Thinking about my sister : some reflections

It’s quiet painful at times not seeing my sister who is still in psychiatric care still, but it would be just as challenging possibly seeing her.. I recall how when in her darkest moments she would cling to me like I was a life raft with a silent pleading to help her, to stop the pain but no matter how I told the doctors or my nephews that something other than drugs was needed no body seemed to hear. And that Christmas at the coast where they were laughing so callously at Robbie Williams newly sober and struggling with his weight, I got so triggered I stormed out only to later return collapsing crying as my brother in law looked on in some kind of regret.

It was not easy being the only sober one, but far better than being medicated. Even though I still struggle so much with feeling safe in my body and endure those cascades trying to manage alone at least I am not in care and yet it sometimes seems I cannot rest. Its a free life, never the less, I can cook and clean and get out walking and engage in life if I choose, in a way my sister no longer can..

When I talk to our Mum’s closest friend who was there and tried to be there for my sister, but not possibly in the way she needed we both feel sad for the wasted life.. My sister had that brief spurt of being able to function from October 2019 to July 2020, she sold the place she was forced into by family after other hospitalisations and collapses and moved into Mum’s unit but that did not work well for her.. She was still so enmeshed and there must have been so many emotions she was finding it hard to deal with and then the issue of one son who tried to help but so often seemed to cause her a lot more problems…

My way was to run on or away independently. As the youngest I went off alone anyway after Dad died.. I had no one but a lot of brief affairs, often with wounded men.. the exception being a lovely man called Tony Cooper born on the same day as me I met in Greece the following summer who saw I was drinking too much and wanted to help me. In time I got involved with someone else from the land of my ancestors migration, New Zealand who had commitment issues and then dumped again. I just never knew how to make sensible choices around men, possibly because I had not yet begun to deal with Dad’s emotional distance and early death or yet began to arrest my addiction to drugs and alcohol..

There are things you can only learn about yourself by living through and making so many mistakes if you have attachment trauma.. I am often the one rejecting dependency and then getting involved on the unhealthy end.. I truly do not know either what it is to be supported or let others take their own burdens on.. I step in too impulsively and then it all derails.. Its such an enormous juggling act. And something else about co-dependency occurred to me during my last therapy session with Katina where I was crying and crying over feeling so defective and broken that so often I find it hard to own what is beautiful, good, true and ‘right’ in me.. And apparently that is a very strong sign of having had emotional abandonment and neglect shown towards ones true self. Taking my own needs and longings seriously instead of dissing them is taking me a lot of time.

Any way in my blog all I can show to the world is this mixed up self of mine. I know I have no answers… Having the chiropractic done has not made things better I ended up wetting and shitting myself in bed last night.. I was swallowing pineapple and brazil nuts and magnesium and tumeric with cardamon with lemon juice and ginger about 12 pm after waking from a brief sleep in which I could not get up to wee fast enough it as later I lost some of my bowel but had on some pads and it was not too bad.. but it is so hard trying to manage all of this that relates back the gut brain link and so many emotional and ancestral issues around my head injury.

God knows the body is a mysterious thing.. I had a very powerful dream before waking at 7.30 am. I was back on a very long strip of deserted beach and it seemed to be a metaphor for how it was to be in that last relationship when I ended up all alone at the coast house after the second head injury derailed my attempt to move back overseas.. My ex husband was telling me to go home and I had no support at all. I went to an ashram in the end and then a B and B for a while but it all got a bit much.. I did make some lovely spiritual friends then some of whom I still keep in touch with.. and I did things my free spirit loved like dancing and chanting and being in nature at the beautiful Challis Wells gardens in Glastonbury where I had so many visions of Christ.. I also used to love going to the small Magdalene Church there where people would leave prayers and wishes scattered over a simple altar.. it was there my ex husband told me in October 2005 he had met someone else and so I went home ending up in complete isolation at the house Dad built 7 years before he died

