The painful cost of trauma : understanding abandonment depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

My sad self : reflections on trauma, Persephone and journeying in the Underworld

Persephone2

My sad self is not the whole of me, though at times it is so strongly present.  There is a side of me that is very dark and heavy and sad, that has lived in a dark and heavy places of isolation, separation and grief and known great loss and pain, awakening at 17 when an accident nearly took me out and stole from me that last semester of my final year at school.  Talking with my therapist a few days ago I spoke of how it felt like at that age a tear appeared in the fabric of the earthly reality and a dark hand reached up to grab me and take me down into the Underworld.  That was just the initial event of many traumatic experiences that unfolded spanning the years from age 17 to 31 when I finally got sober and arrested my active addiction in 1993.

The light returned for a time, then, when I met my ex husband.  We had some happy years of normality as we built a life together but in time the darkness of my unresolved past claimed me.  As I look back I wish I could have made other choices.  I wish I could have remained tethered in the daylight world and gone on to share a life with my husband but it all got torn apart around this time of year and so my sad regretful self is very, very strong some days.   I find myself captured by thoughts of what could have been were we able to build a new life in Cambridge.  I know its useless to regret the past in that regretting solves nothing.

Maybe too, as my therapist says, my ex husband wasn’t a proper life partner for me, maybe it was all ‘meant to be’.  That kind of shift of perspective can make my heart less heavy as I realise that I can be grateful for the time we did have together but also recognise there was a deeper layer to me than could ever truly find a home in that relationship.  And that I had an inner destiny calling me within that had not only a personal but a collective purpose.

As I shared in an earlier post Mercury, planet ruling perception, mind, communication and journeys turned backwards for a glance on Sunday, the 11th and it is not quite on my Pluto/Persephone in the first house, but nearly!  So I am looking back at all the changes and endings that led to now and this new beginning.

I read a very insightful chapter in a book on the Goddesses in Everywoman many years ago and in the chapter on the Persephone woman I found myself.  The Persephone woman’s life journey takes her to the Underworld either through emotional abandonment, depression, abuse, trauma or addiction.  There she lives out the dark side, perhaps sharing a strong connection to the ancestors.  I have Pluto Moon and in her book on that subject, astrologer Judy Hall tells the stories of several Plutonian Moon people, John Lennon was one.  He wasn’t a woman but the early abandonment of his mother left him with wounds.  The other family profiled in that book with a strong Pluto/Persephone signature was the Bronte family.   Several of the Brontes died young and there was mother loss that dogged them all, most especially the younger brother.  The dark heart of Pluto Moon is present in several of the sister Bronte’s books which touch on obsessive love and mental suffering and trauma experienced in and through relationships (Moon) with the traumatised (Pluto).

For myself I feel the heavy blackness at times.  Kat and I were going over the years of my life that led to my oldest sister’s first suicide attempt in 1982, yesterday.  It was such a hard year in my life anyway in other ways.  Following my accident and an aborted attempt to embark on studies up North I returned home to live in hopes of finishing my teaching degree. Instead Dad forced me to go to secretarial college.  As Kat said to me yesterday : “That just wasn’t you”.  I told her that it was as boring as hell and that we had type in triplicate with two carbon papers only being allowed two mistakes a page.  No tippex and no computer autocorrect.  That year my drug taking and alcoholism really escalated.

In later years one smart arse said to me “why didn’t you tell your Dad to stick it up his jumper!”.  That wasn’t done and in any case I didn’t have means to support myself on the back of my accident.   Anyway it was that year my sister’s husband returned her home to us with a one way ticket and one blue tracksuit with a beaten up old case for what she believed was a two week holiday.  He just disappeared and there was no return ticket.  Her four boys were with him.  Suicide attempt in that dark front room at the start of the  hallway, dark, dark emptiness descends like a shroud, laying all joy to waste!   A few years later my father’s illness grew and he was taken, leaving us alone.

Early on I learned relationships were dangerous. Life was unsafe.  Today when I woke up I just lay there and repeated to myself over and over again.   “You are safe, you are loved.”  Trauma repeat on any waking up and coming to consciousness tells me otherwise!  It tells me without words but with body symptoms “you are about to die, or be killed! Or something is about to be stolen.” (As it always is, I guess, as life goes on!)

