Pain of early separation from our mothers and its impact on relationships

Pain of early separations from our mother can haunt us for a long time and we may not always know what the pain is about. It’s an issue that Mark Wolynn, San Francisco based therapist on multigenerational trauma addresses at length in his book It Didn’t Start With You : How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.  The separation may not have been physical alone, it could be just that our mother was undergoing a depression, grieving a loss or being unseen and unnurtured by her own mother did not know how to be fully present for us.  (According to Wolynn the original problem or disruption often lies a generation or two back and we may be unaware of it).  We feel the loss and absence keenly and such feelings can cause us to actually turn away when our mother tries to connect with us another time.

Wolynn shares just such a story on page 175 about a baby Myrna whose mother leaves for three weeks.  On her return as she waits and longs for her daughter to run to her Mryna’s mother experiences instead a daughter who turns away becoming even more distant.  Rather than understand her daughter’s reactions and look for a way to restore the bond Myrna’s mother instead encourages her independence.  The mother loses sight of her child’s vulnerability, so where did it go for Myrna?  Answer in short.  Into the unconscious.

Of course later when Myrna fell in love, love was experienced as a minefield and its something I can relate to as will anyone with insecure, avoidant or anxious attachment.  Vulnerability of needing another opens up a pit of loss we do not fully understand and we can relate by sabotaging things further should we choose to deny or repress our true need feelings and vulnerability.

Mark Wolynn talks of interruptions to the flow of love and energy between parent and child a lot in his book.  He knows a lot about it as he pursued a path of so called ‘spiritual bypassing’ seeking a healing he could not find in ashrams and through meditation (though he does use visionary meditations with a clients ancestors in order to effect healing of past wounds carried on).  Wolynn did not heal his early trauma with his mother until years later understanding how its roots lay far back in his own mother and grandmother’s history and eventually becoming a therapist himself.

When our early experience with our mother is disrupted by a significant break in the bond, shards of pain and emptiness can shred our well being and disconnect us from the fundamental flow of life.  Where the mother-child relationship remains severed, empty or fraught with indifference, a stream of negative images can lock the child in a pattern of frustration and self doubt.  In extreme cases, when the negative images are continuous and unrelenting, frustration, rage, numbness, and insensitivity to others can emerge.

Psychopathic behaviour can be the result but the key result if often a form of pathological narcissism – an inability to truly connect and take in love.

According to Wolynn the majority of us have experienced some kind of break in the bond with our mothers.  Many though, got enough of what was needed to be able to maintain healthy relationships later in life.  Many of us were not so lucky.  Ideally disruptions to attunement need to be healed in the context of any relationship.  How we deal with them are important as are the beliefs about our inherent lovability.  According to Janet Woititz adult children of addiction and trauma believed they will only be loved if they act in a pleasing happy way.  No relationship can survive like this and neither can we.

Knowing what happened in the bond with our mother and the impact it had on our attachment style as well as inherent negative self beliefs and development of what Wolynn calls ‘core sentences of separation’ is vitally important if we wish to heal.  We can become conscious of these, work to understand how they may be influencing our present and do inner work to change negative core beliefs we may have absorbed unconsciously so they do not continue to play our in our relationships.  I have found so much help myself reading Wolynn’s book which I shared from extensively in my blog last year.  It is well worth a look if you struggle to maintain healthy loving relationships in your own life and are working to understand how the flow of love between you and a parent (not only your mother) is impacting you in later life.

(Examples of core beliefs which negatively impact our capacity to love and be loved are :  I’ll be left:  I’ll be abandoned. I’ll be rejected.  I’ll have nobody.  I’ll lose control.   I’ll be helpless.  I don’t matter.  I’m too much.  I am not enough.  I’ll be annihilated.  I’ll be destroyed.  I will push love away.)

In therapy my heart is recognised.

It was such a relief to get to therapy this morning.  I cried a lot of the way there listening to my favourite Coldplay song and in the chair it took a long time for any words to come, my therapist just sat there affirming, mirroring my body and nodding while looking at me with eyes of such compassion.  I noticed it was hard to meet her gaze without tearing up and crying very deeply.  I shared my poem on waiting later in the session while crying.  She said it was no wonder I had the reaction I did to a certain ‘friend’s’ text and the lack of reply from my niece in law.   I told her the struggle I went through in my mind how it immediately made me feel (lack of connection) like I had done something wrong, something I needed to apologise for.   But as we examined that rationally it was clear that was not true and I could not really know what was going on.   Still it was such a relief to be fully myself with Kat and to have trusted that her boundaries to keep contact limited to face to face sessions was working.  I had to hold on to that abandonment pain over Sunday and that was a big ask, I felt like I was exploding last night but I did come through after being awake for about an hour or more with extreme PTSD symptoms.