It was there in March 2007 that I met Phil and he made me feel I was too much of everything he did not like and wounded in my capacity to support his dreams. But what of my own? Why were my feelings always such a nuisance.. It hurt a lot he hurt me so much and I tried I kept trying each time he told me something was wrong I tried not to be that but in the end who can erase themselves for love. its a strange thing but in the dream last night around the deserted dunes so like the ones in the isolated surfing spots he used to take us both during the years 2007 to 2010 I thought I had lost the keys to my car but when I checked my jacket pocket they were in the right side.. That may be an indicator of what Kat said to me about my growth in therapy that the toxic inner critic/saboteur is not derailing me as much as Phil was the outward manifestation of that force in my life from 2007 to early 2011 when we finally broke up.

Scott often says to me that the person who does not love you as you are and wants to change you into someone else will leave you as soon as they find that person.. But the problem was not that Phil did not love me as I was, it was that I DID NOT LOVE MYSELF ENOUGH TO SAY A BIG FAT NO TO ABUSE.

I listened yesterday to a newly published talk by Eckhart Tolle on not nourishing grievances with ex partners.. I can truly say I now know why I was treated that way by someone who refused therapy but told me I needed it. In the end maybe it was better for him to blame me.. and I am sure, at times, I was not immune to blaming him either.. it was not meant to last and it was fated to be as the astrological signifactors of our meeting time showed in both our charts.. On this life journey by some kind of weird happenstance we seem to be drawn to just those souls we need to work out our issues. And there is comfort in that.

I feel better for writing this… I did manage to get up and out and then back… I had a very simple breakfast and early lunch and experienced a lot of storming and writing and panic and crying but its only a week until Mercury goes direct and anxiety does build towards the stationing periods both forward and back. 6 of June is the date I met Jonathan in 1993, it is the date of my great great grandmother’s birthday and it only took 6 months out of meeting Jonathan for me to get sober on 6 December 1993.

Tough as my life is and as much as I feel for a sister who never took the 12 step pathway I guess I also know the distance I began to take from September last year in endlessly visiting the hospital only to walk away crying each time has been necessary.. Before that I was running around doing so much for her to help that never seemed to address the deeper wounds only she could work though and who is to say she is not doing that in her own Piscean way.. This Mercury retrograde began squaring both my sister Sue’s and my father’s Mars at 5 degrees of Sagittarius as it co-joined her Sun Venus conjunction in Pisces and my Mum’s Mars in Pisces also at 4 degrees. My sister keep so much inside of her like my father.. who had the triple conjunction of Sun Saturn and Mercury in the deeply internalized gut sign of Virgo.. his cancer appeared there and it took him very suddenly in 1985. My sister has battled breast cancer twice.

All I can do is pray and send her love.. much as we struggle with those of our own blood who so deeply hurt us at times we also love them just because they are flesh of our flesh. As multi-generational trauma therapist Mark Wolynn notes : to turn our backs on that flow of love never led me anywhere good. In the end I am no longer a little child while still having a very deep part of me that is the inner child of both past and present.. The pain over the longing to be seen is something, that in the end only I, as an emotionally awakening adult can learn ways to effectively manage.

Seeing a magical world

As children we were just open to wonder but sadly so much can happen in those early formative years to shut this down and if we had a depressed or anxious parent that would in some way be communicated to us.

As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us in his book Fear many of our parents knew famines, wars and other kinds of trauma, struggles to survive, loss of parents and siblings and just a host of challenges all of which leave their imprints lodged within our DNA.

Gabor Mate a Canadian oncologist from Hungary who has worked a lot with addicts to stop the demonization of their survival responses shares in some of his talks about how, as a baby, he picked up with all the other babies the distress happening at that time in his world, a world on the brink of war. We absorb all of this as young ones but never give it a second thought.. If someone is diagnosed as BPD or bi polar how many psychiatrists do a family history, checking for the incident of addiction or other losses and treating from there before reaching for the meds? In one of the facilities where my sister was doing time over many months one of the psyche nurses was just as disordered as the patients in terms of early childhood trauma (I knew her from Al Anon but was supposed to keep that ‘a secret’) and it interests me that this nurse was not liked by my sister but really they had so much in common. How sad.

