Working not be trapped in my panic/anxiety symptoms : where do I put my focus : reflections.

I have shared much on here about my anxiety/panic attacks.  They can occur several times a day.  I struggle on waking to get moving.  I scan my body as I lie there checking if I am releasing or holding my breath, at times I wake up with what feel to be like 1,000 volts of electric fire coursing my system.  I then often struggle after I eat food as I feel my body pulled this way and that.  The other critical times for attack are in the afternoon after returning from time out and around that critical time between 5 and 7 pm which is the time of day I was born and the time of day I had my accident in 2005 after a cranio-sacral session.

But what I also remember from the day of the accident was I had spent a lot of the day in bed in the room in my lodgings (at that time with a family in Cambridge).  I was only about 12 months out of my separation with my husband and I had made a friend at the Psychological Astrology Course in London called Lucy.  Lucy and I connected for a long time but this day on the phone she was rattling pots and pans and my anger got triggered and I got upset with her and accused her of not listening and hung up.  We haven’t ever spoken again and I had my accident later that afternoon after my cranio session where I relived the trauma of my smash up in 1979.

I am thinking about all of this this week because I am reading the book Calming The Emotional Storm and in it they talk of how our interpretations of an event can drive and amp up our feelings.  For example I assumed Lucy wasn’t listening to me when she probably was, my own abandonment wound was triggered too as a deep part of my own mother wound was Mum was always too busy to be there for me and often I was left in the car while the whole family went into the club to have drink and pay the poker machines.  Oh and sometimes Mum would just ‘forget’ to pick me up after school and I would be standing there waiting feeling a mix of painful emotions, sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration and loss.  Later in life I learned to turn to booze or drugs or food to cope with these feelings which is probably why, when I eat now, I can get an attack.  (Just really made the connection while writing.)

The other day I subverted one of these attacks by trying as hard as I could to get the focus ‘off’ of my body symptoms.  I actually managed to eat and bath and get out for a walk with Jasper all without having one panic attack.  I felt so empowered by that as these attacks when bad have often left me feeling suicidal and could keep me paralysed or debilitated for days on end.

I read in the book The Power of Panic that it is the perfectionists among us who suffer most from panic attacks.  We can drive our own anxiety by setting impossible or unrealistic standards and that is part of my problem and my sister’s too as I see it as we were raised in a spotless house where no fun was to be had until chores were all done.  We had to polish our own shoes, iron our own school uniforms and we lived in fear if things weren’t perfectly in control as my Mum could fly into a rage if so and she had this way of flaring her nostrils like a wild horse and that was a trigger sign we better run for cover.  I remember being hit by a flying hair brush once, having my bottom pierced by the bristles of a brush when she laid into me one day when I didn’t stand still while she tried to brush my hair.  And oh she had my long hair cut off because it was too much work to have to take care of long hair.

I once got in trouble with an AA member for getting upset when a hair dresser took too much off my hair and making a complaint.  I was told by this older sober member that I was ‘off the programme’ and that she didn’t want to speak to me any more.  At that stage of my life I was living in almost complete isolation at the family coast house and she was my one contact with the world, apart from a wonderful therapist in Sydney, Brian Hunt who first started to try to help me deal with my buried childhood trauma in 1992, just a year before I got sober.  When I had asked this person if I could move back to Sydney to be closer to her, she said it was too much to ask (fair enough but gosh it hurt then.)

Anyway I eventually got into a disastrous relationship with an Adult Child of a violent alcoholic who didn’t have any interest in recovery and more pain and panic rained down on me.  And it was frustrating for him too that I could not manage to get my focus off of my symptoms long enough at times to be fully emotionally present.  I don’t blame him any more but I do know his empathy muscle was wasted down to zilch due to his own unaddressed trauma.

Today I use my wise mind to get off my painful absorbing symptoms as much as I can.   I am not always successful.  I am also trying to get a better handle on when I drive more emotional reactions with thoughts and interpretations which may or may not be valid.  I wish to God I bought that first book I mentioned a few years ago when I first read about it.  Its such an invaluable resource as it has a chapter which explains what each emotion is and how it feels to experience it in the body.  It also helps us to name those emotions so we don’t need to be so overpowered by them.  I will share more of it in time as I like to help others here too who may not be able afford these resources.   Today I am having anxiety and panic but I am addressing it.  I am not sure it will ever leave me, the best I can do is try my very best to understand and manage it.

A soft heart : reflections on attachment, grief and inherited ancestral trauma

I am realising after the past few months of Mars retrograde how often I feel attacked or respond out of a sense of attack when abandonment wounds or fears are triggered.  Instead of staying in my soft heart I tend to go on the attack and be quite defensive and this ends up actually pushing away the very love and understanding I need at times.  I harden my heart and can feel an accumulated backlog of frustration and anger from past unresolved needs.  However as I learn to listen to and comfort my inner child more its easier to enter a more adult mind set offering that little one or sore spot inside me love but not letting her act it out on others too violently.   After this I find it is easier to go and speak to others about how I felt, what they did and what I needed and luckily with my new friend, Scott he understands through using emotional intelligence how I felt inside and doesn’t shame me for reacting the way I did and so I am feeling more healing.

As I shared over past days I did react and things I said, I noticed have made him withdraw a little bit.  Its understandable.  He was contacting me less because he said he was scared or hurting me or waking me at night, but when I told him that isn’t want I needed or even asked for, what I really need is to be connected with it was easier for him to understand.  This latest tussle has  helped me to see before how other friendships suffered when I had a strong outburst and others were not willing to fully empathise or understand.  Some friends just backed off and then have another go which I really appreciate since they understood I was reacting that way for a very good reason.

