Why intimacy brings up pain for neglected adult children

If we were never emotionally connected to or nurtured in childhood, in adulthood we are left with the most terrible emptiness and pain.  Therapist Pete Walker calls this ‘the abandonment melange’ and its also called abandonment depression.  Many of us, before we get to therapy or get awareness around our early attachment wounds fly blind with such a wound which in recovery circles is often referred to as ‘the hole in the soul.’  Trouble was when I was in AA I was led to believe I was born with this wound not that I developed it in the context of early relationships, that is an awareness I have had to painstakingly grow and allow to emerge out of great pain and disaster in later relationships including forcing my ex husband to carry some of what I was unconscious of for years, another wounding its taken me some years to realise and forgive myself for.

Now that I am making a heart centred connection with a partner who is emotionally available to me I find at times this wound is being stirred up in me more and more due to the situation he is in where he has to be out of contact for a lot of the time.  I realised yesterday that I acted out some of my disappointment at not being able to connect with him due to mutual cross scheduling  by making some nasty comments about his ex wife.  He took them in his stride and there may have been a bit of truth to what I said but never the less I found myself dismayed with how I had reacted to him leaving for patrol and not being able to speak.

I shot off a few angry texts including one saying how I hated him for being in the situation he is in and putting me through it then waited anxiously and received a very loving reply back about 6.30 last night which soothed my fears.  However I noticed the same reaction starting up this morning when I missed him again and he failed to respond to a text I sent last njght.  I see I am reacting at the moment because I have never really allowed myself to be as vulnerable with a partner as I am being in this relationship and because he is giving me EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED AND NEVER GOT FROM EITHER PARENT.  At times it awakens great grief, anxiety and fear as well as warmer feelings.

Luckily I was reading through another bloggers blog on this subject as well as Foreboding Joy (the term Brene Brown gives to allowing ourselves to gain pleasure from something that is a source of great desire only to thwart it with thoughts of doom)  a short while ago and I came across this paragraph which really shone a light on my current situation.

I told T (her therapist) that it confused me that getting what I have always wanted caused me such a lot of pain (and joy, admittedly) and T explained that having deep, childhood, unmet needs – met was VERY painful.  She said getting what you’ve always wanted can cause awful sadness and pain.  I didn’t understand that.  T said that this was one of the reasons that therapists had to be so careful not to “overdo it”.  She said that them overdoing it could cause us more pain! T said “this is why although I understand you want more reassurance and warmth in my emails, it is important that I am very careful”…

Both of my parents are incapable of emotional closeness with me and I craved that so very much all of my life. It hurts me a lot to really realise that neither of my parents gave me the connection and emotional closeness that they should have – could have.  But understanding it wasn’t me, my fault, that helps to ease some shame.  It makes me so determined to never repeat that pattern with my own children. Also, it makes me determined to never waste time with anyone who isn’t able to tolerate emotional closeness again. I only hurt myself trying to change them. I guess I was trying to “right a wrong”.  Trying to finally “get” an emotionally distant guy.  To change the ending of that childhood story where I never did “get” either mum or dad.

Source:

https://unpackingthesuitcaseblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/25/neediness-lack-of-warmth-fear-of-annihilation-re-experiencing-pain/#comments

Those two paragraphs could have been written by me.  I realise in this relationship I am given all the things I longed for, love, respect, attention, affection, unconditional positive regard, kindness, empathy and love.  At times I find myself crying when I receive these things from Scott but at times I can find myself wanting to shut it down as well.   It scares me at times to see there is a part of me that may try to sabotage this relationship but reading this particular blog again today nearly a year later big lights came on for me.  Today I told Scott I will be more careful what I say when I feel disappointed or left alone at times, the way I react comes out of a craving for connection and love (and a deeper unconscious grief and anger I am carrying at emotionally unavailable parents)  the last thing I want to do is destroy that.. the best thing that has happened to me in years and years and years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hold me

Longing 3

 

Hold me please hold me

Enfold me in the strength of your loving embrace

Because it seems for years I have been falling through space

Without a place to land or rest

And now when you open up

All of this love and longing

With the willingness you have to show your hand

Everything in me that I have held back before

Rushes forward

And this hunger to be held

Deep inside your heart

Reveals itself

Releasing a river of tears

A torrent of longing

The feminine side of love

Red Rose.jpg

“Everything that comes into life has two sides, a masculine and feminine quality, even love. The masculine side of love is “I love you.”

Longing is the feminine side of love: “I am waiting for you. I am longing for you.” Longing is the cup waiting to be filled. And sadly, because our culture has devalued the feminine, we have repressed so much of her nature, so many of her qualities. Instead we live primarily masculine values; we are goal-oriented, competitive, driven.

Masculine values even dominate our spiritual quest; we seek to be better, to improve ourself, to get somewhere. We have forgotten the feminine qualities of waiting, listening, being empty. We have dismissed the deep need of the soul, our longing, the feminine side of love.”

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee,

Love is a Fire: The Sufi’s Mystical Journey Home

Our longing to be loved

 

I have just read the beautiful extract below in John O’Donohue’s book  Eternal Echoes :  Exploring Our Hunger to Belong.   The hurts that lodge in our body and soul from never being truely loved can run so deep, some of us try to deny them but never the lesss they are there and yet there is a flow of love we can find within, an inner wellspring that we may have to suffer to find through long nights of betrayal or abandonment.  When it awakens in us we are never again truely alone.

