Don’t keep me down

When i look back to the abuse and nasty things said to me in my last relationship I see how much I was also low in self esteem inside myself.. I have been working so hard on building up my sense of self in these past years.. It has taken a lot of work and grief and anger and lots of other feelings and to be honest a good therapist.. Also sharing here and trying to be as real as I can about my past and foibles, fears and insecurities..

These days I am being much more loving to myself and I am able to face criticism but also to know when it comes out of a not very fair place.. I do not need to shame myself for anything for I am a human and as a human there is stuff I cannot do and do not know, but there are things I do too.. In short, these days I try not to be super human nor to feel that I would be okay if only I had not endured a lot of the trauma I have, it is just that sometimes I do worry that my emotional neglect trauma has made much it harder for me to be and stay connected.

Listening to a lot of Louise Hay is really helping me lately.. Louise helps me to realise that I can leave my trauma in the past, that I do not have to allow it to define me, at the same time I will never be another Deborah who grew up with things I would have loved to have.. a mother who was present and engaged, a father who wanted to know about my day when he came home, a sister who was not hateful and hard at times when I really needed softness.. these are things I cannot change and the lack of emotional availability has left scars and made it hard to trust at times in a brighter tomorrow but still I know there is a chance if I take the actions to bring good things into my life and take the chance to stop doing things that may hurt me or be counter productive instead of sit around complaining about things…life can always improve.. just as long as I do not self sabotage.

This morning i let myself lay in bed for an extra hour and a half.. Its not something I usually do but today we had rain and I had a few rocky nights so I just let myself sink back into sleep again.. but when I woke in the darkness I must confess I did feel the shadows of those lonely years at that empty holiday house at the coast I retreated to in 2002 and 2004.. I saw how I pulled back but also how I was seeking the way home to my lost self.. to the littler girl who did not really know how to live with self confidence.. I see it all far more clearly now all of these years onward and I also see how I could be at risk of repeating old patterns if I do not champion myself and trust those who do reach out and want to be with me…

Sometimes I wonder if I am doomed to go through life without a loving partner.. God knows so many do it and they find the way to a full life of love in other ways, through ministry, friendship or career… but still deep down there is a part of me that longs for my own little family.. while another voice of doubt always seems to whisper “maybe it isn’t meant for me”.. Maybe I am pushing away an opportunity now due to past doubt and fear. I am not entirely sure.. All I know is that I will keep trying every day to grow in self esteem and love.. and to reach out to connect, even if so often there seems to be a voice so deep down inside that tells me not to trust and that I am ‘doomed’to always be alone.

Feeling my true feelings : not easy!

Sometimes it seems to me that feeling my true feelings is impossible without my mind arguing back. There is the running critical commentary in my mind that argues with me about the way I am feeling and telling me I ‘ought to feel another way or uses some kind of philosophy.. This is not always bad as expressing our true feelings with some people may get us in a lot of hot water.. We may be judged. Then it is always a surprise to me when my repressed feelings just burst out sideways like they tend to do every second Wednesday when my gardener David comes..

David gets very focused on the garden, he was a bit mean and abrupt with me last year and I nearly told him not to come back, instead he reduced me to tears as I pleaded with him for help…he took mercy on me then but today he nearly tore my jumper when he was trying to take a branch off me I had pruned and I just said to him “please can you be more gentle with me?” On reflection I do think David’s visit triggers my painful feeling around masculine Mars energy and about my Dad too.. The struggle I seem to have with my living sister who can also be short, sharp tongued and abrupt seems to correlate with her Mars in Sagittarius at 4 degrees and squaring my natal Chiron at 4 Pisces in the 7th house of relationships. However in her chart Mars also squares her own Sun and Venus conjunction in Pisces and often I see her softer feeling side buried.. Mum had Mars in Pisces at 4 degrees.. Dad was often wounding her with his disconnection when she got highly emotional or triggered.

I woke today all twisted around anyway.. I have been listening to videos going to sleep from Louise Hay but I wake up and the phone is on fire next to my body, I know we are told not to sleep with our phones but I love the soothing of Louise’s voice and her focus on loving ourselves and this one I listen too involves also taking the inner children of both parents into our own heart.. for so often our parents inner kids caused us problems growing up…

It also occurred to me in the middle of the night that my brother’s oldest son lost his Grandad (my Dad) at the exact same age that my Dad lost his father.. 12 years of age.. That was also the age his Mum was when her mother died.. and that death marked her for a long long time. I had taken a family friend out yesterday who worked for my father and brother for a long time and when I mentioned wanting to try to improve this distant relationship she just said to me “Deb, be careful, Anthony is very controlling and narcissistic and anything you say will find it back to your brother” Its so tough to fear I will be judged, but his perfectionism/control issue is something I saw one time when we visited my nephew’s place and he talked down to his wife in a bossy way. In a strange stroke of synchronicity when I came back to my home town this house I ended up buying was the one his wife grew up in and at a recent family event my niece in law’s mother asked me if they could come and see it… I have not been prepared to do that before now as I did not feel safe or secure enough but I long to do it as I just love connecting.

