The painful cost of trauma : understanding abandonment depression

Painful trauma has a way of driving us out of our body.  To have lived with an intolerable reality which we are given no help to process or understand is an agony beyond words.  Not to be held, understood and empathised with in our suffering means our neurobiology cannot be soothed, we become flooded with stress chemicals such as cortisol.  Recent studies show that empathy increased the presence of oxytocin in our neurobiological systems.

I know the relief that has come for me in therapy as  have been able to let my own feelings out.  I know the damage that has occurred when, in trying to express said feelings with unsafe others who are defended, blocked or lacking in empathy they have become, not only trapped within, but other feelings have then occurred in reaction such as pain, disappointment and distress.  It was only last week in reading the chapter on abandonment depression in James Masterton’s book on the real self that I became aware of how complex and multilayered the feelings of that state are.  It is within the abandonment depression that we feel suicidal as it contains what Masterton has labelled the six feelings of the psychic apocalypse, very aptly named.  Guilt, rage, panic, fear are four of these feelings.

In recovery those of us who have undergone trauma or abandonment trauma need help to understand our feelings and the courage and strength to bear with or integrate these feelings. Rage is a huge part of what we feel when we meet again invalidation or similar abuse that triggers our earlier abuse.  There is panic when we face the rage which also comes with a great deal of fear, after all when we were younger and abandoned we experienced fear as we were confronted with overpowering situations of stress and distress which we can go on reliving unconsciously for years and had no help with.

In our recovery we begin to regress to these feelings and since such a huge part of so called borderline trauma involves invalidation or lack of support and empathy, when we meet such triggers again, we can regress and find ourselves once again filled with grief and rage.  Our overt reactions will most likely not be understood by those who have no idea of the complexity of feelings we are left trying to contain, process and express as a result.  This why we need in recovery an enlightened witness who is able to show empathy for what the real self had to suffer in childhood which led to the adoption of a false self as a defence against fully feeling the complex feelings of the abandonment depression.

In his book on Complex PTSD Pete Walker deals with the abandonment depression.  He also explains how the inner critic becomes very active at a certain stage in our recovery, shaming us for daring to recover and try to become well.  The inner critic may be comprised of things said to us when young by others who tried to shame or judge us instead of showing empathy or helping us make sense of difficult feelings.  We can shame ourselves in similar ways for our reactions, which comes often from the so called ‘adult’ part of us that won’t accept or allow the child to be the child, vulnerable, tortured at times and deeply confused.

Empathy is so essential as we begin to deal with our inner critic less we start to shame the child all over again in a bid to protect it or protect against the feared rejection of others that we experienced in the past.  It’s a complex process.  We do need to become aware of when we become triggered or start to act out old pain, but shaming ourselves for it won’t work and help us to heal.  Painful feelings need to be lovingly contained and soothed for true healing and integration to happen.

You weren’t there

Dark Spirit

I longed for someone to be there

On those lonely wide open afternoons

You were gone from home

In just the way your own mother was gone

I reached for the key

That hung on the hook in the shed

And on one of the days it wasn’t there

I broke the window

And cut my wrist

Thirty stiches

Neighbours took me to casualty

Do you know how much it hurt Mum

To know that dresses and other people

Were more important than me?

It wasn’t that you worked

It was that you left me alone

Why not get help?

But how could you know how it was

When you just repeated your own silent history?

Now I see

What I could not see then

I understand why panic attacks visit me at that time of day

When

One of the six horseman of the psychic apocalypse

Comes calling

Panic

Hidden deep inside panic are so many other emotions

That could neither be expressed nor contained

As well as a hungering heart

That needed to be held

And tended in love

Now I know why ravenous hunger visits me then

I eat and eat

But the hunger is for something else

My inner child

Help adult me

To remember and to understand

It all makes sense

That body will never lie

Show me how to be there for you

So that panic can end

And love attention and self care

Can fill up the empty spaces

Of a wound

Far larger than me

The force that fights love

I just reblogged a post by Monica Cassani which spoke about that sub part of our selves ‘the inner bully’ or ‘inner critic’ who can give us such a hard time as we go about trying to heal ourselves and become stronger on the path of recovery, and when I say stronger I am meaning it in the sense that a strong soul can embrace weakness, deficiencies and other flaws in themselves and set about finding a loving way to deal with those aspects of their being rather than just put on a mask or become filled with bluff or bravado, or get defensive when vulnerability is triggered.

