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.

Undermined reality and fear of intimacy : Insights into loving an Adult Child

There is nothing worse for  a child than having our inner reality undermined. Being told “no you don’t feel that way” “just get over it” “that didn’t hurt, you are such a baby” and worse things and this is the legacy sadly of those brought up in narcissistic homes.  Children raised in these homes learn to shut up and repress the reality of their True Self pretty quickly (especially anger which goes along with invalidation abuse but has to be supressed for us to survive).   We carry great fear and there is never really any freedom to take an unimpeded breath.  For those of us who meet partners in life later who aren’t this way and want to see, hear, validate and love us as we are, the struggle to trust is even harder.  IT IS something therapist and author Janet Woitiz deals with in her book The Intimacy Struggle which I have had for years but am rereading now I am in a new relationship that is so vastly different to the old ones.

There are ten fears that Janet outlines which hit the nail on the head for me lately.  Children from alcoholic or narcissistic and emotionally neglectful homes often will detonate a relationship that offers them exactly what they need as soon as it gets close and intimate, its due to a profound fear of abandonment we cannot often even fully admit to ourselves.  Partners of such people go through shock and confusion as the one they love acts out, especially after a time of closeness and connection.   The adult child will quickly pull the rug out from under such closeness by starting a fight, disappearing or going disconnected in some way, all due to not being able to stand the heat of their own feelings of sadness and longing for what they were denied needing or wanting from a young age which are evoked in intimate relationships.  As pointed out by Robert Firestone who has done a lot of work with inner voices and the inner critic often we will start to hear criticisms and doubts in our heads when intimacy threatens us putting ourselves or the other person down if we carry past unresolved attachment wounds.  Its something addressed too in the book on attachment by therapists Amir Levine and Rachel Heller ‘Attached : The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – And Keep Love.

Its helpful to know when our fear of intimacy is being evoked.  It may not always stop us acting out but it will start to bring awareness which is the first step, then maybe we can have a talk to our partner about it later if we can be honest and they are open. Partners of adult children of trauma, addiction or neglect can also educate themselves to the vulnerabilities of their partners if they don’t suffer this way and are more securely attached.

Below is a list of fears which Janet Woitiz outlines in her excellent book.

  1. Adult Children fear hurting others due to their own pain and sensitivity.  They make excellent loyal partners for this reason but such fear may make them into people pleasers because their fear of conflict is so high.
  2. Adult Children fear the person others see them to be does not exist.  They were not able to be their full selves and were never unconditionally accepted.
  3. Adult Children fear they will lose control if they love someone or connect with them, often due to the fact their homes were out of control or they had overly controlling parents.
  4. Adult Children will deny things hurt or matter, its a defensive approach to make themselves appear bullet proof and deny their vulnerability which was never safe before.
  5. Adult Children fear any love given is not real, things going well is so unfamiliar to them it seems unreal since all they knew growing up was chaos.  High drama doesn’t go along with a healthy relationship and they never experienced peaceful connected relating so they have no template for it.
  6. Adult Children fear their anger when exposed will lead to abandonment.  They have a power keg of it anyway due to the way they were treated growing up.  They have difficulty asking for help then get upset if partners don’t mind read due to a fear of expressing needs.
  7. Adult Children feel shame for being themselves and they feel responsible for everything that went wrong in their families.  This is unrealistic but its very true for them.   So how could you love them when they are so bad?
  8. Adult Children fear that if you really get to know them you will find out they are unlovable.  They were probably led to believe this anyway due to the way they were treated or blamed for things growing up that were not their fault.  They often feel failures that they could not fix their dysfunctional family.
  9. Adult Children have difficulty tolerating the discomfort that is a natural part of getting close to others.  Feelings naturally get stirred up with intimacy and adult children fear their feelings or don’t really know how to deal with them so often they cut and run.
  10. Adult Children fear they will be left and this fear harks back to their history.  It is important these fears are not discounted and that a loving partner gives them constant reassurance, they didn’t ask to be abandoned growing up, it wasn’t their fault and they don’t “have to get over it”.  Their fear needs to be understood and soothed until they can learn to trust in a present that is profoundly different to their traumatic past.

