Have you ever? : reflections on the scapegoat and buried emotional trauma

Have you ever been scapegoated by family members? Have you ever had the finger pointed at you telling you you are the problem? There is a saying I heard in the 12 step rooms many years back… “when you point the finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back the other way towards you” (yes folks try it right now and you will see it is true.)

Many many years ago led by his unconscious and dream images psychiatrist Carl Jung had a dream that showed a psychic inner structure that he came to call the shadow. This shadow he came to believe contained all the characteristics of us we are not on friendly terms with or that our family or culture was no on friendly terms with (ie. there is both a personal and collective shadow).

Some people have a lot of darker emotions hidden in the shadow, fear, sadness, rage or anger and some others of us have a lot of gold in the shadow and we may have been the ones others in family or culture tried to project darker things upon. There is also a concept in family therapy that talks of the concept of the ‘identified patient’. This is the family member who develops an addiction or breaks down in some way or has to have treatment. This is the family member that struggles in the family to be the whole of themselves and express truths or secrets others would prefer remain hidden (eg. emotional or sexual abuse). This is the family member that may be more likely to be led on the individuation pathway, a path of trying to uncover and rediscover the entirety of the soul in them that got loss or buried.

I am mentioning this today as lately I am seeing this process play out in my older sister’s (now deceased) family. And it is interesting that this is happening very close to the anniversary of her death. As I see it in the alcoholic or traumatised family there is a lot of pain but rather than every member carry their portion of the pain, each struggles in their own way and often they will target someone else in the family and tag or dump them with things. They may even exile the person just as in mythology the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness with the so called ‘sins’ (or wounds) of the collective heaped upon its back.

Alcoholics are most usually likely to be the ‘family scapegoat’. They may struggle with emotions that were not permitted a place in the family and come to think of it in a feeling wounded culture there are feelings such as anger and sadness which are harder to express and which people are more rigidly defended against. These emotions are often not allowed expression and so they get dumped into a kind of collective psychic waste bin that is then passed on from generation to generation. Pain then accumulates and one person gives expression to it most overtly.

People who struggle with shadow projection may find it hard to ‘get their lives together’ in a culture that venerates this. That is not to say that there are no healthy ways to get our lives on track but mostly they should involve us being able to be real and struggle, to fall down sometimes, to make mistakes, to need help and support and just possibly not do as well on financially or externally on some level as others. Does that necessarily mean such people are actually failures? Does this actually mean such people are not worthy of help? Does this actually mean that such people have less value?

Today in therapy Kat and I were discussing how and why this process of scapegoating and shame dumping in family has been affecting me so bodily over the past few days. I got to therapy today in a lot of physically based emotional pain. I pretty much started crying as soon as I got in the car and the cascade of trauma flashbacks then began taking me back to a trauma (which come to think of it now took place around this same time of year in 1990) when I had to spend hours in casualty after driving myself with severe abdominal pain in the middle of the night. Turned out I was pregnant at the time and that the sac containing the tiny embryo had ruptured. I ended up having to have a termination of pregnancy (my fourth) and it coincided with having to leave the group house I was living in and with my them boyfriend lying to his family and pretending I had had an operation for kidney stones.

After the termination he broke things off with me and I got drunk and ended up at his parent’s place crying and yelling, of course they thought I was demented and out of control and they never found out the truth as he broke things off with me again fairly rapidly (after a brief reunion) and in the aftermath the next 2 years saw some of the lowest points of my addiction spanning the years to December 1993 when I finally got sober.

Well today in the car I was back here in St Vincent’s casualty lying alone for hours and hours as they ran tests. I think too this trauma was triggered over the weekend because calls were not returned by family, Scott was AWOL and my nephew then rang telling me I needed not to give help to my other nephew who is struggling financially in the aftermath of his relationship ending. Being left all alone and waiting and missing a therapy appointment which was delayed due to Easter Monday meant that issue of having to wait all alone was retriggered for me and then the shadow projection onto my lovely nephew triggered how I was treated over the next year by a so called ‘friend’ who kept confronting me about my addiction which was nothing less than self medication in the face of ongoing trauma spanning the years 1979 to 1992.

The truth is addicts often say their addiction saved their life. We use the self medication until it no longer keeps working for us. Recovery then involves a huge and long drawn our journey of unpeeling or unravelling down to the true causes of which addiction was only obscuring or a symptom of.

For me the original trauma is about attachment traumas, wounds and emotional neglect vacancies or ‘black holes”. I now know this without a doubt. After years and years of blaming myself (as most emotional neglect survivors do) today in therapy I finally wept for my true self who so often gets beaten up by a self compassion lacking inner critic who is echoed by the outer critic lately being turned on my nephew. Only another addict in recovery may fully understand that fact unless the person had been trained in empathic attunement. Attachment traumas and wounds so often become gravitational force fields for others, in the well known process of so called ‘repetition compulsion’ what we fail to call up to consciousness will repeat until it is addressed or felt and this must happen IN THE BODY. THE CELLS CONTAIN EVERYTHING.. THE MIND CAN BE USED TO MAKE SENSE OF IT WHEN ATTUNED TO THE BODY. JUDGEMENTS WILL NOT SHOW US THE UNDERLYING PSYCHIC REALITY WHICH MUST BE FACED IN TIME AND DEEPLY FELT IN ORDER TO BE RELEASED AND MADE SENSE OF (BROUGHT OUT OF DISSOCIATION INTO ASSOCIATION OR RE-MEMBERING!)