As I read this post and considered my own struggle with my inner bully I thought of the part that fear of love and fear of being loved, embraced, open or vulnerable may play in our lives when we finally do begin to change old ways of being with both ourselves and others from a negative to a more positive slant.  And at the basis of all positive change I think that a healthy attitude of self care and self nurturing as well as self compassion are so very important.   Until we can embrace our weak spots, our past pain, wounds and injuries in self acceptance and love we don’t seem to get very far on the path of healing and we may actually even self sabotage when offered the chance to embrace something good.  Until we can honestly acknowledge our gifts, sensitivities and strengths and our unique spirit in ways even others cannot we also don’t ever get to experience the freedom of a full life.

I notice a lot of things in reading other WordPress posts.  I notice how staying trapped in feelings of self righteous anger at abusers often keeps people stuck and as I read those posts (as well as some of my older posts) I see how such feelings actually hide deep within them a (often unconscious) lack of acceptance, a refusal to be able to let the pain go on some level. T his is understandable as pain can and does run very, very deep if we have suffered abuse and it is a very long and painful process to work this through, acknowledging and embracing all our feelings without being eaten alive by them.

And yet I also feel that as we come to realise that we in fact did not deserve such abuse and as a result now sadly treat ourselves in the very same way that is when we have at our disposal the greatest gift and resource that can be used to help us overcome the negative down spiral that follows a painful history of emotional abandonment and abuse.  We may always stay angry at our abusers and that is fair enough but if our anger implies that in some way we are resisting the pain that we need to feel in order to move through to healing that held in anger can be not only counterproductive but toxic and may block forward movement.

Healing to my mind involves opening the locked door of our heart that wants to stay shut to pain.   We fear inviting that pain in as our deepest fear is that on some level it may destroy us, that we might not survive.   But my experience is that when I open the door of my heart to the full impact of past pain or grief that pain or grief is able to move and to transform on some level.  At that precious instant I fall into a place of deep inward surrender and peace in which I know without any doubt the full impact of my entire emotional pain history and see so clearly its consequences.  As I do a part of me wants to rise up and say ‘NO!”,  This is the cry of my spirit that knew it was deserving of so much more and could have shone so much more brightly and suffered far fewer years in the most painful and lonely isolation, an isolation that kept me imprisoned for well over 14 years.  And this awful truth is a  deeply difficult one to embrace and acknowledge.

And yet, another part of my spirit in some way actually needs to say an unconditional ‘Yes!’ at that moment.  To embrace the pain I didn’t choose in order that I can now let the pain go, knowing that to allow it to define the rest of my life would be to continue to pay too difficult a price which will keep me locked in prison, locked in death, locked in resistance, locked in unbecoming.  And that is now not what my spirit wants anymore!

When I know my spirit to be free, when I look to the positive things in my day, when I count the gifts of this path, compassion, wisdom, insight, deeper psychological knowledge then I find gratitude and that gratitude tends to bring the sunshine out in my soul.  When I look to how I can use my own suffering to help others, when I realise it is a gift to be able to say that I hurt and have suffered, when I no longer need to hide, when I use that suffering to make me reach for the light and love and joy in any day, when I find avenues of self expression and ways to let the energy of love flow out from me and to anchor in those energies of beauty and love all around me, wherever I find them, say in sunshine, nature, good company, music, art, poetry, films, dance then my spirit shines and is no longer as bowed down as it was before by the terrible burden of a lonely painful past full of trauma.

