Rescue

AB

In  the pool Of your tears You found a girl who was drowning And could not see The life within that pain That for long years was hidden beneath the surface

So much misunderstanding Bred by a silence She could never fathom Became an ocean And now from deep within the pool She is asking of you rescue And you know you have to take her hand

There are things she did Not knowing which way to turn There was only fear and longing that drove her to empty places Not knowing how or why she repeated this ancestral pattern of darker times Awakening in dreams Ghostly spectres arising from cells Cloudy ocean depths Obscuring day vision

This ghost girl became a waif With no blood pulsing through her veins Feeling herself to be So deeply alone Yet all the time her sense of aloneness Of drowning Came from disconnection

Once she found another soul To share her space and true being with Her folded up heart unfurled like a flower In the sunlight cast by affection and attention The pool of tears dried And slowly she found herself awakening in paradise

And so now When darkness threatens She runs to the light Knowing she must not stay here alone too long Listening to damaging thoughts that only grow in isolation and silence Whispering lies she had no protection from

Now she has found you And you can take her by the hand She knows she is never alone And that she can receive all the love she longed for From the one inside Who will never leave her so alone again.

Slowly over several years You taught her how to do this How to turn away from the false places And towards the real

Now she no longer needs to dream Of rescue But can summon her own life By breathing deep and acknowledging her self From within

On ambivalence and facing my wounds

I kind of love the word ambivalence.  I break it down into its two roots ambi and valence.  I know valence is a kind of frequency or charge, I guess we could call it an energy or pull, this by-way pulling of contradictory inner charges of though and feeling is something I go through a lot in my relationship with the outer world and my family most especially.

I seem to be torn at times between forgiving my Mum and family for past neglect and feeling great disappointment, resentment and anger about them.   I long to connect and then feeling thwarted and hurt want to get as far away as I can.   The resentment has changed for me in recent months with the realisation that it can, if buried and the true feelings not dealt with cause disease on many levels.  I do feel this together with the many experiences of wounding and emotional abandonment I experienced together with difficulty forming healthy nurturing relationships contributed to my breast cancer last year.

I know acceptance on some level provides relief.  I can accept something occurred or is occurring although I may not like it, I just realise I am powerless over other people and realise expecting change is doomed.  Only the adult part of me is capable of that since my wounded enmeshed child wants to hold on and not accept the truth at any cost.  When I don`t accept or choose to see the reality I can make excuses for bad behaviour or just keep hoping ‘this time it will be different’ and just stay stuck in anger as a defence against grieving, mourning, accepting and moving on in a rational way.

I just watched a second video from Courage Coaching on how narcissistic parents can infantalise a child and it sent some shivers through me.  I have struggled with feeling a sense of competence and independence in my life due to being over involved and enmeshed with my Mum for some years and this difficult situation was made harder by my father’s death when I was 23.  I feel shame and guilt at times when I see how I acted my own fear and pain and feelings of being not worthy enough or inadequate in relationships sometimes through anger and think gosh I really was strongly on the narcissistic spectrum. But I also know that true narcissists try to avoid any possible introspection and that is not me.   I am overly introspective at times and often make things my fault that are not.  As I now understand it, the home I was raised in and influences around me were out of my control then, I was for a time powerless over the unconscious effects. Pain and difficult emotions such as anger and resentment come as teachers to guide me to a healthier pathway and in recovery I need to contain and work through them so I make healthier choices that don’t lead to more of the same.

