Silence

Silenced 2.jpg

Silence will leave you guessing

May fill you with an emptiness

That is an echo of those times separation distance or silence was used

To prevent you expressing something

Others did not understand or want to hear

But silence can also be such a soothing balm

It can provide a healing place for a tired or damaged soul

Emptied out and made weary by the cacophany of this world

And its at times soul scalding profanities

Its all in what you bring to silence

That determines whether it is blessing or a curse

A hiding

Or a finding place

Where you are finally free

To open your being and feel your soul speak to you

Truths you always needed to know

That so often others

Could not accept

Or fully understand

Hidden deep in your body

Under a heavy blanket of silence

Shut the door

Dear Self

It is perfectly acceptable

To close the door

On those who want to bring you down

It is okay to brush off the hurtful words of those

Who do not speak the truth

It is a gift to be able to know your own value

To be humble

In the sense of having a grounded realistic knowing of your self

Some criticism may be constructive

And then it pays to open the door

If there is something new to learn

Or something to gain by finding another way

But this I say

Always trust your own heart

And your inner knowing

Because when all is said and done

When you close the door at the end of the day

You are the one you must come home to

And be at peace with

Letting go of numb

The following extract comes from Tara Brach’s book True Refuge : Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.  Interestingly it concerns a woman who Tara was working with in therapy who as a young child had her long hair cut off by her mother as it was too much bother. I was sharing in a post a few days ago how this also happened to me and the trauma of it was felt when I went to the hairdresser late last week following my Mum’s death.   The woman in question, Jane, had also had her mother die a few years before the time she was seeing Tara.  In therapy she was sharing how the pain of this event had awakened in her heart through intense feelings of fear, felt as a claw “pulling and tearing at my heart”.  What followed was an outburst of anger towards her mother for subjecting Jane to this ordeal.

The anger soon turned into deep sadness as Tara worked with Jane encouraging her to feel the pain and grief deeply in her body, and in time it transformed into peace.  Jane had reached some deeply powerful realisations as a result.

Brach writes the following in her book :

Carl Jung wrote, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parents.”  The outer domain of our unlived life includes all the places where we’ve held back from pursuing and manifesting our potential – in education and career, in relationships and creativity.  But it is the inner domain of our unlived life that sets this suffering in motion.  Here we find raw sensations, the longings and hurts, the passions and fears that we have not allowed ourselves to feel. When we pull away from the energetic basis of our experience, we turn away from the truth of what is.  We make a terrible bargain.  When we separate from the felt sense of our pain, we also separate from the visceral experience of love that allows for true intimacy with others.  We cut ourselves off from the sensory aliveness that connects us with the natural world.  When there is unlived life, we can’t take good care of ourselves, our children, our world.

The feelings you are trying to ignore are like a screaming child who has been sent to her room.  You can put earplugs in and barricade yourself in the farthest end of the house, but the body and the unconscious mind don’t forget.  Maybe you feel tension or guilt.  Maybe…. you are baffled by intimacy or haunted by a sense of meaninglessness. Maybe you fixate on all the things you need to get done.  You can’t live in a spontaneous way because your body and mind are still reacting to the presence of your distressed child.  Everythingy ou do to ignore her, including becoming numb, only strengthens your link with her.  Your very felt sense of who you are …is fused with the experience of pushing away a central part of your life or running from it.

In shutting down the passion, hurt and pain she had experienced as a young girl whose precious hair was butchered, Jane had locked herself into a numb and anxious fragment of who she was.  Yet something in her was calling her to live more fully.  By beginning to contact her body’s experience, by touching ground, she was opening the door to what she had been running from.

Traumas of this kind may seem inconsequential, but really they are not.  Something was done to us we didn’t want or need and had no power over and feelings do remain.   The true self in Jane probably loved her long hair,  it wasn’t all just about ego and looking a certain way, hair does hold our power and is connected to our heads which are such a vital part of our being. To be subjected to something that upset us and then to be laughed at for reacting (as Jane was) leaves a scar and a powerful subliminal message.  Going numb to it does not mean the feelings go away, they need to be dealt with, with compassion and sensitivity.

If I don`t hold you : the fraught dynamic of trying to connect with my Mum

I am so used to holding others feelings that I get upset when others won`t help me hold mine.  I know its up to us to relate to our own feelings but sometimes just having a human body or soul with you as you undergo feelings helps on all kinds of levels.  The best help is when they dont say much but stay present with you and you feel, felt.   And then its easier to access what is inside, if you were caught up in your head before.  That said there are also times we access those emotional depths best alone, and cannot share them or have them understood.

