Thomas Moore : on clearing space for soul during a dark night

It helps to clear out the theories and dogmas you picked up from your family, school. and religious upbringing. To be an independent and mature adult, you may have to dump all kinds of things that get in the way. Then your thoughts and judgments become leaner and clearer. You realize that much of what has preoccupied you is not essential. You can live happily and sensuously in this rich and promising world without getting caught up in many of its dehumanizing values and empty distractions.

“It has occurred to me (that) perhaps what we call depression isn’t really a disorder at all but, like physical pain, an alarm of sorts, alerting us to something that is undoubtedly wrong; that perhaps it is time to stop, take a time out, take as long as it takes, and attend to the unaddressed business of filling our souls.” (this quote is from writer, Lee Stringer.)

Here is a key idea : stop thinking of your dark nights as problems and begin to see them as opportunities for change.

A spiritual existence requires constant cleansing; because the spirit by nature is less involved in day to day issues and more focused on the core, the universal, the eternal. The soul should be stuffed with issues and relationships, and even problems, but it needs a degree of regular thinning, a process that can be a fruit of the dark night.

Thomas Moore


How different would our lives be if we only believed we were enough and had enough?  As I look around this society and even consider my own life and past I see that a fear of not enoughness can dog so many of us.  This fear can cause us to compete or to believe we are not worthy enough, it can prevent us from expressing ourselves, from reaching out to love and be loved and it makes us attack or collapse when that reaching out hits a brick wall or is demonised or rejected by another person who also feels not enough or that we are not enough for them.

I guess this is coming to mind as its interesting I had the clash with the gardener the other day all around the 11th anniversary of getting together with my ex partner back in 2007.   At the outset of the relationship he had a long list of why and how others were not enough and of how he had struggled to find enough love, and during the entire relationship he found it so difficult to relax and then began to point out to me all the time how I wasnt enough this or that.    I know now that as an adult child of an alcoholic parent he had never had a resting place either and he was driven by a lot of unresolved grief which manifested as rage when things triggered him.  He drove one of his sons very hard and would call him mean names if the son refused to do something his father wanted often only because he was tired too and loved to play guitar and needed to rest or just loved being in the ‘now’ as I did.

I thought of this unhealed wound yesterday as I have reached the chapter in Jeanette Wintersons’s book Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal (which is what her stepmother said to Jeanette when she found out she was gay) where she has a breakdown after a love relationship dissolves in her adulthood.  Reading it reminded me that suicidal feelings often accompany the opening to the realisation of our wounded self that never got to fully birth in dysfunctional homes that could not honour our sacred wholeness.   Jeanette expresses very powerfully the forces within herself that she struggled with and that over the period 2007 to 2008 caused her to break down and break open to the self hatred and ‘madness’ inside her which was nothing less than a composite of all the toxic things, behaviours and beliefs her mother had introduced into her life over years as well as associated feelings that for most of her life she was writing over the top of.

Jeanette tried to take her life in 2008 and had what I can only call a spiritual experience in which she understood her old self was dead and she had to be born again on a deeply psychological level, she also began to realise she needed to address and understand the feelings and forces that were driving her from within.

In a very heart wrenching paragraph she writes :

extremes – whether of dullness or fury – successfully prevent feeling.  I know our feelings can be so unbearable that we employ ingenious strategies – unconscious strategies – to keep those feelings away.  We do a feeling swap where we avoid feeling sad or lonely or afraid or inadequate, and feel angry instead.  It can work the other way , too – sometimes you do need to feel angry, not inadequate, sometimes you do need to feel love and acceptance, and not the tragic drama of your life.

It takes courage to feel the feeling – and not trade it on the feelings exchange, or even transfer it altogether to another person… know how in couples one person is always doing the weeping  or the raging while the other one seems so calm and reasonable?

I understood that feelings were difficult for me although I was overwhelmed by them.

She then began to hear voices and inside them found : ‘a piece of me… damaged that she was prepared to see me dead to find peace…. my violent rages, my destructive behavior, my own need to destroy love and trust, just as love and trust had been destroyed for me…. The fact that I did not value myself”  And she also found that ‘the lost furious vicious child’ was the ‘war casualty’ and that was the part of her hated herself and also hated life.

