Giving Back Responsibility to Others

For the good guy, taking responsibility for other’s emotions, well being, finances, etc., is a way of breathing.  This comes from a deep seated belief that he can only call himself a good guy if he is always being there, being present, being attendant to the needs, desires and happiness of others.  Changing this belief is vital.

Beliefs change slowly over time due to experimentation with an alternate belief.  Generally speaking, the belief that we are not, and indeed, cannot be responsible for others comes slowly due to the lifelong bargain with trying to take responsibility for others.  Eventually the body and mind begin to scream their exhaustion and the person begins to listen.  When that happens the person might be willing to begin to experiment by deliberately choosing to give responsibility for other’s lives back to them.

But if we implement a practice meant to lead to a process, perhaps we won’t have to wait to get to exhaustion before we can yield the floor of responsiblity for someone else’s life to them.  Therefore, the practice goes something like this.  Every time you find yourself worrying about someone else’s stuff, you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them for them to carry.  It does not belong to me.”  Every time you feel guilty for saying no, for thinking no, you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them to carry.  It does not belong to me.”  Every time you realize that you are carrying someone else’s stuff you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them to carry.  It does not belong to me.”  In this way you are training your mind to accept the belief that it is not possible for you to be responsible for someone else’s life.  You may also come to understand and therefore believe that when you take over someone else’s responsibility, you are actually robbing them of one of life’s most precious jewels – for it is in taking responsibility for our lives that we give ourselves permission to become whole.  As you practice this more and more over time, it begins to become a process in which you recognise immediately when you have taken on someone else’s stuff and you surrender it willingly to them as a precious gift of love.

Creating Boundaries

The practice of ceating boundaries starts internally.  First you recognise that you are doing something or engaging in something that is not authentic for you.  Then you can decide where to put the boundaries so that you can stop betraying yourself by violating your own boundaries.  So many times we think that we put up boundaries to keep others out. But actually, we put up boundaries to keep ourselves in – within our own bodies, our own authentic life structure, our own power to respond, and our own personal responsibility.

The practice of creating boundaries begins by checking our energy levels, desires, passions, and compassions against our patterns of behaviour.  When the thought of doing something for someone makes us feel a deep sense of exhaustion or tiredness, that is a signal from the Self to say no to doing that thing.  When being around a particular person trains our energy, that is a signal from the Self to stop being around that person.  When we are asked to do something but our compassion is not in it, that is a signal to say no to doing that thing.  When we are charged with a job that we have no passion or desire to do, that is time to delegate that task or to talk to our boss about reassigning it.

Making these kinds of decisions on a regular basis means that we develop a process of being led by the internal messaging system rather than by the shoulds, have-tos, ought-tos, obligations, and loyalties of the culture, family, or social agenda in which we hapen to lve.  This procss is genuine and it offers the potential of manifesting an authentic life.

Andrea Mathews : Letting Go of Good : Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self.

Its not easy for me to take on board the advice above.  I read this out to my therapist today in session and she clapped her hands, she told me it is what she is hoping that we are working towards in therapy.  It seems in my family I have always placed myself in the position of emotional caretaker.  I did it with my older sister who died and then with my Mum and now at times it could also happen with my sister who is the only one remaining here in my home town following my mother’s death and is struggling with depression.  I just know as much as I love her I cannot take on board her suffering as mine.  I feel for her, I try to ring her every second day but more than that I cannot do and I have finally made the tough decision that I will no longer sacrifice my life in caring when that care goes down a drain of endless sadness.

Believe me I know how much suffering there can be in life.  I see how much we live as a culture divorced from deeper values of self care and care for the feminine as well as the natural environment, but I also know that its up to each of us at some point to make a strong choice for solid values to invest our energy and time in.   I cannot live for another person.  I can feel for their problems but often I am powerless to do more than just care and over caring when it drains me leaves me in an empty place.

Today I was thinking of the line from a poem of T S Eliot “teach us to care and not to care”.  I dont know if I can ever ‘not care’ but I can detach to a degree with love.   I can make an active choice to say that I am human and this is my limit over which I cannot cross.  It doesn’t mean I am abandoning you, I am here if you want help and will take the steps to help yourself but if not, there is no more I can do.  I watched my Mum overcaring at times and struggling to keep her boundaries and failing at times.  Often she was punished by my older sister for that care.   I dont want to travel down the same road so my new years resolution is to care for me, and my dog this year.   I know I am now an adult enough to do it.  And its not anyone else’s job.  If you care for me that is wonderful and I am so grateful but care is only a given and cannot in the end be demanded.   I am going this year to work to take the advice of Andrea Mathews which I quoted above.

Taking responsiblity for other people’s feelings is often learned in a childhood in which the parent’s needs came first and/or took priority.  We learned it wasnt okay to have needs and desires of our own.  We end up not knowing what we want and need or feeling guilty if we do want or need what runs counter to other’s wants and needs. We then suffer anxiety if we dont think of others all the time.  We then learn to chronically self abandon.  It may be a long road to learn to know, value and champion our own needs but if we want to regain our emotional help we must learn this, or else we will suffer much anxiety and depression in our lives.

