Dialogues with my inner critic

I have been trying to use active imagination with the force of the inner critic inside me lately.  For those who dont know active imagination is a way we can dialogue with an inner psychic force inside us, Robert Johnson Jungian therapist addresses it in his book Inner Work but my talks with the critic were also inspiresed by another book called Freedom from your Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approcach.  

One of the things my inner critic does is drive me hard.  As a child growing up we were not allowed to play or have fun until all our chores were done.  A friend in later years said it was like coming to a military operation in our home.  We had to iron our own school uniforms, polish our shoes and clean our rooms I also learned to run around after my mother who would get herself in a state of apoplexy at any sign of mess.  In later years when my older sister was in the care home for acquired brain injury she would laugh uproarously about an incident at a farm when Mum got chicken shit on her shoe.

It was a bit mean come to think of it for as an emotionally neglected child my mother had no one at all there for her.  Her father died when she was 7, her own mother had no war pension and had to work afternoons, evenings and mornings just the times she should have been home for her daughter.  Mum got her own dinner, she made own breakfast, got herself ready for school (where she was abused and punished and used to clean the Nun’s chapel or stood in the corner for not doing home work COME ON!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!)  Those were harsh times during the 1930’s coming out of the depression years and First World War into the intense climate of the Second during which she met my Dad.

Dad was the oldest of a fatherless family too, fleeing Holland just prior to German occupation in 1938.  He was hell bent on becoming a millionaire.  My godfather, his best friend told me this when I got into addiction recovery in 1993-1996.  We had many chats because my father died when I was 22 and I never knew his history over which he remained quite silent like many of his generation.

Anyway back to my inner critic who I call Mr A and my therapist calls The Annihilator.  He often wont let me rest and the other morning when he was off on a rant I just gave him a hug in my active imagination then I put an ice pack on his head.  It was a while until he calmed down but I got a good insight into what lay beneath just as when one time I stopped my Mum mid flight in an OCD cleaning spree to hug her and she also burst into tears!!!

I have been grieving a lot more since this incident.  The self punishing voices are still there but I am able to bring them out and ‘unblend’ from them (a term used in the second bood mentioned above.)  My child inner often gets tormented by Mr A he blames her for everything, including a host of things that never in a million years could be her fault.  But of course this is what happens to those of us emotionally neglected in childhood.  But we can take back control over these inner forces if our desire to love and seek the truth is stronger than our possession by them, if we are willing to do the inner work to make them more conscious.

As Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss point out in the second book our Critic is so often hostile to our Inner Child but we can learn to change this by self compassion and in the process our compassion for the wounds of those who abused us also grows.  We know they were hurting and did the best they knew, even if it was in no way good enough, we are on an evolutionary trajectory in regards to that carried or inherited trauma.

The grief that does not speak : reflections on loss and grieving

Grief and grieving does not get much of a viewing in our modern society.  I just listened two separate programmes on the radio that highlighted this.  One was an interview with Australian actor and cancer advocate, Samuel Johnson.  Overseas readers probably don’t know him but he starred in several award winning television dramas and he is the brother of a sister, Connie who lost her battle with cancer last year.  Connie was first diagnosed with cancer at the age of 11, then 9 years later at 20 and again later in life.  She lost her life recently and Samuel established a charity Love Your Sister and cycled around the country raising funs for some years, becoming something of a local hero.   Following her death he retired from acting and now advocates and fund raises for cancer full time.  Samuel sounded so weary and sad in the interview which is natural, he spoke of how he is constantly on the go trying to make things better for cancer sufferers.  Sometimes the best I can do is give them a hug he said.  Well I thought maybe that is more important than gold.  I was just struck by the fact of the grief he must be carrying so stoically and of course people who have empathy in that situation, particularly those of us who have lost siblings to diseases know the grief never leaves as it is a sign of our love.  Yet underneath his words I felt all the tears that I hope he has someone in his life to share with.  I also that prayed that he would find some time just to sit still and rest as I know at times how hard I have struggled to do that in the wake of my own losses.  But I also feel a hell of a lot better when I am not as driven and can relax or shed a tear and to shed it with someone else, well that would just be magic, a present beyond price.