And when I realise that all along the inner bully is just fear and thrives not on life but on attack well then I have a choice to answer that fear with love, compassion, wisdom and insight, and I no longer need to turn my inner bully out on others in the world, criticising them, even if they, due to unconsciousness or nastiness are continuing to try to cause me suffering.  Instead I can just turn to my inner child essence and spirit, take her by the hand and chose to walk away or answer with love, no longer hooked by my own deeply buried anguish into reacting, lashing out or trying to change what is and was never in my power to change and what I am so much better off, walking away from.

Understanding the wounds underlying borderline reactions

I often struggle when I read that people with so called BPD are struggling with being able to understand that what seem to others to look like ‘over-reactions’ are actually grounded in past experiences of not being met, responded to with empathy or sensitivity or being given what we truly need.  As a result we tend to carry a lot of inward frustration and what I would called ‘historical suffering’ which can get triggered in the present by either perceived abandonment or invalidation which we then project and can tend to respond to in ineffective ways.   Our reactions may seem out of order and beyond context but we do need to understand that they do make sense once our true history is understood.

Core wounds and old pain act in many ways like black holes of suffering that can be triggered in the moment and then suck us down.   Dialectical Behavioural Therapy was developed by Marsha Linehan a sufferer of BPD who found she needed help with thinking about her thinking and responses to current events when old pain was triggered.  From what I understand DBT involves finding ways to reframe our reactions to triggers and soothe distressing painful inner self talk which then promotes us to over react to current situations in which some old wound, pain or sensitivity is then triggered.

I am often wary about the diagnosis Borderline Personality.  Most so called ‘borderline’ individuals started life as highly sensitive beings who were supremely in touch and high wired in terms of respondability to external stimuli.  As babies they required a high level of attunement, mirroring, empathy and sensitivity to their cues, hungers and needs from caregivers and often they find themselves born into environments ill equipped to deal with and respond affectively and effectively to them.  As a result they often are not soothed adequately and also do not manage to internalise the messages of adequate self soothing and self care which would enable them to mother themselves effectively.

When such a conditioning occurs it leaves a deep wound or hunger in the soul.  The borderline or highly  sensitive person is highly attuned and intelligent.  They notice things that others don’t.  They may try to point out things others don’t see or do not understand and they can then be abused or invalidated for such perceptions, seeing or understanding as adults and also when young.  They can then internalise this kind of abuse or misunderstanding coming to believe ‘there is something inherently wrong with me’.

They may then try to adapt to what is expected of or projected onto them, rejecting themselves in the process.  They may also lack the capacity to understand the very real limits and different ways of reacting of the non highly sensitive individuals around them, getting angry or flying off the handle when empathy is not shown to them.   The realistic truth if understood by the borderline/sensitive would show that the less sensitive were only reacting to the highly sensitive individual out of not understanding a depth of feeling, particular perception or way of being which varies greatly with their own, rather than this being a sign of something ‘wrong’ with either person.

Such an understanding for the so called borderline or highly sensitive individual requires a high level of inner work as well as a detailed unpacking of ways in which the nurturing environment failed to respond in empathic ways, leaving key wounds or perceptual distortions kicking around inside the borderline or HSP.  Arming ourselves with such deeper emotional understanding involves work with an empathic person who can help us with this process.  Then and only then can we begin to work effectively with extreme feelings or so called ‘over reactions’ to outside events which are really just triggers.

I have only ever read books on DBT and my understanding of it may be limited but this is my understanding of how it works.   It works by helping us to correct our thinking and as a way of helping us to self sooth and not attack ourselves more with painful thoughts and feelings which in belonging to old events may be re-experienced in the present moment and projected leading to confusion and distress for those around us who do not understand our trauma/disconnection history.  In the end we must understand in a way others who do not suffer could never possibly understand unless they lack that empathic framework.