Death is really rearing its head in therapy lately and coming up a lot (Mercury on Pluto in the first house makes sense!).  In the absence of outside forces collecting to cut me down or kill me I can then internalise the killer within in the form of a nasty anti life critic mean saboteur grim reaper who cuts all life, all joy, all promise, all hope, all faith off.   That is when I find myself once again deep in Hades/Underworld or the inner place of shades with a traumatised Erishkegal crying over and over and over again “Woe to me, woe to my insides. All is black, all is helpless, all is fucked death is stronger than life.  I cannot make it!” (Black side of black/white thinking?)

And yet another part of me knows that this is also not the entire reality of the life that I can have and live to embrace.  There is also happiness that is there when I choose to say to that Underworld place : “No! I have done enough time here now!  Now please, will you let me reach for life, for light, for love, for promise, for joy, for hope?  Please don’t kill me off any more.  Please today let me live free and dance through the fields with Jasper.”

Today I beginning to feel that I can actually make a choice but you know moments before writing this and articulating all of this I felt that I was sucked back so far down in the darkness again and literally could not move  This feeling followed a conversation with my Mum after which I absorbed all her sadness and tiredness.  I came off the phone crying because yesterday a put a schism between us due to my abandonment wound arking up.  She didn’t respond with empathy and then I think on some level that just made us both sad.  Today she sounded so very, very tired and then I thought of how at times I almost feel my psychic energy body is reading or mirroring hers which would be another manifestation of strong Pluto Moon, a very strong psychic connection not only with my mother but with the mother line.

Lucky for me I can use perception, my mind and astrological signatures and archetypes to make sense of this ‘stuff’.   When it has its hooks in me though its a different story,  I am sucked on by the psychic/soup/fog of which I am not fully conscious.

I started this blog to speak about my sad self and to explain how that is not the entirety of me.  I have a happy self too, one that can live in the present moment and positive life energy.  I just have to become aware when the darker, heavier, sadder side is gaining hold, feeling my way into it, connecting with it, but not allowing it to fully possess me is a skill I am finally learning.   I want to be able to be and express from both sides for Persephone never lived the entire time in the Underworld. In spring she returned to upside world again with gifts to give and dark knowledge she earned having eaten and tasted the fruit of suffering of Hades/Pluto fruit, the pomegranate.  She can give then to those who also voyage or get trapped in the Underworld too.  She can affirm that they are not lying or mixed up about that place, that it is real and does exist and is not just some form of aberration that so called saner souls can say is ‘madness’ or ‘insanity’, rather it is like a scar or birthmark that permanently marks the souls of some of us.

Like Innana (another Persephone woman), the recovering Persephone becomes able to travel down to meet the ailing, grieving, inconsolable, wounded, flawed, disturbed and sorrowing, hungering side of others or of ourselves.  Through empathy and compassion (and self compassion ) she develops the resilience to be deeply present with others or herself, for a while, holding their/our hand and saying “woe is you and woe to your insides”.  She can do this with patience and forebearance just long enough for her  Underworld sister Erishkegal’s suffering to be soothed, mirrored, contained and transformed.  And then Innana finally becomes free, free to return once again, for a time to earth, to light, to spring, to sunshine, to hope, to trust, to love at least until the next descent or call is heard.

Anger with my therapist leads to deeper reflection

I found myself feeling a lot of anger towards my therapist, Kat yesterday.  The intensity of what my body goes through on any day and any night as a result of having recently had this tooth removed on the back of a traumatic head injury at occurred after a time I so needed family support and was once again denied it at the end of my marriage bites me hugely.  I feel like I have giant incisor like wounds from that bite lodged in my psychic flesh and over the past few nights of the eclipse I have been bang awake between 3 and 5 with all these powerful sensations coursing through my body as my mind has struggled to make sense of the tangled up jigsaw pieces of the past 17 years of struggle to find and make sense of my true feelings and find a centre of self in the messy conglomerate of energies within and without which like wild currents and eddies swirl this way and that, at times setting up huge surge like storms of ‘meness’ and then at other taking me down with the powerful centrifugal undertow of black inky sludge drowning me completely and making it hard to draw a free breath!!!