Scapegoating the sufferer is cruel. It is lacking in both insight and empathy. It concentrates on the ugliness of the symptoms while NOT FULLY SEEING OR UNDERSTANDING THE FEELINGS OF PAIN DISTRESS AND UNWORTHINESS WHICH UNDERLIE IT. Scapegoating serves no other purpose but to bolster up the defended ego and keep in place the ignorance of the Scapegoatees. In traumatised and addicted families or families with multi-generational trauma everyone struggles, but the one who struggles a little more with hidden emotions needs support and encouragement. They need to be brought back out of the cold place of exile and embraced in their full humanity but sadly this will be almost impossible unless the Scapegoatees also face what they are blocking, projecting or defending against or finding it hard to open up to or face. Blaming and targeting others in such a way never really ends well and it blocks connected healing and embracing of the actual trauma that sorely needs recognition.

Depression is necessary when we are healing our childhood wounds.

I have been reading my way back through Pete Walker’s book on Complext PTSD over the past day and finding it really mirrors and reflects my own experience. He talks a lot about abandonment depression which is a legacy of not being ‘met’ emotionally by our parents or caregivers. This leaves a wound within us, we do not get to grow a healthy ego as a director of our feelings and helping us to manage them in response to others and negotiate for our own real needs and feeling in life which are bodily and soul based. We live with those wounds inside and they can rise up.

Walker talks a lot in his book about the 4F reactions to early trauma and I have addressed this in other posts a few years ago (see below) When we get into recovery these are present as anxiety and fear and they drive our reactions and contribute to our state of depression, especially if we have not been able to get angry or grieve for the loss of our true self in childhood. Therefore on the way out of healing from emotional or physical betrayal or abandonment we have to feel what we could not feel as a child, which is painful and something Presence Process advocate Michael Brown addresses at length in his book of the same name. But we also have defences which rise up as the four (4) F responses.

According to Walker four responses to trauma are fight, flight, freeze or fawn. You can read about them in more detail in his book which I highly recommend. He also outlines there the cycle of reactivity which involves bodily sensations, inner critic attacks, attempts at running over or away and or attacking others or deflecting and defending (which may be a healthy protest response to invalidation or further emotional abuse).

There is a very enlightening section in Walkers book which talks of a client Mario who arrives at a session with Walker in a heightened state of reactivity. Simmering below the surface of all of Mario’s reactions are the feelings of grief and shame that fuel this feelings and drive his inner critical attacks. All of us who suffer from childhood trauma carry some level of this grief, fear and shame. We continue to shame ourselves as our parents did and this causes us to feel depressed and we get lost all the time in self reinforcing loops of trauma and criticism, fear, flight, fight, fawn or freeze recycing. Until we can fight our way out of the shame not by attacking or defending but by sitting with the very real buried feelings and processing them in order to release them then we do not get far with breaking out of the reactivity cycle.

Dissociation as many of us know is a huge part of childhood trauma. In order to survive we often had to go off somewhere, we became fearful of our bodies which contained the uncomfortable cocktail of emotions buried inside that parents left us with or dumped into us when they offered us no help with managing our feelings. As Walker points out, many of our parents would not let us use our anger and tears to liberate us from the traumatic experiences or protest unfair or abusive treatment. In recovery the internalised critic will often shame or fill us with fear for getting angry or crying. But what is most needed for recovery is to contain and feel in our bodies the feelings of anger and sadness and associated shame. This is why I believe that medicating feelings and resorting to the belief that depression is a result of biochemical imbalance is not very helpful when it comes down to healing childhood trauma.

John Bradshaw often writes that grieving is the healing feeling. Depression can often be a refused call to grief for what we lost the way to. Depression is not just a pathological condition and Walker argues eloquently that it needs to be understood as essential to experience along the path of healing our traumatised inner child and getting into the present with what WE TRUELY FELT AND NEED TO FEEL IN ORDER TO HEAL AND BECOME REAL.

Depression can be healed with mindfulness, rather than reactivity. What is needed to sit in presence with our hurt from the past when it is triggered into awareness in the present making associations back. This can initially be done in therapy with a therapist who can provide us with holding and containment to release our feelings and deal with and challenge inappropriate shame. However ideally it is something adult survivors learn to do with themselves now. We give our hurting child the love needed to heal, we don’t dump it on others, we take responsibility for our pain even though we did not cause it and often did nothing to provoke it.

Deep level recovery from childhood trauma requires a normalising of depression, a renunciation of the habit of reflexively reacting to it. Central to this is the development of a self compassionate mindfulness…. the practice of staying in (our) body.. the practice of staying fully present to all of your internal experience. (as well as) noticing he psyche’s powerful penchant to distract from these uncomfortable sensations.. over time the survivor will need to rescue himself from dissociation and gently bring back his awareness into fully feeling the sensations of his fear. Although sensations of fear sometimes feel unbearable at first, persistent focusing with non reactive attention dissolves and resolves them as if awareness itself is digesting and integrating them.

Pete Walker

On shame and trauma : the antidote is unconditional love

It was not my fault.jpg

Shame runs very deep for most traumatised people.  Profound self loathing (seeing yourself as disgusting, unlovable, worthless, useless, incompetent and hopeless) can even help you make meaning of traumatic life events and still survive in the world.  In experiencing shame you are incorporating the violations of your body, spirit and mind as if these acts provide indisputable evidence that you are inherently not good enough.  In other words, in feeling shame you become what was done to you.  You conduct your life with intense disgust directed at yourself.  Such inadvertent attempts to annihilate your essence can lead to suicide.  In shame, you only know yourself as the excrutiating pain and the complete aloneness.  Shame is the ultimate re-enactment of trauma.