John Bradshaw was one of the first men in recovery to start addressing the impact of childhood, child rearing and toxic shame as well as shame bound emotions in those in recovery.. His many excellent books such as Healing The Shame That Binds You, Homecoming, and Creating Love address what happens to us at every stage of development and how our magical soul filled child is shut down in all kinds of ways.

Now when I get out in the mornings with Jasper, it is so lovely to connect to other adults not as shut down as both of my parents were.. My parents did not have much of a sense of fun when we grew up, I have shared in numerous posts before about the ‘runnning on empty’ syndrome in my family (link below to the work of Jonice Webb on this condition), it was all about work, work, work but in this way I am also beginning to understand the maybe my Dad felt alone living with Mum as she chose to work 9 to 5.30 four days a week, 9 to 9 on Fridays and 9 to 12 on Saturdays.. Maybe on some level Dad enjoyed this. He could get into the garden or play his music without Mum running around in a perfectionistic spin whipping things into a frenzy with her OCD panics all a legacy of being a neglected adult grandchild of an alcoholic.

My Mum’s best friend told me on Wednesday that Mum never visited Dad at the office and when she started showing up there after Dad died my sister in law got the shits she was so ‘needy’ making a comment about how now she needed to learn to stand on her own two feet.. This from a woman whose own mother died when she was only young and learned never to face the pain, but hate all of our family for who we were. I do understand why on some level, when she met my brother in around 1967 at the restaurant and came to live with us Mum was insulted that she kept herself separate from us reading up the back under the tree. I was too young to remember a lot of this and already traumatized by my beloved older sister marrying and then when Mum read her diaries and confronted her about an abortion she ended up making an enemy for life.

What a mixed up family of emotional turmoil deeply buried and submerged I was buried into.

My sister in law was nice to me when young though, she gave me a lot of books and later in life told me to get as far away from my Mum as I could after Jonathan left, the problem being Mum needed support and so did my older sister who by that stage was so damaged from her aneurysm and marriage detonating 3 years later when she tried to take her life.

Today I know all of that pain seeped into me as a child just as it did for Gabor Mate as a baby and that I NO LONGER NEED TO CARRY SADNESS THAT IS NOT MINE.. That said I need to give a voice in my poetry as it says something about the hidden legacy of my ancestors that I give voice to through Neptunian forms such as poetry.

Today I can be around people, slowly risk vulnerability and opening myself and gain joy from that. Earlier Jasper and I ran into a lovely couple in the park we go to whose little dog Harry jumped around and chased him as we conversed.. How super nice to be connected and to have my heart open.

Today I can see a magical universe and I am grateful.. I do not think I ‘chose’ this family, I think it’s just evolution really, this idea of us choosing things, it does not tie in with a lot of epigenetic research.. We are woven from fate and then have the choice to become more conscious but to do that we often have to find the way to negotiate what is hidden in the shadows.

On the brink of the Moon growing larger in reflected light from the Sun (at the moment it is sitting at about 4 degrees of Libra) as it moves towards fullness I can reflect (Moon opposing Sun) on my relationships (Venus and Libra) and how difficult it was for me to emerge as a separate individual (Mars and Sun, Aries and Leo) within them.. And slowly through my therapy, poetry and ancestral unwinding I am. For that I am so so so so so grateful as well as for my sobriety which happened when my planet of wounding and healing Chiron in Pisces as well as first house Pluto in the opposing sign of Virgo was transited.. Despite later injuries that occurred as I repeated the old family pattern of going back and forward to the land of my ancestors and despite any pain and anger I may feel around my family’s distance and disengagement emotionally on some level I can accept it.. The issue of Mum’s ashes did trigger me this week but then our family just choose to disconnect and its not conscious in them at all

And after all, there was a time I too, struggled to open up and so many times I needed a hug but was only told to go away.. So very far away, or else just took myself away due to feeling so very rejected misattunted to or never empathized with at all.. In the end my family are probably just not capable of that, it is up to me as an adult to embrace the inner child and also make sense of what may have happened to my ancestors to make their own beings filled with so much anxiety.. After all it was such a battle for them coming out of a past where so much was lost and where in they were fighting just as hard as they possibly could to survive.