 

Why anxiety and logic don’t mix : relationships and insecure attachment

Reading the book I recommended yesterday Anxious in Love is putting into perspective for me why things can hurt and go so wrong for us who suffer PTSD, Complex PTSD or anxious and insecure attachment in relationships.  As the authors point out in Part 2 :  Connecting With the One You Love different parts of the brain are operating for us and our partners who don’t see what all the fuss is about when we respond with anxiety to certain events or triggers.  I am being taken back with every word to my last relationship where I would get an hour long lecture on how wrong I had things to be responding in the way I did with little empathy shown.

In anxiety our forebrain (or rational brain) is emotionally hijacked by the lower brains (hind brain and mid brain) where centres such as the amygdala lie.  Being responded to with logic as most of us know is tantamount to having a red flag waved in front of the face of a raging bull!!!!  But we also need to understand our partner may be coping with the situation in the best way they know how while lacking a more complete understanding of how rationality has flown out the proverbial window.

In this situation what is called for is developing the ability to intentionally respond rather then becoming reactive.  The solution is for each partner to understand and have an attitude of curiosity about what is happening for the other.  It’s something an old therapist of mine would bring up a lot about by ex saying “its just sad he cannot have an attitude of curiosity about what is occurring for you”.  To be told you are bad or wrong for responding as you do is just terrible and I think its a key to so called Borderline Personality Disorder sufferer’s struggle.  Perceived abandonment when triggered can send us into a cascade or spiral that takes is into the darkest place for days and if we are left alone in it too long for some the feelings (what therapist Pete Walker calls the abandonment melange) can lead to suicide, addiction and other self destructive mechanisms of coping.

What Carolyn Daitch and Lissah Lorberbaum, authors of Anxious in Love offer instead is a way of each partner entering the other’s reality for a time to validate it, both the non anxious partner and the one who suffers anxiety.   As sufferers of insecure attachment we can learn to understand our partner’s reactions and can learn to voice our needs in relationship in a less angry, attacking or accusative way.  Often non sufferers who operate from the higher brain just do not understand the severity or intensity of our responses to triggers.

Lack of emotional flexibility is one of the hardest legacies of anxiety reactions in relationship, it shuts down emotional attunement between partners and makes an open dialogue impossible.  Being able to set a time out when we know we are being triggered and our brain is going into hijack mode is useful, and hopefully our partner will accept it if we let them know what is going on with us.  The alternative is they respond with emotional distance/withdrawal themselves, judgement and anger (being triggered themselves), misunderstanding or protest which can be very difficult.  The more we can talk through these reactions and responses in our relationships the better change we have of resolving conflict and growing empathy and attunement.    The more we can step into their shoes and understand what is happening the more we can make an “appeal to reason” while explaining what underlies our reaction.

Some partners may be even triggered by us saying what has triggered us, though. They may respond by telling us “that’s all in the past” but in that case they need to work to understand how emotional hijacking works and show empathy in any case.  A person who is not willing to do this for those of us with insecure or anxious attachment may not, in the long run, be the best partner for us.

More detailed techniques for reconnecting are given in the book in later chapters of Part Two but today I thought I would just share what I have learned from the book so far for those not in the position to purchase a copy at this point in time.  The book is building on my knowledge of many years of trying to deal with anxious attachment and its destructive effect on some of my relationships.

Because the experience of attunement with a significant other is powerful, ruptures in attuned connection bring about a sense of absence, loss, and even distress.  Yet those ruptures in attunement are inevitable in all relationships, no matter how solid.  There are times when you just fall out of sync with one another.  It’s important, therefore, that you both have the ability to repair ruptures when they occur.   Just as quickly as you fall out of sync, with some flexibility you can repair the disconnect and engage one another in attunement again.

Anxious In Love, p. 98

On vulnerability, feelings and opening up to joy

Daring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling is frightening.

Well, I find it so.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Who ARE we really? The lost feeling self and it’s role in suicidal ideation.