I am thinking of this as I just called to see how my Mum was, she asked me `what did I WANT` I then immediately wanted to get off the phone.  I only rang to see how you are I asked.   I let her go and just burst into tears.   I know I said enough is enough I still worry and yes (obsess) over my Mum.  Today she is pushing herself beyond her boundaries to be with her mahjong group, its okay she has the will and energy to be with them but not with my nephew.  I can understand there has been so much pain with my nephew`s mother (my now dead sister) I believe Mum will do anything not to go there with her grief.  Its why she married as quickly as she did after my father died and then ended up hurting the guy who really loved her, where as for her he was an escape.    After they separated he used to ring me and cry over my mother, how much she had done for him, how well she had looked after him, how much he loved her.   Mum would old say `he was a nice man, but I never loved him`.  Its not up to me to judge my Mum but she sure doesnt go deep at times.

I just need to be with what my sadness was telling me.  At the moment Mum is trying to get to be with the friends she loves who give her comfort in the way our family does not.  I had the thought over past days that Mum would have been better off not having children or at least me.  I was an accident, I know that much and later an accident nearly took my life.  The body always knows and the soul knows when it was really wanted.

Now its up to me to mother me.  My therapist is not going to do it, fair enough.  She will help me to do the work as I undergo this painful time of emotionally separating with my Mum.   The connection to our mother is one of the most important ones in our life.  It becomes the connection to our own body.   I need to nurture mine at the moment.   The only real home I have is this body and I need to take care of it.  I can`t look to others to do it, though some of my connections here and in the world help me in ways they could never know, just by implicitly understanding.

I must exercise gratitude for the places I am received and try to steer clear of the places I am not if I want my body to feel better.  This is something I am coming to realise.   And maybe my Mum should no longer have to mother any more.  Maybe now she just needs time alone to get ready to die.   I keep trying to reach out but maybe the universe is trying to get me to wake up to reality. I keep trying to mother my mother but maybe I should not and maybe I should stop trying to hold or give a voice to feelings she would rather not face or be with alone.

Disconnection and connection : some thoughts

Jung

From quite a young age I had a sense of being on the outside of the life around me.  I was the youngest in family caught up in other worlds, only lately am I realising the depth of aloneness I felt and how the attention was focused somewhere away from my inner self.  And so I believe I did grow into a loner, but one who craved connection of any kind, no matter what the cost.  I didn’t have wise protective radar for who was really connected to me though as I don’t think I was connected to a lot and so it felt unfamiliar, emotional abandonment or disconnect I knew (unconsciously at that point) so I attracted more of that in the years that followed.

I have been thinking about it a lot today and seeing what a hunger to connect outside of myself did to me before I was connected to my deeper self.  Put simply those connections just did not work and I always ended up sorrowing and empty.  In later years with all the trauma and insecurity I carried maybe I didn’t find it easy to connect to others as I had begun to turn to substances.  I also had an implicit feeling that I was a failure for not ‘fitting in’ and so I needed to change, but lately I am realising I didn’t need to change at all, my task lay in coming to know myself, so I had something real to offer relationship.

The Buddhist’s say the ‘self’ is just a construction and I do believe we can construct a false self of representations, but I am a firm believer that there lies inside an essential core of us we can know.  For me, as a sensitive, soul attuned person I find this feeling comes when I am connected to nature and my inner world.  I never feel more at home as on moments where I sit being comforted by the breeze flowing on my face, listening to the song of a local magpie who comes to visit around lunchtime and while writing or reflecting I touch base with something essential and lovely so deep inside.  At moments like this I realise that my hunger for connection outside of myself often led me astray.  My need to be liked or understood by those who could not hurt me and I also made demands at times out of a needy self that did not know how to hold her own hand.

I am so happy to say that lately these feelings of ‘need’ are dropping away.  I was thinking today of the young child or baby who cries out and when not heard collapses into depression or resignation.  In my own case I am learning to give up and surrender longings I direct toward unavailable sources.  And I have discovered a fundamental truth, that I connect best to those who connect with their inward worlds, something I touched on in a previous post about being an orphan.