On Immaturity and showing empathy to the Inner Child of self and others

I am getting more insight into when my inner child with her host of unresolved hopes and fears and pain is running the show lately.  My abandonment wound has been triggered a lot in the past few days and it was easier to give away my power or alternatively become the ‘bad’ one again who is ‘withholding’ than to recognise that due to discomfort I am scrambling again for attention and love when contact is cut due to someone being upset with me because I am justifiably struggling with something.

I just know when I act from my inner adult I feel a greater sense of strength and solidity within myself and that requires recognising the far younger more vulnerable part that lies hidden or covered by defences.  It can be painful when abandonment anxiety and depression strike as both create in my body and psyche so often a potent chemical cocktail that at times pushes me to the brink of available resources to contain.

Pete Walker addresses the issue of the ‘abandonment depression’  a lot in his own work and book on Complex PTSD.  Much as all as it can feel hard to be left ‘all alone’, I have heard it said that in adulthood we cannot be abandoned by someone, only left.  That said I do think there are times our emotions need to be empathised with and understood by friends, family and partners otherwise if we are judged for certain things and not empathised with, on one level we are abandoned on an emotional level.

It’s an issue Alain de Botton addresses in his wonderful book The Course of Love which tells the story of a mythical couple Rabih and Kirsten in which he delves into the host of insecurities and psychological defences that can plague a couple’s intimate relationships as it develops over a course of years.  In the book the tale of the relationship iw told in normal type face is interspersed with sections in italics in which de Botton highlights the underground issues affecting the couple.  I particularly enjoyed the following paragraphs.

We would ideally remain able to laugh, in the gentlest way, when we are made the special target of a sulker’s fury.  We would recognise the touching paradox.  The sulker may be six foot one and holding down adult employment, but the real message is poignantly retrogressive : ‘Deep inside, I remain an infant, and right now I need you to be my parent.  I need you to correctly guess what is ailing me, as people did (or rather failed to do) when I was a baby, when my ideas of love first formed.

We do our sulking lovers the greatest possible favour when we are able to regard their tantrums as we would those of an infant.  We are so alive to the idea that it’s patronising to be thought of as younger than we are, we forget that it is also, at times, the greatest privilege for someone to look beyond our adult self in order to engage with – and forgive – the disappointed, furious, inarticulate child within.

In a more evolved world, one a little more alive to the Greek ideal of love, we would perhaps know how to be a bit less clumsy, scared and aggressive when wanting to point something out, and rather less combative and sensitive when receiving feedback.  The concept of education within a relationship would then lose some of its unnecessarily eerie and negative connotations.  We would accept that in responsible hands, both projects, teaching and being taught (in love), calling attention to another’s faults and letting ourselves be critiqued – might after all be loyal to the true purpose of love.

There is something about love and vulnerability and hidden need that can cause us to age regress and be taken back to that painful time we stood all alone longing for the attention and love that was not available due to the absence, withdrawal or inattention of others, so much needed for us to feel hold, loved, contained and seen.   Learning to hold ourselves in this state takes some considerable time for those of us with anxious and/or avoidant attachment issues.   Its a work in progress being honest with ourselves, learning to extend ourselves in empathy into another hidden world and letting the unhealed child that so longs for attention or consideration been seen, held, accepted, nurtured and loved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

A soft heart : reflections on attachment, grief and inherited ancestral trauma

I am realising after the past few months of Mars retrograde how often I feel attacked or respond out of a sense of attack when abandonment wounds or fears are triggered.  Instead of staying in my soft heart I tend to go on the attack and be quite defensive and this ends up actually pushing away the very love and understanding I need at times.  I harden my heart and can feel an accumulated backlog of frustration and anger from past unresolved needs.  However as I learn to listen to and comfort my inner child more its easier to enter a more adult mind set offering that little one or sore spot inside me love but not letting her act it out on others too violently.   After this I find it is easier to go and speak to others about how I felt, what they did and what I needed and luckily with my new friend, Scott he understands through using emotional intelligence how I felt inside and doesn’t shame me for reacting the way I did and so I am feeling more healing.