Today I cried a lot at the softness and tenderness that is opening up between Scott and I and inside my own heart towards my own past pain.  I had a good inner dialogue with my inner child this morning and what I learned form it was that as a child I never really learned how to get along with, communicate my needs to or interact with others.   My parents were always busy with work and too tired to give any emotional support whatever.  I was left alone most days after school with no one after my second sister left home and even before that she resented taking care of her baby sis after a certain point and I was on the receiving end of a lot of bullying and harshness.  Then at 13 I went into the family business where I had to perform and be serious.  It wasn’t much of a childhood or adolescence.  It was a real Saturn Moon childhood where I learned to depress my feelings emotions and needs.

In addition home was not a relaxed environment due to Mars conjunct Moon.  Mum carried a lot of inherited adult grand child of alcoholic survival behaviours and was never cuddled or nurtured.  By an act of ancestral synchronicity she was sent to work at 13 to into domestic service to live with a family in another suburb of our home town which she hated.  Her and my father were kind to each other but Mum was a non stop dynamo who never really could relax.  She had OCD as far as the home was concerned.  We were not allowed to play until all chores where done and we had taken care of all of our responsibilities. Sadly too my Dad died before he and Mum never got to have the play time they anticipated ‘one day’ when they had achieved financial stability, security and success.  Things began to fall apart due to this driven schedule from 1979 on wards starting with my near death NDA and my sister’s cerebral aneurysm.

I have been shedding a lot of tears this morning.  I am sitting here wearing one of my mother’s tops and thinking of our complex relationship which has taken me years of sobriety and emotional recovery to navigate.  Its just over 8 months now since she died and the old wound of her being more involved in her work is replaying with Scott who is caught up in a very dangerous and hectic life over seas at the moment.   This morning after my breakfast and bath I just cried, hopefully he may be out of there in a few weeks, if not its going to be around March next year and I fear for his life every single day, though he always tells me my prayers are keeping him safe.  Still its interesting to me that this is the man I attracted and that I had lessons of love to learn here with him in terms of the way I react and what is triggered from my past.  I am just grateful I have so many more tools now at my disposal.

Speaking of which I just bought another wonderful book by Stan Tatkin, PsyD on attachments and relationships  Wired for Love : How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Hep You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship. 
A book.jpg

He explains how we are wired to react from the primitive parts of our brain which are geared for survival but how other parts of our higher brain functions (which he calls The Ambassadors) can be engaged when we observe this happening and notice our reactions in the context of close one on one relationships.  Putting the needs of connection and relationship first instead of just trying to blow thing off by blaming our partners for ‘being selfish’ or not caring about us or our needs is part of the process and is something that’s not so popular in this day and age with singles with their lists of requirements prospective partners need to fulfil in order to be considered as worthy.

Anyway I always like to share new books or resources I find here in my blog but today it was good to be able to feel the softening in my heart towards Scott and let myself and my body just relax to a degree.  I am usually fending off spasmodic symptoms of one variety or another in the mornings and today after Scott and I talked things through I did manage to sleep but I still woke up startled trying to integrate all that has been happening between us in terms of boundaries and connection in past weeks.  I feel Mars slowing down now and it is on 28 degrees of Capricorn for two weeks.   My own Mars is at 1 degree Aquarius so this is what is called a Mars Return which happens every two years but would usually just pass by once.  Due to Mars retrograde it will have hit my chart three times by the time it finally passes around the 18th of September.  So I am getting a really good long look at the ways I react to emotionally laden events that hark back not only to my own mothering but to the inherited mothering wound on my Mum’s side of the family.  I have tracked unresolved grief and separations/divorces going back four generations so far to the original wound which was the loss of my great great grandfather’s mother at age 12, a wound he never got to address and I believe led to his addiction and eventual abandonment.

I shared with a good friend yesterday that I feel I have carried the grief of the ancestors for most of my life but I don’t want to carry this wound on.  I really would like to be able to have a loving relationship with a partner where we can both take care of each other’s hearts.  I don’t want past pain or anger and grief that didn’t begin with me to spoil a new change at living a personal life no longer so affected by an unconscious collective psychic inheritance.

Pain of early separation from our mothers and its impact on relationships

Pain of early separations from our mother can haunt us for a long time and we may not always know what the pain is about. It’s an issue that Mark Wolynn, San Francisco based therapist on multigenerational trauma addresses at length in his book It Didn’t Start With You : How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.  The separation may not have been physical alone, it could be just that our mother was undergoing a depression, grieving a loss or being unseen and unnurtured by her own mother did not know how to be fully present for us.  (According to Wolynn the original problem or disruption often lies a generation or two back and we may be unaware of it).  We feel the loss and absence keenly and such feelings can cause us to actually turn away when our mother tries to connect with us another time.

Wolynn shares just such a story on page 175 about a baby Myrna whose mother leaves for three weeks.  On her return as she waits and longs for her daughter to run to her Mryna’s mother experiences instead a daughter who turns away becoming even more distant.  Rather than understand her daughter’s reactions and look for a way to restore the bond Myrna’s mother instead encourages her independence.  The mother loses sight of her child’s vulnerability, so where did it go for Myrna?  Answer in short.  Into the unconscious.

Of course later when Myrna fell in love, love was experienced as a minefield and its something I can relate to as will anyone with insecure, avoidant or anxious attachment.  Vulnerability of needing another opens up a pit of loss we do not fully understand and we can relate by sabotaging things further should we choose to deny or repress our true need feelings and vulnerability.

