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.

 

 

How trauma fractures the psyche, causes dissociation and creates the persecutor/protector in our psyche.

In response to trauma or emotional abandonment our psyche will splinter or fracture.  Ideally parents help us to mediate as young ones the big feelings we have to deal with and help us to integrate them. But in situations of abuse or neglect this doesn’t happen and we are left to contain unbearable feeling.  Since all feelings occur and are felt in the body if our parents don’t help us to do this we are left with the split off feeling buried or held in tissue or psychic space.  Memories associated with the feelings and accompanying sensory traumatic events then become somatic and walled off, they still affect us we just don’t know why and how.

Jung wrote on how dissociation works and this overview comes from Donald Kalsched’s excellent book The Inner World of Trauma : Archetypal Defences of the Human Spirit.  

individuals who might be described as ‘schizoid’ in the sense they had suffered traumatic experiences in childhood which had overwhelmed their often unusual sensitivities and driven them inward.  Often, the interior worlds into which they retreated were childlike worlds, rich in fantasy but with a very wistful, melancholy cast.  In this museum like “sanctuary of innocence”… (they) clung to a remnant of their childhood experience which had been magical and sustaining at one time, but which did not grow along with the rest of them.  Although they had come to therapy out of a need, they did not really want to grow or change in the ways that would truly satisfy that need.  To be more precise one part of them wanted to change and a strong part of them resisted this change.  THEY WERE DIVIDED IN THEMSELVES.

In most cases these patients were extremely bright, sensitive individuals who had suffered on account of their sensitivity, some acute or cumulative emotional trauma in early life.  All of them had become prematurely self sufficient in their childhoods, cutting off genuine relations with their parents during their developing years and tending to see themselves as victims of others’ aggression and could not mobilize effective self assertion when it was needed to defend themselves or to individuate.  Their outward façade of toughness and self sufficiency often concealed a secret dependency they were ashamed of, so in psychotherapy they found it very difficult to relinquish their own self care protection and allow themselves to depend on a very real person.

Kalsched goes on to point out that such people developed what Elaine Aron has called a virultent persecutor-protector figure in the psyche which jealously cut them off from the outer world, while at the same time mercilessly attacking them with abuse and self criticism from within.   Kalsched believed this figure had a daimonic cast calling on the idea of Jung that energy split off into the psyche can become malevolent and acts as a powerful defence against what Aron calls ‘linking’ with others and with the vulnerable innocent or inner child it has been called in to protect.    The figure may not only be malevolent it may also be angelic or mythical or heavenly in cast.  Together with the inner child/innocent this force formed an active psychic dyad (or duplex) structure which Kalched calls the archetypal self care system. 

Jung showed that under the stress of trauma the childhood psyche with draws energy from the scene of the earlier injury.  If this cant happen a part of thes self must be withdrawn and ego thus splits into fragements or dissociates and it is a natural psychic defence mechanism that must be understood and respected.

Experience becomes discontinuous.  Mental imagery may be split off from affect, or both affect and image may be dissociated from conscious knowledge.  Flashbacks of sensation seeminlgy disconnected from behavioural context occur.  The memory of one’s life has holes in it – a full narrative history cannot be told by the person whose life has been interruted by trauma.

For a person who has expereinced unbearable pain, teh psychological defence of dissociation allows external life to go on but at a great internal cost.  The outer sequalae of the trauma continue to haunt the inner world, and they do this, Jung discovered, in the form of certain images which cluster around a strong affect – what Jung called ‘feeling toned complexes’.  These complexes tend to behave autonomously as frightening inner beings, and are respresented in dreams as attacking ‘enemies’, vicious animals, etc. (not under the control of the will… autonomous.. .opposed to conscious intentions of the person…. they are tyrannical and pounce upon the dreamer or bearer with ferocious intensity.)

In dissociation the psyche may also splinter into various personalities which may carry rejected aspects of the person.  The mind becomes ‘split apart’ and such defences involve a lot of internal aggression as one part of the psyche tries to attack and protect the other more vulnerable, rejected parts.  The psyche cannot integrate these parts without therapy and active help.

