A brilliant new resource for empaths.

As empaths we need all the resources and knowledge at our disposal to stay healthy and learn about the dynamics of emotions and energy exchange, that is why I was so pleased to come across the new book by medical doctor and empathic wise woman Christine Northrup : Dodging Energy Vampires : An Empath’s Guide to Evading Relationships that Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power.  

Dodging

It is already confirming a lot of things I have experienced and explains well the biological changes in stress hormones that we produce in relationship to being in toxic or draining relationships with others when we are very open to love and care as empaths and most especially those of us who never got a lot of emotional needs met in a healthy way in our families of origin.

I am just going to share a bit of it in this post to help readers.  This extract concerns how empaths in believing they should always work to help, heal or show support to others often stay stuck in detrimental relationships which cause us not only psychic and psychological pain but also increasing ill health or susceptibility to auto immune difficulties, weight gain and/or loss and other diseases.

If you’re in a relationship with an energy vampire, the question is: Why don’t you get out?  Why don’t you speak up and protect yourself?

As I mentioned, many empaths do get out. They see the problems and ditch the vampire pronto.  But for those who don’t there are two main reasons.  First, you are naturally compassionate and caring, so you may simply miss the red flags.  That can happen if you’re not paying full attention to your intuition and the circumstances surrounding you.  And second, your wounds have created in you a powerful desire to be accepted and an overwhelming belief that you shouldn’t hurt other people’s feelings.  And for old soul empaths, there is a third things that keeps us stuck:  We truly believe that our love and caring can heal other people – in this case, the vampire.  And although we may see the red flags, we believe that things will be different with us – that those other people who hurt the vampire just didn’t have the skill and compassion that we have.

While our initial response to the inevitable ill treatment of us in anger, hurt, and disappointment , we quickly squelch these natural feelings and replace them with guilt – something we learned to do in the past, either way far back in another lifetime or in childhood.  Or, more likely, both.

We make the mistake of thinking that energy vampires are as sensitive as we are.  We don’t want to risk hurting their feelings, so in order to protect them and their feelings – and because we are so good at solving problems in all the other areas of our lives – we keep giving them our energy and draining ourselves rather than risk standing up to them, standing up for ourselves, and owning how angry, hurt, and disappointed we really feel.  And then ending the relationship.

….trying to convince them to get help and to change their ways…..is a dead end street.. because they don’t change.  What has to change in every single relationship with an energy vampire is you.

The lack of self worth and need to be accepted and need to be loved that many of us have makes us a perfect target for energy vampires and the darker parts of human nature.  (This what we most need to work to change in order to heal the toxic pattern.)

Christine goes on to explain also how the Buddhist concept of sending love to those who hurt, angered or betrayed us is also not useful for empaths, something that has bothered me in the past when I have read up on Buddism and also when I was in AA.  The appropriate response to these kind of feelings should not be to work harder to forgive those who upset, distress or abuse us or don’t want to change or seek a true spritual or psychological solution or healing.  Really who we should be loving and praying and caring for is ourselves and those other kind, supportive, emotionally healthy people in our life who actually give to us rather than drain our energy or suck away our life’s blood continually.

On fear

Fear 6

Fear is not always a phantom.   Sometimes it can be a clear warning sign and according to energy intuitive Kyle Gray as well as (we all know) a lingering feeling associated with the pain of past loss betrayal or abandonments.  Fear does demand of us a spiritual practice but also an awareness of when it is being triggered as a way to see what we are reacting to and where the roots of that fear lie.  We do at times need to protect ourselves from unsafe others.  Just not everyone in this world cares about us.

These following are some wise words though on fear that come from Kyle’s book Light Warrior : Connecting with the Spiritual Power of Fierce Love.

Even though I know I can never truly prepare for the unknown, one thing I do know is that even if my spiritual practice isn’t able to change a situation or a fear or a loss, it will hold me through the healing. I know that it’s the reason I’ll recover, and I’ll definately recover better with it than without it.

I believe dealing with fear is the primary cause of mental health concerns, but I do believe that tapping into the warrior within can really help our mental wellbeing.

Let dealing with fear be you warrior training.  Let it be an opportunity to move into the love that created you – the love that you are.

We ALWAYS have a choice of how we respond to fear one we are no longer unaware or unconcious of its presence.

In this book Kyle gives the example from the Buddha’s life where Mara (fear) came looking for him.  One of his disciples wanted to lie to Mara about the Buddha’s where abouts but the Buddha discouraged him and let Mara in to his cave .  He just looked on Mara and said “I see you, Mara” gazing at the demon in his eyes.  “He conversed with him.  He accepted him.  He allowed him to be there and found comfort in his presence.”

Mara is your fear

The guard or disciple is your ego.

The Buddha is the voice of your soul.

When fear appears, even though it’s a creation of the ego, the egoistic response it not to let it in. Your ego wants you to feel fear, but it definately doesnt want you to deal with it.  I just wants you to be contained.  So the little guard within you says, ‘Pretend you are not in,’ or makes you ignore it by focusing on something else or getting busy.  This essentially buries the fear deeper and deeper.

