Sweet Solace

AB

Sweet solace

Is like a soft blanket of velvet you wrap around me

When my being is pierced

By a terrible pain

That won’t stay outside of my skin

They say to me

Put on your armour

And take care not to feel so much

Yes, I can see some wisdom in that

But does it not also mean

Closing down a part of my soul

That longs to stay open

Or steming a tidal flow from the heart

That needs to flow?

Instead

Sweet solace says

I see you

I hear you

I feel you

This hurt is real

Here is some healing balm

Given from my soul to yours

Salve to soothe your wounds

And help you find rest

Solace you are so sweet

So thank you

You who gave me

The gift of this comfort

At such a dark and deeply painful time

Making myself wrong : taking on other’s burdens, some reflections.

I wrote this post late last night after working through some of the events of the past week.

think I tend to take on a lot of responsibility for situations I did not cause.  Someone pointed this out to me in a comment on another post.  That when we care and know pain and can feel it deeply there really is no insulation that we have from other’s pain. The best we can do is make a decision with our minds to detach from it and be realistic about the limits of our involvement.

In this current situation that I have been sharing about over past weeks there is a long history going back to 1980 when critical events took place in my family.   I make sense of a lot through astrological cycles and when I look to current transits I see what is being triggered at the moment but so much of it was way outside of my control, never the less the ricochet effects deeply affected me.   I was at that stage coming out of my own motor vehicle trauma when the trauma befell my sister and I was about to embark on studies that got aborted and then I got no counselling to help me and was very much on my own in the coming years after my father died.

When I got sober in 1993 I had all of this trauma still locked up inside me.  I tried my best to come to terms with it but I was not helped by my partner nor family and at that point I see I would have been best to make a complete break away, but I needed some kind of support.  Today I was clear with my sister that I could not go to the hospital with my Mum in the ambulance and that I could not go to the hospital tonight either.  My three hours there on Monday night set me back big time on Tuesday.   I don’t want to go under again and if I am going to continue to make progress it really is time to start setting some boundaries.

To be honest as much as I loved my nephew’s company, staying up late while he was drinking and smoking a lot was not something thats good for me.  I had a lot of cleaning up to do yesterday and we had torrential rain while they were here.  When he left he hadnt cleaned anything up.  There were his dirty dishes in the sink and outside a dish full to the brim of cigarette buts with rain water in them.  I cleaned it all up yesterday and finally feel that I have my space back.  I am glad to be able to have my sanctuary here back, as its where I recharge myself.   Now I just need to work to keep at bay critical thoughts and keep practicing self care.

On that note I went to the library this afternoon and a book was waiting I ordered in called Finding True Refuge,  I don’t know if any of you have read the author Tara Brach’s earlier book Radical Acceptance, I  read it quite a few years ago and got a lot out of it, in it she talks a lot about shame and how she came face to face with her own on her spiritual path.  In this one she speaks about cultivating a loving kindness meditation practice where we seek refuge within, in the silent interior spaces of our heart.   I already got a lot out of the first 30 pages I read this afternoon.

The idea of seeking and finding a refuge within appeals to me.  It is what I feel in that nourishing, nurturing, alone time of solitude when I touch base with a source of peace that lives beyond all the traumatic events others seem to keep bringing into my life.  I am aware that on an astrological level Saturn and healthy mature adult boundaries and protections are an antidote to all my strong Neptunian tendency to be overly empathic and compassionate.  With Jupiter magnifying Neptune in Scorpio’s influence lately (by transit) I was also warned in another reading/interpretation by astrologer Leah Whitehorse that what people are saying or projecting may not be totally true or based on reality.   I need to keep a mindful watch over my own energy frequency now.   I was starting to feel happiness and contentment and experiencing solid sleep before my nephew’s visit last week.

I got a lot out of the visit but it also made me aware that as an empath I can and do take on other people’ s struggle and suffering at times.  My therapist suggested this week that when I get full to the brim with it, I try to discharge that energy by grounding, putting my feet on the earth and letting it flow down out and away from me.  Last week after each afternoon walk I was taking off first one shoe and then the other to place each bare feet on the ground to earth myself and settle my energy.

Its interesting to me that I got breast cancer just a few months after my older sister was diagnosed.  When I think of the amount of trauma we both went through from 2005 – 2015 when we were both diagnosed it doesnt surprise me.  Tbere is an element of strong enmeshment in our stories.