In the course of natural therapy for such people the hostile attacking or protective force that acts to keep the person remote and in lock down will begin to arise in dreams and active imagination.  Elain Aron’s book The Vulnerable Self in Chapter Six “Dealing with Inner Critic and Protector-Persecutor” outlines some of this process as she give more insight into the role the persecutor-protector plays for highly sensitive individuals.  She also gives some examples which will help fellow sufferers to deal with their own dreams or nightmares where such forces arise. After dreaming we can through a practice of active imagination find a way to interact with these forces and help get them working more for us than against us. Aron’s book will help you in this regard too.

Donald Kalsched’s book is also an excellent reference for anyone suffering trauma.  It is more analytical in tone and quiet detailed.   The self care system that works to protect us can end up working against us too, this is the prominent point Kalsched makes in his book.  The inner persecutor-protector will sometimes work to organise a suicide if the psyche feels too much under threat from internal or external forces.  The persecutor-protector needs to really be understood by anyone attempting to free themselves from the crippling effects of childhood trauma.

I have a second associated post to post after this with some of the information from Elaines’ book on the persecutor-protector.  I will post it and link it to this post later on.

On the thorny issue of ‘being alone.’

Alone

I picked up an interesting book at the library on Sunday, as my close followers will know I often do.  The title is How To Be Alone and its on the issue of how so often in modern society we are told that it’s not good to be alone or to spend too much time in solitude, that it is more natural for us as human beings to socialise or be sociable.  If you think about it a lot of how we feel about spending time alone does relate to how we were related to when young, but we might not also have come in with a bias to be more introverted, or is that just something that happens to us when significant early relationships fail?  The book has really got me thinking.

I don’t know how many of you have been in relationships where you were told it wasn’t natural for you to be introspective or need your alone time.  I went through one significant relationship like this and it was also something I was told a lot by family members.  They did not seem to realise that when certain traumas and separations hit me both in early childhood and later adolescence/early adulthood I was left to cope alone.  So I can just naturally get on with my life in solitude, I do spend a lot of time in that solitude though thinking about others, its not just all self obsessive thinking I engage with when alone.

The author of the book Sara Maitland makes convincing arguments for the healthy and soul nurturing aspects of solitude or being alone.  Of course solitude is a choice for some of us and one we use both to nurture ourselves and make an inner relationship and so its a different kind of alone time to that which may be imposed on us if we are exiled or find ourself isolated emotionally or physically in some relationships, families or groups, which can happen we are not like the other’s temperamentally or have suffered abandonment or abuse.  Then being alone can be deeply painful but also set us on a quest to know and love ourselves more and to understand the forces that shaped us.  We can get all kinds of messages about how there is something wrong with us for being alone or liking solitude, and those messages are bound to make us feel worse about ourselves if we swallow them wholesale.

In my last major relationship, my partner accused me of being agoraphobic simply because at that stage I was choosing solitude, that said there may have been a degree of social anxiety in my unsociability.  I had been abandoned and hurt and misunderstood very much in the years leading up to that introversion.   Yet still as a person I know I do gain benefits from alone time.  I am highly empathic and I find when I am around certain people I do absorb and tend to gravitate toward them at a feeling level.

I had this experience yesterday when I was driving to my first therapy appointment of 2018 of being reduced to tears at the intersection where a homeless man was offering windscreen cleaning and being refused by nearly every driver.  He said the ‘F’ word sotto of voice without a hint of outer aggression, and as he did I felt his exhaustion and pain and something about him being rejected really triggered me.   I just found myself sobbing.  I am aware that a lot of what I was feeling may have been banked up grief as I had seen my therapist only once since my mother’s death on 12 December and holding in the feelings I noticed they were bubbling up as I drove toward the appointment.  I thought of how hard Mum tried to give or do things for us and of how much she needed emotionally and was refused by certain family members, yet introversion and solitude helped me to process all of this and become more aware.