Just re reading through key chapters in Jonice Webb’s book on Childhood Emotional Neglect, Running on Empty : Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect  is reminding me of this question and how hard it can be to answer fully and honestly if we were not fully allowed to express ourselves or unfold ourselves and our feelings in our family of origin.

In the chapter Cognitive Secrets : The Special Problem of Suicidal Feelings, Jonice outlines the story of Robyn who becomes suicidal after what seems to be a ‘fun’ night with friends.  What is not seen by her friends though or expressed by Robyn is her real and true self.  As Jonice describes Robyn’s childhood she describes a loving family who did not allow any displays of so called ‘negative’ emotions  :

Robyn’s parents seldom argued and they had very low tolerance for negativity of any kind  When a conflict would break out between the children, as they do with all siblings, the parents would crack down by sending all parties to their rooms immediately (no matter what the fight was about).. their motto was “Zero Tolerance”. They also applied this role to complaining or any expression of unhappiness, sadness or frustration.   The result was a quiet household.  The children learned early on that if they had something negative on their minds, they had better keep it to themselves.  Mom and Dad refused to be burdened by nonsense.. they didn’t have the time or energy to put into solving crises, assuaging tears and soothing frustrations  The Zero Tolerance policy allowed them to stay in charge of the household and they felt, keep a positive outlook on life.

Outside the house the siblings did fight and argue, however.  The older siblings could work with this conflict, contain the emotions and felt freed by it, but Robyn who was a sensitive child did not.  She was labelled a ‘Frequent Crier ‘ by the family, due to her tendency to burst into tears and was of course teased about being like this and if the tears continued too long she was,( of course), sent to her room (alone!).  Great solution, Mum and Dad!!!

Throughout all of this Robyn learned a powerful lesson.  She learned that negative emotion was bad and would not be tolerated.  She learned that any feelings she had that were not upbeat, fun or positive must be kept to herself and carefully hidden.  She felt ashamed that she had such feelings, and silently vowed never to let them be seen.  (to such an extent that she even hid them from herself!)

Robyn learned to withdraw, to stay busy and diverted, watch too much television or over work and to fight off any ‘negative’ feelings.

Robyn didn’t just fight this battle.  She lived it.  Her life was organised around making sure that she did not reveal, see, know or feel anything negative from herself.  It took a tremendous amount of energy.  She was bent on hiding the negative shameful part of herself (Robyn’s version of the Fatal Flaw most neglected kid hide deep inside)…..she couldn’t let anyone get to know her too well.

Robyn learned to live alone, to not invite friends around.  She hid even her intense loneliness about this from herself and struggled because she knew her parents loved her, so why would she be struggling so much if she was not fatally flawed?

Since adolescence, Robyn had an outside looking in feeling. At age 13, she had started wondering what was wrong with her.  She’d had a great childhood, so there was no explanation for how flawed she felt.  There was something missing something sick inside of her, a secret void.  The only way she could soothe herself was to imagine being dead.  Being dead would be such a relief  She did not have any intention to kill herself, but she reserved the possibility as a safety net…..Robyn used fantasies of being dead and her secret knowledge of her safety net as her chief method of soothing herself from age 13, all through her adulthood, but she had not breathed a word of it to a single soul.

Jonice goes on to describe how this fantasy and desire was, however, triggered after the night in question Robyn had shared with friends…. how feelings of numbness, emptiness and gloom suddenly began to over take and consume Robyn…As her desperation increased after failed attempts to distract herself with television comedy failed, Robyn reached for the bottle of pills and swallowed them compulsively.

Robyn’s suicide attempt and feelings would most likely make so sense to anyone who knew her because as Jonice explains “the Robyn that everyone else knew and loved was not the real Robyn… She was essentially a time bomb, set to explode periodically”.

Robyn was luckily found by her sister who happened to drop by that day…but many who feel and suffer the way that Robyn did are not so lucky….”they don’t get to share or understand their pain, and they don’t get to explain their final moments to anyone.”  They also never really get to know, love or understand their real feelings or true self.