Lately, I don’t feel that totally empty, bereft feeling of orphanhood that I did before, I am not making demands to have a different journey or fate than I have.  I will always probably be a loner but the paradox is that in society I connect with others when I see deeper in a way those who are on another plane don’t.  It’s not something that is easy to express and I know there are others out there a lot like me.  I don’t feel as alone in the crowd as I used to because lately I see more of our common humanity.

A fellow blogger helped me a lot a few months ago when I was sharing how I had met with a friend and we hadn’t connected by saying that connections cannot be forced and we cannot will them into being.  Knowing when we are connected and disconnected is important.  For me if I feel disconnected in a certain situation its a sign to retreat and listen to my soul.   I find so much loving connection, too from my blog and through reading the writing and blogs of others,   It’s that joyous moment of pleasure and uplift that comes from being received and ‘got’ and I am so grateful for it.  I am also coming to be more and more grateful for my times of deep solitude which are like a balm to me.  I am beginning to realise all the gifts I have and its okay to be alone, not necessarily a sign of something wrong with us.

I also feel myself separating more and more from my family on the earthly plane.  Deep at a soul level I know we are connected and always will be, but it seems to me I am beginning to be aware of playing a ‘role’ in that family can limit my soul which wants to be freer to breath new life into old past grief filled places.  Its beginning to be a real possibility that I can find a way to live outside of the pain of a past that nearly crushed me and for that I am grateful beyond words.

Your pain : my pain : our pain

I have felt some understanding and realisations deepening over past weeks with all the reading and contemplating I have been engaged with it is that it is through our pain that we are all connected and that through our pain we connect to a deeper spiritual place.  Our joy can connect us too, and there can be a kind of mysterious joy in allowing our pain just to be what it is, so hard to describe in words but felt so deeply in the cells of our body and the marrow of our bones.

I am a strong believer in archetypes and astrology.  Its not purely a head knowledge I feel the energies as planetary energies shift and powerful archetypes are energised and I have watched these forces move through my own life and the deeper understandings I gained help me contain things.  I was discussing archetypes with my therapist yesterday and asking her about them.  They represent universal, collective human experiences that we all undergo and this mirrors what Buddhist teachers say that pain and loss and change are all a part of our human experience, and that it is through developing the capacities of compassion and openness that we build a bridge to each other and to our own hearts. It is something that Christine Neff focuses on in her book on Self Compassion as one of the three aspects of that state.  When we find compassion and depth through our suffering we can extend that to others and recognise our common humanity.

With all the struggle and strife in the world and with the big earth changes going on at present one thing I am noticing is this.  That a rebirth of love is trying to take place on this planet.  We all have our little part to play in being honest and opening up to express our truth and work towards not negating our darker shadowy sides but rather embracing them to bring them to light.  When we find a way to express even our darkest thoughts they have a way of being in the world and no longer are held so much under that cover of darkness and then those who also feel covered in the very human darknesses we can all know at one time or another feel less alone.

My experience is that the dark night of the soul is a very powerful experience.  Many, many of us undergo it.  I am thinking about it again after sharing a lot from Robert Romanyshyn’s book on grief in which he shares of his own dark night of sadness and grief following the sudden death of his wife.  In the beautiful chapter on Mourning that I quoted a little from yesterday he shares about two things that touched me deeply.  The first is how he lived through a deep experience and encounter with the Orphan archetype.  In this experience he felt not only his personal but also a deeply cosmic aloneness,   but mysteriously it was through this that he connected to nature and to other primal energies.

The second thing that touched me so deeply yesterday and moved me to tears was how he shared that in and through his grief and mourning process he connected so deeply and was comforted by animals.  He visited a zoo one day where he engaged deeply with the eyes and consciousness of a silver back gorilla.  During their encouner Robert threw the gorilla an orange on a whim and instead of taking it to eat in the corner, the gorilla threw it back over the fence to him.  Robert threw the orange back to the gorilla and so it went on for several rounds until a harsh voice cried out “don’t feed the animals”.  This broke their magical connection and the gorilla retreated with the orange to the end of his cage.  What Robert writes towards the end of sharing all this moved me so deeply :

