Broken / insecure attachments and anxiety

I am getting more awareness around my own anxiety issues these days.  I borrowed a book from the library on male borderline personality disorder and reading the section on attachments reminded me how much we can suffer and how insecure we can feel when in childhood early attachments were a source of pain.  If they were non existent or unreliable or if we suffered physical or emotional abandonment when young, then we never got to establish that sense of secure trust and holding that I mentioned in my post on the mother wound yesterday.  And without this it is nearly impossible to establish a secure sense of self.  We may struggle for a lot of our life with anxious feelings around being close, reaching out, establishing intimacy and depending and relying on others.

In a post I wrote a while back on avoidant attachment

I addressed how avoidance can be a response to being let down and emotionally abandoned as well and then that pattern is replayed.  Those of us with avoidant attachment may attract those with insecure attachment (really we are both insecure but one of us is invested in NOT showing it).  It can be hard for both parties to see their part and then the relationship can be full of hurt, misunderstanding and frustration.

This week I have managed to organise to have two outings with friends and that is a difficult issue for me.  I am anxious prior to meetings at times and then I am anxious also in initiating contacts too.  As an empath I often fear being overwhelmed.  Developing a sense of trust in new relationships where I am no longer as invalidated as I have been in the past is taking time, but it is happening.

Its important to know what our attachment style or difficulties are in life, especially if we have known past abuse, abandonment or trauma.  This lessens the self blame we can feel for ‘not being like everyone else’.   If we can explore our past as well as the things in childhood or friendships that hurt us or overly trigger our anxiety and core wound we are better placed to find boundaries to deal with it.  I had to let one friendship go last year because each time I organised to meet up with this girlfriend she would be up to half an hour late.  It wasn’t just once that it happened but nearly every single time.  The last straw was when she turned up late to take me to a radiation appointment.  I chose to get myself there and she was upset when I told her I was annoyed.  What she didn’t realise was that every time she ran late without doing me the courtesy of letting me know she was forcing me to carry anxiety.  As a over scheduler who was always doing too much, her relationships got to bear the brunt of her own tendency to have poor boundaries.  I have felt better not spending time with her though I do honestly miss aspects of our friendship but caring for myself meant I had to set my boundary.

Dealing with the ongoing effects of insecure attachment is not easy.  Its not our fault that we suffer from the affects of earlier abandonment or abuse or inconsistency.  It was not until I read a book on attachment styles earlier in the year that I learned that those with anxious attachment do better if they don’t have to deal with those who have an avoidant style.  If we do we are endlessly triggered and that is not good for our stability, ongoing emotional and physical well being or mental health.  If we were not sufficiently held when young we may not be aware of what is healthy and recovering a sense of self means we need to find out what is best for us and not endlessly settle for less or second best.   ‘To gain we have to know we have value and the power to ask for what we want and need or express distress if it is necessary or will help our connections and intimacy with another to grow.


Some times it just doesn’t work out

Its so hard when a relationship ends.  If you didn’t choose it and the one leaving sited all kinds of reasons why it couldn’t work and they name your part in it, just remember that is just one side of the story.  Relationships ask a lot of us.  I believe the difficult ones can often be about dark or wounded places in us that may not have had a chance to see the light of day.  Some relationships are ones in which we attract someone who carries some of our shadow, that hidden dark side of ourselves that we may have learned to be ashamed of or have a difficult time living.  I have been in several relationships where I carried the wounded feminine or shadow of the guy I was dating.  Of course when it ended they ended up blaming me, even though I did my best.  There were parts of themselves they did not want to face and like it or not people go into relationships with all kinds of agendas that can be hidden underneath the so call desire for love.  Just because you contributed some issues that were problematic doesn’t mean the entire relationship ending was all your fault or that it was all the other person’s fault.

When we have a relationship with a narcissist, someone who doesn’t want to own vulnerability or face parts of themselves its likely at the ending we will be blamed in some way.  We may even side with the person blaming us at the end and end up feeling entirely worthless.

I am not meaning here to imply that I or you did not contribute faults or flaws in relationship, but in a healthy relationship where both partners want to do the work of being emotionally available and open to each other it should be possible to work things through.   Being able to say you are sorry when you made a mistake, not coming over all bullet proof and defensive when wounds or early injuries are triggered, these are some of the things that can challenge and be challenging but that you work through and try to work with in a healthy relationships.  There needs to be a willingness from both sides to see the other person’s side and things from their point of view.