I never had my painful feelings mediated or learned how to deal with them growing up.  I saw my own family using alcohol a lot and that is what I learned to do, silencing and drowning the complex mixed up feelings of my child within.  I had, even for years into my sobriety, trapped childhood feelings all mixed up inside.  Therapy is helping as is understanding how a regressed brain and wounded inner child forms in such an environment. This child needs help to understand his or her feelings and grow up.  It`s a long and difficult process for many of us.   That painful relationship we got involved in was just a trigger for us to do our own healing and that now is OUR responsibility no matter what wounds we carry.   If we stay stuck in blame and angry with the abuser or abandoner as a defence against a deeper acceptance we are in trouble.  Anger over what was done to us is an essential stage we must pass through to engage and moblise our push to heal and change and form better boundaries.  We cannot by pass it on the road to healing but staying stuck in it recycling over and over is just not healthy.  We deserve a happy life free of that kind of angst and pain after all we have been through.  When we form better boundaries and learn to self soothe and self care we are less likely to be as angry in my experience.  Our inner child needs our inner adults tenderness, discipline and strength.

Suffering = Pain x Resistance

One of the most healing balms we can apply in life is acceptance.  Its so hard to hear at times that we need to accept painful things that have happened, most especially abuse or the failure to be protected by those we thought ‘should have’.  However what has happened to us has happened and for some of us, perhaps, left deep scars or even a festering wound really as these kind of wounds have not yet formed scar tissues until a way along the journey.

I think at times we can compare our pain to an open wound.  We so suffer unconsciously from what happened to us that is not yet fully known yet leaves its bloody foot prints upon us.  This is where applying unconditional loving presence towards our hurting, painful or contracted places can help.

Christine Neff talks alot about the equation that heads this blog in her book on Self Compassion in the chapter on resilience.  What she says, and what many Buddhist teachers teach, is that it is really our resistance to our pain or things we wish did not nor did not want to happen that causes us even more suffering in the long run.  I know for myself when things don’t go well or I hit a brick wall my immediate response is to try to find a way to more through it or react, that is when I need to pause and bring my energy back deep within in order to move it in a more helpful non resistant direction.   I do this a lot on the road when driving and getting stuck behind a very slow moving car.  I pull back and slow myself even more in this situation.   But I can also see situations in which I did not do this in my personal life and my not accepting and fighting against the certain thing I didn’t like I made things far harder for myself.  That said there is a time to fight for things that are within our power to change when it would be for our own or another person’s good.

We are in the long run human and our reptilian brain does cause us to react.  Christine explains in her book how we are hard wired to escape pain and predators as mammals, those defensive reactions served us well in the past but if we are reacting to being retriggered in the present all the time such responses become counter productive.  In PTSD and Complex PTSD we can get frozen in those responses.

Key to understanding how and why we resist and react is the concept of experiencing emotional flashbacks or what John Lee has called age or emotional regresssion.  I am the midst of writing a post on this concept.   When we age regresss or flash back we are no longer in present time and we often do not recognise it.  We can say things that were better not said, we can get frozen in time.  We can start to try to fix or give unwarranted advice.

I am just reading a book which deals with the concept of being hijacked by what the author calls our ‘toddler brain’ this occurs when we are age regressed and triggered by some kind of cue, perhaps the harsh tone of somone’s voice or undeserved criticism.

When we are in age regression or hijacked by the toddler brain we cannot respond well and with empathy.  We may not see the truth of a situation.  We may lash out.  We may sever friendships.   Getting ourselves back in adult brain takes work for those of us who had difficult or traumatising childhoods that left us with deep attachment wounds.

When we can open to a difficult reaction in the present moment with our full awareness (one of the skills we learn when practicing mindfulness); we can be less reactive.  We can practice self soothing.  The adult part of us can turn toward the inner child and comfort him or her, we can take ourselves into time out in order to have that inner dialogue.  We can also set boundaries with our wounded self in order to take care of him or her and not react.

Christine makes the point in her book that we are more hardwired to remember negative experiences than positive ones.  I guess this is one of the ‘pinning’ aspects of trauma I spoke of in a recent post.  When we are pinned to the negative sticking place we see only threat, we may be flooded emotionally or physically with a panic attack.  In my own case when this happens now I remember to work to take a few deep breaths into my belly because when I pay attention to my body I realise what has happened is that I have frozen my body or stopped breathing something I had to do when trapped in the car waiting to be cut out all those years ago, something I also used to do a lot when my Mum’s energy was upsetting or troubling me.   I have then learned to shift my focus and my attention to something beautiful in the surrounding environment.  I will have to deal it time with things that call me stress and anguish but being mindful in the present moment means I don’t have to ‘blow them up.’