I left the zoo and walked out into the city.  The cold, dark, winter afternoon did little to cheer the sadness I felt at having left the gorilla inside.  I was different, changed by that encounter and even more lonely in the midst of the crowded city.  The gorilla had suspended his appetite for a moment.  For the sake of an encounter, he had bridged the immense gap between our worlds.  In his gesture of tossing the orange back to me, he had reached out his hand across an emptiness so vast as to be beyond measure.  Together we had built a tremulous bridge of gestures, and for a brief time we stood on opposite sides of that bridge, connected in a way that seemed to acknowledge in each other a lost kinship.  Even to this day, I know that I will I know thatI will never forget the eyes of my winter companion on that day of long ago.  He had greeted me, and as strange as it might sound, I felt so grateful for that recongition.  But I also felt how far I had come, and howI knew with a deep feeling of sadness that we would remain forever more on opposite side of this bridge, and that at the best moments of my life, I would be able only to stop and linger and turn around to see, once again, what was left behind.  I knew that, and I knew too, that what I saw before the spell was broken was his sadness for me.

For some reason those final words undo me.  So much of our pain of grief or during the dark night can lie in a failure of the human world’s sensitivity to the deep level of our pain and distress we feel so unseen and unknown and often rejected when others find our pain ‘too much’.  I have felt recognised in very similar ways my own dog, Jasper when his deep limpid pools of eyes look at me with the same deep sadness and recognition at times and also undone by the way when I am really struggling or sad with repressed pain or sadness he will come and sit patiently by my side, just to be with me while I cry.  That simple gesture of care and concern undoes me in a way I cannot fully explain.  It fills an empty vacancy in both my heart and soul when I feel so very far from human aid and care.  At these times I am in the orphaned state, it is a kind of deep spiritual orphanness that I am feeling, and I cannot help but feel that Jasper understands just like the gorilla did.  Do animals feel compassion for us humans who can be so lost sometimes, driven so far from nature and deeper connection?  I believe they do.

I want to share more about the Orphan later as I work through Romanyshn’s book.  I am only half way through that chapter because I feel that Orphans do connect with other Orphans.  We recognise each other implicitly, those of us who have known that deep soul abandonment or betrayal of the world connect and we know the profound emptiness that can come from pain, many of us also resonate deeply with and connect with the profoundly spiritual in nature and animals.

It is through sharing about this with each other that we can and do connect and in a small way bridge that deeper disconnection that hounds us.   In this way I feel that for all our suffering in some way we are far richer than those who at this time in the world would rather turn a blind eye towards deeper truths, pains, losses and abandonments.

The zookeeper put paid to the beautiful exchange between Robert R and the gorilla on that afternoon with a few words, putting the focus on human ‘rules’ and it was sad for both of them.  We do have the gift of both animals and nature to help us in our abandonment, orphanhood and the deep isolation we undergo after losses or during the dark night.  We can use these gifts to deepen our isolation into a richer soulful solitude through which we can connect both to the heart and soul of our inner worlds, of the universe and of each other.

Core trauma and core sentences : addressing carried ancestral or parental trauma and pain.

Many of us have core thoughts or beliefs, often fuelled by past pain, losses, trauma or fear which run over and over like an ongoing monologue either at the level or just below the level of consciousness.  We may not be fully aware of them.  We may not be fully aware of where they come from.  Not knowing our parents or grand parents or great grand parent’s history (about which they often remained silent) we may not realise that they actually relate back to something – a loss, trauma, illness or injury that happened in past generations.  They may then fuel our lives in painful ways causing much havoc.

This blog is a continuation of earlier ones I wrote last week on the subject of ancestral healing  Its something I became aware of in my own life through intuition as I learned more about past traumas on my mothers’s side of the family after I got sober in 1993.  I was aware when I began to attend Al Anon after many years in AA that my addiction was a family inheritance, something passed down in some way.  It wasn’t until I was given access by chance to information about my great great grandfather’s history of addiction, loss, grief and eventual abandonment that I began to join up some of the dots.  That is why I was so excited to finally read Mark Wolynn’s book on ancestral pain and healing It Didn’t Start With You last week.  

In an early chapter of his book, Mark tells the story of a young (19 year old man) called Jesse who at that age suddenly began to experience panic attacks which involved his body feeling covered with cold and shaking.  On exploring the family history Mark found out that Jesse had an uncle who died at the age of 19 after falling down face first in the snow.  Jesse at the same age of his uncle’s trauma was re-experiencing the symptoms and emotional as well as physical pain of his uncle. Once the connection to his ancestor’s pain was acknowledged and healing work was done to make a separation Jesse’s symptoms and panic attacks subsided.

