance we seem to be drawn to just those souls we need to work out our issues. And there is comfort in that.

I feel better for writing this… I did manage to get up and out and then back… I had a very simple breakfast and early lunch and experienced a lot of storming and writing and panic and crying but its only a week until Mercury goes direct and anxiety does build towards the stationing periods both forward and back. 6 of June is the date I met Jonathan in 1993, it is the date of my great great grandmother’s birthday and it only took 6 months out of meeting Jonathan for me to get sober on 6 December 1993.

Tough as my life is and as much as I feel for a sister who never took the 12 step pathway I guess I also know the distance I began to take from September last year in endlessly visiting the hospital only to walk away crying each time has been necessary.. Before that I was running around doing so much for her to help that never seemed to address the deeper wounds only she could work though and who is to say she is not doing that in her own Piscean way.. This Mercury retrograde began squaring both my sister Sue’s and my father’s Mars at 5 degrees of Sagittarius as it co-joined her Sun Venus conjunction in Pisces and my Mum’s Mars in Pisces also at 4 degrees. My sister keep so much inside of her like my father.. who had the triple conjunction of Sun Saturn and Mercury in the deeply internalized gut sign of Virgo.. his cancer appeared there and it took him very suddenly in 1985. My sister has battled breast cancer twice.

All I can do is pray and send her love.. much as we struggle with those of our own blood who so deeply hurt us at times we also love them just because they are flesh of our flesh. As multi-generational trauma therapist Mark Wolynn notes : to turn our backs on that flow of love never led me anywhere good. In the end I am no longer a little child while still having a very deep part of me that is the inner child of both past and present.. The pain over the longing to be seen is something, that in the end only I, as an emotionally awakening adult can learn ways to effectively manage and come to terms with.

Good enough

Some times I cry

With how hard I tried

Never thinking I was enough

Never realizing how difficult I found it

To really bond with you

After all of the aloneness I had been through

And today when you spoke about how

You became a lone wolf

Due to the pain

It resonated with me

So very deeply

I was just the same

Because being alone felt safer in the end

Than putting my trust in someone

When no one ever allowed me to depend

And yet I also know to live this life

Best

We must become the loving parent

We always sought

So freedom will come then

But before it does

Perhaps there is an ocean of tears to cry

As we surrender the lie

That who we were

And what we needed

Never ever was

Good enough

Fragmenting

Lately when I have therapy it feels like I am fragmenting, I get overwhelmed with visions and memories of my older sister around the anniversary of her embolism and then those memories are interspersed with words she said to me.. How she told me there would be a healing to all of this in years to come.. Magical thinking? I remember the painful aftermath of the bleed in the following 5 yeas leading to my father death and how the rippling effects in arresting my early adult development then decimated my marriage. In later years I recall how tough it was sometimes visiting or taking her on outings and needed to push the increasing expanse of her medicated, increasingly disabled and damaged body along in the wheelchair.

Several times the chair fell forward either on the path from her home to the cafe opposite or at the movies. One time we got tipped half way upside down in the elevator going to the movies and I was in such a panic but managed to right it all alone somehow. Often I would meet the maxi taxi on the opposite side of the street then wheel her over to the cinema.

One time she wailed and screamed so much in a movie – A Royal Affair that I wheeled her out so as not to ruin the screening for the other viewers (feeling so so conflicted about it) and this was the movie about a woman whose children were taken from her. When my brother in law returned my sister to Mum and Dad in 1984 like a used up package he lied to the younger ones and led them to believe she had abandoned them. To be honest in recent years her third son has told me of psychotic incidents involving my sister and they were not pretty. My sister could be a demon due to her own trauma and he ensuing medication and other long term affects of brain damage.

Today in therapy I wept and wept while my whole body went into an explosive spiral we had to go about 5 minutes over time which never happens, I had my denture in and out and there were both tears and spasms, lately the emotional constriction we lived within has been revealing itself. There was a tightness to Mum and my second sister a kind of disconnected drivenness that made relaxing impossible. Even now I sometimes fear the price of relaxing or resting may be death. And woebegone if I was happy or full of life or needing something that was most often met with punishment, shut down, isolation or ridicule.