Then there times that we meed the right person at the wrong time or the relationship in which we find out that sadly, in the end we wanted different things.  Or then there is the relationship where someone for some reason falls out of love, projections are withdraw and placed onto someone else.

When this happens naturally we grieve.  If we have a lot of earlier losses they may be triggered and we may need help with our grief work.  Relationships fail for all kinds of reasons but just remember it isn’t always your fault, even when there are lessons to learn.  Maturity helps us to let go with grace and just say, sorry this time it just didn’t work out and I let you go with love.  If you are being blamed, attacked or shamed or dumped with all the responsibility, just remember that may say more about the other person’s lack of maturity and self awareness.


On Intimacy : our most important work

Until we can be truly intimate with the depths of ourselves I do not believe true intimacy with others is really a possibility.  Instead our drive towards togetherness or connection is always fraught with lack and most especially with the hunger for love, approval or acceptance that was not available to us in childhood from those others who were not capable of true emotional intimacy themselves.  As a result of this emotional dissociation and disconnection,  we become people who hunger and fear, seeking always that source of love and connection outside of ourselves that will make up for what was missed and exists now as a deep emptiness inside.  All our most important work lies in understanding the depth of that emptiness or wound so that we can answer with love and with coming into relationship with our emotional reality which has so much to teach us about inner intimacy and connection. Only when we develop this capacity within can we extend it outward.

Until we can know what our wounds were and feel and grieve them, until we can recognise our fear, shame and struggle as burdens from a difficult past and show love for ourselves and others in the midst of them we are not capable of a truly deep intimacy and love.

I have heard the term intimacy broken down to read as follows : Into me I see.  We need this depth of clear seeing to get in touch with our wounds and our longings and to find ways in which we can reach out to speak about and share them with others, not in a way that demands connection and love but in a way that removes the blocks that we carry as well as the defences against such love.  In opening up our hearts and minds with each other in this way we find connection, but also hopefully the support to reach further down and heal within through love what was hurt, exiled, damaged, lost or hungering before.

I am so grateful that in my own therapy I found a loving source of connection with a person who in having intimacy with herself and all human traits has been able to receive me and help me with mine.  She has  stood strongly by while I have struggled with a strong inner critic who is really full of fear and shame burdens passed down to me in my family.

However there are still times when I find myself alone and besieged by negativity and these are the times I have had to reach even deeper for a truly loving relationship with myself.  The critic often beats me up for all I haven’t achieved in the world but today I read these words and they made me realise that for the past 10 years I have been engaged with the deepest emotional recovery and discovery work on myself, that of learning to love and care for me.  I don’t see such work as selfish but as essential, for when I don’t care for and love myself I haven’t anything to give others and what I give is followed by resentment or sense of being emptied out or depleted.

So for all of you out there who may also struggle or beat yourself up with inner voices of ‘not good enoughness’ or other critical thoughts because you struggle with what society has labelled a mental illness when you are valiantly working so very hard to heal and find love within, I hope these words bring you some comfort and open up a light of truth which reminds you that learning to love yourself and extend that love outwards towards others are some of the most important things we can do to bring light to ourselves and the planet.  And that its okay also to struggle with the darkness because we all have it somewhere.

I sometimes worry that I’m not doing something more important with my life.  Caught up in day to day trivialities, it doesn’t seem I accomplish much.  Yet I forget that through all my daily routine, I am engaged in recovery.

As I grow in love, I worry less about doing something important.  Instead I stretch my abilities as far as they can take me.  My action now is a spontaneous expression of a loving heart.  I have done more in the past years as the result of undertaking emotional recovery than in the previous years without it.  To me there is nothing more important I can do with my life than becoming more loving.

Hope for Today

March 5

Push, push, push

Masterchef Australia is currently on tele here in Oz and the refrain push, push, push is heard nearly every night but its a reminder to me that sometimes I just need to rest, rest, rest because I can push and push and push to have to get things done and sometimes its coming out of anxiety or critical energy.

Earlier I wrote a post that touched on positive self will, I guess this is action which is line with Self that tries work in a balanced way to both project us into the world, but at the same time tell us when to rest, go easy, or take it slow. In childhood I never got to experience relaxed happy times with my parents.  It was a very duty bound home full of responsibilities and in some ways this can be good but not when it interferes with my ability to relax, let go and have some fun!

After getting into a rage last week about being stuffed around by the dentist and that arking up all my head trauma, I then got reminded of how it felt to be around family energy.  Just this morning my brother called from America.  He is go, go in the garden nearly put his back out by digging in the front yard.  “Just be sure to take care of yourself”, I said.  Then when I had to share about my dental trauma there was absolutely zilch emotional reaction or connection just a dull heavy emptiness and as so often happens after I got of the phone to him I found myself in tears.  My family are JUST SO SHUT DOWN.

