The painful cost of trauma : understanding abandonment depression

Painful trauma has a way of driving us out of our body.  To have lived with an intolerable reality which we are given no help to process or understand is an agony beyond words.  Not to be held, understood and empathised with in our suffering means our neurobiology cannot be soothed, we become flooded with stress chemicals such as cortisol.  Recent studies show that empathy increased the presence of oxytocin in our neurobiological systems.

I know the relief that has come for me in therapy as  have been able to let my own feelings out.  I know the damage that has occurred when, in trying to express said feelings with unsafe others who are defended, blocked or lacking in empathy they have become, not only trapped within, but other feelings have then occurred in reaction such as pain, disappointment and distress.  It was only last week in reading the chapter on abandonment depression in James Masterton’s book on the real self that I became aware of how complex and multilayered the feelings of that state are.  It is within the abandonment depression that we feel suicidal as it contains what Masterton has labelled the six feelings of the psychic apocalypse, very aptly named.  Guilt, rage, panic, fear are four of these feelings.

In recovery those of us who have undergone trauma or abandonment trauma need help to understand our feelings and the courage and strength to bear with or integrate these feelings. Rage is a huge part of what we feel when we meet again invalidation or similar abuse that triggers our earlier abuse.  There is panic when we face the rage which also comes with a great deal of fear, after all when we were younger and abandoned we experienced fear as we were confronted with overpowering situations of stress and distress which we can go on reliving unconsciously for years and had no help with.

In our recovery we begin to regress to these feelings and since such a huge part of so called borderline trauma involves invalidation or lack of support and empathy, when we meet such triggers again, we can regress and find ourselves once again filled with grief and rage.  Our overt reactions will most likely not be understood by those who have no idea of the complexity of feelings we are left trying to contain, process and express as a result.  This why we need in recovery an enlightened witness who is able to show empathy for what the real self had to suffer in childhood which led to the adoption of a false self as a defence against fully feeling the complex feelings of the abandonment depression.

In his book on Complex PTSD Pete Walker deals with the abandonment depression.  He also explains how the inner critic becomes very active at a certain stage in our recovery, shaming us for daring to recover and try to become well.  The inner critic may be comprised of things said to us when young by others who tried to shame or judge us instead of showing empathy or helping us make sense of difficult feelings.  We can shame ourselves in similar ways for our reactions, which comes often from the so called ‘adult’ part of us that won’t accept or allow the child to be the child, vulnerable, tortured at times and deeply confused.

Empathy is so essential as we begin to deal with our inner critic less we start to shame the child all over again in a bid to protect it or protect against the feared rejection of others that we experienced in the past.  It’s a complex process.  We do need to become aware of when we become triggered or start to act out old pain, but shaming ourselves for it won’t work and help us to heal.  Painful feelings need to be lovingly contained and soothed for true healing and integration to happen.

You weren’t there

Dark Spirit

I longed for someone to be there

On those lonely wide open afternoons

You were gone from home

In just the way your own mother was gone

I reached for the key

That hung on the hook in the shed

And on one of the days it wasn’t there

I broke the window

And cut my wrist

Thirty stiches

Neighbours took me to casualty

Do you know how much it hurt Mum

To know that dresses and other people

Were more important than me?

It wasn’t that you worked

It was that you left me alone

Why not get help?

But how could you know how it was

When you just repeated your own silent history?

Now I see

What I could not see then

I understand why panic attacks visit me at that time of day

When

One of the six horseman of the psychic apocalypse

Comes calling

Panic

Hidden deep inside panic are so many other emotions

That could neither be expressed nor contained

As well as a hungering heart

That needed to be held

And tended in love

Now I know why ravenous hunger visits me then

I eat and eat

But the hunger is for something else

My inner child

Help adult me

To remember and to understand

It all makes sense

That body will never lie

Show me how to be there for you

So that panic can end

And love attention and self care

Can fill up the empty spaces

Of a wound

Far larger than me

The force that fights love

I just reblogged a post by Monica Cassani which spoke about that sub part of our selves ‘the inner bully’ or ‘inner critic’ who can give us such a hard time as we go about trying to heal ourselves and become stronger on the path of recovery, and when I say stronger I am meaning it in the sense that a strong soul can embrace weakness, deficiencies and other flaws in themselves and set about finding a loving way to deal with those aspects of their being rather than just put on a mask or become filled with bluff or bravado, or get defensive when vulnerability is triggered.