As I shared over past days I did react and things I said, I noticed have made him withdraw a little bit.  Its understandable.  He was contacting me less because he said he was scared or hurting me or waking me at night, but when I told him that isn’t want I needed or even asked for, what I really need is to be connected with it was easier for him to understand.  This latest tussle has  helped me to see before how other friendships suffered when I had a strong outburst and others were not willing to fully empathise or understand.  Some friends just backed off and then have another go which I really appreciate since they understood I was reacting that way for a very good reason.

Today I cried a lot at the softness and tenderness that is opening up between Scott and I and inside my own heart towards my own past pain.  I had a good inner dialogue with my inner child this morning and what I learned form it was that as a child I never really learned how to get along with, communicate my needs to or interact with others.   My parents were always busy with work and too tired to give any emotional support whatever.  I was left alone most days after school with no one after my second sister left home and even before that she resented taking care of her baby sis after a certain point and I was on the receiving end of a lot of bullying and harshness.  Then at 13 I went into the family business where I had to perform and be serious.  It wasn’t much of a childhood or adolescence.  It was a real Saturn Moon childhood where I learned to depress my feelings emotions and needs.

In addition home was not a relaxed environment due to Mars conjunct Moon.  Mum carried a lot of inherited adult grand child of alcoholic survival behaviours and was never cuddled or nurtured.  By an act of ancestral synchronicity she was sent to work at 13 to into domestic service to live with a family in another suburb of our home town which she hated.  Her and my father were kind to each other but Mum was a non stop dynamo who never really could relax.  She had OCD as far as the home was concerned.  We were not allowed to play until all chores where done and we had taken care of all of our responsibilities. Sadly too my Dad died before he and Mum never got to have the play time they anticipated ‘one day’ when they had achieved financial stability, security and success.  Things began to fall apart due to this driven schedule from 1979 on wards starting with my near death NDA and my sister’s cerebral aneurysm.

I have been shedding a lot of tears this morning.  I am sitting here wearing one of my mother’s tops and thinking of our complex relationship which has taken me years of sobriety and emotional recovery to navigate.  Its just over 8 months now since she died and the old wound of her being more involved in her work is replaying with Scott who is caught up in a very dangerous and hectic life over seas at the moment.   This morning after my breakfast and bath I just cried, hopefully he may be out of there in a few weeks, if not its going to be around March next year and I fear for his life every single day, though he always tells me my prayers are keeping him safe.  Still its interesting to me that this is the man I attracted and that I had lessons of love to learn here with him in terms of the way I react and what is triggered from my past.  I am just grateful I have so many more tools now at my disposal.

Speaking of which I just bought another wonderful book by Stan Tatkin, PsyD on attachments and relationships  Wired for Love : How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Hep You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship. 
A book.jpg

He explains how we are wired to react from the primitive parts of our brain which are geared for survival but how other parts of our higher brain functions (which he calls The Ambassadors) can be engaged when we observe this happening and notice our reactions in the context of close one on one relationships.  Putting the needs of connection and relationship first instead of just trying to blow thing off by blaming our partners for ‘being selfish’ or not caring about us or our needs is part of the process and is something that’s not so popular in this day and age with singles with their lists of requirements prospective partners need to fulfil in order to be considered as worthy.