Later my sister called to say that in training this morning her personal trainers dog jumped on her and soiled her nice clean leggings,  I just wanted to say ‘get lost’ she said.  I considered this with a calm irony.  I just said “Wow I can almost sense Mum’s flared nostrils from here!”    I remember how my dead sister would never let my mother remove old flowers from her room and how she loved the story where Mum visited a family friend’s farm and got upset due to ending up with chicken shit on her shoe…this delighted my sister.

I have empathy for my Mum though, to be left that alone when you are young and then to feel the only way you can find value or worth is by taking control, keeping everything perfect and looking good is very sad on some level when it costs a heavy price in being able to just let loose, laugh at chaos and have some fun.  I get anxious just thinking about the chicken shit, to be honest but I think that is a conditioned reaction.

I allow my own dog to jump up when he wants too.  People at the dog park don’t mind, I know some would consider it not a good sign, a sign of ‘bad manners’ or inadequate training. I see it as a sign of how affectionate he is and how much he loves people, and having him has re-connected me with that part of myself which so long ago went into hiding in a home where we were conditioned to think more about how we looked on the outside, than about how we felt on the inside and must keep genuine needs and interest locked behind a wall of fear or shyness.

Today, once again I am not going to push, push, push.  I just had a moment where I realised I was pushing and then felt really, really sad and an inner voice just said to me “how bad could it be if you just relaxed for a while?”  So for the first time in over 2 years I sitting in my faded floral chair in my small dining room and writing this.   It feels GREAT!

I know I can overcome my childhood conditioning.  Day by day I am learning more about it.  A constant theme in therapy is about how the inner critic pushes and savages me and I am learning to let go.  I had a positive dream last night in which I was being expected to make a meal at an event where there was already a lot of food, I decided in the end not to make anything even though I felt guilty.  I see that as a good sign.  The other positive dream image was that I had met a lovely man and he got undressed to get into bed, I was about take off my jeans and then I felt I wasn’t ready.  I got into bed next to him and said.  “I’d like to take my time to get to know you before we sleep together.”  He was fine with it.  I am nearly crying as I write that because sadly due to low self esteem and lots of emotional intimacy hunger in my teenage and younger and even older adult life I have jumped into bed with partners far too soon, and in the last relationship warning signs were there at the start that he had narcissistic issues and I overrode my own instincts when he asked me to have sex as I was so lonely.  This dream seems to auger really well for boundary issues.  Maybe my ‘no’  and self esteem muscles will get stronger in time.  Maybe I no longer have that same hunger due to my inner work and can now be a lover to myself, first, maybe I am learning to practice self care.  The dream sure seems to be saying just that.  Thank you God.

Accepting vulnerability : freeing strength

I am thinking a lot about vulnerability today.  I just watched a video on Avoidant Personality Disorder which spoke of the connection between childhood emotional neglect and avoidance.

The subject of vulnerability and fear came up in therapy yesterday.  The chance meeting with the boy next door from my childhood on Saturday sparked memories of little things I did as a kid that showed me how scared I was and how I must have been shamed for things in childhood.  I know that as a youngster I developed this coping strategy –  I learned to hide my vulnerability, shame or fear from others and that indicates to me that on one level I was terrified.  I see how I have carried this fear on and how it has limited my life in so many ways.

I was lucky enough not to have a contraption connected to the mattress to give me an electric shock when I was wetting the bed, like my neighbour did.  But I still think I must have felt so alone and vulnerable in childhood and that it was not safe enough to turn to others for protection and care.   In both my mother and father’s childhood they had no one much to turn to either, so its a carried pattern.

I think of all the hiding I did later in life.  The sixth and most painful termination of pregnancy which happened late in my addiction was one that I went through all alone and hid from my flatmate at the time.  When it happened we were both studying Naturopathy and we had the beginnings of a very close relationship, but I feared so much opening up to her about what had happened that I lied and in the end she moved out of the place I owned and the darkest and most painfully alone year of my active addiction began.

When I think about it now I am so grateful that I finally found my sobriety one year later, but by that stage I was in so much pain over all that had happened that on one level I was trying to obliterate awareness of with my drinking that it would take me years to really come to terms with it.  And it has taken me a lot of work over the past 18 months to stop seeing myself as ‘the bad one’ when really I just had developed very dysfunctional behaviours and coping strategies in my life due to emotional neglect.

