When anger is denied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing from the body and our past to tap in : some insights from John Lee

If I could give you a dollar for every time I have been told that I should just ‘get over it’ or ‘stop looking at the past’ you would be wealthy.   As a species we are only slowly coming around to the realisation that our past stays trapped and encoded in the cells of our bodies and our neuro and biochemistry.  When I first got sober a few years in I came across the work of medical intuitive Carolyn Myss, a wonderful book and set of tapes I was lucky to be given by the bookshop where I was then working called Energy Anatomy.  Carolyn was asked to work in tandem with a doctor to get information about certain patients he was treating about their past and what she had to say co-related with the illness they were going through with astonishing accuracy.  Carolyn had no other information, she did not meet the people, the specialist in question would just phone her with brief information about the patient.  From this Carolyn ‘read’ certain information such as ‘her mother died when she was two, she had a termination of pregnancy when she was 18’ and so on.   The doctor was blown away by her readings and Carolyn wrote this line in her book : “biography becomes biology”.

I am thinking about this a lot today as I am just reading the book Writing From the Body : For Writers and Artists, and Dreamers who Long to Free their Voice.   It is written by recovering alcoholic, John Lee who in recovery has become a therapist and works with people working to both free themselves from repressions of the past as well and express what may have been trapped, locked or encoded in muscle, tissue and organ.  The first few chapters tell of his own process to unblock his voice and find access through writing to essential blockages and experiences of the past which he believes to stay trapped in the body waiting to be heard or freed.  I am so inspired by what I have read so far that I really wanted to share it here, since on WordPress there are so many writers who are working in this way.  To be inspired to me is to be filled with spirit, to be able to breathe.  In fact in the chapter Inspiration : The Breath and the Word he deals with the importance of breathing as we write to gain inspiration and to access our depth.  I am not sharing content from the chapter here but the previous one Descending into the Body.  It is my own belief that body is soul and what soul’s suffer stayed trapped here longing to be freed.  When we tap in we release on some level past experiences and metabolise them.  I am sharing it here as I just feel a burning need to do so.  I hope it speaks to you, dear reader.

To embrace our body’s truth is to embrace our past.  There is no other way.  The body is home to all that has happened to us, and it remembers.  Fortunately, if we engage in the process of remembering (re – membering like Osiris did gathering up our torn fragments) with full vigor, great riches emerge.  In his breakthrough book, The Poetics of Reverie, Gaston Bachelard writes:

In waking life… when reverie works on our history, the childhood within us brings its benefits.  One needs……to live with the child he has been.  From such living he achieves a consciousness of roots, and the entire tree of his being takes comfort from it. 

Not everything we discover in ourselves will be comfortable.  But we need to know he truth of our roots if we are to write from that depth.  Our roots don’t have to be pleasant to be comforting.  Just the act of claiming our own history, of pledging ourself to its truth, provides peace of mind.  It also feeds our writing – we must know our whole story before we can tell it.

Lee goes on to talk about how he was raised in the South of the United States to barely literate parents.  How early on he came to believe that he ‘wasn’t that bright’, how he came to be ashamed of his origins and also came to believe he had to be from somewhere else to be intelligent or gifted enough to write.  Over the course of his healing journey though he came to see that such beliefs were untrue.  He speaks of how he had to both own them and dispel them or at least engage with them and work to answer them back.  He continues:

That’s part of my story.  You have your own.  You have your own messages.  What were they?  Who spoke them? What did you feel like when you heard them? How do you feel about these messages, and the messengers now?

As I am typing this a poem I wrote a while back addressed to my father comes to mind.  I will try to find it later but it was about how he devalued the artistic and humanitarian in favour of utilitarianism and commerce.  How he forced me away from my literate artistic side.  It was a deep wound in me and one I have only begun to really address since starting this blog.  Truth is, from a young age I was writing and so probably were many of you.  I still struggle with the Inner Critic.  How I get around it in my blog these days is to let it speak so readers can see.  I then try to act against what is says.

As the chapter concludes Lee gives this advice to budding writers :

Now write a story, a poem, or a one act play, or a letter.  Write how you feel about these destructive messages.  Tell the whole truth at last.  If fears arise, name them and you will dissipate their power.  We don’t have to go on fighting our fear, telling ourselves “everything’s fine.”  As we write from the body, we touch the centre of ourselves.  In doing so we discover to our surprise that everything truly is fine, and that a part of us remains safe regardless of what happens to us in the world.