Anyway I will keep working to have better boundaries and become more aware when I feel the saviour archetype is overpowering me.   I should not make myself responsible for what others have to bear.  At the same time I need to be aware of their boundaries as well.   I notice that so often what I give is not so often reciprocated.   I dont give to get but when you do have a giving heart its so important to keep a balance.  If we give more than we get back it can tend to make us ill or drained.   This is something I need to keep a really close watch on in myself.

Their tears fall in silence

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Their tears fall in silence

Or stay silted up behind eyes that cannot cry

Griefs they buried long ago

Lead to a hijacked brain

And the pain and confusion of that

Can on some days be so overwhelming

How can we help them begin to break the silence?

To reach out from deep inside

A wounded or broken soul

Healing only begins with the telling and feeling

The difficult uncovery of such painful lost truth

And even though the deepest wounds may never be fully repaired

Always and forever leaving a scar

Just maybe in being spoken

They can be opened and cleased

And some of the poison driven out

The ones who weep in silence

Well please remember

To send them a prayer

For we know

We too were once the ones who wept in silence

And so it is our responsibility

To speak, to share, to encourage and to care

Finding happiness and support inside the grief and pain

Happiness and contentment has more of a chance to grow when we are responded to with empathy.  Realistically in a world which contains all kinds of people we cannot expect such empathy as a given.  I was thinking earlier of a reading from one of the daily recovery readers I own which speaks of expectations as a premediated resentment.  What the quote is getting at is that when we unrealistically expect empathy or some response from someone incapable of giving it, that failure to accept (the painful) reality can lead to resentment.

I have a brother who is incapable of emotional responses to suffering.  He also NEVER turns up on time.   He will call my Mum really early in the morning and she will crack the whip on herself to get ready only to be left waiting for up to an hour. One day (Mother`s Day many years ago) he actually failed to turn up.  I had to hand it to my sister the last time he called us all together.  She arrived an hour later than the time he said he would be there, she just pleased herself.  That was sensible behaviour where my brother is concerned as expecting him to be on time is just not realistic.

I don`t want this to turn into a criticism blog about my brother but what I am trying to get at is that its painful to set ourselves up to be hurt by others failure to respect us or show empathy.  We may need to be on the receiving end of hurt many times before we finally get the lesson that what we need from this person is never going to be forthcoming.  We can respect that they are only human and doing their best.  In the end we all have different thresholds of tolerance for this kind of thing.  If we have been neglected or kept waiting or wounded by others misattention or misattunement, such things can trigger us to age regress back to an earlier time of hurt that we then feel with full force.  We then have to process this.

I had just such an incident with my gardener the other day.   I got up early waiting for him to show at the allocated time, a while later, no gardener.  This kind of being kept waiting scenario is a big trigger for me.  I noticed my anxiety level rising and my head searching for reasons he was late.  I then did the sensible thing.  I called him to find out what was happening.  Turns out his children were playing up and he had a school commitment they hadnt told him about so he was running last but neglected to call.  I nippped things in the bud, prevented myself regressing into anxiety then got on with another task until he arrived.   I recognised my abandonment schema had been triggered too, so I practicee self soothing. Later we talked in through and I explained my trigger to him.

A year ago I decided to stop meeting a friend who always kept me waiting.  The final straw was when she cancelled just after she had sent a text to say she was leaving home to be here for a morning tea I went to a lot of effort to make.   It retriggered a lot of pain but also anger at myself too because throughout the past three years she had been consistently late to each and every meeting we had agreed to.   I hadn’t set a boundaries until a big upset when she was late to take me to an oncology appointment.  She was defensive and upset then and the behaviour didn’t change.  I do miss elements of our friendship and I didn`t throw her out entirely.  I just chose to limit contact as each meeting would amp up my anxiety.    I still keep in touch though our communciation has lessened in the last six months.

I seem to have got a little diverted off topic in the course of writing this post.   What initiated it was the idea I wanted to communicate that when we are responded to in grief or any other emotional difficulty with empathy and consistent loving support, the chance for happiness to grow increases.

It is shown by recent research that being met with empathy actually increases the production of positive neurotransmitters such as oxytocin (the love hormone) while being hurt, invalidated, or criticised lights up a different site in the brain and leads to higher levels of cortisol.  I just started to read Christine Neff`s book on Self Compassion this week and in it she quotes this reasearch that had been referred to in other books I have read recently.