But your soul is constantly connected to love.  So, when you allow your soul to speak, fear has to stop in its tracks.

I believe that love and fear are just energy vibrating at different levels.  Fear can only exist when we believe there’s a separation of energy.  If we see it and acknowledge it, we allow it to rejoin love

When fear appaers, look it right in the eye. 

Tell it you see it. 

When you see it for what it is, you allow it return home.

Fear is a feeling but it doesn’t have to take over.  Maybe that’s happened in the past, but that was then and this is now.  You are the keeper of your mind and body..

When fear appears in my life, I view it as a reminder from my body, the human me, how much I care.  Fear is appearing because I am concerned about loss, or not doing well, or even separation.  But both science and spirituality teach me that I am one with all.  When I move back into oneness, I let love be my leader.  I let love in and I share it with all around me.

Allowing fear in may be the best lesson we have in learning how to listen to our deeper self.  With those of us with anxious attachment styles we do need to remember that fear may not always be a bad thing as it may show us what is or is not healthy for us.   I think our deepest need is to stay connected to love for ourselves in all situations and even for those whose energy may be difficult or harmful for us because sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to walk away or send the back off signal. Even the Buddha said if you see a snake on the road you don’t let it bite you and you remember to hiss.   However understanding the nature of our myriad fears when they are counter productive can help us though.   It can help us to learn more about what it might mean to truly love and nurture connection.  We may even need to say to someone I feel fear, rather than lash out or run.

On vulnerability, feelings and opening up to joy

Daring

I just finished the chapter The Vulnerability Armory in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly.  It has reminded me how defending and protecting our selves from fear of making a mistake or looking like a mess or just opening our hearts to life and feeling and expressing our full genuine selves really ends up contracting our existence in all kinds of ways.   The main tools in the vulnerability armory according to Brown are : Foreboding Joy, Perfectionism and Numbing and my intention here is not to go into great detail about them as you can read the book or watch some of her videos on You Tube.

However just to explain a little, foreboding joy is the fear of disaster that we automatically can start to feel as soon as things feel good or seem to be going right.  In this scenario instead of opening fully to those powerful good feelings we tend to block them or divert them with thoughts of all that could go wrong.  Foreboding can close down our passion or longing in many ways and may cause us to sabotage.

Perfectionism is a huge defence which exists due to being raised in a society or family where we were not valued and loved unconditionally but on the condition of looking good, getting it right, or not provoking uncomfortable feelings that others did not really want to deal with.

And numbing, well that is just such a huge part of our culture and we now have a thousand ways or means we can stop feeling what we are feeling or have come to believe is just too much for ourselves or others to cope with.

I was thinking about this thing of defending against true feelings and feeling too much because it comes up all the time for me today and I am at the point in Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography which occurs when she seeks her adoptive mother out after a major psychological breakdown/breakthrough in which she begins to understand how much of her own life she has spent running from and defending against her feelings due to the trauma of not only being separated from her true mother at birth but raised by a religious zealot who never accepted Jeanette’s sexuality.

At this stage in her life, which occurs after a ‘breakdown’ she actually begins to fall in love with psychotherapist and author Suzie Orbach and realises how little she actually knows of what it means to truly love another human being, since such unconditional love was never mirrored to her in her childhood.

The following paragraphs really spoke to me when I read them today.

In the economy of the body, the limbic highway takes precedence over the neural pathways.  We were designed and built to feel, and there is no thought, no state of mind, that is not also a feeling state.

Nobody can feel too much, though many of us work at feeling too little.

Feeling is frightening.

Well, I find it so.

I cannot help but wonder where all our fear of feeling really comes from.  It was enlightening to me in my first few years of sobriety to read the view of the Jungian analyst and author, Robert Johnson, that our culture is a ‘feeling wounded’ culture.  Last week I was reading through some comments on another blog on thought disorders where someone was saying they had tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but it hadn’t helped them much,  I left the reply that the wound to feeling cannot be healed by thinking and I still believe that to be true.  Fear of our feelings, being ashamed of them, being taught that there is something wrong with us for ‘feeling so (or too) much’ well its a pretty common thing that people with high sensitivity go through and if we spend a lot of our life trying techniques that don’t take that into account, that teach us to numb, or deny we are in trouble. Until we know what our deep wound are just changing our thinking or reacting patterns may not work or may only heal us superficially,

For myself I never used to know so well when I intellectualized or rationalised feelings away, it was something I was taught to do by family and religion…. it didn’t work as in the end I do believe it made me an alcoholic when I was consistently not dealing with feelings that never got recognised or seen in my family and which I was never helped to deal with.

This is not to say that we should just be acting our feelings out all over the place if we are in a difficult state of mind but even that may be necessary for a time until we get to develop some deeper mindfulness of how and why we feel the way we do.  Early childhood trauma or separations or other painful events not only in our own lives but in the lives of our parents and of their parent’s parents do affect us into the next few generations.  It is something Mark Wolynn covers in the chapter The Core Language  of Relationships in his book on multigenerational trauma It Didn’t Start With You : How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.  