My truth is this :  I wasn’t disabled.  But I did become tense and scared when unreasonable demands were placed on me.

Write your own truth boldly, loudly.  Stay close to the body’s sounds, to its rhythms of breath and bone, they will tell you want to write.

I am sure so many of you have found such comfort through your writing.  The beauty of WordPress is that it gives so many of us a platform to express and free from ourselves what became trapped, locked, buried or impacted deep inside. When other’s read, like and comment we feel the joy of resonance and know nothing we ever suffer really separates us, only that which we fail to free or speak.   I will end this with a luminous quote from Lee’s book on writing :

Be strong then, and enter your own body:

there you have a solid place for your feet.

Think about it carefully!

Do not go off somewhere else!

just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things,

and stand firm in that which you are.

Kabir

Poetry

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Where would we be without poetry to express the pain and other intimations of our deepest soul?  I admire all the intensely beautiful poetry here on WordPress shared by so many brilliant bloggers.  I struggle to write my own prose poems that provide a fountain that can flow out so coagulated pain doesn’t settle like a stagnant swamp inside my silted and at times blocked channels or organs.

Today was one of those struggle days filled with panic attacks I was fighting my way out of.  In the afternoon I just took myself off for afternoon tea and then to the local bookshop for a browse in the poetry section.  I came across several volumes that really inspired me.  I had the usual inner argument over purchasing the one that spoke to me the most and ended up leaving the store without it.   I realised though how poetry is food for my aching soul on the tough days.  And so often I come across a blog or a reblog of an amazing piece that just takes my breath away often on the site of either The Feathered Sleep or One Wise Woman just to name two of my favourites.  So this blog goes out to say thanks for what you share.  For reading my own humble attempts.   I was writing poems and a diary from about the age of six due to a childhood in which there was no adult to really talk to about what was going on inside.  My blog started when someone was kind enough to share poem I wrote.  Without that help and inspiration I may never have thought what I had to say was worthwhile, but now I know just the sheer fact of someone expressing their soul is a major achievement.

Without WordPress life would be just so much emptier.  Keep writing all you amazing poets.  Keep collapsing and crumbling and sharing about it here so your implosion can become art and inspire others!

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Listening with empathy

We all have a need to be heard at the deepest level.  The capacity for others to be receptive to our deeper true self, from our earliest years influences how healthy we become emotionally, how connected to our needs and feelings.  Learning to listen with empathy is a skill we need to master if we really wish to be there for others.

Listening with empathy requires giving up a self centred view of the world in order to participate fully in another person’s experience.  It requires focusing and paying attention not only to the words being spoken but also to gestures, body position, and facial expressions.  When you listen with empathy, you make a conscious effort to set aside your biases or any distorted thinking you tend to employ.  You learn how to connect with the other person’s emotions without being carried away by them, to step in then step back, reading the other person’s cues to judge when to move closer and when to give distance.  Part of the reason my mother was such a great empathic listener was that she understood how to live with ambiguity and the inability to find answers or solutions to all problems.

Listening with such clarity and depth of feeling that the other person truly feels heard is a kind of holy listening…… Empathic (holy) listening goes deep into the other person’s heart and soul to reveal what is hidden by fear, anger, grief, or despair.  This kind of listening can be taught.  It can be passed from one person to another.  We can learn how to listen with empathy by being around people who are empathic and who understand how to “listen to our souls in life.”

Empathic listening releases the compassion hormone oxytocin, which blocks the release of the stress hormone cortisol.  Your brain releases oxytocin when you feel understood and connected to another human being.  In addition to releasing stress and preventing the release of cortisol, this neurochemical helps us to live longer, promotes calmness, reduces fear and addictive behaviour and increases trust and feelings of security.  When we feel calm and secure, we are in a position to correct our distorted thinking.

Empathy is therefore strongly connected to validation and the above quotes from The Stress Solution : Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience reveal how a child that is not responded to with empathy will find their body and brain flooded by stress hormones which leave negative consequences.  Invalidation abuse triggers a stress response in a person and then tends to amp up the stress response through negative thought leading to more painful feelings.  Difficult feelings can then intensify if the person is left alone with no empathic witness.