Driving home feeling a lot clearer and affirmed I wondered how I would have coped if I had never found Kat.  I aborted my second attempt at therapy in 2001 after my therapist went away and I have grieved that loss for some years as the second bike accident I had came after my marriage ended when I went back to the UK to try to resume it and opened up my body trauma too early and crashed.  I then was out of therapy for about 8 years, wilderness years when I got involved in a very emotionally wounding and non supportive relationship with a man with his own intense abandonment issues he had no interest in owing or working on.  I was told I was the problem, he told all his relatives and it was only his sister who challenged him about his part in it.   When he broke it off I was shattered and tried to run to another relationship before realising that was never going to be a valid path to healing for me, thank God.

I am in my third year of therapy with Kat now after about a year with a colleague of hers with whom the fit was not as good.  And I nearly broke it around the time Mum died last year when she would not make herself available to me on a weekend.

I read the text I would have liked to send to the friend who shamed me on the weekend.   I ditched that one in favour of a ‘fawn’ text telling her not to feel obligated to me as it wasn’t important that she call.  That was not true, I was hurt by her and I was scared to tell her, in case the relationship fell apart.  I dialogued a lot with my Inner Child on Sunday after I had the huge emotional response to her text and she told me I need to protect myself better from her as she is not always that reliable, that I need to share with her how what she said to me hurt and then by her response I will know if she is a true friend.  That said I now just accept it was a huge trigger for me and the pain I felt was so intense as I have been abandoned at least a dozen times in male and female relationships.

Kat and I also discussed how often I feel it’s all too hard to reach for real relationship and true connection but what I now know is that due to the fact my consciousness is deepening to have true intimacy in my life it will need to be with another conscious person who accepts me in my woundedness.  I am not a damaged person I have just gone through a lot of trauma and that makes me highly sensitive and I also believe I am highly empathic and intuitive too, so I pick up stuff and emotionally defended people immediately trigger me, if they don’t want to own their ‘stuff’ and I end up carrying it, that is toxic for me in the long run and my Inner Child is calling time on it.

I noticed when I looked into further astrology transits yesterday that Venus planet of relationships was approaching an exact square aspect to Pluto from Aries.  That shows an intensity that will be felt in relationships due to them triggering unconscious things in us and the way we relate, attach and are or have been wounded by both as babies or children.  Reaching for outer control or lashing back are counter productive with Venus Pluto, though it’s what people with this natal aspect may subject us to if we relate with them..  I am glad I held my fire yesterday so I could allow the suffering to reveal truths to me I could not have reached intellectually.   Pain does bring awareness and sadness and sorrow speak to me of real needs and values being thwarted.  I am learning to trust my feelings now rather than diminish them with intellectualisations.  For that I am so so grateful and also for a therapist who hears my heart, acknowledges my heart and gets my heart.

Who ARE we really? The lost feeling self and it’s role in suicidal ideation.

Just re reading through key chapters in Jonice Webb’s book on Childhood Emotional Neglect, Running on Empty : Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect  is reminding me of this question and how hard it can be to answer fully and honestly if we were not fully allowed to express ourselves or unfold ourselves and our feelings in our family of origin.

In the chapter Cognitive Secrets : The Special Problem of Suicidal Feelings, Jonice outlines the story of Robyn who becomes suicidal after what seems to be a ‘fun’ night with friends.  What is not seen by her friends though or expressed by Robyn is her real and true self.  As Jonice describes Robyn’s childhood she describes a loving family who did not allow any displays of so called ‘negative’ emotions  :

Robyn’s parents seldom argued and they had very low tolerance for negativity of any kind  When a conflict would break out between the children, as they do with all siblings, the parents would crack down by sending all parties to their rooms immediately (no matter what the fight was about).. their motto was “Zero Tolerance”. They also applied this role to complaining or any expression of unhappiness, sadness or frustration.   The result was a quiet household.  The children learned early on that if they had something negative on their minds, they had better keep it to themselves.  Mom and Dad refused to be burdened by nonsense.. they didn’t have the time or energy to put into solving crises, assuaging tears and soothing frustrations  The Zero Tolerance policy allowed them to stay in charge of the household and they felt, keep a positive outlook on life.

Outside the house the siblings did fight and argue, however.  The older siblings could work with this conflict, contain the emotions and felt freed by it, but Robyn who was a sensitive child did not.  She was labelled a ‘Frequent Crier ‘ by the family, due to her tendency to burst into tears and was of course teased about being like this and if the tears continued too long she was,( of course), sent to her room (alone!).  Great solution, Mum and Dad!!!

Throughout all of this Robyn learned a powerful lesson.  She learned that negative emotion was bad and would not be tolerated.  She learned that any feelings she had that were not upbeat, fun or positive must be kept to herself and carefully hidden.  She felt ashamed that she had such feelings, and silently vowed never to let them be seen.  (to such an extent that she even hid them from herself!)

Robyn learned to withdraw, to stay busy and diverted, watch too much television or over work and to fight off any ‘negative’ feelings.