I am angry that Kat didn’t seem to even remember the piece of writing I actually read to her last Thursday, I had to read it all over again and I was feeling so tired,  she is my fucking therapist why can’t she remember, why doesn’t she take the time to read my blog before I go to a session so she can help me a bit, for fucks sake its only one hour and reading three or four blogs to catch up is exhausting because often when I write the feelings are there simmering away under the surface and only emerge when I read them in session which now that I write it just goes to show if she did read it then that wouldn’t happen so why am I getting so mad?  I still am because I have to work so fucking hard at times and there is so much to get through in session.

I do know why I am angry though.  This is old anger.  I have had fuck all help in my life in the way that really mattered.  I didn’t need money thrown at me, I needed a parent who got me, and was there emotionally not one who consistently abandoned me and then told me I was a late developer when I shared I got into sobriety.  Yeah Mum it was all my fault that I drank in a situation in which so many painful feelings were going down that I didn’t know how to deal with in the absence of support, after a major traumatic injury at 17 that I never got any help to deal with later only to be followed six months later by even less care available due to my sister’s aneurysm occuring with all the complications that followed all at a time I was trying to develop and mature.  Fuck That!!!

Yet even as I write this and consider my last post about the poor fit between a mother and child that leaves the child, lost, confused, split off from her body and feelings and lacking self containment and integrity of being I realise that I must accept my mother went through the same with her mother and so just passed down the wound. The anger is understandable that I feel but it wont help me unless I use it to drive a deeper understanding and also to set boundaries so that I don’t open up and share intimate emotional stuff she is likely to dismiss, deny or be confused about herself.

So its probably not really even my therapist I am really angry with but with the entire sad history of a child who came to not be able to understand, express, or even tolerate her own feelings and then became an addict, only to get sober and be told it was the result of ‘character defects’ which just reinforces the scapegoats idea fixee of being the ‘bad’, ‘wrong’ or damaged one, inherently flawed in some way.

I don’t actually remember in the rooms of AA being given any help to understand my own feelings.  I do remember sitting there in meetings and crying my eyes out as other’s shared from such a damaged split off place, full of self blame and self denigration.  It broke my heart in two.  And then in Al Anon meetings I got the askance looks from those trying to whip alcoholic loved ones into shape with their own self righteousness not getting for a moment the suffering or deeper dilemma the person concerned was going through.   I remember not being hugged after a meeting or reached out to after I shared from a deep well of pain.

I know it probably wasn’t their job but I do feel that once our buried feelings begin to open up in sobriety we need some form of encouragement and affirmation from others to assist us and yet even that hope or demand has hidden deep in the centre of it a hope or demand that is loaded with the sadness and longing of deep needs of long ago for the parent’s unconditional love, understanding, mirroring and acceptance of feelings; needs we never got to fully understand or contain.

In the end, as I was discussing with Kat yesterday, perhaps no one now can give us enough to make up for what we lost or never received in the first place.  Such an empty void or space in the place where we most needed to be met, filled up, affirmed, received  must be acknowledged, deeply understood and grieved.  And then we must meet the challenge of finding ways to fill our lives with the good energy of connection and love, learning how to understand, feel and tolerate all our feelings.   Being or becoming the good loving mother and father to ourselves so that ultimately we don’t end up re-enacting our emptiness, wound or anger on others or keep ourselves lost and trapped inside the deep dark desolate place of that emptiness.

I do wonder now, though, if we end up alone with no life partner and disconnected from so many friends due to the wounds we have carried driving so many away from us in misunderstanding how sweet can life be?  Can we really fill ourselves up from the life font or spring of spirit that was meant to flow within and through us and can that be enough?

Its obvious to me now that the hyper sensitivity that so many of us feel who were not met or received in the needed ways, grew larger in the absence of such love and care.  The burden of our so called ‘over sensitivity’  needs to be understood and we need to make sure that we don’t blame ourselves while at the same time learning to take responsibility for the wound we carry in terms of taking care of ourselves, learning to be open, vulnerable and honest to ask for what we need rather than demand it or get shitty when it doesn’t just come automatically.