I get pretty angry when addicts or alcoholics get demonised by others.  I think the judgement often comes from ignorance.  I am a huge fan of Canadian doctor Gabor Mate who comes out in defence of addicts and tries to draw attention to the early trauma so many addicts suffer which leads them to become addicts in the first place.  If you are damaged in early life and your ability to trust and depend is broken where are you going to turn and what are you going to do with the pain if no one around you is mirroring the truth of the situation for you?   The self condemnation or lack of compassion and empathy is something we can suffer for long years even into sobriety most often turning deep inside, leading many to suicide.

I am so grateful that lately my self talk has been becoming that much more loving and supportive.  I am so happy that I am able now to recognise and champion the vulnerable self in me that lay hidden under so many of my dysfunctional coping behaviours.  I was sharing with Katina yesterday my growing realisation of how I use avoidance out of fear.  Once I can admit to myself the fear or vulnerability then I can step in with the loving supportive adult presence to talk to that little one in me who is so scared and help her to take more positive, healthy, nurturing steps in my life.

Sadly as I grew up I absorbed a self shaming voice that was taken in from my parents and the nuns at my school.  I never learned about self compassion.  I really feel so strongly that self compassion is something we should teach children from a very young age.  At that early stage we need help to deal with our feelings, vulnerabilities and fears.  We do not need to be shamed for self assertion or sticking up for ourselves either.  We should not be taught to fear our vulnerability but to embrace it and learn ways to encourage ourselves from within in the midst of it.  In the absence of this we look to others to do it for us and if we are unhealed or wounded in this area we often attract those who project the shadow of their own vulnerable self onto us and then reject or shame us for it.

Part of our healing in therapy and most particularly if we come out of a narcissistically wounded family involves recognising we are not to blame but that in adult hood we do have a responsibility to change patterns and often we can only do this with good help if our wounds are serious.

Yesterday Katina said to me kindly “you did the best you could at the time”. Lying in bed this morning and thinking about that I thought what a relaxing and accepting thing that is to say in many situations.  People who hurt us do the best they can.  It may be the very worst for us and only we can break away from that kind of hurt and we must not continue to lie to ourselves about the damage such ignorance caused, well meaning as they may claim it was.  Come to think of it just re-editing this now my mother often uses excuses when I try to bring up certain painful things with her, she cannot bear to admit her own vulnerability at times.

At the same time as accepting our vulnerability we need to keep reaching for the best we can at the time and accept when our worst is all we could have done at that point with all we knew at the time.  This to me is showing mercy, it relaxes our muscles and it lets ourselves off the hook so that we can search for healthier kinder and more positive ways to self nurture and grow beyond old formerly unrecognised vulnerabilities and fears.  It may be the most valuable tool we have in our arsenal for dealing with depression which often is created by the unloving things we tell ourselves over and over about our selves or wounded and wounding others.

The value of a good friend

True friendship

I have had so many, many years of isolation.  Days when I did not speak to a single soul. Days where I was in such deep grief and had no one to share that grief with, not always because they were not there, but often because it was too painful and scary to reach out, often too because I was scared of meeting with invalidation..  I am so grateful now that I at least have a very good friend or two that I can turn to when what is going on inside my mind at times gets difficult to deal with.  And I am grateful for the days when I can reach out without putting too many barriers up in my mind.  I am seeing more clearly lately how many defences and fears I have had around connecting as an emotionally sensitive person who in the past was shamed or invalidated.

That is why I have decided to post a post today about the value of a good friendship, for without out it as much as we can love and value and comfort ourselves, life is just not as worth living or as full of light and joy.

A large part of recovery rests in learning to be a good friend and parent to ourselves, part of our recovery also involves being able to recognise and draw good friends into our lives.  During my breast cancer surgery and radiotherapy I learned the value of emotional support,  I learned how hard it is to be let down by a friend. In my blogging life I value and appreciate the supportive friendships that have come to me and made the tough days all that more bearable.

This much I do know : being happy and having peace of mind rests so much on being a good friend to ourselves but we also need each other.  When we find a true friend we should value them more than precious gold for its in sharing our strength, pain, joy, fear, vulnerability and love that we come to know what is best about being human and what makes life most worth living.


Reflections on being alone and belonging

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I wrote this post a long time ago.  Reading it back I don’t know why I never published it, but reading through a couple of other posts from bloggers today it touches on issues which I feel are relevant to the difficulties and challenges we have connecting when we are on a path of healing and recovery.