If we want to help ourselves when we are feeling flooded with stress it is so important to respond to ourselves with empathy or find someone who is empathic to share our feelings with. If we can learn how to respond with validation and empathy we can become soothers in the world and for ourselves.  Listening with empathy is such an important skill to learn.  Understanding the consequences of having lived with those who lack empathy is also important.  We cannot blame ourselves for having developed real scars and difficulties with anxiety or stress if we have consistently found ourselves in situations where we are consistently being treated with a lack of empathy.

Angry with my family

Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Bring things out in the open

I have noticed this week a strong shift towards people in the public eye opening up about what has been going on deep inside when they have struggled in life.  The first thing was the airing of a two part programme of Insight on SBS our multicultural channel in Australia on the incidence of depression in sports stars and athlete’s, often but not always associated with their careers.  But what really came out of the programme was the understanding that so many long for attention and a sense of meaning in their lives and when such attention or meaning or connection is broken a lot of suffering ensues.

The second part of the programme aired on television here last night and a young footballer whose name I cannot remember was really open about his struggle with addiction and depression.  He tried to take his life a few years ago and since then has had good professional help to deal with his mental health issues, but he as also started a foundation to help young kids who are struggling too and this is what has helped him most of all.

Opening up and overcoming our shame of feeling vulnerable is a huge part of healing from mental health issues.  The more open we can be, the more understanding we can share.  The video above is just one example of how opening up can help us and others and is part of the UK initiative, Heads Together.  I would like to thank Summer for bringing this to my attention in a recent post.  This video links to others she has shared on her blog.

Not as triggered : some small steps forward

I wrote this post on Tuesday.  I didn’t post it.  Same old, same old beat up by the inner critic, even though my therapist thought it showed a sign of growth.

Being ignored is usually a huge trigger for me.  I guess it reminds me of being young and being left alone a lot and finding myself on the outside and not in the popular pool of happy gregarious youngsters who all got on and felt free to express and be themselves without feeling locked up in a prison of thoughts and projected inner judgement.  Its hard to go through life feeling scared and not safe enough in your own being and skin.

So today at the dog park when two people deliberately ignored and excluded me from their conversation I felt good when it didn’t hit me as hard as it usually would have in years past.   One of the people in question is someone I know and we don’t have a lot in common.  In fact I think when she asked me about my Christmas a few months ago I honestly told her how hard it was emotionally and that is a trigger for some people.  They just don’t want to hear about anything that isn’t light and breezy and since then she doesn’t make any effort to connect at all.

I have to remember at such times that there are other people I connect with.  At the moment I feel a bit isolated and lonely as I haven’t managed to connect with my usual friends at the park much and often our contact is fairly superficial.  I spend a lot of my time alone.  And at the park today when they made no effort to talk even though my dog Jasper was playing with the other woman’s dog  I just thought “fair enough” and I took myself off and read my book under a tree.  There was none of the harsh inward cricitism I would have heard inside my head before.

It seems at the moment I just have to nurture myself in solitude.  I am not going to lie and say it isn’t really lonely at times.  Since I have moved back to my home town I find it hard to find others of like mind to connect with and I spend a lot of time with my dog.  I am so grateful  that I do have connections through blogging as without that I would feel quiet disconnected and lost.  I want to concentrate on the connections that I do have such as the one with my therapist and my very very good male friend who lives away from me.  We talk on the phone a couple of times a week and I know I can call him any time.

I just wrote a blog on unmet needs prompted by one Athina posted on Courage Coaching.  Thinking about it the need for friendship and emotional connection is such a huge one that relates to and has such important consequences for our emotional and mental health.  Lack of connections and isolation such as I have lived in past years must led to mental health problems and  disease and Deepak Chopra makes that connection in his book The Book of Secrets speaking of how our body cells naturally connect in a state of health and in ill health this connective ability runs awry with the cells often turning against themselves.

I don’t find it easy to find others to connect with.  How I cope is by connecting with myself and then spending that time on my blog.  Connections cannot be forced, they have to occur naturally.  I don’t need to beat myself up if I don’t connect or others ignore me.  I don’t have to make that the cause of negative self talk.