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.

Core trauma and core sentences : addressing carried ancestral or parental trauma and pain.

Many of us have core thoughts or beliefs, often fuelled by past pain, losses, trauma or fear which run over and over like an ongoing monologue either at the level or just below the level of consciousness.  We may not be fully aware of them.  We may not be fully aware of where they come from.  Not knowing our parents or grand parents or great grand parent’s history (about which they often remained silent) we may not realise that they actually relate back to something – a loss, trauma, illness or injury that happened in past generations.  They may then fuel our lives in painful ways causing much havoc.

This blog is a continuation of earlier ones I wrote last week on the subject of ancestral healing  Its something I became aware of in my own life through intuition as I learned more about past traumas on my mothers’s side of the family after I got sober in 1993.  I was aware when I began to attend Al Anon after many years in AA that my addiction was a family inheritance, something passed down in some way.  It wasn’t until I was given access by chance to information about my great great grandfather’s history of addiction, loss, grief and eventual abandonment that I began to join up some of the dots.  That is why I was so excited to finally read Mark Wolynn’s book on ancestral pain and healing It Didn’t Start With You last week.  

In an early chapter of his book, Mark tells the story of a young (19 year old man) called Jesse who at that age suddenly began to experience panic attacks which involved his body feeling covered with cold and shaking.  On exploring the family history Mark found out that Jesse had an uncle who died at the age of 19 after falling down face first in the snow.  Jesse at the same age of his uncle’s trauma was re-experiencing the symptoms and emotional as well as physical pain of his uncle. Once the connection to his ancestor’s pain was acknowledged and healing work was done to make a separation Jesse’s symptoms and panic attacks subsided.

The second story Mark tells of a woman who began to feel suicidal at a certain age.  She would be overcome with the worst depression and say to herself “I just want to incinerate myself”.  Turns out a host of her relatives had actually been gassed in the gas chambers by the Nazi’s during World War II.   The family history was hidden and never spoken of but this woman carried the painful feelings of longing to die which hit around the age some of her relatives were killed.

There are too many other powerful stories of healing in Mark’s book to relate in this one post and I have a limit tonight on what I can transcribe.  What I would like to address is that so often pain we carry may not only be ours.   It may have roots in childhood but often the childhood relates in some way to the past of a parent or grandparent that was transferred.  According to Mark if the there is a murder or other legacy of guilt in a family a later member may be urged to attone for that guilt or murder.

What is required to free ourselves from such unconscious repetition compulsions and carried ancestral trauma bonds is the ability to honour the ancestor’s pain and give the guilt or grief back to whom it belongs.   To this end Mark suggests the following ways of handing back and releasing ourselves from ancestral pain so we no longer need to carry on the unhappiness, grief or guilt that didnt start with us.

Visualise the family member or members involved in the (traumatic) event.  Tell them : “You are important.  I will do something meaningful to honor you.  I will make something good come out of this tragedy.  I will live my life as fully as I can, knowing that this is what you want for me.”

Construct a personal language or healing sentences to counteract the destructive power of damaging ones.  In this language acknowledge the unique connection you share with the person or people.

In addition you can use the following healing sentences :

“Instead of reliving what happened to you, I promise to live my life fully.”

“What happened to you won’t be in vain.”

“I will use what happened as a source of strength.”

“I will honor the life you gave me by doing something good with it.”

“I will do something meaningful and dedicate it to you.”

“I will not leave you out of my heart.”

“I’ll light a candle for you.”

“I’ll live my life in a loving way.”

“I will make something good come out of this tragedy.”

“Now I understand.  It helps me to understand.”

Mark give additional practices in the next part of the book which involve keeping a photo and working to return guilt or pain to its original source. Lighting candles to honor the journey of our ancestors,  Visualising and creating boundaries and distance between the ancestor’s or parent’s pain and keeping that boundary clear and clean while honoring their loss, pain or trauma.

Additional practices involve connecting with our own bodies to honour our integrity and self as we learn to achieve a psychic wholeness and deepening connection within.  I shared one of these in an earlier post today.  The involve putting a hand on our body, breathing deeply while saying the following :

“I’ve got you.”

“I’m here.”

“I’ll hold you.”

“I’ll breathe with you.”

“I’ll comfort you.”

“Whenever you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed, I won’t leave you.”

“I’ll stay with you.”

“I’ll breathe with you until you are calm.”

When we place our hands on our body and direct our words and breath inside, we support the parts of ourselves that feel most vulnerable.  In doing so, we have a chance to erase or release what we experience as intolerable.  Long standing feelings of discomfort can give way to feelings of expansion and well-being.  As the new feelings take root, we can experience ourselves being more supported in our body.

Such ways of being with our selves and supporting our bodies provide for us a holding environment and counter act dissociation or an attempt to move away and self reject or self abandon.  We may never have learned this way of coping or self soothing before but now we can.  We truly can be present for us and send our own body all the love, support, comfort and healing we need for our journey of separating from old pain we should not have to carry onward.