The bad news is that insecurely attached people who learned they could never consistently rely on others or were shown abuse, neglect or lack of empathy are more likely not to be able to show themselves self compassion and attract those who won`t either.  Positive effects can come for them later in life though if they can find a therapist or friend who will listen with empathy and validate their experiences.  Most certainly we don`t always need to be surrounded by yes people, but if we have had attachment issues or difficulties in the past it is essential we find those who can respond to us in empathy with consistency in order that our neurotransmitters can be altered.  In the long run this kind of support helps us more than any drug will.  We can also learn to show ourselves this kind of care.

I believe that some kind of inner peace and happiness can grow out of our grief or other wounds if we are shown empathy in the midst of them and helped to process and understand them.

If you have significant grief, abandonment or trauma in your life or inconsistent attachments it is essential you find one person you can unburden yourself with, a person who is consistent and reliable.    On line support groups and some blogs can most definately help in ths way if you are isolated but ideally its good to be able to connect face to face as our bodies respond to each other when present through mirror neurons.   We who have been wounded, damaged or traumatised so badly need this kind of support to find some happiness inside the sadnesses that can beseige us from that painful past of neglect, loss or trauma.

Borderlines are not ‘manipulative, malicious’ creatures.

I’m on the BPD awareness bandwagon today as you can probably tell from a few recent posts.  One of the claims that really triggers me and is mentioned in the fourth story in the book Beyond Borderline is that people with BPD are manipulative and malicious.  This is all pure projection of the helplessness and misunderstanding many mental health care ‘professionals’ exhibit when faced with a client or person with BPD who may be acting out pain due to a percieved or actual abandonment trigger.  Without a deeper compassion and understanding of the vortex of emptiness, frustration and deep need many people who suffer borderline wounds and injuries are left with from childhood and preverbal days there is no way such therapists can help and in fact they end up causing their clients or patients even more damage.  I know this because it happened to me.

I was lucky enough in my pre addiction recovery days to be recommended to a very skilled therapist who I eventually broke with due to my own abandonment wound being triggered when he went into hospital for an operation but had the strength to reconnect with years later when I understood what had triggered my leaving.  He said to me that for people who had suffered the degree of abandonment I had I needed a therapist who was available twenty four/seven.   This was after another therapy broke after my therapist went away for over a month and I got overwhelmed.   I should never have been left with no support at that stage in a therapy for that long when I had just begun to open up my deepest unconscious pain.  It has taken me some years to understand the melt down and retrigger to complete isolation that break caused me.  It took me years to get back to therapy with a consistent therapist.  12 years!

I will say this.  So called ‘borderlines’ are not manipulative.  They are hurting.  They are in emotional pain.  They are beseiged by negative voices that they can’t understand or control.  They are literally drowning at times in emotions they can’t soothe or regulate.  They need support.  They need empathy.  They need consistency.  They need understanding.   If you have ever been labelled as manipulative (and I have) dont take the projection on board.  You may suffer from a host of unmet needs you dont yet fully understand and you should always be treated with respect, most especially by anyone you engage to help you in your recovery.  Dont allow the said therapist’s emotional unavailability, ignorance or defences to cloud you from knowing what you need, which  is loving consistency and emotional availability.

I understand that many therapists could never be available twenty four/seven and in time we need to learn to hold our own pain, but in the early stages of recovery its important to have someone who is there emotionally and doesn’t retrigger your own wound over and over again leaving you hanging with pain you dont yet have the skills to manage.

A place within the pain to find a place outside the pain.

I awoke a little while ago to a golden morning.   I had such a fitful night last night.  I never take any medication but last night I took a Panadol hoping it would allow me to rest.  My body has been all over the place since the anniversary of my accident trauma.  I was also not fully aware of how much my nephew’s visit triggered and the aftermath of feeling.  I was up and down last night and had all the spasms and shock releases in my body which feels like it is trying to unwind.  I wind myself up in my mind with worry over my dog and my mother.  Despite the fact my relationship with my Mum is complex now she is aging so much and in pain I am full of care, this conflicts with feelings of frustration I have in longing for freedom from worry, care and trauma and anger I feel over past hurts.  But the truth is way more complex than I can fully express in any blog.  There are times I know she wanted to support me but since she struggles to accept her own emotions and responses (or does so under the cover of silence and protection like a lot of Scorpios) she hasn’t been able to validate me in the ways I wished, nor fully acknowledge her part.

I was watching the movie Thanks for Sharing for the second time on the weekend and I got triggered in the scene where the son of the older man in recovery confronts his Dad with hurt he caused him and his failure to apologise.  The father who was a big guy in recovery circles as well as full of AA platitudes and pearls of wisdom was being hypocrite pure and simple and refusing to face it.  I saw my self and how alone and emotionally devastated not getting the necessary apology leaves us.  It fucks with our heads as we question the truth and fear losing the parent’s love by confronting their defences with their shadow.

