Sick of blaming myself

“Shame is blame turned against the self.”  Our parents were too big and powerful to blame, so we had to blame ourselves instead.  Now, however we are free of them we can cut off the critic’s shame supply by redirecting unfair self blame back to our parents.

An inner critic that has dominated us since childhood, however, does not give up its rulership of the psyche easily.  It stubbornly refuses to accept the updated information that adulthood now offer the possibility of increasing safety and healthy attachment.  It is as if the critic has worn a flash back inducing groove in the brain the size of the Grand Canyon.  Now any (toxic, critic induced) thinking patterns… can hair trigger an amygdala-hijacking that dumps us into the abandonment melange…

With enouth healthy inner self defence, the survivor gradually learns to reject her unconscious acceptance of self abuse and self abandonment.  Her healthy sense of self protection begins to emerge and over time grows into a fierce willingness to stop unfair criticism – internal or external.

Pete Walker

I haven’t yet had the courage to write the post I have in drafts on internalising a ‘bad’ me yet.   I think I am making progress though because today with a genuine friend when I shared some of my neglect trauma history she was visibly distressed by it.  She made me realise those three serious injuries which happened due to parental neglect were not right by her response and she stated how genuinely hard it must have been to return home to Australia after my father’s death to find my mother had gone into a rebound relationship to get married and run from her pain (Something she admitted to me in later years) and have to move to another town where my God parents tried to step in to be there for me.

Lately I am seeing how my ongoing battle inside myself is waged by an internalised inner critic and when I was listening to the Radio National All in the Mind broadcast on trauma the other day a similar survivor talked about her own internalised ‘Judge’.   I know therapist Pete Walker talks a lot about the inner and outer critic in his excellent book Complex PTSD : From Surviving to Thriving.  

Walker explains the part this judge, jury and executioner plays in flashbacks dominated by fear and worry and how it can either be internalised (turned against the self) or externalised and then projected on others.  The critic also plays a part in trying to undermine our therapy and prevent connecting with good sources of help, health and healing.   This is a point that was dealt with comprehensively by Donald Kalsched in his excellent book The Inner World of Trauma.  He explained how this kind of critic may also be an inner protector who in wanting to keep us safe from all harm won’t even let in those who want to help us, because the risk is we may be abandoned again.

I could feel this sadness about potential abandonment coming up today when my friend who has moved from South Africa recently started talking about how soon she will be returning there, then in several months time, moving with her son and his family to Perth which for those of you who do not know is on the other side of the country from me.  I felt myself tearing up at this point.   This is the one friend who actually calls in terms of wanting to know how I actually am, as opposed just to wanting to meet up for an event.   She is the one I can share with honestly the deep hurt I feel from lack of connnection from both my sister and brother as well as the rest of the family….so of course I am going to be sad about it.

I was glad today I could notice my feelings and not dismiss them.  She has promised to keep in touch and that I can go and visit.  I know it won’t be the same not being able to see her every week…. for so much of my life, though I had to deny my need, I had to pretend such things didnt hurt me, when they did. That said I know I will survive it’s just I know I also need loving emotionally available relationships to thrive these days.  I am no longer blaming myself as much and when the critic is around I am not as swept up by him as I was.  I really did suffer from emotional neglect and so I found it hard to trust and I have been working as hard as I can be become conscious and aware of my feelings and needs, ones that I had to learn to deny for so long.

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.

 

 

The importance of containment and soothing

After three exceedingly tough days where all of my trauma symptoms went over the top and I got stuck back in a deep pit of anguish and I gained some deeper insight into my struggles with love and connection, today started with a very loving, connected chat with my best friend in Sydney which immediately set my day off on a good note.

I am so grateful that I have one friend I can bear my entire soul with over the phone.  We can’t meet up as we live so far away from each other, but we are on such a similar wavelength that talking to him soothes me in a way helping me to feel wrapped in a cosy blanket.    I know he feels the same as we each show empathy and validate each other, most especially on the tough days, but on some tough days I don’t manage to reach out.  I get stuck back in that deep alone, disconnected from any human warmth place that I have known so many times in my past.

This friend just happened to be a very good friend of my ex partner and when our relationship hit the wall my friendship with him survived.  He knew all the ins and outs of things that happened and of my ex partner’s foibles and wounds and it was so good to speak to him as yesterday I was feeling so sad for the fact of how our love could not win through our mutual defences and heartaches.  I recognised today how strong these feelings are for me at this time of year.  We got together in April and had some months of very cosy love and connections before early wounds and cracks started to appear in our relationship.

