Making our lives harder : the value of simplicity

I look at the way our world is becoming more stressful and complex and breathe a huge sigh at times.  Just going to my local shopping centre over the past week has been a concern.  People are in a frenzy of buying.  Why?   In Australia over a billion dollars will be spent on Christmas tat while homelessness increases.  What if every family or person just donated 10 percent of what they are spending to those in need?    Its crazy!

I watched what my mother went through in the hospital too, just before her death.  They were jabbing her endlessly with needles and her poor flesh was all bruised.  Medical intervention helps to a point but what if that prevention is adding to the stress and lowering immune response and health.

Today I started the day pottering quietly in my garden in order to be close to the breeze and soft green leaves.  Here I could draw close to my dead Mum.  I had the hankering for a coffee so went out and got it then a lovely quiche for lunch which I came home and had with a nutritious salad.  I thrive on salads in summer as well as half an avocado.  Good nutrition is also something that works best when we keep it simple.

I am also glad to be back to AA meetings surrounded by slogans such as Easy Does It.   Simplifying life may be going against the flow of how things are these days in an exceedingly complex and highly driven world but its the only thing that makes sense to me lately.  How well we are present, how soft and kind we are towards what warrants that softness and kindness is surely more important than running round and round in circles trying to amass more of things that only leave us feeling emptier, tireder and more frazzled.   Surely at this time on the planet more of us can wake up to this fact and just learn to keep life simple and take things easier.  How much more of our busyness and over consumption can the planet handle?

Learning how to set boundaries if you came from a non affirming home

If we were raised in a home where it was not possible to know and connect with our True Self, feelings and needs we are going to have problems for the rest of our life in setting boundaries or healthy limits.  If we were dis-empowered in our assertive drive due to the unconscious need of a parent or active thwarting, asserting our own wishes and needs and feelings in a balanced and healthy way will also be problematic.    And in this situation feelings of self esteem and self confidence will falter or be non existant.

The following is from the book The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M Pressman.   It shows some ways of addressing this issue.

Comfort in setting boundaries develops naturally in children who have their feelings respected by their parents. In this context, children are allowed to participate in decisions that affect them, are encouraged to talk about their feelings, and get validation for the appropriate expression of them without needing to resort to shouting and/or tears if the decision does not go their way.  In other words, the children learn to use the “I feel….I want” format. (Which the authors cover in another chapter.)

The children learn not only to tune in to their own and other people’s feelings, but that they can live with the occasional disapproval of others.  This is an important lesson.  It is difficult for most people to elicit disapproval – to say, in effect, “I’d like to be able to meet your needs, but I can’t.  In this case our needs are in conflict, and I have to attend to mine.  I have to say no.”  It is important… to understand that, while it (can be) a difficult skill to acquire, it is vital to our mental healthy and positive self image that we learn to be advocates for ourselves.  Otherwise, we end up meeting other people’s needs at the expense of our own.  If we are further unable to communicate our message in a respectful and adult way, people will be able to hear our message, clearly without being threatened or devalued by it. If this is a tall order for a reasonably healthy adult, it is Herculean task for youngster.  It is made immeasurably easier if the child learns the following at home:

  1. Correction, appropriately expressed, is not destructive, hurtful, or shame inducing.
  2. One’s needs cannot always be met by others, but they can always be appropriately articulated to others.
  3. Feelings do not need justification – one always has a right to one’s feelings.
  4. One does not always have the right to act out one’s feelings: all actions have consequences, and these need to be thought about.
  5. Compromise means giving up as well as getting.
  6. Changing one’s mind is not necessarily a bad thing; part of growing up is the ability to react based on new information.
  7. Making mistakes is how we learn.  There is no shame involved.
  8. Being able to “own” our mistakes, apologise if appropriate, and make amends where possible, is how we grow.  “I’m sorry, tell me what I can do to make it up to you” is a statement of strength not an admission of weakness or shame.

If children are fortunate enough to grow up in a home where those eight rules are acted out in the course of daily events, they will probably be healthy, secure adults with positive self images.  They will probably be comfortable with their feelings and have little difficulty with setting reasonable boundaries in their lives.

But what of the children raised in narcissistic families?  What of ..(the ones) with limited confidence in their ability to assess the appropriateness of their actions and decisions?  An essential part of therapy with these individuals involves retraining.  What they did not get as a child from their parents, they can get as an adult from themselves : once they understand how they were mistrained. they can make the decision to retrain.  They can, in adulthood, make a conscious decision to incorporate these eight rules into their lives and act as if they believed them.  When one acts “as if” for long enough, eventually it becomes part of one’s belief system.

Feelings always follow actions.  It is imperative when working with these patients to reinforce this premise continually.  These patients cannot wait to feel more confident in order to act more confidently – to make firm decision, to be advocates for themselves. to set rules and boundaries for themselves and the way they wish to be treated.. they need (to learn to) act “as if” they believe in themselves before they can feel that belief and confidence.   The actions come before the feelings, with time, however, the feelings will follow.