The second programme was an interview with a lady who helps those whose relatives are deceased to spend some time with them and the body preparing for the farewell ceremony and going through some rituals which help them to connect with the dead loved ones over days following their death, rather than just having the body taken away shortly after.   I never got to see my father just before he died when I was 23 or any time after.  It was all taken care of by my brother.  In the case of my Mum’s death I got the call that she had passed at 4.06 last December and was able to go to the hospital to say goodbye, although I had said my goodbyes with her over days before they had her in such a drugged and rigified state.  To be honest that is not how I wanted to remember my mother and the image of it still stirs my stomach,   I  am feeling quiet nauseous writing this.

However I do empathise with an approach which gives people ways of connecting with their loved ones and letting go over time.  Most certainly we all grieve in different ways and have differing needs around the completion and letting go process but it is a sacred thing to be able to spend time with the dead loved one’s body, perhaps washing and caring for it, showing tenderness, shedding tears, saying final goodbyes.  Its seems to me a healthier approach than just whipping the body away as quickly as we can.

Writing this post makes me realise it has been some time since I have contemplated issues of grief as much as I used to.  Maybe that is a sign that I have processed my feelings around the two major losses of recent years, my older sister and my mother, yet I know greif is still there as this morning I have been crying again.

Death is never easy as is letting go and death is not the only reason we grieve when there are other losses we go through that also impact us significantly.   But it is also a relief when death no longer holds such a claim on the living, which is not to say that our love for another who is gone ends, just that our relationship has now changed its form and moved to a very different level, leaving us deeply changed in the wake of it.  The grief we carry may be so silent and remain unspoken, however others souls who have endured the same will recognise our dilemma, as we struggle and process and work to move forward carrying the loss with us until we can shed any burden of trapped or blocked feeling that prevents us truely moving forward.  For others of us that may be neither necessary or possible.

 

After you left

Shine

After you left My heart it broke it two But also there was relief As my darling I knew then your spirit had flown free From this place of suffering

My darling sis You were so beautiful and so strong But stubborn too It was not always easy to love you But the love you had in your heart And your kindness to others Well it just shone through

Today I found a card you scrawled in the illegible hand of the brain injured Expressing your love for your caregiver Annette I had a smile As I thought of how strong and positive you were Despite all of your heartbreak and loss

I thought of you too as I watched those later leaves clinging to the branches of the tree Not yet ready to fly free I remembered that last night time vigil by your bed on Easter Saturday As you lay in a coma and I held your hand

Please don’t leave me I cried And then If you must go please go free

In the movie A Monster calls The truth demanded of Colin when his mother is dying Is just this For him to cry out his words of protest and admit his vulnerablity at an inescapable fate rather than defend against the pain with anger

So it is when those we love are torn from us As much as we wish we could hold on Or turn back time In the end all we can do is surrender and open our hearts to the grief that comes As the spirit of the one we love leaves its earthly bond bodily home And finally flies free without us

Enough

How different would our lives be if we only believed we were enough and had enough?  As I look around this society and even consider my own life and past I see that a fear of not enoughness can dog so many of us.  This fear can cause us to compete or to believe we are not worthy enough, it can prevent us from expressing ourselves, from reaching out to love and be loved and it makes us attack or collapse when that reaching out hits a brick wall or is demonised or rejected by another person who also feels not enough or that we are not enough for them.

I guess this is coming to mind as its interesting I had the clash with the gardener the other day all around the 11th anniversary of getting together with my ex partner back in 2007.   At the outset of the relationship he had a long list of why and how others were not enough and of how he had struggled to find enough love, and during the entire relationship he found it so difficult to relax and then began to point out to me all the time how I wasnt enough this or that.    I know now that as an adult child of an alcoholic parent he had never had a resting place either and he was driven by a lot of unresolved grief which manifested as rage when things triggered him.  He drove one of his sons very hard and would call him mean names if the son refused to do something his father wanted often only because he was tired too and loved to play guitar and needed to rest or just loved being in the ‘now’ as I did.