Jeanette began to dialogue with this destructive part of herself which was really a defence against her childhood pain and that is what brought her back home to herself.  It also led to the writing of a children’s book The Battle of the Sun which as a person with an astrological interest intrigues me as the Sun in our chart is our spiritual centre, it is the essence of us born to shine before it becomes in many cases covered in tarnish or buried under the force of our inner demons or monsters, or what Jeanette imagines as ‘the Creature’ within.  It was this creature which was a representation really of all the lies she had been told about her being a bad self, never good enough, and it’s primary purpose (as for all of us who internalise the critic) was to mock, disparage and tear her apart, but never the less giving this part of herself a voice in the end, as for all of us, helped Jeanette to reclaim her sanity.

Her pen ultimate realisation which she shares at the end of the chapter The Night Sea Journey makes me cry :

A few months later we (the creature and Jeanette) were having our afternoon walk when I said something about how nobody had cuddled us when we were little.  I said ‘us’ not ‘you’.  She held my hand.  She had never done that before, mainly she just walked behind shooting her sentences.

We both sat down and cried

I said. “We will learn how to love.”

Learning to love ourselves, to accept our pain, to hold our own hand, to know that we were and will always be ‘enough’ no matter what other forces or voices in the family or culture have told us well really isn’t this our most important challenge?  And doesn’t the deepest recognition of this truth mean a lessening of our insane and voracious consumption which drives us in covering over our sense of emptiness and not enoughness to over produce and over consume in ways that close our eyes to the reality of vast magentic gift of enoughness that surrounds us on this living, breathing, fully sentient, spirit infused love infused planet earth?  Is it not the trance of our not enoughness either internalised or projected the thing that keeps us hungry and blind, causing us to lash out, over protect or self or other harm?   Is not what is needed on this planet an awakening to the sacredness of earth and all life which can only come from a deeply realised sense of preciousness and enoughness?

Letting go of numb

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

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

Brach writes the following in her book :

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

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

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

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



Your heart sings

When you start to feel you are not so alone

After travelling so long along a path that led so far from home

Warmth starts to flood your icy veins

When all the pain that kept you frosted up inside

Starts to melt

Mixing with life blood

From a heart no longer so ensnared

So paralysed

As the new dawn comes

On a brighter day

And you watch old shadows pass away

Suddenly you realise something new but paradoxially so old

Is being birthed down deep inside

Recognition grows that you are now no longer as alone

That others walking the same path at such a distance

Are emerging out of the shadows too

And you are meeting at the centre

The nebula of  new world forming

Enfolding you in pain and love and shared feeling

Into a centre

Where heart’s truth can be known

How sweet it is to feel that peace

To know all your grief, regret and sadness is being released

Your heart sings in vibrant harmony

A song of gratitude to the path

That opened

In the aftermath

Letting go of fear, obligation and guilt

At times I need to let go of ideas or hopes or dreams I have of how life would be ideal.  I am having to let go of the idea of having permanent fake teeth in my mouth and accept that from here on in I will have 3 teeth on a plate that is then inserted into my mouth.

When I saw the dentist yesterday he was very slow and measured.  He wanted to make sure “I was entirely ready” to have my tooth out and cope with the denture.  I gathered from what he said that so many people could not cope with it very well and he was worried as to how I would react having to see myself every morning with no front teeth when the denture is out.  I must admit that before I went yesterday my inner child or inner self just cried and cried and told me she doesn’t want to have the tooth out and have to go through this hurdle to wear and denture and be a gummy shark with no front teeth!  And while I can hold her and my hand through this I KNOW I have to go through with it and feel the pain.  I had to tell my child and inner self that sometimes I have to go through something I don’t want for a higher reason or for the sake of better physical or emotional health.  It was the same feelings I went through when I had to face breast cancer.  I felt like Jesus in Gethsemane pleading with God to not have to face it, but I did and I survived.

Facing this yesterday and letting myself fully grieve and have all the associated emotions was painful but ultimately good.  I was able to get myself dressed and get to the dentist and I cannot tell you how many times I have cancelled out of dental appointments before.  But it also made me realise that I have also avoided heaps of things that it would be better if I had faced, and that there were times when I needed to let go of much loved or needed attachments that were actually holding me back and I could not.  I wanted to be the nice girl and do the right thing, or at the very least not abandon others who were in pain.  That was a positive motivation but not when it led to the loss of my own inner needs and happiness.

