A wonderful talk by spiritual teacher and therapist Tara Brach on how to move with the tide of change in a world both living and dying, while opening our heart to what is both precious and passing.
When love breaks through
Something so deep inside my soul just opens
The defences in me that held me safe
Give way as I fall into the most profound ocean
Of understanding and peace
There is a part of us that is the heart
And that part is the deepest source of us
It shows our soul the way to truth
And provides all the proof that our mind can
When you are kind enough
To extend your love to me
That is how I am freed
And when you withhold your love from me
I can never be
Completely at peace
Until I dig so deep
To find the longing for love
That underlies the pain
And answer that with kindness
The deepest source of healing and love
Have you ever been scapegoated by family members? Have you ever had the finger pointed at you telling you you are the problem? There is a saying I heard in the 12 step rooms many years back… “when you point the finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back the other way towards you” (yes folks try it right now and you will see it is true.)
Many many years ago led by his unconscious and dream images psychiatrist Carl Jung had a dream that showed a psychic inner structure that he came to call the shadow. This shadow he came to believe contained all the characteristics of us we are not on friendly terms with or that our family or culture was no on friendly terms with (ie. there is both a personal and collective shadow).
Some people have a lot of darker emotions hidden in the shadow, fear, sadness, rage or anger and some others of us have a lot of gold in the shadow and we may have been the ones others in family or culture tried to project darker things upon. There is also a concept in family therapy that talks of the concept of the ‘identified patient’. This is the family member who develops an addiction or breaks down in some way or has to have treatment. This is the family member that struggles in the family to be the whole of themselves and express truths or secrets others would prefer remain hidden (eg. emotional or sexual abuse). This is the family member that may be more likely to be led on the individuation pathway, a path of trying to uncover and rediscover the entirety of the soul in them that got loss or buried.
I am mentioning this today as lately I am seeing this process play out in my older sister’s (now deceased) family. And it is interesting that this is happening very close to the anniversary of her death. As I see it in the alcoholic or traumatised family there is a lot of pain but rather than every member carry their portion of the pain, each struggles in their own way and often they will target someone else in the family and tag or dump them with things. They may even exile the person just as in mythology the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness with the so called ‘sins’ (or wounds) of the collective heaped upon its back.
Alcoholics are most usually likely to be the ‘family scapegoat’. They may struggle with emotions that were not permitted a place in the family and come to think of it in a feeling wounded culture there are feelings such as anger and sadness which are harder to express and which people are more rigidly defended against. These emotions are often not allowed expression and so they get dumped into a kind of collective psychic waste bin that is then passed on from generation to generation. Pain then accumulates and one person gives expression to it most overtly.
People who struggle with shadow projection may find it hard to ‘get their lives together’ in a culture that venerates this. That is not to say that there are no healthy ways to get our lives on track but mostly they should involve us being able to be real and struggle, to fall down sometimes, to make mistakes, to need help and support and just possibly not do as well on financially or externally on some level as others. Does that necessarily mean such people are actually failures? Does this actually mean such people are not worthy of help? Does this actually mean that such people have less value?
Today in therapy Kat and I were discussing how and why this process of scapegoating and shame dumping in family has been affecting me so bodily over the past few days. I got to therapy today in a lot of physically based emotional pain. I pretty much started crying as soon as I got in the car and the cascade of trauma flashbacks then began taking me back to a trauma (which come to think of it now took place around this same time of year in 1990) when I had to spend hours in casualty after driving myself with severe abdominal pain in the middle of the night. Turned out I was pregnant at the time and that the sac containing the tiny embryo had ruptured. I ended up having to have a termination of pregnancy (my fourth) and it coincided with having to leave the group house I was living in and with my them boyfriend lying to his family and pretending I had had an operation for kidney stones.
After the termination he broke things off with me and I got drunk and ended up at his parent’s place crying and yelling, of course they thought I was demented and out of control and they never found out the truth as he broke things off with me again fairly rapidly (after a brief reunion) and in the aftermath the next 2 years saw some of the lowest points of my addiction spanning the years to December 1993 when I finally got sober.