Mark Wolynn talks of interruptions to the flow of love and energy between parent and child a lot in his book.  He knows a lot about it as he pursued a path of so called ‘spiritual bypassing’ seeking a healing he could not find in ashrams and through meditation (though he does use visionary meditations with a clients ancestors in order to effect healing of past wounds carried on).  Wolynn did not heal his early trauma with his mother until years later understanding how its roots lay far back in his own mother and grandmother’s history and eventually becoming a therapist himself.

When our early experience with our mother is disrupted by a significant break in the bond, shards of pain and emptiness can shred our well being and disconnect us from the fundamental flow of life.  Where the mother-child relationship remains severed, empty or fraught with indifference, a stream of negative images can lock the child in a pattern of frustration and self doubt.  In extreme cases, when the negative images are continuous and unrelenting, frustration, rage, numbness, and insensitivity to others can emerge.

Psychopathic behaviour can be the result but the key result if often a form of pathological narcissism – an inability to truly connect and take in love.

According to Wolynn the majority of us have experienced some kind of break in the bond with our mothers.  Many though, got enough of what was needed to be able to maintain healthy relationships later in life.  Many of us were not so lucky.  Ideally disruptions to attunement need to be healed in the context of any relationship.  How we deal with them are important as are the beliefs about our inherent lovability.  According to Janet Woititz adult children of addiction and trauma believed they will only be loved if they act in a pleasing happy way.  No relationship can survive like this and neither can we.

Knowing what happened in the bond with our mother and the impact it had on our attachment style as well as inherent negative self beliefs and development of what Wolynn calls ‘core sentences of separation’ is vitally important if we wish to heal.  We can become conscious of these, work to understand how they may be influencing our present and do inner work to change negative core beliefs we may have absorbed unconsciously so they do not continue to play our in our relationships.  I have found so much help myself reading Wolynn’s book which I shared from extensively in my blog last year.  It is well worth a look if you struggle to maintain healthy loving relationships in your own life and are working to understand how the flow of love between you and a parent (not only your mother) is impacting you in later life.

(Examples of core beliefs which negatively impact our capacity to love and be loved are :  I’ll be left:  I’ll be abandoned. I’ll be rejected.  I’ll have nobody.  I’ll lose control.   I’ll be helpless.  I don’t matter.  I’m too much.  I am not enough.  I’ll be annihilated.  I’ll be destroyed.  I will push love away.)

Frightening lessons in love : Jeanette Winterson

Unconditional love is what a child should expect from a parent even though it rarely works out that way.  I didn`t have that, and I was a very nervous watchful child.  I was a little thug too because nobody was going to beat me up or see me cry.  I couldn’t relax at home, couldn`t disappear into a humming space where I could be alone in the presence of the other.  With the Depressed Dead wandering around the kitchen, and mice masquerading as ectoplasm, and sudden fits of piano playing, and the sometime revolver, and relentless brooding mountain range of my mother, and the scary bedtimes – if Dad was on nights and she came to bed it meant all night with the light on reading about the End Time – and the Apocalypse itself was never far away, well, home wasn`t really a place where you could relax… Ask for reassurance and it would never come.  I never asked her if she loved me.  She loved me on those days when she was able to love.  I really believe that is the best she could do.

When love is unreliable and you are a child you assume that it is the nature of love – its quality – to be unreliable.  Children do not find fault with their parents until later.  In the beginning the love you get is the love that sets.

I did not know that love could have continuity.  I did not know that human love could be depended upon.  Mrs Winterson’s god was the God of the Old Testament and it may be that modelling yourself on a deity who demands absolute love from all of his children but thinks nothing of drowning them (Noah’s Ark), attempting to kill the ones who madden him (Moses), and letting Satan ruin the life of the most blameless of them all (Job), is bad love.

True, God reforms himself and improves thanks to his relationship with human beings, but Mrs Winterson was not an interactive type; she didn’t like human beings and she never did reform or improve (or repair????)  She was always striking me down, and then making a  cake to put things right, and very often after a lockout we`d walk down to the fish and chip shop the next night and sit outside on the bench eating from newspaper and watching people come and go.

For most of my life I have behaved in much the same way because that is what I learned about love.

Add to that my own wildness and intensity and love becomes pretty dangerous.  I never did drugs, I did love – the crazy, reckless kind, more damage than healing, more heartbreak than health.  And I fought and hit out and tried to put it right the next day.  And I went away without a word and didn’t care.

Love is vivid.  I never wanted the pale version.  Love is full strength. I never wanted the diluted version.  I never shied away from love`s hugeness but I had no idea that love could be as reliable as the sun.  The daily rising of love…

It was never too late to learn love.

But it is frightening.

Jeanette Winterson  

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal

The mother wound we carry

I wanted to share the following excerpt from Mark Wolynn’s excellent book on inherited family trauma : It Didn’t Start With You.   It is one of the most important books I have ever read, just sad I heard about it over 2 years ago and only just bought it.  What he shares of his own experience and understanding with healing multigenerational trauma in both his own life and lives of his clients is nothing short of remarkable.  He also uses the latest research conducted into epigenetics to support his claims showing how early stress and lack of nurture affects our neurological structure even in the womb, as well as how inherited trauma of a grandparent or great grandparent can be carried and communicated even along paternal (as well as maternal) streams of inheritance.  It is changing the way I am thinking about my own mother nurturance wound and the addiction that grew out of it.

To put it simply, we receive aspects of our grandmother’s mothering through our own mother.  The traumas our grandmothers endured, her pains and sorrows, her difficulties in childhood or with our grandfather, the losses of those she loved who died early – these filter, to some degree, into the mothering she gave our mother.  If we look back another generation, the same would likely be true about the mothering our grandmother received.

