How shame and the inner and outer critic prevent us living wholeheartedly.

It was shame researcher, Brene Brown who a few years back coined the term foreboding joy which is a term to describe the fear we carry into life that can protect us from embracing joy in the moment and living wholeheartedly… We see a small baby and our heart just fills with love but then fears of loss can come too and steal that moment from us..

While driving home I was thinking about a very involved and informative post Trauma Research UK recently shared on shrinking the inner and outer critic.. In fact I read it in therapy today crying at some parts as well as being doubled over with pain in my gut at others.. there is so much in it that resonates with me…

My inner child is speaking very loudly lately about how she felt in our family and how she struggled with very distant and preoccupied parents.. and about how painful it was to be sent to my room when I was legitimately angry, or hurt over some incident. In the post the writer shares that toxic parents do hurtful or neglectful things, but then also shame and silence the child’s legitimate protest, as a result the child has no alternative but to turn those feelings back inside the self and develops a virulent inner and outer critic that shames the child or seeks to protect and avoids other people who have that fear of the hurtful parent projected on to them…

Today in therapy I felt the pain of being sent to my room with all of those feelings I needed help to manage from one of my parents deep in my body while my inner child articulated it.. the feelings felt so so big… .. In fact Dad often laughed as Mum terrorised us with rage, things that hurt then being mocked is just an awful kind of pain for a child. I also remember being laughed at and shamed for being passionate and dramatic and come to think of it not hearing or validating someone’s grief for a lost loved one is a lot like shaming them for passion and deep feelings.

I will share the link to the related post as I believe it is essential reading for people who have endured relational and attachment trauma. What a painful place to find ourselves, cut off from relations in the outer world that could reconnect us all due to the fear of experiencing what we did in the past, or seeing rejection when it isn’t really there?

https://traumaresearchuk.wordpress.com/2020/08/21/the-role-of-the-inner-and-outer-critic/

I have written extensively on the protector/persecutor complex in my blog before.. The persecutor is an inner figure that goes on beating us up well into adulthood.. It may be that we experience a sense of shame and guilt for what was done to us. It was a very powerful relief in therapy today to hear my mother’s voice telling me how proud she was of me to be doing this work and how none of what went down in terms of my own neglect was my fault. In later years I saw her struggling with seeing how it brought about the ending of my marriage while at the same time wanting me to stop any focus on inner work or therapy which, at least initially she did not understand

In later years she actually came to some appointments with me and began to open up to me about her own neglect and I know she wished in some way my living sister could follow this path instead of a purely psychiatric ‘drug relief’one.

I understand my father has having endured neglect too and he ran away from Holland n 1938 leaving his family behind to save his own life.. He worked so hard to put all of that behind him but he just created more problems as neglected children of neglected parents often end up crashing and burning.. This has not applied so much my older brother who has been able to hide neglect behind enormous outer success in the world, especially financially, although his only daughter has borne the brunt of much of this. I was so sad to hear from my sister on the weekend that she had a stroke recently something my brother did not feel safe enough to share with me.. and we tried to get close many years ago (my only niece and I) but this was derailed by the family which made me cry for years…it being just more of the same old same old emotionally distant family pattern.

I notice at times I can attack people in the outer world who want to get close to me.. I am more aware of the pattern lately.. In fact on the weekend I had to own some of this with someone I care for deeply, luckily ours is one of those relationships able to hold the paradoxical feelings of hate and love, longing and fear and he never ever ever shames me.. Something I cry deep tears of gratitude for. As a Complex trauma survivor I need these kind of relationships in my life, as I am still healing and very raw with grief lately.

Much as we say we need to do our own healing work alone, sometimes the Complex PTSD ‘warrior’ defence may work against what Elaine Aron calls ‘linkages’, bonds that we try to establish as adults.. The outer critic can function to try and cut these bonds by seeking that ‘worm in the apple’ I have mentioned that those of us with avoidant attachment so often go looking for in relationships. Also when we split people into all good or all bad we loose the capacity for connection. A good enough relationship is one in which we make mistakes but can express our full range of feelings and be heard.. it comforts me so much when someone says they understand how I feel to me that is a strong healing balm, since as I child I was so often led to believe my feelings were wrong or made no sense at all.