The truth is that your essence is untouchable.  Your essence is beautiful, lovable, pure and precious… no matter what!!!

Learning to treat yourself with unconditional love, compassion and respect will take courage, tenacity and determination.  There is not a painless way to form new beliefs about yourself.  It takes heroism to learn and practice self – supporting skills in personal, social and vocational circumstances.  Ironically, you will probably feel very uncomfortable with being loving to yourself: you might well have a need to feel uncomfortable.

Your core theories involving shame are formed by traumatic circumstances, and these foundations need to be slowly and surely dismantled within the container of unconditional love and compassion for yourself.  Your discomfort can be observed, accepted, soothed and survived with the active and loving presence of your wise self.

You can learn to establish and maintain eye contact, to be present in the moment, to listen attentively to other people and respond accordingly.  You can be curious about everything and seek out wonderful experiences.

YOU ARE NOT THE SHAME YOU EXPERIENCE

Excerpt from Evolve with Trauma : Become Your Own Safe, Compassionate and Wise Friend.

 

Related link:  Freeing yourself and understanding self blame

http://www.new-synapse.com/aps/wordpress/?p=2572

 

(Image credit : Pinterest)

Happy to live in the present : with a growing awareness of the past.

I just dropped Jasper off at the groomers and I took the way home that leads past where my family and I lived when all the tragedy began to befall us between 1979 and 1985 : the year when my father died.  As usual when I drive along this long street we moved to when I was about 7 I start to feel a blackness and darkness all around me.  I named my blog Emerging From the Dark Night because I guess I began to realise around 2001 about 8 years into my sobriety I had been living out that dark past unconsciously.  Now that I have done the years of therapy and grieving, the long work of coming to terms with things and seeing how it was for the young me I feel a kind of distance from it.  It is no longer affecting me as unconsciously.

I’ve made a friend over the past year who Jasper and I met first at the dog park then later on we both ended up walking our dogs in a big oval not far from where I live.  My friend was in the middle of a thesis when we first met which she has now completed, and its only really in the past few months she has been opening up to me about her own childhood which was a lot like mine.  She also became a family caretaker as her own needs were not met and she said she really struggles with the inner Persecutor too.  We have a lot in common and its good to be able to share honestly with someone who understands how it is to come out of such a stoic emotionally repressive family where issues of perfectionism and emotional overcontrol were writ large.

I know we never totally escape the influences of our past but I do believe once we become aware of the darkness we can begin to live in the light but that means making new choices that are healthier for us and more conscious than the past ones and it does take some time.

I was also thinking today after listening to a radio interview on misfits how lonely it can be if we feel on the outside of society, peers or family.  The point made on the programme was how misfits are able to see things in society that others do not see, due to the distance from involvements and their own, at times painful path, they see below the surface of things.   It was an interesting interview too as the writer interviewed Mandy Sayer was speaking of how as a writer she cannot live with her husband who is a playright. They both live separately and get together in the evenings as both need the days for work.  It struck me as a really good arrangement because one of the things I fear most about a relationship is being swallowed up and having no time to imagine, reflect, create and dream and so for those of us who are creative or introverted in this way it is important to find the right kind of relationship balance for us.

It felt a little strange to come back to my home just a short while ago.  I felt that the trip I took down memory lane a moment ago has shown me how long it took me to be able to feel I could move back to my home town, just over 7 years ago and how important it has been for me to be here for these years.  I got to have those final years with my older sister and my Mum and I feel fully reconciled to the way things were now.  It is very sad because I see how much my older sister suffered and was trapped.  I was thinking last night of how often she was denied things she wanted.  The story line was that due to her ‘mania’ she was an  who needed to be reined in.  I do not think it was really true at all I just think Jude has such creative life energy and somehow she came undone before she could fully manifest it in the world and as a woman born into a patriarchal world in the 1940s she really struggled.  She was so artistic and she didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. She always forgave her husband for abandoning her following her cerebral bleed in 1980 but sadly she was over medicated for most of her life and I am sure at times in the care home she lived, sometimes she was abused and her things got stolen.

I had a long chat with my other sis yesterday.  I am glad now that a lot of the childish resentment I had towards her is healing.  I am see her also as a product of her time, born in the 1950s she had her own struggle to try and find her way and sadly she married perhaps a little too young to someone who carried shadow qualities often denied in our stoic household, were ‘doing the right thing’, keeping up appearances and struggling to become upwardly mobile materially eclipsed to a large degree more underground energies and emotions.  When he left her he was considered the bad guy and it is true he didn’t really treat her as well as he should have due to his own complex background as a adult child of an alcoholic but of course he married into our family which had its own history of addiction hidden in my Mum’s past.

It has been a battle for me to become separate, psychologically as the youngest in a far older family.  There was 17 years between my older brother and I, 16 between Jude and I and 8 between Sue and I.  With these large age gaps it was harder to relate and I often felt like an only child born to at that time (in the 1960s) far older parents whose focus was really not on raising a young daughter but more on the external focus.   In my discussion with my friend yesterday she was talking of the mixed feelings she has around forgiveness with her own parents.  On one hand she says she has empathy for them and knows they acted the way they did and treated her the way that did due to their background and past.  At the same time she said she struggles a lot with issues of anger too.  I could really relate to that.