We may be carrying feelings from generations back which is really a subject for another post.  The armour we wear often exists of defences that operate unconsciously and of scripts or core beliefs that have often not originated with us but collectively and familially. The following chapter in Brown’s book asks some questions about what drives our beliefs, reactions and feelings in personal, family and cultural life and then shapes the way we react.

Getting a grip on our vulnerabilities and fears is not easy but our culture is getting a bit better at it now.  People with issues are encouraged to open up, they may not always be well received by every one as there are those who Brown identifies as Vikings who think that to show any vulnerability at all is to become a victim and there is great fear even shown in this approach.  There is a time for us to be warriors and don our armour and we do need to fight back against invalidation abuse or disempowerment, it is an essential step in our healing for many of us.  But there also comes a time to drop the armour and open our hearts to the full force power and vulnerablity of love and joy which may confront us with fears that we have to do some deep work to become fully conscious of.

 

 

We have feelings for a reason

In many ways the rational enlightenment, which was a critical turning point in human history together with the ascendency of patriarchal forms of social control put paid to so called ‘irrational’ feelings.  At the same time both forces created an enormous split between mind and body, a split we are working hard to understand and heal, a split that leaves us many of us lost, disconnected and disempowered.

I love how synchronicity works, most especially where my blog is concerned as this evening I was re reading a very important section in a book I have referenced before by Andrea Mathews, Letting Go of Good and that section, titled Understanding Your Inner World : Your Internal Messaging System addresses the issue of repressed feeling.  Shortly after reading it I came across a link to another post that had been reblogged by a follower on the work of author and therapist Mama Gena (aka Regina Thomashauer) and in the words of the author of that blog

She discusses how our patriarchal society trains us to control and stifle our emotions, which causes them to fester. She writes “our patriarchal society doesn’t honor grief. (Or rage. Or longing. Or jealousy. Or frustration–just to name a few).”

According to Mathews, following the rational enlightenment

Emotional people, or people who are in touch with internal message, such as intuition, came to be thought of as unstable.  This was because emotions and other internal stimuli could not be trusted or relied upon at the time.  They are here one minute and gone the next.  They make us do things we later regret. They drive us insane or to a proximity of insanity.  They make us worry, ruminate, and do all kinds of other things with our thoughts that are not at all rational.  No.  We need to turn off emotions and other internal stimuli in favour of thought.  Thought is always rational.  But, of course, this is not true.

What we have done in the name of reason is repress.  We have repressed emotions, intuition, discernment, and other internal stimuli, as well as awareness of actions, words, thoughts and anything else we consider to be unacceptable.  We have, in fact, repressed awareness of our own inner world.  And of course, any time we repress awareness of our own inner world our thoughts are not going to be very reasonable – or rational – because they cannot now come from wholeness but from only one segment of who we are.  Thought that exists without a direct connection to emotion, intuition, or other internal messages, or which exists relative to a bunch of connections to repressed material is not going to be reasonable  Indeed repression make us more unstable – not less.

.. most of us don’t want to know what goes on in our inner world… we suspect that we will find badness and all kinds of pain, betrayal, secret darkness and angst that we just don’t want to have to wade through… there is also a large contingent of spiritual leadership… that teaches that our so called “negative” thoughts and emotions are dangerous to our well being.   According to these teachers, our thoughts are always supposed to be positive and our emotions are always supposed to be set on bliss, and when they are not, that is evidence that bad old ego has stepped up and taken hold of us. …. Much like the old traditional ideas about the devil, these ideas about ego set us up for a battle between various aspects of the identity.  They do NOT facilitate an awakening to the authentic Self.  They simply have people struggling and striving to rid themselves of an essential part of their being, in much the same way that the Age of Reason did.

..These teachings and those that remain from the Age of Reason have a very similar result – self-betrayal….(but) our emotions, our desires, our intuitions, and our discernment are essential to understanding both the identity we have and the authentic Self.  We will not come to understand either, nor will we heal any brokenness until we have come to understand the inner world.

And those emotions which are most helpful to us are very much a part of our inner world and exist for a reason.  In the following chapters of that section of her book Letting Go of Good Mathews deals with the emotions which she sees as critical to our internal messaging system along with intuition, discernment and desire.  We literally cannot survive nor thrive well until we have learned what these emotions have to teach us.  In an earlier post I already shared a post taken from that book on fear as one of the internal messengers that come as protector and teacher.

The other three emotions explored by Mathews are as follows :

  1. Resentment
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness/Sorrow

I am sure many of us out there have been educated at one time or another to believe that one or other of these four emotion is bad or negative in some way but really, as Mathews explores in chapters devoted to each, each has a message for us, a message that we ignore or dismiss at our peril.