Shame and fear of experiencing joy seem to be interconnected in so many ways in those of us with Complex PTSD, taking the risk to open our hearts again often opens us to old pain but that also has a purpose… so we can grow in awareness of the complex mix of feelings we can so often experience in relationships. Working on listening to all of the inner voices we hear too is ongoing work in order that we can sort out the mix of those that are helpful and life promoting and those that hinder us, keep us trapped in shame or only promote a freezing or disconnection from the heat of engaged interaction and possible attachment. There is a part of us that often seeks to sabotage our healing if we were badly hurt in childhood… those interested in this could look into the work of therapist Donald Kalsched who wrote brilliantly about it in his book The Inner World Of Trauma.

So many tears

I did not think I could contain all the tears that burst out of me today in therapy, its been such a rocky few days, the body pain has been searing since Tuesday and I did not think I could stay on earth with it.. it was truly horrendous. This pain comes up when doubt eclipses love as more longing and togetherness is thwarted, and it contains all the losses I had to keep at bay..

Today in therapy I was back in the hospital ward after the crash in September 1979 and remembering all the nights Mum and Dad came up with meals for me and a small bottle of wine… they didn’t know any other way but to give me that ‘medicine’ for the pain, and I cried over that. Today I felt the love they struggled to show .. but MY GOD thr pain I was in… it had no words at all and today as the dam inside of me burst with all the pain of the pent up smash and emotions I felt I was exploding as I felt the pressure all around my chest crushing me.

Earlier I had been sharing with Kat my therapist about my post on the astrology of the Queen and in particular about her Saturn in Scorpio that became both the Sun and the Moon in her two son’s charts and Kat shared how in the second season of The Crown you see her becoming more and more boxed in with the repression of the formalism of her role and the pressures of ‘duty’ as well as the pressing down of emotion.

I remembered today too, how my sister came to wash my hair after a few weeks as prior to that time, my head was too smashed around. In fact, at our school reunion last year, someone said the moment they saw me in hospital they had to leave the room and throw up. After the crash I wasn’t given a mirror for some weeks.. my sister had to come behind the back of the bed and use a bucket of water to wash my hair.. these acts of kindness I remember now and they break my heart open.

Not sure why all this is emerging right now but it may have to do with twelfth house transits of Sun and Mercury, the sun is due to shift from water to fire soon and that always feels intense for me as that initial 15 degrees of Leo fire are ‘trapped’ in the 12th house. Until these two energies move over the ascendant I can feel like I am being crushed or pressed down, especially as they oppose my Mars Saturn Moon, and lots of images of past things have been flooding through me over the past day or so…

In therapy the grief was also over watching the movie Nights in Rodanthe again yesterday, the scenes in which the lead character waits for her loved one to come home to her from South America only to find he has died broke me apart, and then the scene in which his son hands her a box full of letters and other personal effects of his Dad summoned up memories.. Also at the end of the movie in the midst of her grief on the beach she looks up to see about 5 wild horses running towards her and it was then i remembered that at about this time 14 years ago how my husband handed me a little blue metal box at the airport as he was leaving me with 200 dollars and said to me ‘this is for a horse ride on the beach.’ I know with that simple gesture how much he wanted me to be free but all of my unresolved unfelt grief lay before me then at I hit 10 years of active sobriety.. such a journey of heartbreak into the dark I had to begin from 2004 onwards so dark it almost crushes my heart entirely. It may seem to some strange to say I can still be grieving his loss all this time later, but today again, as that anniversary draws near I feel the both the love and the longing I had for him to say he would stay by my side, n abandon me, and hold my hand while I went through it, but then he had his own grief he had not yet dealt with, so I must forgive, I do forgive.

It is right that I grieve. It is right that I still feel sadness not only for my lost opportunity to live a life in freedom with him overseas but in recognition for the ancestral loss of the father I carried for four subsequent generations… this work I am doing is not only personal, it is collective too. I heard a lovely thing about crying in the movie Little Italy this week in which the grandmother says to her grand daughter Nikki that tears wash the soul clean.. I would never want to deny anyone tears. I also know there is a time to be happy but how would we know happiness without tears and sorrow (the loss of which they speak?) How would we know joy without knowing such agonising depths of pain? So why deny others their legitimate feelings and grief, maybe because so many in our culture fear it.

