The wounds in my heart

Wounded heart

I perhaps write about the wound in my heart in indirect ways, but yesterday I really encountered it in therapy in a deep and painful way.  We were exploring my difficulty with attaching and bonding to my Mum as a child, how I had to revolve myself around my parents in order to be seen, how I felt invisible a lot of the time and  how that original wound has dogged me.  I am beginning to realise it wont every fully go away, it makes up a large part of my experience and soul.  There are wounds that added to that wound and deepened it over years.

I still long to connect with my Mum and at times it is just impossible.  I tried to write a poem about it last night but I couldn’t post it.  Mum gets fixated on what is happening inside her own head.  She makes up what is best to do without really asking and forms all kinds of ideas that are just not related to the other person at all.  Trying to connect from this point of view becomes so impossible and leaves me so alone and if I try to point something out I am told I mustn’t speak and influence her train of thought or else she wont be able to hold onto her own mind and thoughts.   As my therapist pointed out it them becomes almost impossible for me to hold onto my own reality, to have my own thoughts or find a place to go when I am struggling with issues or dilemmas.  All I can say is thank God for therapy and blogging!  Here I try my best to pour things out but even here at times the critic endlessly critiques them!

I was crying with Katina over how strong my separation anxiety is and how it would manifest in my past relationship.  I actually googled it last night and there is a disorder called Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder.  Katina told me that separation anxiety is stronger if you never really got to fully bond or connect in the first place.   Then she said this to me “it is a tragedy”. (By this she meant the unrequited longing and needs not ever being fully met.) Wow!!! That really hit home.  I was able to actually grieve not only for the young me who went through so much other trauma due to my wounds but also for the fact of how judgemental I have been of myself and of how often I attracted that judgement from others with no possibility of help to get through it.

I said to Katina “presently it seems as though there is another part of me that witnesses all of this, and that feels like progress.  I am not judging myself as much and when the critic judges me I answer it back with compassion”.  I also asked her “do people get through or heal this”.  “You are doing that,” she said.  “You are working so hard!”

Today I am fully aware of how for so many years I have felt like an exile in the wilderness of life.  Cast out on my own with only a few belongings, carrying this unresolved pit of hunger and need.  I have also noticed that at 5 pm I start to get ravenously hungry.  I just eat and eat and eat and then I have a panic attack after dinner.  This time of day was the most lonely and painful for me growing up and particularly all through my teens when I was the only one at home after my sister left but even when she was home it was lonely.

I would come home to an empty house and try to fill in the emptiness with television and snacks.  Dad would come home and barely talk to me, just go immediately to his room, change and go out into the garden.  I would wait and wait for Mum to come home just before 6 pm and then I would revolve my evening around trying to help her so to get some of her attention but most of it was focused on Dad and the two scotches they had every night before meals.

It is interesting to me that after my marriage broke apart and I tried to go back overseas it was at this time of day I had my major head trauma after a body therapy session trying to deal with the trauma of my divorce and earlier accident at 17.  I came off my bike and split my head open and woke up sick and stunned in an ambulance all the way on the other side of the world with not one real friend or family member.   Apparently when my family heard about it they didn’t think the problem was serious enough for them to come and help.  The family I was lodging with saw it all as an inconvenience.  Why was I over the other side of the world after my marriage had ended?  Why wasn’t I with family?  If they only knew.  My family was NEVER emotionally supportive.

Within all of this emotional emptiness it was not easy for me to be the best partner, either.  To be an adult walking around with so much soreness is not easy as so many of us know.  Its a real journey to learn how to love yourself through the entire experience and not fall into the trap of blaming yourself when that is what often happens anyway if you are a child who comes out of a narcissistic or emotionally neglectful background.  You carry then deep inside you along with feelings that in some way you are the cause of it all, if only you had tried harder, not been so needy, got away sooner, seen the writing on the wall…. on and on and on goes the inner critic that forms inside the deep void space.  And then add to this the judgements that rain down on you from the outside world.

This morning when I woke with my usual anxiety I was reminding myself just to keep meeting my anxiety with tenderness and compassion.  I was reminding myself that the field of compassion which we can find within and with a good therapist is the one open loving containing space that enables us to feel all of the pain in such a way that we also shower it with tenderness and mercy, without making the wound worse.

Then there is the work to do with reaching out to others for relationships and to express ourselves which also becomes the path we just don’t want to have to walk down due to the wounds we have known in the past,  we see phantoms all around and its hard when our insecurity or fear is not met with tenderness and compassion by others.

I mentioned the astrologer Melanie Reinhardt in a recent post.  I went to see her in London a few months after my accident.  She was speaking about the painful spiritual journey of being wounded and almost killed.  She was explaining to me how a near death experience such as I had at 17 opens someone up to a spiritual aspect of life where we are removed from the ordinary, veils get stripped away and we enter a place where things are never secure or solid or certain again.  Come to think of it its a lot like what certain Buddhist teachers such as Pema Chodron talk of : the groundless space where we experience the falling way of solid ground and our ego falls through space.  When I think about it this kind of void experience is something that many of us who have known emotional abandonment, betrayal or neglect encounter and so I guess such experiences do, in some way open us up to harsher realities and we feel the need to find sources of spiritual support.

At that meeting Melanie said to me that many therapists are not fully able to help with this kind of injury.  She made two recommendations.  Nurture your inner life and find a spiritual practice.   She also recommended the work of trauma specialist Peter Levine to me that I have shared about in other posts.  Today I am aware that this wound in my heart that I carry needs to be tended lovingly.  I need to realise that so many others suffer from it to.  Its not just me all. alone in an alien universe although this is how it often feels for us as children when we had no enlightened witness or support.  The wounds I went through are real but they can be the doorway that leads me into a deeper life and experience.  Much of my blog has come out of this wound space too and for that I am so grateful.  Today I know that opening up about my wounds connects me.  I don’t have to live in them every day, but they are very real and can not just be cured with platitudes or quick fixes.  I need to remember that and keep speaking about those deeper truths.