(If you suffer a fear of abandonment in setting your own boundaries that might be a key insight into the fact your needs and feelings or self assertion was not respected nor treated in a validating way by a parent.  Later in life you become a people pleaser and very hypervigilant to abandonment signs.  The truth is though if you dont act on your own feelings and needs in a healthy balanced way you end up self abandoning.  That hurts your inner self as you may try to hide the truth, but your body will send up signals of distress in some way as a result.)

We see what we project

I was moved to write a poem yesterday on darkness gathering which I didn’t post then.   It was prompted by reading the post of someone who was struggling with seeing how much hatred, violence and suffering there seems to be in the world. If we are a sensitive person and most especially if we have been abused or neglected seeing so many painful things going on hurts and is a reminder of how challenging human nature can be.  I still think it is important though for us to maintain a sense of hope and a remembering that there is a lot of goodness and heart out there in the world.  When very painful experiences and things happen to us they can absorb all our energy and pin us in the most difficult place where it is difficult to see more than darkness.  Those experiences obscure the light of love and joy and simplicity, all the beauty there is in the world which we no longer see if our focus is always on darkness.

I am midway through the biography of Eva Schloss, the step sister of Anne Frank this week, After Auschwitz.  As a Vienesse Jew, Eva and her mother had to leave their home in Austria when war broke out and the Nazi’s began their campaign of hatred over the Jewish people.  They escaped to Holland and were hidden there by two families but the second family betrayed them to the Nazis and on her 15th birthday Eva and her mother were taken to Auschwitz.

In a remarkable story of survival they managed to live, due to a set of coincidences which saw them both very close to death on several occasions.  Only part of the book concentrates on their time in Auschwitz but most of it is devoted to the issue of how one survives seeing such unspeakable suffering and hatred and lives in the traumatic aftermath without being totally defeated by anger, hatred and resentment.  In the end it is only by actively choosing to embrace the attitude of a survivor rather than a victim that Eva rises above the pain that in the end killed countless others.   It really is a great read for those of us who suffer with resentment and issues of forgiveness.

I tried to write a post yesterday about Nazism as a symbol of the narcissistic negative killing ego gone horribly wrong.  The entire story of Hitler and his attitude to the Jews is related to issues deeply imbedded in humanity in relation to the scapegoating of others and shadow projection.   Jews were resented at a time where many were poor and suffering following the end of the First World War when Germany and the German people were highly penalised for their involvement in that war by the Treat of Versailles.  The hatred shown towards them meant that people could download their own painful feelings onto a scapegoat people and send them to extermination and exile.  Its a repeating theme in history with archetypal and mythical themes : the way darkness is projected and how pain and suffering then end up breading more pain and suffering in an endless feedback loop that then recycles over and over without end.  And it seems that the only way out in the end is through forgiveness, empathy and understanding.

I titled this post ‘we see what we project’ to address this issue but I guess in a way a better title may have been we see what we have experienced and we act out of that experience and often unconsciously react out of those experience at least until we become more conscious of the seeds we learned to sow as a result of what we went through.  There comes a time when we get to see what the cost of our projections and colouring of the world is and what plants grow out of those seeds.  Then we get to see that there comes a time when there may be another way or looking or projecting.  We then get to see that in the end we do have a choice in how we choose to react and respond out of our suffering.  We never fully escape suffering and some of us have a huge dose of it, but those of us who do often birth deep wisdom out of such suffering.

Along with the Buddha I do not believe there will ever come a time when painful things no longer happen.  Hatred, violence and destruction will always be a part of our human experience, but the degree of our suffering does in some way depend on where and how strongly we place our focus on destruction or creation, on love or fear.  That is not to imply that we ever get beyond pain but we can learn to embrace that pain and those who cause it tenderly and gently, without unnecessary harsh defences which only end up causing us more pain.

In the end much also depends on where we place our focus, on fear or on love, on hatred and holding on or on letting go and surrender of hate in time.  The choice is up to us.  We may never be able to turn blind eye to our own or another’s suffering and we should do all in our power to change it if we can, but if not let us place our focus on what love we can give to ourselves, to others and to a hurting world that so badly needs our wisdom, sensitivity and care.

Decisions, boundaries and self care

It was a tough therapy appointment yesterday.  I am really regretting having my tooth out.  I don’t seem to feel any better at the moment and not being able to chew food well is really affecting me.  I am aware that I need to be patient as what I am going through is as huge adjustment but I just wish I had stuck with the crack in the tooth as I am not really sure it was giving me an infection, as my body is still full of phlegm and gunk.  I also felt very disappointed in my therapist and wanted to throw the whole therapy over yesterday but at the same time I was aware of the state of mind I am at and it was poisoning my right view of the value of what Katina does give to me.  So I just went to it and fully expressed all my feeling to her.

She was amazing, she sat there and empathised and then apologised for influencing me because she had said to me several times “if you do have an infection it is probably poisoning your entire body”.  I am not sure that is really what has been happening, the poison is the anger I sometimes feel that I don’t use effectively to assert boundaries at times.   Anyway we discussed it all and I left the session feeling a whole lot calmer basically because of the empathy Kat showed to me.  And I am adult enough to know no one has the answers always for me.  They may be able to understand or empathise but they may not know how things will turn out for me if I make a decision and they can advise but they don’t have to live with the consequences which is something my niece and I were discussing the other day.

