The power of a kind word

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I love it when the Dalai Lama says if he has a religion, it is kindness.  I know the power of a kind word to uplift me, as well as others  when we are going through a hard time.  Just think of the power of negative words and nastiness, the power they have to destroy lives, like the life of Dolly Everett who took her life a while ago due to bullying?  She is one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were destroyed not only by the unkind words of others but through the lack of power of her own positive inner voice of love to sustain her enough to make her want her to keep living.

That said I do feel that if you are a sensitive individual witnessing or being subject to a lot of violence or emotional violence can have the most devastating of impacts and looking at the state of a world or a school yard or a work place where darker forces of unkindness and cruelty exist, even if subtly hidden can become far too much…… That is why I would never ever say someone is selfish for taking their own life.  How can we really know what goes on deep inside another person’s, mind, heart and body really? How can we know what they have witnessed or lived through?  How do we know what self torturing reality they may have to live with inside their own mind on any day?  How do we know how they were spoken to or treated when open and vulnerable?

As a sensitive person I was subjected to a lot of teasing in my family.. Some teasing can be an attempt at fun but some teasing can involve subtle puts downs as well as the annihilation of another person’s being and reality….Just such a case was something demonstrated on my recent post on rejected feelings and suicidal ideation in the life of Robyn, a fragile young woman therapist Jonice Webb treated for childhood emotional neglect.

The meaning of the word ‘sarcasm’ comes from the Latin ‘to tear flesh’ this is how it feels to be subjected to verbal or emotional abuse, literally as if you have no skin or the one you have is being torn off of you.   The looks of disgust you receive when you react to such abuse emotionally brings even more shame and humiliation down upon you, to the point you feel you have no right to exist or to respond in a genuine way.  Its like tearing claws off a young lion club.

Later in life we can work to become aware of the impact of unkind or invalidating reactions or things said to us in childhood or adolescence, but we will have to work hard if we have become a scapegoat identified person.. because in some families this is what may happen to the one who tries to point out truths or has valid reactions to the inherent unfairness or unkindness of an abusive family system.  You will need to do a lot of work with your own inner voices as well as the cultural ones so as to not absorb them or keep them rooted down deep inside.

This blog is also a plea for consciousness around the power of the way we use words.  Are we using them to hurt or heal?  Are we using them to dismiss or build up and self soothe, self nourish and protect? Are we using them to assert a boundary in a kind and loving way with others?     A simple “it is not okay to talk to me like that” can suffice.   Or “I am not going to stay here while you put me down.”

And let us also remember the power of a kind word to sustain and nurture others.  By all means we don’t want to use this in a false or sucking up way, but when we can speak with the voice of love and kindness, not only to others but also to ourselves we will be in a much stronger position to deflect those unkind words that when laying claim to a wounded soul can cause much further corrosion and damage.

Understanding alexithymia and building emotional depth if you were emotionally neglected.

I have written several detailed posts on Childhood Emotional Neglect.  One of the painful symptoms is alexithymia which is a complex name for a condition in which you are often out of touch with your deepest feelings.  As a result you may often feel confused, irritable or angry for seemingly ‘no’ reason, mystified by the behaviour of others.  You may also feel like something is missing inside of you, have friendships which lack depth and substance, including the ability to share and feel comfortable with expressing feelings.  You may also suffer from suicidal feelings and not really know the where they come from.

This kind of thing dates back to a childhood where you were emotionally neglected, left alone a lot of the time without a lot of support or attention in contrast to being violently or overtly abused or led to believe it was not okay to express difficult emotions such as anger or sadness.  Such scars and deficits left run deep and are invisible and even mystifying to yourself, since you were given next to no help with understanding your feelings, led to believe they don’t make any sense or should be ignored, over-ridden or put to one side.

In her book on Childhood Emotional Neglect, therapist Jonice Webb addresses the issue of trying to heal from this kind of thing through developing emotional intelligence and insight into your feelings but another important skill to learn is sharing how you do feel with others while taking the risk that it just might lead to abandonment.

Taking this kind of risk runs exactly contrary to what those of us who have been emotionally neglected or forced out of touch with our feelings have been forced to do if there was no one there to tell or depend in childhood.  Instead we learn to be super independent, feel we should not ‘bother’ others or be a ‘downer’ or a ‘burden’ to others.  But in an emotionally healthy relationship its okay to express and share feelings as this builds intimacy, connection and emotional depth.

In addition, if we suffered from childhood emotional neglect we may feel that we are all ‘too much’, especially if we learn to substitute larger more dramatic emotions and blows ups for the balanced expression of true semotion which we probably never learned or saw modelled in our family of origins growing up.  Jonice recommends in her book that instead we seek out those who are trustworthy as far as feelings are concerned, are willing to listen, support and understand.  Futhermore, she recommends taking risks to :

tell (others) your problem to see if it does help you to manage your feelings  in order to test out :

if they are used against you,

if the person runs away,

is burdened by it,

accuses you of ruining their day/night

or gives you the feeling that you are ‘weak’ or that there is something wrong with you for feeling that way…

These kind of reactions according to Jonice are signs that this particular person is not really the best kind of friend for us in the circumstances, that they may actually be like an unsupportive parent and therefore not healthy to be around long term if we really wish to build greater depth and emotional rapport which are so essential to those of us who were emotionally neglected in childhood.

Further more, in terms of understanding the symptom of alexithymia versus emotional awareness which we need to develop as we recover, Jonice points out that the following treatment by parents in childhood is often behind our disconnection from feeling and our emotional life.