Last night I watched a programme on sex addiction and there were so many arguments on it from different points of view, but sadly early attachment trauma was not even touched on.  I left a comment on the programmes comments page.  It saddens me at times we don’t look deeper in our society into the soul of things.  That is also a form of heartbreak.  For me I can only find my own answers to the wound, others may have their own answers.  But it was also encouraging to see others opening up about their wounds on this programme.  I do believe that is where we find our healing, through that kind of openness and vulnerability.

 

An Ocean of Sadness

ocean

Whenever I speak to my Mum lately I feel such deep sadness.   I feel that having me as a daughter has been difficult for her from the start.  I seemed to be too full of energy as a young one and she didn’t have the time for that.  I don’t even want to be resentful any more it doesn’t get me anywhere.   I long to be close to her but that kind of longing isn’t always for the best.  And then when we speak because I feel connected to her through that Neptune contact on her Sun Mercury Saturn and with my strong Pluto Moon at times it feels almost like a psychic connection, as though I can feel in my body when things are ‘off’ with her and I am not feeling well either and then calmer when I know she has been in a calm space.  I strongly feel that I am energetically connected to my Mum and I have a close friend who went through something so similar with his mother, when she died a lot of his painful physical symptoms ended.

My Mum carries a lot of grief.  When I speak to her I find myself crying silently.  I get off the phone and at the moment my heart feels like its pumping inside a brace or a straight jacket.  I feel the blood flow through which is the love I have always longed to give to someone but has never really been able to flow that way.   I think back to the last relationship when my ex would be gone for hours and hours surfing and of the helplessness, emptiness, grief and then rage that would come up.  I am sure it was an old imprint for me for by that time I had experienced four significant relationships go to the wall and had known so much other trauma of being so alone at critical times of needing emotional support.

This week I have been reading a lovely little Buddhist book on heartbreak.  I started to write a blog about it yesterday that I have not posted yet.  The author himself has known over a dozen different forms of heartbreak and speaks of the Buddhist concepts of impermanence and the suffering of change that every human goes through, just some of us more times than others.  He speaks of the need to keep an open heart, even towards those who have hurt us, a belief in the intrinsic goodness or Buddha nature that Buddhists believe exists somewhere deep down in even the hardest of characters.  He also speaks of Boddhisatva nature which concerns the aforementioned ability to keep our heart open wide in the midst of our own suffering.  But where does that leave us with healthy boundaries?  Its a big conundrum.

I went to a lecture by astrologer Melanie Reinhardt in London many years ago on Venus retrograde which is where we find ourselves now.  When Venus moves back towards the Sun it is retrograde, when it meets the Sun that is called the inferior conjunction and lays a seed.  I was interested to note this particular conjunction between 4-5 degrees of Aries a few days ago  in the dark of the moon was very close to my dead father’s Chiron which squared his natal Pluto in Cancer (mother wound) and opposed his Venus (values, self esteem and the feminine nature inside us all male and female).  In the lecture Melanie spoke of the pain that Venus retrograde can stir up from times in the past we were not loved or valued, the pain that came when we longed for connections that were illusive and ended in betrayal or tears.  She spoke of the concept of ‘keeping our heart open in hell’.  What I am going through at the moment with seeing the stress the auction of the property I went to nearly three weeks ago just as Venus stationed to move backwards the week before has made me think of this.  We go to see my Mum’s solicitor on Thursday to discuss what will happen as my Mum has offered to buy the property and lease it out, but now I am having second and third thoughts due to the stress that has been created, all around a search for hone which really needs to be found inside.

After the call with my Mum I felt myself straining to connect, longing to be noticed.  She spoke of how she had a lovely chat with my brother on Sunday,  while my brother is overseas for nearly 5 months every year I never hear from him.   I have to let even that go as we are not close, we don’t really connect at all at a heart level.  It hurts as I don’t have a Dad but who knows if Dad and I would have connected either had he lived, I was always closer to my godfather who really saw ‘me’ deep inside.

In the end I have to just keep breathing through this ocean of sadness.  When there is an ocean of tears as is the case often later in life when we have lived so and lost so much and known a lot of disappointment we really need to learn how to swim in those deep waters.    That is what I am doing now and it is strange as we now have quite a few planets in fire, but soon Venus will be back in the watery depths of Pisces for most of April, old pain I think is going to be revisited to be released.  I am going to meditate my way through it as much as possible.   For good or ill I have made the decision to stay in my old place where there is a lot of work to do and some expense rather than move to the new one.  I am scared that this means I am not letting go on some level.  Who knows?  I know I don’t or maybe I do and just don’t want to admit it.  Time will tell I guess if for now I can just learn to keep my heart open and keep swimming and not drown in this ocean.  I DO know that I won’t drown.  The only drowning could be that my breast cancer comes back and that is a constant fear.

Most of the book on heartbreak concern skills we can develop to be with our hearts in the midst of heartbreak.  It focuses on what we can do to practice self care.  That will be a topic for another post. For now taking care of me means a healthy lunch and then a visit to my therapist who I know I can trust with my heart.

 

 

 

The past is the past : building bridges

Bridge

I don’t like being told not to look into my past for I do believe the past is the soil we grew out of and some of us didn’t get a lot of good fertiliser.  At the same time I do need to remember that the past is now past.  It did have a massive influence on me (and still does), but just because certain things or relationships were some way in the past that does not necessarily mean that they are that way now.  And often if I assume they are I can miss out on new gifts and possibilities in the present.

I had lunch with my sister today.  Our relationship hasn’t been as close as the relationship I had with my older sister who died a few years ago.  Also my sister has had a lot of her own challenges and losses too and at one point she was really struggling with these at a time I was in another desperately lonely, abandoned place.  My marriage ended first and she didn’t show much empathy at the time.  We also had a history where for the later years of my adolescence she was my boss and so it wasn’t possible to have a cosy friendship as I was constantly being forced to perform to standards that did not really suit me.  I am not really a very business minded person though coming from a business family that has been forced on me.  It doesn’t really sit well with my true nature.  And as I have shared in other blogs and poems I was forced away from my more romantic, artistic, poetic side when I was maturing and it was a big wound for me that is still healing and a cleave too.