I told her that my perspective is that in regards to the Inner Child we are still moving out of the medieval dark ages emotionally speaking.  We are also trying to break apart patriarchal values which keep both men and woman as well as boys and girls trapped in limiting roles. I was listening to a programme on this today.  I do feel for men at the moment as their behaviour towards woman is generating a lot of justified anger but I wonder too at the level of compassion that is really shown towards men who are also in many ways just victims of a repressive heroic dominance archetype of the supremacy of masculine (as opposed to male) power.  Women and men both suffer in this climate and I hate to see men being blamed without a deeper insight being given into the causes that generate problematic behaviour towards women.  In truth at a psychic level it is the inner feminine in both men and woman that suffered coming out of the patriarchal dark age.  Men don’t need to be emasculated and boys need help to come to terms with softer emotions and vulnerabilities.  My own family was dominated by excessive masculine values.  Mum always worked and was never emotionally present.  Feelings were not understood nor addressed.   And then my Dad over worked and abused his own body with smoking, one of the reasons I do believe my older sister had her stroke was that she smoke and drank too much while overworking and taking birth control.  It was a recipe for disaster really.

Anyway today I am sad for all of the past, but I am also grateful that in 1993 I finally bit the bullet and found sobriety.  Along the pathway of recovery I have had to give up many things, jobs, relationships, houses and friendships.   Lots had to go into the fire, but a lot has been transforming too.  I feel many times like a witness who stood on the outside of a family watching at a critical time of soul evolution for us all.  I feel blessed for all of the gifts given and I wont say I enjoyed all of the sadness and pain.  At times I have felt like the weight of it would break me in two.  But in the end I guess it was only my unhealthy ego defences that have dissolved or shattered along the way.   My mistaken reactions of resistance and resentment had to go into the fire too so that I could understand the heart of innocence that underlay everything and feel the love and peace and happiness my parents and ancestors missed out on in their awesome and overpowering struggle for survival.

Understanding the Protector-Persecutor complex and its link to dissociation and child hood trauma

Being held hostage by an inner persectuor-protector figure in our inner world is common for those of us who were highly sensitive and suffered significant childhood trauma or insecure, anxious or broken attachments.  It is an issue dealt with comprehensively by Elaine Aron in her book  The Undervalued Self.  In chapter six of the book she outlines what this inner complex is and why it exists drawing on the work of psychological analyst Donald Kalsched. (See my previous post :

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/how-trauma-factures-the-psyche-causes-dissociation-and-create-the-persecutor-protector-in-our-psyche

The Persecutor-Protector needs to be understood and worked with by those of us who want to stop isolating in fantasy totally (not that we won’t still want to introvert which is important for the creative amongst us and for touching base with our inner world and life) and convincing ourselves we are not skilled or gifted enough to have a valuable contribution to make to the world.

I will open this post with a quote taken from Elaine’s book.

A protector-persecutor that arises from insecure attachment is often the harshest.  In these cases the protector may replace the missing maternal or paternal presence with an addiction, whether to smoking, alcohol, work, or something else.  Or it may create a vision of perfect love the child never received.  It encourages the unbearable craving and yearning while undermining or belittling things in the world that may actually satisfy some of the craving.  It says they are not enough, or not real, just lies or illusions, or will not work out in the long run.

Since attachment trauma often involves an unbearable separation, such as divorce or the death of a parent, the protector-persecutor very often rules out love because it brings the risk of loss, which, it supposes,  you cannot bear, as you could not when it happened before.  Until you work out your own answer to these scenarios, it’s impossible to convince the persecutor-protector that you can live with the pain of separations and loss, that you can tolerate in future what you could not in the past…..

(however) the good news is that as you struggle to accept the fact that all relationships eventually end, you may become far more prepared for loss than those who are secure because they had good childhoods.

When the persecutor-protector keeps you from being intimate with someone you love, do not give up.  Freeing yourself to love is perhaps one of the greatest challenges a person with a troubled past can face, and even a partial victory must be acknowledged for the triumph that it is.  Further, the undervalued self simply cannot be healed without finding some freedom to love.  It is linking and love that take you out of ranking and undervaluing.

The protector-persecutor either as a unit or in one of its two forms, tries to break down every link you make, both outer links with friends and inner links that would end the dissociation it wishes to maintain.  However, you can see why your attempts to dialogue with the innocent (inner child) might lead to mysterious resistance.

Emotions, memories, current thoughts and behaviours, and bodily states related to a trauma can all be dissociated.  Memories may be repressed, literally unlinked from consciousness.  Or your emotions may not be linked to current memories or events.  You may feel numb, lacking all emotion, or all too conscious of emotions that seem to arise for no reason. Your body may be unlinked from memories, so you remember the events of the trauma but have no idea what happened to your body during it.  Your body will still be dissociated from your thoughts, with the result that you are hardly aware of its needs.  Or the body does not link with your actions, and you feel unreal or detached as you go through the day….you do things that make no sense or are self destructive but your behaviour is not linked to its real causes.  You may have stress related illnesses because memories, feelings, or thoughts are pushed down in the mind then arise in the body.  Or you may have recurring nightmares that seem unrelated to anything going on in your life.

As for outer links the persecutor-protector makes every linking situation seem to be about ranking, usually with you as the inferior, although it can also make you feel superior – “he’s not good enough for me” – if that will keep you out of a real, close, lasting relationship.  The persecutor-protector might allow you to link in  a limited way with someone who likes you by creating a false self that adapts to the world, but you know you are not really connected or authentic.