Robyn didn’t just fight this battle.  She lived it.  Her life was organised around making sure that she did not reveal, see, know or feel anything negative from herself.  It took a tremendous amount of energy.  She was bent on hiding the negative shameful part of herself (Robyn’s version of the Fatal Flaw most neglected kid hide deep inside)…..she couldn’t let anyone get to know her too well.

Robyn learned to live alone, to not invite friends around.  She hid even her intense loneliness about this from herself and struggled because she knew her parents loved her, so why would she be struggling so much if she was not fatally flawed?

Since adolescence, Robyn had an outside looking in feeling. At age 13, she had started wondering what was wrong with her.  She’d had a great childhood, so there was no explanation for how flawed she felt.  There was something missing something sick inside of her, a secret void.  The only way she could soothe herself was to imagine being dead.  Being dead would be such a relief  She did not have any intention to kill herself, but she reserved the possibility as a safety net…..Robyn used fantasies of being dead and her secret knowledge of her safety net as her chief method of soothing herself from age 13, all through her adulthood, but she had not breathed a word of it to a single soul.

Jonice goes on to describe how this fantasy and desire was, however, triggered after the night in question Robyn had shared with friends…. how feelings of numbness, emptiness and gloom suddenly began to over take and consume Robyn…As her desperation increased after failed attempts to distract herself with television comedy failed, Robyn reached for the bottle of pills and swallowed them compulsively.

Robyn’s suicide attempt and feelings would most likely make so sense to anyone who knew her because as Jonice explains “the Robyn that everyone else knew and loved was not the real Robyn… She was essentially a time bomb, set to explode periodically”.

Robyn was luckily found by her sister who happened to drop by that day…but many who feel and suffer the way that Robyn did are not so lucky….”they don’t get to share or understand their pain, and they don’t get to explain their final moments to anyone.”  They also never really get to know, love or understand their real feelings or true self.

When I first read this chapter in Webb’s book last year I identified with it so strongly.  I have not ever committed suicide though often I had cherished that fantasy too.  Luckily I got a sense years into sobriety that more was going on underneath my addiction that just ‘defects of character’.  Soul sadness, soul loneliness as therapist Tara Brach points out in her book True Refuge are primary feelings that drive us when we come to mistakenly believe “there is something wrong with me”, the fatal flaw which is symptom seven in Jonice Webb’s list of effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect.

So many of us who suffer urgently need to understand it’s roots if we really are ever to recover our true sense of self which contains all kinds of feelings in response to a life which we didn’t choose and is so often influenced by all kinds of toxic, negating and restrictive influences beyond our control.

(For a full list of all 10 symptoms of Childhood Emotional Neglect please see the following post or read Jonice Webb’s book.)

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/signs-you-may-have-been-emotionally-neglected/

Understanding alexithymia and building emotional depth if you were emotionally neglected.

I have written several detailed posts on Childhood Emotional Neglect.  One of the painful symptoms is alexithymia which is a complex name for a condition in which you are often out of touch with your deepest feelings.  As a result you may often feel confused, irritable or angry for seemingly ‘no’ reason, mystified by the behaviour of others.  You may also feel like something is missing inside of you, have friendships which lack depth and substance, including the ability to share and feel comfortable with expressing feelings.  You may also suffer from suicidal feelings and not really know the where they come from.

This kind of thing dates back to a childhood where you were emotionally neglected, left alone a lot of the time without a lot of support or attention in contrast to being violently or overtly abused or led to believe it was not okay to express difficult emotions such as anger or sadness.  Such scars and deficits left run deep and are invisible and even mystifying to yourself, since you were given next to no help with understanding your feelings, led to believe they don’t make any sense or should be ignored, over-ridden or put to one side.

In her book on Childhood Emotional Neglect, therapist Jonice Webb addresses the issue of trying to heal from this kind of thing through developing emotional intelligence and insight into your feelings but another important skill to learn is sharing how you do feel with others while taking the risk that it just might lead to abandonment.

Taking this kind of risk runs exactly contrary to what those of us who have been emotionally neglected or forced out of touch with our feelings have been forced to do if there was no one there to tell or depend in childhood.  Instead we learn to be super independent, feel we should not ‘bother’ others or be a ‘downer’ or a ‘burden’ to others.  But in an emotionally healthy relationship its okay to express and share feelings as this builds intimacy, connection and emotional depth.

In addition, if we suffered from childhood emotional neglect we may feel that we are all ‘too much’, especially if we learn to substitute larger more dramatic emotions and blows ups for the balanced expression of true semotion which we probably never learned or saw modelled in our family of origins growing up.  Jonice recommends in her book that instead we seek out those who are trustworthy as far as feelings are concerned, are willing to listen, support and understand.  Futhermore, she recommends taking risks to :

tell (others) your problem to see if it does help you to manage your feelings  in order to test out :

if they are used against you,

if the person runs away,

is burdened by it,

accuses you of ruining their day/night

or gives you the feeling that you are ‘weak’ or that there is something wrong with you for feeling that way…

These kind of reactions according to Jonice are signs that this particular person is not really the best kind of friend for us in the circumstances, that they may actually be like an unsupportive parent and therefore not healthy to be around long term if we really wish to build greater depth and emotional rapport which are so essential to those of us who were emotionally neglected in childhood.