I noticed too that on the last two days I took myself out for a morning coffee when I ran into friends part of me was pleased to see them, but part of me wanted just to have a solitary moment enjoying my cuppa.  I find I am less conscious of the taste and mindfully experiencing it, drinking my coffee while distracted in conversation.  Conversation can be either interesting and engaging or a bit detached and that all depends on what is being shared.  Being pulled out of ourselves when we need that alone time to recharge can be a bit disturbing to our energy and I don’t always find it easy in that situation to say ‘listen I would just like to sit quietly on my own for a while.’

The danger I think in all of this, though, is pertinently pointed out by Sara in her book.  It’s not just pathology to want to be alone.  In one chapter she reminds us that it’s when we are alone in nature that so many of us have peak experiences of connection : physical, emotional, spiritual and transcendent.   It is in silence we can hear the still small voice of creativity that is often drowned out by too much excessive stimulation or ‘noise’, its in solitude that we can touch with the base of our soul through the use of imagination or reverie.   However, it is also lovely to have those moments when we touch or are touched by other humans, times of connection that fill us up and add to us, rather than drain our life energy away.  Sorting out what we need in terms of connection or solitude and alone time or in relationship is an ongoing balance of polarities.  What is right for one person may not serve someone else and what we need on one day may change on another.

Despite all this I know my own soul would be far poorer were it not for the creative alone time I have experienced in my own life.   So I will not be ever demonising anyone for loving their solitude.

There is no evidence whatsoever that even prolonged periods of being alone are detrimental to physical or mental health, so long as that solitude is freely chosen…. (according to Anthony Storr – author of the book Solitude) “the fact that isolation can be therapeutic is seldom mentioned in textbooks of psychiatry.  The emphasis is on group participation….(I) regret that the average mental hospital can make little provision for those patients who want to be alone and would benefit from being so.”

Maitland makes the point consistently throughout her book that often people who chose alone time or solitude can be demonised as sad, mad or bad.   But not all evidence supports this, for those who are able to endure and navigate the alone space can bring back treasures both for the self and for others which just would never have been discovered or birthed in the absence of solitude.

 

 

 

So alone : reflections on awakening along the path of consciousness

Now that I feel I am finally casting off the demon of self blame I am seeing the deeper reality of my life and most particularly of my struggles after getting sober in 1993.   I was waking up, pure and simple, to the consequences of a tortured emotional past that I had buried over years and through my addiction lost the way to.  But with the surrendering of alcohol, I was finally committing to a pathway of descent and uncovery.

It has not been easy and my marriage had to go into the fire at 11 years in.   I know there are many sheddings, ending, losses deaths and surrenders me must undergo and accept as we struggle on the path to becoming more deeply conscious beings.  As we travel along the path it narrows before us as it lead us into a spiritual wilderness, we become the orphan and live out of that archetype as we are trying to birth something so deep our parents could not give us.  So many of us carry unconsciously their unintegrated children deep inside and we have the spiritual and emotional task to make something new of our ancestral legacy.  At least that is how I see the bigger picture and it is the only one that gives my life meaning.  And we have to undergo this journey alone but not necessarily without guides and companions.

I found my own guidance emerging in the final years of my addiction when my soul witness self knew something was terribly wrong with my life and my drinking.  That guidance came from people like Carl Jung, Marion Woodman and John Bradshaw who showed me my addiction was but a symptom and what I suffered was not purely personal but was strongly collective and affects so many others as we struggle under the weight of an unconscious past so spiritually bereft of the healing feminine.

My own parents had it hard.  There was no place of comfort or soothing for their inner children.  Both lives had been devastated by the impacts of World War ,I both lost their fathers as a result, not during it but in the painful aftermath.  That silent history of father absence dogged them both and has repeated its deep echo of abandonment all along our later genetic line.   I see myself as ‘the awakener’ to it all.  It took my older sister out, the pain of all of those hundred of years of trauma gone unconscious and I stood on the sidelines as the witness.   I did not know I was affected by so many larger forces and that my own struggle must, of necessity, be lonely and hard,] as I was trying to open up and break new ground in a family that in so many ways is deaf dumb and blind to deeper realities.