Have you ever decided you wanted to do something that may be good for you, but when you mention it to others, they try to dissuade you or pour cold water over your decision?  I think it happens a lot and its something we were also discussing in therapy yesterday, how do we know who to truly trust with our decisions?  After all no one else has to live our lives.

I have been on the end of discouragement when I have asked for advice on doing what would have ultimately been good things for me.  I look back to those times and see I didn’t stay strong and own my own power.  And afterwards I felt resentment but also had to accept I was responsible for the decisions and choices I make.  As a people pleaser it is sometimes hard for me to say I wont do something that I think may bring joy to another person or to take care of me when you are hurting or in need.  As I shared the other day, when I have the energy to give to others, I will give it, naturally it is what I want to do as an empathic person.  But there are times I just need to take care of me.  And I guess that is where discrimination comes in as well as a good sense of connection to my inner energy levels, feelings and needs.   What I am talking about here are boundaries and on some level we can say that on the spiritual plane boundaries don’t fully exist as we all come from the source, that grander sphere where we are connected to each other beyond words and other human constructs and as our egos form we learn what is ours and what is not ours if we are lucky enough to have good help to build healthy egos but if not we can be in trouble.

And that is why empaths and highly sensitive people can struggle a lot.  We instinctively feel the feelings of others and want to reach out and to do so is natural and good most of the time.  When others have defences against us though we suffer.   I heard a saying a long while back and its a major lesson that I learned in my last intimate relationship that a person can never reject you, just a part of themselves they see in you that they have not befriended in themselves.   This is the defensive ego that may want to reject you if you are feeling sick or vulnerable.  This is the protective ego that doesn’t want to see that you may have hurt and a deep longing for love hidden beneath anger. For if you think about it if we get rejected for anger the person is not seeing that on some level we felt hurt and are trying to get that hurt addressed.  Then the hurt has no where to go,  and we are left holding it and then as someone asked me the other day “where do I put this anger?”.  I responded by suggesting prayer.  It seems to me the only thing I can do when my anger gets too much, I pray to my higher power for help with it.  And if someone won’t address it with me and I see that my anger is justified I have to beware of how I relate with that person in future.  I may need to forgive so I don’t keep holding onto the pain and hurt myself more, but I may be better off not having that much to do with them if they express no concern for how their actions affect me.

It can take a long time for some of us (like me) to see we have the right to set this kind of boundary if people have blown us off before for expressing how we feel.  And we also don’t have to take every hurt we feel to someone else, for in the end its really up to us to care for ourselves and protect ourselves and we all have the right to do this .

If we were sensitive and hurt a lot in childhood.  If we were teased, humiliated, made to feel small, gaslighted or invalidated developing the wisdom and power to develop and set boundaries may be a process fraught with peril.  If we were led to believe that emotional abuse was not emotional abuse we may be very confused as to our boundaries.  That is why we absolutely need an empathic person to go to, to express our truth with and get a reality check.  And we need power and strength to know we have the right to take care of ourselves and that we are not bad or wrong or selfish for doing so.   And some of us can keep chosing to love even when on the end of shitty behaviour from others once we have learned to practice self care, we can learn to positively detach not with hatred and anger but with love, a true honest love that comes out of respect, maturity and a deeper empathy for suffering.

Really love

Really is it any wonder so many of us suffer in a society where the true value and need for love, tenderness, empathy and connection can be so absent?   Where society and the media and advertising send us messages to be different, feel different, numb out or soldier on over-riding our body and soul’s need for good nurture, expression and rest? Promoting messages to judge or fear others and not look any deeper than the surface?

Also is it any measure of health to actually be bullet proof, unaffected by the state of the world around us, insensitive to suffering and devoid of feeling or understanding even for those most affected by the inherent violence of our culture?  I firmly believe it is not.  I firmly believe that so called ‘mental illness’ is often just an understandable reaction to trauma, abandonment and abuse and the development of defensive strategies to cope in the face of insanity and at some point the unconscious choice to adopt defensive strategies which block love and keep us trapped in hatred, fear and anger needs to be faced.  Some of us can do it and some of us cannot.

And this is not to imply that we don’t need boundaries against abuse as we do.  We also need a lot of consciousness to see where other’s blockages are adversely affecting us and skilful means for keeping ourselves protected while not blocking out love, or remaining deeply crippled by fear.

I awoke in horror after my dental surgery in the early hours of Thursday morning to the painful realisation of how I surrendered my own protection into the responsibility of others when as an adult it was up to me to protect myself and then I laid myself open for abuse in order to win so called protection and love while surrendering myself and my own soul care at the deepest most fundamental level.  I wasn’t protected as a child so I didn’t get to develop that muscle and it all came out of abandonment wounds repeating along generations.  It has been a tough and bitter pill to swallow but I have ingested it.  Last night I slept for 9 full hours with no break, people that is a miracle in no uncertain terms I have not had that much unbroken sleep for over 10 years.