My sister had over 5 separate hospitalisations for depression following her marriage ending in a very painful way about 8 years ago.  She went through so much, including Electro Convulsive Therapy which is something I would not want my worst enemy to have to go through. I blatantly believe it doesn’t help heal the older traumas and in the end it re-traumatises the person.  Often, too, it is undertaken from a very desperate place when they feel nothing much else is working.  Seeing how she was stunned into silence and near catatonia over 4 years ago was so painful to witness even though we were never super close.

So to see my sister doing so well now and really making such an effort to live her life alone I am very humbled I must say.  I feel so proud of her while also feeling sad that her true feelings good and difficult haven’t been validated well either by family.  Today at lunch she was sharing some things that made me realise how we have both carried similar wounds, similar but different and how often I have related to my sister from that wounded place when she hasn’t validated my feelings much.  In short I felt a kind of cosy healing with us today.  I saw how much I longed for from my sister that she wasn’t equipped to give but also how she has done the best she really knew how considering the circumstances of her younger life were a bit easier than mine I don’t feel she had it as hard but maybe it was hard in different way.  The family was more connected when she was growing up, than when I was.  I used to feel so sad and angry about this but now I see despite how hard it was it was just the way our life was, I carried the wounds and scars from it and so does my sister but in different areas.   Nowadays we can have a closer relationship freer from the burden of unrealistic expectations of each other, I hope.

Growing to emotional adulthood for me means being my own best parent.  Seeing and feeling and making sense of the wounds of my past that led me to here,  knowing that the past did have an effect but is now past leaving me with liabilities but also the promise of healing or at least becoming aware of more productive healing ways to go about things. Being supported in my decision to not go forward into the new house by both my mother and sister has meant a lot to me.  It feels as though I am finally being seen and my wishes and needs respected.  I am very grateful for that.

As I was just outside sweeping up some autumn leaves I was thinking of the image of building a bridge over a huge chasm.  I was thinking how its never too late for disconnection to be healed.  We just have to be willing to reach out, to make a tentative step forward, often on trust that has not yet been proven to be warranted. Sometimes we will fail to connect again, sometimes we may get hurt again, but sometimes we won’t and as we make difficult progress we come to know ourselves better.  We will then have more tools to cope with whatever outcome we meet on the bridge that we are working to build over the chasm of our past.

 

 

The value of a good friend

True friendship

I have had so many, many years of isolation.  Days when I did not speak to a single soul. Days where I was in such deep grief and had no one to share that grief with, not always because they were not there, but often because it was too painful and scary to reach out, often too because I was scared of meeting with invalidation..  I am so grateful now that I at least have a very good friend or two that I can turn to when what is going on inside my mind at times gets difficult to deal with.  And I am grateful for the days when I can reach out without putting too many barriers up in my mind.  I am seeing more clearly lately how many defences and fears I have had around connecting as an emotionally sensitive person who in the past was shamed or invalidated.

That is why I have decided to post a post today about the value of a good friendship, for without out it as much as we can love and value and comfort ourselves, life is just not as worth living or as full of light and joy.

A large part of recovery rests in learning to be a good friend and parent to ourselves, part of our recovery also involves being able to recognise and draw good friends into our lives.  During my breast cancer surgery and radiotherapy I learned the value of emotional support,  I learned how hard it is to be let down by a friend. In my blogging life I value and appreciate the supportive friendships that have come to me and made the tough days all that more bearable.

This much I do know : being happy and having peace of mind rests so much on being a good friend to ourselves but we also need each other.  When we find a true friend we should value them more than precious gold for its in sharing our strength, pain, joy, fear, vulnerability and love that we come to know what is best about being human and what makes life most worth living.

 

Needing your love

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Needing your love at times can make me feel

Small weak and vulnerable

And as a child this is often how it felt to be left all alone

In a big empty house after school

Now I struggle at that time of day

Memories are there of how I had to orient my entire world around you

In order to be seen

That has taken me a long time to see

Over six years of therapy often with the wrong therapists

Now I see it so clearly

I feel it too

How deeply painful it was body mind and soul

To be left all alone with my pain

Knowing no one was really there

Even when they were physically there

I looked to the bottle in the end

I hit myself over the head with it

To shut up the silent scream

And worked to deny I needed your love attention and care

But my body remembered

And now I must tend to it and to me

For my soul knew such a loneliness

And that no longer must be my fate

I replayed it over and over

Not knowing that as a child I really needed love

And so now I must love me

And look for those who are comfortable

With my need to love and be loved

Burn clean

The good thing about just being able to get your mess out there on the blank open page is that you get to see the convoluted workings of your own mind, emotions and insides.  That is how I am feeling today on the back of an inner conflict which sparked a lot of old trauma imprints.  I saw what it stirred up and then when that was out there I could look a little deeper to expectations that I see I have been carrying and are perhaps not at all realistic and the part others played in reaction to things I was doing and choices I was making and living out of unconsciously.  I then got to feel a bit ashamed about some stuff I posted.  But I am going to be an adult and just cop the feelings and keep it out there.  Others can see quite clearly that by no means have I got it together in any significant way.  That like everyone out there I really struggle on a daily basis with just being human, and keeping an open heart and mind.

I am still in many ways working my way out of the slimy sludge of my family of origin which was a family of great trauma too.  Its taken me some years to understand this.  In later years all of the female side of our family have struggled with physical, mental and emotional health issues due to faulty mothering.  I had a very deep insight and vision the other day in therapy when I was sharing a poem about my body and longing with my therapist about the wounding replayed in my last relationships.  As I was reading it I had a vision of a deep vortex spiralling down beneath my feet and swirling around inside the flow of the vortex were my mother and my ex partner’s mother and lower down their mothers and then their mother’s mothers and so on an on and on.  I was sharing with my therapist how I believe this vision was about both the vortex of trauma that Peter Levine speaks of as well as the spiral cadeaucus of the DNA helix that we all carry.