Because she was never really there

I wrote this post yesterday then felt ashamed for some reason and took it down.  When I do that sort of thing its a sign that the inner critic is on the warpath so today I am posting it.

Much as I feel myself feeling compassion for my Mum lately I am also beginning to feel how empty, painful and lonely it was as a child and even in later life when she just wasn’t really there for me emotionally in any way, could not validate my feelings, told me I should feel differently, ignore and deny certain essential things.  Then today when we spoke I told her how I tried to be like her for so long, but realised I wasn’t.   That I am often messy, feel lost and confused.  Mum then told me she learned to keep good order with everything for her mother told her if she didn’t do things ‘just right’ she would have to do them again.  “I had no one there to turn to either, but I don’t blame her”, she said to me.

I was saying to her that there is a difference between blame and accountability and the need to recognise someone’s difficult actions had a very powerful formative affect on you.  It is also okay to have feelings about it (that part I did not mention) but I know we weren’t allowed to have certain feelings (or were left carrying her repressed ones) because my Mum denied her own in many ways.  This is helping me make sense of the way I tend to rationalise and to feel that I have not ‘got it together’ if things aren’t clear, ordered and tidied away.  I can literally spend hours moving things around in my house only to find they have got messed up again and then unconsciously I hear Mum or Nana’s (now the inner critic’s) voice in my head running a ‘not good enough’ commentary over and over and over.  Unconsciously I see I am stuck in the old pattern of trying to gain this person’s love, attention and approval.

There was some kind of liberation today in having that conversation with my Mum and it explained why she often finds my own angry outbursts a bit scary, for when I have them I am expressing all the anger she wasn’t allowed to have as a child and then may feel the prohibition against being angry at her own mother.  It also occurred to me later, really Mum isn’t the source of all of these painful patterns which stretch so far back.

I can only see now how many years and how much work emotionally separating from a parent can take.  There are times I don’t see my mother clearly at all, as I see different sides of her, both the defended hard side and the acutely vulnerable side she had to hide away and cover over years ago.  When I feel that side and maybe project my own I move into a caretaker role with my Mum and want to comfort and soothe her.  My therapist told me on Thursday that the emotional work I am doing with my Mum is huge.    I was discussing my deep resentment towards my mother that has been emerging lately and I cried with how much I don’t want it to limit and poison my life but also how I need the anger to help with self validation and healthy boundary setting.

I also feel my own strong enmeshment with my mother was added to by the fact I lost my father at 23.   Due to this in later years when Mum hit the wall emotionally I felt responsible and as some of you know I derailed my independent life in the UK to move back to Australia when she broke her wrist in 2001.  I see I have been unconsciously angry about it ever since.  It wasn’t also even only her I wanted to heal and protect, it was my older sister who was for years disabled in a home and died a few years ago.  At times I have felt this derailment was just too high a price to pay in some ways,  but in others just another necessary step on my own unconscious enmeshment pathway  of healing.  As my therapist often points out we only gain consciousness when we are past mid way through life if our wounds and emotional blind spots have been deep.

All this enmeshment dynamic reached a head when I went for a townhouse at auction back in March.  Mum ended up buying it after I realised I had made a mistake and had chosen out of what her ideal may be for me and my life, rather than my own.  Lately she has been trying to coax me to move into it, thinking it will be less work for me, and due to the fact my house is very very cold in winter.  She thinks to make things easier for me will help me, but will it?  When I look at the new place it doesn’t have a lot of the heart and soul of my old cottage.  And then I remember how important it is that at times I struggle and don’t always look for the easier softer way.   Having a soft place to fall is good sometimes but at other times it can be counterproductive if this attitude gets me to give up a thing of real beauty that still has flaws which seem to be tough at times but never the less give me joy.  To quote Leonard Cohen again ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s the way the light gets in’.

I am not making any moves for a while.  I am not going to let my hand be forced.  I still have the tooth removal hanging over my head and its still making me queasy due to the fact that I know I would never be going through this if I hadn’t at one point been the focus of my Mum’s self improvement project by proxy.  I am powerless over it.  But having no front teeth is a profound metaphor for me and not a good one, its a bitter pill I have to swallow, the wound I will carry to my death.  I just don’t want it to poison the rest of my life in resentment.

And the deeper sadder truth is that what I needed emotionally as a child I never got and that wound has dogged me and caused massive repercussions.  In the end I destroyed relationships and even my own attempts to break away into and independent life but then even as I write this I see the critic is still giving me a hard time.  I was on the path of working through so much from my past and often partners wanted me to be over it, before I had done the necessary work and so those relationships had to end so I could grow to psychological maturity while holding my inner child’s hand and recognising the grief of deeper emotional abandonment in her life.

My story and life is so far from over though, so there is hope over the horizon.  Lately new friendships seem to be coming to me, ones that are more genuine and authentic, ones with people who like me for exactly who I am warts and all and don’t mind me being real and messy.  So all is not lost but its been a fucking painful and hard journey knowing how different my life could have been had I had the emotional support I really needed in childhood and growing up.  Yet I must accept that reality and see how much I have learned about myself and human nature along the way.