Resentment comes to teach us when we are overstepping our boundaries and not sufficiently honouring ourselves. When we have been hurt or shamed or our anger invalidated.   Resentment makes us feel something over and over again until we pay attention to that something and deal with it.   If it is something we cannot change we need to walk away or at least put up boundaries.

Anger comes as a cry of authenticity from our true sense of self to let us know if we have been diminished or treated unjustly in some way,  “when we forget (anger), it comes up to remind us that we exist, that we are real, that we are here in the room with others by whom we wish to be seen and heard, and that we matter.  We have a primal need to exist, to be real, to be here, and to matter to ourselves.”  Anger will let us know when something that is not okay is happening to us.  Abusers or drainers may try to convince us anger is a selfish emotion but anger always exists in tandem with assertion so we can take action to self protect and self care, so “anger is an energy that must be heard and authenticated”, most importantly by us.  Buried anger will make itself known in psycho somatic ways if we don’t listen to it and take heed.   Anger cannot be denied without difficult consequences.

Sorrow or sadness is an “admission that we are not in control…(letting us know) there has been a searing loss…. Sorrow knows that what we wanted is gone.”  According to Mathews the purpose of sorrow is to get us to acceptance, the more we accept sadness and allow ourselves to grieve, rather than block, defend and deny our grief, the more transformation can happen in our lives, or opening to deeper spiritual truths.  Good sorrow (well grieved) can cleanse us, clear away fog and toxins, ground us and make us more human and authentic, as well as emotionally available.

Mathews worked with addicts in recovery and in every case she saw how those who resorted to addiction had denied or somehow negated their true sorrow over a loss.  Many blamed themselves in some way and she tells the story of Jared in her book a man whose mother was murdered when he went out one night to a friends place and never spoke about the torment he carried inside, until it emerged in group therapy.  Through grieving and finally externalising the blame he had held silently within and drank over for years he moved towards a new acceptance and understanding of loss.  Love of his self which had been so absent before grew out of this experience, as it will for all of us when we finally have compassion and understanding shown to us which will help us to show to ourselves the same by and through honouring our true feelings.

Mathews concludes with these words.

When we make time to be with our emotions, listening to their wise messages, they often leave us with powerful and transformative shifts towards healing.

When we deny ourselves this process, when we continue to engage with the lie so widespread in a toxic and rapidly deconstructing patriarchal split mind-set, we cut ourselves off from the true source of our healing, which always lies deep within our selves and within the emotions that so often hide deep within buried under our thoughts about them.

Letting go of numb

The following extract comes from Tara Brach’s book True Refuge : Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.  Interestingly it concerns a woman who Tara was working with in therapy who as a young child had her long hair cut off by her mother as it was too much bother. I was sharing in a post a few days ago how this also happened to me and the trauma of it was felt when I went to the hairdresser late last week following my Mum’s death.   The woman in question, Jane, had also had her mother die a few years before the time she was seeing Tara.  In therapy she was sharing how the pain of this event had awakened in her heart through intense feelings of fear, felt as a claw “pulling and tearing at my heart”.  What followed was an outburst of anger towards her mother for subjecting Jane to this ordeal.

The anger soon turned into deep sadness as Tara worked with Jane encouraging her to feel the pain and grief deeply in her body, and in time it transformed into peace.  Jane had reached some deeply powerful realisations as a result.

Brach writes the following in her book :

Carl Jung wrote, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parents.”  The outer domain of our unlived life includes all the places where we’ve held back from pursuing and manifesting our potential – in education and career, in relationships and creativity.  But it is the inner domain of our unlived life that sets this suffering in motion.  Here we find raw sensations, the longings and hurts, the passions and fears that we have not allowed ourselves to feel. When we pull away from the energetic basis of our experience, we turn away from the truth of what is.  We make a terrible bargain.  When we separate from the felt sense of our pain, we also separate from the visceral experience of love that allows for true intimacy with others.  We cut ourselves off from the sensory aliveness that connects us with the natural world.  When there is unlived life, we can’t take good care of ourselves, our children, our world.

The feelings you are trying to ignore are like a screaming child who has been sent to her room.  You can put earplugs in and barricade yourself in the farthest end of the house, but the body and the unconscious mind don’t forget.  Maybe you feel tension or guilt.  Maybe…. you are baffled by intimacy or haunted by a sense of meaninglessness. Maybe you fixate on all the things you need to get done.  You can’t live in a spontaneous way because your body and mind are still reacting to the presence of your distressed child.  Everythingy ou do to ignore her, including becoming numb, only strengthens your link with her.  Your very felt sense of who you are …is fused with the experience of pushing away a central part of your life or running from it.

In shutting down the passion, hurt and pain she had experienced as a young girl whose precious hair was butchered, Jane had locked herself into a numb and anxious fragment of who she was.  Yet something in her was calling her to live more fully.  By beginning to contact her body’s experience, by touching ground, she was opening the door to what she had been running from.