I have pretty much come to the point where I know now Mum wont own her own part in ways she abandoned me emotionally.  To do so she would have had to face her own history and lately she has shared that she was also emotionally abandoned, but the sorry for what she unconsciously did is never coming.  Sharing about it with my therapist the other day she said that she feels to my Mum I am the child inside her she had to cover over long ago and whose pain it hurts to face, sadly.  It takes so much courage and vulnerability to truly own where we fail, often due to unconsciousness.  Not getting that acknowledgement from any member of my family has been painful and difficult.  But at least now I know where NOT to look for it.

In a way I am glad I had no contact with my brother on his birthday.  His daughter shared with me a while back how shut down both her parents are.  She doesn’t blame them for her emotional abandonment and it is ongoing.   I think its a big step to really feel our anger over this, as it can be prohibited.  To stay trapped in anger though in time means a failure to accept and grieve a harsh reality that must be faced and grieved.  I feel in time I will be able to have an honest conversation about how I feel about how he is in terms of being as emotionally distant as my own father was.  He never got the help to face his softer needy side and his wife is furiously defended against her own in so many way too, but the truth is I don’t know her well.  She has always kept up a cold hard distance with the female side of my family, especially after my oldest sister’s breakdown and told her children to do the same.  That is another grief.  I know she has reasons to be angry at my Mum and they are valid.  Mum admits she was in the wrong but doesn’t really have empathy for my sister in law who lost her own mother when she was on the brink of adolescence.

Facing our grief and pain is huge work, I now see.  I feel we skirt around it for so long and as I write this that poem of Emily Dickinson comes to mind : there is a pain so utter it swallows substance up and covers the abyss with trance so we step above or around it (those are not the verbatim words but it goes something like that.)  The reason I think so many of us who carry abandonment trauma suffer and are sidelined by others is that they either have no idea of the devastation it causes or are so deeply invested in denying or covering over their own grief and pain that they can feel scared and threatened when we do and so do things to shut us down or shame us.  Then we can be labelled as ‘ill’ and medicated to shut the fuck up.  (Writing that last sentence I am also aware medications in many cases are used to soften the blow while inner work is prepared for but in many cases they are used to hide from it in the absence of inner reparative psychodynamic work and there is anger for my sisters in that sentence which I own fully!).

As I look back I see this ocean of deep grief and pain began to open up for me in 1999 when my ex husband and I were in the UK.  Facing the enormity of it scared me so I ran home to Australia and then hid out.  My husband and mother were trying to get me some help but I was resisting them a fair bit.  I ran back to the UK and then back to Oz and then back again when I was struggling to find a way to trust and move forward.  So in many ways the anger I have at my family not fully understanding is also anger of my inner child at the adult who would not take the right steps to care for her before. My grief and fear was so huge they were terrifying to face.   And so much went into the fire.

It was only the ending of the next relationship which freed me for the inner work and then my older sister died and that was so hard.  We got to reconnect for a short while with her sons and that opened up feeling but also more fear.  It has taken until this late Mercury retrograde transit to see how strong the Uranus rebellion streak has been in me and how deep the Plutonian deluge of ancestral pain that we carry as a family really is.  In many ways I am the shadow bearer for a lot of repressed energy so its no wonder I have struggled so much and been sidelined so many times by others who are ignorant, misunderstanding or misjudging.  And then I judged myself not seeing how big the task was or how well I was trying, until I found this last therapist who has just been so present, so adaptable, so open and so warm and caring, things I have never received much in my life before.  I come from such a constricted family that holds down so deep so much repressed life force and childlike joy and human wanting/needing, all of which I split off for so many years until now!  Was it any wonder I suffered from anxiety.  It was just repressed life force, wild horse energy in my beautiful body stampeding with hooves of wanting and desiring for release against huge forces of internalised repression!

Phew! Sun is literally streaming in on me at the moment and I awoke today and saw the beauty of my home, which has been such a cocoon and which I nearly discarded earlier in the year in quest of a space that was not the real me I am but the me I thought I should be to be better or neater or more in control.