When I read the blogs of borderlines I see how much self judgement they have.  We self judge because we know how extreme our behaviour can be at times and we can often feel shame.   Unlike narcissists who in many ways are full of a shame they buried long ago and often will not face, Borderlines feel our shame over and over and over and can almost drown in it.  We are often scapegoated and we so often need to break that identification and projection because the original shame was never ours to own,  our responses came out of finding ourselves in consistently disabling or unempathic environments in which we struggled, pure and simple.  Certainly we do not have the right to enact our rage at a lifetime of frustrations, misunderstanding and invalidation on others, we need to understand where these feelings comes from and feel them and transform them rather than act them out.  This I guess is where DBT can help us teaching us ways to talk to ourselves compassionately and with empathy to pour balm on burning wounds that so often can flare up in the present.

Yes – we have an epidemic of depression

Yes, we have an epidemic of depression in our society today.  But truthfully, how could anyone today on some level not be sad?  The gap between how beautiful life can be and the way it too often is is heartbreaking. Anyone who is not on some level grieving the state of the world today is perhaps not looking very deeply.

We are depressed today because life is off. We’re depressed because too often we have no sense of our place in the universe, our relationship to the source of existence, a deeper sense of purpose in our relationships with other human beings, or any sense of reverence toward any aspect of life.  Our entire civilisation is ruled more by fear than by love.

Marianne Williamson

From Tears to Truimph

I am sharing this quote because so often in our society being depressed can be looked on as a moral failing or weakness but the deeper truth that I experience is that so often those who are depressed are those who can have a vision that is more closely in touch with the depths of a soul that suffered.  Pathologising people for depression is such a serious issue and we need to change it.

Undergoing abuse or despair or loss or abandonment leaves real scars on the soul and these are trying to make their expression heard in depression, so we need to listen with empathy to people’s real heartbreak and support them with feeling and expressing it.

I know I go on about this issue a lot on my blog but I feel very strongly about it and today I was triggered again to write this as a family member shared with me a horrific abuse she went through which she shared with her parents only not to be believed years ago.  I cannot share what it was on my blog as it is a private issue for her but I was so outraged when I heard what she had suffered and she has had a number of hospitalisations as a result.  If she had been supported, believed and empathised with at the time and her trauma dealt with she would never have had to be diagnosed with a  so called ‘mental illness’.

Turns out now certain teachers at her school are now trying to imply her son should be diagnosed with a speech impediment or with Asperger’s, she has also been told that he is ‘too caring’.  What the fucking hell is happening in our society?  Anyone who does not meet the mainstream, anyone who is sensitive or carrying certain different ways of being or processing information is then wacked with a diagnosis?  It is just pure craziness and makes me feel ill, it really truly does.

I felt so angry with my brother yesterday after finding out what he put my niece through all of those years ago.  I felt so ashamed that he is my brother but it now makes a lot of sense of how numbed out he is and apparently he has not one memory of his childhood.  It makes clear to me that we can only have empathy if we are connected to our own emotional reality and have a connection to our heart, feelings, pain, joy and happiness.   Of course we all live in separate skins and our experiences vary so often we cannot see things from another perspective, but to imply then that someone is lying or making something up, due to the fact it may rock our own view on things without making the effort to reach out and extend our minds and hearts in openness to me seems wrong.

This morning I have been thinking about what it comes to mean and how it affects us if we are not truly seen in childhood.  I opened my Hope for Today reader and read this reading a few moments ago :

Before Al Anon I had a false sense of self.  Because of their diseases my alcoholic father and mother who grew up in an alcoholic home couldn’t see themselves clearly.  They weren’t able to help me either.  As I grew up I sensed that my parents couldn’t see me at all.  I felt invisible and voiceless  I had no idea of my likes and dislikes, let alone what I would or would not accept in a relationship.  I felt empty inside.  When there did seem to be something inside me it felt like someone else’s experience.

The reading goes onto explain how slowly the person began to recover a sense of themselves by working through the steps of and learning about who they truly were inside.  About how doing so enabled them to throw off the criticism of their father and the feeling they were given by their mother that they were nothing but a burden.  By seeing themselves no longer through someone else’s eyes but through their own they slowly began to reclaim a sense of self.