Traumas of this kind may seem inconsequential, but really they are not.  Something was done to us we didn’t want or need and had no power over and feelings do remain.   The true self in Jane probably loved her long hair,  it wasn’t all just about ego and looking a certain way, hair does hold our power and is connected to our heads which are such a vital part of our being. To be subjected to something that upset us and then to be laughed at for reacting (as Jane was) leaves a scar and a powerful subliminal message.  Going numb to it does not mean the feelings go away, they need to be dealt with, with compassion and sensitivity.

On fear, some reflections

It seems that these days its not politically correct to feel fear.  I wrote a post the other day about fear versus love and it may have been a trifle simplistic.  For the fact is fear serves a purpose, it prevents us from engaging in a behavior which may end up hurting us, such as putting our hand in a burning fire.  The problematic side of fear is when it dissuades us from doing something that may actually be good for us that we have learned it was unsafe to risk from earlier experiences which hurt us but dont apply now. In this case we are dealing with learned fear rather than fear as a protective message from our inner self

I just read these excerpts from the chapter My Friend, Fear, in a book by therapist Andrea Matthews which were enlightening to me:

.. fear (is) a message, a signal, and could be very useful to us.  Fear is our friend because it can inform us as to when something or someone is dangerous.   …..(it) is a message to me, for me, and about me.  It tells me to watch out, duck, run, decide.  Fear can tell me to slow down so that I can see and feel all of the signal alerting me to things going on around me, so that I can make appropriate decisions.  (For example a fear of leaving an old full time job to go freelance) can be very helpful…. (in this situation) fear could be a good guide.  (leading us to ask questions about how much money we need to sustain our life, how feasible will it be to be able to make it going freelance etc).

Some of our fears are related to change – fear of change, fear of failure, fear of success.. But even these fears can guide (us) along the way.  The fear of change can tell (us) to go slow, map it out, sort out the fine distinctions… in limitations of all kinds – time and energy in order to help us make better more feasible decisions.  The fear of failure helps (us) to maintain a conscious vision so that we don’t risk when playing it safe may be a better options..

.. fears faciliate our awareness of ourselves.  In Western culture we are taught only to look at the external presssure to perform.  We commonly operate out of this pressure, so taht it manages our daily choices.  We perform because someone expects it, rather than because we have the natural and genuine capacities to perform – capacities like time, energy, focus, interest, aptitute, and love of the tasks to be done.  But fear can help us to assess and make decisions based on our genuine capacities rather than that external pressure.  Fear can say, “That’s too much, I can’t do that!”  Fear can say, “I won’t be able to keep my focus on that, there are too many other things calling me!”  Fear can say “I just don’t have the energy for that!”  Fear can even say, “If I don’t really have a desire to do it, how am I going to feel when trying to do that?”  If we listen to and heed these messages, they can save us a lot of trouble.

There is a lot of doublespeak out there from those who would tell us to get rid of our fear – as if fear has the power to act without our choosing.  But when we try to get rid of it, we simply repress it, putting it into the unconscious where it has the power to act without our choosing.  This doublespeak means that those who follow it will remain in an endless loop of trying to get rid of fear, and then being overwhelmed by it, only to try to get rid of it again.  This is not facilitationg the kind of awareness that fear wants to give us.

When fear is listened to, it becomes the voice that tells the good guy where to draw appropriate boundaries, who to trust and who to avoid, and how to maintain connection to the Self.  These are extremely important healing guides.  But if we are pushing fear away because we think, as we’ve been taught, that strong, faithful people are never afraid, then we lose out on all the wonderful benefits that fear can give us.  By listening to ourselves and by honouring what we hear, we eventually earn our own trust and, as a result, more easily live an authentic joyful life.

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

Learning how to set boundaries if you came from a non affirming home

If we were raised in a home where it was not possible to know and connect with our True Self, feelings and needs we are going to have problems for the rest of our life in setting boundaries or healthy limits.  If we were dis-empowered in our assertive drive due to the unconscious need of a parent or active thwarting, asserting our own wishes and needs and feelings in a balanced and healthy way will also be problematic.    And in this situation feelings of self esteem and self confidence will falter or be non existant.

The following is from the book The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M Pressman.   It shows some ways of addressing this issue.

Comfort in setting boundaries develops naturally in children who have their feelings respected by their parents. In this context, children are allowed to participate in decisions that affect them, are encouraged to talk about their feelings, and get validation for the appropriate expression of them without needing to resort to shouting and/or tears if the decision does not go their way.  In other words, the children learn to use the “I feel….I want” format. (Which the authors cover in another chapter.)