Well today in the car I was back here in St Vincent’s casualty lying alone for hours and hours as they ran tests. I think too this trauma was triggered over the weekend because calls were not returned by family, Scott was AWOL and my nephew then rang telling me I needed not to give help to my other nephew who is struggling financially in the aftermath of his relationship ending. Being left all alone and waiting and missing a therapy appointment which was delayed due to Easter Monday meant that issue of having to wait all alone was retriggered for me and then the shadow projection onto my lovely nephew triggered how I was treated over the next year by a so called ‘friend’ who kept confronting me about my addiction which was nothing less than self medication in the face of ongoing trauma spanning the years 1979 to 1992.
The truth is addicts often say their addiction saved their life. We use the self medication until it no longer keeps working for us. Recovery then involves a huge and long drawn our journey of unpeeling or unravelling down to the true causes of which addiction was only obscuring or a symptom of.
For me the original trauma is about attachment traumas, wounds and emotional neglect vacancies or ‘black holes”. I now know this without a doubt. After years and years of blaming myself (as most emotional neglect survivors do) today in therapy I finally wept for my true self who so often gets beaten up by a self compassion lacking inner critic who is echoed by the outer critic lately being turned on my nephew. Only another addict in recovery may fully understand that fact unless the person had been trained in empathic attunement. Attachment traumas and wounds so often become gravitational force fields for others, in the well known process of so called ‘repetition compulsion’ what we fail to call up to consciousness will repeat until it is addressed or felt and this must happen IN THE BODY. THE CELLS CONTAIN EVERYTHING.. THE MIND CAN BE USED TO MAKE SENSE OF IT WHEN ATTUNED TO THE BODY. JUDGEMENTS WILL NOT SHOW US THE UNDERLYING PSYCHIC REALITY WHICH MUST BE FACED IN TIME AND DEEPLY FELT IN ORDER TO BE RELEASED AND MADE SENSE OF (BROUGHT OUT OF DISSOCIATION INTO ASSOCIATION OR RE-MEMBERING!)
Scapegoating the sufferer is cruel. It is lacking in both insight and empathy. It concentrates on the ugliness of the symptoms while NOT FULLY SEEING OR UNDERSTANDING THE FEELINGS OF PAIN DISTRESS AND UNWORTHINESS WHICH UNDERLIE IT. Scapegoating serves no other purpose but to bolster up the defended ego and keep in place the ignorance of the Scapegoatees. In traumatised and addicted families or families with multi-generational trauma everyone struggles, but the one who struggles a little more with hidden emotions needs support and encouragement. They need to be brought back out of the cold place of exile and embraced in their full humanity but sadly this will be almost impossible unless the Scapegoatees also face what they are blocking, projecting or defending against or finding it hard to open up to or face. Blaming and targeting others in such a way never really ends well and it blocks connected healing and embracing of the actual trauma that sorely needs recognition.
I have been reading my way back through Pete Walker’s book on Complext PTSD over the past day and finding it really mirrors and reflects my own experience. He talks a lot about abandonment depression which is a legacy of not being ‘met’ emotionally by our parents or caregivers. This leaves a wound within us, we do not get to grow a healthy ego as a director of our feelings and helping us to manage them in response to others and negotiate for our own real needs and feeling in life which are bodily and soul based. We live with those wounds inside and they can rise up.
Walker talks a lot in his book about the 4F reactions to early trauma and I have addressed this in other posts a few years ago (see below) When we get into recovery these are present as anxiety and fear and they drive our reactions and contribute to our state of depression, especially if we have not been able to get angry or grieve for the loss of our true self in childhood. Therefore on the way out of healing from emotional or physical betrayal or abandonment we have to feel what we could not feel as a child, which is painful and something Presence Process advocate Michael Brown addresses at length in his book of the same name. But we also have defences which rise up as the four (4) F responses.
According to Walker four responses to trauma are fight, flight, freeze or fawn. You can read about them in more detail in his book which I highly recommend. He also outlines there the cycle of reactivity which involves bodily sensations, inner critic attacks, attempts at running over or away and or attacking others or deflecting and defending (which may be a healthy protest response to invalidation or further emotional abuse).
There is a very enlightening section in Walkers book which talks of a client Mario who arrives at a session with Walker in a heightened state of reactivity. Simmering below the surface of all of Mario’s reactions are the feelings of grief and shame that fuel this feelings and drive his inner critical attacks. All of us who suffer from childhood trauma carry some level of this grief, fear and shame. We continue to shame ourselves as our parents did and this causes us to feel depressed and we get lost all the time in self reinforcing loops of trauma and criticism, fear, flight, fight, fawn or freeze recycing. Until we can fight our way out of the shame not by attacking or defending but by sitting with the very real buried feelings and processing them in order to release them then we do not get far with breaking out of the reactivity cycle.
