The mental confusion of early childhood trauma

When there is not as much going on in my life I want to share information from Tian Dayton’s book Emotional Sobriety on the effects of relational trauma, that is the damage that happens to us when we are affected by early childhood abuse, trauma or lack of mirroring and empathy.  However today one of the key symptoms that is capturing my attention is distorted reasoning.  Tian writes :

Many people experience trauma within their family unit, rather than from an external source  When one’s family unit is spinning out of control, people are prone to adapt all methods of coping mechanisms – whatever they have to do to maintain feelings of connection.  Distorted reasoning – which may take the form of rationalizing and justifying bizarre or unusual forms of behavior and relations – can be immature and can also produce core beliefs about life upon which even more distorted reasoning is based.  For example “he is only hitting me because he loves me.”

I am thinking of this today as my Mum lies so ill and pumped full of chemicals in hospital.  I am thinking of how with no father she had to suffer aloneness and then be pushed to clean and clean.  Down on her kness in the bathroom she was told to ‘polish that floor until it shines’  and then she was hit or forced into domestic service.   With all this unprocessed trauma was it any wonder it was passed on to us all in different ways.  My older sister worked and worked and then drank and drank until the cerebral bleed took her down, my brother in law who eventually abandoned her was the evil one, but he too was scrambling to survive.   Amidst all of the following trauma I was scrambling to make sense of it, seeing my sister in a mythological light or struggling to understand the truth, caught up but not able to see clearly, carrying terror of abandonment into all subsequent relationships.

Lats night as I sat by my mother’s bedside and held her hand in the darkened room, an ocean of peace opened up between us.   I wept to the depths of my being as she told me she loved me.  She is very heavily drugged at the moment and chock full of toxins.  She also knows she hurt me and that we struggled at times, but what I really felt so deeply last night was the love that she tried to express in the only way she knew how.  Her own mother never once tole her she loved her, in later years she would push my mother out of the way in her desire to see my father, who she adored.   I know at times as a patriarchial Dad, my father frustrated all three of his daughers and there were a lot of times he could not give my mother the understanding she needed.   I see how my Mum was as a young person so focused on survival that emotions had to take a back seat.  Now its so sad to witness the years of trauma she has lived through as the result of her earlier emotional neglect richocheting over three generations.  My nephew made a lightening visit to see her yesterday morning driving four hours and weeping so intensely.   My heart goes out to him really, he has been through so much in past weeks all in an effort to fill the gaping mother wound in his heart (Saturn in Cancer).   He is carrying pain of many generations, that much is clear to me, as the very sensitive one.

Two other symptoms of early relational trauma are also somatic disturbances as well as memory disturbances and dissociation.  The continuity of time is warped in trauma, we don’t remember key events but they are held deep in somatic memory, however they are obscured and disjointed and may make so sense.   Due to dissociation we experience reactions to events that mirror earlier ones that may seem out of control or order.  We are then judged or judge ourselves for suffering, not fully understanding the extent of our suffering.  Re-enactment patterns and relationship issues are also a result of relational trauma in early life.   We will try in any way to make the the unconscious conscious in order to feel and heal it, but so often that involves experiencing more pain in order to connect to the original cause that my lay deeply obscured within us.   Maybe triggering traumatic events and disturbances in later relationships are ‘wake up calls’ trying to draw us towards understanding, healing and feeling.   It major work and we need so much help along the way.  We cannot do it alone and we need positive connections to heal but making them is hard when we are often attracted to what is bad for us.

With Mercury planet of mind and communications moving backward through the meaning making sign of Sagittarius this month and back towards a confusing square (or crisis aspect) with the planet of distorting Neptune, issues of mental confusion may be highlighted but the unconscious which Neptune also rules may be trying to get our attention in all kinds of ways.  Who can we trust for validation when our thinking and ability to make sense of our experience may be essentially wounded or thwarted and distorted in some way by past relational trauma or lack of mirroring?   It is so important that we find the right avenues to deepen in understanding and heal our minds as well as our hearts, souls and bodies.

Mars the planet of self assertion is moving into trine Neptune over the next two weeks or so, so a flow of healing may open up in many of our lives, a push to move forward in love and compassion in order to find freedom from past hurt, its what I am feeling very deeply this morning.   We cannot avoid the mental distortions that are a part of trauma but we can, in later life work for more clarity and insight.    Information on how trauma can discombobulate us is essential for our emotional recovery.

Our true self, our living soul, our essence and the judge

Enthusiasm

We each come into this world as a precious spark of divine spirit, I believe we each come with our own energy imprint and its a big gamble as to how this unique part of us is received.  So much can happen in the interface between our spirit seeking to unfold its uniqueness and what occurs as we look to find a ‘home’ for who we are, a place of  grounding and seeding with particular parents within in a particular family and a particular society.