The second story Mark tells of a woman who began to feel suicidal at a certain age.  She would be overcome with the worst depression and say to herself “I just want to incinerate myself”.  Turns out a host of her relatives had actually been gassed in the gas chambers by the Nazi’s during World War II.   The family history was hidden and never spoken of but this woman carried the painful feelings of longing to die which hit around the age some of her relatives were killed.

There are too many other powerful stories of healing in Mark’s book to relate in this one post and I have a limit tonight on what I can transcribe.  What I would like to address is that so often pain we carry may not only be ours.   It may have roots in childhood but often the childhood relates in some way to the past of a parent or grandparent that was transferred.  According to Mark if the there is a murder or other legacy of guilt in a family a later member may be urged to attone for that guilt or murder.

What is required to free ourselves from such unconscious repetition compulsions and carried ancestral trauma bonds is the ability to honour the ancestor’s pain and give the guilt or grief back to whom it belongs.   To this end Mark suggests the following ways of handing back and releasing ourselves from ancestral pain so we no longer need to carry on the unhappiness, grief or guilt that didnt start with us.

Visualise the family member or members involved in the (traumatic) event.  Tell them : “You are important.  I will do something meaningful to honor you.  I will make something good come out of this tragedy.  I will live my life as fully as I can, knowing that this is what you want for me.”

Construct a personal language or healing sentences to counteract the destructive power of damaging ones.  In this language acknowledge the unique connection you share with the person or people.

In addition you can use the following healing sentences :

“Instead of reliving what happened to you, I promise to live my life fully.”

“What happened to you won’t be in vain.”

“I will use what happened as a source of strength.”

“I will honor the life you gave me by doing something good with it.”

“I will do something meaningful and dedicate it to you.”

“I will not leave you out of my heart.”

“I’ll light a candle for you.”

“I’ll live my life in a loving way.”

“I will make something good come out of this tragedy.”

“Now I understand.  It helps me to understand.”

Mark give additional practices in the next part of the book which involve keeping a photo and working to return guilt or pain to its original source. Lighting candles to honor the journey of our ancestors,  Visualising and creating boundaries and distance between the ancestor’s or parent’s pain and keeping that boundary clear and clean while honoring their loss, pain or trauma.

Additional practices involve connecting with our own bodies to honour our integrity and self as we learn to achieve a psychic wholeness and deepening connection within.  I shared one of these in an earlier post today.  The involve putting a hand on our body, breathing deeply while saying the following :

“I’ve got you.”

“I’m here.”

“I’ll hold you.”

“I’ll breathe with you.”

“I’ll comfort you.”

“Whenever you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed, I won’t leave you.”

“I’ll stay with you.”

“I’ll breathe with you until you are calm.”

When we place our hands on our body and direct our words and breath inside, we support the parts of ourselves that feel most vulnerable.  In doing so, we have a chance to erase or release what we experience as intolerable.  Long standing feelings of discomfort can give way to feelings of expansion and well-being.  As the new feelings take root, we can experience ourselves being more supported in our body.

Such ways of being with our selves and supporting our bodies provide for us a holding environment and counter act dissociation or an attempt to move away and self reject or self abandon.  We may never have learned this way of coping or self soothing before but now we can.  We truly can be present for us and send our own body all the love, support, comfort and healing we need for our journey of separating from old pain we should not have to carry onward.

In touch with ourselves

Eternity

Just after I post a post on my blog I often find there comes into my mind a contrary view.  It could be something to do with the way I view the world, constantly questioning views and looking to see what lies on the other side.  In my last post I spoke about consistent loving emotional presence as an antidote to the agony, trauma, pain and suffering of BPD.  But after posting it I had a thought how the deepest connection we really need at any moment is to the compassionate wise loving self inside, that can so often be obscured by the inner critic and demoniser that lives inside painting everything black.

I had a really healing day with my Mum yesterday. I took her to the shops so she could buy a card for a friend’s 90th birthday.  We just strolled around a little as its hard for Mum to walk these days and then we sat down at the cafe in our local centre and had a piece of sour cherry and almond loaf with a juice.  We spoke of so many things.  I held her hand, I cried, I felt all the pain of our past and all we had lived through conflicts and fears as well as struggles and tears but also love.   I then drove her home and did some pottering in my garden.  My sleep was not too long in coming and it was deep with a few short break awakenings which is not how it has been over the past few nights where I woke up feeling swollen with undigested feelings and food on the days I connected with no one.