Dissociation as many of us know is a huge part of childhood trauma. In order to survive we often had to go off somewhere, we became fearful of our bodies which contained the uncomfortable cocktail of emotions buried inside that parents left us with or dumped into us when they offered us no help with managing our feelings. As Walker points out, many of our parents would not let us use our anger and tears to liberate us from the traumatic experiences or protest unfair or abusive treatment. In recovery the internalised critic will often shame or fill us with fear for getting angry or crying. But what is most needed for recovery is to contain and feel in our bodies the feelings of anger and sadness and associated shame. This is why I believe that medicating feelings and resorting to the belief that depression is a result of biochemical imbalance is not very helpful when it comes down to healing childhood trauma.
John Bradshaw often writes that grieving is the healing feeling. Depression can often be a refused call to grief for what we lost the way to. Depression is not just a pathological condition and Walker argues eloquently that it needs to be understood as essential to experience along the path of healing our traumatised inner child and getting into the present with what WE TRUELY FELT AND NEED TO FEEL IN ORDER TO HEAL AND BECOME REAL.
Depression can be healed with mindfulness, rather than reactivity. What is needed to sit in presence with our hurt from the past when it is triggered into awareness in the present making associations back. This can initially be done in therapy with a therapist who can provide us with holding and containment to release our feelings and deal with and challenge inappropriate shame. However ideally it is something adult survivors learn to do with themselves now. We give our hurting child the love needed to heal, we don’t dump it on others, we take responsibility for our pain even though we did not cause it and often did nothing to provoke it.
Deep level recovery from childhood trauma requires a normalising of depression, a renunciation of the habit of reflexively reacting to it. Central to this is the development of a self compassionate mindfulness…. the practice of staying in (our) body.. the practice of staying fully present to all of your internal experience. (as well as) noticing he psyche’s powerful penchant to distract from these uncomfortable sensations.. over time the survivor will need to rescue himself from dissociation and gently bring back his awareness into fully feeling the sensations of his fear. Although sensations of fear sometimes feel unbearable at first, persistent focusing with non reactive attention dissolves and resolves them as if awareness itself is digesting and integrating them.
I am getting more insight into when my inner child with her host of unresolved hopes and fears and pain is running the show lately. My abandonment wound has been triggered a lot in the past few days and it was easier to give away my power or alternatively become the ‘bad’ one again who is ‘withholding’ than to recognise that due to discomfort I am scrambling again for attention and love when contact is cut due to someone being upset with me because I am justifiably struggling with something.
I just know when I act from my inner adult I feel a greater sense of strength and solidity within myself and that requires recognising the far younger more vulnerable part that lies hidden or covered by defences. It can be painful when abandonment anxiety and depression strike as both create in my body and psyche so often a potent chemical cocktail that at times pushes me to the brink of available resources to contain.
Pete Walker addresses the issue of the ‘abandonment depression’ a lot in his own work and book on Complex PTSD. Much as all as it can feel hard to be left ‘all alone’, I have heard it said that in adulthood we cannot be abandoned by someone, only left. That said I do think there are times our emotions need to be empathised with and understood by friends, family and partners otherwise if we are judged for certain things and not empathised with, on one level we are abandoned on an emotional level.
It’s an issue Alain de Botton addresses in his wonderful book The Course of Love which tells the story of a mythical couple Rabih and Kirsten in which he delves into the host of insecurities and psychological defences that can plague a couple’s intimate relationships as it develops over a course of years. In the book the tale of the relationship iw told in normal type face is interspersed with sections in italics in which de Botton highlights the underground issues affecting the couple. I particularly enjoyed the following paragraphs.
We would ideally remain able to laugh, in the gentlest way, when we are made the special target of a sulker’s fury. We would recognise the touching paradox. The sulker may be six foot one and holding down adult employment, but the real message is poignantly retrogressive : ‘Deep inside, I remain an infant, and right now I need you to be my parent. I need you to correctly guess what is ailing me, as people did (or rather failed to do) when I was a baby, when my ideas of love first formed.
We do our sulking lovers the greatest possible favour when we are able to regard their tantrums as we would those of an infant. We are so alive to the idea that it’s patronising to be thought of as younger than we are, we forget that it is also, at times, the greatest privilege for someone to look beyond our adult self in order to engage with – and forgive – the disappointed, furious, inarticulate child within.