The particulars of the events that shaped their lives may be obscured from our vision, but nevertheless, the impact of those particulars can be deeply felt.  It’s not only what we inherit from our parents but also how they were parented that influences how we relate to a partner, how we relate to ourselves, and how we nurture our children.  For better or worse, parents tend to pass on the parenting they themselves received.

These patterns appear to be hardwired into the brain, and begin to be formed before we’re even born  How our mother bonds with us in the womb is instrumental in the development of our neural circuitry.  Thomas Verney says, “From the moment of our conception, the experience in the womb shapes the brain and lays the groundwork for personaltity, emotional temperament, and the power of higher thought.”  Like a blueprint, these patterns are transmitted more than learned.

The first nine months outside the womb function as a continuation of the neural development that occurs within the womb.  Which neural circuits remain, which are discarded, and how the remaining circuits will be organised depend on how the infant experiences and interacts with the mother or caregiver.  It’s through these early reactions that a child continues to establish a blueprint for managing emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

When a mother (or father) carried inherited trauma, or has experienced a break in the bond with her mother (or father), it can affect the tender bond that’s forming with her infant, and that bond is more likely to be interrupted.  The impact of an early break in the mother – child bond – an extended hospital stay, an ill timed vacation, a long term separation – can be devastating for an infant.  The deep, embodied familiarity of the mother’s smell, feel, touch, sound, and taste – everything the child has come to know and depend on – is suddenly gone.

“Mother and offspring live in a biological state that has much in common with addiction,” says behaviour science writer Winifred Gallagher.  “When they are parted, the infant does not just miss its’ mother, it experiences a physical and psychological withdrawal… not unlike the plight of a heroin addict that goes cold turkey.”  This analogy helps to explain why all newborn mammals, including humans protest with such vigour when they are separated from their mothers.  From an infant’s perspective, a separation from mother can be felt as “life threatening.” says Dr, Raylene Philips, a neonatologist at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.   “If separation continues for a prolonged period,” she says, “the… response is despair….  The baby gives up.”

In my early life, I knew that feeling of giving up.  It came from my family.  What my mother didn’t get from her mother affected what she was able to give to me and to my sibling.  Although I could always feel her love shine through, much of her mothering was infused with the traumas in our family history – specifically the fact that her mother, Ida, lost both of her parents when she was two.

Orphaned at two, my grandmother was raised by her elderly grandparents, who earned a living peddling rags from a pushcart in the Hill District in Pittsburgh.  My grandmother adored her grand parents, and often lit up with she shared memories about how much they loved her.  But that was only part of the story – the part she could consciously remember.  A deeper story lay beneath her reach.

Before Ida was a toddler, perhaps even in the womb, she would have absorbed the sensations of her mother’s distress caused by the constant arguing, the tears and disappo8ntmets.  All this would have had a profound effect on the crucial neural development taking place in Ida’s brain.  Then, losing her mother at age two would leave her emotionally shattered.

It’s not only that my mother was raised by an orphan who couldn’t give her the nurturing she never got from her mother, my mother also inherited the visceral trauma of Ida’s separation from her mother at an early age.  Although Ida was present physically in my mother’s life, she was unable to express the depth of emotion that would support my mother’s life.  That missing emotional connection also became part of my mothers’ inheritance.

….

In order to end the cycle of inherited trauma in my family, and ultimately for my own healing, I realised that I needed to heal my relationship with my mother.  I knew I couldn’t change what had happened in the past, but I certainly could change the relationship we had now.

My mother had inherited her mother’s stress patterns, and so did I.  She would often clutch her chest and complain about feelings of agitation in her body.  I realise now that she was unconsciously reliving the fear and loneliness that rippled through our family, the terror of being separated from the one she needed most – her mother.

There is much more to the story of family patterns Mark inherited and finally uncovered and discovered after a long journey of seeking outside for answers to his own psychological anxiety and trauma issues.   Reading his account has made so much sense to me of the symptoms of separation anxiety I experience at exactly the time of day my own grandmother, widowed in her early 30s, left my own mother (aged 8) alone to go and clean offices.  The two times of day were 4 to 8 pm and in the early hours of the am.  These are the times of day I experience my own anxiety/panic issues.  I had a growing sense developing in later months that what I was experiencing at those times was not mine alone, that it didn’t start with me.  And that was the exact time of day I had my head trauma injury in 2005 a year after my husband and I separated as I ran from him and my mother out of fear they would not support me in my own deep grief which I now know relates to a mother separation wound going back 4 generations.

Mark’s evidence and experience of his own and in his clients life (which I will share more remarkable examples of in a following post) backs up my own.  His work with inherited family patterns is so important that I am going to make it focus of my following posts.  This is important knowledge so many of us need to have, in order to heal and end deeply entrenched patterns of emotional blindness, ignorance and blame that keep us separated from a profound psychological understanding.

Understanding abandonment depression : insights from James Masterson

Abandonment depression appears as a subject in a few of my posts.  I made a leap forward in my own recovery when I first began to become aware of the term just over a year ago following reading Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD where he deals with the subject in depth.  Abandonment depression is different to basic depression which can be a feeling of depletion or lowered energy following a loss of massive change of some kind in a person’s life.  When dealing with this kind of depression easy solutions of distraction for a time or a taking of pain relief to help when people find them selves in the critical stages will help.  In the case of abandonment depression we are dealing with something that will not be helped by these kind of solutions since it involves a core wound that must be understood, felt, mined and addressed through psychological work.

Here is how James Masterton describes the abandonment depression :

In the throes of the abandonment depression, a person will feel that a part of his very self is lost or cut off from the supplies necessary to sustain life.  Many patients describe this in graphic physical terms, such as losing an arm or leg, being deprived of oxygen, or being drained of blood.  As one patient put it : “I felt as though my legs would not work so I couldn’t possibly leave the house, and when I went to fix lunch I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to swallow.  And if I did I would probably throw it back up.”