Kat, my therapist was saying yesterday what a lonely path the path of conscious awakening to the deep feminine soul is.  Carl Jung nearly went mad on his way to find it, if you read his autobiography and follow his journey it was just prior to the outbreak of World War One that he broke with Freud then had visions of a bloodbath in Europe and then he developed the concept of the shadow and the collective unconscious.  He could not agree with Freud that all was ruled by sex and death and that the child wanted to seduce the parents.  I am not saying that there are not valid points and great insights in Freud’s ideas and he was bringing them to birth out of Victorian times but Jung went deeper when he realised there are so many larger influences around us as individual souls which we are subject to.

Anyway, as usual I have digressed….back to the sense of being so alone.  If we don’t ‘fit in’ maybe it is because we see deeper, and this is what Kat was saying to me yesterday.  It IS a burden to see this deep but it is also a gift and a result of all we suffer in our path of being and feeling so alone yet knowing at a deeper awareness other truths we don`t fully understand yet that are emerging (if that makes sense?).  Our aloneness is a doorway into recognition of truths others may fear or shun, that they may want to turn a blind eye on and call us ‘mad’ for glimpsing.  And on the path we are not totally alone really as there are others souls who went before lighting the way.  There are also are our fellow travellers who are willing to dive below the surface to do their own deep work who we share with and recognise.  We are all in a process of waking up to what may be being asked of us as humans to recognise at this point our evolution.  Could it be an awakening to the truth of our own feelings, soul and love, to understandings of how thwarted power drives can shape and misshape us?

I do not think we should shun or stigmatise the so called ‘mentally ill’; if we are on the pathway of emotional recovery we have to go a bit mad on the way.  Our addiction or bi polar or BPD or other diagnoses are but symptoms of soul suffering that we are being asked to understand.  We are not our diagnoses and our true selves lay buried somewhere deeper inside.  All of our reactions make sense, most particularly our violent reactions to the emotional violence we are so often subjected to in childhood, which may I say has become more endemic in a technologically oriented industrialised society.  Go study the myth of the Handless Maiden if you want to see a parable or metaphor for what happens to our soul or inner feminine when it is neglected or abandoned in such a  cutlure.  We loose our hands, our access to our inner life and our emotional agency and we only grow those functioning hands back when our deep soul suffering awakens our tears which we, in crying use to wash our tortured souls clear and clean of illusions and within that seemingly powerless place, find and embrace our true soul power.  We are all in a process of awakening.  Let us remember that.

In the depths of our personal and collective dark night we fall down and struggle and awaken alone but we are also connected, nothing of our shared collective human experience is alien or strange, just our dissociation from it and from the larger awareness that we are only as separate as we believe we are at certain points along that path of awakening.  At times we are so deeply alone and yet, paradoxically, it is through that aloneness that we are also connected at deeper levels.   That said the path does narrow as we move further along it and the loneliness we feel at certain times is so acute, but my deeper experience is that as we deepen into the loneliness a great spiritual light so often is felt if we just hold fast and keep opening our hearts to the deep truths we glimpse and face and integreted the painful realities we have known inside.  Through this painful path we finally come to know what love is.   Both feeling and action.

Disconnection and connection : some thoughts

Jung

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day to myself

Today’s posts aren’t in any kind of order.  I write a lot more than I post and this one was from yesterday.  The critic often reminds me a lot of what I write is just for me and at times its verbal diatribe, its the working out of inner processes and then the critic doesn’t want it posted to bore other’s senseless or remind them how self obsessed I am.  But followers that’s the critic for you and the way he is  (yes, my critic is male and I call him Mr A!)  Anyway I am going to post this anyway.  Not to say the critic is all wrong by the way!

What a day.  I have moved through so many feelings and states today.  Dusk will be soon with us and Jasper is looking longingly out of the lounge room window as he does on the rainy days when we don’t get out.  Today for the first day in ages I stayed in my PJ’s until about 3 pm.  I didn’t eat until later and I watched part of a movie in between writing and crying and thinking and dreaming and doing a bit of house work.