Stopping the running of negative dialogues and scripts is also a part of this process. Often when stressed or panicking if I pay attention to my inner dialogue its all about resistance, saying things to myself like “this is all too hard, all too much. shouldnt be happening” or feeling and telling myself I cannot cope.  Sometimes in order to feel better all I have to do is place my attention on a task in hand that is right before me and start with that one little step instead of looking at the big picture and totally freaking out.

Doing something loving for our body is another way we can draw attention away from pain when we pinned in place and increase the flow of good chemicals such as oxytocin inside.  For example when I woke this morning and push pull symptoms of PTSD began I reached for some hand cream beside the bed and gently applied it to my arms and hands.  This soothing action took me into a gentle, loving, peaceful place.

Decreasing our resistance and lessening our suffering is also about opening to body sensations that may have come from our compulsive need to resist that formed over long years if we were not taught as children to engage in a positive way with challenging emotions.  Burying them inside us is not helpul.  For myself I know how my body has suffered from the chronic tightening that goes with repressed or denied anger I was not allowed or helped to express.  Today I sometimes deliberately tighten my muscles or limbs as an excercise to help them release stress and relax and I find this exercise helps me., but this exercise is totally different to a lifetime in which we had to bite down hard on difficult emotions and experiences.

All in all there are many things we can do to deal mindfully with our pain so that it doesn’t have to turn into deeper suffering.  Self compassion, mindfulness and learning to work with painful sensations, thoughts and emotions are all ways we can apply the soothing, healing balm to our wounded, contracted, hurting or fearful places.

 

We can run from our demons but we cannot hide

Can we run from our demons” The short answer is Yes! But they have a way of following or haunting us asking to be known.

Tonight a friend inivited me to an author talk with Jimmy Barnes. For those who live outside of Australia and don`t know him, in the early 80s Jimmy was the `bad boy` lead singer of rock band Cold Chisel.  At the height of their career the band sold millions of records.  In the past few years Jimmy has published part one and two of his autobiography Working Class Boy and Working Class Man.  The former tells of a very traumatic childhood growing up as the son and grandson of alcoholics.  Jimmy also suffered maternal abandonment due to his mother`s succession of affairs with partners who abused young Jimmy.  It is a harrowing story of trauma.

The second book, which has just been released, gives an honest account of his rock career as well as his accompanying descent into addiction and self destruction and towards the end of his active addiction a suicide attempt that was unsuccessful but took place while he was in a black out.   Jimmy found sobriety in 2012 which is really only relatively recent.

The author interview was so moving.  I was in tears by half way through.  Jimmy spoke of how he was always running, caught up in the flight and fight responses of complex trauma.  He spoke of how he used screaming to keep his demons at bay, but also of how, no matter how fast he ran, his demons continued to pursue him.    I got a bit triggered through part of the interview. The interviewer didn`t really understand abandonment trauma.   But then if you have not suffered trauma you cannot understand it unless you are a therapist who has experience with it or are another emotionally attuned person with empathy for trauma.   She showed compassion but the interview could have gone deeper.

I would have loved to have been able to say to Jimmy thanks for sharing your recovery story so honestly, but there was a huge line of people waiting for photographs to be taken after the talk, and as the friend who accompanied me to tonight`s event said, ‘I probably would have bust into tears the moment we connected.’   It was still great to hear someone coming clean about the inside world of abandonment trauma and addiction though.  `I thought if people really got to know who I was they would not like me or what to have anything to do with me any more,` Jimmy said at one point in the interview.  That made me choke up because those feelings of his are so far from rare or unique, the complexity for Jimmy though is that as someone, who for over 30 years has been in the public eye, the roles of persona and true self can be split very wide apart and the mask coming down may be all that more challenging.

