Some days the exile seems too much. The busy world has no time, turns a deaf ear to the soul and connection, left alone with our sorrow the burden becomes too heavy, at times crippling. Why is our society so switched off in so many ways? Sometimes the deafening silence in the face of grief just breaks my heart. The wilderness reasserts its hold on our joy obliterating it.
Believe me I know this will pass but lately it has all felt too much.
When I am not true to myself I lose my way. I feel it more and more lately that empowering sense of being in tune with my own soul note and of how it feels when I step away from that more primal, intuitive in touch side of myself and fall into self abandonment or self rejection.. Many of the conditioning forces of society especially for women turn us away from the more powerful authentic embodied side of us, religion for me was particularly toxic in this regard. Today in therapy Kat and I were exploring the strong forces of repression in my family that put us three girls to death on many levels , we were talking of my father’s remoteness and unwillingness to step in to protect us from Mum, too. In this way my father dying at the age of 23 was even more painful, but Dad was a young kid in flight from his family and terrifying conditions around World War Two. In many ways both of my parents were emotional orphans, young kids on the run and trying so hard to survive and build something new.
For myself, I feel so grateful to have escaped the medication pathway and even the AA pathway saying I have defects of character. If you don’t get to fully blossom as the true you and cannot rely on healthy attachments and then other linkages get torn apart you end up doing all you can to surive and stay afloat and if the original deficits arent acknowledged and some attempt at rebuilding and repair made, healing and change is not possible. Some schisms and wounds stay with us for a long time and we replay them over and over until we develop in sight. It is now recognised that even later in life our brain can make new connections and set down new neural pathways if we can find positive affirming attachments to assist us. Some of us, many of us, however, do have to go into the wilderness alone and some of us find or manage to hold onto shards of our splintered being or hidden truth there. We can also explore what got torn severed, split off, buried and involve in recollecting. Each trauma memory maybe a necessary thread that goes on to be part of the tapestry.
Rilke expresses this beautifully in the following lines of this poem shared with me some years ago by a previous therapist Rae:
She who reconciles the ill matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth –
it is she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration
where the guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her
to hold you.
The stretching beyond what limits us requires us to move out of ‘safety’ in the face of what threatens us with misjudgement that is sadly often the obvious response of a world oblivious to the authentic roots of our trauma. This poem also speaks about the healing witness both inside and outside as well as how the true self waits for us to hold all of us, as we increasingly develop that capacity through telling and feeling the organic truth of our trauma trajectory..
A good therapist is invaluable and even as I type this I realise how many struggle without this which is where blogs or books or other tales of survivors in recovery can help us.. Just hearing another’s story, noticing the resonances, being able to say “Ahh .. that rings true for me too”, can help us, it certainly has helped me.
And on the healing pathway God also sends us angels at critical times.. I cannot tell you the number of times an angel of some kind has whispered in my ear or saved my bacon from a near miss or accident, it happened twice last week and it has happened in terms of me finding my way to the right literature, person, group or place AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME too many times now for me to doubt it.
The true self I do believe waits on us.. the most authentic part of us will not be forever foresaken without grave damage befalling us on some level. Jesus said it well in the Gnostic gospels.
If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth willdestroy you.”
In this quote Jesus challenges the assumption that the Kingdom of Heaven lives in a far off place. These words also speak of it’s closeness to us if we undertake the path of individuation, and resurrection of the true self often attended my mockery and scorn from the unwise:
The Kingdom of God is within you and all around you.
I think a person who loves and respects his true self, must also respect the true self of others and naturally finds his way to the inner kingdom. He no longer exists in a state of inner division. That person will weep for the one who loses the way to it and will never be able to put on a false mask in the face of that.. This is not always easy.. To say to a brother or sister you see them suffering and falling short (even through no fault of their own) but it seems necessary to a vibrant authenticity.. And similarly we must be vigilant in taking out a sword to cut off from anyone who tries to deny us this truth the meaning behind the saying of Jesus that he came to bring a sword.. There is a time to be real and not be nice or ‘civilised’ if that means sugar coating an inner truth that our soul very much depends upon for its survival.
The path of emotional healing and recovery is in many ways a path of shedding, we release old beliefs, we see through illusions, we discover patterns, we come to understand those we thought were friends were really not, we face ealier loneliness in our soul that before we covered over with addictions. My therapist Kat often reminds me how lonely this kind of psychological work can be. And as I see others struggle too, I know I am not alone, although on some of the darker days as my followers know I find myself like Dante in the middle of a deep dark wood. And yet in that wood there is sometimes moonlight, trees, compost and grass and lot of other critters. There may be a little wooden shack with a fire I can light and twigs. There like the maiden without hands from a fairytale I resonate with, I may have been led to grow my own feeling hands back, something I want to touch on in another post I am currently writing and has been in drafts for some weeks.