When I first read this chapter in Webb’s book last year I identified with it so strongly.  I have not ever committed suicide though often I had cherished that fantasy too.  Luckily I got a sense years into sobriety that more was going on underneath my addiction that just ‘defects of character’.  Soul sadness, soul loneliness as therapist Tara Brach points out in her book True Refuge are primary feelings that drive us when we come to mistakenly believe “there is something wrong with me”, the fatal flaw which is symptom seven in Jonice Webb’s list of effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect.

So many of us who suffer urgently need to understand it’s roots if we really are ever to recover our true sense of self which contains all kinds of feelings in response to a life which we didn’t choose and is so often influenced by all kinds of toxic, negating and restrictive influences beyond our control.

(For a full list of all 10 symptoms of Childhood Emotional Neglect please see the following post or read Jonice Webb’s book.)

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/signs-you-may-have-been-emotionally-neglected/

Bigger than words

I just read a blog about a person’s struggle with therapy and with the pain they deal with on a daily basis that needs to be worked through in that context of therapy and with their frustration over the use of certain words and terms.   I understand exactly how they feel.  I get frustrated at times with concepts, intellecualisations, formulas, and descriptions or pidgeon holes of psychic suffering, the map is not the terrritory and what we suffer cannot always and easily be placed in these boxes.   And yet in a world where we have to communicate and interconnect such terms or words or diagnoses are used to make sense of suffering….the problem comes when we identify with them too much and loose that natural spaciousness that is part of our deeper being, soul and who we are in experientia….

I feel the most comfort when I can float within my own ocean and on the days when the seas are not made too choppy by to many mental winds sending up storms of criticism and judgement within then I can, on a day like today just sit quietly feeling myself in the room while being gazed at lovingly by my dog Jasper and feel myself surrounded by peace and love.   But only half an hour prior to this my inner critic or ego was on the rampage and I was crying about how I am not a very good mother to this dog, which is not true, what is truer is at times I abandon our world of love and peace for a world and relationships which are often fractured or jarring to me.

I used to think that the problem was in my being ‘too sensitive’ and needing to adapt, to try harder, to be more pleasing but what I am seeing is that when I try to adapt outside of my natural pace then I get lost and because I am highly empathic and intuitive I do absorb energies in the ether which are non physical, such as emotions.

Anway I have had experiences and times when I have turned up at my own therapist feeling frustrated when I was deeply feeling something and being asked to explain what it was.  Just how do you find a word for deeper feelings and exactly how can you fully communicate the abject terror, despair, sadness or elation and joy that you feel in response to certain events?  Feelings can have such layers and are even not the same as emotions which are never only pure and simple when we try to make sense of them for such an emotion as grief may have sadness in it but also anger and despair.  When we start telling ourselves stories about those feelings then we have moved from the deeper felt sense of ‘my heart feels like its in a vice and I cannot breath’ (which is an experience in which tears are being held so deep inside) to thoughts such as : ‘this should not have happened, would not have happened if I had not done x y or z!’ which just ends up making us feel much much worse and may end in depression or even suicide.

Sometimes I feel its best just to sit with ourselves and try to touch base with our inner world quietly, tuning in.  In my experience all of our restless seeking out there for the critical support or emotional connection which may be lacking can a lot of the time, detract us from the source of inner peace inside.  That is not to say we should isolate and never connect with other humans, at times when we do it works and we feel connected but of course at others it does not and then we may need just to withdraw and return within in order to befriend our own aching heart.

Being our own best friend, may sound like a truism to some but if we don’t have our own love and ability to be present to what is arising inwardly even in abject pain (which I KNOW is very hard at times) we won’t ever really find true healing, comfort, and peace.

Can you see me?

I wrote this quite a few weeks ago and it concerns how I was treated in my last relationship.  Often my grittier, real posts don’t see the light of day.  I feel guilt for stating a harsh truth, setting a boundary or being legitimately angry over harsh treatment.  My mother taught me she could not survive my anger and so boundaries were hard.  I am posting this today to get it ‘out’.

Can you see me?  Doesn’t really matter now As I see myself You will never live inside my skin and I will never live in yours But sometimes I will meet a fellow traveller on the road They will see my scars or show me theirs and we will In that one brief instant recognise each other There will be no need for fear or hiding There will only be an open embrace Not a defensive stare Or that heart breaking glare Of how dare you  Strange and dangerous creature!