The children learn not only to tune in to their own and other people’s feelings, but that they can live with the occasional disapproval of others.  This is an important lesson.  It is difficult for most people to elicit disapproval – to say, in effect, “I’d like to be able to meet your needs, but I can’t.  In this case our needs are in conflict, and I have to attend to mine.  I have to say no.”  It is important… to understand that, while it (can be) a difficult skill to acquire, it is vital to our mental healthy and positive self image that we learn to be advocates for ourselves.  Otherwise, we end up meeting other people’s needs at the expense of our own.  If we are further unable to communicate our message in a respectful and adult way, people will be able to hear our message, clearly without being threatened or devalued by it. If this is a tall order for a reasonably healthy adult, it is Herculean task for youngster.  It is made immeasurably easier if the child learns the following at home:

  1. Correction, appropriately expressed, is not destructive, hurtful, or shame inducing.
  2. One’s needs cannot always be met by others, but they can always be appropriately articulated to others.
  3. Feelings do not need justification – one always has a right to one’s feelings.
  4. One does not always have the right to act out one’s feelings: all actions have consequences, and these need to be thought about.
  5. Compromise means giving up as well as getting.
  6. Changing one’s mind is not necessarily a bad thing; part of growing up is the ability to react based on new information.
  7. Making mistakes is how we learn.  There is no shame involved.
  8. Being able to “own” our mistakes, apologise if appropriate, and make amends where possible, is how we grow.  “I’m sorry, tell me what I can do to make it up to you” is a statement of strength not an admission of weakness or shame.

If children are fortunate enough to grow up in a home where those eight rules are acted out in the course of daily events, they will probably be healthy, secure adults with positive self images.  They will probably be comfortable with their feelings and have little difficulty with setting reasonable boundaries in their lives.

But what of the children raised in narcissistic families?  What of ..(the ones) with limited confidence in their ability to assess the appropriateness of their actions and decisions?  An essential part of therapy with these individuals involves retraining.  What they did not get as a child from their parents, they can get as an adult from themselves : once they understand how they were mistrained. they can make the decision to retrain.  They can, in adulthood, make a conscious decision to incorporate these eight rules into their lives and act as if they believed them.  When one acts “as if” for long enough, eventually it becomes part of one’s belief system.

Feelings always follow actions.  It is imperative when working with these patients to reinforce this premise continually.  These patients cannot wait to feel more confident in order to act more confidently – to make firm decision, to be advocates for themselves. to set rules and boundaries for themselves and the way they wish to be treated.. they need (to learn to) act “as if” they believe in themselves before they can feel that belief and confidence.   The actions come before the feelings, with time, however, the feelings will follow.

(If you suffer a fear of abandonment in setting your own boundaries that might be a key insight into the fact your needs and feelings or self assertion was not respected nor treated in a validating way by a parent.  Later in life you become a people pleaser and very hypervigilant to abandonment signs.  The truth is though if you dont act on your own feelings and needs in a healthy balanced way you end up self abandoning.  That hurts your inner self as you may try to hide the truth, but your body will send up signals of distress in some way as a result.)

All kinds of worries and fears

One of the worst legacies of past loss or trauma is that they leave us with all kinds of worries and fears, most of which are not fully conscious.  The thing about psychological defences we erect is that we often dont get to know they are present, we just act from behind them unconsciously seeking to self protect ourselves from further harm.  I was reading a little book on emotions yesterday and in it the author talked about fear and anxiety, how at times they are a sign we may be in danger or unsafe and at other times are a hidden excitement about facing or doing something that takes us out of our comfort  zone and could end up being really good for us.  The example the author used was of the anxiety she felt prior to a talk she gave about a subject she was passionate about.  Since she was invested in the subject her energy was engaged but the anxiety she felt was strong, however the benefit for her of moving through it was that she came out the other side by facing and feeling it and acting anyway in a way which enlarged her life.

We are certainly all impacted by fear and anxiety in some ways, but if early losses or failures have been great it can be harder to reach forward.   We may literally feel like we are dying when we have to make a change or face a fear or anxiety laden situation and the truth is that we are being urged to die on some level, to the part of us that want to keep us safe and protected at any cost.  In my own life I see more clearly in hindsight the power my own fear has exerted over me and what it has held me back from.  I have been so scared at times and I hid my fear and terror behind defences.  I was probably only fooling myself with all the stories I told myself about how or why I could not do the said thing.

That said its another matter if we have in childhood been shamed for fear or responses that were legitimate.  Ideally if we have emotionally present parents they hold our hands through this kind of thing or encourage us in positive ways.   I think of my own fear and shyness issues and in discussing them with my Mum see I carried them from her.   Mum was brave and defiant in certain situations which enabled her to go after what she wanted at times, at other times she was held back.  As a young child with no father and an often emotionally and physically absent mother she struggled in schoold and was not supported by the nuns but used and abused.  I think as kids we see and feel the parents fear but if they defend against their own deficits being understood and known that can rebound upon us.

Lately as I do more of my own healing work and confront some of the deep grief I defended against in my own life as well as my own and other’s fears of it, I see how at times my life became so limited by that unresolved grief.  When my marriage ended I went entirely into isolation and hit the ground as I knew my that stage in my sobriety I had a lot of grief work to do.   I needed help with it and it took me a lot of years to finally find my current therapist who is helping me to grieve.  Now my grief is not only for the original events but for the lost years and opportunties I could not take due to fear and the terrible repercussions of the head injury I had in 2005.  But lest this just be a post about grief, I am noticing that the more deeply I open to my own fear and grief the more I am able to feel a growing sense of lightness and joy.  The defensive fear that dogged me and stopped me reaching out or giving from my heart is slowly melting away.   I know it will probably always be ther to a degree.