When I woke I thought of how in his book Mark Wolynn speaks of connecting to ourselves by placing a hand on our heart and just saying “I am here”.  I awake every morning with startle PTSD symptoms of push pull with body sensations that would be too complex to explain here but this morning instead when I woke up I just put my hand on my heart and said to myself “I am here”  “I will never leave you.”

I felt better and got up and slowly pottered around the house and garden, did some cleaning.  I had my juice and fruit and then wrote two blogs and then had eggs on toast.  I got to thinking after I posted my last post on needing someone there 24/7i healing from emotional abandonment how the one person who can be there for us 24/7 is actually us.  We can learn to be the unconditional loving presence we need in our own lives.  We can take that burden off of others.  We can find a source of joy to connect to on any day, whether it is music or a song we like to sing, or to looking a thing of beauty or reading an inspiring post.  We can make our life happy and content from within.  But only after we have processed any past pain that stands in our way.  And for this we initially need another person’s unconditional loving presence to teach us how to do that and be there for ourselves in a loving way no longer so beseiged by an attacking destructive inner critic.

When we feel this connection from within our emptiness disappears.  The emptiness we feel in certain conditions is actually for many of us a signal of a past life in which we were not connected to emotionally and so could not feel filled up or ‘real’.  We need to heal that deep disconnection and find a way to connect emotionally from within so that emptiness is no longer a source of pain but a place in which we can explore depths of our souls best known in silence and later able to be shared with others.  The deepest connection we long for is really deep inside us.

The mother wound we carry

I wanted to share the following excerpt from Mark Wolynn’s excellent book on inherited family trauma : It Didn’t Start With You.   It is one of the most important books I have ever read, just sad I heard about it over 2 years ago and only just bought it.  What he shares of his own experience and understanding with healing multigenerational trauma in both his own life and lives of his clients is nothing short of remarkable.  He also uses the latest research conducted into epigenetics to support his claims showing how early stress and lack of nurture affects our neurological structure even in the womb, as well as how inherited trauma of a grandparent or great grandparent can be carried and communicated even along paternal (as well as maternal) streams of inheritance.  It is changing the way I am thinking about my own mother nurturance wound and the addiction that grew out of it.

To put it simply, we receive aspects of our grandmother’s mothering through our own mother.  The traumas our grandmothers endured, her pains and sorrows, her difficulties in childhood or with our grandfather, the losses of those she loved who died early – these filter, to some degree, into the mothering she gave our mother.  If we look back another generation, the same would likely be true about the mothering our grandmother received.

The particulars of the events that shaped their lives may be obscured from our vision, but nevertheless, the impact of those particulars can be deeply felt.  It’s not only what we inherit from our parents but also how they were parented that influences how we relate to a partner, how we relate to ourselves, and how we nurture our children.  For better or worse, parents tend to pass on the parenting they themselves received.

These patterns appear to be hardwired into the brain, and begin to be formed before we’re even born  How our mother bonds with us in the womb is instrumental in the development of our neural circuitry.  Thomas Verney says, “From the moment of our conception, the experience in the womb shapes the brain and lays the groundwork for personaltity, emotional temperament, and the power of higher thought.”  Like a blueprint, these patterns are transmitted more than learned.

The first nine months outside the womb function as a continuation of the neural development that occurs within the womb.  Which neural circuits remain, which are discarded, and how the remaining circuits will be organised depend on how the infant experiences and interacts with the mother or caregiver.  It’s through these early reactions that a child continues to establish a blueprint for managing emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

When a mother (or father) carried inherited trauma, or has experienced a break in the bond with her mother (or father), it can affect the tender bond that’s forming with her infant, and that bond is more likely to be interrupted.  The impact of an early break in the mother – child bond – an extended hospital stay, an ill timed vacation, a long term separation – can be devastating for an infant.  The deep, embodied familiarity of the mother’s smell, feel, touch, sound, and taste – everything the child has come to know and depend on – is suddenly gone.