Anyway after therapy today I was so disoriented emotionally I left the car in the shopping centre parking lot with the keys in the ignition after running around madly thinking I’d lost them. What a dunce I felt when the security guy helping me went back to the car with me and we found them. I got myself in such a state crying “there’s no one to help me” and yet they were trying. But today in editing this back I see its the fucking critic on my case am I at fault for valiantly battling on while risking to come alive again even with five missing upper teeth.. This is not on shaming myself.

All of this makes me feel I should be stopping therapy, that it’s making me lose my grounding in the now. This is the way my mind goes endlessly over analysing until a massive groundswell of feeling floods the banks of conscious awareness and yet today editing it back I consider what major work this re-membering and trying to gather together the scattered pieces not only of a remotely intellectualized ‘narrative’ but what that really means and how enormous it is on a bodily as well as energetic level. At one point in therapy after a huge outburst of tears my eyes were blurry and then I was with the angels in my body then telling me that my vision was being cleared and then looking at my therapist thinking DO YOU EVEN HAVE A BLOODY CLUE OF HOW TOUGH THIS IS?

What a relief to get home to Jasper to feel the cool breeze flowing close by, to unpack all my groceries and clean out the fridge, to then rest in the simplicity and the emptying of a gentle trouble free moment not hijacked by past traumatic memory. I need to breathe lately….drowning in past stuff just feels wrong somehow and yet I lived all of these experiences and like it or not my older sister’s soul journey will forever remain intertwined with mine BECAUSE I DEEPLY LOVED HER. This is the cost of loving to feel pain, this is the truth of being an embodied person not trapped in a head trip.

Also I feel things. By my nature I am a sensitive and an empath not a shut down person, I feel the heights and depths and breadths. As tough as it feels at times, as seemingly vast and impossible to contain would I really want to be someone else?

#Never the less there is a time to blow this stuff off when it cripples or fragments me or stops me from embracing the pregnant possibly of a new and clear present moment, but neither can I negate what it is nor how enormously lonely carrying the full weight of it has been at times.

Grateful to be alive

Even though some days living can feel crushing I am still grateful to be alive, especially on Saturdays.. In the letter Mum sent to me in 2001 that I found and read in therapy this week, she mentioned how painful the effect of my accident was on her and Dad but she said she could not have ever imagined how hard it was for me.. I think it also must have had an effect on my sister who has gone through so much, especially considering the fact that our other sister almost died, less than 6 months later and hovered for a long time in a state of suspension in a coma.. So the period of September to late February is fraught with a lot of past resonances that in terms of the spiral vortex of hidden inner life can still manage to have an impact.

There has been no word at all from my nephew about my sister.. I have not called either. I have just pulled back.. I know this may not be good but I just don’t want to do or say the ‘wrong’ thing and it is so hard to know what the ‘right’ thing is anyway and even writing those two words is pretty dualistic and black and white which is the way it can go when I get caught up on the mental level.. Maybe the truer statement is that, at this time I need all my own love and care to keep my own mental and physical health on an even keep. That is why lately just getting into my body and out of my head and negative or worrying thoughts seems essential and when trauma imprints call I just have to notice and anchor into the ‘Now’. Success with that today… I managed to stay upright after both breakfast and lunch today when the head neck lower back trauma cascade hit.. I am doing some of the vagal nerve exercises too that I found on line and that is helping me too…

My therapist thinks part of me.. a huge part did dissociate after that 1979 trauma and in 1981 I took myself away but got emotionally overwhelmed and in a difficult relationship. That is why, in 1982, when I pleaded with Dad to let me go back to my teaching degree it hit extra hard when he blocked that avenue alienating me from a lot of my good friends I had at the Canberra College of Education.. Possibly this kind of severing was a huge part of the reason why I later in life found it hard to feel like I ‘belonged’ and often took myself away or kept up a great distance from old connections. Luckily since coming back to my home town in 2011 I have been able to restores some of these..

As I see it any way so much goes silent in trauma and then gets displaced onto relationships or projections or appears as myriad mysterious bodily symptoms as well as profound push pull dynamics in attachment.. Lately I see how, as soon as I long to attach, I can fear and pull back and not being ‘got’ or seen can be a big trigger. What I began to realize only very recently is that it is not how the other person is reacting so much that is the problem but what that echoes for me of a past in terms of a flashback., when I can get a handle on that I can bring myself into present time and feel more grounded and ‘safe.’