It seems to me that the most important work of recovery lies in the inward journey of becoming more conscious of who we are and what we really feel independent of outside influence of what parents, education or society tries to tell us we are or should be.    Keeping our focus on our own heart is so important, as is recognising the value and meaning of our instinctive reactions to things, lest we be hoodwinked or bamboozled by others who in being damaged themselves try to force us away from certain responses or reactions.  The integrity of our soul when compromised in this way causes us so much confusion and unrest.

Luckily for my niece she understands her parents damage, not having essential needs met though has caused deep loneliness and suffering for her.  Through out it all, over years she has learned to rely on herself, but that self reliance at times has left her so alone.  Our lives have similar themes.   Her own suffering has made her wise.   Wise enough now not to take on the advice of psychologists recommending she have her son tested so to be diagnosed and labelled.  In this increasingly insane society it seems to me we need to keep our wits about us lest we fall for much of the clap trap that is being espoused.  We have to be strong and rely on the guidance of our deepest souls so as not to be bamboozled or led astray and if we were not seen and validated in childhood we need to address and heal that wound so that we no longer surrender ourselves to false outside definitions which keep us in locked in prison.

Reflections on empathy, forgiveness and narcissism

I am prompted to write this after some comments on a post a wrote about forgiveness for our mothers.  I am aware that forgiving someone who doesn’t want to acknowledge hurtful things they do and has no interest in changing is the most unhealthy option for our own physical, emotional and spiritual health at certain points in our healing and recovery journey.  I think that when those who hurt us show no remorse or deliberately choose to remain unconscious its in our own health not to keep going back to have the rug pulled out from underneath us again and forgiving such behaviour is damaging for us.

When I attended AA and studied the Big Book which outlines a course of healing others have found and worked through via the 12 steps the way in which we were advised to handle this kind of thing was to be aware that the person concerned was spiritually and emotionally unwell themselves. We were advised to hand over our hurt so that it didn’t rebound on us and to pray for the person.  We were encouraged to recognise that we need not take on the hurt they were unconsciously enacting upon us.  That said it is not always an easy thing to do, brushing off hurt most particularly when that person may have been a parent, the very one that as a youngster we most needed to rely upon for empathy, guidance, validation and support.

Just think about that word validation for a moment.  It concerns the implicit idea that who we are and what we feel has value and meaning for us.  If we are repeatedly told that what we feel, say, think or do has no value, if we are acting purely out of our own sense of self that is authentic, that is a deep spiritual wound and it is damaging.  It can leave us with lasting scars that may or may not be conscious or unconscious.

But if you think about it more deeply, how people react to, treat and respond to us often has little to do with us but more do to with their own relationship to their inner world.  If a person was taught that feelings have no value, how are they going to honour yours?  If they haven an investment in you being, doing or acting in a different way, a way that doesn’t evoke their own wounds, black spots or scars how will they value what you do and who you really are when you are just trying to express yourself from an authentic place?

Can we forgive when we realise the other person is just a wounded, disconnected person who perhaps never had the benefit of inner sight or consciousness.  To my mind when we do this it shows we are showing empathy for them.   We are recognising that not everyone has access to all parts of themselves and not everyone is interested in self inquiry or self questioning.

As someone who never really got to develop a totally secure sense of self, it is also apparent to me that many of us, wounded in childhood go the other way.  Lacking a secure sense of self which involves being connected to feelings, needs and emotions in a healthy way we lack necessary spiritual muscles and an inner voice of self affirmation and so we tend to question, second guess or criticise ourselves all the time.

If someone acts badly towards us, instead of getting upset we may question if we did something to cause that hurt and if we look back to childhood we may have been accused of hurting others when really what we did had no malicious intent and was necessary for self care or self protection.