I need to remember though that on days like yesterday when my sister refused to come to dinner, as painful as that may be, it is also maybe a blessing. I know for a long time my path led a different way to the path of family. I chose active recovery, to acknowledge the roots of alcoholism and emotional neglect that reached three or four generations back as well as the mother wound that repeated throughout my family. I chose not to go on drugs, I chose to do therapy, I chose to read, to listen to dreams, to understand depression not as an illness but as purposeful, something to do with the dark night of the soul. And as I look back, I see that all along the Self in me, as part of my purpose, guided my soul. It is that Self that I believe gives rise, not to meaningless feelings ‘that might get me in trouble,’ but to purposeful ones which show me effective and ineffective ways to live.
At times I have been slow getting the message. At times I have not understood where I was NOT meant to go and be. I hungered for love and understanding from my family but it was not always meant to be. In a way I was a pioneer or circuit breaker as far as our family trauma went. I had to look outside my family for new family, just as the duck that I read about in another book I cannot remember the name of in recovery had to leave the poisoned pond that his other family would not believe was poisoned. And Yes, on this journey for a lot of it, I have had to walk alone and yet in some way I know I am not alone, or paradoxically, I am and I am not, if that makes sense.
I will not lie and say I do not hunger for a soul who deeply sees, knows and loves the whole of me and yet I also know I do have that in therapy and with a few others. I also know although I feel so alone on some days as long as I write and reach out here I am never truly alone as so many of us writing and sharing our journey and poetry here, are on a similar path, one that leads to embodiment and authentic honesty often through your own deep dark wood. I often feel that n many ways society is emerging in and through this process along with many of us.
For those connections and all of the support I have found here during 5 years of blogging, I am grateful as WordPress has given me a medium to share, and although I still doubt my way and purpose on many days maybe it does not lie in some far off place but is actually here right before me when I get up and after breakfast turn on my computer to link to my own and others blogs. It is then that I feel, on the lonely days, less alone, that all I have gone through does have a meaning and a purpose, one that I can choose to believe in and nurture with my recovery, my writing and by showing up in my life to be a force of love for myself and others who feel alone, sometimes and struggle feeling all alone too, just as I do.
It was a dark day today. We had our first real taste of winter approaching with steely skies and showers that didnt amount to much, no its not April yet but the weather had this feeling. I seemed to just cry a lot today, I don’t really know the deepest reason. I tried to share about the pain of emotional disconnection I felt today from a friend and family with young sons who I love, but I always try to look deeper too, so as not to blame but to see its just triggering a deeper wound.
It’s painful but not impossible to feel this longing from my soul that makes me conscious of a very deep emptiness and aloneness. I sat with it for a while tiday and also put a lot of my energy into writing posts on trauma recovery I really hope help new followers so as not to just be mired in the sadness I cant seem to do much about but feel. I don’t know if you all know how the one thing that lifts my heart is to see your beautiful faces that come through on gravatar images that appear when you like one of my posts. Its not so much for the acclaim as for the sense it may have touched you or helped you for if I think of what my values are then my values are to reach out and connect when and where I can with others who go through similar experiences.
Staying with feelings of deep abandonment is never easy. Therapist Pete Walker whose work on Complext PTSD I have been sharing a lot about lately calls this painful soup or vortext the abandonment melange. I know I should not feed it with negative thoughts and ideas or stories but just need to feel it as an energy in my body, it affects my heart and my gut.
Anyway later this afternoon I took myself off to our shopping centre for a coffee and to get some groceries and took my daily meditation reader with me. Often when I pick it up I pray for guidance for it to open to a reading that has a message for me and lo and behold this is the page that opened this afternoon.
My Feelings of Abandonment
Today I am willing to feel my feelings of abandonment, rather than run away from them. When my abandonment feelings get triggered, I am thrown into deep anxiety and I hold onto anything around me as if for dear life. I want the feelings to go away, and I mistakenly think that if I keep all the people, places and things I need exactly as I want them, everything will work out. But life is change and people change. There is no way to keep anything where I want it all of the time. My anchor needs to be with myself. If I allow myself to experience my deep feelings of abandonment rather than run from them, I have a chance of working through them.