Today we had a heavy fog.  As I write this the first rays of sunlight are only just starting to shine through at 11 am.  And today I was thinking about another kind of FOG which obscures the sunlight for me : Fear, Obligation and Guilt.  I was thinking of how many times these three have stopped my own individual Sun essence from shining forth, from allowing myself to separate and go for the good things especially when others were suffering.  Another thing I noticed this week is how my Mum unconsciously evokes these kind of feelings in me by telling me about how my sister is going through some emotional struggle.  The assumption she makes is that my sister is weak and cannot cope and then I feel drawn in and as though I need to do something to help my sister when really what she is going through is about her and I struggle along silently with my own problems and others in my family rarely reach out to see how I am coping.

I opened the post intending to write about letting go and my insight earlier into FOG while doing yoga stretches is associated.  I need to be much more aware of letting go and realising when fear, a sense of obligation or guilt are motivating my actions or alternatively limiting them.

In the case of fear I have not always been able to recognise that is what has been imprisoning me.  I think the accident I had it 2005 has left me with huge fear/trauma imprints about moving forward or taking any action and subconsciously this fear prompts the panic attacks I have around 5 to 7 pm every evening and to a degree the problem I have with waking up in the morning.

This morning I remembered to be extra conscious of making sure I had my attention on the breath when trauma flood had me pinned.  I was aware of the funny cartoon in Bev Aisbett’s book which portrays the panic attack as funny carton dragon who hovers in the shadows and sends up all kinds of thoughts.  In my own case it isn’t just thoughts that prompt my attacks there is a stored vibrational charge of chemicals in my body that wake up every day in the morning.  I then get extra focused on my body and find it hard to bring my energy into the day.  But thinking too which runs along negative lines can also hold me back.

I read a older post on a site earlier about how one survivor of an eating disorder which spoke of how ED as a voice tries to keep the person thinking along negative lines.  It will see all the things that are wrong.  In this way it keeps us trapped and from seeing what is actually good.  I am noticing more and more these days when my focus is pulled toward the negative so that I can then put my energy on something beautiful, good or positive.  Yes there is a lot of pain and negativity in people and in the world but we don’t have to allow it to capture us all of the time, or at least I am realising that I don’t have to.

I can also let go of the sense of obligation I feel to take care of others in my family and realise that there is a force beyond me that is meant to help them.  I am not put on earth to give all of my energy to others who are suffering.  I can show support and care when I am in a strong place, but otherwise at times my need to help comes out of something else and may even be a projection of a neglected part of myself that in fact needs my own care.  It may even come out of guilt I have or a belief I am not worthy of a happy, free life and that is not fair, for I am worthy of these things, but thinking that I am not does keep me bowed under, or most definitely has in the past.

I think that in some families joy can actually be a quality that is shamed.  We can be shamed for being full of life, or different, or full of energy or happy.  We can be made to feel that if others are suffering we need to suffer too, or at least must not present them with the challenge of a happy, free person for whom things are going right if they are having problems.

I am now identifying this kind of thing in myself.   I am aware of the joy killer that lives within and dampens me down with all kinds of negative heaviness.  I actually am feeling more and more lately I want to let that killer go and get that negative energy out of my head.  I want to let go of fear, obligation and guilt, they were such strong conditioning agents of my Catholic education and come to think of it we have Jewish background on my Mum’s side three generations back and at times I feel that heaviness as a shroud that can be limiting and life denying when it focuses on obligation to family, rules, oughts or shoulds.

And outside my window now sun and blue sky has been revealed as the fog has slowly cleared away and so I want to go out and embrace the day with my dog.  I am so grateful that now I no longer spend days and days and days in immobility and pain.  I am so grateful for the life energy I feel returning when I face up to the tough stuff in stead of running away and find that when I let of certain attachments to ideals and hopes something else can present itself to me, something that may a precious gift hidden within it that I may never have been able to imagine myself or experience if I had not said yes to and embraced the necessary pain involved in the letting go process.