It is a common fact that people who suffer from an unhealthy narcissism never tend to look too deeply inside to question if what they did impacted on others in a hurtful way.  The narcissistically wounded would prefer to blame outside events, rather than look to any contributing cause that lies within themselves.  They may get easily offended if others question or criticise them in any way.  They find it hard to keep an open mind and also lack necessary empathic skills that would help them to know that other’s reality at times differs from their own.  They lack the capacity to put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

So often my own therapist reminds me when I go to her in a fit of remorse over some way I may have acted that lacked insight, saying “Oh God, I am just sure I am a narcissist”, she will remind me that we are all somewhere on that spectrum and that my own need to question my behaviour shows I don’t really have NPD.

Knowing that what we feel and need has value is important to our ongoing health as individuals.  Being able to stand up for these thing in a way that doesn’t ride roughshod over others is a huge part of becoming a mature adult who is able to live and relate in a world where opinions, feelings and needs of everyone vary widely.  Being able to hold onto our own reality when other’s reality varies is at times important.  Being able to open up to and encompass new points of view which take us beyond previously limited ones is important too.

At the outset of writing this particular post I actually titled it “If I had been allowed to feel and know and need what I really felt, knew and needed”, because having had my tooth out today has brought up so many previous experiences of feeling I was acted on by powerful others whose domination eclipsed my own view.  Perhaps due to the fact that the last time I the former dental bridge reconstruct I was emotionally abused by my ex for expressing the pain and so disturbing his sleep.  I had taken myself off into the toilet so as not to wake him up and had woke him up and so I got a ‘serve’.   I was not conscious that this memory was about but over the past few days abusive incidents I suffered at his hands are coming to consciousness.

In my life trying to play small so as to avoid abuse has not served me well.  Learning to swallow down or override what I truly feel, need and want has caused me so much pain.  Not being able to be with safe others who let me express my feelings has caused me so much damage and it made me SO ANGRY for a time, but then I was in trouble for being offensive for expressing that.  NO WONDER I WAS PISSED OFF.  Now I know that how I felt was real.  For a lot of my life I suffered invalidation abuse.  I was not allowed to feel and know what I felt and knew.  But the pain of that was what led me to here.  It formed the genesis of this blog in many ways.

Today I took a Panadol for the pain I am in.  I decided not to suffer more. Choosing to remove ourselves from harsh, unloving environments is similar.   Recovery means we recognise the damage that was done and call it damage.  But recovery also means we put a stop to further damage through self care, validating who we are, what we know and how we feel and showing wisdom as to who will and wont do the same.  Forgiveness for the abusers may not be necessary, but holding onto the pain can hurt.  Perhaps what I should be talking about in my blog is letting go, rather than forgiveness, letting go of the pain so that we can embrace peace, healing and recovery for ourselves.

 

The importance of empathy in healing past hurt and anger.

I love it when I get guidance to go somewhere, often to a bookshop or a library and the book I just need to read turns up for me.  It happened last week that I got that message on a brief window of time before my Thursday therapy appointment and came across Arthur C. Ciaramicoli’s book, The Stress Solution : Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience.   Personally I have never been a huge fan of CBT as I believed it encouraged sufferers to over-ride injury or deep issues of hurt with mental directions to reframe thinking that may be justified and bypassed the deeper feeling work that needs to accompany true healing.  This book provides the missing link in helping to show how old hurt that cannot be felt, understood, empathised with, expressed and resolved then warps our ability to think, interpret and trust clearly exiling us to a wasteland of anger, resentment and depression as a result.

I posted a poem yesterday on the sorry that my own mother has never really been able to say to me.  I have shared that my mother showed empathy for her own mother’s situation to the point she could never ‘blame’ her for hitting my mother and driving her so hard as a child.  This failure on her part to say sorry and to act wounded and upset when I try to point old hurts out had been a sticking place for me in the past and I have needed outside validation of therapy to help me face and address the painful state my own unresolved hurt, sadness and pain has left me in for years.   But now that I am facing having to have my front tooth removed tomorrow my mother is in an acute state of distress.  She sees how I have suffered and all the onslaughts my body has been through as a result of my childhood and the trauma of those years of accident, illness and loss and she feels bad.  But is still not able to say sorry about her part in it, only that she is sorry I have suffered.