Further more, in terms of understanding the symptom of alexithymia versus emotional awareness which we need to develop as we recover, Jonice points out that the following treatment by parents in childhood is often behind our disconnection from feeling and our emotional life.

  1. The parent doesn’t pay attention to the child’s feelings.
  2. The parent doesn’t make an effort to feel what their child is feeling
  3. The parent doesn’t help the child to find and form words for what they are feeling.
  4. The parent doesn’t help the child to draw connections between what has happened to them and how they are feeling in reaction or guilts or shames then for such a reaction.
  5. The parent does not make emotions an important part of nurturing the child.

If this is the way your parents raised you, then it’s no wonder you developed alexithymia as a result.  It will take time and a lot of help in recovery to help you learn not only to differentiate your feelings and make sense of them but trust yourself in expressing then to others.   Without this capacity your emotional life will suffer as a result.

human beings are designed to feel emotion.  When that design is short circuited, first by emotionally neglectful parents and later by the child himself as an adult it throws off the entire system….the human psyche malfunctions when emotions are pushed out of it… emptiness or numbness is worse than pain.  Many people have told me they would prefer feeling anything to (feeling) nothing.  It is very difficult to acknoweldge, makes sense of, or put into words soemthing that is absent.  If you do succed in putting emptiness into words to try to explain it to another person,, it’s very difficult for others to understand it.  Emptiness seems like nothing to most people.  And it is nothing, neither bad or good.  But in the case of a human being’s internal functioning, nothing is definately something.  Emptiness is actually a feeling in and of itself.  And I have discovered that it is a feeling that can be very intense and powerful  In fact, it has the power to drive people to do things to escape it…….

And as Jonice goes onto explain this kind of emptiness leads not only to suicidal feelings but to an attempt to control or hide from the feeling by supresssing the truth of it, denying, avoiding, detaching altogether from human life and relationships.  People with alexithymia suffer in silence, they question the value and meaning of their lives and indulge in escape fantasies and addictions as a result.

To understand emotions better I recommend checking out these past two posts that I wrote a while back taken from the healing work of Dr Jonice Webb.

https://wordpress.com/post/emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/43134

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/learning-to-express-your-feelings-effectively/

I would also highly recommend getting a hold of her book or checking out her website.  In order to live complete fulfilling lives, it is so important we work to become more aware of our emotions and their messages.

(All quotes taken from Running On Empty : Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect)

 

 

Innumerable forces

Our deficits are shaped and sustained by innumerable forces.  Many of us are born with genetic tendencies towards anxiety, aggression, or depression; we are brought up in cultures that are plagued by addiction and violence, by deception and greed.  Our environment is full of pollutants that affect our nervous system in innumerable and unknowable ways.   Our families of origin are beset by financial difficulties, by conflict and misunderstanding, by trauma carried through past generations.  And, crucially, how we treat ourselves and others is moulded by how our own caretakers attended to us.  Some interplay of these forces generates the first arrow of painful emotions and compulsive behaviors.

If we become mindful of how our experience arises from a complex array of causes, we are at the threshold of an important insight: The compelling emotions that shape our self sense are actually impersonal.  Just as recurring blizzards or droughts don’t target a particular farm, our inner emotional weather is not owned by or controlled by this particular body and mind.  Rather, it arises from causes beyond our individual existence….

Even a taste of this truth, a whisper of “It’s not my fault,”  loosens the identification with self blame, and it allows us to have more compassion for our actual experience.  If  we can stop condemning our imperfection, we can reconnect with the healing warmth of our Buddha-hearts.  And this opens the door to change.

Contacting the truth of our own suffering is what cracks the heart open to self compassion and forgiveness.  (We are not bad people for being beset by diffficulties or deficits, just the opposite.)

“God looks beyond our fault and sees our need.”

What if we could recognise our faults and look to see what is beyond them?  What if we could see, with great tenderness, the painful umet needs that have shaped our behaviors?  For many of us, this process is the work of a lifetime, one that requires the active support of loved ones, therapists, spiritual teachers, or healers.  Yet it begins the moment we are willing to look at ourselves through the eyes of compassion.

Tara Brach

The Gateway of Love 

(Taken from True Refuge : Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart)

Push, push, push

Masterchef Australia is currently on tele here in Oz and the refrain push, push, push is heard nearly every night but its a reminder to me that sometimes I just need to rest, rest, rest because I can push and push and push to have to get things done and sometimes its coming out of anxiety or critical energy.

