Grateful to be alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

for my part

I am sorry for my part in things

Its hard to see when you are on the wing

the underground fears

that may be driving you

sad to feel too

that you did not love me

in the way my heart needed

when really you were trying your very best

why was it that it all felt at times

like such a massive attack

but then as I consider it

from within this more adult perspective

you did not live my life

and you also had

more protection surrounding you

I do not fully know

why sometimes it was so hard to

let love in

maybe you expressed it in another form

but today as we spoke and you allowed yourself

to be buffeted about by the wind

all I wanted to do

was to break down in tears

and tell you how deeply sorry I feel

how grateful I am

that you are alive

and how much

I really do

love you

The link between fear and anger and boundaries

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

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

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

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

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

True : some reflections on being true to ourselves on the path of recovery.

When I am not true to myself I lose my way. I feel it more and more lately that empowering sense of being in tune with my own soul note and of how it feels when I step away from that more primal, intuitive in touch side of myself and fall into self abandonment or self rejection.. Many of the conditioning forces of society especially for women turn us away from the more powerful authentic embodied side of us, religion for me was particularly toxic in this regard. Today in therapy Kat and I were exploring the strong forces of repression in my family that put us three girls to death on many levels , we were talking of my father’s remoteness and unwillingness to step in to protect us from Mum, too. In this way my father dying at the age of 23 was even more painful, but Dad was a young kid in flight from his family and terrifying conditions around World War Two. In many ways both of my parents were emotional orphans, young kids on the run and trying so hard to survive and build something new.

For myself, I feel so grateful to have escaped the medication pathway and even the AA pathway saying I have defects of character. If you don’t get to fully blossom as the true you and cannot rely on healthy attachments and then other linkages get torn apart you end up doing all you can to surive and stay afloat and if the original deficits arent acknowledged and some attempt at rebuilding and repair made, healing and change is not possible. Some schisms and wounds stay with us for a long time and we replay them over and over until we develop in sight. It is now recognised that even later in life our brain can make new connections and set down new neural pathways if we can find positive affirming attachments to assist us. Some of us, many of us, however, do have to go into the wilderness alone and some of us find or manage to hold onto shards of our splintered being or hidden truth there. We can also explore what got torn severed, split off, buried and involve in recollecting. Each trauma memory maybe a necessary thread that goes on to be part of the tapestry.

Rilke expresses this beautifully in the following lines of this poem shared with me some years ago by a previous therapist Rae:

She who reconciles the ill matched threads

of her life, and weaves them gratefully

into a single cloth –

it is she who drives the loudmouths from the hall

and clears it for a different celebration

where the guest is you.

In the softness of evening

it’s you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,

the unspeaking center of her monologues.

With each disclosure you encompass more

and she stretches beyond what limits her

to hold you.

The stretching beyond what limits us requires us to move out of ‘safety’ in the face of what threatens us with misjudgement that is sadly often the obvious response of a world oblivious to the authentic roots of our trauma. This poem also speaks about the healing witness both inside and outside as well as how the true self waits for us to hold all of us, as we increasingly develop that capacity through telling and feeling the organic truth of our trauma trajectory..

A good therapist is invaluable and even as I type this I realise how many struggle without this which is where blogs or books or other tales of survivors in recovery can help us.. Just hearing another’s story, noticing the resonances, being able to say “Ahh .. that rings true for me too”, can help us, it certainly has helped me.

And on the healing pathway God also sends us angels at critical times.. I cannot tell you the number of times an angel of some kind has whispered in my ear or saved my bacon from a near miss or accident, it happened twice last week and it has happened in terms of me finding my way to the right literature, person, group or place AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME too many times now for me to doubt it.

The true self I do believe waits on us.. the most authentic part of us will not be forever foresaken without grave damage befalling us on some level. Jesus said it well in the Gnostic gospels.

If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

In this quote Jesus challenges the assumption that the Kingdom of Heaven lives in a far off place. These words also speak of it’s closeness to us if we undertake the path of individuation, and resurrection of the true self often attended my mockery and scorn from the unwise:

The Kingdom of God is within you and all around you.

I think a person who loves and respects his true self, must also respect the true self of others and naturally finds his way to the inner kingdom. He no longer exists in a state of inner division. That person will weep for the one who loses the way to it and will never be able to put on a false mask in the face of that.. This is not always easy.. To say to a brother or sister you see them suffering and falling short (even through no fault of their own) but it seems necessary to a vibrant authenticity.. And similarly we must be vigilant in taking out a sword to cut off from anyone who tries to deny us this truth the meaning behind the saying of Jesus that he came to bring a sword.. There is a time to be real and not be nice or ‘civilised’ if that means sugar coating an inner truth that our soul very much depends upon for its survival.