I am realising that I have had so much to grieve today as I shed all of those tears trying to cut through a tree branch without a lot of success. I thought of the terminations of pregnancy particularly.. How sad that was.. to never be able to bring a child to term and how hard it was for my husband.. I was not ready… but sometimes it feels I am just cursed to so much aloneness. The battle is going on with Scott too.. I have few doubts he is not genuine now but this money issue is hanging over my head.. Money is a horrible issue because I have not lacked for money but I have lacked for attention, togetherness and most of all TIME.. Scott only has brief windows of contact due to his heavy schedule with training and patrol. We have two hour or hour and a half windows 5 days a week but lately with the morning’s closing in and due to the fact sometimes I am awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night I am not often awake to talk.. I pushed myself today then got the shits he had to go.. I am never like this usually but I got really really angry about it and later was shouting at people in traffic blocking my way and going at a snail’s pace. WHY DOES EVERYONE ELSE’S SCHEDULE DOMINATE MINE.. WHY IS MY TIMETABLE SO FUCKING UNIMPORTANT.. Could be another wounded ego issue? Or a valid anger.. just not sure at all????

I know enough by now to know that when I react like this its about me not anything happening around me.. I just went down by the lake then and sat under a tree and prayed.. the cursing coming out of me was pretty darn intense and dark…

Buried feelings of grief so often masquerade underneath anger.. That is something I am learning more and more lately… with my Saturn Mars I feel blocked and put upon by the Universe but such an attitude isn’t a good one for me to feel happy and free.. So I try to keep always examining my motives and where my blocked or heavy feelings may be causing current problems or outbursts with the life and people around me.

reflections on love, distance and attachment problems in my life and family

I lay in bed and cried with love thinking about my sister last night and how hard she has struggled with her mental health. It was good to let those feelings go and flow through, opening up to the love (that is ful of grief) and not be stuck in petty blaming of past stuff that went down between us.. It has taken me some time to see how everyone is injured in traumatised or neglectful families and how then, we so often turn it around and blame each other.

The truth is in the past I felt scared of my sister.. At times she could be abrupt, but it was abrupt with caring at times I think she also struggled a lot with emotional repression being a sensitive person.. Recently it is not lost on me how caring my sister actually is and all the times she tried so hard to be a loving sister.. I just could not see it so clearly before. When she got sick she was often nasty but I guess that was just the dis-ease within her talking. I see that more clearly now too.

I think because of the way I ran away after my Dad died on the back of such trauma there was a lot I could not see or understand from a more mature perspective, these days I see my parents as people who tried their best with SO GODDAM MUCH ON THEIR PLATES. I also understand the fear that might had driven my Dad escaping Holland narrowly before it’s German occupation… I always wondered why he never kept connection with his siblings and why I had such an outpouring of emotion when I finally deeply connected with my Aunty Lies (his third sister) in 2000. Now I see SO MUCH OF MYSELF IN HER and understand how attachment patterns carry along generations. I just feel sad I could not go to her after my head injury in 2005 as she really wanted me there with her. It was too much for me at that stage, but in later years I have connected with her oldest grandson.

My heart opens in compassion a lot more lately, even for my brother who maintains distance and is palming off this struggle with my sister’s and my inheritance.. I wonder why he doesn’t fully let himself enjoy the money he has worked so hard for and won’t allow it to be released to my sister and I so we can make good use of it (including helping family to make their live easier because there is more than enough to help everyone who needs it in such challenging times a little bit.) But then I think as someone born in 1944 he is victim of the cult of individualism and the each man for himself in a man made universe mythology he suffered.. He also lived through the early years when Mum and Dad returned to Australia in the early 50s from the (then) Dutch East Indies and had no money at all. During that time Dad could not get his engineering qualifications recognised and had to take up a desk job.

If my brother is a member of the ‘just put it all behind you’ club, maybe it is because when Dad died he was with a partner so rigidly defended against her earlier losses she could not be with him and even told him to push my Mum away with the backhander “She needs to stand on her own two feet”. I wonder at his own carried grief over Dad and I remember the tears he shed at both my older sister and Mum’s funerals.