Earlier I wrote a post that touched on positive self will, I guess this is action which is line with Self that tries work in a balanced way to both project us into the world, but at the same time tell us when to rest, go easy, or take it slow. In childhood I never got to experience relaxed happy times with my parents.  It was a very duty bound home full of responsibilities and in some ways this can be good but not when it interferes with my ability to relax, let go and have some fun!

After getting into a rage last week about being stuffed around by the dentist and that arking up all my head trauma, I then got reminded of how it felt to be around family energy.  Just this morning my brother called from America.  He is go, go in the garden nearly put his back out by digging in the front yard.  “Just be sure to take care of yourself”, I said.  Then when I had to share about my dental trauma there was absolutely zilch emotional reaction or connection just a dull heavy emptiness and as so often happens after I got of the phone to him I found myself in tears.  My family are JUST SO SHUT DOWN.

Later my sister called to say that in training this morning her personal trainers dog jumped on her and soiled her nice clean leggings,  I just wanted to say ‘get lost’ she said.  I considered this with a calm irony.  I just said “Wow I can almost sense Mum’s flared nostrils from here!”    I remember how my dead sister would never let my mother remove old flowers from her room and how she loved the story where Mum visited a family friend’s farm and got upset due to ending up with chicken shit on her shoe…this delighted my sister.

I have empathy for my Mum though, to be left that alone when you are young and then to feel the only way you can find value or worth is by taking control, keeping everything perfect and looking good is very sad on some level when it costs a heavy price in being able to just let loose, laugh at chaos and have some fun.  I get anxious just thinking about the chicken shit, to be honest but I think that is a conditioned reaction.

I allow my own dog to jump up when he wants too.  People at the dog park don’t mind, I know some would consider it not a good sign, a sign of ‘bad manners’ or inadequate training. I see it as a sign of how affectionate he is and how much he loves people, and having him has re-connected me with that part of myself which so long ago went into hiding in a home where we were conditioned to think more about how we looked on the outside, than about how we felt on the inside and must keep genuine needs and interest locked behind a wall of fear or shyness.

Today, once again I am not going to push, push, push.  I just had a moment where I realised I was pushing and then felt really, really sad and an inner voice just said to me “how bad could it be if you just relaxed for a while?”  So for the first time in over 2 years I sitting in my faded floral chair in my small dining room and writing this.   It feels GREAT!

I know I can overcome my childhood conditioning.  Day by day I am learning more about it.  A constant theme in therapy is about how the inner critic pushes and savages me and I am learning to let go.  I had a positive dream last night in which I was being expected to make a meal at an event where there was already a lot of food, I decided in the end not to make anything even though I felt guilty.  I see that as a good sign.  The other positive dream image was that I had met a lovely man and he got undressed to get into bed, I was about take off my jeans and then I felt I wasn’t ready.  I got into bed next to him and said.  “I’d like to take my time to get to know you before we sleep together.”  He was fine with it.  I am nearly crying as I write that because sadly due to low self esteem and lots of emotional intimacy hunger in my teenage and younger and even older adult life I have jumped into bed with partners far too soon, and in the last relationship warning signs were there at the start that he had narcissistic issues and I overrode my own instincts when he asked me to have sex as I was so lonely.  This dream seems to auger really well for boundary issues.  Maybe my ‘no’  and self esteem muscles will get stronger in time.  Maybe I no longer have that same hunger due to my inner work and can now be a lover to myself, first, maybe I am learning to practice self care.  The dream sure seems to be saying just that.  Thank you God.

The importance of containment and soothing

After three exceedingly tough days where all of my trauma symptoms went over the top and I got stuck back in a deep pit of anguish and I gained some deeper insight into my struggles with love and connection, today started with a very loving, connected chat with my best friend in Sydney which immediately set my day off on a good note.

I am so grateful that I have one friend I can bear my entire soul with over the phone.  We can’t meet up as we live so far away from each other, but we are on such a similar wavelength that talking to him soothes me in a way helping me to feel wrapped in a cosy blanket.    I know he feels the same as we each show empathy and validate each other, most especially on the tough days, but on some tough days I don’t manage to reach out.  I get stuck back in that deep alone, disconnected from any human warmth place that I have known so many times in my past.

This friend just happened to be a very good friend of my ex partner and when our relationship hit the wall my friendship with him survived.  He knew all the ins and outs of things that happened and of my ex partner’s foibles and wounds and it was so good to speak to him as yesterday I was feeling so sad for the fact of how our love could not win through our mutual defences and heartaches.  I recognised today how strong these feelings are for me at this time of year.  We got together in April and had some months of very cosy love and connections before early wounds and cracks started to appear in our relationship.

Yesterday I had a day of seeing more deeply and with greater clarity than I could before what went wrong.   I then saw how I tried to make one of us wrong for it not working out, but the truth was (and this heals my heart to even say it) I do know now, six years out, that we both did the very best we could with what we both knew at the time.  We both had so much abandonment trauma in our pasts.