As I read this post and considered my own struggle with my inner bully I thought of the part that fear of love and fear of being loved, embraced, open or vulnerable may play in our lives when we finally do begin to change old ways of being with both ourselves and others from a negative to a more positive slant.  And at the basis of all positive change I think that a healthy attitude of self care and self nurturing as well as self compassion are so very important.   Until we can embrace our weak spots, our past pain, wounds and injuries in self acceptance and love we don’t seem to get very far on the path of healing and we may actually even self sabotage when offered the chance to embrace something good.  Until we can honestly acknowledge our gifts, sensitivities and strengths and our unique spirit in ways even others cannot we also don’t ever get to experience the freedom of a full life.

I notice a lot of things in reading other WordPress posts.  I notice how staying trapped in feelings of self righteous anger at abusers often keeps people stuck and as I read those posts (as well as some of my older posts) I see how such feelings actually hide deep within them a (often unconscious) lack of acceptance, a refusal to be able to let the pain go on some level. T his is understandable as pain can and does run very, very deep if we have suffered abuse and it is a very long and painful process to work this through, acknowledging and embracing all our feelings without being eaten alive by them.

And yet I also feel that as we come to realise that we in fact did not deserve such abuse and as a result now sadly treat ourselves in the very same way that is when we have at our disposal the greatest gift and resource that can be used to help us overcome the negative down spiral that follows a painful history of emotional abandonment and abuse.  We may always stay angry at our abusers and that is fair enough but if our anger implies that in some way we are resisting the pain that we need to feel in order to move through to healing that held in anger can be not only counterproductive but toxic and may block forward movement.

Healing to my mind involves opening the locked door of our heart that wants to stay shut to pain.   We fear inviting that pain in as our deepest fear is that on some level it may destroy us, that we might not survive.   But my experience is that when I open the door of my heart to the full impact of past pain or grief that pain or grief is able to move and to transform on some level.  At that precious instant I fall into a place of deep inward surrender and peace in which I know without any doubt the full impact of my entire emotional pain history and see so clearly its consequences.  As I do a part of me wants to rise up and say ‘NO!”,  This is the cry of my spirit that knew it was deserving of so much more and could have shone so much more brightly and suffered far fewer years in the most painful and lonely isolation, an isolation that kept me imprisoned for well over 14 years.  And this awful truth is a  deeply difficult one to embrace and acknowledge.

And yet, another part of my spirit in some way actually needs to say an unconditional ‘Yes!’ at that moment.  To embrace the pain I didn’t choose in order that I can now let the pain go, knowing that to allow it to define the rest of my life would be to continue to pay too difficult a price which will keep me locked in prison, locked in death, locked in resistance, locked in unbecoming.  And that is now not what my spirit wants anymore!

When I know my spirit to be free, when I look to the positive things in my day, when I count the gifts of this path, compassion, wisdom, insight, deeper psychological knowledge then I find gratitude and that gratitude tends to bring the sunshine out in my soul.  When I look to how I can use my own suffering to help others, when I realise it is a gift to be able to say that I hurt and have suffered, when I no longer need to hide, when I use that suffering to make me reach for the light and love and joy in any day, when I find avenues of self expression and ways to let the energy of love flow out from me and to anchor in those energies of beauty and love all around me, wherever I find them, say in sunshine, nature, good company, music, art, poetry, films, dance then my spirit shines and is no longer as bowed down as it was before by the terrible burden of a lonely painful past full of trauma.

And when I realise that all along the inner bully is just fear and thrives not on life but on attack well then I have a choice to answer that fear with love, compassion, wisdom and insight, and I no longer need to turn my inner bully out on others in the world, criticising them, even if they, due to unconsciousness or nastiness are continuing to try to cause me suffering.  Instead I can just turn to my inner child essence and spirit, take her by the hand and chose to walk away or answer with love, no longer hooked by my own deeply buried anguish into reacting, lashing out or trying to change what is and was never in my power to change and what I am so much better off, walking away from.