Post script :

After posting this I found the following in Bev Aisbett’s book on panic attacks listing the things which are required of us to recover and it was an interesting read as she touched on what I was writing about above:

In order to effectively make changes for the better you will need to set out to achieve the following goals:

An absolute belief that you deserve to be well, happy and loved

A complete shift of focus from being a loser to being a winner

A conscious awareness of choice

An ability to just BE

A total commitment to wellness not illness.

Just writing this triggers my inner negative voice but I will put it out there, as I feel it speaks to what a new approach to my life may be asking of me.

Strong feelings


Just some thoughts after reading about someone’s deep emotional pain as a response to overwhelming abuse.

Strong feelings don’t mean you are crazy.

Strong feelings don’t mean you are out of control.

Strong feelings result from intense experiences which overwhelmed you and which your soul intuitively rebelled against.

Strong feelings don’t make you ‘bad’.

Strong feelings are an indication that you may be getting very close to painful or intense realities or abuse that you endured.

Expect that when you have strong feelings that there are those out there who may not understand, who may try to invalidate you or shut you down, you don’t have to like it, and its likely it will anger you as well.

From my own experience strong feelings come out of a passionate response.  Often those who have them are judged or misunderstood.  A chiropractor who I sometimes see to help with my own intense body symptoms told me recently how what I choose to call ‘terminal coolness’ is a sad sort of social standard these days.  To be judged as ‘cool’ your responses need to be tempered and laid back but what is more likely is that you are just emotionally shut down.

Unfortunately shame is still very pervasive in our society.  Its used to keep people in line, to judge them and label them and put them in boxes.  It helps to bolster the egos of those who lay claim to the moral high ground and may rain down platitudes on your head that make no sense.

I personally now believe in trusting my strong feelings. There was a time when I really needed to act them out and they were super intense due to a lifetime of being mocked, judged, invalidated and stuffed down deep inside.  Over time my strong feelings have become less intense but I still say a silent ‘yes’ and feel an inner leap of joy when I see or hear someone express strong feelings that come deep out of their emotional core, for that person is then well on their way to healing, they have begun to be able to acknowledge painful emotional truths and their freedom and right to self expression has no longer been stolen.  The right to protest is so often taken from us in abuse. And to heal it needs to be validated and valued.


Integrating our child self


Last week I shared some content from Michael Brown’s book The Presence Process about how important rediscovering the original innocence of our inner child is.  Unfortunately as we grow and are subjected to upsets in the course of our development we learn that this innocence is not so, we may feel we are bad for expressing certain emotions or having certain needs.   When we have tried to express our pain or distress with our parents, often we were not responded to with unconditional support.  We may have learned to distract ourselves or deny what we feel, we may carry anger, hurt, sadness or fear in response to what has happened to us.

Unfortunately such feelings don’t go away but remain locked deep within us in what MB calls emotional charge located deep inside our body at a felt level though just below our conscious awareness. However these feelings can be accessed if we apply a process of being present when we experience our distress instead of seeking ways to distract, numb or run away.

This process involves being a caring adult to our inner child.  Michael has this to say :

If we haven’t consciously interacted with our child self before, then our current relationship with it is similar to that of a parent who has for many years abandoned their child.  At about the age of seven, our childhood experience is deliberately redirected in preparation to enter the adult world.  This requires a willingness to turn around and walk away from our childhood.

As the years unfold, it’s unlikely we will choose to look back and consider the state of the child we once were.  We lay a blanket of forgetfulness over this aspect of our experience and openly admit we can’t remember much of what happened to us when we were children  For this reason, we may no longer be aware of our child self even though it continually watches everything.  We seemingly no longer feel the unintegrated aspects of its condition, despite the fact our adult discomfort is a mirror of this unintegrated charge.

We are so out of touch with how our child self affects us in the present that we may ask “Why now go back and face the past?   Why not leave the past alone and carry on with our life?”

Often the wider society around us reinforces this view. How often is the childhood of celebrities who meet a harsh end through suicide or other trauma explored at a deeper level?  People shake their heads and say “he or she was so popular, why did this happen?”, when the truth is that despite the acclaim, attention or outer recognition that person received perhaps it was for a  false self they learned to adopt, a dark humour which covered up a far deeper wound to their self esteem and self belief that remained hidden or was carried alone deep inside that they found it difficult to share with anyone else and felt the need to mask.