“Mother and offspring live in a biological state that has much in common with addiction,” says behaviour science writer Winifred Gallagher.  “When they are parted, the infant does not just miss its’ mother, it experiences a physical and psychological withdrawal… not unlike the plight of a heroin addict that goes cold turkey.”  This analogy helps to explain why all newborn mammals, including humans protest with such vigour when they are separated from their mothers.  From an infant’s perspective, a separation from mother can be felt as “life threatening.” says Dr, Raylene Philips, a neonatologist at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.   “If separation continues for a prolonged period,” she says, “the… response is despair….  The baby gives up.”

In my early life, I knew that feeling of giving up.  It came from my family.  What my mother didn’t get from her mother affected what she was able to give to me and to my sibling.  Although I could always feel her love shine through, much of her mothering was infused with the traumas in our family history – specifically the fact that her mother, Ida, lost both of her parents when she was two.

Orphaned at two, my grandmother was raised by her elderly grandparents, who earned a living peddling rags from a pushcart in the Hill District in Pittsburgh.  My grandmother adored her grand parents, and often lit up with she shared memories about how much they loved her.  But that was only part of the story – the part she could consciously remember.  A deeper story lay beneath her reach.

Before Ida was a toddler, perhaps even in the womb, she would have absorbed the sensations of her mother’s distress caused by the constant arguing, the tears and disappo8ntmets.  All this would have had a profound effect on the crucial neural development taking place in Ida’s brain.  Then, losing her mother at age two would leave her emotionally shattered.

It’s not only that my mother was raised by an orphan who couldn’t give her the nurturing she never got from her mother, my mother also inherited the visceral trauma of Ida’s separation from her mother at an early age.  Although Ida was present physically in my mother’s life, she was unable to express the depth of emotion that would support my mother’s life.  That missing emotional connection also became part of my mothers’ inheritance.

….

In order to end the cycle of inherited trauma in my family, and ultimately for my own healing, I realised that I needed to heal my relationship with my mother.  I knew I couldn’t change what had happened in the past, but I certainly could change the relationship we had now.

My mother had inherited her mother’s stress patterns, and so did I.  She would often clutch her chest and complain about feelings of agitation in her body.  I realise now that she was unconsciously reliving the fear and loneliness that rippled through our family, the terror of being separated from the one she needed most – her mother.

There is much more to the story of family patterns Mark inherited and finally uncovered and discovered after a long journey of seeking outside for answers to his own psychological anxiety and trauma issues.   Reading his account has made so much sense to me of the symptoms of separation anxiety I experience at exactly the time of day my own grandmother, widowed in her early 30s, left my own mother (aged 8) alone to go and clean offices.  The two times of day were 4 to 8 pm and in the early hours of the am.  These are the times of day I experience my own anxiety/panic issues.  I had a growing sense developing in later months that what I was experiencing at those times was not mine alone, that it didn’t start with me.  And that was the exact time of day I had my head trauma injury in 2005 a year after my husband and I separated as I ran from him and my mother out of fear they would not support me in my own deep grief which I now know relates to a mother separation wound going back 4 generations.

Mark’s evidence and experience of his own and in his clients life (which I will share more remarkable examples of in a following post) backs up my own.  His work with inherited family patterns is so important that I am going to make it focus of my following posts.  This is important knowledge so many of us need to have, in order to heal and end deeply entrenched patterns of emotional blindness, ignorance and blame that keep us separated from a profound psychological understanding.

Separating : birthing : integrating

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Its such a tough journey to finally get to the point where we have to let our families go in order to birth the true life and connections that exist outside of its circumscribed limits.  Therapy and emotional healing is a process of both coming to terms with and integrating all of the formative experiences of our past, as well as the deeper hurts and injuries that happened to us in our family of origin.   Many of us battle for a long time against accepting harsh realties most especially if we were wounded or suffered developmental arrests and lost access to our True Self within over many years.  Abandonment gives us no way of accessing the truth of the lost self except through pain which is challenging to feel and integrate, especially in a society where pain is seen as a pathology or illness to be medicated instead of mined for wisdom, growth, connection and meaning.

In my own case a developmental arrest occurred at 17 when I should have been on the brink of opening up and launching.  I was cut down by an accident and then in the 6 years that followed the following traumas occurred : the cerebral bleed, coma and eventual psychosis of my older sister, her eventual abandonment and suicide attempt, two terminations of pregnancy and then my father’s death from cancer.  After my boyfriend broke the relationship off with me just a few weeks after my father died and cancelled our plans to meet abroad, something I had been working and saving towards for over 18 months my mother then decided it was best to push me overseas all alone.