That said as the oldest boy he got more of the help than my older sister Judith and I did and far more attachment connection with Dad and he stays very close to his own family on a practical level in a way my two other sisters’ could not when various traumas shattered and splintered our family. By the time I was struggling to develop as an adult I had already nearly died, seen my sister cut down and then endured the death of my father and then I was pushed overseas with not support, so my pattern is to go it alone and not reach out for support. To turn away in avoidant/anxious/insecure attachment.

I was saying to Scott the other day that as soon as he can get my money back to me I want to start some form of study.. I really want to help others more actively with mental health and he diploma that appeals to me is one that through TAFE helps me to work with young people in crisis. I cannot pay for the course until the powers that be release money I am rightfully owed..I don’t want to feel guilt over the money owed to me from Mum that she and Dad worked so hard for. The sad thing is they never go to enjoy it before Dad died as he worked so hard and then pushed too hard on the back of escaping a war ravaged country. But then I think my real need is just to be able to sustain a close loving relationship that is not riddled with fear or anxiety.. I so often think of inviting people over but an inner voice blocks the impulse…. I know connection as to begin with me, because at times I pushed everyone away.. I had so much grieving to do.. so I see it as a sign of progress being less miffed with siblings.. a sign of growing maturity to see it from a different perspective.. Being the youngest was not easy… but I guess each sibling role came with difficulties.

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.

On fear : befriending and working with it

The following insights on making friends with fear are taken from Chapter 7 of Miriam Greenspan’s wonderful book Healing Through the Dark Emotions : TheWisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair.

Befriending fear in a fear negating culture is essential if we want to use this emotion wisely. To do this, we have to be aware of our negative, limiting beliefs about fear, and to reconstruct and affirm a new set of beliefs.

We cannot be warriors of vulnerability, if we think fear is a shameful, debilitating emotion… Think of fear, not as a weakness, but as information, a signal of unsafety, a usable energy, a way of knowing… What fear tells us is that we are human. We are vulnerable. You are interconnected with others in the fabric of life. You can let yourself feel fear, breathe through it, and use its energy. You don’t have to let fear become panic by avoiding it. You can feel it and let it be, and doing so can open the gates to joy.

These affirming statements about fear may seem dubious. Honouring fear and treating it like a legitimate emotion can be uncomfortable, and feel ‘wrong’. Affirming the value of fear requires a kind of revolution within, to transform the fear negating culture we have internalised.

Try this : Write a list of fear affirming statements and pin them on your bedroom or bathroom mirror or some other place you look often. Changing what you believe about what you feel is one of the most impotant ways to shift an old emotional pattern. Psychologists call this “reframing” and its one of the important skills in the alchemy of the dark emotions.

The following questions might help you frame your fear affirmations.

What fears have you faced? What did you gain from facing them?

If your answer to that question is “none’, ask yourself Why not? What got in the way of facing your fears?

Think of a time when you felt paralysed by fear. What kept you from moving through it? What, if anything, helped?

Think of a time when you acted in spite of fear or acted with fear. What happened?

What did you learn?

What fear(s) are you holding in now? What fears are you avoiding? Aht do you think would happen if you let yourself feel them.

Following this, try the following sentence completions:

If fear didn’t scare me, I would use it to……

The resources and strenghth I now have to face my fears creatively are…

When I view fear as a teacher, I learn…..

Something productive I can do with my fear is…..

Changing your shaming beliefs about fear creates an opening, a place in the heart where fear can live without wrecking your self esteem and composure. The open heart can befriend fear and is ready for alchemy.

Getting it touch with fear in your body and soothing it is the next step….hang in and use mindfulness of what it feels like and stay with the discomfort without acting it out (unless you are in real danger) Consciously experience it and talk to it in a soothing way and to find out what it has to say..

The third step is to find the context of fear.. Say you have a fear of heights, in that situation you question exactly what it is you are afraid of : falling and dying, being out of control, fear of uncertainty. Try to find the peace inside that fear, if you cannot control the time of your death what can you control?… fear of death may underline much of our anxiety.. The antidote is to recognise it is inevitable but not always likely… what might it mean to live well, with a fear of death? And if the fear is in response to a real threat what can you do to minimise the threat, what action can you take or changes can you make? What is one simple thing you could do to make things a little better?