Meeting the inner child’s pain is the most loving thing we can do for ourselves on the path of healing. Knowing and revisiting or original pain or wounds can bring a deeper understanding and liberation from the past, freeing us to be more present and less likely to attract repeated traumas that are old unconscious replays.  Being able to grieve and own the fact of our pain and wounds allow us to know that there is nothing wrong with us for feeling sad or depressed or less than and that really all of these deep feelings make great sense in the right context. As children we may have been shamed for them by adults who were wounded children themselves but if we can see and recognise this we can free ourselves from unnecessary shame.

Being present for our inner child as a loving inner mother and father to this child will allow us to integrate this deepest part of us that has so much to teach us about who we really are and how we feel and what we really, truly need inside.  It will show us a door into our secret heartache and then we will find the words to speak about it feel it, acknowledge it, accept it and free it.

The price of our liberation can be pain.  But it is far better in the long run to allow ourselves to feel this pain than to keep denying it and leaving it trapped inside.  For to do so is to shut the door on a most essential part of us that is so necessary to our healing. and can only be shut out and exiled at great cost.



I know I can trust you now

I feel safe to surrender my defences and melt

Into the moment that God gave

In a place were barricades

Fell down

I feel now the promise that was there all along

Buried under losses I never got to process

I feel the waste but also the promise

For on some level I feel those years have not gone

But live on deep inside me

When I listen to the music of that time

Its so gentle and sweet

And if its true that youth is wasted on the young

Now I can live

Comforted by those overseas memories

Of a precious time

When the world was there at our feet

Pain, unfelt blew it all to smithereens

But now I see a beautiful mosaic

Of souls connected in time

Who are linked forever by memories

That linger

You and I will meet again

On the other side

Then we will know the deeper purpose of this

That we don’t know now

And we will come to know

It was all perfect

And nothing truly was lost

Our vision was just obscured

By all we could not then know or see then

The cold shut down thing that narcissism is was never your fault

I get a bit triggered by recovery rage in terms of narcissistic abuse/recovery.  I still have a spot of compassion for the narcissist somewhere and when I think about it why should this be?  They act hurtfully without any care for our feelings putting their own needs first at every turn and then can act shaming and disparagingly towards us at the end when they dump and discard and blame us the victim who fell for it over and over and over again nurturing the seed they planted that some where, some how there was some fatal flaw with us.

Really it would be right to be raging mad and show no forgiveness.  But maybe the one we most need to show forgiveness for in this situation is ourselves.  If we continue to feel sorry for and or make excuses for the narcissist it will end up badly and we can and do feel ashamed for not having seen or for sacrificing our own tenderness and hurt on the alter of their devaluation or abuse.

The freedom for us only comes when we have the courage to walk away with our wounded heart.  We need to find those who will nourish our heart and help us to deal with the fallout.  I look sadly back on where I ended up around this time of year six years ago when the narcissist dumped me.  I had moved in with him, reluctantly and then accompanied him away on trip that I didn’t enjoy, sacrificing my own needs for his the whole way along.  I was not a victim as I chose to go because I had the empty hungry heart that was full of unresolved need from childhood and so many other ‘dumpings’.  Come to think of I it now I never had one partner who really every connected to me emotionally and I am sure that at the time of those other partnerships I was so scared of being hurt due to my past that I had massive defences in place against being hurt again and so at the first whiff of abandonment I would act out.   I now see in those earlier relationships before I got into recovery I too was emotionally unavailable.

Anyway this time six years ago I ran back to Sydney driving all night in my car ending up with a narcissistic relative who then kicked me out. I had a disastrous attempt at online dating, well not totally disastrous as I actually met a couple of good guys who treated me well, but at that point the wounds the narcissist had planted in me where growing into plants of pain that twisted their tendrils around all of my internal organs and made it impossible to sustain a new, loving connection.  And then sadly the realisation began to dawn that this was a deep wound that needed to be tended and healed from within, not outside.