Yesterday I had a day of seeing more deeply and with greater clarity than I could before what went wrong.   I then saw how I tried to make one of us wrong for it not working out, but the truth was (and this heals my heart to even say it) I do know now, six years out, that we both did the very best we could with what we both knew at the time.  We both had so much abandonment trauma in our pasts.

Reading back on our emails I understand more of deep hurt from his own childhood that my ex was carrying and how it tended to get projected in blame when he didn’t get the support he needed.  I was limited in my own ability to support emotionally as I had not ever been supported emotionally in my life either.  I guess we tried our best to support but in the end it didn’t work out.  Over the years he said some very nasty things to me out of his own pain.  Often I would just withdraw and not lash back, often escaping to the bathroom to put my hands over my ears.  At times I could sooth him but at other times when my own abandonment wounds were triggered and he didn’t understand I flew into rages and really hit the wall, which triggered all of his scary past of a father with major addiction.

In the end we couldn’t give each other what was needed and that triggered all the intense pain of a past in which I never got what I needed but had to revolve around others to get some scraps.  The final blow from him was a very nasty email calling me horrible things all coming out of hurt.  At that point I hit back with all guns blazing and now I see if I could have acknowledged his own projected hurt under the words, soothing may have helped us come through, yet as I edit this and as my friend said to me today, Deb it wasn’t your fault.

This morning I was crying about all of this with my friend and saying how I fucked everything up, how lately I feel I am not moving forward.  My wise, loving, patient, kind friend said to me that he didn’t agree.  “You just have to keep moving through and being as strong as you can be to build a life of comfort for you,” he said, that is what he is doing as his marriage is also far from ideal and little empathy is ever shown to him.

Our conversation has made me reflect a great deal on how containment, comfort and understanding are the healing soothing balm or salve that we most sorely need applied to our sore, scarred, traumatised or wounded places.  When we are understood in a loving way, when people can see deeper into our soul and not react or get drawn into wounded reactions or help us to shine a light on them we do better.

The traumatised body/soul is often one that has known little in the way of positive, soothing love and containment as well as empathy.  Wounding and trauma ark up our fear, fight, flight responses.  A harsh insensitive environment is one in which we feel the need to be constantly on alert, we then become ultra attuned to scoping out threats and its difficult to relax.  Negative scenarios run through our head and get triggered by new ones. If we were left alone in difficult or stressful situations we internalise all the drama inside with no place to pour it into.  We lack loving soothing self talk and other soothing, calming strategies that would allow our systems to rest and be relaxed back into a zone of calm.

I have begun to associate this kind of background with one that is likely to generate panic attacks within us, as well as a tendency to look for things to self soothe that often don’t soothe us at all or may lead to health complications, such as addictions.

This morning I was able to share with my friend how lately I have noticed how I use food to self soothe but sometimes not the right kind of food.  Lately my body is fairly quick to alert me to when it is not in a state of calm or is reacting to my feeding my face when really I need to just take care of and nurture myself in other ways.  All of this as I have shared before, tends to happen when I am at a critical time of day that most reminds me of times of feeling and being alone… the few hours of homecoming and the period in which I preparing food for myself and my dog.

Lately at these times I am trying to become more mindful of what is going on inside me.  I am aware how I can ark my own nervous system up with anxious thoughts.  This was the time of day in my past that I most lacked loving containment as a child.  I was left alone a lot and I used to eat to fill the emptiness.  I do not struggle with a weight issue but I still struggle with food.  Food is one of the ways I use to soothe myself and thinking about it today I saw how few other self soothing strategies I really have and how this is an area it is so important for me and others with Complex PTSD to work on.

If we come out of trauma we need to develop loving inner parents, we need to find places and spaces of calm.  We need to honour our body and soul’s need to move more and rest at the right time, times of expansion and times of contraction.  We need to watch what we take in, in terms of food and other soul nourishment and how what we take in or expose ourselves to affects our trauma body.    We need to watch our thoughts and notice when we may be triggered into a downward negative spiral.

For myself  I also need to understand how meeting a hostile defence from others when I attempt to open up some area of concern affects me and how I react in the wake of it.

Really positive self soothing in all its dimensions is so essential for the traumatised body and soul, loving compassion and containment is essential for those of us who have suffered trauma, abuse or neglect.  The later leaves us with a lot of emptiness and difficulties with knowing the right ways to care for ourselves, how to reach out, how to identify and reach our for what we really need, how also to create comfort from within, in terms of good boundaries.  In the absence of good sources of containment and nurture we learned to survive alone in the best way we knew how but often look to the wrong thing.  So much of our recovery demands that we learn the best places, spaces and sources of soothing for our soul.

The value of a good friend

True friendship

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

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

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

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