At the darkest level of this depression, a person can despair of ever recovering her real self, and thoughts of suicide are not uncommon.  When one is brought low enough repeatedly, or for an extended period of time, it becomes increasingly harder to imagine oneself happy again or able to push through life with the strength and confidence with which the reasonably healthy go about their daily living. At this point a person can teeter on the brink  of despair, give up and consider taking her own life. If the separations they experience in their external lives are painful enough to reinforce the feelings of fear of abandonment, some will commit suicide.

(this is well beyond an acute episode of the ‘blahs’)… The roots of depression push farther into the past than seems apparent.  In time, true sources, eating away inside, make themselves known.  But initially they are well defended by the false self.

It is the nature of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of our unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are – vulnerable, afraid, terrified, and unable to let our real selves emerge.  Nevertheless, when the defences are down and the real self is thrown into situations calling for strong self assertion, situations that trigger the repressed memories of earlier separation anxieties and feelings of abandonment by the mother, the serious nature of the depression is glimpsed and felt.  At this point it is not uncommon for the patient to panic and slide down to the very bottom from which he convinces himself he will never recover.

(Panic hides fear of the rage underneath depression).  Depression and rage ride in tandem.  As depression intensifies, and comes to the surface of awareness, so does anger.  At first (the real reasons cannot be pinpointed)…rage is diffuse and projected onto outside sources (anger at life or the world or just angry in general…..Anger of the abandonment depression is far more intense and complex).  Anger that is part of the abandonment depression. has more damaging consequences.  Its intensity can cause bodily shaking, feelings of helplessness, feeling like a baby (age regression) and it comes from painful childhood experiences that may not be easily recalled because they are so solidly defended against.

Eventually in therapy real causes of the anger begin to become apparent but the anger is still defended against by being projected onto targets that are often stand ins or proxies….this occurs because feeling anger is associated with fear of rejection as well as fear of intimacy since in childhood being close came with difficulties and rejections.

Rage and fear (the) lead to panic.. Panic feeds on the fear that we cannot express our anger over abandonment.  It can be a claustrophobic strangling of energies, a tightening up of options : either we express our anger and risk losing the love of others or we deny the anger in order to remain in the helpless state of dependency and hold onto others.  As the panic grows, patients report that it feels like facing death or actually being killed.  Often this anxiety will be channelled into psychosomatic disorders such as asthma and peptic ulcers, each being a perfect metaphor for the underlying fear… A person with a peptic ulcer is often hungering for emotional supplies that were lost in childhood or that were never sufficient to nourish the real self.  As an adult, she is unable to find sources to supply the needed emotional support or to get through life without it.

The person living with (such a) death threat, or what is perceived as a death threat, hanging over his head necessarily leads a fearful life, in which every move to express hiself, to allow his rea self to emerge, is accompanied by the need to look over his shoulder in fear and panic… panic can escalate as the patient slowly becomes aware of the depression and anger that have been bottled up over the years.  The false self has blocked any expression of these feelings for so long that when they do manage to surface, even in the slightest way, the resulting panic can be paralysing and terrifying.  Fear of letting these feelings out into the open, even in therapy can mushroom into panic proportions.

Guilt is the fifth column behind.. the patient’s frontline of defences.  (This is not normal reasonable guilt but rather)… fed by the guilt we internalise in early childhood from the disapproval expressed by the mother for self actualisation or individuation……Not being able to face up to the internalised guilt about that (healthy) part of themselves, these individuals will suppress making any moves in forbidden direction and resort to old familiar clinging behaviour that they remember made them safe and good years ago.

(Clinging and guilt lead to…) helplessness.  Failure to activate the impaired real self (and) to deal with painful feelings.. which in the abandonment depression is abiding and total…. staying in unhealthy jobs and relationships, fearing moving on from old unhealthy patterns, even denying that we desire to.

James A Masterson, Fear of Abandonment, The Search for the Real Self

The anger against, fear of and panic due to devaluation of our true self internalised by the false self in the course of growing up lives on inside of us and must be faced on the path of healing.   Facing such internalised voices, feelings and fears means we must also confront the inner critic who has become hostile to the real self ever breaking free and asserting its real needs which bring with them the deep seated fear of abandonment by others that had its roots in the past.  Mastering our fear of abandonment and the abandonment depression is the price we pay to discontinue the inner self abandonment we face when we begin to become more conscious and aware of the real roots and aspects of the abandonment depression.

My sad self : reflections on trauma, Persephone and journeying in the Underworld

Persephone2

My sad self is not the whole of me, though at times it is so strongly present.  There is a side of me that is very dark and heavy and sad, that has lived in a dark and heavy places of isolation, separation and grief and known great loss and pain, awakening at 17 when an accident nearly took me out and stole from me that last semester of my final year at school.  Talking with my therapist a few days ago I spoke of how it felt like at that age a tear appeared in the fabric of the earthly reality and a dark hand reached up to grab me and take me down into the Underworld.  That was just the initial event of many traumatic experiences that unfolded spanning the years from age 17 to 31 when I finally got sober and arrested my active addiction in 1993.

The light returned for a time, then, when I met my ex husband.  We had some happy years of normality as we built a life together but in time the darkness of my unresolved past claimed me.  As I look back I wish I could have made other choices.  I wish I could have remained tethered in the daylight world and gone on to share a life with my husband but it all got torn apart around this time of year and so my sad regretful self is very, very strong some days.   I find myself captured by thoughts of what could have been were we able to build a new life in Cambridge.  I know its useless to regret the past in that regretting solves nothing.