In a more evolved world, one a little more alive to the Greek ideal of love, we would perhaps know how to be a bit less clumsy, scared and aggressive when wanting to point something out, and rather less combative and sensitive when receiving feedback. The concept of education within a relationship would then lose some of its unnecessarily eerie and negative connotations. We would accept that in responsible hands, both projects, teaching and being taught (in love), calling attention to another’s faults and letting ourselves be critiqued – might after all be loyal to the true purpose of love.
There is something about love and vulnerability and hidden need that can cause us to age regress and be taken back to that painful time we stood all alone longing for the attention and love that was not available due to the absence, withdrawal or inattention of others, so much needed for us to feel hold, loved, contained and seen. Learning to hold ourselves in this state takes some considerable time for those of us with anxious and/or avoidant attachment issues. Its a work in progress being honest with ourselves, learning to extend ourselves in empathy into another hidden world and letting the unhealed child that so longs for attention or consideration been seen, held, accepted, nurtured and loved.
I just dropped Jasper off at the groomers and I took the way home that leads past where my family and I lived when all the tragedy began to befall us between 1979 and 1985 : the year when my father died. As usual when I drive along this long street we moved to when I was about 7 I start to feel a blackness and darkness all around me. I named my blog Emerging From the Dark Night because I guess I began to realise around 2001 about 8 years into my sobriety I had been living out that dark past unconsciously. Now that I have done the years of therapy and grieving, the long work of coming to terms with things and seeing how it was for the young me I feel a kind of distance from it. It is no longer affecting me as unconsciously.
I’ve made a friend over the past year who Jasper and I met first at the dog park then later on we both ended up walking our dogs in a big oval not far from where I live. My friend was in the middle of a thesis when we first met which she has now completed, and its only really in the past few months she has been opening up to me about her own childhood which was a lot like mine. She also became a family caretaker as her own needs were not met and she said she really struggles with the inner Persecutor too. We have a lot in common and its good to be able to share honestly with someone who understands how it is to come out of such a stoic emotionally repressive family where issues of perfectionism and emotional overcontrol were writ large.
I know we never totally escape the influences of our past but I do believe once we become aware of the darkness we can begin to live in the light but that means making new choices that are healthier for us and more conscious than the past ones and it does take some time.
I was also thinking today after listening to a radio interview on misfits how lonely it can be if we feel on the outside of society, peers or family. The point made on the programme was how misfits are able to see things in society that others do not see, due to the distance from involvements and their own, at times painful path, they see below the surface of things. It was an interesting interview too as the writer interviewed Mandy Sayer was speaking of how as a writer she cannot live with her husband who is a playright. They both live separately and get together in the evenings as both need the days for work. It struck me as a really good arrangement because one of the things I fear most about a relationship is being swallowed up and having no time to imagine, reflect, create and dream and so for those of us who are creative or introverted in this way it is important to find the right kind of relationship balance for us.
It felt a little strange to come back to my home just a short while ago. I felt that the trip I took down memory lane a moment ago has shown me how long it took me to be able to feel I could move back to my home town, just over 7 years ago and how important it has been for me to be here for these years. I got to have those final years with my older sister and my Mum and I feel fully reconciled to the way things were now. It is very sad because I see how much my older sister suffered and was trapped. I was thinking last night of how often she was denied things she wanted. The story line was that due to her ‘mania’ she was an who needed to be reined in. I do not think it was really true at all I just think Jude has such creative life energy and somehow she came undone before she could fully manifest it in the world and as a woman born into a patriarchal world in the 1940s she really struggled. She was so artistic and she didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. She always forgave her husband for abandoning her following her cerebral bleed in 1980 but sadly she was over medicated for most of her life and I am sure at times in the care home she lived, sometimes she was abused and her things got stolen.
I had a long chat with my other sis yesterday. I am glad now that a lot of the childish resentment I had towards her is healing. I am see her also as a product of her time, born in the 1950s she had her own struggle to try and find her way and sadly she married perhaps a little too young to someone who carried shadow qualities often denied in our stoic household, were ‘doing the right thing’, keeping up appearances and struggling to become upwardly mobile materially eclipsed to a large degree more underground energies and emotions. When he left her he was considered the bad guy and it is true he didn’t really treat her as well as he should have due to his own complex background as a adult child of an alcoholic but of course he married into our family which had its own history of addiction hidden in my Mum’s past.