I can tolerate feeling alone
Reading this made me realise that today I didn’t totally run away. When I was tempted to react I just sat with the pain and felt it. I cannot say I felt a lot better but at least my body was feeling is and I didn’t get my usual spins. Taking myself out felt more like good self care than running away. I got a nice piece of steak for dinner and an afternoon snack. I felt a bit guilty I hadn’t walked Jasper today but everyone needs a lay day. I dont know why my niece in law is not returning my calls, it makes me feel really lonely and sad as I thought we had developed a connection. But I also know I have to accept whatever is going on without trying to change it. I have to feel these feelings and they are not new. They are the feelings I drank over in my addiction. I also realise the past and all I have gone through will never be gone from me totally. I dont have a lot of friends I hear from here in Canberra, everyone is very detached. I think there is a great deal of loneliness out there in society but not a lot of people have the courage to engage with it. Maybe my view is skewed, I dont know. Today was a dark day but I dont feel suicidal or hopeless as I have on other dark days. I know winter is harder than summer feelings wise, but I also know I can treat myself with love and compassion on the tough days and hope in time these abandonment feelings do pass.
I wish that so many people who suffer from depression or bi polar could have it affirmed that their pain is real. I just read a blog of a fellow sufferer who could not get out of bed on Christmas Day, I know how that feels. I always force myself out of bed though. I am not able to stay in bed all day, just cannot do it, even when I am sick and need to. But I know that deep binding and paralysing depression that hits as a real response to challenging life events of change, hurt or loss, have undergone it in my own life. There were whole days and weeks and months I never got out of my pyjamas all day, I didn’t shower, found it difficult to stomach food and did not see a single soul.
I look back to those terrible crushing days of extreme physical and emotional as well as spiritual isolation and wonder how I survived them. The pain was just so intense but on another level I was numb. Critical killer inner voices besieged all my waking hours. Love had left my life, my marriage was over, I had no home of my own and no employment. All I did was write all day.
I am here to say though that today my life is not like that. Sure I am very sad on some days, but those feelings of complete inner hopelessness and emptiness are no longer as strong. I reached out to get help and it took me many therapy attempts but in the end I found that help. I found a therapist who helped me. I got this blog started. I started to write how it really was for me. People reached out to me. I learned to get in my car and go for a walk or a drive when I was lonely to a place where I could be with people. 5 years ago I got myself a dog and then started going to the public dog park with him every day and making some new friends. Some days I had to drag myself there in the afternoon.
I joined groups then left groups, told by them I wasnt allowed to have certain feelings or express certain feelings. I had to let certain relationships go. I had to believe in myself. I had to keep reaching for validation of my suffering true feelings and pain.
I am here to say that I believe recovery is possible for those of us who are willing to reach for help and become aware of how past emotional abandonment,abuse or neglect may have dogged our lives, our pain was real, it wasnt a figment of our imagination. We suffered and we bled. We were not responsible for the emotional neglect we suffered or the abandonment that happened to us. It left real deep scars in us. We don’t have to take the blame even though the harsh truth is that our recovery is our responsiblity. No one else can do it for us, but us, and we cannot do it alone.
So if you are suffering, trust yourself. Keep reaching out for love, keeping taking those baby steps forward even if you suffer set backs. Just keep at it one day at a time, one minute at a time, believe in you. You are worth it? You are worthy. There will be days you wish you were dead, days you feel the pain is too much, those are the days you are probably all alone with no one to give you a hug. On those days I reach out here and often I am responded to. I know it’s not the same as a physical hug but it helps. It has brought me back from the abyss many times.
Life at times can seen so dark and lonely it really can. But there are those out there who love and care despite their own pain and despair, so keep reaching until you find that connection, validation and love. The world really needs you it does, you are meant to be here.
Having my nephew and his daughter here for these past days (two now) has been so lovely. Today I cried a lot (silently) about how lonely and hard the disconnection we suffered due to my sister’s trauma and Dad’s death was. When I hugged my little grand niece this morning and she looked at me with so much love in her soft brown eyes, my heart just swelled. I remembered how it felt to be so small, open, soft and vulnerable but also strong and wise, yet confused by all the adults around me. I was aware I did not want to pass any of my sadness onto her as it is my sadness to hold and carry, not hers to feel or heal for me. I felt how lovely it was last night to share a meal all together in my little cottage with my dog Jasper under the table bathing in the connection and love wagging his tail. I know in two days they will be leaving and I will miss them so much but I will have these good memories to sustain me. Today my nephew and I talked of past things and I found out some things I didn’t know. I will always be so grateful for these moments of reconnection. There has been so much aloneness and disconnection my life and a lot of fear around reconnecting. I need to keep remembering the fear is about past loss. Loss I will never be able to change, but that loss does not need to be the final word. At least for now.
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.
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.