I feel we have all been collectively for some time living out this deep mother wound.  By some kind of coincidence yesterday I turned the television on to see a documentary about a woman aboriginal artist who was speaking about her sculptures of the Black Madonna which is a healing figure showing up in a lot of dreams collectively at the moment and is dealt with by Jungian analyst Marion Woodman in many of her books which centre around her work with those who have had deep mothering wounds..

Marion has worked with many people with addictions and eating disorders.  Her work focuses on the w0unding of childhood abandonment and other mother issues that is manifesting globally.  She speaks a lot about conscious femininity and also about the wounding of the patriachal age that we are coming out of and suffering the consequences of. It is very much evident in how our addictions run us, how woman are mistreated and how the soft feminine side in men also struggles to express and live.  It is also reflected in the way we as the human race abuse the planet and fall out of relationship with our own inner cycles. Could we be collectively struggling with the outworking of a deep wound of collective PTSD which is asking us to heal and become more conscious of the forces of love and hate that manifest in and through our conflicts, bodies, cells and lives?  This is Marion’s idea and it resonates with me.

I have just been reading a book called The Inner Voice of Love it is an interesting book which speaks of how wounds can run us and of how healing happens through our wounds being tended to lovingly and recognised. In one chapter the author, Paul Ferrini says its pointless to say positive affirmations, it is far more powerful to acknowledge where our negativity runs us and in fully feeling and consciously acknowledging it, release it.  He speaks of how we can run everywhere with our wounds looking for love, stuck in victim consciousness and forgetting that only being love, feeling love for ourselves in all our dark and light brings us back to love.  When I read this book which I have had for over 12 years I feel set straight and deeply refreshed in some way, sometimes I feel close to tears or tears well up in deep recognition which seem to wash my hurting soul clean.

Its funny that I named this blog at the outset Burn Clean and along the week of writing and rewriting I have come down to this idea of a soul being washed clean by deeper recognitions that come out of lovingly tending wounds.  Burning and burning something only ends in a pile of ash.  Maybe the water put on those ashes of spent anger turn the ash to clay and make them somehow workable.  These are metaphors I have used in a poem a while back which I will link to in this blog a little later.  I get anxious to post my posts often and later like to refine them.

Today I am feeling a little lonely and sad. My Mum was hospitalised today for the second time in emergency due to a problem with infections in her legs. Today it was my sister who stayed with her, the other day my Mum asked me to leave the hospital and get on with my own life.  I cried a lot.   “Please don’t push me away.”  I said.  It is coming up to the time of year I was pushed away over seas after my father died.  She expressed pain that her wounds are affecting me.  “But isn’t that love?’  I asked.  I did end up going and it may have been for the best as I had therapy that afternoon.  In the end Mum got a taxi home.

Today my sister stayed with my Mum. I need to remember my sister got more support from my mother than I ever did, from the earliest time I was pushed away and maybe that is my fate.  Maybe I should stop fighting it.  Being pushed away, left alone led me to addiction. I am now 23 years out of that.  Painful mother wounds linger.  My male female relationships have all ended, the last around this time of year too.  But when I feel the impact and the loneliness, you know what?  In some way the pain burns clean. When I cry I recognise the wound that goes back over many generation and did not just happen to me but to my ancestors too.

Maybe this fate is one I must carry and who knows if the future holds another love, another chance at connection for me and another chance to heal the wounds with someone where our defences against hurt don’t end up pushing us both away.

One thing I do know, though, as long as I connect to my own deep soul I am truly never alone. I am truly connected and I know I matter, to life, to love, to me and as much as I long to matter to someone else I know it is something I cannot demand but must flow naturally if it is meant to be.

I have hurt others, reflections on trauma and love

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I have been coming to some fairly intense realisations about myself over the past few weeks. Last night I awoke in the night conscious of the ways I have at times let others down, due to my fear of trusting in them.   Its a huge part of coming out of trauma which occurs for us in personal relationships, that we learn to become hyper-vigilant and have a hard time trusting.  Others may also be on the receiving end at times of a torrent of anger that has very little to do with them.  They may have done something to us that triggers old wounds and old pain.

If we are not fully aware of what those wounds are, what our triggers are we can and will lash out.  Its part of self protection and survival.  We may feel bad at times for lashing out if our parents didn’t allow us to be real and have anger and express it in ways which helped us to assert our true needs and feelings.  But recovery may mean that we get really, really angry for a time.

In her book on recovering from narcissistic wounding in childhood The Drama of the Gifted Child, therapist Alice Miller makes the point that it is when we can finally feel and get angry over our true needs not being met, nor our true feelings understood that we are well on the way to recovery.  Ideally if we recognised our problem we get to a therapist or others who can take this anger and help us to process it.  It is our legitimate protest and without it we are essentially fucked!

The alternative scenario is that we get angry with someone or something and are then told we are flawed or bad or damaged in some way. This occurs when true empathy is not being shown to the inner child of the past that is being triggered or if others are not deeply sensitive and capable of showing empathy.  It has happened to me enough times to know how painful that is, and sadly at times I have done it to others.

And this is part of the guilt that I woke up with this morning,  coming up to Christmas I am aware of the times I was pulled backwards and forward to my family in the hope of some recognition happening about the pain of the past, the trauma I carried silently and drank down for years.  And then at times I also left a partner alone who had his own trauma and then was more preoccupied with my own trauma than really understanding his.  It really pains me to see this now but I hurt another person who I claimed to love.  And I so badly want to call that person and say how sorry I am.  But the truth is that person also had narcissistic injuries and wasn’t always kind, nor did he show empathy to my wounded child because he was so caught in his own wounds.  So in a way we attracted each other for the purpose of learning.  And in the past I did try to apologise and he used that apology as a cat o nine tails to lash me with.

Its a harsh truth to swallow that due to the emotional unavailability or emotional neglect or the emotional inconsistency of our childhood we also turn into people who cannot be consistently emotionally available for others.  But how could we actually give something we did not receive, at least before we became fully conscious of our wounds and grieve them?  And so now seeing this enables me to grieve and feel so sorry, but also in some way to begin to see myself as less of a victim at least of that person, more as a victim of a painful past I had so little conscious control over before now.