Anyway I always like to share new books or resources I find here in my blog but today it was good to be able to feel the softening in my heart towards Scott and let myself and my body just relax to a degree.  I am usually fending off spasmodic symptoms of one variety or another in the mornings and today after Scott and I talked things through I did manage to sleep but I still woke up startled trying to integrate all that has been happening between us in terms of boundaries and connection in past weeks.  I feel Mars slowing down now and it is on 28 degrees of Capricorn for two weeks.   My own Mars is at 1 degree Aquarius so this is what is called a Mars Return which happens every two years but would usually just pass by once.  Due to Mars retrograde it will have hit my chart three times by the time it finally passes around the 18th of September.  So I am getting a really good long look at the ways I react to emotionally laden events that hark back not only to my own mothering but to the inherited mothering wound on my Mum’s side of the family.  I have tracked unresolved grief and separations/divorces going back four generations so far to the original wound which was the loss of my great great grandfather’s mother at age 12, a wound he never got to address and I believe led to his addiction and eventual abandonment.

I shared with a good friend yesterday that I feel I have carried the grief of the ancestors for most of my life but I don’t want to carry this wound on.  I really would like to be able to have a loving relationship with a partner where we can both take care of each other’s hearts.  I don’t want past pain or anger and grief that didn’t begin with me to spoil a new change at living a personal life no longer so affected by an unconscious collective psychic inheritance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related post :

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2018/08/23/why-intimacy-brings-up-pain-for-neglected-adult-children/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anxious In Love, p. 98

A brilliant resource for anxious attachment

Anxious.jpg

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

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

See through my heart

Heart Eye

You often say to me

I wish you could see through my heart

How I feel for you

Oh my love

I will never fully know the total truth of it

Because my heart is not yours

And my eyes are my own

And often they project things

Not always full seeing or realising

The love that is there

But if you only knew

What your heart’s kindness means to me

At this stage in my life

When past failures come calling

And I feel the loneliness

And sadness in my sister’s heart

How can I be so blessed

That someone wants to love me as you do?

And does not retaliate

When my own fear of getting close

Pushes you away

You say

We are meant to be

And

You are perfect for me

But I know the sadness and fear

That is in my heart at times

And the last thing I would ever want to do

Is hurt you with these feelings

And so I am so grateful

When you hold to love

Because your love is a powerful force

That at these moments of insanity

Restores me to truth of my real feelings

And as tears fall

Makes me realise

What the cost would be

Of ever losing you

The importance of consistent reliable attachment

I now know a lot of my inner insecurity and fear and descent into addiction from the age of 17 comes from the removal or absence of significant attachments growing up.  The early loss of my sister to a new life far away from us was a wound that went deep but one I could not share with anyone or even fully understand at age 3.

When I look at photos of my sister’s wedding with myself in them I look sad and bewildered, like I don’t know what is going on.  I am the only child in those photographs and my sister and her new husband left on a boat for a different country the following day.  I imagine now the hole that was left by my sister’s absence then and now with the death of my Mum I feel the shadow imprints of that hole, but not as deeply for luckily over these past few years I have managed to reach out more to those I would love to share a friendship or connection with, those who I can say how I really feel and what I am really experiencing inside.

What I noticed over the lead up to my Mum’s funeral following her death was the insecurity and unreliability of many of my familial attachments.  My brother was the only fully physically present figure but he was not operating on an emotional level, so when he wanted to extend his support I found myself brushing it off.  With other family members I noticed they were just not there or were only there in a very inconsistent way.  When they were there I did a sideways dance due to fear and lack of trust

Due to my abandonment history I am not used to either consistency or reliability in attachments or support.  I am used to insecure unreliable attachments and those who try to fob me of or gain distance from me.   This was made clear to me this morning when I read the chapter Just Like A Timepiece in the book Beyond Borderline : True Stories of Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder. 