Today maybe I felt safer in my body.. I was more self supportive and self loving when the shit hit the fan with Scott last night and this next demand for money.. I did not get that huge abandonment cascade of anxiety, I held myself and told myself I am safe.. I can cope alone and that I do not have to give away myself to be related to anyone.. I used to do that a lot. (give my self away or bury my painful feelings just to stay related). Then you get those who shame dump you or try to say you are being selfish for not doing things they need, that also can be a difficult issue to figure out for some of us with high levels of emotional confusion, alexithymia or poor ego boundaries..

Being able to manage these things does make it easier too, to want to live and feel gratitude for a life that comes with a deeper inner intuitive connection to our authentic self not so grounded or fed on toxic shame…. When we know somewhere deep down inside we are not getting what we need and are settling in order to keep the peace that can be damaging for both parties especially if we use various philosophies to deny the truth.. there seems to be a lot of that in our society.. platitudes people spout calling on some text or other that actually can derail us. What really is needed instead is for us to become even stronger in our own inner knowing as well as our connection to what others have called the higher self or loving inner parents, when those are no longer attacking us from within as much it becomes far more likely we will begin to feel more of the positive feelings in life that come with knowing our own heart, mind body and soul well and trusting that we really can and do have the answers to what helps and hurts us more under conscious control or encompassed by conscious present time awareness.

The link between fear and anger and boundaries

Reading about how overwhelming an experience fear can be for our Inner Child when no loving adult shows up within us is making me think a lot today.. Apparently when we disconnect from that fear or anxiety and have trouble managing it by staying grounded in the now, having good boundaries and taking care of any distress our Inner Child feels by not projecting it or turning it into anger then our reactions can become extremely problematic. Also, reading up about the neurobiology of trauma and faulty attunement a lot of my reactions and difficulties both connecting and making sense of my emotions now make sense to me. I am beginning to understand why my own feelings of fear became too large to manage and that at times I did abandon my Inner Child in very unhealthy ways. And I do think when I spun out overseas in 2001 prior to giving my first presentation on my course about psychological astrology multiple fears were playing a huge part, that said I had a lot more to learn about my inner life, I may not have learned on that course or by coming back home..

In addition, a balanced sense of what is and is not within our power or control can be difficult at times, especially if as kids we got made responsible or had to assume responsibilities which, at that stage of development, were beyond us. In fact in discussing Sun Saturn aspects in one lecture on that course astrologer Lynn Bell stated that many with these aspects do go through that experience due to traumas, often due to outside collective traumas as well such as war, famine, illness, or loss of a parent.. Also in larger families the burden of sibling care may fall to older siblings if the parents are not physically and emotionally available or are dead or sick or addicted to something, that also sets up complications around boundaries..

At the moment it sometimes feels I am stepping into a parenting role with my sister.. Spending time with her last night has made me realise how confused she feels about what she needs and I am also finding I had bursts and rushes of anger around her coming up half way through the night.. I did all I could to make it a good night.. After the meal I lit a fire and I put on music she could watch on You Tube but when I asked her what she would like to watch she did not know, so I just put on some concert performances from various artists like Sade, George Michael, Lionel Richie, Smoky Robinson, Daryl Hall and Fleetwood Mac.. my sister absorbed all of this and was grateful. I noticed I had a fear of things not being up to her standards and that she told Jasper that he smelled when I do not think he did.. As it was he didn’t want to be near to her when she tried to pat him he barked at her and jumped away. I just watched this as I know animals will only come to you if they feel comfortable and it is so important not to overwhelm them, maybe he was carrying a bit of anger at her for me I just do not know but he did jump up on the lounge to be near her later on when we were both more relaxed.

The link between fear and anger is an interesting one to me.. that is why I have to do work on not getting angry about things I cannot control while listening deep within to when part of me feels angry at taking on the burdens of others and what may be the underlying fears driving it : not feeling good enough fear of rejection, fear for the other person’s healthy or life.. I also read something very good about being accused of selfishness written by Margaret Paul. Often a crazy making partner will accuse us of this if we do not do something they want us to do, we may take that as a sign of rejection of our Inner Child but its up to us to give our child the messages that she or he is okay and allowed to do what she wants and needs (without any intent to harm) even if others do not like it or get angry at us for not doing want they want us to do and vice versa..