A very wise person in I met in AA used to say to me “Deb, if they knew better, they would do better”.  Its a little similar to Christ on the cross, saying “forgive them father for they know not what they do”.  Our parents carried deep wounds and deficiencies, many of them were struggling to survive, many of them had harsh, lonely or painful childhoods themselves.   I am not excusing in any way very, very harsh abuse that deeply scars or had scarred children around the world, all I am trying to say is that there needs to be a way we can free ourselves from the painful prison of the past where we replay over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again the pain of the past.

Its a fine line between knowing how deeply it hurt, and using that knowing to protect us and not permanently remaining trapped in a endless repetitive feedback loop of trauma feelings, reactions and memories playing over and over and over and over again.

What helps?  Soothing ourselves in the midst of our distress.   Being affirmed by others with comments like “that was so deeply painful for you”.  “I am sorry you were hurt so deeply”, “that must have made you feel you could never trust anyone again”.   What hurts and drives the wound deeper.  Comments like “isn’t it time you got over it”, “I am sure they didn’t mean to hurt you”, “well life is harsh, pick yourself up and get on with your life!”

You know something when its time to move on we will know that inside.  When its time for our defences to come down and for us to trust ourselves and others again, that will happen. It may take years and lots of broken relationships for this to happen.  It may take many dips and dives into deep depressions as a reaction to when we replay old patterns.  This I believe to be true.  The true soul within us has hidden within it its own hidden healing agenda.  And it may be a hard thing to hear but I do believe that what happened to us does have a purpose.

On the way home I was anxious to start this blog after reading how one blogger has decided to take a retreat from openness to comments.  I deeply respect this decision. AT the time I had not read her entire post but I had seen the title referring to a black tar baby.  I believe the post was so powerful and expression of what trauma feels like I just had to post it here. But inside my mind these words were going through my mind.  Trauma robs us of our present but maybe it has a purpose.  That is what I truly believe.

We are at a critical time in our collective history as humans where we have the ability to rise in consciousness of how wounding, hurt, hatred, abuse of the feminine and ignorance repeats.  We the wounded ones have to do the deep work to bind up our wounds and allow them places and spaces to heal.  If that means a retreat or a disabling of comments, so be it.  And it just might be that before we have to take on board a really painful truth of how we can unconsciously repeat our own trauma history we pull back from a full knowledge and recognition of the part we play in keeping it all going.  But if we just trust, keep the faith and keep loving ourselves and others through it, I truly do believe that in time healing will come and so will the real rebirth of love that I believe to be the deepest resolution that we as humans are capable of in our most noble moments.

Could that be the purpose of our trauma.  Could many of us together with the earth be undergoing a collective dark night of the soul or Kali Yuga as eastern mystics have foretold?  Its an interesting question and we need to know the part we play in making choices which dictate how this will end up for all of us. What will win?  Fear or Love?  This I believe is a most interesting question.

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Five stages in recovering from a narcissistic family.

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The central issue of being raised by a narcissistic family is that your needs could not be met.  The family may have been disorganised or chaotic, or it could have been ordered and looked good from the outside, your parents may even have loved you, but they were not able to put your needs (the needs of the child) first and so foster in you a sense that it is okay for you to be yourself, to have and express and learn about all your needs and feelings.  In this sense the most painful legacy of being raised in such a family is that you were never really helped to know and truly express who you really are.

In reality, these individuals are not raised to know themselves.  They are raised to know others, to be able to predict what others expect from them, and to meet (or fail to meet) that explicit or implicit need.

The Narcissistic Family, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman & Robert M. Pressman

Children from this kind of family suffer later in life in the following ways.

  1. Feeling bad or as if there is something wrong with you (though not knowing really what it is).
  2. Holding unrealistic expectations of self.
  3. Issues with trust, fear of trusting or being dependent.
  4. Being over concerned with the needs of others before yourself in a way that isn’t balanced.
  5. Difficulties communicating or talking with others or even relating to them.
  6. Problems with self assertion due to parents being threatened by your expression of needs and feelings or an inability to deal with them.
  7. Difficulties with boundary setting and discriminating your boundaries.

According to Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman, therapists and authors of the book The Narcissistic Family, Diagnosis and Treatment, healing from such a childhood involves 5 critical stages which are outlined below paraphrased and with direct quotes where relevant.

Stage One Revisiting the reality of our childhood

This Stage involves giving up fantasies and false beliefs the family has created in you.  It involves accepting things were not ideal, that you had no control as a child, that the family lied about how good things were.  This stage involves giving up the hope you can recreate an ideal family, arresting attempts to correct the past or get it right (and this  includes giving up self blame as compensation.)  Realising as a child you never had power and as an adult, until you heal, you still lack power.

According to the Pressmans at this stage we meet lots of resistance.  It is essential that the focus stay on how the past affected you, not on any other cause or condition, including the pain of your parent’s own childhoods.  It involves taking responsibility for our own healing and stopping the blame game.

At this stage of healing we often swing back and forward between some powerful ideas : “it was all my parent’s fault” and “I cant blame my parents”, “it’s all a cop out” and “I am just defective/deficient pond/scum”.  Feelings must be validated in this stage of healing , experiences reframed and skills relearned.

To this end the therapists recommend the use of a picture in healing.  To find a picture of yourself as a child between the ages of 3 and 7.  This pictures serves as a potent reminded of your smallness and vulnerability, helps you to see yourself as you really were back then.  They recommend the picture be placed in a frame and prominently displayed and later in therapy they recommend that we say positive messages to our child picture/self, potent words we would have longed to hear at that age e.g. : “I love you just as you are”, “You deserve love”, “You tried so hard to please”, etc.   This helps to overcome the tendency we have to blame ourselves for what happened. Later on we can bring presents to the child in the picture, things they loved or show our care of and love for them.