We also need an awareness of the real failures of others which came from the limits of their own capacity to be fully embodied themselves, a wound that seems to plague so many in a technologically driven modern society that has grown increasingly removed from the natural and soulful elements in vibrant earthly life.   To begin to feel that love means that we open ourselves body and soul to the soft caress of the sun on skin, to the luxuriant feeling of sea water on flesh, to the sheer love that shines in our dog’s eyes as he runs to great us, to the joy of feeling our free spirit express its bounty through dance, movement and song.

It surely means we open up again to try to find the love and containment we missed from a loving mother’s arms in places and spaces where it does exist.  And it also means that we as ones who have been damaged and know the cause and consequences of such disconnection and damage make a stand in a world where sensitivity and depth is so often not championed.  For the pain our souls have suffered has perhaps highlighted for us how essential such an earthly connection to life, feeling and nature is and to the deeper realisation that the wound to the mother that leads to severing from body and deep feeling is one we end up enacting on the earth and ourselves over and over again if we don’t fully face, feel and speak for the painful and agonising consequences of its loss or absence.

Why and how we disconnect from feelings and the body

I came across the following quotes from Sylvia Bretton Perrera’s book The Scapegoat Complex, which I wrote down a while ago today.  They really struck home :

The capacity to endure discomfort seems to be related to the early experience of touch, being held intimately, and with respect, both in attentive regard and in protecting and containing arms…. (this holding) gives a child a sense of a whole (versus a ‘split’ off) body… (it gives) self integrity and identity….provides a safe vessel.

Disruption in a sense of continuous identity (strong sense of self)… leads to….deep uncertainty and is the result of :

  1. An incapable parent who cannot mediate overpowering emotion and frustration.
  2. A poor psychological ‘fit’ (between mother and child)….

this leads to a sense of exile…. problems with bonding and feeling securely held.  Then, as a result, psychological pain can be associated with (undeserved) guilt, feeling wholely bad which leads to splitting, denial of self and feelings, distortions of body image, loss of feeling in one’s body (dissociation), difficulties assimilating food or eating… body armouring and rigidity.

The (person suffering from the scapegoat complex) has built a wall to ward off the pains of toxic shadow material (note : it is only ‘toxic’ because it has not been allowed integration) so therefore keeps a distance between inner feelings and the self, between the self and others, keeping up a shield (or defence) to protect the self and othe’s from the ‘bad’ self.

The ego (conscious awareness of the personality) become inflated with the affects and feelings it has learned to avoid.  This leads to profound suffering.

All hurts are felt with an exquisite sensitivity because they touch old, raw wounds…. (leading to) … victim identification… surrogate suffering (taking on the pain others don’t want to feel or own)… The result is… a need to get rid of feelings and an inability to tolerate painful ones… raw affect brings helpless panic and leads to addiction in an attempt to avoid the suffering.

Only when sufferers can begin to sacrifice the demand for perfect mirroring from the therapist and her family, as (they) begin to sacrifice demands for restitution of a lost paradise state, and to accept the true burden that was (their) life can (they) truly begin to break free and recover.

The realisation then slowly dawns that those who could not mirror her or understand her feelings also suffered in a different way.

Developing the ability to suffer and survive our true feelings enables the scapegoated individual to see there was nothing wrong with her or the feelings at all, the problem came from their rejection and from the exile from our own body and feelings that occurred so many years ago.

Please note that the above is not a verbatim quote from that book but has been modified in order to present it in what I hope is a coherent form here.

A survivor of war

I awoke this morning in such a shell shocked state but with a kind of quiet calm around me, on a clear, bright, crisp morning of sunshine.   I had a fitful night again.  Since my dental surgery I have not slept well.  The violent mid night sleep awakenings have returned again fraught with explosive feelings inside my body and memories of painful events flowing down like a river of burning coals.  And then the thoughts of my mother and all she has endured over the years of various mental disturbance and anguish in my family commencing with my older sister cerebral bleed and going on from there were running over my mind.

Seeing her in the state she was in yesterday filled me with anguish and the deepest most profound sadness.  I wanted to pick her up and take her to a place where there would be human angels to care for her and shower her with love.   Its all I want for her really.  But one central recent event particularly was haunting me.  A few years ago after my remaining sister’s third or fourth hospitalisation for catatonic depression following her sad abuse at the hands of her family where she was forceably committed to a psychiatric institution in another city while on what was a so called ‘manic’ spree my Mum had a fall down some stairs.