“One of the deepest longings in the human heart, is the desire to be loved for yourself alone.  This longing awakens you completely.  When you are touched by love, it reaches down into your deepest fibre.  It is difficult to realise actually how desperately we need love.  You inhabit your life.  You seem to be in control.  You live within an independent physical body.  From the outset, you seem to be managing very well. Because you present this face to the world, no one suspects that you have a different ‘inner body’ called the heart which can do nothing for itself if it is not loved.  If our hearts were outside our bodies, we would see crippled bodies transform into ballet dancers under the gaze, and in the embrace, of love.  It is difficult to love yourself, if you are not first loved.  When you are loved, your heart rushes forward in the joy of the dance of life.  Like someone who has been lost for years in a forgotten place, you rejoice in being found.   When you are discovered, then you discover yourself.  This infuses your whole life with new vigour and light.  People notice a difference in you.  It is nice to be around you.  Love somehow transfigures the sad gravity of life.  The gloom lifts and your soul is young and free.  Love awakens the youthfulness of the heart.  You discover your creative force.  It is quiet touching to see love bring someone home so swiftly to themselves.  The Connemara poet Catlin Maude writes:

His little beak

Under his wing

The thrush of our love

Even without the outside lover, you can become the beloved.  When you awaken in appreciation and love for yourself, springtime awakens in your heart.  Your soul longs to draw you into love for yourself.  When you enter your soul’s affection the torment ceases in your life.  St Bonaventure says in The Journey of the Mind to God : ‘Enter yourself, therefore, and observe that your soul loves itself most feverently.’

 

A road in the woods

Road

A road opened up

In the woods

Deep inside the wilderness spaces of this heart

That led to you

It revealed itself

When I let myself feel my loneliness and deep longing

Despite all fear

And answer its plea

By reaching out

You may not fully understand me

But you let me be

Who I am

We were alone in this wood so long

You and I

Separated by mist and fog

Inside I felt the silent cry of your heart

That no one else but one other could feel

This journey we are living out is cellular and emotional

As sisters we share a lonely legacy

I cried today

And you held my hand

I felt more walls coming down

I was always so frightened of you

But now I dont struggle as hard

With being the one

Who expresses feeling

For in the lonely wood

Where we connected

I suddenly heard a choir of angels sing

I am sure it was not just imagining

The heavens rejoiced

When you reached across that great divide

To hold my hand

And the empty space in both of us was filled

With a recognition

Deep pain

And unfathomable love

Unspoken

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.

The ways you loved me

Always

The ways you loved me were not always easy for me to see

I could not feel before the ache in your heart for the ways you fell short through no fault of your own with the best intentions

Moving on was the only way you knew to cope And then there are the silent regrets you may never share About things we will never be able to change

So now I pray for acceptance Of all that went before Because the hurting that goes on is not good for me

You don’t really know how to reach out at times Because you were left alone

Now you don’t want us to have to carry a burden we never chose

But somehow we have to make the best of what is left Together For separation avoidance or denial will only bring more pain And sometimes it feels my heart cannot stretch wide enough to contain all these broken threads

Emotions gone mute never totally go away but form the swell under the surface that threatens to rise and fall in those silent quiet moments When my soul draws close to your soul

I will always love you And long for your body Because you are my body and I am yours Let me not forget this

For love is not disembodied but only happens to us in and through a body  awake alive to the vibrancy of soul and longing from ages past surfacing and resurfacing from deep within for healing

Father ; farther

Dad I never got to say goodbye

 I am sorry our last words were an argument

Father you were always farther away from me

And I struggled to understand

Could you really see, feel and hear the real me

So many times when I tried to tell you what I needed

You said no

So Dad now its so hard sometimes to trust

And to let myself have what I need

If you had lived today you would be 97

Now you are a ghostly presence

Who I will never truly say I can know

Lost to me I long for your holding and love

In all kinds of ways

So how can I resolve the need to be known and loved by a man?

Oh Dad how much I wish things were different

Somewhere deep inside I think I felt

All the things you hid

Under a cover of silence

But how will I ever know?

I hurt

I had a very strong experience today of really feeling the amount of hurt my body has carried in the past that I have swallowed down.  I shared a few posts back how my brother’s birthday came and went and I didn’t call as I am so hurt about his refusal to help my dead sister’s son and family which would have allowed them to return to live close to us just before my sister died. I truly believe she died from being exiled and also from a broken heart.  I was aware that his refusal to help bought up the deep pain of being separated from my nephews who were like brothers to me growing up due to being closer in age to me.  It was a wound that really damaged me and one I could not express but covered over for years in addiction. It was a far earlier wound that my inner child was making known.

Anyway last night at dinner the subject of his birthday came up and I was not honest about why I did not call. I have found that speaking my truth in the past lead to being sidelined and I am deeply disappointed in myself to say I was not honest.  My sister asked if I forgot and I just said nothing much.  Later on that night I realised I had not been honest and that was due to fear.  I realised I had let myself down and lost an opportunity to share my hurt and pain.  It may or may not have been validated but really their response is none of my business and this has brought up a big issue with me that I have that I don’t speak my pain out due to not being heard or received before and so my body ends up all twisted up with my gut in knots.  I shared with Kat, my therapist last week how I also feel like I have stampede of wild horses in my chest when real feelings come up and meet the wall of fear over how they will be received.

I wanted to call my Mum and share my honest feelings but I did not want to bring her down and so I swallowed the feelings in and just spent the day at the library and having a cup of coffee.  I could have called my therapist but I did not.

The deeper issue I always struggle with is whether to say anything or remain silent. You may not see this side of me come across in my blog as I present myself as someone who says you must speak up, but we do teach what we most need to learn.  The one good thing is that today I became aware of how much my inner child longs to be heard and how invisible she felt and how little of a voice or a sense of power she had growing up.  This part of me really cried out to me today and I heard her and comforted her.  That was one good thing.