I have been contemplating the tension between these two states of being today: belonging and being alone. I was re-reading a wonderful book on addiction and attachment written by Philip J. Flores : Addiction as an Attachment Disorder. In it he explores what happens when our attempts to bond or connect with others fail or are damaged in our early lives or at any one of a number of stages  along the way.  We learn that attaching can be painful, dangerous or hurtful and perhaps we decide unconsciously that the cost of doing so is just too painful. Feeling this pain of disconnection may be the trigger which gets us reaching for things, or substances to fill the void and thus addictions are born.

This was most certainly my experience. It was not a conscious choice that I made, but one that happened to me unconsciously and took a long time to come to awareness. In his book Flores makes the connection between difficulty in attaching and the use of addictive substances, he also charts the challenging journey of people in recovery attempting to heal narcissistic injuries and defences in order to come into authentic intimate relationship with a self that can bear the tension of being in relationship with others who are both similar and different to them, who may meet or frustrate our needs.

As a psychotherapist, Flores emphasis in his book is on the healing damage through support groups and through the reparative bond of therapy.  A new secure bond in which we are accepted, even for our difficulties and dark side can help us to heal.  Such a bond must be with someone who is willing to forgo control and accept as we are, while challenging us to grow in the damaged places.

Hopefully, it is not only therapy which offers us this possibility of reparative relationships.  In the rooms of fellowships in recovery we learn that we can express who we are and be loved and accepted despite any pain or shame that we carry over our addictions and consequences of it. Therapy, however, when effective provides us with an opportunity to examine within the context of a healing relationship, the conflicts we had in other relationships that may have led us to disconnect and reach for substances.

I have shared before that I have the Saturn Moon aspect. Lately I have become ever more conscious of how I can and do choose to disconnect, even when attachment is offered and of the time in my recovery when I began to pull away from the love people were trying to show me, which could not be totally adequate at that point to my needs, but never the less came from a place of caring. I have been thinking of the fear that I harboured which revolved around loss of self, of being swallowed whole, fear of not being seen, not being understood, of failures of empathy. Was it a case of transferring old pain over what had occurred in childhood onto new situations in the present and so erecting walls of defence to protect the soul against the feared violation?

It has taken me time to begin to understand and differentiate between those who are and are not capable of meeting me and showing empathy and even longer to understand times when my own empathy for those without empathy had fallen short. I think it is really only the past few years that I beginning to feel I have a handle on this difference and on these issues and over this period I now understand I have been struggling with the issue of forgiveness of myself and others.  We are all at some point on the narcissistic spectrum, I guess. And we are all at different points of the spectrum of being able to tolerate a sense of belonging/being in relationship and of being alone.

At times my longing to belong has made me feel so alone, at others my need to be alone has challenged those who wanted to be with and belong to me. I remember following one particularly painful night with my ex a few years ago when frustrations had driven us apart, him to spend the night alone in the bush in response to anger I had expressed at continual frustration of my needs. I shared with him my very real fear of losing myself in the relationship with someone whose continual focus on his own needs and demands threatened at a very deep level my sense of being able fulfill my own. It was, I now see, a recreation of many aspects of my relationship with both of my parents.

The cost of belonging meant in these relationships loss of myself and perhaps even the erasing of that self. The only solution, then was, to be alone and to refuse the contact that was threatening to erase me. It is strange to say but the pull that was occurring to be alone, was perhaps all for the purpose of coming to know myself as a person outside of the relationships which up to that point had defined and (I now see) limited me in order that I could eventually heal the pain of feeling like I did not belong.   It was painful and scary and I had many strange symptoms from that time, when separation was demanding the loss of belonging to anyone other than myself.

Until we have a true relationship with ourselves, until we develop a sense of self, how can we truly relate and feel that we belong? Towards the end of his book, Flores calls upon the work of Martin Buber, most especially he calls on what Buber has written and explored around the I-Thou relationship.

The attainment of a sense of self in childhood requires someone to be present for who we really are, rather than primarily concerned with turning us into someone we are not to suit the other’s purposes. When this development task has not been achieved the healing onus falls upon new relationships and perhaps, if we choose it, most specificially a therapeutic (but not necessarily only) relationship.  However, new relationships we unconsciously choose may trigger old issues. What happens if we attract a therapist who cannot be present for us to unfold who we really are, to develop a self, but instead makes demands of us to be other, to be not a beloved thou but an it/object to fulfil their ideas and purposes? This has happened to me on several occasions now and both drove me back to being alone and evoked the deepest wounds of my childhood.