The intrinsic connection between grief and love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me how it is

Tell me how it is for you

And I will listen

I will extend towards you an open ear

And I will not disappear

From you

At this moment of your needing

For this is what we most desire

A place to express and feel free

And to know that

Even if our views differ

We have the strength to understand

And tolerate

Another point of view

A different way of understanding

Piercing : family curse

This piercing in my head

Hurts like hell

Especially when you speak of the togetherness

I am barred the way from

Is it my permanent curse

To be exiled

To not be able to find

A way to be welcomed in

Unless I break down the door

And yet something in me falters

Feeling I don’t belong here

While another part feels spun awry

By this feeling

Are we not family

Flesh of the same flesh

With blood ties only severed

By a death

No one ever speaks of

Lingering like a ghost

Upon the eve of Christmas

So I will sit all alone here

Remembering so much

While you drive

Not really knowing the way

Full of anxiety

It would be so easy to reach out a hand to me

But instead I will be here

Crying into my hands

Knowing the one who offered me love

Is now exiled too

Because all along

It was just too impossible

To break the family curse


An exercise in self compassion : Excerpt from The Reality Slap : How to Find Fulfilment When Life Hurts

Reality Slap.png

Find a comfortable position in which you are centred and alert.  For example, if you’re seated in a chair, you could lean slightly forwards, straighten your back, drop your shoulder and press your feet gently to the floor.

Now bring to mind a reality gap you are struggling with (things not being as you wish they would be.)  Take a few moments to reflect on the nature of the gap and how it is affecting you, and let your difficult thoughts and feelings arise.

  1.  Be Present

Pause.

That’s all you need to do: just pause.

Pause for a few seconds and notice what your mind is telling you. Notice its choice of words, and the speed and volume of its speech.

Be curious.  is this story old and familiar, or is it something new?  What time zones is your taking you into : the past, the present or the future?  What judgements is your mind making?  What labels is it using?

Don’t try and debate with your mind or try to silence it; you will only stir it up.

Simply notice the story it is telling you.

And notice with curiosity, all the different emotions that arise.  What did you discover? Guilt, sadness, anger, fear or embarrassment:  Resentment, despair, anguish, rage, or anxiety?

Name these emotions as they arise:  “Here is anxiety.”   “Hello grief!”

Pay attention like a curious child to what is going on inside your body.  Where are you feeling these emotions the most?  What are the size, shape and temperature of these feelings?  How many layers do they have?  How many different kinds of sensations can you find within them?

2. Open Up

Now slowly and deeply breathe into the pain.

Do so with an attitude of kindness.

Infuse this breath with caring and contribution:  see it as an act of comfort and support.

Imagine your breath flowing in and around your pain.

Imagine that in some magical way a vast space opens up inside of you, making plenty of room for all these feelings.

No matter how painful they are, do not fight them.

Offer peace to your feelings, instead of hostility.

Let them be as they are,  and give then plenty of space, rather than push them away.

And if you notice any resistance in your body – tightening, contraction or tension – breath into that too.  Make room for it.

Contribute peace and space to all that arises: your thoughts, your feelings and your resistance.

3.  Hold Kindly

Now chose one of your hands.

Imagine this is the hand of someone very kind and caring.

Place this hand slowly and gently on whichever part of your body hurts the most.

Perhaps you feel the pain more in your chest, or perhaps in your head, neck or stomach?  Whereever it is most intense, lay your hand there.  (And if you’ve gone numb, or you can’t locate any particular place, then simply rest your had on the centre of your chest.)

Let it rest there lightly and gently, either on your skin or your clothes.

Feel the warmth flowing from your palm to your body.

Imagine your body softening around the pain, loosening up, softening up and making space.

Hold this pain gently.  Hold it as if it is a crying baby, or a whimpering puppy, or a fragile work of art

Infuse this gentle action with caring and warmth as if you are reaching out to someone you care deeply about.

Let the kindness flow from your fingertips.

Now, use both of your hands.  Place one of them upon your chest and the other upon your stomach, and let them gently rest there.  Hold yourself kind, and gently, connecting with yourself, caring for yourself, and contributing comfort and support.

4.  Speak Kindly

Now say something caring to yourself to express kindness, support and affection.

You might silently say a word like ‘gentle’ or ‘kindness’ to remind yoruself of your intention.

You might say ‘This really hurts.’ or ‘This is hard.’

You might say  ‘I know this really hurts but you are not alone.  You can do this.’

If you have failed or made a mistake, then you might like to remind yourself  ‘Yes, I am human like everyone else on this planet, I fail and make mistakes.’

You might acknowledge that all this is part of being human, remind yourself kindly and gently, this is what human’s feel when they face pair or a reality gap  This pain tells you something very important.  That you are alive, that you care, that you have a heart, that there is a reality gap between what you want and what you have got.  And this is what humans feel under such circumstances.  It isnt pleasant.  It hurts and you dont want it.  And this is something you have in common with every other human on the planet.

Dr Russell Harris