It has been a battle for me to become separate, psychologically as the youngest in a far older family. There was 17 years between my older brother and I, 16 between Jude and I and 8 between Sue and I. With these large age gaps it was harder to relate and I often felt like an only child born to at that time (in the 1960s) far older parents whose focus was really not on raising a young daughter but more on the external focus. In my discussion with my friend yesterday she was talking of the mixed feelings she has around forgiveness with her own parents. On one hand she says she has empathy for them and knows they acted the way they did and treated her the way that did due to their background and past. At the same time she said she struggles a lot with issues of anger too. I could really relate to that.
I told her that my perspective is that in regards to the Inner Child we are still moving out of the medieval dark ages emotionally speaking. We are also trying to break apart patriarchal values which keep both men and woman as well as boys and girls trapped in limiting roles. I was listening to a programme on this today. I do feel for men at the moment as their behaviour towards woman is generating a lot of justified anger but I wonder too at the level of compassion that is really shown towards men who are also in many ways just victims of a repressive heroic dominance archetype of the supremacy of masculine (as opposed to male) power. Women and men both suffer in this climate and I hate to see men being blamed without a deeper insight being given into the causes that generate problematic behaviour towards women. In truth at a psychic level it is the inner feminine in both men and woman that suffered coming out of the patriarchal dark age. Men don’t need to be emasculated and boys need help to come to terms with softer emotions and vulnerabilities. My own family was dominated by excessive masculine values. Mum always worked and was never emotionally present. Feelings were not understood nor addressed. And then my Dad over worked and abused his own body with smoking, one of the reasons I do believe my older sister had her stroke was that she smoke and drank too much while overworking and taking birth control. It was a recipe for disaster really.
Anyway today I am sad for all of the past, but I am also grateful that in 1993 I finally bit the bullet and found sobriety. Along the pathway of recovery I have had to give up many things, jobs, relationships, houses and friendships. Lots had to go into the fire, but a lot has been transforming too. I feel many times like a witness who stood on the outside of a family watching at a critical time of soul evolution for us all. I feel blessed for all of the gifts given and I wont say I enjoyed all of the sadness and pain. At times I have felt like the weight of it would break me in two. But in the end I guess it was only my unhealthy ego defences that have dissolved or shattered along the way. My mistaken reactions of resistance and resentment had to go into the fire too so that I could understand the heart of innocence that underlay everything and feel the love and peace and happiness my parents and ancestors missed out on in their awesome and overpowering struggle for survival.
Let us be
A voice of love
What good will it do
To add to the number of angry unhappy voices
Crying in the wilderness
Bemoaning the fate of a past we could never control
What will it profit us
To hold on too long
To the feelings of hatred or upset or anger
That may just be natural responses to pain and suffering
But sooner or later become if sustained
Only tools of rationalisation and defence
Surely if we dare to look deeper
There is something far more expansive going on
Than a contractive view could ever guess
Causing the knots of pain
Only to twist
Tighter inside our bodies
Seeking release from shame
Truly I believe that when we answer with love
When we contain with love
When we bear all injuries with love
Our souls participate within
The awakening of a healing
That arises from deep within pain
Revealing a purpose of forward evolution we should never distain
Opening for us
A doorway into freedom
Don’t believe me
When I say I don’t need you
When I say it is safer to live here
Within my perfectly circumscribed orbit
Behind barriers of fear
That I disguise with illusions
Of how I am just too sensitive to pain
And feel everything
Maybe at times
Its nothing more
Than a kind of dark narcissism
For is it really true
That malevolent forces out there
Are out to destroy me
Or is it all about the degree of love we have
To bring to any situation
Most surely we don’t have to be naïve
For there are those
Who may still chose to hurt us so
But if we can only find the will
And self belief
To not taking it personally
We will find so much more relief
From all of those demons in our head
That tell us it is not safe to shed
Our protective overcoat
For the force of love we feel from within
Is surely strong enough to over come
Most of everything
If we only have the strength to believe
In a present that is brighter
Than all of our darkest
Most fearful yesterdays
I don’t know when it was that I started to turn away from needing. But I know it happened especially in late adolescence when I could not seem to be seen or heard. I was listening to a programme on radio this morning I which survivors of childhood institutional abuse were speaking as today in Australia our Prime Minister is making a public apology to all such people affected. The man speaking broke down crying when asked what it had meant to hear just such a public apology from the British Prime Minister, the man in question’s tears where because he had been heard, believed and recognised. His soul suffering had been affirmed.