I am aware of all the back forward, in out, wrong right swings my mind is doing at present.  At one moment I am aware of the pain in my heart over losses that I feel has immobilised me locked me away from others and sometimes shut them out.  At another I am aware that my pain needed a witness and on this score I was let down.  I then got to reading one of my old diaries from the before my husband and I separated and I see how I was struggling with a lot of dis-satisfaction and thoughts of leaving him.  I was also writing all the time, withdrawing deeply into my inner world, exchanging deep emails with a good friend who was very interested in similar things to me such as dreams, astrology symbology, writing and evolutionary history as well as the battle between love and hate love and fear that was raging at that time around the outset of America’s decision to invade Iraq and look for weapons of mass destruction.

I wrote in my journal that I had been crying over a news story in which it told of how the spine of a young child was shattered by enemy fire.  I had then had a dream of a crustacean with a shattered spine and I was starting to explore how the illness of my sister had had such a powerful effect but I was trying to do all of this in isolation in a place where I should not at that time have been living.

Anyway then I got a bit of a fit of the blues about how my ‘life is going nowhere’.   Fact is I had an interior day and when negative brooding thoughts like this come to visit its better to not engage too much.  I just made a cup of tea.  I am feeling a little guilty about not walking the dog but today I don’t feel like going out at all.  It was a huge few days after my nephew’s visit with his family, which really brings up the past.  I was so aware of how powerfully I get pulled on by this traumatic past and how little of my energy is actually in present time.  I have not heard back from his brother after two attempts to call and I cried about that : tears of actual acceptance, which felt good.   Sometimes the best thing to do is let go and move on.  Sadly its not what I have done for most of the past 10 years and at the moment I am seeing the cost of that.  I am seeing how it is frustrating for others.  But the truth is I have had a lot of grief and loss.  It is not something to ‘move on’ from easily.

As my therapist often points out the work I am doing in therapy is about a mid life process of reckoning with the past that takes time.  Its just that next year I am anxious to find a way to externalise in my life more.  I want to be out and interacting with other people, just not sure in what avenue and then even as I write that I am aware that as an introvert I will always be primed to turn within.   Self acceptance is so important, as we can so often judge ourselves and hear inner voices telling us we are not good enough which limits us and limits our life.  I am sick of limitations at present.

Well Sun, you are now peeping your head out from around the corner.  It is time to relax for now.   Mercury retrograde really pulled me deep inside today.  I am glad I was able to answer the call.  All in all its been lovely to have a day to just stay home with me after those intense days where I was so heavily pulled upon by the outer world and be by myself at home.

Return after a deep day of darkness.

I went back into a very dark place on the weekend.  On Saturday it was as if the pain of my past alcoholic days and all that awful things that went on came to live back inside of me and every nerve of my body felt like it was on fire.  This was all triggered by a dinner with friends who were part of that stage of my life.  I was in so much pain on Saturday and feeling deeply suicidal again.  I think some of it too was prompted by my ‘friend’ asking “So what do you DO all day”  and “And does that work?”. That can tap into all the shame a guilt I feel as someone with chronic PTS I wont add the D as I don’t see it as a disorder, but as part of what living and being raised in a trauma inducing world brings to us who are gifted and sensitive, who no longer works or has much outside involvement or engagement in the working world which I decided to check out of over 16 years ago when I saw how dysfunctional it can be.   At the same time I also know I was facing very deep sadness over how profound my disconnected or separation from connection has been and how it is a part of being sensitive and having gone through so much trauma that others have not.  That became clearer to me after all we shared on Friday night.

There are days and days my socially injected inner critic takes me to task about that and I forget all the time about the necessary inner work my soul has been engaged in over the past 16 years in trying to make sense of and shed the pain of my past or at least learn essential lessons from it.  And how realistic would it have been for me to be working and how would I have then dealt with being there for a mother who was sick a sister suicidal and another sister in care?   I chose to be there out of love and empathy even though I got so little back.  That one is on me to wear.  Slowly I am trying to establish a stronger connection with my inner child and be there for her, but it is slow….and does it really matter how much I do in one day or is it in fact more important to maintain a high level of emotional connection within in order to practice self care?

Then I have days like today when I log onto find I have connected with an amazing soul sister from the UK who is also on a healing pathway and who really gets me and I her.  I understand that I am actually in a process of waking up and trying to throw off so many shackles.  I am also doing the deep work of being real and raw and open in a society in which there is at times so much ignorance, suffering, unconsciousness and pain around and that is when I get faced with the what I do all day questions.