  1. The parent doesn’t pay attention to the child’s feelings.
  2. The parent doesn’t make an effort to feel what their child is feeling
  3. The parent doesn’t help the child to find and form words for what they are feeling.
  4. The parent doesn’t help the child to draw connections between what has happened to them and how they are feeling in reaction or guilts or shames then for such a reaction.
  5. The parent does not make emotions an important part of nurturing the child.

If this is the way your parents raised you, then it’s no wonder you developed alexithymia as a result.  It will take time and a lot of help in recovery to help you learn not only to differentiate your feelings and make sense of them but trust yourself in expressing then to others.   Without this capacity your emotional life will suffer as a result.

human beings are designed to feel emotion.  When that design is short circuited, first by emotionally neglectful parents and later by the child himself as an adult it throws off the entire system….the human psyche malfunctions when emotions are pushed out of it… emptiness or numbness is worse than pain.  Many people have told me they would prefer feeling anything to (feeling) nothing.  It is very difficult to acknoweldge, makes sense of, or put into words soemthing that is absent.  If you do succed in putting emptiness into words to try to explain it to another person,, it’s very difficult for others to understand it.  Emptiness seems like nothing to most people.  And it is nothing, neither bad or good.  But in the case of a human being’s internal functioning, nothing is definately something.  Emptiness is actually a feeling in and of itself.  And I have discovered that it is a feeling that can be very intense and powerful  In fact, it has the power to drive people to do things to escape it…….

And as Jonice goes onto explain this kind of emptiness leads not only to suicidal feelings but to an attempt to control or hide from the feeling by supresssing the truth of it, denying, avoiding, detaching altogether from human life and relationships.  People with alexithymia suffer in silence, they question the value and meaning of their lives and indulge in escape fantasies and addictions as a result.

To understand emotions better I recommend checking out these past two posts that I wrote a while back taken from the healing work of Dr Jonice Webb.

https://wordpress.com/post/emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/43134

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/learning-to-express-your-feelings-effectively/

I would also highly recommend getting a hold of her book or checking out her website.  In order to live complete fulfilling lives, it is so important we work to become more aware of our emotions and their messages.

(All quotes taken from Running On Empty : Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect)

 

 

Voices from inside anxiety and depression

If we struggle with issues such as anxiety and depression its helpful to the ones who KNOW, those souls who also struggled and suffered and found a way out or through the experience.  There are a lot of people and voices outside there who have known the pain, isolation and profound suffering that anxiety and depression can bring.  Matt Haig is one such voice and he published a book in 2015 called Reasons to Stay Alive where he speaks candidly about his experience and of how there is life and hope on the other side of that long dark tunnel of depression.  Matt believes his depression and anxiety came to him as learning experiences leading him on an inward path of self discovery and uncovery.  He doesn’t believe in medication as a long term solution for himself, for in his case it didn’t work but he appreciates that each of us have our own pathway to travel and medication helps others.

For now, I do what I know keeps me just about level. Exercise definately helps me, as does yoga and absorbing myself in something or someone I love, so I keep doing those things.  I suppose, in the absence of universal certainties, we are our own best laboratory.

The following excerpt comes from the chapter Pretty Normal Childhood in which he speaks of death anxieties he had around losing both parents when he was young.  In this chapter he shares how a throw away unkind comment from a girl in school who he liked sent him into a downward spiral and I am sure many of us can relate to this. At that age we don’t have any filters against such comments and we are longing for love and acceptance, so criticism hits hard and can be deeply internalised.

In the final paragraph of that chapter, Matt writes :

I didn’t totally fit in. I kind of disintegrated around people, and became what they wanted me to be.  But paradoxically, I felt an intensity inside me all the time.  I didn’t know what it was, but it kept building, like water behind a dam.  Later, when I was properly depressed and anxious, I saw the illness as an accumulation of all that thwarted intensity.  A kind of breaking through. As though, if you find it hard to let yourself be free, your self breaks in, flooding your mind in an attempt to drown out all those failed half versions of yourself.

A few chapters along he speaks of how more men kill themselves as a result of depression that women, the reason, men are conditioned to see depression as a sign of weakness and ‘are reluctant to seek help’.  The prohibition Boys Dont Cry plays a huge part in this in fostering an untruth that limits and encloses boys and men in a prison.  Matt’s way out, as it is for those of us who suffer, men and women, is to talk and listen and encourage both.  He reminds us that depression doesnt make us outcasts from humanity but just normal humans.  Depression can come to be associated with who we are when really it is a experience which happens to us.

It took me more than a decade to be able to talk openly, properly, to everyone, about my experience.  I soon discovered the act of talking is in itself a therapy.  Where talk exists so does hope.

Finding our voice in depression is a way out, or at least a way of connecting, once we can connect we feel less alone.  There are so many other souls out there who have walked this pathway, we just have to open our minds, hearts and mouths to find them.

In other chapters Matt writes a letter to his depressed self from the self who finally came through the depression, telling that former version of himself he will come through it. This is not what depression, anxiety and panic attacks tell us every day we suffer them.  Instead they tell us the pain will never end and it will destroy us.   I am not naive about depression and know we all have to do our own inner work and find our own ways to come through.  I nevertheless like to recommend voices of those who can be guides or forces of encouragement for other undergoing their own dark night.  Matt Haig is just one of these many voices.

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.