Maybe too, as my therapist says, my ex husband wasn’t a proper life partner for me, maybe it was all ‘meant to be’.  That kind of shift of perspective can make my heart less heavy as I realise that I can be grateful for the time we did have together but also recognise there was a deeper layer to me than could ever truly find a home in that relationship.  And that I had an inner destiny calling me within that had not only a personal but a collective purpose.

As I shared in an earlier post Mercury, planet ruling perception, mind, communication and journeys turned backwards for a glance on Sunday, the 11th and it is not quite on my Pluto/Persephone in the first house, but nearly!  So I am looking back at all the changes and endings that led to now and this new beginning.

I read a very insightful chapter in a book on the Goddesses in Everywoman many years ago and in the chapter on the Persephone woman I found myself.  The Persephone woman’s life journey takes her to the Underworld either through emotional abandonment, depression, abuse, trauma or addiction.  There she lives out the dark side, perhaps sharing a strong connection to the ancestors.  I have Pluto Moon and in her book on that subject, astrologer Judy Hall tells the stories of several Plutonian Moon people, John Lennon was one.  He wasn’t a woman but the early abandonment of his mother left him with wounds.  The other family profiled in that book with a strong Pluto/Persephone signature was the Bronte family.   Several of the Brontes died young and there was mother loss that dogged them all, most especially the younger brother.  The dark heart of Pluto Moon is present in several of the sister Bronte’s books which touch on obsessive love and mental suffering and trauma experienced in and through relationships (Moon) with the traumatised (Pluto).

For myself I feel the heavy blackness at times.  Kat and I were going over the years of my life that led to my oldest sister’s first suicide attempt in 1982, yesterday.  It was such a hard year in my life anyway in other ways.  Following my accident and an aborted attempt to embark on studies up North I returned home to live in hopes of finishing my teaching degree. Instead Dad forced me to go to secretarial college.  As Kat said to me yesterday : “That just wasn’t you”.  I told her that it was as boring as hell and that we had type in triplicate with two carbon papers only being allowed two mistakes a page.  No tippex and no computer autocorrect.  That year my drug taking and alcoholism really escalated.

In later years one smart arse said to me “why didn’t you tell your Dad to stick it up his jumper!”.  That wasn’t done and in any case I didn’t have means to support myself on the back of my accident.   Anyway it was that year my sister’s husband returned her home to us with a one way ticket and one blue tracksuit with a beaten up old case for what she believed was a two week holiday.  He just disappeared and there was no return ticket.  Her four boys were with him.  Suicide attempt in that dark front room at the start of the  hallway, dark, dark emptiness descends like a shroud, laying all joy to waste!   A few years later my father’s illness grew and he was taken, leaving us alone.

Early on I learned relationships were dangerous. Life was unsafe.  Today when I woke up I just lay there and repeated to myself over and over again.   “You are safe, you are loved.”  Trauma repeat on any waking up and coming to consciousness tells me otherwise!  It tells me without words but with body symptoms “you are about to die, or be killed! Or something is about to be stolen.” (As it always is, I guess, as life goes on!)

Death is really rearing its head in therapy lately and coming up a lot (Mercury on Pluto in the first house makes sense!).  In the absence of outside forces collecting to cut me down or kill me I can then internalise the killer within in the form of a nasty anti life critic mean saboteur grim reaper who cuts all life, all joy, all promise, all hope, all faith off.   That is when I find myself once again deep in Hades/Underworld or the inner place of shades with a traumatised Erishkegal crying over and over and over again “Woe to me, woe to my insides. All is black, all is helpless, all is fucked death is stronger than life.  I cannot make it!” (Black side of black/white thinking?)

And yet another part of me knows that this is also not the entire reality of the life that I can have and live to embrace.  There is also happiness that is there when I choose to say to that Underworld place : “No! I have done enough time here now!  Now please, will you let me reach for life, for light, for love, for promise, for joy, for hope?  Please don’t kill me off any more.  Please today let me live free and dance through the fields with Jasper.”

Today I beginning to feel that I can actually make a choice but you know moments before writing this and articulating all of this I felt that I was sucked back so far down in the darkness again and literally could not move  This feeling followed a conversation with my Mum after which I absorbed all her sadness and tiredness.  I came off the phone crying because yesterday a put a schism between us due to my abandonment wound arking up.  She didn’t respond with empathy and then I think on some level that just made us both sad.  Today she sounded so very, very tired and then I thought of how at times I almost feel my psychic energy body is reading or mirroring hers which would be another manifestation of strong Pluto Moon, a very strong psychic connection not only with my mother but with the mother line.

Lucky for me I can use perception, my mind and astrological signatures and archetypes to make sense of this ‘stuff’.   When it has its hooks in me though its a different story,  I am sucked on by the psychic/soup/fog of which I am not fully conscious.

I started this blog to speak about my sad self and to explain how that is not the entirety of me.  I have a happy self too, one that can live in the present moment and positive life energy.  I just have to become aware when the darker, heavier, sadder side is gaining hold, feeling my way into it, connecting with it, but not allowing it to fully possess me is a skill I am finally learning.   I want to be able to be and express from both sides for Persephone never lived the entire time in the Underworld. In spring she returned to upside world again with gifts to give and dark knowledge she earned having eaten and tasted the fruit of suffering of Hades/Pluto fruit, the pomegranate.  She can give then to those who also voyage or get trapped in the Underworld too.  She can affirm that they are not lying or mixed up about that place, that it is real and does exist and is not just some form of aberration that so called saner souls can say is ‘madness’ or ‘insanity’, rather it is like a scar or birthmark that permanently marks the souls of some of us.