In this story the sufferer speaks of making her first most significant attachment shortly after her first hospitalisation for the disorder.  The doctor she bonded and attached to then left the programme at the hospital and the sufferer then spiralled into addiction.  I could see as I read the clear connection between that emotional abandonment and the sufferer’s need to medicate her pain.   Luckily seven years later the teller of this story moves to a new town where the doctor who treated her is in practice as a therapist.  Through trust and courage she makes the attempt to connect to her and her therapist makes herself available 24/7 which is what one therapist told me years ago is the only thing that works for those of us with deeply disordered and insecure attachment experiences.

Looking back I see how many therapies broke for me when my therapist took a break.  I am also wondering at the wisdom of what my therapist told me this week, that by leaving me alone to cope she was helping me to build that resource inside or look to others.  Maybe there is a lot of truth in this but a deeper truth is at a time I really needed her 24/7 she refused to be there for me.  She told me this week when I went back to see her she was surprised I had come back, coolly and calmly she explained she thought she would not see me again.   It would have been no problem for her, but it would have been for me.  I would have had to find yet a new therapist, explain my story all over again and I have been with this therapist for 2 years now and that’s a lot of sessions building a knowing and a history.

I felt so sad when I read this story this morning.  Of course I was glad for the writer she was able to find such a consistent reliable attachment with her therapist, Dr. Chase.   She writes :

Dr Chase and I still continue to meet twice a week at the time of this writing.  She is by far the most important person in my life.  She has done more for me than anyone else I have ever known.  There are still moments when I struggle, and she is available to me at any moment, both night and day.  The diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is not an excuse for me.  Its is simply an explanation. I have begun to tentatively form friendships , although many times I still retreat within the safety of myself  The other day I found myself saying “I like myself.”

And I cry now.

I felt upset this morning that my own therapist does not provide that kind of support.  I felt I had no other alternative but to accept her boundaries last week, but that doesn’t mean I think they are right.  I think what she did to me over the time of Mum’s death was hard and unfair but I also know she had the best of intentions and understand her reasoning.  I am used to giving over in this way. Another person’s will and desire was stronger than my own.  She held all the power and control and I accepted it.  I could have left to start again with someone new I guess but what I get most of the time from Kat works.

I am going to find other sources of support next year.  Like the person who told the story I quoted from above I am now building in my own life growing connections with several people in my own life. I know the fears I have of abandonment relate back to very real experiences of being alone and abandoned when I most needed support.  With my Mum’s death around the anniversary of my Dad’s that empty black hole does open up within me some mornings.  But the difference is that now, armed with inner psychological awareness  I know the need I have to reach out, I can also reach inside for the love and understanding, it is where life has always forced me, so why argue with reality?

Yesterday I was brave enough to visit the husband of a good friend who was part of my trauma past in the aftermath of Dad’s death back in 1986 who had undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor on Thursday in the hospital where I spent 3 months following my accident at the end of 1979.  I needed a cup of coffee before I got there and he was doing well.  His wife was there and we talked for well over an hour.  I thought then as i drove home of how life and recovery is always trying to bring us full circle.  Recovery is like a spiral dance in which we pass over and re-experience old ground, pain, trauma and issues but with a new elevation or perspective on them.  At times we have to go into the fire and face or front up to those triggers or re-enactments, but armed with the knowledge we gain from our journey we grow in awareness on each revolution around the center of our self and past.

Many of my attachments broke all through out my life.  Some broke in later years due to unconscious fears, but many of them also held firm.  Those who have loved me have watched me battle with my need to connect amidst enormous fear.  They have stayed close but not too close and then there are those who over this most painful time have made real efforts to draw close and be near.   Their consistency in being there for me has made me aware that it is safe to trust in world I so long ago learned to doubt or fear.

Maybe it took my Mum’s death for this to all come full circle.  I don’t know.  I only know I am so grateful all these years later to be living just a little further outside of all of that insecurity and fear that plagued me unconsciously for so many years.  I will perhaps always carry deep insecure attachment and abandonment fears but hopefully with mindfulness they will no longer need to dominate my life so unconsciously and I can learn who is secure/safe for me to trust and place my faith in.