What I took away from tonight`s talk though was along the lines of what I tried to address in an earlier post on grief.  Our trauma is never really `behind us`.   It follows us until we turn around to look it in the face.  It wants to be known and shared, to be honoured, not hidden.    Jimmy is still only really in relatively early sobriety so he has a way to travel down the path, I felt so for his inner child who from what was shared still seems to be powerfully affected by past traumas that he is working to face.

I couldnt help but hope that his inner child would get some help along the way.  I would have loved to give him a hug but my friend had texted me late this afternoon that the organisers had requested that no one hug or kiss Jimmy.  I could understand why.  People in the public eye receive so many of our projections.   At the same time it would have been nice to have been able to hug the guy and say thanks so much for being so open and honest so people can understand what the consquences of trying to use alcohol and drugs to escape trauma are.

We lost another very famous rock star, Michael Hutchence to suicide in 1997 and only last week a two part television documentary aired on that subject.  Alcohol and prescription drugs were a bit part of that story but there were issues of abandonment and trauma associated too.  Luckily Jimmy has had the support of a loving partner throughout all of his ups and downs.  That also bought tears to my eyes.  I admire those who stand by us in recovery once we commit to do the work. I haven`t experienced it in my own life, but I am glad Jimmy has.   All in all it was an emotional evening.  On the way home I popped in to visit my Mum.  Held her hand while she cried about her stomach pain.  I thought how strong the bonds of pain are that link us to family, they are the demons that pursue us along a long corridor of years but my experience is that it`s better when we turn back to face them and hold their hand, for in the end isn`t a demon just a scared and traumatised child who longs for recognition, empathy, insight and love?

Moving towards our happy

The following quotes from the third story of recovery from BPD in Beyond Borderline : ‘ I Am Not Just a Box in the DSM-5’ really spoke to me.  It’s full of truth and hope for recovery.  Facing our darkness is the way we move towards the light.   It is something I so firmly believe.

Mostly I was hell bent on protecting my own misery, because it was the only dependable companion I had ever known.  Even if I think back to my “happy” high school years, that self critical, loathing voice was my closest companion.

Driving a wedge between my true self and this negative, hate-fuelled version of myself was a truly Herculean effort.  It took years to put enough space between the two selves for me to even begin to reecognize the existence of this voice.  It took months of true ambivlence about life to wake up one morning and look at myself in the mirror and see the utter defeat and sadness that had taken over.  It took another round of treatment in an alcohol facility to grasp some whisp of hope that if I could cut the shit, stop the self destruction, I could have a better life.  My true self deserves better.  The little girl who danced around effortlessly in pink and purple sparkles deserves better.  The girl who talked to strangers, just because, deserves better…..

I honestly dont know how I survived all the torture I put my body through.  I don’t know that I believe in a ‘higher power’.  I don’t believe in fate…. But there has to be some greater purpose to my life that what it has been so far.  And in my darkest of days – of which there have been many – I have always found solace in the small ways of making life better for other people.  So if my story, if my pain, can help save someone else from making the same mistakes I have, then I guess it was worth it.

Today I woke up energetic.  Today I did not plot how I could become invisible.  I can once again look people in the eye.  Don’t get me wrong – I still have my moments of despair. …. But I can look in the mirror and see beyond all the psychiatric and other sorts of labels that people have ascribed to me.  Yes I may be a borderline, raging alcoholic, depressive, former anorexic patient. But I am also a friend.  A daughter.  A sister. A niece. A cousin. A soon to be teacher.  A life long student.  I am becoming dependable.  I am ambitious  I am intelligent.  I am a woman.

My life and path followed a dark, twisted road.  But each wrong turn has made me stronger.  At the end of the day I am who I am today because of what I lived through. Some day I will be able to look at it all and be grateful….When that day comes I may just surprise myself and be happy to be me, in spite of any box the world tries to put me in.