Maybe these were essential lessons in my growing up? Maybe they were part of the karma/dharma of my Saturn Moon?  I am not really sure.

As a Neptunian myself I have a strong urge to merge, to lose myself and feel the beautiful sense of connection that comes when barriers and boundaries are dropped for a time. Music is one way in which I experience this lately. And yet I also have a very strong Saturnian Moon side that seeks solitude and aloneness and finds a sense of great completion and wholeness through pursuits such as writing and reading.

To the self who is not us we are an other, and in being that other we may through that otherness threaten them with the recognition of an essential aloneness which is essential to face and which contains deep within it the painful possible sting of sadness, lack and pain.

Entering this aloneness brings us face to face with the deepest bittersweet poignant pain of our ultimate separateness that can only be bridged temporarily. For everyone we have ever loved, we will one day loose, but we what we will never loose is the memory of how special and sweet it felt, if only for a time to have belonged and connected in such a way that for a time knowledge and experience our separateness and aloneness was obliterated in the warm fire of that connection whose tender memory will remain with us, a glowing ember to warm our lonely moments until we die.

Making peace with loss/aloneness involves the capacity to realise that although we are alone we can call to mind times of belonging which make our present aloneness less painful. Once we have opened up to the possibility of being alone, of opening deeply to the potential pleasure and threat of experiencing both the longing and pain of loss and disconnection, we have also relaxed defences against the pain loss of connection brings, defences that functioned to keep us isolated and alone in our hearts, reaching for the comfort of substances that only obliterated, rather than deepened consciousness and provided cold comfort.

Our longing and desire to connect to that which we hope to, but can ultimately never possess or be forever a part of completely, opens us to the awareness that our life will be forever a dance between experiences of being alone/separate and belonging/connecting. Allowing ourselves to be an I separate and alone at times and seeing and honouring others a “thou” rather than demanding they be an “it” to support our demands facilitates a letting go and letting be of the other person that rather than a restrictive, tightening and imposing, allows releasing, loosening and unfurling. It facilites a growth in separateness, self and consciousness that paradoxically enables a great degree of connection. This free and open space and way of negotiating the voice between being alone and connecting feels to me a lot like love.

In my life I have experienced the depths of loneliness.  At times they were so acute I longed for extinction. But in time they passed.  However they helped me to understand why someone would take their own life, long to end the pain that cut them too deeply within or made them feel like cutting themselves just to feel there was someone alive, deep within, still breathing though suffocating under the dead heavy weight of a pain too nebulous to express.  I have even been able to connect with others when in the midst of these feelings by talking about them a fact which has somehow saved me at critical times.

In the depths of feeling separate there was still some kind of connection playing out, and the separateness experienced made the value of later connections all the more precious when they arrived as gifts unbidden, unexpected.

Life, in the end has asked that I engage in that dance and in dancing it come to understand the fleeting impermanence of it all.  Endings, leavings, losses have been tinged with bittersweet sadness and hollow pain at times.   But on some level they returned me to the depths of me even in the quiet solitude where there was no other witness, they gave rise to poetry and tears, rages and fears, dreams and songs and led to the recognition of the deeper humanity of it when mirrored in the songs, poems, tear, rages and fears of others.

Being alone helped me know how precious it can feel to have moments of belonging.  Belonging made me realise at times how precious being alone is, how essential to the nurturing of my spirit.  And in truth it is all a dance.  One that I am not always in control of, one that demands of me, at times more than I am capable of.  And at others gives me moments of sublime beauty made even more precious due to the contrasting times of loneliness, separation and suffering that went before.

The pain of loving a narcissist.

Suffering at the hands of some one who can never really love us hurts and so often we do not consciously  choose to fall in love.  At the outset of the relationship with a narcissist they will promise you the world, there is a long list of stories of how they loved others so much but were repaid by ingratitude and selfishness.  The truth is they were the selfish one whose demands came first, but you won’t know this for some time down the track in my experience.  There will be red flags but if you are basically a kind honest giving person who devotes yourself to others you may have been conditioned to accept their ways and you won’t have a radar for this kind of deception or little things they do will stun or shock you out of left field.  If you have known love before these things do grate but being a kind person you keep on giving them the benefit of the doubt, even as they begin to devalue and discard you along the way and endlessly find fault with you.

This morning I had a long conversation with a close friend who married my ex partner’s sister.  The entire family was shattered by their father’s addiction but none of them have sought recovery, they instead have taken out their pain on partners, keeping up walls of impenetrable defence against deeper vulnerabilities that true intimacy requires.