Truth is I would love to be more connected but I need REAL connections these days…..they are slowly coming to me much as my Inner Critic tries to convince me otherwise, I am making progress.  The best thing I have in my life is really my blog and blogging community here as here is where I find others who are on a path of conscious work on emotional levels, however its sad that we cannot meet face to face.

In interesting aside on Friday night at the dinner I was sharing with my old friends about the power of the Inner Critic.  It isn’t a subject they would ever talk about but on Friday they both admitted to being besieged by criticism as well.  Wee then questioned my friends young adult children who said they have not a clue about what an  Inner Critic is.  “If anything goes wrong I immediately blame someone else”, they both said.  “I wouldn’t take it on board if others were always trying to point out my flaws!”  We 60s generation were amazed and a bit confounded by this.  Not to live with an inner critic or endlessly working over time conscience, how could this be? The next day one of my friends had a bitch about it their lack of care, obviously a raw nerve had been touched!

Anyway I seem to have got a bit off track or not, as the case may be.  I felt the comment from my friend perhaps as criticism when it was not, maybe it was just a question of interest.  Is there a way taking care of ourselves could become a full time job?  Isn’t that important work?  At the same time I am not dimissing my inner need for a way to find work or a sense of outer engagement that could give something back and help others.  I am just not at that stage yet.  My blog is my work, caring for myself and my home and my dog is my work and it gets lonely and hard on the tough days.

On other days I wake up to remind myself that the past is gone now and that I do have a present that isn’t fraught with all that past pain and its draining to have it retriggered  I am not longer numbing myself with addictions as I was then, so the rawness is intense. I literally felt every nerve in my body to be on fire on Saturday.

I am now aware after Saturday of the need I have to  keep a strong sense of protection around myself, retriggered trauma makes me drained and I need to increase self care regimes after these kind of dark days.   If I don’t take care of myself and get into too many situations where I am pulled back into the past the consequence is that I get hollowed out and my life is not nurtured from within.  As an empath and sensitive person quiet time is essential to my soul.   Without it I suffer and I can get overloaded.

I also need to remember that each day I am moving towards growth or trying too.   The tough days still come and they can knock me sideways,  but I am always relieved when after those tough days the sun shines again on me in a place where I have understood more and perhaps cleansed more that was formerly unconscious in me from my system. Today I need to celebrate my own life with self nurturing after those days of darkness.

Soul Refuge

Dreamer

Rest in the depths of your soul

Take refuge there

In the dark corridors of your dreaming

Where memories

Intuitions

Imprints

And imaginings

Whirl in an eccentric symmetry

Creating a mosaic of glorious individuality

Lay none of your precious shards to waste

For your exile from them

Gives birth to the dark night

Through which you must wander and wonder

Like a ghost

Living in spaces and in shadows

That steal understanding of how filled you are

With inner light

Retrieved from wreckage

All the harsh experiences you never chose

Shaping you deep inside this crucible

Remember this your soul says

It was all just a temporary haunting

Because the pure ground of your inner being is light

The outsider : reflections on feeling like I don’t belong

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Today I have been thinking of how it feels to be an outsider, belonging nowhere as much as to myself.   I went to the dog park and connected for a while with people on the day to day level, then Jasper and I drove and then walked to our local/café bakery just along from the big Cathedral/church that was so much a part of my childhood.  A friend from school who I haven’t seen for a few years drove past with her son and waved and I had that feeling of being so ‘outside’ in my casual dog park clothes, I wasn’t on the way to church at Easter because to me Easter is a far deeper festival or mythic/mythological event than what is, to my mind, encapsulated in traditional Catholic Easter service with dead men wearing frocks attended by pomp and circumstance which speaks little to me of what Jesus actually lived and spoke about and suffered in his life.