The point is this : are we caring about how they feel (or vice versa) or is it all about our needs? This can be a difficult boundary to navigate at times….but if we keep doing inner attunement work and connect with our child if at times he or she feels overwhelmed, fearful or unnecessarily rejected to soothe and comfort him or her we may also find the strength to stand strong in our boundaries and not collapse them in the face of unfair anger or other means of control used upon us by someone not taking care of their own inner needs. We may also learn not to use those weapons unconsciously upon other innocent people in our life.

reflections on love, distance and attachment problems in my life and family

I lay in bed and cried with love thinking about my sister last night and how hard she has struggled with her mental health. It was good to let those feelings go and flow through, opening up to the love (that is ful of grief) and not be stuck in petty blaming of past stuff that went down between us.. It has taken me some time to see how everyone is injured in traumatised or neglectful families and how then, we so often turn it around and blame each other.

The truth is in the past I felt scared of my sister.. At times she could be abrupt, but it was abrupt with caring at times I think she also struggled a lot with emotional repression being a sensitive person.. Recently it is not lost on me how caring my sister actually is and all the times she tried so hard to be a loving sister.. I just could not see it so clearly before. When she got sick she was often nasty but I guess that was just the dis-ease within her talking. I see that more clearly now too.

I think because of the way I ran away after my Dad died on the back of such trauma there was a lot I could not see or understand from a more mature perspective, these days I see my parents as people who tried their best with SO GODDAM MUCH ON THEIR PLATES. I also understand the fear that might had driven my Dad escaping Holland narrowly before it’s German occupation… I always wondered why he never kept connection with his siblings and why I had such an outpouring of emotion when I finally deeply connected with my Aunty Lies (his third sister) in 2000. Now I see SO MUCH OF MYSELF IN HER and understand how attachment patterns carry along generations. I just feel sad I could not go to her after my head injury in 2005 as she really wanted me there with her. It was too much for me at that stage, but in later years I have connected with her oldest grandson.

My heart opens in compassion a lot more lately, even for my brother who maintains distance and is palming off this struggle with my sister’s and my inheritance.. I wonder why he doesn’t fully let himself enjoy the money he has worked so hard for and won’t allow it to be released to my sister and I so we can make good use of it (including helping family to make their live easier because there is more than enough to help everyone who needs it in such challenging times a little bit.) But then I think as someone born in 1944 he is victim of the cult of individualism and the each man for himself in a man made universe mythology he suffered.. He also lived through the early years when Mum and Dad returned to Australia in the early 50s from the (then) Dutch East Indies and had no money at all. During that time Dad could not get his engineering qualifications recognised and had to take up a desk job.

If my brother is a member of the ‘just put it all behind you’ club, maybe it is because when Dad died he was with a partner so rigidly defended against her earlier losses she could not be with him and even told him to push my Mum away with the backhander “She needs to stand on her own two feet”. I wonder at his own carried grief over Dad and I remember the tears he shed at both my older sister and Mum’s funerals.

That said as the oldest boy he got more of the help than my older sister Judith and I did and far more attachment connection with Dad and he stays very close to his own family on a practical level in a way my two other sisters’ could not when various traumas shattered and splintered our family. By the time I was struggling to develop as an adult I had already nearly died, seen my sister cut down and then endured the death of my father and then I was pushed overseas with not support, so my pattern is to go it alone and not reach out for support. To turn away in avoidant/anxious/insecure attachment.

I was saying to Scott the other day that as soon as he can get my money back to me I want to start some form of study.. I really want to help others more actively with mental health and he diploma that appeals to me is one that through TAFE helps me to work with young people in crisis. I cannot pay for the course until the powers that be release money I am rightfully owed..I don’t want to feel guilt over the money owed to me from Mum that she and Dad worked so hard for. The sad thing is they never go to enjoy it before Dad died as he worked so hard and then pushed too hard on the back of escaping a war ravaged country. But then I think my real need is just to be able to sustain a close loving relationship that is not riddled with fear or anxiety.. I so often think of inviting people over but an inner voice blocks the impulse…. I know connection as to begin with me, because at times I pushed everyone away.. I had so much grieving to do.. so I see it as a sign of progress being less miffed with siblings.. a sign of growing maturity to see it from a different perspective.. Being the youngest was not easy… but I guess each sibling role came with difficulties.