I really did not feel like I could go on yesterday.   Trying to eat with the new denture felt like hell.  How would my body cope if I could not break the food down?  But then miraculously I was reminding myself to go gently.  Its going to take time to adjust to the new reality and there are deep wounds and such deep, deep, deep sadnesses around that I so acutely need to feel and shed.  I did that yesterday.  And there has been a shit load of loss and pain in my life that never needed to be denied, that I really needed a lot of help to process and at times when I needed that help the pain drew me towards others in deep unconscious pain who wanted to punish me for reminding them of theirs.  Its been a lot to wake up to.  But is 9 am and I am awake, fully!

Today listening to the words of Coldplay “have to find yourself alone in this world, have to find yourself alone” just playing resonate and my skin has chills as Chris Martin stretches that final aloooonnneee out into the atmosphere.  Sooner or later life returns us to the deepest of alone places where we find our hurting child amidst a pile of wreckage and rubble and we have the choice whether or not to pick that child up and love her with a fierce lioness discipline.   Or surrender her to him to the hungry wolves or predators.  And while a lot of the journey inwardly does occur alone, we also need witnesses and helpers, we are never totally alone when we reach out for real help that helps us do the work.

Now the joyous Sky Full of Stars is bursting out of my stereo and that to me seems fitting because the love that bursts out of our soul when we find our love for everything even our deepest abandonment has the power to illuminate us at the very deepest level.  We shine brightest after we have seen and fully embraced the darkest truth that is in us, that really love is the basis of everything never more painful than when it lies deep inside hidden, unrecognised or denied.

This is the rainbow bursting forth from rain and mist, this is the milky orb of the sunshine diluted by clouds and overcast skies that never the less has so much warmth and power in it.  It can never be permanently obscured.

And then I sense shining around me, each ancestor, each one of those stars and we form a constellation of linkages of love, being and essence for these lights never die they only gets obscured at times, sadly and our awakening to our longing for them in the darkest depths, surviving and accepting those depths is what births the truth of love, a love too powerful to deny.

For love really is all, but we just forget it and when we turn our back on it, it follows us in all kinds of ghostly guises we no longer recognise haunting us a long a corridor of years.   Until we remember the truth – turn to face those ghosts, love them embrace them and accept them into our hearts.

Focus on beauty

heart-tree

We must take the actions that bring love to life, making it the organising principle behind all our endeavours.

Marianne Williamson

How easy is it for us to keep on loving when our heart has been or is breaking? How difficult it is to keep believing that we have worth when others tell us through word or action that we don’t?  How easy is it to say just for today I am not going to allow darkness and depression to have the last word?

The truth is that depression and sadness can steal our life energy away and the deeper truth is our vital connection to our spirit in some way along the way got stolen if we are in deep depression, not just a deep sadness due to grief, perhaps of losing a person or a relationship with something or someone we loved.

In depression we find ourselves covered by fog on grey dull day after grey dull day or smothered over by a blanket of blackness and doom where no light seems to penetrate.  …..  A pall of dark heavy rust covers everything……. In alchemy this kind of state was called the nigredo or the blackening and it was understood not to be the end but the beginning of the deeper inner work or journey of making gold which to my mind was they way alchemists symbolically portrayed the process of bringing darkness to light.

I know how impossible it is when you find yourself in this kind of state, to change the focus at all and in many ways depression is a right of passage so many of us go through on our journey back towards the light.  Many of us may spend lots of years here and we may have to undergo a great deal of inner work to break free.  However it is becoming apparent to me that on this path we at some stage reach a powerful turning point where we make a kind of separation and gain some insight into how we may be perpetrating old patterns, thoughts, perceptions and kinds of beliefs which keep darkness, suffering, fear and pain recycling.

In my experience loss, grief and depression are in many ways spiritual experiences which have a healing purpose one that can only be truly integrated and understood as we find the strength to weather those soul storms within the fiery crucible of our own being.   There are things we do to keep old patterns going and there are things we can do to shed old skins that though cosy and familiar are now becoming too limiting to live within or may be smothering or strangling us.  Healing work also involves bringing loving awareness to our most painful moods and feelings.

As we grow in consciousness though we start to take responsibility for where we are keeping our focus.   The deep sea divers amongst us have to travel back down to the silted bedrocks of the unconscious to retrieve our wreckage but we cannot and must not stay submerged in those inky seas when there is a sunlit shore to go to and we can often find that by nurturing the positive, good, healing and beautiful.  Like an aquatic bower bird we bring our wreckage up and find a way to make art of it, on the sunnier shores of consciousness.

For myself I have known the paralysing hold of darkest depression.  I know that at these times when it has seemed almost impossible to make forward movement of some kind that is what I have needed to do.  When my marriage first broke up and I was all alone and almost comatose in the dead of winter what saved me on some days was being able to go to the local heated pool and swim, immersing myself in the water which helped to break apart and dislodge some of the pain.  These days it is a brisk walk with Jasper in healing natural spaces which helps me most when old demons or ghosts start to circle.