When I first met my ex he decided it would be bad to be in a relationship with me. You’re too vulnerable” he told me.  On some level he perhaps knew he could cause damage but I didn’t fully understand narcissism before this and so I debated as to how strong I was, although vulnerable too, knowing true deep strength rests on vulnerability. Now I know for a true relationship to have survived he would have had to own his part and face his own vulnerabilities and this was something he could not do.  When he dumped me 4 years later I got all the blame often for things I did out of healthy self protection and sadly  I then believed him, it has taken over 4 years of therapy to work through the part my own low self esteem played in sealing a fate where I tried to attach to someone who could never love all of me and tried so desperately to change me into someone I never could be.  My part in it was I didn’t have boundaries, I took his criticisms on board and began to try to win love and lose myself.

All of this is on my mind today as someone reblogged the first poem of mine ever published by a super kind blogger just over 3 years ago yesterday.  The poem was on the pain of that narcissistic relationship and has also been published in a book by someone else recovering from narcissistic abuse.  Having it reblogged showed me how far I have come 6 years out of that deeply painful dark night experience which launched my blog.

As I witness others struggle to break free of relationships with narc partners or parents I am reminded of the deep pain that comes from loving someone who cannot fully love us back.  It is a lot like looking in a one way mirror and in this situation we can become like the nymph Echo who in the tale of Narcissist who sought his love and attention in vain and nearly died from the emotional hole of starvation left deep inside.  We can also become the scapegoat or toxic dumping ground for all the narcissist cannot bear to face inside themselves or related to unhealed wounds of their own inner child of the past.

Pulling our energy back, learning to love and sooth ourselves is in the end the only answer. Looking for healthy others who understand is also so important.  In the end our healing comes from knowing we loved a wounded soul who couldn’t break free of the prison of their illusion and defences. We may still love them but we can no longer sacrifice our own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health for them.  Its like pouring valuable longing and life energy down a drain when we so sorely need it for ourselves and to nurture healthier relationships.  To recover we must do a lot to build and strengthen and reclaim the true self the narcissist tried to decimate in us all the way along. I believe the relationship comes into our life to highlight our own narcissistic wounds and would encourage anyone in pain to launch on a path of healing.. the roots of why we accept such treatment lie buried in our past… we can heal and we can realise why we accepted a relationship that continued to cause us so much pain.

The problem of judgement for emotional sensitives


I found the following information extremely enlightening.  It concerns how judgement affects those of us who are emotionally sensitive, the wound it creates and how to step outside of self imposed black/white, wrong/right judgements to ease our emotional intensity.

If you’re emotionally sensitive, it may be that ever since you were a child, people have said or implied there’s something wrong with the way you feel or think.  Comments such as these, as well as the mere thought that people are judging you in this way, have probably been such a source of pain for so many years that you’re hypersensitive to any hint of criticism.  Although no one likes to be judged negatively, for the emotionally sensitive its agonising.  Negative judgements, both actual and imagined, may often lead you to feel shame, and to experience hopeless thoughts as well as to fear rejection.

Even positive judgements, such as saying something is ‘good’, can be problematic, because if one thing is good then a different thing might be ‘bad’.  In this way, positive judgements maintain your potential for negative judgements.  They strengthen your tendency to make comparisons and see things in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ qualities.  Although, for the most part, you may assume that when I talk about judging…I meant making negative judgements, keep in mind that making positive judgements can also contribute to the issue in almost every case.

Letting go of self judgements, other’s judgements of you, and your judgement of others, whether positive or negative, is one way of keeping your emotions at a lower intensity.  The point isn’t to have a more positive view of everything, but to stop thinking so much in terms of good versus bad (or any other duality) and just accept that things are what they are.  When you replace judgements with facts, you’ll react less to misinterpretations, assumptions, and distortions about events and people.

Self Judgement

Judging creates emotion.  In addition, any emotion you feel in response to an external event will be  intensified if you judge yourself for that event.  For example, if you’re getting divorced and you judge yourself as unlovavble or as someone who always messes up the pain of divorce will become worse.  If you then judge yourself for being upset, that will add more pain.  Increasing your awarenss of your self judgements and better understanding the way you learnd to judge yourself in a particular way can help you reduce this behaviour.

If you were an emotionally sensitive child, maybe you were told you were too dramatic, emotional, needy, weak, manipulative, or attention seeking.  You might have been told to stop “being a baby” or “making a big deal out of nothing”.  Maybe you were ignored or were considered a burden.  Being judged by others when you were a chid can lead you judge yourself in the same way as an adult.