It isn’t my fault that you cannot see me but still it can cut Especially when you misunderstand You label me agoraphobic not knowing I have known trauma And also that as an intuitive empath I absorb more and feel things more deeply being susceptible to energies that fall off your back

You say I am too sensitive not knowing the cuts or hole of misattention that kept my boundaries open or stopped them from forming at all  You can never know that due to never having been shown empathy for struggling in this way its a long process to learn who I really am and what I feel inside and to put up the barrier or stop your misguided perceptions from stealing in and wounding me takes pain suffering learning and time

For so long I hoped that you would see me But really what I now understand is that all along you only saw your projection And when I failed to affirm your limited view of things I was then a threat that had to be amputated or exiled Or an infection you had to take distance from telling me how sick I made you  But then maybe just maybe you were sensitive too and due to the fact I was in so much pain I could not understand

Now do you not see me?  That is okay!  There are those around who see me, know me, get me.  There are those too who actually think I am kind of special and great  They let me be goofy They don’t cast water on my ideas and they don’t try to reign me in due to their own fears of being out of or losing control All in all it really is okay If you don’t see me Just as long as I see myse

 

Triggered by exercise, joy, power, happiness!

I wondered how many of you get triggered when you start to exercise?   If you were in fearful situations a lot as a child or if like me you suffered a few life threatening events where you pulse was raised, I have read that exercise can trigger panic as the body/mind registers the raising of the heart beat as fear.  This thought is also triggered by a response to a comment I read on another post about self harm where the commenter recommended the gym as a diversion from pain and anxiety.  The person replied about how the gym triggers them.  Ideally we feel our pain and don’t try to escape it but one of the long term impacts of paralysis, freeze or collapse which is such a big part of both Post Traumatic Stress and Complex PTS is that we don’t exercise or even move enough but get locked in self protective patterns which may include ingestion addictions to calm feelings.  That is okay if we turn to healthy food but if we turn instead to wheat or sugar laden snacks it can be a problem for some and as survivor of breast cancer I have had to watch that I don’t turn to those kind of snacks when my anxiety gets triggered in the now.

I was also prompted to write this post as Jasper and I just returned from a good long walk.  I then did some stretching at the bench in the field I sometime sit on to read my book mid walk.  When we drove home I felt such a surge of happiness, joy, power and wellbeing but as soon as I got inside to make a late lunch my thoughts started to race and I felt my heart beating fast and happiness turned to panic and fear.

I then though of all the times when I was attending AA that I was warned to not get too high or happy and when I share this with my therapist she is shocked.  I get triggered by happiness or assertive energy anyway because often as a young child in a much older family I was helpless at the power used over me not always in very nice ways, especially not by my older sister but the second one who used to pass off her own frustration about no one being home with us and having to care for me, onto me.   Also in later years when this sister was supposedly ‘manic’ (to a degree this was true but in some cases she was being pathologised) I began to feel a lot of fear.

Anyway today I was glad to be able to make the association to the way I was feeling.  I know that often my anxiety is manifesting without me consciously registering it as anxiety.  I just have all these strange flooding or drowning sensations in my body and I don’t always recognise feelings as such, at first they appear as somatised body symptoms.  When I spoke to my Mum this morning she was expressing something very similar.  I thought it might be good feedback for a post.  Last week with Kat in therapy I was sharing how I felt my feelings about past mistreatment as a few wild horses in my breast champing at the bit to get out.  My teeth were aching where my denture attached to that two top back teeth and that reminded me of being in bridle head gear every night for over a year when I was 16 and had braces.  I am SO ANGRY I had to go through that :  it was fucking torture for a highly sensitive person and I just had to grin and bear it and swallow it down.

There are some of the things I need to externalise and share here, when I share them at 12 step meetings people get triggered and get in trouble for saying how it really was, which also makes me angry.  But if I don’t speak about it I will get sick and my cancer may even return.

Conditioned to self reject?