When the adult can learn to accept and love the child in the picture, she is a long way toward being able to accept and love the adult version of that child.  She (or he) is more able to assess realistically conditions of responsibility and control. 

Further examples of healing techniques can be found in the text for this first stage of healing.

Stage  Two : Mourning the Loss of the Fantasy

We encounter deep pain and fear at this stage of healing but the mourning stage cannot be skipped as it is essential that we ‘get’ and accept at a deep level that the family can never be healed, we can’t go back and redo things, and ultimately what happened to us was larger than us and far beyond our control.

Much sadness is encountered here but this sadness drives the point home that we need to re-invest our energy elsewhere than in our wounded family of origin.

Adults raised in narcissistic homes cling to the fantasy that they can somehow manipulate or control their parent/family of origin system to get the recognition and approval they require (that is, to get their needs met.)  They had this fantasy as children, and they maintain it as adults.  The reality, though, is that they had little control over their parent system as children and have little control over it now. 

Concentrating energy on that fantasy is destructive for several reasons.

1. It presupposes that the patient is somehow wrong, or defective; if she could just do better, be different, find the key, then she could get her needs met.  In short, it blames the victim.

2. It keeps the patient involved with the family of origin system, which may preclude creating or adequately maintaining her own family or relationships of choice.  It is a waste of time.

3. It keeps the patient fixed on a goal that she can never achieve; getting her needs met …it is a set up for failure.

4. It sets up a situation where opportunities for good interaction with the parent system (or family) – if they ever occur  will probably be missed because the constant underlying unrealistic expectations and resultant anger will make any kind of relaxed interaction impossible.  It creates a pattern of missed opportunities. 

The resolution of this stages drives home we will never change the family, but hope does come to be able to change ourselves and our responses and improve the quality of our lives.  It also opens up the ability to have a more realistic relationship with our family of origin.  I would add that this is a stage and resolution that may take years.

Stage Three :  Recognition

This stage helps us recognise the affects and impacts of being raised in such a home, the ability to look at certain pattern and behaviours and say “I know where that comes from.”  Here we see how the past is reflected in the present.

Essential to this stage is the recognition that behaviour traits we developed although dysfunctional or hurtful to ourselves and/or others now were essential to our survival back then.    They enabled us to function.  Now the situation has changed and our coping mechanisms need to change.

It is vital in the formation of a positive self image, however, for the patient to be encouraged to have respect for the child he was, and for that child’s ability to survive.  He (0r she) is, after all, essentially a bigger, older version of that child : he deserved respect then, and he deserves it now.

The essential nature of this is that being raised in an emotionally neglectful or invalidating environment leads to an overly critical self, problems with and fear of criticism and rejection, fears of abandonment, a tendency towards people pleasing in an effort to win love.

The major issue to become aware of here is the ‘going back to the empty well’ phenomena.  We may still entertain powerful fantasises that we can rescue the family or get what we needed again.  Such fantasies set us up for failure and pain.

Stage Four : Evaluation

This is a very painful stage.  Its where a lot of us get stuck in thought such as “I’ve screwed up my entire life”, “my parent’s weren’t that bad”.  Here we encounter a lot of undeserved guilt.  And here we must do the hard work of figuring out what behaviours and roles we need to let go of and those we need to keep or develop. Here we also need a lot of help to see that we did the best we could with limited skills, information and insight.

Stage Four : Responsibility for Change

Here we begin to work on changing those personality traits that although functional in childhood no longer serve us well or keep us stuck in bad patterns.  We often need very good therapeutic or outside help with this stage as we don’t have a lot of models for healthy behaviours, nor a well developed and realistic sense of self.

Issues we may face here are.  An inability to set and maintain boundaries, feeling unentitled to do so.  Feelings of unworthiness. A tendency to be overly responsible for others.  Issues with trust.  Difficulties with intimacy.  Difficulties differentiating and owning our own true feelings.  Problems with people pleasing.  Difficulties communicating and being honest about our true self and feelings as well as our true needs.  Difficulties with finding emotional balance and regulating feelings.  Problems with all or none thinking.  Difficulties in striking a balance between depending in a healthy way and being independent.  Problems with delaying instant gratification.  Overcoming an enormous unrequited need for external validation.

A final aspect of this stage of healing involves two issues.

Firstly the need to confront.  Confrontation of and with our family of origin or parents is dicey at best.  We are not able to do this before we have established a secure base within ourselves, in my experience.  We need to be able to be strong enough to hold onto our own reality in the face of minimisation or invalidation abuse and wise enough to discriminate parental defences and projections.

Confrontation helps us though by giving us the strength to speak for our own truth without attacking or disparaging others, but we need to go into such a confrontation with no expectations.  We are merely there to express what we experienced and felt.  We have no power over the response we will receive from dysfunctional parents and families.

The second thorny issue concerns forgiveness and I have written about my own personal take on this in another blog.

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/on-the-thorny-subject-of-forgiveness/

The issue whether or not to forgive in my mind very much depends upon our abusers degree of genuine contrition or apology.  We need to be realistic that often our attempts at confrontation will meet a stone wall and the kind of reaction we meet when trying to address past issues will or should dictate our future degree of personal investment and involvement.

The Pressman’s take on this is issue, is:

When confronted with the issue of forgiving the perpetrator(s), our belief is that the issue is more in the spiritual domain than in the psychological.  Although the issue of forgiveness has been dealt with at length… we do not pursue it.  In our experience, the self imposed pressure to forgive the perpetrator often gets in the way of genuine recovery, as it can act to shut off the patient’s necessary expression of anger and self validation of feelings.  When patients ask about the subject, we usually respond by telling them that in our experience forgiveness is a feeling or condition of being more than an act.  As such, it can not be legislated or decided upon, if it happens, it happens on its own.  Within this model forgiveness is no more necessary than blame.  The patient is asked for a reflection of reality, not a judgement call.

In their book and work with clients undergoing recovery from narcissist families the Pressmans show the critical role acceptance of reality plays in recovery, the ending of what Robert Firestone has called fantasy bonded relationships in which we are enmeshed from childhood on.  We cannot miss this crucial encounter with the acceptance of a reality that in being very painful is the price we pay for liberation of our true self from the wreckage and entanglement in narcissistic injury and wounding that keeps us trapped in depression and self blame.