Yesterday I did a favour for a friend and it felt so good to extend myself for someone outside of my family, and a special someone who has really been there for me over the past few weeks when I was so ill.  It seems years since I felt safe enough to truly open my heart to someone in trust.   We have been building a friendship over past months and in her company I feel so happy and light.   Its really only in facing my grief and in knowing that others can bear it and will not shun me for it that I have started to feel safer.

I now know our family sadly has this toxic stoic defence against vulnerablity and grief which is not healthy.   All those years ago when I lost my father and then a few weeks later my partner broke the relationship off I never found a place of safety or holding where I could feel and shed my grief.   It saddens me to think of all that I went through in the ensuing years of my addiction with all of that grief and unresolved pain locked up inside me.

In my marriage I tried to start to deal with it but that upset my husband who also lost his father at a similar age to me.   And it took a few years into sobriety for feelings to thaw.  I remember in the early days though two powerful dreams I had where my father visited me and encouraged me to leave the old toxic path behind.   Lost relatives are energetically around us after they die, I firmly believe that.

In 1993 I could not yet know the trauma and grief I carried was ancestral on both the maternal and paternal sides.  Only later years of healing and sensing and doing emotional recovery work as well as being given information about our ancestral history has shown me this and given me heart insights.   I feel now more compassion for every single member of my family as I see they did the best they could with the level of insight they had but most of them are happy to float on the surface rather than look down into the ancestral issues, so sadly in our family we have patterns of emotional disconnection and distance which keep certain issues hidden and repeating.  I can only do my own emotional recovery work though and in recognising the links to the past start to break the entanglements I have been caught up in as a soul.  My task is to bring that awareness to light.  To see the part that fear played as well as the lack of holding and a safe space and then to find and create that for myself now so I that I can stay close to the light and not be so beseiged as a soul by past darkness.    As Carl Jung said what remains unconscious in our family history so often becomes our fate, only consciousness work at midlife can open our eyes and lead us on a journey of healing and discovery in which we find how complex issues are that plague us and what deep roots they have.

Lately I am relying a lot on the power of prayer.  I am aware that a higher power or force of love needs me to live in love and that that love is really the antidote for fear and unresolved grief..  Everyday I ask for my fears to be held and not overpower me.   I ask for help not to over ride my own boundaries as I learned to do in my family.  I ask for protection and care and safety so I can continue this awesome journey a day at a time.   I am coming to believe in the force of love and that I can choose to align myself with it.  Love wants us to face our fears and to see what we bury in darkness.  It asks us to be honest, even if that confronts others.  It asks us to be true to the call of our hearts and our souls which need our protection and care and can then extend that same protection, care and compassion to others.  Love also asks us to give rather than withhold what our souls and other souls needs so that the force of love can be demonstrated and thrive in all our relationships.

 

 

Understanding abandonment depression : insights from James Masterson

Abandonment depression appears as a subject in a few of my posts.  I made a leap forward in my own recovery when I first began to become aware of the term just over a year ago following reading Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD where he deals with the subject in depth.  Abandonment depression is different to basic depression which can be a feeling of depletion or lowered energy following a loss of massive change of some kind in a person’s life.  When dealing with this kind of depression easy solutions of distraction for a time or a taking of pain relief to help when people find them selves in the critical stages will help.  In the case of abandonment depression we are dealing with something that will not be helped by these kind of solutions since it involves a core wound that must be understood, felt, mined and addressed through psychological work.

Here is how James Masterton describes the abandonment depression :

In the throes of the abandonment depression, a person will feel that a part of his very self is lost or cut off from the supplies necessary to sustain life.  Many patients describe this in graphic physical terms, such as losing an arm or leg, being deprived of oxygen, or being drained of blood.  As one patient put it : “I felt as though my legs would not work so I couldn’t possibly leave the house, and when I went to fix lunch I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to swallow.  And if I did I would probably throw it back up.”

At the darkest level of this depression, a person can despair of ever recovering her real self, and thoughts of suicide are not uncommon.  When one is brought low enough repeatedly, or for an extended period of time, it becomes increasingly harder to imagine oneself happy again or able to push through life with the strength and confidence with which the reasonably healthy go about their daily living. At this point a person can teeter on the brink  of despair, give up and consider taking her own life. If the separations they experience in their external lives are painful enough to reinforce the feelings of fear of abandonment, some will commit suicide.

(this is well beyond an acute episode of the ‘blahs’)… The roots of depression push farther into the past than seems apparent.  In time, true sources, eating away inside, make themselves known.  But initially they are well defended by the false self.

It is the nature of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of our unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are – vulnerable, afraid, terrified, and unable to let our real selves emerge.  Nevertheless, when the defences are down and the real self is thrown into situations calling for strong self assertion, situations that trigger the repressed memories of earlier separation anxieties and feelings of abandonment by the mother, the serious nature of the depression is glimpsed and felt.  At this point it is not uncommon for the patient to panic and slide down to the very bottom from which he convinces himself he will never recover.