Sadly lately I have been seeing where my own hurt and fear has taken me in the past.  I see where and when I started to isolate and to enter into a place of solitude haunted by ghosts of the past.  And then sadly rather than seek comfort with loving people I kept myself alone.  Part of the problem was as a highly sensitive person who was recently sober I found the world a very harsh, hard and cutting place.  I remember being at one Christmas celebration with family members who were judging and shaming a well known public figure who I knew was in recovery for addiction. The person had been gaining a lot of weight after letting his primary addiction go and that was making them a great target for ridicule.  I spoke my mind to the people in question then left the family dinner.  I went back a while later and then burst into floods of tears.

When we are sensitive or have known trauma it makes it much harder for us to be a part of certain things.  We carry a lot of inner knowing or inner pain inside.  Paradoxically we may have a lot to give to an often insensitive or uncaring world, but the mere nature of our sensitivity or trauma makes it hard to give this and even harder to be received.   And so we look for a place of retreat and protection.  What I am seeing lately is that inside my own consciousness a judging part of me has been shaming me for years for the fact I actually am trying to do positive and consciousness growing things.  Instead of supporting me this inner devaluing voice tries to tear thing to shreds.  When I read post of others who self harm in more overt ways I feel so sad, but I can also see myself.  My self harm doesn’t come from cutting though on some days I wage a battle with my own body not fully realising at that time I am being besieged with negative voices.

Why is it so hard to be kind to ourselves?  To be loving and accepting of ourselves?  Is it true that we now live in a culture where self rejection and shame so often dominate? I started Brene Brown’s book on vulnerability Daring Greatly yesterday and she makes the point that narcissism comes from the now widespread notion that to be important or of value we have to ‘be a someone’.  Its not okay just to be an ordinary person with foibles, needs or insecurities.   We are meant to ‘get it together’ or ‘have it together’.  To prove something.  This makes sense to me of why people who suffer panic or anxiety are actually those who are more prone to be lacking in self acceptance, self soothing and self love, a point which is covered in the book Power over Panic.

If we love and accept ourselves as we are we don’t end up shaming ourselves.  We also don’t end up shaming others.  We accept that life is full of imperfection.  We may not like it but we accept it.  Coming from this premise when we see others shaming in order to feel one up we would probably let it roll off of our backs.  I think the incident I referred to above triggered me because at that point I was in addiction recovery for about 9 years and so I felt defensive of someone on the same path.  It was good for me to stand up against that shame and to make my voice known though but a part of me also knows that there will always be unconscious, insensitive people in this world who in lacking empathy are more than willing to try to put others down.

Once we are aware that our value in fact does not rest on outward acclaim or acceptance but instead on a solid bedrock of inner acceptance then we are less likely to feel anxious and panicky.  I have noticed lately that often my panic attacks come when an unconscious part of me is forcing me on to do something I feel that ‘I should” rather than what my soul really wants to do.  And so I am self divided.  Panic also comes when I give something far more importance or urgency than it really requires.  Self awareness of these kind of things takes time.  I am seeing for a lot of my life I was conditioned to self reject rather than self accept. I also rejected and failed to accept difficult things that were really none of my business or outside of my control.  The early death of my father and my sister’s illness gave me the illusion I had to be there when really what I needed most to do was take care of myself.

I am beginning to see it is very hard to live a happy life when we are conditioned to self reject the entire time.  In so doing we live outside of ourselves or leave our selves behind in some way all of the time and it gets harder and harder to just find peace in the present moment and in the pure simplicity of being.   Going outside of myself means I forget to breathe.  It means I retreat to my mind and thinking and away from my body.  It means I withdraw from life when I really want to reach out at times and actively engage.   Or it makes me reach out when I really would rather just stay home and read a poem or a good book.

Giving up patterns of self rejection does take awareness.  It may be so hard for us to see how, when and why we are self rejecting.  Learning to seek our value from within instead of without may be a pattern that for some of us is deeply ingrained.  We do need others support at times but this is also usually easier to come by if we are self accepting.  We are then less likely to attract those who reject who we really are or at least set boundaries with them.  We learn that we are worthy of good things and of love.  If that isn’t forthcoming from the world we let go and turn back within to find the love and goodness that we need to feel at peace.