 

The raw and painful pit of desire and hurt we must face and release

I was reading a magnificent blog on the Scorpio New Moon yesterday.

Scorpio New Moon

The Scorpio time of year relates very much to wanting and desire, most especially the desires to be deeply connected with others at an emotional level, with our heart and needs cared and attended to.  If we have solid childhood in which bonding and attachment happens without too much trauma its much easier for us to bond with others, from childhood onwards.  But if we have been traumatised in this, wanting and needing becomes fraught with all kinds of complications and pain for us.  If we have been hurt we may be dogged by that hurt and if our longing for love, to be connected, seen and made to feel that we have worth, value and matter to others was tied up with inconsistencies then when we seek to love again there is a deep reservation inside, which dogs us.

I have also been thinking lately how much our longing to love and be loved, makes us turn a blind eye to what hurt us in the past.  We may even have some kind of investment in denying or minimising it, if the only way to get some of our needs met is to turn back to inconsistent sources of support.  And it seems to me that then, just when we start to get close all the pain comes back and rears its head again and may even threaten our new found connections.

Scorpio also deals with the issue of letting go for hopes of connections and even of some of our deepest desires if they prove to be consistently frustrated or problematic.  I most certainly relate to this with my Neptune in Scorpio squaring nearly all of my personal planets, Sun (sense of identity and self), Moon (feelings and emotions), Mars (personal desires and assertive energy), Mercury (perception, communication and ways of making sense) and Venus (desire for relationship, a sense of value and connection).

From a very early age loss dogged my connections.  My grandfather died of cancer in the first year of my life.  I was taken as a baby to the hospital and sat on his bed all throughout the final stages of his life.   When he died my entire family was mourning and an astrologer told me I absorbed that sadness when small. At the age of 3 my older sister who was like surrogate mother left Australia for  another country.  I missed her so much.

My mother eventually started working 6 days a week and was never home after school or on Saturdays, my other sister and I were left to fend for ourselves and often things went wrong.  I had accidents later from being left alone at home after school after my older sister was no longer home either, she also left to get married.

I then had my major accident at 17 and was removed from school and missed graduation.  A few months later my older sister had her cerebral bleed and then a few years later my father died. Add to that all the relationships with men that ended in loss and the terminations of pregnancy.  Well it was just a shit load of loss for a person to go through.

This week I have actually had a week of connection.  It was my mother’s birthday on Tuesday and we went to a celebratory lunch, but painful feelings always come up when I connect or attend functions with her and my other sister.  There is a history of them not being there.  I also know that its not entirely bad, there are times they have tried to be there but just not been able and there have been times when I have had to push them away as they have not been capable of connecting with me emotionally.

I know their own connection to their deeper emotions and self have also been dogged with loss and sometimes expecting someone who is dogged by their own loss and issues to be there for you in the midst of yours is just too much.  I see where being stuck in wounded child I have at times been stuck in blame towards them.  And I also know how hard it was to be the youngest child in a family dogged by so much trauma.

In the blog on Scorpio by Gray Crawford which I have linked to above he associates the first 10 degree of Scorpio with the Tarot Card the 5 of cups.

fiveofcups

In this image a figure stands in the middle of a field in front of him are three cups that have fallen over and emptied their contents, behind him are two cups which stand on the ground full.  In the image the sad figure has his head turned downwards towards the three fallen cups, he is oblivious to the cups behind him which still stand and have something to offer him.

I have been thinking of this image a lot over the past 24 hours in terms of the loss we suffer or the deep pain we can feel at this most intense inward time of the year.  Loss brings all our attention in focus on what is missing, on what has been lost or taken.  And often when what has been lost is significant it is only right that our attention is focused on these things so that we can grieve and resolve issues.  Some issues won’t ever be resolved though but the 5 of cups images shows us that behind us, obscured from view gifts and promises still do remain, even after the darkest times.  Its just that we cannot se them or feel them when our losses consume us so intensely.

Commenting on this image and its appropriateness to the month of the year which this New Moon covers, Gray explains that many of us are currently trucking with the thorny nature of our desires.  Many of us are dealing with deeply painful experiences that may have occurred to us due to our connection with others, who may have deeply betrayed us or caused us pain in someway.    We are feeling the consequences and reaching deeper understandings as a result of feeling our pain, of what it is that wounds and what it is that heals.  As  result of expressing our deep pain or frustrations we may be finding others who can hear this deep, raw, dark place that so badly needs to have healing light and air shed upon it.

The planet Pluto rules Scorpio, and it is Pluto which makes us deal with the deep and dark side of life and relationships.  Pluto demands that we make an underworld journey to find and re-embrace our authenticity as well as deeper, darker more painfully complex emotions such as longing, anger, frustrated need and intense, at times compulsive or obsessive desires linked to earlier betrayals or losses.  Its a deep complex pit we face in Scorpio/Pluto

If our authentic needs have been betrayed in some way there may be deeply painful and confronting things we need to face and express to others during Scorpio time.  Many may not get us or like it but many will.  And the gift of being true to ourselves and honestly communicating will involve facing fears and walking forward anyway into the light that is waiting for us on the other side of the deep pit of loss that Scorpio makes us face

And in the midst of our loss which takes us deep into the pit we will also be challenged to find ways to let go, so that our loss no longer consumes us from within.  Scorpio and Pluto show us that letting go is the result of a process in which we face our pain and then surrender it, perhaps even realising it had a larger purpose.  In time our pain will teach us essential lessons around what heals and what hurts, what has value and what has not.  What we wish to own and keep and what we wish to let go and discard.  Facing our pain and frustrated desires will also help us to make better choices in the future. And perhaps one day we can finally turn our gaze around to see the two cups that stand behind us offering us new potentials and connections in present time, life and love.