Tonight I still feel raw, I have a splitting head but its the result of carrying all the pent up emotions that I had to release in therapy today. Just when i think the deep dive is over I hit another wave of remembrance which seems fitting with Mercury passing over the degrees of my Mum’s Pluto in Cancer. Mine has been a life wracked with illness, accidents, addiction, repression, loss and suffering and I am still shedding all of this… I do not dictate this process, God does…. I just have to submit to the cleansing as it happens, allowing the healing waves of emotions to wash over me and bathe me, summoning up all the buried flotsam and jetsum, until they are done with me.

Free to feel sorrow

I am a big fan of embracing and accepting my emotions these days.  I consider them tides now that rise and fall and are like waves that would like us to ride them into what every shore they are breaking.  And even though it can feel exhausting to be hollowed our or broken open by grief like I was yesterday, I am so grateful now for my body’s ability to surrender to that tide rather than resist it’s natural flow.

I was thinking today of how braced my body became over years.  One of the consequences of not opening up to our feelings is that we hold our breath. We may have been taught to do this by a parent or other social conditioning, we may have been threatened if we were angry or felt sad with a punishment and so we had to freeze, or suck it up, or we may have tried to fight or fly away and been stopped, like when my Mum pulled my arm out of my socket when I was only three as I was trying to get away from her.

Yesterday at the crematorium as they played the song You’ll Never Walk Alone I really felt my abandonment wound triggered.   Gerry was far from alone in his cancer journey, Carmel listed in her eulogy all the things done for them.   I thought of my own breast cancer surgery where I had little in the way of support, a mere skeleton, but that is far from the only time I walked alone in my own life, especially after my father’s death in 1985.  This is not meant to be a post about self pity, only an attempt to say I had it really tough for so many years and validating that and feeling it is painful.  It is admitting to a truth.  I was not part of a close knit loving family like Carmel and Jerry and it’s been very hard.

Anyway surrendering to my feelings felt good yesterday even if quite uncomfortable at times.  It is not easy for many of us if we were never validated in the past.  But I truly do believe the fastest way to freedom is to feel our feelings and make sense of them, emotions are nothing less than energy in motion and energy wants to move out and through, having to bury it all inside has terrible consequences for us.  Embracing and feeling our grief is not automatic and complicated grief that is buried can be left undealt with for years with the result losses pile upon losses.  This is what I experienced as my sobriety unfolded with each funeral of a male friend or father of a friend, which would tap into all the pain over the loss of my Dad and his hurtful treatment of me over years as well as his stumbling attempts at kindness.  All these feelings were was buried for so many years in my addiction and probably my fear around males generated difficult reactions too the threatened intimacy between us.  These feelings can be a a potent cocktail when associated losses are being triggered in us from the unconscious.

When we grieve I believe we have to deal with feelings of powerlessness.  When someone we love dies or something is taken it shows we are not in control.  If we fight against the process we can end up blocked in my experience, far better to let ourselves surrender to what needs to move through us, reshape and change us.

The beauty of fire

Fire woman 2

The beauty that shone

Like wildfire in your eyes

Could never be permanently extinguished

Though in time a film grew over them

As it became harder to find you way

Amidst a wild universe that led you astray

But still the fire that shone in you

Was able to keep you set apart

From the mainstream that pretended it knew the way

And if you did not follow would be led astray

For there were other souls like yours

Who knew enough to keep the fire burning

Who decided to trust their deeper heart and soul yearning

Those who had the courage to open their wings and fly

Even when everything conspired to keep them bound

So trust your inner flame and never let it dull

Use it to guide you and never give up

For the fire in you comes from a beauty so deep

It should never ever be extinguished

Or put to sleep

Fear of Insanity Narcissism and Denial of Feeling : more insights from Alexander Lowen

the experience of horror (in childhood) makes one question one’s sanity.  What one is experiencing does not make sense, it doesn’t accord with one’s image of reality which even a baby has on a biological level.  To avoid the resulting mental confusion, one must dissociate and deny all feelings.  As long as one sticks to logic, one is safe.  But feelings are life, and one cannot fully avoid emotional experiences no matter how coolly one plays it.  The narcissist faces the risk of being overwhelmed by feelings and going wild, crazy, or mad, should his defence of denial break down.  This is especially true of anger. Every narcissist is afraid of going crazy, because the potential for insanity is in his personality.  This fear reinforces the denial of feeling creating a vicious cycle.