Shifting the focus from negative experiences and energies helps us not to magnify them and breaks the pattern of punishing ourselves over and over with things that have passed.  By all means we must know and feel our deepest responses to abandonment and abuse, rage and anger which are valid forces which help us to break its strangle hold.  But ideally we use these as the fuel for breaking free not staying trapped and paralysed.

As I look back I see how in my own depression how much harder I can make things by focusing solely on the negative….. there is a difference between honestly acknowledging pain and difficult things in order to be authentic, understand, develop compassion and empathy, feel and release them and keeping the focus on what hurts by running the pain over and over and over in my head.  I know for myself that what helps me is to find a way to break this cycle of obsession by putting my focus on to something uplifting that removes me from this dark place.  I feel it helps us to catch ourselves and take some steps to change the focus and shift it towards something positive, full of energy light, soul or beauty.

Today I have been listening to an inspiring interview by a pastoral care therapist reminding us how important focusing on or finding things of beauty outside the darkness of deeply depressive mind states is to encourage in us a sense of hope and forward movement.

Part of our healing too involves acceptance of what happened to us much as we wish it never happened to us, the realisation that we did not bring it on ourselves and that the legacy of hurt and hate is a natural part of not being championed, nurtured, helped or protected when we were young.  We use these hurt feelings to show us where our boundaries lay, collapsing a boundary in forgiveness too soon may be counter productive and I know in my own life I was often hoodwinked by abuser’s denials and fob offs to collapse boundaries I should never have brought down.  I kept wanting to see the good side in them which was the unconscious part of them that perpetrated pain but was unwilling to recognise and validate the state of their own inner injury.

My therapist has been the only one at times I felt I could fully turn to who would not abuse me again and so lately I have been recognising how lonely a path truth healing of our wounds and injuries is.  The path narrows if we choose not live in denial any more as so much of society can.  I have in this process also found blogging about and sharing with others who have suffered abuse and abandonment has for me been an excellent source of healing.  I am grateful to say that on my blog I have never really received negative invalidation of any kind when I have honestly shared from my pain and that has meant that blog space has been for me one of the places where beauty is alive in the love that comes to and from other readers.

These days on any new day I am able to make healthier choices on where I put my focus. Beauty on any day becomes a priority for me as it is the quality of the choices that I make now which determines the goodness and beauty, peace and serenity of my day.  I guess I am saying that slowly I am learning what self care looks like, it was something I knew so little of in my days of addiction and even later recovery.  It was only with the finding of my inner child and the acceptance of all her feelings, validation of which was so essential to my healing that I have learned how important this kind of self care is.  It consists in being loving to and nurturing of myself no matter what the cost.   And of making sure I have inner boundaries in place to defend against any attacks from the inner critic that want to steal from me, peace, love and joy.   And when I struggle with stinking thinking I can ask for help from a loving power to help me keep the focus on love, self acceptance, self compassion and beauty.

 

Acceptance : healing from the inside

Acceptance 2.jpg

The single most healing attitude we can hold towards ourselves is one of acceptance.  Even if there are parts of ourselves that we don’t like or that we struggle with, is there some way we can learn to love and accept these parts of us and understand where they come from and perhaps even learn to look deeper into where self critical views came from?

Self rejection seems to be such a huge part of our culture.  It becomes even more prevalent if we were raised in an environment or home where there was neglect or invalidation abuse.  In this case self rejection can become a huge part of our inner landscape, not really loving and accepting ourselves for who we truly are means that self condemnation and low self esteem become an habitual way of life.  The inner critic forms inside of us making feelings guilt, shame and powerlessness central issues we struggle with and we may try to hide these feelings from ourselves and others or silence then with addictions.

Add to this the complication of the fact that if as a child difficult things occurred which may have not been our fault we may have mistakenly come to believe that something we did played a part, for example the early death of a parent, illness in a sibling, abuse or chronic rejection.   Well into adulthood we may go on struggling with the critical voice inside of us or deeply unconscious feelings of guilt that cause all kinds of probelms.  We may also begin to learn to turn that critical voice outwards.  We come to believe in negative expectations.  If we feel we are not good enough we won’t learn to set appropriate boundaries against abuse or we may go on fearing rejection when there is actually no need to maintain such a fear.  We then learn to live from a self fulfilling prophecy which just brings more of the same to us.

The way out of such a dilemma is the practice of self acceptance, self care and love.  When we have distressing critical attacks we can learn to address the critical voice and the shame it may be trying to pass onto us in a loving way.  We don’t even have to argue, we can agree with the critic that we are messy or absent minded or careless but recognise that such traits have nothing to do with our self worth or lovability.  As human beings we don’t need to be ‘perfect’ to be loved, we should not have to ‘earn’ love by forcing ourselves into shapes others would like us to assume or by hiding who we really are deep inside, even if we are deeply emotional and deeply hurt or angry.  All such feelings really are acceptable, but he hard truth is that in childhood and even well into adult hood we may have been around those who struggled to accept such feelings and so we learned to internalise a similar lack of acceptance.