The lesson we experience in Scorpio is in letting go and having a healthy level of non-attachment with our desires. This does not mean being detached, but rather embodying the intimacy of Scorpio without the fixated obsession of manipulating the object of one’s desires.

Gray Crawford

Emotional Withdrawal

I have just read a wonderful post on how the Narcissist often goes missing in a relationship.

https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/11927856/885057090.

They pull back just at the point where closeness is being established and the reason for this I feel is that the prospect of connection brings up all the buried pain and sadness of having sought connection from a parent who may have been not only emotionally absent, but emotionally hostile as well. All of this is deeply unconscious within them, for to feel it would really hurt and often the narcissist can remain angry and defensive but to fully experience the underlying pain and grief will not happen until they are willing to move beyond the narcissistic defence of rage.

I was in just such a relationship for four years following the end of my marriage.  I know I carried my own narcissistic wounds and the extra strong longing to connect which hid a lot of pain inside it from critical times of being abandoned before by those who found it hard to make a commitment to me.  But my new partner (at that time) carried even deeper scars I now know.  He would often go missing at critical times, most especially after a night of closeness.  His retreat was to work and surfing.  When he would surf he may be gone for over 3 hours with no contact or explanation often first thing in the morning.   Early in the relationship he told me that surfing would always have priority over me, I don’t know why I thought this was acceptable.  By all means I can accept a partner has separate interests and hobbies but to be told they were to be put first hurt me deeply and was a mirror of the pain of my childhood.

His long absences at critical times were extremely triggering for me. Being left alone for hours in the morning, not being able to just do a simple thing like have breakfast together, being kept constantly destabilised by not knowing when or if he would return again, being kept waiting before we were to go away on trips with my bags all packed, used to enrage me.  Reading this post helped me to understand why this had occurred.

But it also made me question for as an introvert I too need a lot of time alone.  Before a relationship’s safety is assured it is more than likely that I will withdraw and keep my guard up, I can easily be triggered when I am kept waiting or someone is late.  I feel this time alone has been a necessary self protection I have had to develop after years of being unconscious of so much within me and seeking to grown in awareness of patterns, patterns of attracting partners that were not healthy for me, relationships in which I was discarded or ignored or my emotions were devalued.

In the last relationship I just took what was dished out.  Lately I have been reading about the four F responses to trauma outlined in Pete Walker’s book Complex PTSD : From Surviving to Thriving, often the narcissist (who responds with fight to the humiliation and emotional abandonment or abuse of his childhood) attracts someone caught up in the Fawn response to trauma, the person conditioned to listen endlessly and sacrifice their own needs in a quest to win love and attachment.  In many aspects too when I met my ex partner I was also caught up in freeze, another response to trauma which includes emotional distance and isolation in an attempt to escape from past pain.  A huge battle would ensue when my ex would try to pull me out of this, with explosions of anger and self righteousness about how his needs were not being met.

The point is we had both been victims of abandonment.  It was why we chose each other in the first place.  I was, at that stage, trying to work through my pain but had also stalled to a degree, the ending of the relationship freed me to be able to do the necessary grieving work which was I was actively abused for by my last partner.

Yesterday I found myself grieving deeply as I returned to my usual therapist who had been away for a month’s break.   During the time she was gone I had been passed over to another therapist, who I have actually found to be warmer and capable of a much deeper recognition and empathy than my usual therapist.  Yesterday as I sat in my therapists room which reminds me a lot of the house I grew up in I was missing the cosy warmth of the other therapist’s room and I was crying deeply.

It was hard to find words for all the deep feelings.  Deep inside I could feel the cry of my own child which I could not voice saying “how could you go away and leave me at such a critical time of year”  (this past month is the anniversary of my oldest sister’s birth and my father’s death, both huge milestones for me) and then the longing for the engagement and warmth of my fill in therapist as my therapist sat there with eyes closed and looking at the floor beside her chair.  I felt like I was back with the mother who was never really reachable and missing the love of my older sister who had been so full of warmth, creativity and love but went overseas when I was three.

Eventually part of this tumbled out.  My therapist listened while I shared my feelings about her detachment and about things that have not sat well with me over the past year.  “Perhaps Katina will be the better therapist for you, Deborah”, she said.  “This is really about your intuition”.  As I thought about it, about having to make such a big change part of me felt “I don’t want to hurt her”, but thinking about it this morning it seems to me that often I put other people’s feelings or my false need to protect them above my own and in her heart Rae wants what is best for me.  I need to be selfish, but I also know there would be deep grief in leaving Rae as she has accompanied me through much of my inner journey.

And at heart this is about learning what I need for me.  I need engagement and warmth.  I need a therapist who is more comfortable with feelings, that really gets me, gets my feelings and meets my needs.  I am not at all used to this being got.  Its a strange and new experience but one I need so deeply.  I know it is one that I am internalising,  I know the major lesson is in learning to me there for me, but I also know how essential to healing the wounds of broken or non existent bonds and trauma a therapeutic healing relationships is.

It seems to me that on some level something deep is trying to work its way out at the moment.  I am looking for a  place where I can unfold who I am, unravel from the tight bound up feeling of having to hold so much inside, pretend I can cope with less when really I am longing for more.  For so long I have had to survive on scraps.  I don’t want this any more.  I don’t know that I will ever fly totally free of my past suffering and of the need to emotionally withdraw at times, but I also know that what I have longed for most is connection, a place to be seen and known and accepted and a place and attitude from which I can see, know, love and accept others even in all their wounded vulnerability.

I feel at the moment the closest I have ever felt to this place, even at the same time as I am aware of the deep loneliness that has been essential to get me to here.  When I write, when I touch base with me, with what warms me, with what really touches and opens my heart I am home.  Within this place I can even feel compassion and empathy  for the one’s who broke my heart in not seeing and getting me, too caught up in their own struggle.  When I can grieve it fully, forgiveness comes and a much deeper acceptance of how complex life and people can be.  The recognition that so much of what others do to us is not personal but just an outgrowth of circumstances initially way beyond their control and consciousness.  And of the power of choice which comes once we commit to the journey to discover that within us with drives and motivates us from deep within.