The intrinsic connection between grief and love

It seems to me our deepest impulse in terms of the need to be loved underlies so much of our grief.. not only over loving and losing but over never finding that love in the form we needed it when young… We all long to be seen and known, when this doesn’t happen there is a grief that sits under the surface of consciousness and may not be ‘known’ by us for some time.. This ‘hole in the soul’ runs deep and since we first seek that in our family of origin its here where the wounds happen and they need to be addressed in later life if we want to eventually come fully to life in order to live and love as our true selves.

I was thinking a moment ago of the four solutions we resort to that Mark Wolynn talks of when we seek to connect with a parent or source of love in childhood.. one is that we find that source in them and do connect, the second is the parent fails to provide and so we cut off that longing and flow and subvert it.. in another we seek it from a sibling.. this is what I did with my Mum and Dad being unavailable.. it was my older sister who saw me, but she left and then got sick and so that was a double grief for me. Over time I learned to turn within or to substances and in time I lost access to my true feelings over it, it has been these feelings I have had to work with in active sobriety.

I just went and sat down by the lake and finished off a wonderful novel I have been reading but at the end of it my thoughts turned to my sister.. Earlier I read Oscar Cainers daily horoscope for Aquarius that said in an uncertain world its hard to know what to believe or where to turn but that there are five qualities that can sustain us.. : Kindness, Friendship, Generosity, Compassion and Love.. I thought of the nasty inaccurate things my living sister said to me in the year after Jonathan left and how her brutality coming out of emotional ignorance drove me over to the UK where the unprocessed anger and hurt over it lead to a massive head injury.. maybe something about this time that is now erased for her due to all the meds and shock treatment is perculating down inside.. She tried to erase me from the coast house earlier in the year by packing up all of my books and boxes and storing them in the shed.. To her it was probably done out of a desire to help me as I said it was hard to go down there alone to the place I ended up forsaken and abandoned after my husband left. I was so hurt by that back in February but I sucked it up on our trip there.. I just called the removalists and they came to pack it all up. I didn’t have an angry outburst I just cried and cried and cried. I seem to do a lot of crying around my sister when I don’t have anxiety spin outs around her.

Despite all of this I feel for my sister.. lying in bed with the blankets pulled up all around her unable to communicate with visitors… I don’t know what it is going to take to bring her back from the dark side this time.. and despite this I do feel love… but its a confused kind of love.

In the movie 28 Days Sandra Bullock makes friends with her sister who appears to be the more high functioning sibling in the traumatised family.. she recognises that her sister was once a child too in the family system and sought her own role which involved looking down on the ’embarrasing’ active addict who is expressing so much of the family pain…In a similar way my mother always forgave her mother for hitting her as she knew that as an abandoned war widow with no government assistance left to support a young daughter all alone so far from family that her Mum was frustrated.. it was something her best friend’s daughter and I discussed the other day… that generation had to suck it up… and they had to bury so much… trauma and stress just get carried or passed on as epigenetic research by Bruce Lipton and Dr Yehuda demonstrates..

I am a bit off the track writing this right now. It is a processing post… I just thought on the way home of how much, as a young child I longed for my sister’s love but how our family was so geared around externals it was hard to find that… in the end it is something I have had to find for myself as an adult with the help of therapy and my higher power. That said I still grieve for those who left me and could not love me where I was at and this included my ex husband.. He gave me a great gift when he emailed me back in May when he said “I really understand your need for therapy now.” He actively tried to block it along with my Mum but in the end I trusted my path into the dark…

Through it along the way I found the love for myself and even for my wounded family.. how could they give me something they never had, or a sense that I am perfect as I am even with all of my idiosyncrasies? I now see I can only gain that in any authentic way from within and even after years of being almost crippled by a virulent inner critic who was almost demonic at times.. Slowly over time and through much agony I am coming to a deeper understanding of the inner forces that drove me towards addiction and self hatred…I also understand more deeply and have more compassion for the forces that drove that poor inner child of my Mum who had to struggle so hard to be seen and find her own path..

At 14 years of age Mum actively defied a mother who wanted her only to be a domestic servant and found a profession.. She fought to be seen in the fashion industry by top designers.. she was bloody trojan, she just had to be.. I am glad in so many ways for the gifts of strength she bequeathed me as well as the deep deep insecurity… in the end it was for me to make sense of it all and carve my own self out of that inheritance.. today I feel myself becoming stronger while at times more profoundly aware of inner vulnerabilities, fears, weak spots and insecurities…

I am also learning how intimately and intricately longing, grief and love are interconnected along with rage… in the end each of us must work to understand the emotions that drive us as we grapple to find which emotions to express and which are in need of alchemy, each of us has to find ways to contain our wounds and find the healing solution in bearing witness to them for long enough that self love and insight as well as self compassion can arise. Armed with these tools we are less likely to judge others and we become more able to define boundaries as well as see where the impulses to merge or belong create complex challenges for us.