We can also, as we grow in critical self insight and self acceptance, learn that we cannot always expect a perfect love from those around us, who in being human are not perfect either.   I struggle at times when I hear of those who suffered some neglect in childhood saying they are going ‘no contact’ with parents.  Often it is apparent the parent has suffered deep wounds, wounds they may have passed on, and I do understand if the abuse is bad the person would not want a lot of contact.  But at the same time it is true that human beings suffer in all kinds of different ways in the course of their upbringing and so often pass this suffering onwards.

When we choose to undertake a journey of inner healing we are on a course to open up to this so called ‘shadow’ material or dark side in ourselves and in others.   We are on a journey to explore all the blockages of separation, fear and guilt as well as shame that have kept us from the experience of love, we are also being called on a journey of forgiveness.  We don’t ever have to like what happened to us, forgiving does not mean we ever say that what happened to us is okay, but forgiveness is the conscious choice we make at one critical stage in our healing process when we get to see the cost of pain passed on over years, ages or generations and resent into and through our own emotional systems and in relationships and see with absolute clarity that the cost of holding onto it is too great a price to pay and solves nothing.

Working through our anger may take years.  We find it hard to let down that steely defence which in keeping us protected blocks us from truly expressing the deeper pain or sadness of the hurt we feel, grieving and mourning in order to pass through the process, releasing from deep within our cell tissue traumas that hurt.  We may never have the hurt, or anger or sadness validated by the other person. In order for many o fus to heal we most certainly initially need to seek validation from someone but most importantly in time we must learn to find it from deep within our selves and our own souls for this is where our true healing lies.

Once our reality is validated from inside it becomes so much easier to love ourselves, to know that we were always worthy of protection and care but that also life is not perfect and due to this we as humans can and do suffer all kinds of hurt and abuse.  We may think “this should never have happened to me” but the truth is it has.  Hate it as we must we have to deal with the consequences and further we have to learn how to live a peaceful and loving life from within that place in order that we don’t go on to re-enact the hurt upon ourselves or others over and over and over again.

Most certainly it helps to have a champion or companion on this journey.  In my own life the unconditional loving presence of my therapist Katina has meant so much to me.  I have and do struggle with such self criticism at times, mostly over things that were so far outside of my control, with Katina I get a reality check as to where I am being too hard on myself and I see also where others can at times be hard on me and I see that I can stand up for my truth in the face of that.  I had an incident yesterday where I had to do that with someone who was a bit of a bully and was trying to criticise me in a joking way.   I didn’t have to carry the anger of it as I took the steps to stand up for myself at the time.  In years past his criticism could have launched me into a negative spiral for some days.

Self love, self care, self compassion and self acceptance are such critical issues on our healing journey from neglect, emotional abandonment and any other kind of trauma or abuse.  These are the healing balm to counter the voices and forces of self condemnation and self rejection that we may have internalised while growing up in dysfunctional environments and societies full of shame based attitudes which can leave such a destructive lasting legacy and impact recycling for years.  Without them it is hardly possible to heal and grow as we so need to.

 

Letting go of fear, obligation and guilt

At times I need to let go of ideas or hopes or dreams I have of how life would be ideal.  I am having to let go of the idea of having permanent fake teeth in my mouth and accept that from here on in I will have 3 teeth on a plate that is then inserted into my mouth.

When I saw the dentist yesterday he was very slow and measured.  He wanted to make sure “I was entirely ready” to have my tooth out and cope with the denture.  I gathered from what he said that so many people could not cope with it very well and he was worried as to how I would react having to see myself every morning with no front teeth when the denture is out.  I must admit that before I went yesterday my inner child or inner self just cried and cried and told me she doesn’t want to have the tooth out and have to go through this hurdle to wear and denture and be a gummy shark with no front teeth!  And while I can hold her and my hand through this I KNOW I have to go through with it and feel the pain.  I had to tell my child and inner self that sometimes I have to go through something I don’t want for a higher reason or for the sake of better physical or emotional health.  It was the same feelings I went through when I had to face breast cancer.  I felt like Jesus in Gethsemane pleading with God to not have to face it, but I did and I survived.

Facing this yesterday and letting myself fully grieve and have all the associated emotions was painful but ultimately good.  I was able to get myself dressed and get to the dentist and I cannot tell you how many times I have cancelled out of dental appointments before.  But it also made me realise that I have also avoided heaps of things that it would be better if I had faced, and that there were times when I needed to let go of much loved or needed attachments that were actually holding me back and I could not.  I wanted to be the nice girl and do the right thing, or at the very least not abandon others who were in pain.  That was a positive motivation but not when it led to the loss of my own inner needs and happiness.