The Undertow : reflections on the Inner Critic and the Inner Child

Many thanks to a fellow blogger for inspiring the title of this post.  I just reblogged the post in which Laina Eartharcher addressed two powerful forces of our inner world : the inner child and the inner critic.   I could also rename those two ‘The Joy Maker’ and ‘The Doom Merchant’.

As in inner force and compatriot of the force of the Undertow the Inner Critic’s game is to get us swirling into a negative downward spiral.  In some books on spirituality and emotional recovery the Inner Critic is referred to as the negative ego.  It works against acceptance, mercy, gratitude and enlightenment as well as against connection.  The negative critic only sees what is bad or hard, it keeps its focus on what you or others did wrong, how bone crushing that was, how unforgiveable and horrific. That’s not to say what happened to you wasn’t absolutely awful and negative but the truth is are you going to live with the negative power of it going over and over and over in your mind day after day after day convincing you that life will never be safe or joyous again.

On the other side of our mind scape is the joyous, innocent, soul infused Inner Child.  Full of radiance and life this inner child sees hope, she sees the mystery, he feels the pain and suffering and looks upon them with eyes of innocence.  He or she naturally or instinctively reaches out a hand to hold yours when you are in pain. He or she does not recoil in fear.  He or she is the quiet still inward voice that can dissolve the critic’s ceaseless shaming and admonishments.  Loving soulful inner child just says “I am so sorry you are in pain.  I am here.  You are not alone. What you went through really hurt.  Lets just be calm and still for a time and open our heart to what needs to be heard or felt.”  She then says “Don’t you think it would help to touch base with beauty, mystery and awe somewhere say music, nature, poetry, a hot bowl of chicken soul, a frolic in a meadow with your dog.”  He or she restores us to naked simplicity.

Often all of this is what the wounded hurting inner child in us most needs to hear, see or do never moreso than when he or she has just been besieged, attacked or assailed by the pain mongering of the Inner Critic pulling her down deep inside the soul sucking vortex of the painful undertow.

The undertow is not always to be resisted though.  Smetimes we need to be taken down.   There can be a healing power in an undertow that is calling us to descend to the bedrock or bottom of oceanic consciousness that as yet contains unfelt pain or need or longing or grief which is waiting patiently and silently there for us to recognise it and ride its upward surge as it carries us on a powerful wave of soulful love towards a distant shore or recognition, embodiment of suffering, soul awakening and peace.

Insights that hurt us may be contained here, but never the less their healing power and intention may be love.   It may be the necessity of our recognition of ways in which we stumbled, failed, fell short or missed he mark (the real meaning of the word mistake), ways in which our own unacknowledged pain, hurt, shame, anger, need for retribution or fear kept is locked up and imprisoned, barricaded from love and its winged accomplice miracle consciousness.

We may need to be pulled down into and by that undertow for a time.  But I do not believe we should allow ourselves to be held hostage too long by that other negative force the Doom laden Inner Critic who in showing no mercy or deeper insight into the tangled byways of living and journeying towards consciousness keeps our level of awareness frozen, pinned, fixed or sucked downwards in a yawning, empty, hungry soul emptying place.

Such a critic is actually a cadaveur of the soul’s birthing genesis, laying to waste our blossoming as soul conscious individuals and savaging our emerging inner child who may as yet have no legs to stand on, but must crawl or be rocked and cradled for a long time before he or she begins to walk and sing and dance again.

Along this pathway of becoming and emerging we must instead learn how to shrink or shut the door on that voice of doom and unrequited pain and shame and turn instead towards the open radiant loving face of our inner child, pregnant and rich with as yet untapped possibility.  We must not allow the critic to savage his or her innocence but recognise instead through her instinctual reactions to what maimed or hurt us powerful ways of resisting and saying ‘No!  This is me and I am innocent.  I am not wrong or bad but good and strong and most of all I deserve to live! And I will. I will find my voice.”  Our Inner Child must never be killed off or buried by the Critic because he or she is the deepest, profoundest, wisest, realest, most connected and uncorrupted force in our soul.

Who is it for?