Reading back on our emails I understand more of deep hurt from his own childhood that my ex was carrying and how it tended to get projected in blame when he didn’t get the support he needed.  I was limited in my own ability to support emotionally as I had not ever been supported emotionally in my life either.  I guess we tried our best to support but in the end it didn’t work out.  Over the years he said some very nasty things to me out of his own pain.  Often I would just withdraw and not lash back, often escaping to the bathroom to put my hands over my ears.  At times I could sooth him but at other times when my own abandonment wounds were triggered and he didn’t understand I flew into rages and really hit the wall, which triggered all of his scary past of a father with major addiction.

In the end we couldn’t give each other what was needed and that triggered all the intense pain of a past in which I never got what I needed but had to revolve around others to get some scraps.  The final blow from him was a very nasty email calling me horrible things all coming out of hurt.  At that point I hit back with all guns blazing and now I see if I could have acknowledged his own projected hurt under the words, soothing may have helped us come through, yet as I edit this and as my friend said to me today, Deb it wasn’t your fault.

This morning I was crying about all of this with my friend and saying how I fucked everything up, how lately I feel I am not moving forward.  My wise, loving, patient, kind friend said to me that he didn’t agree.  “You just have to keep moving through and being as strong as you can be to build a life of comfort for you,” he said, that is what he is doing as his marriage is also far from ideal and little empathy is ever shown to him.

Our conversation has made me reflect a great deal on how containment, comfort and understanding are the healing soothing balm or salve that we most sorely need applied to our sore, scarred, traumatised or wounded places.  When we are understood in a loving way, when people can see deeper into our soul and not react or get drawn into wounded reactions or help us to shine a light on them we do better.

The traumatised body/soul is often one that has known little in the way of positive, soothing love and containment as well as empathy.  Wounding and trauma ark up our fear, fight, flight responses.  A harsh insensitive environment is one in which we feel the need to be constantly on alert, we then become ultra attuned to scoping out threats and its difficult to relax.  Negative scenarios run through our head and get triggered by new ones. If we were left alone in difficult or stressful situations we internalise all the drama inside with no place to pour it into.  We lack loving soothing self talk and other soothing, calming strategies that would allow our systems to rest and be relaxed back into a zone of calm.

I have begun to associate this kind of background with one that is likely to generate panic attacks within us, as well as a tendency to look for things to self soothe that often don’t soothe us at all or may lead to health complications, such as addictions.

This morning I was able to share with my friend how lately I have noticed how I use food to self soothe but sometimes not the right kind of food.  Lately my body is fairly quick to alert me to when it is not in a state of calm or is reacting to my feeding my face when really I need to just take care of and nurture myself in other ways.  All of this as I have shared before, tends to happen when I am at a critical time of day that most reminds me of times of feeling and being alone… the few hours of homecoming and the period in which I preparing food for myself and my dog.

Lately at these times I am trying to become more mindful of what is going on inside me.  I am aware how I can ark my own nervous system up with anxious thoughts.  This was the time of day in my past that I most lacked loving containment as a child.  I was left alone a lot and I used to eat to fill the emptiness.  I do not struggle with a weight issue but I still struggle with food.  Food is one of the ways I use to soothe myself and thinking about it today I saw how few other self soothing strategies I really have and how this is an area it is so important for me and others with Complex PTSD to work on.

If we come out of trauma we need to develop loving inner parents, we need to find places and spaces of calm.  We need to honour our body and soul’s need to move more and rest at the right time, times of expansion and times of contraction.  We need to watch what we take in, in terms of food and other soul nourishment and how what we take in or expose ourselves to affects our trauma body.    We need to watch our thoughts and notice when we may be triggered into a downward negative spiral.

For myself  I also need to understand how meeting a hostile defence from others when I attempt to open up some area of concern affects me and how I react in the wake of it.

Really positive self soothing in all its dimensions is so essential for the traumatised body and soul, loving compassion and containment is essential for those of us who have suffered trauma, abuse or neglect.  The later leaves us with a lot of emptiness and difficulties with knowing the right ways to care for ourselves, how to reach out, how to identify and reach our for what we really need, how also to create comfort from within, in terms of good boundaries.  In the absence of good sources of containment and nurture we learned to survive alone in the best way we knew how but often look to the wrong thing.  So much of our recovery demands that we learn the best places, spaces and sources of soothing for our soul.

Allowing ourselves to know truths we could not know as children.

Confused

At times I feel that I don’t really allow myself to know the truth of how I feel so deeply inside.  I can be dismissive of myself and my own deeper feelings at times, I can deny that things hurt or that I feel lonely.  I feel the solitary nature of my childhood in which emotionally I was not connected to much left me with a legacy of loneliness and shyness that didn’t make it that easy to connect and living in the Australian culture I feel a bit lonelier too as people can sometimes be loud and brash and a trifle insensitive. glossing over deeper realities in an effort to appear ‘laid back’.