Today we had a heavy fog.  As I write this the first rays of sunlight are only just starting to shine through at 11 am.  And today I was thinking about another kind of FOG which obscures the sunlight for me : Fear, Obligation and Guilt.  I was thinking of how many times these three have stopped my own individual Sun essence from shining forth, from allowing myself to separate and go for the good things especially when others were suffering.  Another thing I noticed this week is how my Mum unconsciously evokes these kind of feelings in me by telling me about how my sister is going through some emotional struggle.  The assumption she makes is that my sister is weak and cannot cope and then I feel drawn in and as though I need to do something to help my sister when really what she is going through is about her and I struggle along silently with my own problems and others in my family rarely reach out to see how I am coping.

I opened the post intending to write about letting go and my insight earlier into FOG while doing yoga stretches is associated.  I need to be much more aware of letting go and realising when fear, a sense of obligation or guilt are motivating my actions or alternatively limiting them.

In the case of fear I have not always been able to recognise that is what has been imprisoning me.  I think the accident I had it 2005 has left me with huge fear/trauma imprints about moving forward or taking any action and subconsciously this fear prompts the panic attacks I have around 5 to 7 pm every evening and to a degree the problem I have with waking up in the morning.

This morning I remembered to be extra conscious of making sure I had my attention on the breath when trauma flood had me pinned.  I was aware of the funny cartoon in Bev Aisbett’s book which portrays the panic attack as funny carton dragon who hovers in the shadows and sends up all kinds of thoughts.  In my own case it isn’t just thoughts that prompt my attacks there is a stored vibrational charge of chemicals in my body that wake up every day in the morning.  I then get extra focused on my body and find it hard to bring my energy into the day.  But thinking too which runs along negative lines can also hold me back.

I read a older post on a site earlier about how one survivor of an eating disorder which spoke of how ED as a voice tries to keep the person thinking along negative lines.  It will see all the things that are wrong.  In this way it keeps us trapped and from seeing what is actually good.  I am noticing more and more these days when my focus is pulled toward the negative so that I can then put my energy on something beautiful, good or positive.  Yes there is a lot of pain and negativity in people and in the world but we don’t have to allow it to capture us all of the time, or at least I am realising that I don’t have to.

I can also let go of the sense of obligation I feel to take care of others in my family and realise that there is a force beyond me that is meant to help them.  I am not put on earth to give all of my energy to others who are suffering.  I can show support and care when I am in a strong place, but otherwise at times my need to help comes out of something else and may even be a projection of a neglected part of myself that in fact needs my own care.  It may even come out of guilt I have or a belief I am not worthy of a happy, free life and that is not fair, for I am worthy of these things, but thinking that I am not does keep me bowed under, or most definitely has in the past.

I think that in some families joy can actually be a quality that is shamed.  We can be shamed for being full of life, or different, or full of energy or happy.  We can be made to feel that if others are suffering we need to suffer too, or at least must not present them with the challenge of a happy, free person for whom things are going right if they are having problems.

I am now identifying this kind of thing in myself.   I am aware of the joy killer that lives within and dampens me down with all kinds of negative heaviness.  I actually am feeling more and more lately I want to let that killer go and get that negative energy out of my head.  I want to let go of fear, obligation and guilt, they were such strong conditioning agents of my Catholic education and come to think of it we have Jewish background on my Mum’s side three generations back and at times I feel that heaviness as a shroud that can be limiting and life denying when it focuses on obligation to family, rules, oughts or shoulds.

And outside my window now sun and blue sky has been revealed as the fog has slowly cleared away and so I want to go out and embrace the day with my dog.  I am so grateful that now I no longer spend days and days and days in immobility and pain.  I am so grateful for the life energy I feel returning when I face up to the tough stuff in stead of running away and find that when I let of certain attachments to ideals and hopes something else can present itself to me, something that may a precious gift hidden within it that I may never have been able to imagine myself or experience if I had not said yes to and embraced the necessary pain involved in the letting go process.

Post script :

After posting this I found the following in Bev Aisbett’s book on panic attacks listing the things which are required of us to recover and it was an interesting read as she touched on what I was writing about above:

In order to effectively make changes for the better you will need to set out to achieve the following goals:

An absolute belief that you deserve to be well, happy and loved

A complete shift of focus from being a loser to being a winner

A conscious awareness of choice

An ability to just BE

A total commitment to wellness not illness.

Just writing this triggers my inner negative voice but I will put it out there, as I feel it speaks to what a new approach to my life may be asking of me.

The day will come

Blue Bridge

The day will come

When your vision will be cleared

And you will weep in silent celebration

Of all that was lost

Which was revealed so precious

In the leaving

The day will come

When memories of those dappled afternoons

Sitting by the open door with the soft leaves

Of the tulip tree fluttering will seem a distant dream

You made your choice

And you know the reason why

At the final moment

You remember that in the tale of Faust

He cannot say to what is fleeting

Linger a little longer, thou art so fair

For sometimes you have to kiss goodbye

Those things that in passing

Reveal their hidden splendor

In order to reach for a new shore

For a new beginning

Reflections on addiction, abuse, choice, power, sensitivity and the awakening that leads us through the Dark Night of the Soul.