Love MW.jpg

Certainly our inner work is for us.  Our journey to find all the ways in which we lost connection with love, all the ways we were treated by people that my mistakenly  professed were love, but were not, all the ways in which in not making us feel sufficiently loved those made us feel unsafe and therefore limited our capacity to feel love and express it without, all of these things have to be explored in our deep inner work to reclaim the original child essence in us that contained our most pure innocence before it was corrupted and return to love which I believe is the basis of our true nature.

One of the most corrupting and damaging things that I believe my own Catholic education taught was the belief in original sin.  In some prayers we are told to reject Satan and all of his works.  I always found that problematic, for Saturn was once an angel and he fell into the darkness but he had real lessons to learn there and so do we and paradoxically darkness is what the original sin concept takes us into.  And I do not believe we were born knowing Satan but only knowing love but love is not what we necessarily find when we are born.  As Marianne Williamson says  : “love is what we were born with, fear is what we learned here” and if this is true, I believe it is, then we are here to learn about Satan/fear and understand how the critical super ego can block our pure nature child essence from its full expression and experiencing of love.

Others super egos block us, with all their prohibitions about who we should be and what we should do to be accepted or loved and if we are born to those limited in their capacity to express love and even to see us as a separate unique individual then our entire development becomes highly problematic.  We have a lot of work to do to reclaim that essential side of us, what John Bradshaw has called our ‘wonder child’ or ‘soulful child’.

Being around young children is something that I find enormously healing and enlightening.  If you are around children in their young years if they have not already suffered severe abuse you know you are in the presence of an open, curious spirit who just expresses, often they express a thirst for knowing, they see the world through eyes of awe that are open to wonders of life and nature that we tend to become blind to in later life and they are full of questions no longer believing they know the answers.  Keep an open mind is one of my favourite AA and Al Anon sayings, it implies that there is always something I can learn.  This is not to say that I should not trust the deeper knowings of my own heart and intuition and I do think one of the profound gifts of childhood is that children operate on a more intuitive level, if they are naturally psychic, for example they may actually see non physical life forms such as angels.

I recently read a book by a woman whose own psychic gifts had been blocked in childhood. Her mother didn’t believe her daughter when she spoke of the things she saw and so this person shut down her own knowing.  It took a major crisis to put her back on her psychic/intuitive pathway, now she helps those who are also waking up to these kinds of gifts themselves.

I started this blog with the question who is it for?  What I was thinking about how our work to reconnect inwardly and find the source of love inside of ourselves is most certainly for us but surely it is not only for us.   The question I have is perhaps whether the waking up process of recovering our depths and capacity to love is about becoming a love warrior, just as Glennon Melton Doyle has written in her book on the subject.  Maybe our waking up process is about finding a path or destiny in which we find a path to being a voice for love on a planet that so dearly needs this message.

I wrote a blog earlier this week on grief in which I spoke about the wish I had to be a grief warrior in that I wanted to be able to share and help others to know that grieving is a necessary process of feeling and self expression from deep in one’s heart and soul that when thwarted leaves huge scars.  That often only an awakening to our deepest grief, actually opens our path to love and compassion.

We cannot be naïve in this life as there are those out there who for their own reasons are invested in not allowing us to grieve or love, maybe because they lack the stamina for that work.  Or they want to block and protect their hearts against further pain and so they close us or their own feelings out.

Most certainly if our grief is caused from abuse it is showing love for ourselves to protect our heart from further abuse, but along the way after we grieve at depth and experience all the complex emotions of that process, we actually come to a point where we find that we now are in full possession of our own heart, a heart that has become strong enough and deep enough to feel the depth of suffering and compassion for the shutdown of a soul that would effect that kind of abuse.

We come to see how others lovelessness comes out of inner blockages.  We find compassion but we also know that at some stage each heart and soul makes a choice, either conscious or unconscious to open up, feel, expose and heal or to shut down, numb, close off and refuse to love or open again.

And that is when we can become a voice for love, if we have found the depth of courage to make the necessary surrender, we will know so deeply that we are loved and that others are too, but that often souls do chose for one reason or other to turn their backs on love.