And I am beginning to recognise that if I cannot recognise how I am truly feeling how can I really be that connected to my True Self?  Instead aren’t I living in a state of emotional disconnection or dissociation a fair amount of the time?.  I discussed it with my therapist, Katina the other day and she gets excited when I start to recognise these kinds of things   With her I never feel invalidated or dismissed which I now recognise was huge part of my childhood and adolescence.

And I have shared before how these feelings become very strong for me around home from school time in the afternoons between 4 and 7, that was a really lonely time in my past where I had to let myself into an empty house and find ways to entertain myself.  And come to think of it my mother used to go through exactly the same thing and when we talk at times I sense that loneliness of hers deep down inside too.

Yesterday I just sat quietly with my dog Jasper as I felt those old feelings for a time and there were quite a lot of tears as I remembered how it REALLY felt.   I talked to my inner child about how it was and she told me a lot of things.  I see now that there is a pattern which I can perpetrate keeping myself away from company full of fear of what may happen if I do try to connect.  I have a deep down fear of being dismissed or negated.   This fear is very real, I carry the sense of having that done to me.  Come to think of it I have a deep pool of unmet need around emotional connection which I so easily bring to new situations and my pain and longing from the past has made me hypersensitive, old grief can be triggered by newer experiences which contain resonate memories and then I am feeling the entire force of these.  I am aware lately that these feelings are not as intense as they used to be in the past as I am becoming more and more aware of what I have carried in the unconscious.

As I read this post to my therapist this afternoon she was reminding me how children aren’t actually able to know how they feel when they are going through neglect and abandonment at the time.  They don’t have a concept that something is wrong on an intellectual level but the experience is  fully ‘known’ at a bodily and sensate level.  I think that is why depression is often such a mystery to those of us who suffer.  We are so often triggered while not knowing we are being triggered to feel really deep old pain and feelings of hunger, longing, hurt, shame, disappointment, anger or frustration from the past.  It takes a lot of work to bring awareness and understanding to this level of our experience.  Its a big job and may take some years of therapy or inner work.  If we try to share the process with others they often wont understand or may dismiss us too.

I think its such a good awareness to have that we need to take our own feelings seriously and see how they connect to the past, learning to connect present feelings with older associations.  Awareness is the first step before we can accept the past pain as a natural outcome of lacks and deficiencies in the past especially of adequate holding and nurture While we are undergoing this process its also very tiring, we need a lot of quiet time and rest and socialising is problematic, something others who don’t understand the process may not accept or validate.  My personal understanding is that the body registers everything and if we don’t bring it to consciousness it will manifest in some way, often in some kind of chronic pain or illness.

We are so often so hard on ourselves just for being human and having needs and natural feelings and there are so few places that really help us to make sense of our past in my experience. Being dismissed is such a natural part of our society but I hope that it is changing as more people realise and speak about the pain they suffered as a result of emotional insensitivity, invalidation, abuse or neglect.  We need to learn ways to  encourage and love ourselves through these kind of difficulties with grace.  When we take our own heart seriously we are being kind to ourselves and when we recognise our self judgements as responses that came out of lack of empathy shown we are a long way along the road to healing.    When we let go of self blame we feel happier and more positive because we are really listening to instead of dismissing ourselves and then we can turn a listening ear inside to our inner self instead of blotting out its voice all of the time with distractions or philosophies or other kinds of negating beat ups.  To me that seems to be the best kind of self parenting and we can never get too much of it while we undergo the process of coming to know all we could not know as children.

 

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Not as triggered : some small steps forward

I wrote this post on Tuesday.  I didn’t post it.  Same old, same old beat up by the inner critic, even though my therapist thought it showed a sign of growth.

Being ignored is usually a huge trigger for me.  I guess it reminds me of being young and being left alone a lot and finding myself on the outside and not in the popular pool of happy gregarious youngsters who all got on and felt free to express and be themselves without feeling locked up in a prison of thoughts and projected inner judgement.  Its hard to go through life feeling scared and not safe enough in your own being and skin.

So today at the dog park when two people deliberately ignored and excluded me from their conversation I felt good when it didn’t hit me as hard as it usually would have in years past.   One of the people in question is someone I know and we don’t have a lot in common.  In fact I think when she asked me about my Christmas a few months ago I honestly told her how hard it was emotionally and that is a trigger for some people.  They just don’t want to hear about anything that isn’t light and breezy and since then she doesn’t make any effort to connect at all.

I have to remember at such times that there are other people I connect with.  At the moment I feel a bit isolated and lonely as I haven’t managed to connect with my usual friends at the park much and often our contact is fairly superficial.  I spend a lot of my time alone.  And at the park today when they made no effort to talk even though my dog Jasper was playing with the other woman’s dog  I just thought “fair enough” and I took myself off and read my book under a tree.  There was none of the harsh inward cricitism I would have heard inside my head before.