I thought of this unhealed wound yesterday as I have reached the chapter in Jeanette Wintersons’s book Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal (which is what her stepmother said to Jeanette when she found out she was gay) where she has a breakdown after a love relationship dissolves in her adulthood.  Reading it reminded me that suicidal feelings often accompany the opening to the realisation of our wounded self that never got to fully birth in dysfunctional homes that could not honour our sacred wholeness.   Jeanette expresses very powerfully the forces within herself that she struggled with and that over the period 2007 to 2008 caused her to break down and break open to the self hatred and ‘madness’ inside her which was nothing less than a composite of all the toxic things, behaviours and beliefs her mother had introduced into her life over years as well as associated feelings that for most of her life she was writing over the top of.

Jeanette tried to take her life in 2008 and had what I can only call a spiritual experience in which she understood her old self was dead and she had to be born again on a deeply psychological level, she also began to realise she needed to address and understand the feelings and forces that were driving her from within.

In a very heart wrenching paragraph she writes :

extremes – whether of dullness or fury – successfully prevent feeling.  I know our feelings can be so unbearable that we employ ingenious strategies – unconscious strategies – to keep those feelings away.  We do a feeling swap where we avoid feeling sad or lonely or afraid or inadequate, and feel angry instead.  It can work the other way , too – sometimes you do need to feel angry, not inadequate, sometimes you do need to feel love and acceptance, and not the tragic drama of your life.

It takes courage to feel the feeling – and not trade it on the feelings exchange, or even transfer it altogether to another person…..you know how in couples one person is always doing the weeping  or the raging while the other one seems so calm and reasonable?

I understood that feelings were difficult for me although I was overwhelmed by them.

She then began to hear voices and inside them found : ‘a piece of me…..so damaged that she was prepared to see me dead to find peace…. my violent rages, my destructive behavior, my own need to destroy love and trust, just as love and trust had been destroyed for me…. The fact that I did not value myself”  And she also found that ‘the lost furious vicious child’ was the ‘war casualty’ and that was the part of her hated herself and also hated life.

Jeanette began to dialogue with this destructive part of herself which was really a defence against her childhood pain and that is what brought her back home to herself.  It also led to the writing of a children’s book The Battle of the Sun which as a person with an astrological interest intrigues me as the Sun in our chart is our spiritual centre, it is the essence of us born to shine before it becomes in many cases covered in tarnish or buried under the force of our inner demons or monsters, or what Jeanette imagines as ‘the Creature’ within.  It was this creature which was a representation really of all the lies she had been told about her being a bad self, never good enough, and it’s primary purpose (as for all of us who internalise the critic) was to mock, disparage and tear her apart, but never the less giving this part of herself a voice in the end, as for all of us, helped Jeanette to reclaim her sanity.

Her pen ultimate realisation which she shares at the end of the chapter The Night Sea Journey makes me cry :

A few months later we (the creature and Jeanette) were having our afternoon walk when I said something about how nobody had cuddled us when we were little.  I said ‘us’ not ‘you’.  She held my hand.  She had never done that before, mainly she just walked behind shooting her sentences.

We both sat down and cried

I said. “We will learn how to love.”

Learning to love ourselves, to accept our pain, to hold our own hand, to know that we were and will always be ‘enough’ no matter what other forces or voices in the family or culture have told us well really isn’t this our most important challenge?  And doesn’t the deepest recognition of this truth mean a lessening of our insane and voracious consumption which drives us in covering over our sense of emptiness and not enoughness to over produce and over consume in ways that close our eyes to the reality of vast magentic gift of enoughness that surrounds us on this living, breathing, fully sentient, spirit infused love infused planet earth?  Is it not the trance of our not enoughness either internalised or projected the thing that keeps us hungry and blind, causing us to lash out, over protect or self or other harm?   Is not what is needed on this planet an awakening to the sacredness of earth and all life which can only come from a deeply realised sense of preciousness and enoughness?