Everything goes black

I had to call my therapist this morning.  I had one of those terribly, terribly painful mornings where everything went black.  All the terrible things from the past, all the times I was hurt, all the times I could not find protection and love, all the memories of being drunk, drugged or cast out alone, all the betrayals were back running over and over and over and over in my mind and then the terrible morning spiral panic PTSD memory was capturing me.  A friend called and I didn’t take the call but just remembered horrible things he said in the past, I was deep, deep down in my wound in my blackness, in my feeling that everything around me is false and unreal.   And it was only the call to my therapist that helped me to link into my goodness, as I ran all the thoughts and pain past her she reminded me that this self is not the whole of me.   She reminded me of the goodness of my inner self and my inner child and she also reminded me to reach for what reminds me of that goodness today.  Some days it is so hard to find.

Yesterday I had a difficult day, I lost my watch while playing with Jasper at the oval, I looked everywhere but could not find it back.  I then logged on the computer to find a comment from someone who I had a very difficult experience with earlier in the year, at the end of it she publically shamed me by telling me that my life was pathetic,  it was a very very hard experience and it all came shortly after my birthday.  When I woke up at 2 in the morning I felt that who I really am is so black and dark and pathetic, while she is full of light, after all she was trying to help to promote my blog and when I mentioned in a later blog that it made me uncomfortable she took the post down, there was nothing wrong in that, as she was trying to do the right thing but it all escalated when I posted a post to say I am uncomfortable with promotion but had not told her directly.   Things rapidly spiralled downhill from there and seeing her comment yesterday really made me very very sad as I realised a chance to be close to someone had got lost again which reminded me of all the other times my insecurities and sensitivity have pushed others away.  But then there are those who would not be pushed away or if they were may show empathy and not be as cruel to say I was pathetic.   Never the less I try to be transparent so I am sharing about it here as that old pain obviously really triggered deep pain and feelings of worthlessness today.

After I spoke to Katina, Jasper wandered in for a cuddle.  In fact he only stays inside when I am not online and as I held on to him and felt his soft puppy fur I was reminded of all that is best and most pure and special to me in my life.  Jasper connects me to my inner child who has so often been buried and hidden and is so often terrified of being exposed.  She is the part of me though that exists beyond the hurt and pain of later years in which misunderstanding or insensitivity of others has hurt me.  Some times she shows to me the face of wounded child, a situation in which she is covered in scars and wounds that she bore from a painful, lonely and abandoning past.  But at other times she shows herself as the vibrant soulful child who is full of joy and innocence.

I think the saddest thing that happened with my blogger ex friend is that she open heartedly tried to embrace and champion my blog, but it felt too exposing for me at that time and maybe a deeper part of me felt I may not be worth it.   It was a difficult experience that can still hurt me but it also has some kind of lessons, but when these painful things rear their heads again the old darkness can descend.  I am reminded of the many years I lived in an emotional wilderness so far from connection both with my inner child’s pain and joy.

Mars has just entered the twelfth house of my chart this week and I am reminded too that at this time all our old wounds, mistakes and failures come back to haunt us, we are also opened up to shadowy depths of old things slumbering in the deep unconscious that we need to make our peace with.  During this transit we can be so hard on ourselves and I must admit that again today I had very powerful suicidal feelings but maybe this is just another dark passage way I have to go through, by far not a foreign experience for I lived in this haunted and haunting place alone for years.  Fear of depending, being vulnerable and mother/attachment wounds are all associated with the issue we face with Mars in Cancer as it has been for well over a month now.  The Mars energy indicates where our healing energy needs to be focused and often we only heal through opening up the wounds and cleaning them out, or by wrapping them softly in a bandage.  That is how I feel today, the wound in me is throbbing and so I need most especially to go gently and be very aware of not letting the blackness and pain and negativity eclipse what is also good and positive in me completely.

I held your hand

Child

Alone here today

I held your little hand in mine

Debs I travelled so far

In forgetting the way home to you

I lost and buried you

In the deep

And forgot for so many years

That you were always so close by

Waiting for me to wake up to you

Crying all alone in the dark

How hard it must have been for you

To see the larger me go deaf and numb to you

Pouring down my gullet

Things to shut you up

But now

The healing miracle that took years

You are here with me

We have found each other

Or I have found the way back to you

I will never leave you darling

And though we should never deny

How much we long

For another human hand to hold

Know this

That for as long as I am alive

You will never be alone again

I will always be here