On that subject last night after I got home I listened to the greatest conversation on radio with a student of ethics and philosophy on transcendant experiences.  What was being discussed was how much the rational enlightenment in the 17th century has stolen from us in terms of raising up qualities of self control, rationality as supreme, making us numb and blind on so many levels to nature and inner mystical worlds that our ancestors were more in touch with.  In the wake of this experiences of feeling connected to a greater power or peak experiences of seeing spirit in matter or feeling that vast overwhelming of love, luminosity and connection have become increasingly pathologised by the mainstream.

On the way home just a while before I had one of those experiences when I saw a hedge of the most glorious yellow wattle shining out at the side of the car.  I was overcome with the awareness of how much love there is in nature and of how much of our suffering is man made by the heroic questing ego that seeks power over nature instead of union with it.

When we fail to see the beauty in who we really are as natural beings, when we go deaf dumb and blind to sensitivities and feelings of connection or suffering, we shut down all that is most beautiful, honest, open and true in ourselves and others.  I know how many others there are out there who also suffering and in many ways our suffering in opening our hearts also connect us to each other.  When we resist that suffering or try to make a illness of it we cut ourselves away from love, life and light.

I saw so much light and love in that wattle yesterday.  I only saw it as I went to visit my Mum for an hour and we had a few moments of connection.  I connect to the pain in my Mum that she has had to deny for so many years.  Long ago as a child she was left alone without resources.  I see how she coped to the best she could.  It was NEVER enough for me but it was all she could do.  Facing the harsh reality of that means grieving not only for her but for all of my family.  It means not living in denial as so many of us do but it also involves realising the beauty that remains even amongst what at times seems to the rubble and wreckage that is left and it occurs to me as I read this back that grieving and feeling the pain is a form of transformation and birthing, it is a dying to the old past so a new present can rise up and live with more awareness of how deep losses and original injuries go.

What is most important for me at this stage of the road in my emotional recovery is self love not self denial or rejection.  I don’t like what I had to suffer and I wish it was different. I know I deserved more but maybe there was a deeper lesson or learning in every single thing I have gone through.  Making meaning of it, accepting what is, grieving the losses to realise what is most important, most luminous so I can come awake again and fully embodied in both my longing and my pain as well as my luminosity and joy, well to my mind that is essential work maybe not for everyone but most definitely for me.

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Swirling seas : more reflections on trauma

Maybe there are oceans inside of us. Perhaps everything is not as solid as it seems.  I have experienced so powerfully since my 5 weeks of radiation for breast cancer last year how fluid the energy in my body is. When I was reading parts of Peter Levine’s book on trauma earlier this week he explained that part of his work involves getting us back in touch with this sense of the body as vibration and to feel our way into how it sings or pulls or tears or hurts or vibrates as a living energy that is not fixed and can oscillate and change.  Also to notice how pain is often a contraction and if we do not resist that contraction and stay with it mindfully in time contraction can change to expansion and release/letting go.

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It is coming up both to my Dad’ birthday anniversary as well as the anniversary of my accident when I was only 17 in about 12 days.  I am aware of how my body still carries this shock trauma energy of expansion and contraction deep inside.  I had a repeat of the accident when I was 41 after a session of cranio sacral where I went back ‘in’  I watched things from outside of my body and saw the grief my parents went through. Dad only got to the hospital after I was taken by the ambulance but Mum came to the scene of it.  When they wheeled me past Dad he didn’t recognise me, I was so lacerated and cut up.  I was also screaming ‘let me die’ which was a pretty extreme reaction. He was so upset and I grieved in that session not only for what I went through but what my parents went through. The dramatic way I cried out also showed two things 1) I was resisting what was happening to me and 2) at that stage I felt very alone and didn’t really want to be alive (a lot was going down for me prior to the crash!).

Anyway the whole thing repeated in 2005 with me over the other side of the world. In many ways I wish I didn’t have the session then.  An astrologer who specialises in near death and trauma said to me that often its difficult to work with these old events in certain ways as they can be retriggered, sometimes, she said, we are best to leave the wound alone and mindfully send it love.  I am older and wiser now, however in 2005 the whole thing just opened up for me again and I got badly hurt.  In many ways I am still coming back from the trauma of that time that still lives in my body, as well as the grief I have that such a choice led to more damage and pain.

Peter Levine’s work with helping the traumatised to unpack it involves inner work to try to tolerate the strong sensations trauma leaves in the body without dissociating (which is what we usually do in trauma!)   It involves putting the focus on those sensations for a time which hurt or repel or are painful and then swinging or what he calls ‘pendulating’ awareness onto something positive and warm and life affirming.  This is to counterbalance the extreme fixing, pinning or magnetising affect trauma can have on our body/mind and psyche.