(Panic hides fear of the rage underneath depression).  Depression and rage ride in tandem.  As depression intensifies, and comes to the surface of awareness, so does anger.  At first (the real reasons cannot be pinpointed)…rage is diffuse and projected onto outside sources (anger at life or the world or just angry in general…..Anger of the abandonment depression is far more intense and complex).  Anger that is part of the abandonment depression. has more damaging consequences.  Its intensity can cause bodily shaking, feelings of helplessness, feeling like a baby (age regression) and it comes from painful childhood experiences that may not be easily recalled because they are so solidly defended against.

Eventually in therapy real causes of the anger begin to become apparent but the anger is still defended against by being projected onto targets that are often stand ins or proxies….this occurs because feeling anger is associated with fear of rejection as well as fear of intimacy since in childhood being close came with difficulties and rejections.

Rage and fear (the) lead to panic.. Panic feeds on the fear that we cannot express our anger over abandonment.  It can be a claustrophobic strangling of energies, a tightening up of options : either we express our anger and risk losing the love of others or we deny the anger in order to remain in the helpless state of dependency and hold onto others.  As the panic grows, patients report that it feels like facing death or actually being killed.  Often this anxiety will be channelled into psychosomatic disorders such as asthma and peptic ulcers, each being a perfect metaphor for the underlying fear… A person with a peptic ulcer is often hungering for emotional supplies that were lost in childhood or that were never sufficient to nourish the real self.  As an adult, she is unable to find sources to supply the needed emotional support or to get through life without it.

The person living with (such a) death threat, or what is perceived as a death threat, hanging over his head necessarily leads a fearful life, in which every move to express hiself, to allow his rea self to emerge, is accompanied by the need to look over his shoulder in fear and panic… panic can escalate as the patient slowly becomes aware of the depression and anger that have been bottled up over the years.  The false self has blocked any expression of these feelings for so long that when they do manage to surface, even in the slightest way, the resulting panic can be paralysing and terrifying.  Fear of letting these feelings out into the open, even in therapy can mushroom into panic proportions.

Guilt is the fifth column behind.. the patient’s frontline of defences.  (This is not normal reasonable guilt but rather)… fed by the guilt we internalise in early childhood from the disapproval expressed by the mother for self actualisation or individuation……Not being able to face up to the internalised guilt about that (healthy) part of themselves, these individuals will suppress making any moves in forbidden direction and resort to old familiar clinging behaviour that they remember made them safe and good years ago.

(Clinging and guilt lead to…) helplessness.  Failure to activate the impaired real self (and) to deal with painful feelings.. which in the abandonment depression is abiding and total…. staying in unhealthy jobs and relationships, fearing moving on from old unhealthy patterns, even denying that we desire to.

James A Masterson, Fear of Abandonment, The Search for the Real Self

The anger against, fear of and panic due to devaluation of our true self internalised by the false self in the course of growing up lives on inside of us and must be faced on the path of healing.   Facing such internalised voices, feelings and fears means we must also confront the inner critic who has become hostile to the real self ever breaking free and asserting its real needs which bring with them the deep seated fear of abandonment by others that had its roots in the past.  Mastering our fear of abandonment and the abandonment depression is the price we pay to discontinue the inner self abandonment we face when we begin to become more conscious and aware of the real roots and aspects of the abandonment depression.

Where life is frozen

Where life is frozen Fear will take up residence And the emptiness born of a pain that lay underneath it all So unrecognised Will call but with a phantom voice

You can no longer recognise Whose heart is that that you seek Is it the one stolen The one whose words were never heard Because life took it all too soon

In the absence that formed Which you filled with fire Everything burned to ash As your body cried out Father I need you

Remember that late summer afternoon When we came so close to death for the first time My high flying bird playing on the eight track as the car spun out so close to the edge of the mountain ending up crashed against the embankment?  That night I crawled into bed and you held me close How was I to know that in the last month we would embrace once again in the same way not knowing it would all be far too late.

Dad you are the phantom that haunts all of our days and casts a shadow over life that can never be fully erased Your loss the loss we don’t ever speak of That hovers here and lays everything to waste Hope, longing truth trust honesty connection All these things a soul thrives on That we can not know

I have known your passing not only then but repeating across more than 20 years with 5 separate leavings of men I loved Each time my soul ached with a pain I thought would break me in two and alcohol was there until the last and then the crash came and took me down with all the grief I was running from I see it now

Dad I miss you and I dare not say or believe that you truly loved me for then the hurt would be entirely too much for this soul to bear but now I know the truth beyond a doubt and there is an end to my running

I must grieve and stop all the anger and fear which is really resistance to a deeper truth that must finally be fully felt nakedly completely in this oh so poignant moment I must close the door and turn to face myself and all that I buried over years and in so doing finally unfreeze my fear and resistance so that they can turn to tears