Reading the above paragraph again in Lowen’s book today gave me more insight into my brother, who threatened to walk out on me last October when I got angry with him.  It reminded me of terrifying incidents he faced in childhood and of how my father did pretty harsh things to him as a boy as his own childhood had been similarly harsh.  I was in tears again last week after yet another conversation with my brother where we was working as hard as he could to split off all expression of emotion.  I usually leave every interaction with him crying or disturbed in some way.  Now instead of feeling angry I  just feel really sad for him as I don’t ever think he will look at the roots of his own workaholism.  Once again I shed heaps of tears after I got off the phone on Thursday.  It is not that he is an unkind person either, all time the conversation revolved around helping my sister and I to get the best interest possible on the money Mum has left us.

It is now never the less a great comfort to me to be able to say I now know I am not crazy and I know why his side of the family have sidelined me before as well as other members of my family, looking upon us with such distain and disapproval due to our emotions.  That said I am also aware of the charge of anger that I have carried which I know I inherited from my mother’s side of the family.

Collapsing into a state of helplessness may be one response to such terror or violence in childhood.  Flight or fight may be two other  responses but both the later would often be blocked by an abusive parents.  Escaping or fighting back may be shamed or made  impossible as was the case of Bill whose story Lowen covers in Chapter 7 of this book.

Bill did not feel any anger.  He denied his anger, just as he denied his fear.  Instead, he adopted an attitude of submission and attempted to understand the irrational behaviour of his father, and others,  His submission to his father may have had a lifesaving value, but almost cost him his life.  (Bill was later on nearly killed by a hitchhiker he and a friend picked up on the side of the road who began to attack them.)

Lowen explains how Bill then came to fear his own anger.

(he).. believed that if he lost his head he might kill someone.  But to lose your head is equivalent to going crazy. Bill was terrified of the potential craziness in himself as he was of the craziness of others.  When I made this interpretation to him he remarked, “Now I know why I became a psychiatrist.”

Not everyone will be able to contain their rage from such incidents, others will act it out.  Lowen tells the story of David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam”, serial killer who murdered 6 and wounded 7 others.

What then are the dynamics that precipitate a seemingly sane person into insane action? … there must be some subconscious force.. This force is the denied feeling of anger.  Because the anger is denied, it is not experienced, which would give he person some control over it.

Many narcissists develop an ego unconscious split in these circumstance which means at times such subconscious forces can erupt and cause havoc or be projected on others.  Such and effect is called flooding…. an overwhelming feeling or excitation which ..”(temporarily drowns us)…in the torrent of sensation.  Imagine a river overflowing its banks and sweeping across the surrounding country side.  In a similar way the gush of feeling wipes out normal boundaries of the self, making it difficult for the person to distinguish between inner and outer reality.  Reality becomes confused and nebulous….. (there is a sense of) nothing solid to cling on to.  The person feels ‘at sea,’ estranged.

Such estrangement is not dissimilar to dissociation although Lowen compares it to disorientation.   The flooding of something we held down can make us dizzy, it may erase normal consciousness for a time.  It may well be what we experience in a panic attack (repressed or split off lively life energy or anger).  We can also be overwhelmed by pleasant sensations and if our sense of happiness or joy was also supressed or shamed in childhood we can begin to get fearful of insanity when we start to feel energised or even happy.

In the bioenergetic therapy Lowen used feelings which have been repressed or shut down are helped to liberate by the therapist who assists in the process so flooding and disorientation is not as intense as it would be if we were misunderstood or unsupported in the process.