Lately I am aware of how much I have dwelt in and on my trauma over the past 20 years.  I have literally allowed it to ‘pin’ me and breaking out of that repetitive feedback loop of focus on body symptoms and negative thoughts or thoughts of doom that can recycle is taking me time.  Lately I am fed up with the way trauma has limited my life.  I am seeing things about the way I have dealt with it which have not always helped me.  I am also seeing how I spend a lot of time ‘running’ on an energy level instead of settling.  This the amped up sense I carry inside that death and danger is close and its urgent that I keep things rolling.  In fact I was listening to the lyrics of an old song by Foreigner last week that goes “urgent, urgent, urgent, emergency” several times in the chorus and thinking how often that speaks to how I can run my energy.

At the same time I am aware that movement towards positive behaviours, such as forcing my body out into the sunshine or wooded fields for a walk with Jasper, or making effort to pick up the phone and call that caring friend instead of ruminating in fear about how it would be better to keep up a distance and stay safe is essential for me.

One of the most damaging things about trauma is that it can lead us to freeze and get immobilised.  Peter Levine addresses this issue at depth in his first book Waking the Tiger.   Animals can play dead but then they get a burst of energy to get up and escape from the predator that wants to eat them.  If our trauma comes from abuse we need to be able to take action to move rather than become passive, or develop what Peter Walker calls ‘a fawn defence’.  Staying powerless and passive will not help us much and may lead to chronic illnesses.

Anyway it takes time to realise all of these things about trauma.  It takes time to be able to consciously shift our focus in such a way, not to deny the impact of painful effects but to release the powerful hold they can have over our thinking, energy and perception.  It takes time to begin to find the goodness again, to discover the things that we can focus on that don’t amp up our pain, but rather soothe it, that don’t keep it running over and over again on a repetitive feedback loop.  It also takes time to find those who understand just what a huge impact trauma has, for if we are lucky enough to find someone willing to be with our traumatised body in full presence we are more likely to be able to unravel from the painful effects of trauma and soothe them, than if we are treated callously or with a lack of empathy.

Peter Levine himself had a serious accident when he was young.  He sites the fact that he didn’t develop full blown PTSD to the fact that a woman was there by the side of the road when he had the accident and she sat with him, held his hand and helped to soothe his distress.  The last thing anyone with trauma needs to be told is that it doesn’t hurt, or that we should be over it.  But that is just what happens to us when confronted with our trauma others freak out or feel too confronted or threatened  It can take us some time to realise in this situation that this is a failure on the behalf of others, as trauma survivors we are more than likely to be hard on ourselves and blame ourselves which only makes living as a trauma survivor 1,000 times worse.

In my own case I think the reason I have struggled to heal over 12 years from that second accident in 2005 is that over that time I was rejected for trauma symptoms or misunderstood.    That made healing myself extra hard.  I was emotionally abused in the last relationship I had for my trauma symptoms and I can still side with my abuser in seeing how difficult it was for him.  It was a failure of empathy on one level, but I can still understand how challenging it is for other to see trauma survivors fixed to dark places when the impact of trauma or abuse still possesses us so completely at times.

Last week my therapist said something interesting to me.  It was this. “It is important that you know both how to be in the underworld but also how to get out of it.”  That made a lot of sense to me.  Those of us who have undergone dark things can get so overpowered by those dark experiences as well as the feelings of powerlessness they can leave that we can almost be consumed by our own personal hell and underworld at times.  When we are down in the dark and lightless, loveless place it is hard to believe there still is a sun shining above ground and a meadow full of flowers we can skip through.  What brings the faith back in that goodness must surely involve someone who can empathise with us and hold our hands in the dark but also not buy in too strongly to our thoughts of doom.  That person themselves needs to have a goodness and active energy around them that can embrace both polarities of dark and light.   For really they are just two sides of life and those of us who have known the dark may have had to visit it in order to know just how valuable and essential light, empathy and love are   Hopefully our own lessons in the dark mean we can be there for others to hold a light up when despair seems to become so overpowering.   I certainly hope so.

A beautiful interview on being fully present

The gem of wisdom in this interview comes towards the end, so stay with it.  “To be loved means to be recognised as existing”  fully in all of our suffering.  I have been an admirer of Thich Nhat Hanh for some time.  This beautiful interview toward the end gives some lovely advice on how to listen and be fully present with compassion for others and also for our selves.  We can use his mantras to talk kindly to ourselves when we suffer too.

 

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.