Like Innana (another Persephone woman), the recovering Persephone becomes able to travel down to meet the ailing, grieving, inconsolable, wounded, flawed, disturbed and sorrowing, hungering side of others or of ourselves.  Through empathy and compassion (and self compassion ) she develops the resilience to be deeply present with others or herself, for a while, holding their/our hand and saying “woe is you and woe to your insides”.  She can do this with patience and forebearance just long enough for her  Underworld sister Erishkegal’s suffering to be soothed, mirrored, contained and transformed.  And then Innana finally becomes free, free to return once again, for a time to earth, to light, to spring, to sunshine, to hope, to trust, to love at least until the next descent or call is heard.

To be content means I know my own boundaries

I am not so much of a fan of suffering any more.  I have had a wake up call over the past few days that has shown me all the times I should have really stepped back from family dysfunction and how much of a hard time I gave myself as the message was that I was selfish if I didn’t get caught up in the family disease, most especially when my second oldest sister decided to try to take her life in 2013.  I was the one at the hospital arguing with the nurses to take her off meds.  She was already on about 5 different psychiatric medications including one for epilepsy and she could not stop trembling.   When I googled some of them the side effects listed included, suicidal feelings and anxiety.  This was a year or so after watching helplessly as she underwent a long course of shock therapy and was almost reduced to a comatose wreck, frozen, broken, incapable of feeling or speech.  It made me SO FUCKING ANGRY, but all I could do was cry.

My sister is not in this space any more.  She doesn’t do any emotional healing work only a lot of exercise but she has regained more of herself and is now the primary one supporting my Mum, due to the fact that she realises how all that she went through impacted my mother who was never one to take any psychiatric medication.

I thank God for my, by then firm sobriety.  I was able to go to meetings of Al Anon and share about it and learn that I could only try my best to hand it all over and detach but some days that seemed impossible to do.  There were the times I had to stand up to both my mother and sister’s lack of empathy and subtle abuse, following this, but also times I gave back far too much because I still loved them.   My sister is not totally abusive and has mellowed in her approach to me over years and that is a result of me working my own programme but not always managing to detach as well as I would have liked.

Today I decided not to visit my Mum in hospital.  I firmly believe her compounded health problems are due to years of emotional stress and repressed emotions.  In the past few years ever since the death of my oldest sister my Mum is close to tears but only when I am around as she know that due to my own recovery and emotional work I am the one who ‘gets’ what the reality is and helps her to go there.  But on some days I just cannot be that container.  On some days I just have to take care of myself.

Today has been one of those days and I am so grateful that ‘just for today’ I have been able to practice detachment.  Detaching doesn’t mean I am not feeling for my Mum, it just means I am honouring the limits of my power to give on certain days when my own energy reserves are not high.

Because she was never really there

I wrote this post yesterday then felt ashamed for some reason and took it down.  When I do that sort of thing its a sign that the inner critic is on the warpath so today I am posting it.

Much as I feel myself feeling compassion for my Mum lately I am also beginning to feel how empty, painful and lonely it was as a child and even in later life when she just wasn’t really there for me emotionally in any way, could not validate my feelings, told me I should feel differently, ignore and deny certain essential things.  Then today when we spoke I told her how I tried to be like her for so long, but realised I wasn’t.   That I am often messy, feel lost and confused.  Mum then told me she learned to keep good order with everything for her mother told her if she didn’t do things ‘just right’ she would have to do them again.  “I had no one there to turn to either, but I don’t blame her”, she said to me.

I was saying to her that there is a difference between blame and accountability and the need to recognise someone’s difficult actions had a very powerful formative affect on you.  It is also okay to have feelings about it (that part I did not mention) but I know we weren’t allowed to have certain feelings (or were left carrying her repressed ones) because my Mum denied her own in many ways.  This is helping me make sense of the way I tend to rationalise and to feel that I have not ‘got it together’ if things aren’t clear, ordered and tidied away.  I can literally spend hours moving things around in my house only to find they have got messed up again and then unconsciously I hear Mum or Nana’s (now the inner critic’s) voice in my head running a ‘not good enough’ commentary over and over and over.  Unconsciously I see I am stuck in the old pattern of trying to gain this person’s love, attention and approval.

There was some kind of liberation today in having that conversation with my Mum and it explained why she often finds my own angry outbursts a bit scary, for when I have them I am expressing all the anger she wasn’t allowed to have as a child and then may feel the prohibition against being angry at her own mother.  It also occurred to me later, really Mum isn’t the source of all of these painful patterns which stretch so far back.

I can only see now how many years and how much work emotionally separating from a parent can take.  There are times I don’t see my mother clearly at all, as I see different sides of her, both the defended hard side and the acutely vulnerable side she had to hide away and cover over years ago.  When I feel that side and maybe project my own I move into a caretaker role with my Mum and want to comfort and soothe her.  My therapist told me on Thursday that the emotional work I am doing with my Mum is huge.    I was discussing my deep resentment towards my mother that has been emerging lately and I cried with how much I don’t want it to limit and poison my life but also how I need the anger to help with self validation and healthy boundary setting.

I also feel my own strong enmeshment with my mother was added to by the fact I lost my father at 23.   Due to this in later years when Mum hit the wall emotionally I felt responsible and as some of you know I derailed my independent life in the UK to move back to Australia when she broke her wrist in 2001.  I see I have been unconsciously angry about it ever since.  It wasn’t also even only her I wanted to heal and protect, it was my older sister who was for years disabled in a home and died a few years ago.  At times I have felt this derailment was just too high a price to pay in some ways,  but in others just another necessary step on my own unconscious enmeshment pathway  of healing.  As my therapist often points out we only gain consciousness when we are past mid way through life if our wounds and emotional blind spots have been deep.