The problem of self calming : some reflections on activation and calming

Recently my sister and I were discussing our childhood. Her words were this when talking about my mother : “she was like a tornado”.. to be honest it was hard to relax around my Mum.. I got my foot burned on one caravanning holiday when she left a bucket of boiling water underneath the table I was drawing on while cleaning the floor and I stepped into it and got 3rd degree burns.. now another more attentive child, perhaps not so ‘lost’ in her own world or passion of the moment may have seen it and averted disaster.

I learned in time to try to use substances to calm me down or take the edge off.. my parents used alcohol for this purpose at the end of each working day and we were encouraged to do the same.. for me it ended in addiction and I am happy I got to put alcohol, drugs and cigarettes down in 1993 but I still find looking for comfort in food just comes naturally…

I had a discussion with a friend over the past week in which she said that being told to ‘be calm’ or ‘calm down’ is a sure trigger for becoming less calm….it might be like telling a person with really bad insect bites not to scratch without some other kind of soothing being offered such as balm for the soreness. Balm for the uncalm might be words like “I am sorry its so uncomfortable right now” or “that must have been very distressing” validation, empathy causes the increase of oxytocin and the reduction of cortisol.

I don’t know what would have calmed my mother during one of her frenzies or OCD rampages…its taking me years to know I don’t have to clear up and wash all the dishes immediately I stop eating or cooking.. one of my ways of being seen was to run around after Mum cleaning up after she got home from her job at her dress shop every day around 6 pm. Later in my recovery I had a dream in which the dream young me was all wired up through the shoulder with a wire coat hanger.. What a powerful metaphor for how entwined I was body, mind and psyche with family energy patterns of looking good and over drive…

Calming for me now comes with writing in which I tap into and release the stored vibrational charge of feeling; in writing poetry, in listening to music, it comes in nature (as I share ad infinitum here); with my dog; with calm loving friends who are emotionally present and honest with true open hearts..

Triggers for me are : criticism, the disapproving stare (flared nostrils and hard dark stare often proceeded one of my Mum’s rages.) I can forgive my Mum in a way now as I know she never got lovingly contained or mirrored and she carried so much from the maternal generational legacy of buried built up stress and repressed emotions…that was impossible to contain. I can forgive my Dad for not knowing how to cope with it, and so checking out… and I can understand the deep roots of my anxious avoidant attachment style which at other times can be disordered..

Calm is only coming slowly but it is coming… I am still activated but only by the old triggers and stepping down from them is becoming quicker and easier as learn where my wound and necessary boundaries and self soothing strategies lay.

On Immaturity and showing empathy to the Inner Child of self and others

I am getting more insight into when my inner child with her host of unresolved hopes and fears and pain is running the show lately.  My abandonment wound has been triggered a lot in the past few days and it was easier to give away my power or alternatively become the ‘bad’ one again who is ‘withholding’ than to recognise that due to discomfort I am scrambling again for attention and love when contact is cut due to someone being upset with me because I am justifiably struggling with something.

I just know when I act from my inner adult I feel a greater sense of strength and solidity within myself and that requires recognising the far younger more vulnerable part that lies hidden or covered by defences.  It can be painful when abandonment anxiety and depression strike as both create in my body and psyche so often a potent chemical cocktail that at times pushes me to the brink of available resources to contain.

Pete Walker addresses the issue of the ‘abandonment depression’  a lot in his own work and book on Complex PTSD.  Much as all as it can feel hard to be left ‘all alone’, I have heard it said that in adulthood we cannot be abandoned by someone, only left.  That said I do think there are times our emotions need to be empathised with and understood by friends, family and partners otherwise if we are judged for certain things and not empathised with, on one level we are abandoned on an emotional level.

It’s an issue Alain de Botton addresses in his wonderful book The Course of Love which tells the story of a mythical couple Rabih and Kirsten in which he delves into the host of insecurities and psychological defences that can plague a couple’s intimate relationships as it develops over a course of years.  In the book the tale of the relationship iw told in normal type face is interspersed with sections in italics in which de Botton highlights the underground issues affecting the couple.  I particularly enjoyed the following paragraphs.