My wound that you cannot heal

I had such a strong need to speak to my sister this morning.  I knew she had not been feeling physically well with headaches and nausea.   My mind wondered if it was emotional or due to her liver but of course it is not my job to know and yet there there was that longing for a familial connection that runs so deep and doesnt have a lot of places to go now that my Mum is dead and my older sister too.   I found myself remembering painful times in our past and seeing also how I was not seen in the way I needed to be at a critical time.   I could not ever seem to find a soft place of comfort and support when I needed it, despite the fact my sister did reach out to me after my marriage ended and wanted me to spend the first Christmas with her.   I could not do it so I had the Christmas with my Mum and my older sister who was not in a very kind or empathic place.  We ended up having conflict which then upset my Mum and it was all around my own emotional wound which I really started to feel when sharing this morning with my sister about times of emotional neglect in the past especially around my family’s overconsumption of alcohol.

I was triggered by watching a comedy last night in which a drunk person threw up.  It was a show about other people watching the comedy on television being filmed themselves, some of the laughed a lot and one person said “that is just not funny, its awful” which was my feeling as I know how horrible it feels to be throwing up from drinking too much and it’s something that happened following this sister’s 21st when I was only 13 which was held at a fancy hotel when the waiters kept giving me alcohol and no one was watching.  Of course my family felt it was a great joke and I know there is a funny side, but for me it was not funny at the time and now just strikes me as sad.

Anyway, my sister does listen and doesn’t dismiss things now.  “You have such a good memory,” she said to me, “mine is awful”.  Well if you have had shock treatment and suicide attempt after copious prescriptions of a cocktail of over 10 different medications on the back of a hysterectomy and abandonment by your husband that kind of thing is going to affect you, but it means when it comes to emotions there is not a lot of insight and ability to share from that level from her side which means I do a lot of the work and its a long conversation with many gaps I am always feeling my way through.

I am glad we had the chat, and found myself crying at times in some of the longer silences, and as I listened deep within to the pain of my wound I realised how it came out of a longing for her to see me and for my father and mother to see me, to see how alone I felt when young, how I struggled and how it hurt not to have the things I loved recognised.  That was when I became aware of what I was longing for from my sister which she cannot give to me and that is sad and its also sad how I keep on trying and trying?  She has her own wounds too and I am very very aware of that.

This is our first Easter without my Mum.  My sister doesn’t seem to be keen to ever meet up, the exception was my birthday so I feel that the distance between us is really meant to be.  I do need to accept it.  After getting off the phone I hoped I had not talked too much about everything as we spoke for over an hour about different subjects.   But the lovely thing was that during the call my sister did acknowledge things in me.   And I was able to acknowledge in her some good things she often does not see due to her tendency as another trauma survivor to blame herself or be confused at times.

I am looking for the gifts inside my wound and pain today.  My Chiron in Pisces lies in the seventh house a few degrees off my sister’s Sun and Venus there which is squared by a fiery Mars at 5 degrees Sagittarius which she shared with my Dad.  At times I have been wounded by her blunt approach in her less sensitive and aware days, just as Dad could be blunt even though he had a soft side.     I don’t always want to keep a distance from my sister but such contact is often bittersweet.  My older sister Judith alway expressed her love for me and used to look on me so lovingingly.  Today I remembered being called to her bedside several times when she was highly dissociated in her later illness and over medication.  I would sit and hold her hand and she would come back to me.  I may move around her little room in the care home for people with acquired brain injury she shared with four others tidying and often we would listen to music or sing along to songs we loved on the radio.  I know reading this back it was my inner child who was bonding with hers then and I remember the times she was emotionally dismissive and very cutting and hard on me too, as our mother could be in younger years.