All this enmeshment dynamic reached a head when I went for a townhouse at auction back in March.  Mum ended up buying it after I realised I had made a mistake and had chosen out of what her ideal may be for me and my life, rather than my own.  Lately she has been trying to coax me to move into it, thinking it will be less work for me, and due to the fact my house is very very cold in winter.  She thinks to make things easier for me will help me, but will it?  When I look at the new place it doesn’t have a lot of the heart and soul of my old cottage.  And then I remember how important it is that at times I struggle and don’t always look for the easier softer way.   Having a soft place to fall is good sometimes but at other times it can be counterproductive if this attitude gets me to give up a thing of real beauty that still has flaws which seem to be tough at times but never the less give me joy.  To quote Leonard Cohen again ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s the way the light gets in’.

I am not making any moves for a while.  I am not going to let my hand be forced.  I still have the tooth removal hanging over my head and its still making me queasy due to the fact that I know I would never be going through this if I hadn’t at one point been the focus of my Mum’s self improvement project by proxy.  I am powerless over it.  But having no front teeth is a profound metaphor for me and not a good one, its a bitter pill I have to swallow, the wound I will carry to my death.  I just don’t want it to poison the rest of my life in resentment.

And the deeper sadder truth is that what I needed emotionally as a child I never got and that wound has dogged me and caused massive repercussions.  In the end I destroyed relationships and even my own attempts to break away into and independent life but then even as I write this I see the critic is still giving me a hard time.  I was on the path of working through so much from my past and often partners wanted me to be over it, before I had done the necessary work and so those relationships had to end so I could grow to psychological maturity while holding my inner child’s hand and recognising the grief of deeper emotional abandonment in her life.

My story and life is so far from over though, so there is hope over the horizon.  Lately new friendships seem to be coming to me, ones that are more genuine and authentic, ones with people who like me for exactly who I am warts and all and don’t mind me being real and messy.  So all is not lost but its been a fucking painful and hard journey knowing how different my life could have been had I had the emotional support I really needed in childhood and growing up.  Yet I must accept that reality and see how much I have learned about myself and human nature along the way.

Mum, I feel your pain

As a highly sensitive person were you attuned to pick up on one of your parent’s pain?  It is something I have been thinking about a lot more after a dinner out last night with my Mum, older brother and sister.  We very rarely get together and what I noticed is how shut down both my siblings are to my mother on an emotional inner child level.

I have a deep feeling that my 8 year older sister has a lot of unresolved anger to my Mum.  It used to come out in harsh criticism and I am sure there a lot of things she has to be angry about.  My Mum often tends to compete with her and they are so alike that often when they go out they turn up dressed the same without knowing before what the other one was going to wear.  When my sister was struggling with so called ‘bi polar disorder’ I witnessed several arguments in which my Mum tried to undermine my sister.  Last week I had one of the most honest conversations I have ever had with my sister.  “Mum never made it easy for us to separate from her emotionally”, she said.  Wow!

I watched the whole thing play out.  How my sister was forceably hospitalised by her sons, how my Mum struggled to accept her part in the way she had shaped my sister in terms of taking responsibility and then how she called my brother in to put out the fire.  Being in recovery I sat on the sidelines and tried my best not to get too swept up in it all, I was struggling at the time following my own divorce.

Anyway I got a bit off track there.  I am aware that as the ‘baby’ of the family I have absorbed and replayed a lot of my Mum’s inner child abandonment issues.  When I first got sober back in 1993 Mum made a very interesting comment to me. She said “Each of my children has absorbed something from me.”  “What have I absorbed”, I asked.  “You have absorbed all my insecurity.”  Wow thanks for that Mum, I got to be left alone a lot and then tried to become a satellite in order to be seen but was so rarely seen.

Such a pattern has often attracted strong older sister or mother types into my life who seem to hold a lot of power but also exist behind solid defences.  I am presently learning to hold onto my own sense of self in such relationships and remain the adult rather than repay an old adult/child pattern.   As a perceptive person I pick up a lot, most especially of others suffering and I have in sobriety spent so many times listening to my Mum’s history, learning things none of my siblings even know since I guess they are not on any kind of emotional recovery journey.  My older sister died and my other sister has chosen medication and sport as a way to deal with her own challenges.  I don’t put myself above her as I often feel I should exercise more and it is one way of throwing off other people’s stuff but as someone in recovery I am also aware of how exercise can be used as an emotional escape if the inner work on feelings is not being done.

Anyway last night I was very conscious of sitting with my Mum and listening to the pain of her past, and of the sadness she held inside when she spoke of how no one seemed interested in the family to ask her anything about her childhood or even very key critical events in the history of her early life with my father.   I don’t take it on as a burden for understanding my Mum and Dad’s history, especially their inner child history and bonding history has been important to understand my own attachment issues. But I do have to be aware that my Mum’s pain is not mine to fix or heal in any way.

As an empath I can bear witness and sometimes I wish I could be as hard and defended as my brother and sister seem to be towards my Mum’s sadness.  Maybe as the older ones they see things I don’t see.  And I am not really close enough to them to ask certain questions, as I don’t know how much I could trust their answers.  I am also aware of the astrological synastry which involves interconnection between parent and child and shows which traits we pick up and which we defend against.  In my own case my Neptune in Scorpio that is attuned to deep watery realms of feeling and inner sense on the deeper personal and collective unconscious level is smack bang on three Scorpio planets of my Mum.  While my sister has Saturn in Scorpio which related to fear of feeling deep emotions and subsequently erecting powerful defences.  I feel lucky to have that kind of knowledge which helps me make sense of why I pick up and attune to so much.