I am so grateful that I eventually found myself a good therapist and for blogging and online information and support which really pulled me through.  But I also now know that a therapist only takes us so far in this healing, in the end it is our deepest self that needs to step in to love us and make us know that we were never worthy of the kind of abuse we had to put up with in the narcissistic relationship.  We didn’t fall for it because we were stupid, we fell for it because we longed for love but it seems to me we were naïve when we fell for the bait in that we had no reference for what a narcissist could do to us our of their injured self.  Because we have pure hearts that want to give and love that kind of thing is not on our radar and when it hits us out of left field we are punch drunk.

Come to think of that analogy when I first spent the night with my ex narc I got really dizzy.  It was the most bizzare energetic thing. I had been sober for 14 years at that point and I actually felt drunk.  I was so spun out by his energy that I got out of bed and then fell down and hit my head on the bedside table, that was the first of three ‘falls’ or going unconscious that I had in that relationship.  I wont go into all the ins and outs of the others on here but its clear to me many years later that something intense was going on energetically.

My ex narc had deep wounds.  He was deeply defended against grief.  Expressions of grief or compassion could send him ballistic.  For me to be with someone like that was impossible due to the grief I was carrying from all the hurt of my past.  I look back on those dark lonely painful years that led me into that relationship, of the accident I had had only 2 years before as a result of pain over the ending of my marriage when it proved to be deeply emotionally unsupportive and see how much my deeper self was trying to tell me something was wrong. For years coming out of the later relationship I blamed myself, if only I had done something different it would not have ended that way and the narc reinforced this view in email after email.  I now know that is DEFINATELY NOT TRUE.

I was only ever an innocent child longing for love, but that child also had to mature to understand that the world is full of pain and those who have been irrefutably deadened and damaged by it. There is no magic cure for narcissism.  For the narcissist to heal they would have to face depths in themselves which they rarely can.  So if you escaped and survived, please do not do what I did for over 4 years, do not blame yourself.  Do get informed on narcissism and learn about their damage, know it wasn’t anything you did or didn’t do or could or couldn’t change.  For in the end it was a learning experience; a  bitter, painful and excrutiating one for sure but one that led to a deeper darker education of your soul. The only one you have any power over is you and you need all of your power to heal and recover the wounds left by the narcissistic relationship.

The freedom to feel your feelings and think your own thoughts : some reflections on overcoming cognitive dissonance

One of the most interesting aha moments I had years ago was when I realised that a lot of what I thought was feeling was actually thinking disguised as and mimicking feeling. I remember catching myself trying to figure out how I should feel in a situation and then thinking myself into feeling it, but it wasn’t real feeling, it wasn’t how I truly felt in that situation and the difference between how I truly felt and what my mind had decided I should feel was so stark in contrast that it made me stop, observe the process and take stock of how often I may have been doing this with ‘feelings’.

Comment by blogger An Upturned Soul

How safe or secure do you feel feeling what you feel?   Can you trust the feeling, know it is part of you and that you have a reason for having it?  One of the most confusing sayings I heard in 12 step groups is the saying “feelings aren’t facts”.  On one level I get this we may be feeling scared in a situation in which there isn’t any thing to fear, but does that take into account that in the past we went through something really terrible in a similar situation so the past feeling was real, it might just not apply to this new situation?  There is also the tendency we can have to project feelings on others and think they are real when they may not be what the other person is feeling.

We may often be told by others “aren’t you over that by now?”,  or “haven’t you moved on?” or “what’s wrong with you?” That last one sparked the end of a very close AA friendship many years ago.  It didn’t address the emotions that were being triggered or the complexity of the situation and many years later the sayer of it has owned their own narcissism.    Is it other people’s right to say how we feel or should feel?  Is it really helpful for us to question our own feelings too much?  Are others right if we still don’t find ourselves in a space where we have fully digested the experience of loss or betrayal or something else? No, we have not been shown empathy.

Self doubt is not something we are born with.  Self doubt is something that gets sewn deep into the fabric of us in an invalidating environment.  The term cognitive dissonance is one that describes what survivors of emotional, mental and sexual abuse go through in and outside of the relationship.  It is a painful state of being that causes torment and agony in victims.  Here is an explanation from the brilliant and informative site of Kim Saeed who herself survived such a relationship.