It’s an easier life, to be honest now that my older sister has gone.  It was always painful visiting her but also lovely in another way when we just sat and held hands and connected.   The love I have for my living sister is different.   She was my boss for a while between the ages of 13 and 17 and was often trying to pull me into line from being too casual with other workers or customers at the clothing boutiques she owned along with my mother and brother in law.  When I asked to be included in the family business in my later 20s I was told “NO”.    I eventually went away to Sydney after my father died and from time to time she would visit with her husband and ask me out for a meal but this was during the later days when my addiction was worsening and one day after I had been out to dinner with her I got a call from her telling me how ashamed she was of me.  I had gone out to a pub afterwards and was sitting on the side of the road  with a group of people in the early hours of Saturday morning and she had driven past and seen me.  “What the hell are you doing down there,” she screamed at me.  “living some kind of double life?”  I felt so ashamed and alone that I just hung up the phone and later when things got worse with my addicition I did not feel I could turn to her.

Anyway sobriety came for me a few years later and I met my husband and we married and there were some happy years.  My relationship with my sister was always distant and when it broke apart (my marriage that is) I did not feel I could turn to her.   Now it is just us two family members here in our home town apart from my brother’s son and his family who are very formal and never keep in touch.  I am aware this wound is here and I treat it tenderly and possibly my sister has also felt wounded by me.   Eight years difference is not an easy one, as I shared in an earlier post as children she said she found me a ‘pest’ and its how I felt.  I was ‘the tissue queen’ because I was sensitive and cried when she got married and left home, I needed to ‘pull myself together’ when I got emotional at my God father’s funeral and hugged his grandkids ‘inappropriately’  I was a show off when I danced to a favourite song at mutual friend’s New Year Eve party.

These things stay with me and make me feel anxious (and probably unconsciously angry although on an ironical level it’s kind of funny).  I wish I had a sister who just didn’t think I was too much but then I think I need to be an adult and just accept its okay to be me regardless of these kind of things.  I can write about it here so I externalise rather than internalise all of this and I can acknowledge that this wound hurts but is not the whole of me, it just tends to ache around those times I am reminded of other losses and defeats.

Many winters

Art lion woman

It seems to me

That these sad eyes have looked

Into the dark heart of so many winters

When flesh was torn from bone

In a metaphorical sense

By a pack of young jackals

Leaving that young tender heart

Faltering on a precipice of becoming

That seemed entirely

Insurmountable

So now

All these years hence

Those memories

Summoned up by the encroach of autumn

Can only be carried silently

Like an untellable truth

Whose meaning would be lost

On those who never endured such difficulty

No way really to tell

Of all the heart endured

Of the emptiness and pain

That she tried to cover over

So inefficiently

Now there seems no longer any escape

So she must learn to live with all of this

Finding a way to make of it

Some form of art

For there really is no forgetting

And the emptiness that streches before her like an ocean

Seems to threaten a drowning

So all she can do is try to find

A way to breathe

Under water

In the midst of

Encroaching winter

The importance of grieving in recovering a sense of self

Grief reveals

With sufficient grieving, the survivor gets that he was innocent and eminently loveable as a child.  As he mourns the bad luck of not being born to loving (or emotionally available) parents, he finds within himself a fierce, unshakeable self allegiance.  He becomes ready, willing and able to be there for himself no matter what he is experiencing – internally and externally.

Peter Walker

 

 

Coals

SAMSUNG

This loss will burn inside me like a fever

When the knowing that you are

Torn from me

Taken away from life

Awakens here

I feel as though I am a sleepwalker in a dream

Only thing is

This dream is a night mare

I will not awaken from

How do we keep loving

When forces of darkness

Threaten to steal from us

All that is good noble and pure

Will our souls be marked with hatred too

For acts of such meaningless vengeance

Can we keep breathing through this loss

So much like drowning

As lungs fill with unshed tears

And a silent scream of pain

Too intense to ever be

Fully expressed

We can only hope for love

To win through

As we walk across these coals of fire

That lead us across

A seemingly unfathomable

Abyss of loss

 

(This poem is inspired by the story of Antoine Leiris who lost his wife Helene in the Parisian terrorist attacks.   You can read his journey in his memoire You Will Not Have My Hate,   let us remember to cherish those  around us who can so easily and quickly be taken and remember how little of love can live within vengeance and hate.)