Understanding abandonment depression : insights from James Masterson

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

Here is how James Masterton describes the abandonment depression :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Difficulty accepting criticism : how and why borderline anger can be triggered

Reading my current book on men who suffer from borderline personality disorder Hard To Love I am being reminded of how early attachment or abandonment wounds leave us with a thin skin covering over a sore raw spot that can often be triggered by perceived threat of abandonment.  At these times if we suffer from borderline wounds we may fly into a reactive rage rather than feel the soft,  vulnerable spot that is being triggered deep inside.

Acting out rage is a reaction to the hurt, pain and fear that lives inside.  We may not be fully conscious that we fear rejection because someone around us saw a part of us that may not be well formed or is a source of shame, youngness, pain, or fear for us.  Often such reactive anger or rage is a response to having early abandonment experiences triggered or feeling we are not being valued or validated.  When others only see the angry or raging response and don’t dig deeper to realise the wounds that led to it, true understanding, connection and repair is not possible.  When we have been triggered in this way it takes some age regression work to become aware of the wounds and earlier incidents of abandonment we carry and experience that are being triggered by such criticism in the present moment.

I am posting this today as a bit of a response to an earlier post on the negative side of the inner critic.  Criticism from others when it triggers our own inner critic can tend to make us defended or angry if we have these kind of wounds and most especially if we have a powerful inner critic inside and lots of earlier hurt.  If we want relationships to survive we need to find ways to express our vulnerability with others.  We need the capacity to take the little one inside us onto our knee and get at the root of what is going on.  For the abandonment actually happens when outer criticism triggers our feeling of not being good enough inside and as much as we needed someone in childhood to let us know we are good enough, as adults we really do not need this approval of our selves.   Later on we may then be able to have an honest conversation with the person in question and say  “when you did X I started to feel scared and abandoned and criticised.”   We may be able to communicate needs that we have that were never fully met growing up.

It is very painful to have these unresolved and often unrecognised needs inside of us.  In my post on the antidote to the inner critic yesterday I brought attention to the issue of childhood emotional neglect, and pointed out how suffering from such neglect which is not fully even conscious for many of us leads to certain deficiencies within and in the way we relate to our selves in terms of empathy and feeling a sense of inner value.  Educating ourselves about the areas of neglect is an important step forward, for how can we get needs met or change behaviours we don’t fully accept or even understand?

In my past relationship often my ex partner would feel triggered by a little criticism comments like :  “the griller door needs to be open when you grilling”.  He took that as some kind of slight on his intelligence.  And my abandonment wound could be similarly triggered at times when I started to feel left out or ignored.  It was then hard to find the words to express how I was really feeling because I lacked the necessary insight and language.   When I was finally able to speak up for my needs I was told that they did not matter has his needs came first, always.  At that stage self care would have seen me make a re-evaluation of the relationship if I had been in a healthier place.

That said not all criticism is valid and some people use put downs or other subtle or not so subtle means to put us down.  In this case we can stand up for ourselves against the criticism in a firm and loving way.

Borderline wounds are very real, they come from key experiences in the past of feeling alone and abandoned which are so often deeply hidden from view and even conscious memory.  They make us vulnerable in the present.  They put the locus of control and reaction outside of ourselves, at least before we begin to get a handle on them.  Understanding how and why we react as we do is important, just as important as others around us taking the time and caring enough to want to know why it is happening rather than blame or shame.

In my last relationship neither of us had sufficient insight to cope with the self soothing and other centred understanding that was needed for a healthier relationship to survive when we both carried our own version of abandonment wounding.   So many things can happen to us is childhood that we are powerless over and end up leaving deep scars.   There scars can mark our relationships but they are also signs, pointers or signals of a damage that when understood and worked with consciously can help us to move through to more committed, honest and understanding relationships with others.