The fourth step : mindfullness of fear is related to feeling it in the body….and relates to tolerating fear as a part of life while using a meditation practice to be with it and breathe it in, instead of push it away or avoid it.. taking fear into our heart we may even find a part of us so scared just in need of some love and kind words. Tonglen, a spiritual practice shared by Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron asks us to breathe in fear and breathe out joy. This practice gives an antidote to the ‘spiritual bypass’ of many New Age practices and involves alchemising the dark and primal. If we avoid painful feelings we only end up creating more pain and suffering.. When we react or lash out, out of fear things never improve, we just get trapped in a further cycle of suffering.

The fifth step is related to taking action in the context of fear. Finding out the things that fear or upset us may promote us to take positive action to make a change.

The sixthe step involves the path of surrender, it comes after looking fear in the face and seeing it for what it is.. Prayer may be a part of the path of surrender, this is the practice of handing over what seems too much for us to a higher power or place of faith. Here are some helpful prayers.

May I accept my fear. May my fear guide me to do the right thing.

Help me when I am afraid, not to be afraid of my fear. Help me allow it to move me to an action in service of life.

When all else fails find some comic diversion.. taking a break from fear to laugh and experience joy provides an antidote to the suffocation and heaviness of spirit fear can bring about in our lives…..

Knowing our own value

It is so important in this life to know our own value, and it seems to me that some of us allow others to define what our value is, especially if who we are was invalidated in childhood. Highly Sensitive Person write Elaine Aron actually wrote a book called The Undervalued Self, it is about how those of us who are sensitive with high empathy are not always valued as children and go on not to value our true selves. Many of us learn to adopt a false self or persona without even realising that is what we are doing unconsciously. Finding who we really are for some of us suffering soul loss can be a long journey of reclamation.

When we allow other people to ‘make us up’ or define us, we get erased. There is an entire book written on this called Controlling People, written by Beverly Engel. Such people tell you how you feel or what you should think, do or feel, they blame you for things that are not your fault and in this way as Engel explains they are making you into a pretend person. To be on the receiving end of this hurts and is very painful and its like being shut in a cage with no key while iron filings of shrapnel are fired at your soul. Then if you get angry about it the person will mock or shame or ridicule you further offering you no reprieve and no way out. Sometimes even driving you crazy.

For those of us with deep emotional abandonment who never found a solid place of self value we may just buckle under to the confinement. We suffer Stockholm Syndrome. We need someone from outside to name the game and we have to shut the door to incorrect valuations. Losing the way to the power of our soul and authenticity hurts and we wont find peace or energy or power until we find the way back. That rests on us knowing our true self and value and fighting for it. It rests in deflecting the inaccurate criticisms and attacks of others and finding our true reference point of value within.

On denial

As children, denial is often a necessary survival tool because the truth is often too unbearable for us to live with, and we don’t have the power to change our situation.

Nancy Van Dyken

According to Nancy Van Dyken truth may be painful and is why we learn to deny it especially from childhood on, in addition because we are taught in various ways that following the rules, not displeasing others or making them uncomfortable is more important than knowing and expressing who we truly are and how we really feel as well as what we need is more important, we learn to be untruthful and then we suffer pain as a result. But since denying pain does not lead us to growth the more we deny or numb the less we can release ourselves from the prison of impression management or people pleasing.

In addition because our feelings and wants are not intellectual but deeply body centred denying our truth means on some level escaping the body, pushing ourselves beyond natural limits, taking on too much to appear all together or in touch. One of the most important times of change for me in early recovery for addiction lay in taking time off when I had a period and honouring the way I felt, rather than just solidering on. There was a time too when my ex husband I were in the UK and my trauma started to emerge and my therapist recommended I take time off. I had never ever ever done this before and I remember clearly on that morning my ex husband came into the room and raged at me to ‘get the hell out of bed’.

We may be so often forced to deny the truth of what we need in a society that may teach us more about how to appear than how to be, more about how to keep pushing on regardless, rather than surrendering when necessary to let things fall apart in order to come together in a better more real or integrated way. We may through conditioning learn to deny what we observe and feel to be true about other people. We may believe, incorrectly that the truth is too painful to face. We think if we admit it we may die or go crazy, the truth is we will probably have to make changes.

According to Nancy Van Dyken an important first step in healing from the everyday narcissism pf denial is letting go of the habit of lying – first to yourself, then to others. The next lays in speaking your truth assertively in a loving and respectful way. It also lays in not letting others push you past your boundaries. A simple way of saying no to a request is this : “No, that wont work for me” it is not even necessary to give an explanation as to why if you do not want to.

We can also learn not to agree to requests or favours before checking in with your body and inner self about HOW WE REALLY FEEL ABOUT DOING IT. In this case, just ask for a time out. During this time centre in and find what truly feels right for you. Its also important to notice when we are being less than honest with ourselves and others and check in with our body about how it feels if we do find ourselves lying or agreeing to do something we do not want to do.