Really really gone

Vista.jpg

When the one you love has gone

There is no longer a spirit at home in that body

Hands have grown cold

And the heart that used to beat love’s blood

Is deathly still and silent

As the lifeless corpse greets us

Or is hidden in a box

Shielding from us

Such a stark and painful reality

Blocking the full onslaught of our grieving

And if you think about it

Is not our grief

Just another kind of shedding?

From the cold body

Spirit has taken wing

Flown off to nether regions

Like breath that is surrendered

Becomes the air

And wind

And rain

Around us

Last night

I felt your spirit in the thunderstorm

That brought relief after weeks of dry heat

In a dessicated place

The deep hole left by your absence

Slowly filled

Becoming a pool of tears

This is where I sit now

As images and memories of you

Rise from the depth of it

To the surface

My heart opens wider

To encompass painful realities

Of how sometimes

Life with you hurt

And I realise

You are really really gone

And yet too

As long as my heart beats

And my eyes see

Even inwardly in imagination

Your essence still

Lives on

Sadness for the lost child

Child 5.jpg

I think it is a real sign of growth when we can weep for the child in us who never got to fully live, who often had to be buried or hidden deep inside or who was forced to don a disguise of coats of shame or soot and ashes to survive the invalidating, unfacilitating environment of childhood.  Images of this soot covered slave or servant child appear in the book Leaving My Father’s House by therapist Marion Woodman.  In it, along side stories from several of her client’s lives and psychological recovery stories, she shares a psychological interpretation of the fairy tale of Allerleirauh a young girl who running in flight from her family becomes a servant girl to the King, cooking in his kitchen a number of different soups.

In time in the course of this fairytale she attracts the King’s attention and dons three different dresses, the final one being made of Stars.  This is an allusion to how in the course of our psychological work to recover the child covered in soot and ashes we also reclaim and begin to fully live and express our inner radiance and being, that sense of true self that just could not live in our family of origin, was buried, covered in neglect or shame or nearly destroyed over time by internalised, killing voices.

I know that when I feel and shed tears for the years of living covered in soot and ash I have expereince ever since I was a young adolsecence at times I have felt like I could not possibly cry to the depths of it.  However, over time, the undeniable emotional truth becomes very apparent and real – all that we lost, all the ways in which we suffered and were dismisse, all the anger we felt but were not allowed to express.  With the tears shed in grieving we are, in some way, washing away the soot and emerging clearer and cleaner.   We cannot make up for those lost years, ever. But we can emerge into our true radiance if we just trust that we have depths of goldenness and star stuff inside just longing to burst forth, to ‘be’, to express in this life.

When we can fully feel it all through, and that includes our terror, rage, sadness, shame and anger, we will feel buried inside all of those feelings the truth of our spirit which longed over all those years for our recognition, realisation and championing.  We must feel all of these feelings most fully in a body that may have been neglected or filled with shame, for are these not also feelings which will lead us to realise the inner love that our body and soul longs for: a feeling of the fully conscious feminine deep inside of us both man and woman, girl and boy.   The suffering we buried in our body is felt and released as we nurture the spirit, soul child we know ourselves to be most fully from within.

Conscious femininity is living the redeemed body of Eve, regardless of the gender of the human being.  This body is conscious of itself as an intelligent instrument, a living system that actively participates in the divine unfoldment of planetary life.  While finding the harmony of its own natural laws of being, it is at the same time finding the harmony with all forms of life on Earth… Conscious flesh knows that its function (when fully awakened) is the consciousness of this Earth.

We are not separate from the Earth and our inner child knows this, as does our vital lived spirit.  We must do all we can to fully express this truest part of our being.

(Quote taken from : Redeeming Eve’s Body by Mary Hamilton : in Leaving My Father’s House : A Journey Toward Conscious Femininity, by Marion Woodman)