In no way have I suffered that kind of abuse. I did have a roof over my head, my parents never gave me away, neither was I taken from them, but I struggled to be seen and heard a lot. I was asking Kat today in therapy if a child who throws tantrums is a ‘bad’ child since a few years back my sister told me I should have been ashamed at how selfish I was as a child for ‘always throwing tantrums’. I had tears in my eyes as I asked this. Kat just smiled and told me it was about frustrated needs my parents could neither hear nor validate, and quoted a thing she always says to me. “Anger is the final cry of the True Self.”
Today we were exploring in therapy how I sometimes wont allow others to need me too much and I most certainly won’t allow myself to need anyone else too much, due to the fact in the past such needs were so regularly disappointed that is was challenging and very risky for me to ever hope to have needs met again.
Sometimes also I don’t recognise my own needs either, such as resting when tired, having a break from something tough, trying harder and harder and harder when it would be easier to let go and better for me. I am not alone as most addicts or those of us in recovery who suffered abuse or neglect also suffer in this way. In early sobriety I was always told to beware of the HALT’s not to get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
I also think along the way I developed a fighting and defensive persona. I have a great fear of being controlled but at the same time it would be better for me to surrender and co-operate at times rather than just bloody mindedly push on all alone and make others feel they have to do the same. Its a side of myself I am seeing more and more lately.
Anyway its not easy taking all of this need on board but with Venus squaring my natal Moon Saturn Mars its timely. I am trying to keep my heart open lately rather than have knee jerk reactions or go behind defences yet again. It is a risk to be vulnerable, to show that I am not bullet proof and that I need others. I see where at times barrelling through and not risking depending has been damaging and wrong and to see this means I feel the pain so I shed a lot of tears in therapy today. However I am glad to see all of this. Its a timely wake up call. Today I have taken yet another risk with being vulnerable and its not easy but I just trust whatever happens will happen. The fact that I took the risk is good, the outcome is not really all that important in the long run. For as the Bahagavad Gita says “you have only control over your actions, not the fruit of your actions.” Risking saying I do need and wish to depend is a big one for me, I may be disappointed in the end, but at least I have opened my heart and soul to try again.
Being held hostage by an inner persectuor-protector figure in our inner world is common for those of us who were highly sensitive and suffered significant childhood trauma or insecure, anxious or broken attachments. It is an issue dealt with comprehensively by Elaine Aron in her book The Undervalued Self. In chapter six of the book she outlines what this inner complex is and why it exists drawing on the work of psychological analyst Donald Kalsched. (See my previous post :
The Persecutor-Protector needs to be understood and worked with by those of us who want to stop isolating in fantasy totally (not that we won’t still want to introvert which is important for the creative amongst us and for touching base with our inner world and life) and convincing ourselves we are not skilled or gifted enough to have a valuable contribution to make to the world.
I will open this post with a quote taken from Elaine’s book.
A protector-persecutor that arises from insecure attachment is often the harshest. In these cases the protector may replace the missing maternal or paternal presence with an addiction, whether to smoking, alcohol, work, or something else. Or it may create a vision of perfect love the child never received. It encourages the unbearable craving and yearning while undermining or belittling things in the world that may actually satisfy some of the craving. It says they are not enough, or not real, just lies or illusions, or will not work out in the long run.
Since attachment trauma often involves an unbearable separation, such as divorce or the death of a parent, the protector-persecutor very often rules out love because it brings the risk of loss, which, it supposes, you cannot bear, as you could not when it happened before. Until you work out your own answer to these scenarios, it’s impossible to convince the persecutor-protector that you can live with the pain of separations and loss, that you can tolerate in future what you could not in the past…..
(however) the good news is that as you struggle to accept the fact that all relationships eventually end, you may become far more prepared for loss than those who are secure because they had good childhoods.
When the persecutor-protector keeps you from being intimate with someone you love, do not give up. Freeing yourself to love is perhaps one of the greatest challenges a person with a troubled past can face, and even a partial victory must be acknowledged for the triumph that it is. Further, the undervalued self simply cannot be healed without finding some freedom to love. It is linking and love that take you out of ranking and undervaluing.