We would ideally remain able to laugh, in the gentlest way, when we are made the special target of a sulker’s fury.  We would recognise the touching paradox.  The sulker may be six foot one and holding down adult employment, but the real message is poignantly retrogressive : ‘Deep inside, I remain an infant, and right now I need you to be my parent.  I need you to correctly guess what is ailing me, as people did (or rather failed to do) when I was a baby, when my ideas of love first formed.

We do our sulking lovers the greatest possible favour when we are able to regard their tantrums as we would those of an infant.  We are so alive to the idea that it’s patronising to be thought of as younger than we are, we forget that it is also, at times, the greatest privilege for someone to look beyond our adult self in order to engage with – and forgive – the disappointed, furious, inarticulate child within.

In a more evolved world, one a little more alive to the Greek ideal of love, we would perhaps know how to be a bit less clumsy, scared and aggressive when wanting to point something out, and rather less combative and sensitive when receiving feedback.  The concept of education within a relationship would then lose some of its unnecessarily eerie and negative connotations.  We would accept that in responsible hands, both projects, teaching and being taught (in love), calling attention to another’s faults and letting ourselves be critiqued – might after all be loyal to the true purpose of love.

There is something about love and vulnerability and hidden need that can cause us to age regress and be taken back to that painful time we stood all alone longing for the attention and love that was not available due to the absence, withdrawal or inattention of others, so much needed for us to feel hold, loved, contained and seen.   Learning to hold ourselves in this state takes some considerable time for those of us with anxious and/or avoidant attachment issues.   Its a work in progress being honest with ourselves, learning to extend ourselves in empathy into another hidden world and letting the unhealed child that so longs for attention or consideration been seen, held, accepted, nurtured and loved.

Understanding the Protector-Persecutor complex and its link to dissociation and child hood trauma

Being held hostage by an inner persectuor-protector figure in our inner world is common for those of us who were highly sensitive and suffered significant childhood trauma or insecure, anxious or broken attachments.  It is an issue dealt with comprehensively by Elaine Aron in her book  The Undervalued Self.  In chapter six of the book she outlines what this inner complex is and why it exists drawing on the work of psychological analyst Donald Kalsched. (See my previous post :

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/how-trauma-factures-the-psyche-causes-dissociation-and-create-the-persecutor-protector-in-our-psyche

The Persecutor-Protector needs to be understood and worked with by those of us who want to stop isolating in fantasy totally (not that we won’t still want to introvert which is important for the creative amongst us and for touching base with our inner world and life) and convincing ourselves we are not skilled or gifted enough to have a valuable contribution to make to the world.

I will open this post with a quote taken from Elaine’s book.

A protector-persecutor that arises from insecure attachment is often the harshest.  In these cases the protector may replace the missing maternal or paternal presence with an addiction, whether to smoking, alcohol, work, or something else.  Or it may create a vision of perfect love the child never received.  It encourages the unbearable craving and yearning while undermining or belittling things in the world that may actually satisfy some of the craving.  It says they are not enough, or not real, just lies or illusions, or will not work out in the long run.

Since attachment trauma often involves an unbearable separation, such as divorce or the death of a parent, the protector-persecutor very often rules out love because it brings the risk of loss, which, it supposes,  you cannot bear, as you could not when it happened before.  Until you work out your own answer to these scenarios, it’s impossible to convince the persecutor-protector that you can live with the pain of separations and loss, that you can tolerate in future what you could not in the past…..

(however) the good news is that as you struggle to accept the fact that all relationships eventually end, you may become far more prepared for loss than those who are secure because they had good childhoods.

When the persecutor-protector keeps you from being intimate with someone you love, do not give up.  Freeing yourself to love is perhaps one of the greatest challenges a person with a troubled past can face, and even a partial victory must be acknowledged for the triumph that it is.  Further, the undervalued self simply cannot be healed without finding some freedom to love.  It is linking and love that take you out of ranking and undervaluing.

The protector-persecutor either as a unit or in one of its two forms, tries to break down every link you make, both outer links with friends and inner links that would end the dissociation it wishes to maintain.  However, you can see why your attempts to dialogue with the innocent (inner child) might lead to mysterious resistance.