Abusive relationships often reshape your entire belief system. If you are like most victims of narcissistic abuse, you experienced a distorted sense of reality throughout the majority of the relationship with your partner. When your partner’s alternating sweetness and rage suddenly defied everything you believed about him or her, you experienced an internal conflict known as cognitive dissonance. This created great self-doubt about your ability to predict a partner’s abusive potential in the future. As human nature asserts, you began to seek ways to remove the cognitive dissonance, most likely by denial.

Prior to the abusive relationship, you always thought you were not the type to fall under somebody’s psychological manipulation, but you did. When your awareness of the relationship first changed from feeling loved to feeling mistreated, you may have told yourself that he or she was just in a bad mood. As your partner began to exhibit more frequent bouts of gaslighting behavior, where he or she would deliberately confuse you and accuse you of acts against them, you felt very conflicted about your partner’s feelings for you. Early attempts to leave your abuser may have resulted in blaming and threats against you for daring to leave the “best” partner you ever had. This created a lot of cognitive dissonance.

When you act in ways that contradict your beliefs, it is another form of cognitive dissonance. Subconsciously, you will remove the dissonance with the same thought patterns that caused your dissonance to begin with.

Evasion of what you don’t want to acknowledge creates a sense of denial, and the dissonance it creates is known to destroy lives.

Twisting the truth eliminates the facts that you don’t want to accept, so it reduces the dissonant feeling.

Seeking validation from others can be good if they have your best interest at heart. If they are a negative influence in your life – such as your toxic partner – the removal of cognitive dissonance through these harmful methods will only reinforce your denial.

Refusing change of your current thoughts and beliefs allows you to adhere to them, removing the dissonance.

According to Kim the above are all negative ways of dealing with cognitive dissonance.  They play into the hands of our abuser who gaslights and tries to deny the fact they are acting in unloving ways.  It may be a way we seek to hide from a painful truth that would enable us to grow and separate.

The following are some positive ways to deal with cognitive dissonance taken from Kimis post:

Speak to a trusted friend. If you keep your troubles to yourself and continue contradicting your own thoughts and feelings, it only serves to perpetuate your confusion and self-doubt. Like it or not, you have learned through psychological manipulation how to abuse yourself in a similar way that your narcissistic partner inflicted upon you. The important aspect of this is to have at least one friend or relative whom you can count on for positive and unbiased support. Don’t seek support from friends and family who may be well-meaning, but only offer placebo advice such as, “Why don’t you just break up?” and “I don’t know why you stay with him or her, anyway!”

Keep a written journal. Express the confusion and conflict going on in your head and in your heart by just pouring those thoughts on paper. In doing this, you liberate the trauma and become more self-aware of your inner thoughts, allowing you to consciously shift your thinking. Go back to read your entries about once a week to observe the patterns of your thoughts. Observe whether they are becoming more positive, or if they are slipping back into denial.

Experiment with reading and writing poetry. Poetry can help you to remove your cognitive dissonance much like the journal, letting go of the trauma. It helps you connect to and express your deepest feelings and inner conflicts, fostering a sense of inner peace and tranquility.

Try to become more extroverted. Introverts are more apt to emphasize negative outcomes of trauma, whereas extroverts are more apt to seek positive outcomes. In addition, extroverts tend to seek input from others, broadening their perspective on life and situations, while introverts go out of their way to avoid the input. If you are introverted, it would be very beneficial to join some positive social groups in your community. Socializing with positive people who share your interests both personally and professionally can reduce cognitive dissonance.  (Remember to choose company that will emphasize new beginnings and positive outlooks).

Source :

I find the last recommendation very interesting.  If we can increase positive connections with those who are not emotionally abusive and with those who don’t foster our cognitive dissonance we are able to feel a lightening of mood which affects our entire being, in my experience.  Just yesterday I had coffee with a trusted friend who I could talk to about what was going on and who affirmed and believe me, it was such a nurturing experience.

When we choose recovery we need to limit contact with people who create cognitive dissonance within us.  Once we start to feel confused we slide back and lose the valuable ground we have had to work hard to gain if we have suffered emotional abuse and invalidation.  Knowing we have a right to feel what we feel and know what we know is very important.   As a close friend said to me recently, “our emotions come from our spirit”, so a spiritual awakening for me as spoken of in recovery is no mystical experience is it a case of being able to trust, act on and be guided by our real feelings and thoughts.