The protector-persecutor either as a unit or in one of its two forms, tries to break down every link you make, both outer links with friends and inner links that would end the dissociation it wishes to maintain. However, you can see why your attempts to dialogue with the innocent (inner child) might lead to mysterious resistance.
Emotions, memories, current thoughts and behaviours, and bodily states related to a trauma can all be dissociated. Memories may be repressed, literally unlinked from consciousness. Or your emotions may not be linked to current memories or events. You may feel numb, lacking all emotion, or all too conscious of emotions that seem to arise for no reason. Your body may be unlinked from memories, so you remember the events of the trauma but have no idea what happened to your body during it. Your body will still be dissociated from your thoughts, with the result that you are hardly aware of its needs. Or the body does not link with your actions, and you feel unreal or detached as you go through the day….you do things that make no sense or are self destructive but your behaviour is not linked to its real causes. You may have stress related illnesses because memories, feelings, or thoughts are pushed down in the mind then arise in the body. Or you may have recurring nightmares that seem unrelated to anything going on in your life.
As for outer links the persecutor-protector makes every linking situation seem to be about ranking, usually with you as the inferior, although it can also make you feel superior – “he’s not good enough for me” – if that will keep you out of a real, close, lasting relationship. The persecutor-protector might allow you to link in a limited way with someone who likes you by creating a false self that adapts to the world, but you know you are not really connected or authentic.
Using examples from her real practice Aron shows how clients dreams often contain persecutor figures and details the means it uses to break links, just as the witch in the fairytale of Rapunzel tries to disconnect the prince from ever reaching Rapunzel in her tower by cutting off her long hair. This occurs due the prevalence of earlier losses that were never fully integrated into conscious awareness and the fear of not being able to survive the feelings should it ever happen again.
We can work to become more aware of how the complex operates in our own lives. Some of these are listed below and appear in Aron’s book and they correspond to some of the tactics avoidants or insecure people use to maintain distance or sabotage relationships with others:
- When we are supercritical of the other, especially after times of connection.
- When we over idealise to the degree that minor failures are blown out of proportion.
- When we mistrust or don’t bother to get a reality check or talk things over
- When you feel crushed if someone doesn’t want to be with you all the time.
- When you look down on others for wanting to be with you more than you want to be with them.
- When you decide “it’s all over” as soon as there is the slightest conflict.
- When you are obsessed with concerns one of you is needy, dependent, or weak.
- When you cannot stop thinking about the other leaving or betraying you or dying.
- When you cannot see any flaw at all in the others, as if he or she is a god.
In addition Aron outlines some of the unconscious rules the persecutor-protector can use to keep us safe.
- No intimacy. Never open up about personal issues, ignore or belittle the disclosures of others, be flippant or rude, leave if someone wants to be closer
- No arguing. Always be nice, end relationships as soon as there is a whiff of conflict or if the other is angry, walk out on arguments (rather than asking for time out)
- No growth. Turn down opportunities or invitations to do anything new, do not aspire, act stupid so no one will think of you when an opportunity arises.
- No dating or marriage. Postpone, be unattractive, stick to crushes or fantasies, say with someone who isn’t good for you, have affairs with unavailable people, be forever young or flirty when it’s not necessary.
- No strong feelings. Stay in control at all times, don’t cry, get angry, be terminally cool.
- No sex or enjoyment of it. Avoid, be mechanical, split off, get numb with substances before hand, remove all emotion from sex.
- No believing someone who say he or she cares about you. Bat off compliments and expressions of caring and affection. Don’t believe they are genuine.
- No asking for help. Be ruthlessly self sufficient, be suspicious, never complain, withdraw.
- No honesty. Just say what you think others want to hear. Be careful with what you express especially when asked to be yourself.
- No hope. Don`t expect help, joy or good things. Do not place faith in anyone.
- No standing up for yourself. Just let others say or do whatever they want, don’t cause trouble, don’t expect justice, respect or fairness.
- No trusting. Don’t be fooled; they don’t really care about you (a favourite thing the protector will say to you inwardly.)
As you can see its a pretty harsh joyless confined existence living with a strong persecutor protector complex inside of us, but we can work to understand these rules and challenge the p-p on them when it tries to use them to keep ourselves and others in line.
Your goal is to convince the p-p that breaking its rules and taking risks is working out for you and that you want more freedom…
Listen to its disagreements because ignoring it wont work according to Aron… the p-p needs to be heard but challenged to give up the limiting rules and restrictions it uses to keep you trapped.