Emotions, memories, current thoughts and behaviours, and bodily states related to a trauma can all be dissociated.  Memories may be repressed, literally unlinked from consciousness.  Or your emotions may not be linked to current memories or events.  You may feel numb, lacking all emotion, or all too conscious of emotions that seem to arise for no reason. Your body may be unlinked from memories, so you remember the events of the trauma but have no idea what happened to your body during it.  Your body will still be dissociated from your thoughts, with the result that you are hardly aware of its needs.  Or the body does not link with your actions, and you feel unreal or detached as you go through the day….you do things that make no sense or are self destructive but your behaviour is not linked to its real causes.  You may have stress related illnesses because memories, feelings, or thoughts are pushed down in the mind then arise in the body.  Or you may have recurring nightmares that seem unrelated to anything going on in your life.

As for outer links the persecutor-protector makes every linking situation seem to be about ranking, usually with you as the inferior, although it can also make you feel superior – “he’s not good enough for me” – if that will keep you out of a real, close, lasting relationship.  The persecutor-protector might allow you to link in  a limited way with someone who likes you by creating a false self that adapts to the world, but you know you are not really connected or authentic.

Using examples from her real practice Aron shows how clients dreams often contain persecutor figures and details the means it uses to break links, just as the witch in the fairytale of Rapunzel tries to disconnect the prince from ever reaching Rapunzel in her tower by cutting off her long hair.   This occurs due the prevalence of earlier losses that were never fully integrated into conscious awareness and the fear of not being able to survive the feelings should it ever happen again.

We can work to become more aware of how the complex operates in our own lives.  Some of these are listed below and appear in Aron’s book and they correspond to some of the tactics avoidants or insecure people use to maintain distance or sabotage relationships with others:

  • When we are supercritical of the other, especially after times of connection.
  • When we over idealise to the degree that minor failures are blown out of proportion.
  • When we mistrust or don’t bother to get a reality check or talk things over
  • When you feel crushed if someone doesn’t want to be with you all the time.
  • When you look down on others for wanting to be with you more than you want to be with them.
  • When you decide “it’s all over” as soon as there is the slightest conflict.
  • When you are obsessed with concerns one of you is needy, dependent, or weak.
  • When you cannot stop thinking about the other leaving or betraying you or dying.
  • When you cannot see any flaw at all in the others, as if he or she is a god.

In addition Aron outlines some of the unconscious rules the persecutor-protector can use to keep us safe.

  • No intimacy.   Never open up about personal issues, ignore or belittle the disclosures of others, be flippant or rude, leave if someone wants to be closer
  • No arguing.   Always be nice, end relationships as soon as there is a whiff of conflict or if the other is angry, walk out on arguments (rather than asking for time out)
  • No growth.  Turn down opportunities or invitations to do anything new, do not aspire, act stupid so no one will think of you when an opportunity arises.
  • No dating or marriage.  Postpone, be unattractive, stick to crushes or fantasies, say with someone who isn’t good for you, have affairs with unavailable people, be forever young or flirty when it’s not necessary.
  • No strong feelings.  Stay in control at all times, don’t cry, get angry, be terminally cool.
  • No sex or enjoyment of it.  Avoid, be mechanical, split off, get numb with substances before hand, remove all emotion from sex.
  • No believing someone who say he or she cares about you.  Bat off compliments and expressions of caring and affection.  Don’t believe they are genuine.
  • No asking for help.  Be ruthlessly self sufficient, be suspicious, never complain, withdraw.
  • No honesty.   Just say what you think others want to hear.  Be careful with what you express especially when asked to be yourself.
  • No hope.   Don`t expect help, joy or good things.  Do not place faith in anyone.
  • No standing up for yourself.  Just let others say or do whatever they want, don’t cause trouble, don’t expect justice, respect or fairness.
  • No trusting.  Don’t be fooled; they don’t really care about you (a favourite thing the protector will say to you inwardly.)

As you can see its a pretty harsh joyless confined existence living with a strong persecutor protector complex inside of us, but we can work to understand these rules and challenge the p-p on them when it tries to use them to keep ourselves and others in line.

Your goal is to convince the p-p that breaking its rules and taking risks is working out for you and that you want more freedom…

Listen to its disagreements because ignoring it wont work according to Aron… the p-p needs to be heard but challenged to give up the limiting rules and restrictions it uses to keep you trapped.