I was also thinking a few day ago of how Jesus said that in order to grow spiritually we have to leave our family of origin and that at times we will find that our enemies are those of our own household.  This dovetails with what I tried to express in my post yesterday on being a family scapegoat :

https://wordpress.com/post/emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/29886

It felt sad to see my friend drive by on one level, but at the same time I was grateful to be going with Jasper to sit quietly, enjoy my morning coffee, read and watch the passers by.  However I was also aware of  the running dialogue of my inner critic saying how I am a loser as I never had children and am not really a very active participant in society at all having never really found my place.  The way things have evolved in my life and sobriety means that I live a deeply interior life in which I, in many way, feel myself to be in the world but not of the world.

This got me to thinking about how so many of the scapegoat identified individuals I have come to know are escapees from narcissistic families, or families devoted to such soulless values that are empty of meaning for the so called ‘scapegoat’.  The kind of families they come from seem to be blind to the individual on a deeper level, were actively disparaging or invalidating, and failed to see deeper into that individual’s being, soul and inner life wanting them to be something they were not, or to erase entire parts of their soul.  What other alternative do such individuals have, but to leave the family eventually to find their own way, truth, validation and recognition?

To me the scapegoat is often the one who sees at a far deeper level,  beyond certain hypocrisies, they may be the one who is designated as ‘apart’ from the collective,  they may be emotional or sensitive in a family devoted to practicalities and a stiff upper lip.   This is the kind of background portrayed by Jungian therapist and writer Sylvia Bretton Perrera in her book on the Scapegoat identified individual.  In this book she explains how the vulnerable member of the family comes to take on feelings of shame and worthlessness projected by parents or siblings disconnected from their own unlived, and unloved characteristics.  If, like me, you have ever been exiled from a group for being too angry or sad you will know what I am getting at here.  Its happened to me more times than I could count.

The other thing I was trying to touch on in my post yesterday was the fact that feeling on the outside of society often means we carry characteristics and values that have been exiled from a society that is not always spiritually and emotionally healthy, geared as it is to heroic ideals of conquest, achievement and emotional stoicism, competition and self denial.  Scapegoats come to be identified as the ‘sick’ one or the one with a so called ‘mental illness’ but we may actually be carrying something that was rejected by the family or society which was problematic reaching quite a few generations back and badly needs to be recognised or incorporated.   We may struggle to get it recognised in the family and our quest to do so may never be a success, which pushes us back in the end to our own resources and if on a metaphorical level if you think about what Jesus tried to get recognised and was crucified for you can see some kind of deeper parallel to what scapegoats go through, forced into a kind of exile or emotional crucifixion we may have to struggle through to the deeply painful realisation of how deeply unconscious our families are and now little they are able to nurture or recognise the nascent seeds of our truer, deeper self.

Today much more grounded into a realistic appraisal of myself once I settled down with my coffee and read through recent comments and reactions to my WordPress posts,  I saw that in no way am I a ‘loser’, and in no way am I someone who has nothing to offer society.  I see how I have struggled so often to find a place in places my soul did not really belong and that perhaps my lonely childhood was a great preparation for me to be a truth seeker in this world, able to see below the surface of things.  I also felt infinite compassion for others who struggle with so called ‘mental illness’ definitions which don’t always cut to the heart of what the true wounding was and leave them disidentifed with all the gold these beautiful people hold in their shadows,  all the gorgeous gifts that come with being outsiders or scapegoats. In a way we have to end the self judgement that is such a big part of when we identify solely with all the ways in which we don’t ‘fit in’.  We need to make our own worlds where we do!

I feel so blessed that in 2013 when I was really struggling that I found the support on WordPress from other scapegoats, some of who carry so much wisdom and was encouraged to be brave enough to express my thoughts and journey here.   This is the place I feel the warmth, although its a bit sad we can’t meet in person.  Here is the place I connect and find my meaning, here is the place where I no longer see myself as a loser but as someone who belongs and can bear the not belonging feeling that comes when my soul senses intuitively it is not in the right place.  So for today I have feel I have more than enough, cosy at home writing this now, I know there is a place for me.  The truer I am and the less I identify with the remorseless inner critic so introjected from society and conditioning, the happier I will be.  Here deeply at home in my heart and soul I feel that I do indeed belong.

 

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.