By dealing with the darkness within,

Light can shine more brightly

Leah Whitehorse

Flower Sun.jpg

When we are emotionally free we have the power to choose.  One of the things abuse can steal from us is our belief in ourselves and our belief in our power to make choices.  If our wants, needs or feelings were shamed we may feel unsafe and unsure of connecting to them.  If they were threating to others and we got bullied and there was a threat of loss of love we may get fearful of feeling what we do.  We may associate feeling what we do with being abandoned and if we don’t have that sense of Self strong inside we can make the poor bargain to give over and surrender our power.  We then believe that we are powerless.

This is one of the things I think is problematic when we get into 12 step programmes as active alcoholics if our alcoholism was an attempt to deal with the pain of abuse.  Being told we have no power isn’t really helpful.  We may have no power over the addiction at that time if we are using unconsciously and then an admission of powerlessness does have a good benefit, we can reach for external aid of those who have surrendered negative self will for sobriety.  But there does come a time when we need to find the power within us to affect change and act from a positive sense of will which comes from a healthy loving place.  It takes strength of will to surrender our defences and ways of running or reacting to experience the depth of powerful feelings that addiction may have hidden from us. For example : feeling anger if we have or were violated or abused is part of recognising that our power was stolen in some way.  Acting out our anger with our abuser may not help and lead to more problems but using our anger to set a boundary or defence against such treatment in the future will mean we gain the power of choice over what we allow to affect us for good or ill.

I am a firm believer that the universe of our spirit wants us to be free.  If we feel unfree in some way there was at some time a limit or shackle placed upon us that we need to cast off. We have the right to connect with the truth of our spirit in our emotional life.

I was having a conversation with a very close friend this morning and we were talking about how being emotionally sensitive is not valued in our culture, most especially in Australian culture.   The iconic Australian is ‘cool’, ‘laid back’.  “No worries, mate” is a natural Ocker expression that supposedly expresses how we operate here.

If you aren’t like this growing up you often get shamed or people look on you askance.  Escaping from the toxic mindset of such an emotionally violent culture is not always easy.  You have to find a strong backbone inside to be able to see the bullies use shame and put downs to judge you as weak for feeling emotions and being vulnerable.

There was a very powerful example of this the other week on our Australian version of “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here”  where one of the contestants got extremely emotional when faced with a difficult tucker trial which involved awful ‘tests’ of fortitude such as putting her head inside a nest filled with rats, snakes, cockroaches or other scary critters.   She had a pretty vocal emotional response.  This week when she was eliminated in an interview she said “I was just myself.  I was pretty honest with all of my emotional reactions.  I didn’t put on a mask”.  The interviewer who is a comedian raised her eyes and there was a lot of media attention devoted to what a ‘baby’ she was being.  Kudos to her she hung in there.

Part of me is intrigued by this show.  It is apparently entertainment to watch others go through these kind of harsh trials.  For all I know it may be character building and some of the participants have spoke of how it makes them appreciate all they have in life in such an affluent culture.  You may have your own ideas and take on it.  To me its a bit emotionally violent.  But then I am not really a fan of tough love.  One of my favourite quotes come from Gabor Mate who writes powerfully about the true forces that drive addicts to seek elimination of pain. He has said :

There’s either tough or there’s love. But there’s no tough love. There’s nothing tough about love. Love is actually very soft and open. Tough love is another word for punishment. It’s a euphemism.

Gabor Mate

In many ways we live in a culture that thrives on shame, blame and punishment.  To be vulnerable or sensitive is to be weak and or ill.  To be depressed is a sign of failing or not being well.  But what if the experience of a depression is actually a doorway into the depths of one’s soul an opportunity to examine very deep things that have gone on within one’s life?  What if a so called ‘dark passage’ or ‘dark night of the soul’ is actually a form of spiritual awakening at a critical time on this planet when there is so much to be sad about in terms of the way we can abuse one another and nature?

Indian mystics have a belief that for a few thousand years humanity has been caught up in what they called The Kali Yuga.  Translated this is an age in which forces of darkness and destruction have taken hold within human consciousness.  Abuse of women and the feminine is part of it.   Development of the idea of God separate from nature is part of it.  Assertion of mankind’s will to power over natural forces and finding ways to cheat death is part of it. Addiction as a falling out of relationship with a sensitive, emotionally awake aware, body, mind and spirit that is connected to love and power and strength of good healthy spiritual energy and vitality is part of it.

During the Kali Yuga lost souls have the power of awakening to what is going down. Therefore to be sensitive at this time is to be in touch, it is to feel the suffering that occurs when we abuse life, animals, nature and others.  Awakening involves releasing the suffering of abuse that we may have gone through.  A part of this depression or the so called ‘dark night of the soul’ is a massive call to awakening.   I see much evidence of it everywhere and most especially on WordPress.

So many of us are waking up and knowing that the future of our world depends upon our capacity to make healthy choices.  Choices where we are connected emotionally and spiritually as cells within the body of earth and can choose for that which unites us rather than separates us from light and love, power and strength, and the vulnerability and humility of knowing our true limits and dependence on nature.  Sensitivity allows us to attune, rather than just barrel through and involves a willingness to surrender to something we may not have chosen but has the power to transform us at the very deepest level.