In the course of growing up all kinds of beliefs get imprinted in us.  We are told certain things, we either meet a mirror or a blank wall or a wall of anger, shame and fear.  Some of us may be fortunate enough to find loving arms that soothe and hold us and comfort us in our distress.  Those of us who aren’t so lucky may meet crossed arms and a sneer or a snub or a look of disgust or be teased or taunted when distressed.  Some of us will be held in mind, some of us will fall out of mind or barely register on a depressed or self involved parent’s radar.  Some of us may meet a void in many ways, an empty place where the inner feelings inside we have not yet found words for turn around and around inside us like shards or splinters. Some of us will hear soothing words, some of us will hear sharp words and all of these words will register on us in our consciousness to one day reappear as voices inside or within, voices we absorbed, voices that advise us, voices that limit us but underneath all of these voices there is one still small voice that speaks to us, not from a sense of contraction, fear, approval seeking and limitation but from purer place of love, openness, expansion and unconditional acceptance and this voice may know a lot about who we really are in essence as opposed to who we may have become in an attempt to fit in or not be hurt again.

Just following my bike accident in June 2005 I had a reading with astrologer Melanie Reinhardt in London.  At the reading she recommended a book to me Soul Without Shame  :  A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within by Byron Brown.  Sadly for me I didn’t get the book until last year and it has sat on my bookshelf along with other books “I just haven’t got around to reading yet”.  But lately I have been becoming more and more aware of the voice of the judge within, which can also go by the name of the inner critic or superego that I really felt the need to open the book.  I am so glad I did, as it is not a book by an ‘expert’ but by a writer and spiritual seeker who on his own path has learned a lot about how the judge operates within his own life and consciousness through watching how his own inner judge works.

He also calls attention to the fact that underlying this part of our consciousness is that precious unique energy of our true nature which is less concerned with approval seeking and more concerned with pure self expression.  This is this part of us that is so often stymied or limited or undermined by conditioning factors in our upbringing which make the power of the judges voice become very, very strong, often working to over-ride some of our best creative impulses.

Any of you who are creative surely know this force well.  It is that part of us that wants to tell us all about how inept you are, how far you will fall short, how badly your creative efforts may be received and how you should just learn to play it safe, not dream too large, risk too much or express your heart, opening up to all the other critics out there who will certainly remind you of how what you are trying to express is rubbish.

And most certainly we do need some kind of discriminative sense to decide what we feel may be worthwhile or not, but the point that Brown makes about the judge is that he is never concerned with you expressing your true nature, only that what you express be well received and meet with the expectations and social accepted ideas and ideals of others.  The judge constantly evaluates you to see if you are ‘good enough’ according to others and to imposed standards, it gives you no awareness of the fact that being good enough is not important, what is most important is to be authentically you (and even if you cannot not even judging that!  Gets tough, doesn’t it?

Negative judgements stimulate feelings of rejection, guilt, doubt, shame and self hatred, while positive judgements tend to arouse feelings of self esteem, pride, excitement, self righteousness, and superiority.  Either way, these results are conditional, and you are left dependent on the judge to reject or approve of you…I am encouraging you to go beyond turning rejection into approval and to question the very assumptions underlying self judgement.

Byron Brown

I am sure there are some lucky souls out there who don’t let this side of them permanently stymie them or their creative efforts, in the face of the judge’s criticism they go ahead anyway and with courage take action to move through the wall of fear.  We all have to face the judge, and we all have to do our own battle with this force, but with awareness and attention we can find ways not to be so strangled by it, we can understand how fear of being rejected can underlie certain behaviour and then we can choose to embrace and love our true self or essence anyway, taking the risk to be ourselves and let out from inside of us the individual life juice that so wants to flow forward and builds its containers of valid self expression, acceptance and being.

Often when we get quiet enough we hear all kinds of voices inside.  We can do inner work with these voices and judgements in order to understand which come from our inner essence of soul, expansion, creativity and joy and which come from contraction, fear, separation, false beliefs and old pain.  We can open to all the voices and find which support us, which heal us and which cut us down causing us pain in our body and disconnecting our soul not only from ourselves but from others too.

Our mother as first and most important mirror

Mum and Bub

“The mother gazes at the baby in her arms, and the baby gazes at his mother’s face and finds himself therein…provided that the mother is really looking at the unique, small, helpless being and not projecting her own expectations, fears, and plans for the child.

In that case, the child would find not himself in his mother’s face, but rather the mother’s own projections. This child would remain without a mirror, and for the rest of his life would be seeking this mirror in vain.”

Donald Woods Winnicott