Using examples from her real practice Aron shows how clients dreams often contain persecutor figures and details the means it uses to break links, just as the witch in the fairytale of Rapunzel tries to disconnect the prince from ever reaching Rapunzel in her tower by cutting off her long hair.   This occurs due the prevalence of earlier losses that were never fully integrated into conscious awareness and the fear of not being able to survive the feelings should it ever happen again.

We can work to become more aware of how the complex operates in our own lives.  Some of these are listed below and appear in Aron’s book and they correspond to some of the tactics avoidants or insecure people use to maintain distance or sabotage relationships with others:

  • When we are supercritical of the other, especially after times of connection.
  • When we over idealise to the degree that minor failures are blown out of proportion.
  • When we mistrust or don’t bother to get a reality check or talk things over
  • When you feel crushed if someone doesn’t want to be with you all the time.
  • When you look down on others for wanting to be with you more than you want to be with them.
  • When you decide “it’s all over” as soon as there is the slightest conflict.
  • When you are obsessed with concerns one of you is needy, dependent, or weak.
  • When you cannot stop thinking about the other leaving or betraying you or dying.
  • When you cannot see any flaw at all in the others, as if he or she is a god.

In addition Aron outlines some of the unconscious rules the persecutor-protector can use to keep us safe.

  • No intimacy.   Never open up about personal issues, ignore or belittle the disclosures of others, be flippant or rude, leave if someone wants to be closer
  • No arguing.   Always be nice, end relationships as soon as there is a whiff of conflict or if the other is angry, walk out on arguments (rather than asking for time out)
  • No growth.  Turn down opportunities or invitations to do anything new, do not aspire, act stupid so no one will think of you when an opportunity arises.
  • No dating or marriage.  Postpone, be unattractive, stick to crushes or fantasies, say with someone who isn’t good for you, have affairs with unavailable people, be forever young or flirty when it’s not necessary.
  • No strong feelings.  Stay in control at all times, don’t cry, get angry, be terminally cool.
  • No sex or enjoyment of it.  Avoid, be mechanical, split off, get numb with substances before hand, remove all emotion from sex.
  • No believing someone who say he or she cares about you.  Bat off compliments and expressions of caring and affection.  Don’t believe they are genuine.
  • No asking for help.  Be ruthlessly self sufficient, be suspicious, never complain, withdraw.
  • No honesty.   Just say what you think others want to hear.  Be careful with what you express especially when asked to be yourself.
  • No hope.   Don`t expect help, joy or good things.  Do not place faith in anyone.
  • No standing up for yourself.  Just let others say or do whatever they want, don’t cause trouble, don’t expect justice, respect or fairness.
  • No trusting.  Don’t be fooled; they don’t really care about you (a favourite thing the protector will say to you inwardly.)

As you can see its a pretty harsh joyless confined existence living with a strong persecutor protector complex inside of us, but we can work to understand these rules and challenge the p-p on them when it tries to use them to keep ourselves and others in line.

Your goal is to convince the p-p that breaking its rules and taking risks is working out for you and that you want more freedom…

Listen to its disagreements because ignoring it wont work according to Aron… the p-p needs to be heard but challenged to give up the limiting rules and restrictions it uses to keep you trapped.

 

 

How trauma fractures the psyche, causes dissociation and creates the persecutor/protector in our psyche.

In response to trauma or emotional abandonment our psyche will splinter or fracture.  Ideally parents help us to mediate as young ones the big feelings we have to deal with and help us to integrate them. But in situations of abuse or neglect this doesn’t happen and we are left to contain unbearable feeling.  Since all feelings occur and are felt in the body if our parents don’t help us to do this we are left with the split off feeling buried or held in tissue or psychic space.  Memories associated with the feelings and accompanying sensory traumatic events then become somatic and walled off, they still affect us we just don’t know why and how.

Jung wrote on how dissociation works and this overview comes from Donald Kalsched’s excellent book The Inner World of Trauma : Archetypal Defences of the Human Spirit.  

individuals who might be described as ‘schizoid’ in the sense they had suffered traumatic experiences in childhood which had overwhelmed their often unusual sensitivities and driven them inward.  Often, the interior worlds into which they retreated were childlike worlds, rich in fantasy but with a very wistful, melancholy cast.  In this museum like “sanctuary of innocence”… (they) clung to a remnant of their childhood experience which had been magical and sustaining at one time, but which did not grow along with the rest of them.  Although they had come to therapy out of a need, they did not really want to grow or change in the ways that would truly satisfy that need.  To be more precise one part of them wanted to change and a strong part of them resisted this change.  THEY WERE DIVIDED IN THEMSELVES.

In most cases these patients were extremely bright, sensitive individuals who had suffered on account of their sensitivity, some acute or cumulative emotional trauma in early life.  All of them had become prematurely self sufficient in their childhoods, cutting off genuine relations with their parents during their developing years and tending to see themselves as victims of others’ aggression and could not mobilize effective self assertion when it was needed to defend themselves or to individuate.  Their outward façade of toughness and self sufficiency often concealed a secret dependency they were ashamed of, so in psychotherapy they found it very difficult to relinquish their own self care protection and allow themselves to depend on a very real person.

Kalsched goes on to point out that such people developed what Elaine Aron has called a virultent persecutor-protector figure in the psyche which jealously cut them off from the outer world, while at the same time mercilessly attacking them with abuse and self criticism from within.   Kalsched believed this figure had a daimonic cast calling on the idea of Jung that energy split off into the psyche can become malevolent and acts as a powerful defence against what Aron calls ‘linking’ with others and with the vulnerable innocent or inner child it has been called in to protect.    The figure may not only be malevolent it may also be angelic or mythical or heavenly in cast.  Together with the inner child/innocent this force formed an active psychic dyad (or duplex) structure which Kalched calls the archetypal self care system. 