Bear in mind that speaking your truth will scare some people. People may try to make you feel that doing so makes you unworthy, unlikeable, unlovable, or undesireable but if so and if you accede to such put downs who will suffer in the end? You! Don’t give up. Co-dependency writer Melody Beattie talks of a phenomena of ‘afterburn’ which can happen as we first start to be true to ourselves and our own wishes and needs, especially if others try to guilt, or shame us or use other manipulative tactics to control us, for example someone telling you, you are selfish or destructive in some way when you are really just honouring your true feelings, values or needs.

Learning to come out of denial may not be easy for us, most especially if others have an investment in us continuing to deny truths, but it can be done. We may have to suffer a lot of discomfort along the way as old patterns change, if we have abandonment anxiety it may feel like a death of a kind if others cut us off for being true, honest or real. Never the less we can learn to be there for our scared self and find in time the courage to be honest, open and up front with our true self no longer succumbing to the prison of denial.

Getting free of my ‘bad’ self (recognising the deeper impact of trauma and childhood emotional neglect.)

I am still only beginning to understand how my own self punishment and attempts to make myself bad and shame myself for what I have endured in my life play out. The last relationship I was in was very damaging from this point of view. I was very isolated when I met him and he never really was ever able to show empathy for my PTSD symptoms which I was trying my best to manage. When the first abuse began I should have perhaps broken contact but I was at that stage very isolated and alone and hungry for connection.

My own ability to practice self care, I see now was severely limited at that stage due to childhood emotional neglect. CEN can be hidden as many of us neglected came from what, at least from the outside, may appear to be affluent ‘together’ homes, but the neglect is there due to emotional unavailability of parents and the claims made that you are loved and cared for which may be true on one level but are not always backed up bpresence and truly engaged physical and emotional support and so sufferers of CEN tend to blame themselves.. it is one of the major symptoms.

It was hard for both my parents because they had to grow up very fast both having lost their fathers, my Mum at 7 and my Dad at 12 years of age. By the time I came along they were working very hard to survive materially and beginning to get a taste of affluence. They were there but they were often missing emotionally and sometimes I was punished when I really needed support.

I was listening to a programme on teenage mental health on radio in Australia this morning and psychologists involved said the worst thing that can happen to teenagers is to be punished when they are acting out, the better thing is for them to be educated and the reason why they are acting out understood. I wasn’t acting out so much as a teenager but due to lack of parental supervision I was smoking and drinking behind their backs and in the absence of someone being present I was trying in some way to raise myself and felt often I had to put on act to show I was feeling okay and coping when the truth was I often felt insecure and confused about how to live and connect.

I still have this fiercely independent streak (or rather anti dependency streak) and I can find it hard to ask for help or know when I need support. I can tend to push back or push away or deny that I would like support, I feel on some level shame for it or that I don’t deserve it. The sad thing is that later in life when I got to begin to uncover some of my buried emotions and past in sobriety I ran again instead of getting the right help and trusting those close to me to care for me. I have only realised this lately and as a result I ended up crashing and burning. I also aborted several therapy attempts and got lost in the last abusive relationship which ended 8 years ago.

Anyway I need to remember lately that I am making good progress and turning around over 50 years of unhelpful patterns takes time. It also takes some time to see where our own defences can be operating. My therapist feels a lot of my survival defences are now melting and I really am finding new levels of compassion for myself and feeling a lot of the grief, frustration and powerlessness that underlay past anger and rage which kept deeper feelings at bay. Blaming myself or blaming others is actually I am beginning to see a way of defending against my feelings and situation instead of feeling them. Accepting that I was powerless over so much has taken some time. And knowing that I do have power to change some things even longer.

I still struggle a lot with panic attacks and overwhelm symptoms at critical times of the day. I notice what triggers them and then takes me into a down ward spiral. Once the spiral or trauma vortex starts to manifest (which on bad days can happen up to 4 or 5 times) it can be very hard to pull myself out of it and get my attention back in the ‘now’. One of the hardest things about Post Traumatic stress is this vortex pull which is centrifugal. I noticed that I had coped better on the days I actually have plans to meet someone and connect which was happening more over the past week. This week I have felt more anxious having more open time. I still need to remember I am managing well though. The tendency to be down on myself and beat myself up can still be very powerful. I wish that I was better than I am at times, but wishful thinking wont get me very far. I do still struggle a lot, maybe with my complex trauma history I always will??

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

 

On Immaturity and showing empathy to the Inner Child of self and others

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.