At the time she was trying to carry a packed suitcase of things down four flights of stairs in my sister’s apartment block to take to the hospital.  My sister had come out of the last psychiatric stay and fallen two times due to the medication she was given lowering her blood pressure.  She just collapsed and hit her head open and had to be taken to hospital again.   My mother phoned me that morning and I think she needed my help, but I didn’t want to give it.  At that point I was exhausted by the hospitalisations of my sister and her attempted suicide in 2013 and the outfall of that.  The only way I really felt ‘safe’ was by keeping my distance.   And I did not know my Mum would attempt to do such a silly thing, as she never mentioned the need to pack a suitcase.  Never the less I still feel shame and guilt which I know rationally on some level is not deserved and I need to share what goes on inside my mind as at night it has such a dark power over me.

That day around the time my Mum must have fallen or been preparing the case I was at the park with Jasper and my entire body and brain was flooded with pressure.  It was so bad I left Jasper in the confined part of the dog park and raced off into an open field a little way away.   I was only gone about 20 minutes and when I came back an angelic young man with long hair was with Jasper.  As he came towards me I put my head in my hands and just cried with the pain and overwhelm.  He was so kind and just sat with me and we talked about my struggle and my family.  It must have been around that time that my Mum fell and was lying at the bottom of the staircase 20 minutes away.  She ended up fracturing her pelvis and that injury amongst others had dogged her for 3 years.  From memory it happened in 2014 though so much has happened that I cant fully remember now.

When I bought the autobiography of Eva Schloss a few weeks ago, the woman who survived Auschwitz with her mother I shared some of it on line here.  I thought about my own connection to the survivor story and of my own hidden Jewish heritage.  (My great great grandmother renounced her Jewish ancestry and faith when she married by great great grandfather in the 1860s) and wondered why that story had such resonance and power for me.  Eva never spoke about her time in Auschwitz until the 1980s when she was asked to open a memorial to her dead step sister Anne Frank.  She remained silent for over 40 years and only then did the tears begin to fall.  I always think when we read something or are drawn to it there is a reason.  We are seeking understanding or a resonance with another’s experience or haunting.   Was I also a survivor of war.  Can we equate Nazisim with narcissism, the two are similar.

There is perhaps no way to say what I have been through is as extreme as Auschwitz but the degree of trauma in my family over the past 30 years and the painful aftermath of emotional distancing and dissociation in my family to survive has deep so deeply painful for me as the youngest.  John Bradshaw in drawing attention to birth order theory says that in the dysfunctional or traumatised family the fourth or youngest child carries the thwarted unification needs of the family.  They want to bring healing to the suffering and attention to the wounds and emotional togetherness.  They are also often an outsider or witness.  The second child is often the scapegoat and acts out the unconscious suffering of the family and is then shunned or considered a failure.  In my older sister’s case it wasn’t that she was shunned, just excluded by a chain of events that saw her marry early and leave the family before it was fully forming its place in the world, when she came back and tried to find a place in it, that was when she came badly unstuck.  By the time I came along there was precious little attention left for a young girl who was so very much younger in age than any of her siblings in a family subsumed by survival and an upwardly mobile materialist improvement project.

My own trauma of a major near death experience at the age of 17 and the loss of my teeth has all been retriggered with the latest dental work and I need to be mindful of that.   In two days time it is the 13th anniversary of the day my husband finally packed his bags and left me all alone at the coast unable to take any steps forward to get emotional help but mired by then in over 30 years of pain. So its no wonder suicidal feelings were around strongly on Sunday and have been dogging me a lot over the past week.

At this point its early morning here as I said.  I was brought to tears by the love shown by valued followers on my last post Rocking you may never truly know how much it means just to read some kind words or to see a little heart symbol in the comments section of my post on awakening at this point in time.   I was full of such sadness and ghosting feelings of guilt over my Mum’s fall.  But I also know that what happened with my family was in so many ways far bigger than any young child in a family could fully deal with or heal.

Sad consequences of things in my family have affected me deeply.  As the youngest swept up in such wild, swirling and traumatic seas over many years I have done well to survive the war with my sanity and mental state as in tact as it is.  There has been an ocean of tears, longing and pain to navigate, an ocean of love.  Throughout it all I have managed to keep my heart as open as I possibly could.  So many times I opened it to those who were invested in me shutting it back down, those who told me to ‘put it all behind me’ or ‘get the hell as far away from it as you can’, but I know if I ran I would only take the trauma with me.  Staying here or fronting up to the past has been much harder in so many ways but I do believe it has been necessary.