A comment from a reader today made me think about how important sorry and empathy really are to healing our hurt, anger and distress and its the exact point that Ciaramicoli makes in his book.  Anger which goes around and around affects our neurochemistry and then can lead to all sorts of body issues later in life, including heart attacks and strokes.  I also believe it can be behind the development of many auto immune diseases.

If we were hurt in childhood we need to understand the nature of those hurts and not carry the anger on where it can poison other later relationships with fear, insecurity and mistrust, but our hurt needs to be expressed with someone who can validate it for us.   I made this point in a blog last week.  I mentioned how trauma expert Peter Levine has showed that if, when faced with a traumatic situation we have one person who can calm us and show empathy we are less likely to develop long term Post Traumatic Stress.  Empathy is the key that can then help us to rewire the mental negative thought forms of mistrust that accompany a childhood of loss, trauma, pain, invalidation or hurt blocking us from love and empathy in the present and future.

I highly recommend the Ciaramacoli’s book and below is an extract from it that I found extremely helpful to my own emerging understanding.  I am sharing it in the hope it will help others too:

When hurts accumulate without a positive resolution, we often lose ourselves in self absorption and resentment.  This kind of preoccupation is a tremendous drain on mental energy, leaving us with little capacity for interest in others.  Anger can turn to tolerance, however, when our perceptions change from fear to truth.   When we stop seeing others through the hurts of the past, when generalisations cease and we begin to perceive more objectively, we become more hopeful and optimistic.  We feel closer to people in our lives as we recover trust.   Trust is often correlated with happiness in communities or individuals.  When we trust others, we feel safe and calm.  We can then perceive more accurately and thoughtfully.  What we feel inside determines what we feel outside.

Once a person….harbours unresolved hurts, her anger and sense of helplessness can dramatically change the way (they) think and behave…. even a trauma survivor can return to a state of calm through meaningful contact with an empathic, understanding individual.  Such relationships make us more reflective and enable us to embark on a journey to learn what has troubled us, how to resolve our hurts, and how to move on.

Sadness is often seen as synonymous with depression.  Depression is often, in fact, an attempt to avoid the sadness.  Sadness is the body’s cue to stop, think, and work through what is troubling us.  People who don’t head this cue avoid examining their troubles, and the stress caused by avoidance becomes a way of life.  In essence, depression is often an avoidance of using the information sadness can provide.

We cannot resolve our thoughts alone.  Without input from others, we repeat our thought patterns over and over again and remain stuck in the mire of our own negativity.  This is a formula for continual stress.  By releasing ourselves from the mistaken beliefs that support our uneasiness with people, however, we reawaken our basic goodness and allow love and compassion to break through.  Our empathic breakthrough then removes the obstacles to seeing our world and ourselves clearly.  If (we) allow (ourselves) to be open and vulnerable, to share (our) hurts with others and accept empathic feedback – a courageous step for sure – (we) might ….(be) able to recover the spirit for living (we) once possessed…..holding onto anger and resentment ties us to the past and the story we created when emotionally distraught.

I would like to say here though, something he does not address and that is, it is no point sharing our feelings or vulnerability with those who will not validate them.  It is essential to this process that we choose someone who can validate that our pain and hurt at the time was real.   If we don’t get help to see how we were affected in a negative way we cannot fully address the sense of injury that occurred when we had to face such difficult and ultimately alienating experiences of abandonment or trauma alone, feeling our hurt, grieving for it and then allowing the outflow of that feeling to be shed and released is so important and we need validation and lots of loving affirmative support with this.

And then there comes a point where we have to make the conscious choice to open our heart and let the pain out, rather than close it tight shut again, locking it all back inside, running the endless negative, repeat, feedback button over and over and over again, which only ends up hurting us.   If we suffered abuse in the past we can let our anger be an informative guide of what may not be safe for us, ie, person’s lacking in empathy who lack the capacity through emotional insight to help us release and validate our pain.  For it is these people who trigger our stress response.  Recognising this requires we show empathy for ourselves and our healthy emotional boundaries and honour them.