Jung showed that under the stress of trauma the childhood psyche with draws energy from the scene of the earlier injury.  If this can’t happen a part of the self must be withdrawn and ego thus splits into fragments or dissociates and it is a natural psychic defence mechanism that must be understood and respected.

Experience becomes discontinuous.  Mental imagery may be split off from effect, or both affect and image may be dissociated from conscious knowledge.  Flashbacks of sensation seemingly disconnected from behavioural context occur.  The memory of one’s life has holes in it – a full narrative history cannot be told by the person whose life has been interrupted by trauma.

For a person who has experienced unbearable pain, the psychological defence of dissociation allows external life to go on but at a great internal cost.  The outer sequalae of the trauma continue to haunt the inner world, and they do this, Jung discovered, in the form of certain images which cluster around a strong affect – what Jung called ‘feeling toned complexes’.  These complexes tend to behave autonomously as frightening inner beings, and are respresented in dreams as attacking ‘enemies’, vicious animals, etc. (not under the control of the will… autonomous.. .opposed to conscious intentions of the person…. they are tyrannical and pounce upon the dreamer or bearer with ferocious intensity.)

In dissociation the psyche may also splinter into various personalities which may carry rejected aspects of the person.  The mind becomes ‘split apart’ and such defences involve a lot of internal aggression as one part of the psyche tries to attack and protect the other more vulnerable, rejected parts.  The psyche cannot integrate these parts without therapy and active help.

In the course of natural therapy for such people the hostile attacking or protective force that acts to keep the person remote and in lock down will begin to arise in dreams and active imagination.  Elain Aron’s book The Vulnerable Self in Chapter Six “Dealing with Inner Critic and Protector-Persecutor” outlines some of this process as she give more insight into the role the persecutor-protector plays for highly sensitive individuals.  She also gives some examples which will help fellow sufferers to deal with their own dreams or nightmares where such forces arise. After dreaming we can through a practice of active imagination find a way to interact with these forces and help get them working more for us than against us. Aron’s book will help you in this regard too.

Donald Kalsched’s book is also an excellent reference for anyone suffering trauma.  It is more analytical in tone and quiet detailed.   The self care system that works to protect us can end up working against us too, this is the prominent point Kalsched makes in his book.  The inner persecutor-protector will sometimes work to organise a suicide if the psyche feels too much under threat from internal or external forces.  The persecutor-protector needs to really be understood by anyone attempting to free themselves from the crippling effects of childhood trauma.

I have a second associated post to post after this with some of the information from Elaines’ book on the persecutor-protector.  I will post it and link it to this post later on.

Why intimacy brings up pain for neglected adult children

If we were never emotionally connected to or nurtured in childhood, in adulthood we are left with the most terrible emptiness and pain.  Therapist Pete Walker calls this ‘the abandonment melange’ and its also called abandonment depression.  Many of us, before we get to therapy or get awareness around our early attachment wounds fly blind with such a wound which in recovery circles is often referred to as ‘the hole in the soul.’  Trouble was when I was in AA I was led to believe I was born with this wound not that I developed it in the context of early relationships, that is an awareness I have had to painstakingly grow and allow to emerge out of great pain and disaster in later relationships including forcing my ex husband to carry some of what I was unconscious of for years, another wounding its taken me some years to realise and forgive myself for.

Now that I am making a heart centred connection with a partner who is emotionally available to me I find at times this wound is being stirred up in me more and more due to the situation he is in where he has to be out of contact for a lot of the time.  I realised yesterday that I acted out some of my disappointment at not being able to connect with him due to mutual cross scheduling  by making some nasty comments about his ex wife.  He took them in his stride and there may have been a bit of truth to what I said but never the less I found myself dismayed with how I had reacted to him leaving for patrol and not being able to speak.

I shot off a few angry texts including one saying how I hated him for being in the situation he is in and putting me through it then waited anxiously and received a very loving reply back about 6.30 last night which soothed my fears.  However I noticed the same reaction starting up this morning when I missed him again and he failed to respond to a text I sent last njght.  I see I am reacting at the moment because I have never really allowed myself to be as vulnerable with a partner as I am being in this relationship and because he is giving me EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED AND NEVER GOT FROM EITHER PARENT.  At times it awakens great grief, anxiety and fear as well as warmer feelings.

Luckily I was reading through another bloggers blog on this subject as well as Foreboding Joy (the term Brene Brown gives to allowing ourselves to gain pleasure from something that is a source of great desire only to thwart it with thoughts of doom)  a short while ago and I came across this paragraph which really shone a light on my current situation.

I told T (her therapist) that it confused me that getting what I have always wanted caused me such a lot of pain (and joy, admittedly) and T explained that having deep, childhood, unmet needs – met was VERY painful.  She said getting what you’ve always wanted can cause awful sadness and pain.  I didn’t understand that.  T said that this was one of the reasons that therapists had to be so careful not to “overdo it”.  She said that them overdoing it could cause us more pain! T said “this is why although I understand you want more reassurance and warmth in my emails, it is important that I am very careful”…

Both of my parents are incapable of emotional closeness with me and I craved that so very much all of my life. It hurts me a lot to really realise that neither of my parents gave me the connection and emotional closeness that they should have – could have.  But understanding it wasn’t me, my fault, that helps to ease some shame.  It makes me so determined to never repeat that pattern with my own children. Also, it makes me determined to never waste time with anyone who isn’t able to tolerate emotional closeness again. I only hurt myself trying to change them. I guess I was trying to “right a wrong”.  Trying to finally “get” an emotionally distant guy.  To change the ending of that childhood story where I never did “get” either mum or dad.