It seems at the moment I just have to nurture myself in solitude.  I am not going to lie and say it isn’t really lonely at times.  Since I have moved back to my home town I find it hard to find others of like mind to connect with and I spend a lot of time with my dog.  I am so grateful  that I do have connections through blogging as without that I would feel quiet disconnected and lost.  I want to concentrate on the connections that I do have such as the one with my therapist and my very very good male friend who lives away from me.  We talk on the phone a couple of times a week and I know I can call him any time.

I just wrote a blog on unmet needs prompted by one Athina posted on Courage Coaching.  Thinking about it the need for friendship and emotional connection is such a huge one that relates to and has such important consequences for our emotional and mental health.  Lack of connections and isolation such as I have lived in past years must led to mental health problems and  disease and Deepak Chopra makes that connection in his book The Book of Secrets speaking of how our body cells naturally connect in a state of health and in ill health this connective ability runs awry with the cells often turning against themselves.

I don’t find it easy to find others to connect with.  How I cope is by connecting with myself and then spending that time on my blog.  Connections cannot be forced, they have to occur naturally.  I don’t need to beat myself up if I don’t connect or others ignore me.  I don’t have to make that the cause of negative self talk.

The empty space we are left with : the pain of unmet needs.

I just read a very well expressed post on the legacy of trauma of being left with an empty space of unmet need from childhood posted by Courage Coaching.

https://couragecoaching.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/the-loss-of-what-should-have-been/

It occurred to me how deeply and painfully this empty space affects so many of us well into adulthood.  And it is so hard to recognise what needs you did not get met  until the true ache and emptiness of this begins to make itself felt and for so many of us that does not occur until we are a long way down the road of addiction and possible addiction recovery or deep depression, mental illness or psychosis.

Getting into recovery and being told you have ‘defects of character’ does not help with the self blame that also so often accompanies being a child who suffered emotional neglect or from narcissist parents who were so busy living out of their own wounds they had no time to care about yours.  The defects are really deficiencies of nurturance that we suffer which draw us towards unhealthy behaviours and relationships and we may go a long way down the road in those before we come to truly understand the deep legacy of the empty space we carry around so deep down inside.

For me reading about childhood emotional neglect in the book Running on Empty by Jonice Webb last year was a turning point.  In that book she clearly outlines both the consequences of unmet needs as well as the degree of self blame as a sufferer of this we end up carrying deep within.  In short if we suffered from unmet needs we tend to feel there is something wrong with us and this something is our own fault, when really it relates back to our own emotional trauma history. In addition if our parents didn’t do their own healing work we carry similar wounds but as they pass along the generations they become more severe.  That has most definitely been the case in my own family.

In the course of our recovery we need help in identifying exactly what our unmet needs were.  I know in my own case I learned to dismiss my own unmet needs, telling myself I did not have them and they were not a problem most particularly my need for attention.  I see how my own mother coped with a childhood in which not one person was emotionally present.  She coped by denying her own feelings and needs a lot while at the same time feeling she had to meet them alone.  In a way she was lucky when she met my father as together they got to meet some of their unmet needs but they also passed a lot of unmet ones down, most particularly to their youngest child: me.

Even now I find one thing I really struggle with is allowing myself to have my needs and feel that I deserve to have them met.  I was just reading a post on dissociation before reading Athina’s post mentioned above and in that Annie addressed the problem of how one huge legacy of childhood trauma is dissociating or disconnecting from our deep feelings and needs and of how we can then have a delayed reaction when a trigger occurs that mirrors what we suffered in childhood.  Instead of affirming and validating ourselves for how we felt we tend not to do this.  Instead we may judge ourselves critically for having the impulses or feelings that we do.

Just before going out today I was going to post the following quote as a post of its own.  In it the author addresses how hurtful and unproductive judging ourselves for our negative feelings is.

Judging creates emotion.  In addition, any emotion you feel in response to an external event will be  intensified if you judge yourself for that event.  For example, if you’re getting divorced and you judge yourself as unlovable or as someone who always messes up the pain of divorce will become worse.  If you then judge yourself for being upset, that will add more pain.  Increasing your awareness of your self judgements and better understanding the way you learn to judge yourself in a particular way can help you reduce this behaviour.

If our valid childhood need to have our true emotions and feelings valued and validated is not met we do tend to lack this ability.  We suffer a lot of shaming and inwardly critical self talk that does not lead us to truth or understanding.  Learning what our true needs and feelings are and seeking those who will validate them (such as a therapist or recovery friend) and learning to value and validate them from within is deeply important work.

As Athina points out grieving our unmet needs and losses from childhood is also important, even if deeply painful inner work and if we bypass or skip it by reaching for philosophical or so called ‘spiritual’ platitudes or insights instead we do tend to by pass a most critical stage of our emotional healing.  Recognising and dealing with emotional invalidation is so important.  It is critical to our recovery.  Knowing accurately our needs and feelings enable us to set boundaries and is essential for both emotional and mental health.  There may be much grief work to do for many of us before we begin to be able to do that and recognise how important it is.