How I was meant to cope with everything I had suffered to that point God only knows. And the truth is its deeper suffering was not even begun to be felt by me for about 14 more years.  I call those the years of unconscious descent, as 7 of them involved active addiction and the next 7 were just spent in AA meetings where it was really not possible to address the extent of my damage.   In 1999 I made my first attempt at therapy and here it is 18 years later and I only feel that I have now done the majority of my conscious descent, which had involved a lot of therapy and broken therapies in order to find the right help.

I only now feel that I am beginning to separate from my family emotionally.  The paradox is that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the suffering fully, in fact I feel it means I feel it at the deepest level as I have chosen not to self medicate as much as possible.  At times I have been very close to suicide, most especially in the past 6 years spent back here in my home town.  I beat myself up all the time about how I didn’t have the courage to move away and deal with it from a distance.  Maybe it was partly the illusion of the inner child pulling me back making me believe that in some way I would get what I wanted emotionally or at least be able to address the pain with family.  That illusion has caused me a lot of emotional suffering and has cost me years and the pain over all that lost life honestly on some days nearly drives me to want to take my life.  It is taking a long time for adult me to emerge and front up, and face the death of those old longings which I see now are not realistic and never were really.  There is a lot of grieving to be done in the shedding and the letting go and fear I am becoming aware does accompany the conscious descent that is asked of us.  In fact I read many years ago that poet Robert Bly spoke of how depression is a refusal on some level often to surrender to deeper grief work.  Only through it do we reunite with the lost child in side who holds so much of our power and inner gold, although often when we find him or her, he or she is most often covered in soot and ashes, this unparented one who is often also a part of our parents’ unconscious.

Anyway I am certainly not alone in facing this kind of pain in midlife.  My journey is made more complex due to two near death traumas which pulled me back when I was on the brink of what should have been a blossoming and emerging or burgeoning time.  My studies suffered in the years following my first accident as I also struggled with the terrible impact of witnessing what my older sister went through.  I was forced by my father at that point into a career I hated and it wasn’t until just before I got sober that I tried to break out of that but addiction wouldn’t let me move too far forward and at that time even more traumas and losses had piled on top of the original ones.

I eventually did manage to do some training in wholistic therapies and managed to secure myself a few jobs in an industry that was more to my liking but I hadn’t yet done my inner work, instead I chose to escape into marriage.   In those years I got sober and started then to really explore my interest in astrology and in 2001 managed to achieve a dream to study at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London which I aborted when my older sister who was now in a care home hit the wall. I also started serious therapy in 1999 in the UK but mid way through I had a powerful dream that an dark African woman had given birth to a baby who died just after its first birthday.  About a year and a half into therapy I aborted to come back home.  In the dream the deep sad eyes of the woman shone as she told me it was a necessary death.

And so it has been.  Death and more death followed.  The ending of marriage, another accident and then another, another relationship and the failing of that and my eventual return to the roots of my home and then a new start in therapy, the suicide attempt of my other sister, five hospitalisations for her for depression which I tried to give emotional support through and then the death of my older sister in 2014 and reconnection with my nephews her sons who were like my long lost brothers.

Wiser energy comes now on a spring afternoon where shadows begin to fall telling me it was all a part of the journey. Why beat myself up?  Will I ever fully leave my family behind?  They were the womb I was born out of but not the place that I am meant to end up but individuation is a journey and its not an easy birth to go through it all and in so many ways my own life is both a continuation of my ancestors life as well as a working out of issues and burdens and tasks they perhaps never got to complete fully which call to me from deep within intercellular tissue, at least that is how it feels for me. Even the ones I never met call to me and I feel their pain and deeper longing to be known and recognised, no longer so lost, exiled or forgotten, fallen deep down into the collective unconscious ocean like stones.  Possibly all configured by my natal Neptune in the third trine to Chiron in Pisces in the seventh more than I could ever fully express in words here.

So much to navigate and not all of it artificial imagining I am sure.  So I continue on some days weighed down so deep by a burden I never chose, but then on other days rising again with a new energy and power that has come from facing and surrendering myself body and soul to the deepest darkness.  So much is a mystery that is all I know.  So many unseen forces play out for us and we can never fully hope to solve the puzzle with our minds but if we still enough at times we hear the inner voice or call telling us things.  Our personal and ancestral soul trying so hard to make its authentic individual voice and inner purpose known.

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