I do see myself not as the saviour in all of it, which would be a kind of hubris really but more as the teller of the tale who sitting a bit far off on the sidelines is able in some strange way to give a voice to all of it.  I also know that as much as my family and its trauma and suffering has shaped me it does not need to define me as long as I bring consciousness to it, as well as to the mixed up tangled ball of thread of painful feelings which when unravelled and not shown necessary empathy and mercy could destroy me, if I let them.  In time once the telling of the tale is done I will be able to take distance but as the sober one I will always carry the ache.  I just need more emotionally than my empty well or vortex of family can truly provide.

In the end I am a survivor and hope in time to be a thriver.  I am also a witness and perhaps in some way a war reporter too, but not one who maintains only objective distance, rather one who in sinking to and at times almost being drowned in the depths of unconscious feelings that are not personal but deeply collective emerges in time with a dark pearl within which are contained all the composites of feelings and traumas gone before.  I will not be told that pearl is a stone that needs to be discarded, painful and traumatic as it has been.  This life is the one that life has given me, not chosen and I am still in the painful process of disentangling myself and finding a way to live outside of multiple traumas that could so easily have buried me.  But I am also seeing I deserve so much more, and have so much more to give.  Its just at 55 I still have not found my path.  My blog is really my only pathway to the outside at this point.  And at this point maybe I just need to accept that and be open to the possibility of change, scary as that is.

Understanding the wounds underlying borderline reactions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Lion’s Roar

We are human but we are instinctual animals.  We feel wounds in a heart that suffers and when injustice strikes us we can roar and rage and burn.   Mars planet of assertion and action has moved into Leo ruled by the element of fire over the past few days and today I have been really feeling it.  I have been feeling the impact of all the assaults on my animal body from a very young age and the deeper fury of now having no front teeth.  Eating with my denture is painful and the roof of my mouth is sore.  So today I have been raging at home and then at the oval Jasper and I made a new friend we were able to share about our challenges and difficulties. I told her how angry I was today and how Jasper looked a bit scared at first when I was screaming and roaring around at home but when I told him the anger had nothing to do with him and gave him pat he was fine and soon calmed down.  She then felt safe enough to open up about their own issues.  It was another of those special moments of grace.

My rage seems to have abated now.  I did visit Mum today at the hospital and she held my hand in hers while I cried about the pain of the denture.  She opened up to me about how she never felt her mother gave her a sense of being worthwhile.  In fact she never told Mum that she loved her once in her life.  She was crying as she said this.  I felt so sad for her and for my family that has suffered deep wounds of lack of nurture.  We spoke about the impact of the First World War that took her father from her and then we shared some sadness over the emotional distance in our family.  It was painful and sad but I also felt a deep sense of peace because we were really sharing openly from our hearts.

“All of my life I have tried to do the right thing by others.” she said.  “Now I am so tired I really don’t want to be here any more!”  Oh Mum, my heart ached and I saw how I also have been a compassionate caretaker at times in the absence of really knowing any other way to be.  It was half an hour of raw honesty between us, during which I fully accepted the painful karmic consequences of my maternal ancestral history.

Today I have no answers to the sadness of what we have lived in our family.  But perhaps accepting the truth will provide a kind of liberation.  Getting into a rage over what is passed will not help me for very long, in some way I need to find ways to live outside all of that lovelessness, disconnection and unhappiness to find happiness and connection again.  It is going to take me some time to get used to my new denture.

I am also glad I no longer feel the need to keep distance between me and my Mum, sadly she passed down very real wounds to me and over those I am powerless.  The only real power I have now is over the choices in my life and whether they are based in peace and serenity or anger and disturbance.  The later doesn’t really lead me to any place of calm and self soothing. I need to let go of what can cause hurt or pain so that I no longer live in a place of hurt and pain recycling over and over again.  Taking some time out on Sunday made me able to be there yesterday in a way which didn’t deplete me, but rather filled me up with peace.   And today I felt was a day of real healing.