The problem is that those damaged in childhood continue to carry split off emotions such as anger and sadness into adulthood, we may even attract relationships with others who act them out for us or vice versa, one partner can then pretend they are okay, it’s just their partner that is the problem.

Lowen points out in his book Narcissism : Denial of the True Self the connection between being called ‘mad’ (as in insane) when one is actually angry.

To say a person is mad may mean that person is either crazy or angry.  What this tells us is that anger is not an acceptable emotion.  Children are taught very early on to curb their anger; often they are punished if, in the course of an angry reaction, they hurt someone.  Disputes, they are admonished should be settled amicably and with words.  The ideal is to have reason prevail over action.

But conflicts can not always be settled amicably, with reasoning.   Tempers may flare.  I don’t mean one has to resort to physical violence to express an angry feeling.  Anger can be expressed in a look or by the tone of one;s voice.  Once can assert with feeling.  “I am angry with you.”  Some situations do call for the physical expression of anger.  If violence is used on you it may be appropriate to fight back.  Without the right to strike when one is hit, one feels powerless and humiliated.  We have seen what that can do to the personality.

I strongly believe that if children were allowed to voice their anger at their parent’s whenever they felt they had a legitimate grievance, we would see far fewer narcissistic personalities.  Giving a child this right would allow a real respect for the child’s feelings.

Lowen goes on to site an experience of watching a Japanese woman being hit by her daughter in anger.  He explains how in Japan a child is never disciplined before the age of 6 because they are regarded to be innocent  and such children don’t end up disrespectful or misbehaving.  However when the right of angry expression is denied a child it has an adverse impact and then there are the parents who cannot express their own anger with a child in a healthy way and use punishment instead.  Lowen doesn’t negate the need for discipline, only the use of power and control in the face of a child the parent does not have a healthy way of relating to and helping to develop emotionally.

Such repression of anger in a person in childhood means anger stays present in the person’s system much later in life.  In his bioenergetic therapy Lowen helps patient to discharge repressed anger so that it does not stay trapped inside.  However as he points out, the fear of ones anger and belief it will prove one is insane is a difficulty that many narcissistically injured person’s face on the path to healing.

For narcissists to know themselves, they have to acknowledge their fear of insanity and to sense the murderous rage inside that they identify with insanity.  But they can only do this if the therapist is aware of those elements and is not afraid of them.  I find it helpful to point out to my patients that what they believe is insane – namely, their anger – is in fact sense if they can accept it.  In contrast, their behaviour without feeling, which they regard as sane,is really crazy.

The behaviour without feeling that Lowen mentions here in fact leads to the growing or development of what he calls a thick skin, a protective defensive layer which will allow no real feeling for self or others in those with a narcissistic defence,

such denial is achieved by deadening the surface to stimuli, its effect is to rigidify the ego.  … the result is a diminishing of the ego’s capacity to respond emotionally to reality or to change reality in line with one’s feelings.. the ego’s safety lies in a deadened body, with little emotion.  Yet this very deadening creates a hunger for sensation, leading to the hedonism typical of a narcissistic culture.

But true feeling is then increasingly hidden behind a façade and the building charge of need and hidden feeling is defended against.  Thus addictions come to play a role in diverting attention from the truth.

By contrast those who develop a borderline defence to such negation actually become excessively thin skinned, unable to throw off hurts lodged deep inside from the past often from unfeeling narcissists.  Their work is to understand the source of pain and not project it onto the present, understanding how deeply its roots lie hidden in an often unconscious past.

 

 

 

 

The need to feel safe and the healing power of presence

Elephant.jpg

In order to be able to open ourselves up totally we need to feel safe and we can only feel safe in a climate of acceptance and love.  I do believe it is this open non judgemental acceptance which can free us and often it is given the name presence.  Being present with someone, totally with no agenda is such a gift.  It is about the best gift we can give to anyone who is struggling and has locked up things inside.    People who are suffering don’t need to be told what to do.. they JUST NEED TO BE HEARD AND VALIDATED!!