Source:

https://unpackingthesuitcaseblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/25/neediness-lack-of-warmth-fear-of-annihilation-re-experiencing-pain/#comments

Those two paragraphs could have been written by me.  I realise in this relationship I am given all the things I longed for, love, respect, attention, affection, unconditional positive regard, kindness, empathy and love.  At times I find myself crying when I receive these things from Scott but at times I can find myself wanting to shut it down as well.   It scares me at times to see there is a part of me that may try to sabotage this relationship but reading this particular blog again today nearly a year later big lights came on for me.  Today I told Scott I will be more careful what I say when I feel disappointed or left alone at times, the way I react comes out of a craving for connection and love (and a deeper unconscious grief and anger I am carrying at emotionally unavailable parents)  the last thing I want to do is destroy that.. the best thing that has happened to me in years and years and years.

A brilliant resource for anxious attachment

Anxious.jpg

If like me you suffer from anxiety or anxious or insecure attachment issues you may find the above resource very helpful.  I have not read the entire book yet but its already given me so many tools not only to manage my anxieties in relationship but just anxiety in general.  There are a number of practical exercises you can do and the authors explain the way to recognise triggers, ask in a caring way for a time out without triggering your partner’s own issues, self soothe then find a way to reconnect from a calmer space where you can speak from your heart rather than from your trauma or defences.

Those of us with anxious attachment and Complex PTSD can really struggle to hold onto loving relationships and relate in a loving way.  This is a resource that actually gives strategies that are useful and will help you to understand more about how anxious attachment affects your relationships.   I highly recommend it.

A safe calm space

As a trauma survivor also raised in a high anxiety home its important for me to find and relax into safe calm spaces where and when I can find them.  I find there is a moment of decision in which I must take the opportunity just to ‘be’, to let myself and my awareness keep a focus on sounds and then quietly on my breath.  At times my body chemicals over-ride this, particularly at the time of my two major physical traumas at others like today on my walk with Jasper this didnt happen.  We had a lovely moment sitting under the shedding acorn trees in the child’s play part where I was just in the peace of the present moment.

It’s unseasonally hot here today, but under the tree it was cool and while sitting there and enjoying the surrounds I also focused on closing my eyes and hearing the layering of sounds around us which included birds singing, a dog barking, the low hum of traffic as well as the soft sound and feel of the breeze.  I was aware of my body but for a miraculous moment there was no pain in my body and I was able to breathe a full breath which seems impossible when a trauma cascade hits me as it can up to two or three times a day.  It was so beautiful just to revel in the pleasant sounds and sensations around me, to be aware of the absence of thought apart from the soothing one. “this feels lovely” and to feel myself let go and expand in to it.

This experience of peace had come just after reading and replying to some comments on my last post about trauma, addressing where we put our focus, the experience of being in and out of it and sharing some of what I understand from trauma specialist, Peter Levine’s work on trauma about pendulation in working with traumatic events.

It also came after a period of doubt about my current therapy which is extremely affirming but at times brings up very very painful sensation when I have to re share traumatic events or experiences and reactions from the past or the past week.  For a while a while ago I was seeing a body harmony therapist who was very quick to pull me out of my thoughts about sensations especially when they were in triggering parts of my body that have undergone trauma.  Due to the numerous physical traumas there are not a lot of parts of my body that trauma has not touched but Robyn during our sessions would try to keep me entering then leaving and then shifting the focus on to something pleasant  in the room or by getting me to look into her eyes when I was in overwhelm or flashback which is what Peter Levine encourages his own clients to do.  And often an outpouring of grief would occur at these times which she would mirror and affirm.

This work is not easy because trauma can be so very magnetic and as I understand it there is also something called the trauma vortex, which I experience in my spine as a kind of spinning sensation and it can spin at times clockwise and at other times counter clockwise, hard to explain here but I sense this spin at different times of the day and when awakening at night which is accompanied by the sensation of cells in my body being fluid or silted or inundated with fluid.  (In my original near death trauma my lungs were punctured by a broken rip and the fluid poured in through the pierced pleura.) At times it is so hard to get my attention pulled away from this magentic focus which is also telling me something deeper not always accessible in words.

Today I also had the awareness of how my own reactivity contributed to the second trauma which was a bike accident triggered after doing a cranio sacral session on the original crash around the first anniversary of my husband leaving me.   I would not have had that second accident if I was not on the run from family and I would not have had it if I had not retriggered the trauma of the earlier crash in that session.  The most important insight I came away from that session with was seeing my accident from outside and how it had traumatised my father at the time who was not, like my Mum called to the scene of the crash and I think had to see me cut out of the car after a long period of being trapped.

Writing all of this today is actually retriggering me too.  My family heard about my second crash but no one bothered to come over to be with me and so I was pretty much alone and then in trouble with the family I boarded with for making their lives harder by having had it.  And so I took myself away on retreat to Glastonbury to an ashram and was not able to really get all the help and support I needed despite the fact I had made a good friend from my Dad’s home town in Holland when I was in the UK and ready to come out of hospital.   I ran from her too as I felt my trauma was really not understandable and if I think about it I also feared abandonment, so I ran back to family.  That is a hell of a lot of running.  And yet I did the best I could at the time.