You may blame yourself for all sorts of flaws.  For example, you might believe that if you weren’t so lazy you’d have gotten a job by now, even though you put in five applications a day for the past two weeks.  But even if you haven’t submitted any applications that doesn’t mean you’re lazy.  If you look more closely at the facts, you may realise that your fear of being judged negatively, not laziness, has kept you applying for jobs.

Self judgement and fear of being judged will keep you trapped.  Instead of living your life the way you want, you’ll try to live safely, doing what others deem acceptable.  You may try to fit into molds that aren’t right for you. There’s no winning in this scenario.

Source : Chapter 6  Letting Go of Judgements in The Emotionally Sensitive Person : Finding Peace When Your Emotions Overwhelm You.

In the rest of the chapter  Karyn Hall outlines more specifically how our tendency to judge as emotional sensitives makes our life lonelier and harder.

  1. Emotions cloud our rational brain and contribute to emotional distress.  Eg someone doesn’t call us back and we make up all kinds of reasons why and then get angry and refuse to talk to them ever again.
  2. Judging often hides the primary feeling we were having.  For example often anger is a reaction to fear, fear of being hurt, fear of losing something or someone important to you, fear of being rejected.  Focusing on the secondary emotion becomes problematic when we react from here.  Our anger may be telling us something that isn’t true in masking our vulnerability.
  3. Judging often adds to loneliness by creating separation between us and other people, putting a distance between us, blocking out love if someone makes a mistake, causing a cut off that love and understanding and mercy could heal.
  4. Judging in addition narrows our view. We judge something as bad, react from there often without all the facts, fail to see the positive things in the situation and so damage a relationship.

Keeping an eye on our thinking and reactions as emotional sensitives is very important work.  Seeing how and when and where judgements of self and others can block love and relationship will help us feel less emotional intensity and feel more connected and soothed.

Projecting pain: Understanding how it works and why we need to shrink the Inner and Outer Critic

If our childhood was traumatic it is likely that the unprocessed pain may be projected onto other relationships.  The chapter Shrinking Your Outer Critic in Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD makes for very enlightening reading.  It is teaching me a lot both about how parents can dump their own rage over past injuries onto their children, scapegoating them and then ensuring that the child has to find ways to offload this pain. From my understanding it can either be internalised and then we get beat up by a savage inner critic or alternatively it can externalised and then we beat others up for supposed transgressions which may be unconscious reminders of things that happened to us in childhood that hurt us deeply and we could never really unpack.

As Pete explains, often we oscillate between the two positions.  The cure he recommends and outlines in this chapter involves a combination of self awareness and mindfulness.  As he explains those with an aggressive ‘fight’ defence act pain out in rants or accusations.  Those with a more passive style may seethe internally and then their voracious inner critic kicks into gear.

There are two aspects to this mindfulness.  The first is cognitive, using thought awareness, thought stopping and thought substitution (substituting excessive negative critical thoughts for balanced positive thoughts).

The second aspect is emotional and involves grief work.  As Pete explains it this involves

removing the critic’s fuel supply – the unexpressed childhood anger and the uncried tears of a lifetime of abandonment.

angering at the outer critic helps to silence it (helping us to challenge the critic’s entrenched all or none perspective that everyone is as dangerous as our parents), and crying helps to evaporate it (and it also release(s) the fear that the outer critic uses to frighten us out of opening to others.  Tears can help us realise that our loneliness is now causing us much unnecessary pain).

It is my experience that those of us with a narcissistic style can most definitely not allow ourselves the vulnerability of the later response.

Mindfulness can and will cause us emotional and thought flashbacks to earlier incidents from childhood, consciously or unconsciously.  Our critic attacks may seem to grow in strength and power because we are becoming more aware of what we unconsciously defended against before.  And if part of our conditioning involved our parent’s disabling our angry reactions to unjustified shame, blame or criticism other painful feelings, sensations and thoughts will be evoked.  We may need a super aware ally to help us as we working with shrinking the inner and outer critic.  And in my experience the grief we feel helps us to come back to reality and remove defences even though this work is painful.

As Jay Early and Bonnie Weiss point out in their book Freedom From the Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approach it is important that we learn to stand with our inner child and help them to separate from the critics attacks which were designed to protect us in childhood but no longer serve us to develop a healthy relationship with our self or others.  For as long as the inner critic and outer critic is allowed to run rampant in our relationships the consequences will be the death of true love, respect, compassion, empathy, intimacy and connection.