For so many of us it wasn’t safe to fully express ourselves growing up.  I know I suffered doubly from being at a Catholic School where it was soooo repressed.  As kids we learned just to suck it up but I was listening to part of a radio play in which a young boy was sharing what a preacher had told him from the bible and saying how it was all about being bad and needing to be made not so bad, the inherent idea of original sin was a toxic poison so many of us imbibed with the rancid morning tea milk we were forced to drink that had become tarnished from being left outside too long in the sun. I know I used to gag on mine.

Its a very long journey to learn to be present to ourselves and not totally possessed by the voice of a voracious inner critic we internalised composed of all the things we were told about our badness or need for correction.  And yes sometimes we do need to monitor behaviour but what we most categorically don’t need is blockage against knowing who we are and what we truly feel.   And this can only begin to emerge in a climate of empathy and open presence.  Being present for our own self and offering understanding compassion and love is in my experience the thing that most soothes my anxiety.   Soothing comes from the love we give, increased anxiety comes from speaking to ourselves or others badly or in a critical or unloving way.  We are all human and do it but we can all become more mindful of it too, we don’t have to be perfect just a bit more aware.

 

Be there

Lion 7

Be there for me

Hold my hand

Let me know I have the strength to stand

Even if it means to stand alone

Give me strength

Help me believe in the power

I have to take root

Blossom and flower

Let me believe in the life force in me

And that I have the skills and knowledge inside

Things I no longer need to hide out of fear

Or the risk of disapproval

Remind me that

Although this world is often an unsafe place

One where it hurts to risk

There is a deeper price

For failing to expose my true face

Help me to find my right size and shape

And don’t let me listen to those killing voices inside

That want to cut me down to size

Or tell me I do not belong

Help me to be both vulnerable and strong

Stand beside me dear self

Hold my hand

As I risk my life to live

And take a stand

Making no other demand

Than the right to exist

As the very one I am

Mercury in Leo stations direct

Lion 3.jpg

Mercury is the planet which rules mind, communication, perceptions, interpersonal connections and self expression (aligned with Venus Mars and the Sun).  It has been moving retrograde (backwards) for three weeks now and goes direct tomorrow.  The following info is from Celestial Space`s blog  She does not have a reblog button on the site so I am sharing it for readers as it tallies with what has been occuring for me.   My inner child has really needed support over the past few days with transiting Mercury squaring My Natal Neptune in the third house and smack bang on the exact degrees of my dead sister`s Pluto.  Memories of her leaving when I was 3 have been bringing me to tears over past days.  I am not able to share all of the article only one paragraph but here is the link  (ive cheated here and used two paragraphs!!)

https://celestialspace.wordpress.com/2018/08/18/celestial-twinkle-mercury-stations-direct-in-leo-august-2018/

This transit of Mercury in Leo has brought up tension around holding onto painful ideas or perceptions that become chronic and inflamed. Mercury in Leo at its peak potential embodies a sense of innocence, joy and liveliness.  When Mercury in Leo is off-balance, words and ideas are dominating, selfishness and pride are over the top as is the need for attention and being put on a high pedestal.

Focus the mental energy on the highest vision possible for the highest good for all. Hold steady to that outcome and ask for Spiritual energies for support. This means, it is not the egoic mind’s expectation, rather, the idea that the highest good for all is the healthiest and most loving so everyone is lifted up and shines their brightest as their Soul potential.

 

Give in

Born.jpg

Give in to your grief

Allow the full force of your tears

To flow unimpeded like a river

Don’t freeze up

Or lock it all inside

Don’t believe those who tell you

Its better to put on a smile

If really the smile is not yet the result

Of allowing yourself to be real

Honest and true

To all that lives inside of you

I speak as one who knows

Who was taught to hide

To fear self expression

And lock the way I really felt inside

I learned to fear that anger and grief

Would come with a tide

Of disapproval from others

But in denying me my feelings

They denied me true life

And forced the truth into addictions

And much as I tried to blame them

They were not at fault

Just teaching what they learned

But now I know

That freedom only comes

When we give in to what we feel

And allow it to drop us to our knees

And find the real

For only through doing so

Through this kind of surrender

Can we find the way through

And allow life to carry us forward again

Find the strength and courage

To rise again

And live a fully embodied life