All of this is behind me now, but the thought lives on when I think of connecting with my sister over Easter on the fourth anniversary of our older sister’s death.   Should I really be blaming her for a lack of empathy shown after  my ex husband left and she accused me of being a selfish little girl?  What of the fact she has undergone her own trauma since and is kinder now? What of the times she did try to help me but was not really sure how to?  How much contact to have and how come I still feel so responsible for her and long so much to connect?  Yet even as I read this back, of course I long for this sister’s love but she never treated me as kindly as my older sister did. And even that relationship had toxic elements.

I know this is a lot of questions and I dont know all the answers.  I imagine readers getting impatient with me.  But then I think of a comment from a follower last night which said to try and see the situation from outside myself and to consider how I would treat this person (me) who had been through so much?  Wouldnt I just advise her to take care of herself first, no matter how ‘selfish’ that makes me seem and keep limited contact?

What I am understanding today though is, how much that is good is really around me at the moment when I take those steps to find that safe calm space in the day in the present moment away from past trauma triggers and residues.  Trauma lies in my past, not my present and yet at times it seems to dominate my present.  I get those mixed up thoughts of love for my sister and mother while seeing things they did that also hurt me.   I think of how my sister is now very alone and isolated in her own life but I am aware too of the fact that she too is responsible for herself and maybe she finds her own quiet calm space better being on her own, than around me.  And I know a lot of the time being around my sister quiet frankly triggers me and makes me feel more anxious as memories of that horrible time at the coast where she asked my mother to choose her favourite person to be with out of her and me ended with Mum saying she would rather be with my sister who was happy not sad. Part of me feels betrayed but part of me understands, but then I was always left alone in my grief anyway just as I was left alone as a child and the end of my marriage in 2004 just opened up all of those other losses starting with my father’s death in 1985.  Those losses too are all in the past and yet they have marked me.  They have, at times, led to faulty beliefs that I didn’t deserve any better or somehow caused it all.  In the calm quiet space I can just observe these thoughts come and go.

Today I am grateful for that lovely moment I had earlier in the day.  I am grateful for the lovely lunch of quiche and home made salad I just ate while writing this, I am glad for my therapist Kat and I am glad for the ability to be able to write about all of this and to be heard, read, reached out to by others and understood.  That’s a hell of a lot to be grateful for and heading into easter, although it will always be tinged with the trauma of losing my older sister in 2014 after 34 years of witnessing her also go through trauma and abandonment I am aware that out of the crucifixion of all of our most painful experiences does come a time of entombment and then resurrection.  We go into the fire in trauma, part of us get burned up as we walk across ‘the burning ground’ but we also emerge in time, transformed in some way, deepened in some way, enriched in some way and also made more full of compassion in some way.   It’s a painful territory but one that also makes us aware of blessings as well as the depth of love which is always present in grief and in our longing and which we should pray never to fully forsake due to the pain and agony of trauma.

A wall of fire

Walking through trauma and waking up inside a nightmare that has formerly been repressed is so so hard.  I do not think anyone truly understands trauma unless they have lived trauma.  That said some therapists try and have sufficient insight, others don’t in my experience.  I often get stymied trying to explain my complex body symptoms to my psychoanalyst, Kat.   She does not know how my nights are, the struggle I go through daily and nightly as I feel I am drowning and get fixed on past imprints.  I survive as best I can by putting structure in my day and a daily connection with nature is essential to me.

That said reading of how others are also struggling to express to those they love who can sadly not understand brings back key incidents from my own struggle for recognition.  My husband got very jealous of my therapy and sided with my Mum in trying to pull me back in line, that said I know he cared for me and didnt want me to be struggling but as a trauma survivor I was and lack of empathy ended up triggering me to take flight again and smash up on the other side of the world all alone.   My by then ex husband came to the hospital but gave me no support, told me I needed to go home and he would give me no help with residency (which I eventually got alone) even though I supported him with Australian residency when we met as well as setting up his business.  He wanted back “the happy girl I married”, what was the message in that, please put all this sadness behind you if you want us to survive.  Its the same message I got in the next relationship I sadly went into 3 years after my ex husband and I separated.

To be dumped when you are already foundering is killing.  I honestly dont know how I survived.  After the accident overseas I did come home and ended up living alone at the coast for years, no therapy and that was a big mistake but by then my trust was shattered.  Luckily I have now been back in therapy for just over 4 years but only really found my last best therapist 3 years ago.

Walking through trauma is like walking through a wall of fire, it is that painful.  Along the way you will be told all kinds of shit by others who have not a clue of what you live through on a daily basis.  For me a lot of the way I coped was to pretend I was okay and put on as good a front as I could to be accepted but when I finally crashed and burned after coming home I started to get honest and yes, even scream at times, which lost me ‘friends’ but not the people who truly understood and cared.  Being deluged with trauma visions as stuff starts to uncover is fucking hard and you need support, sadly there is no way out but through it and sadly until recently truths about trauma and the body were not fully understood, apart from in shamanic cultures and disciplines and those reactions were only understood to be ‘irrational’ but they are not really irrational when you know what a soul has endured but all a part of a valid response to PTSD or Complex PTSD.  I have said it before in this blog and I will say it again.  You are not abnormal for having a normal response to the overwhelm of trauma.  By its very nature trauma overwhelms us and learning to contain that charge takes a lot of time and has to be done slowly over time with those who can help us to hold it and release it little by little by little, a lot like letting air out of a balloon.   Wounds to the soul, as D H Lawrence reminded us cannot be cured over night and they will always leave us different, marked in ways that others who have not endured trauma can and will never fully understand.