Third installment : Three generations of Shared Family History : the Family Body : research into inherited stress and trauma responses

Here is the third and final installment from Chapter 2 of Mark Wolynn’s book It Didn’t Start With You which concludes his coverage of genetic research shedding light on how stress and trauma are passed on through at least three generations :

It’s only recently that scientists have begun to understand the biological processes that occur when trauma is inherited.  To learn more, researchers turned to animal studies….Chemical changes in the blood, brain, ova and sperm of mice are now being linked to behavioural patterns, such as anxiety and depression, in later generations.  Studies performed on offspring, for example, have shown that trauma, such as the stress of maternal separation, caused gene expression changes that can be traced for three generations.

In one such study, researchers prevented females from nurturing their pups for up to three hours a day during the first two weeks of life.  Later in life, their offspring exhibited behaviors similar to what we call depression in humans.  The symptoms seemed to worsen as the mice age.  Surprisingly, some of the males did not express the behavior themselves, but appeared to epigenetically transmit the behavioral changes to their female offspring.  The researchers also discovered altered methylation and gene expression changes in the stressed mice.  Among the genes involved was the CRF2 gene, which regulates anxiety in both mice and humans.  The researchers also found that the germs cells – the precursor egg and sperm cells – as well as the brains of the offspring were affected by the stress of being separated from their mothers.  In another experiment….offspring that received low levels of maternal care were more anxious and more reactive to stress in adulthood than were the rats that received high levels of maternal care.  The stress pattern was observed in multiple generations.

It’s common knowledge that infants who have been separated from their mothers can experience challenges as a result.  In studies involving male mice, pups that were separated from their mothers exhibited lifelong increases in stress susceptibility and generated offpsring  that exhibited similar stress patterns over several generations.  (In one study).. conducted at the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich in 2014, researchers subjected male mice to repeated and prolonged periods of increased stress by separating them from their mothers.  Afterward, the traumatised mice exhibited a number of depression like symptoms.  The researchers then had the mice reproduce and discovered that pups in the second and third generation showed the same symptoms of trauma despite never having experienced it themselves.

(Similarly)…. high numbers of microRNA – genetic material that regulate gene expression – (were) present in the sperm, blood and hippocampi of the traumatised mice..(and)…in those of the second generation……Although mice in the third generation expressed the same symptoms of trauma as did their fathers and grandfathers. elevated numbers of microRNA were not detected.

In a later study published in 2016, Mansuy and her colleagues were able to show that trauma symptoms could be reversed in the mice after they lived in a positive, low stress environment as adults.  Not only did the mice’s behaviors improve, they also experienced changes in DNA methylation, which prevented symptoms from being passed to the next generation.  The implications of this study are particularly significant.  In later chapters we’ll learn how to create positive images and enriching experiences that can help reverse stress patterns that may have affected our family for multiple generations.

What makes the mouse research so intriguing is that science can now substantiate how the challenges experienced in one generation can become the legacy transmitted to the next.  In a study involving the offspring of stressed male mice conduucted at Emory University School of Medicine in 2013, researchers discovered that traumatic memories could be passed own to subsequent generations throgh epigentic changes that occur in DNA.  Mice in one generation were trained to fear a cherry blossom-like scent.. Each time they were exposed to the smell they simultaneously received an electric shock.  After a while, the shocked mice had a greater amount of small receptors associated with that particular scent, enabling them to detect it at lower concentrations.  They also had enlarged brain areas devoted to those receptors.  Researchers were also able to identify changes in the mice’s sperm.

The most intriguing aspect of the study is what occured in the next two generations.  Both the pups and the grandpups, when exposed to the blossom odour, became jumpy and avoided it, despite never having experienced it before.  They also exhibited the same brain changes. The mice appeared to inherit not only the sensitivity to the scent, but also the fear response associated with it.

Brian Dias, one of the researchers of the study, suggests that “there’s something in the sperm that is informing or allowing that information to be inherited.” He and his team noted abornmally low DNA methylation in both the sperm of the father mice and the sperm of the offspring.   Although the exact mechanism for how a parent’s traumatic experience gets stored in the DNA is still under investigation.    Dias says, “it behooves ancestors to inform their offspring that a particular environment was a negative environment for them.”

Ths particular study provides compelling evidence for what the researchers term “transgenerational epigenetic inheritance,” the notion that behaviours can pass from one generation to another.  When I work with families in my pratice, I often see recurring patterns of illness, depression, anxiety, relationship struggles, and financial hardship, and always feel compelled to look deeper.  What unexplored event in a previous generation drives the behavior of the man who loses all his money at the racetrack, or the woman who chooses to be intimate only with married men?  How have their genetic inheritances been influences?

…..

Given that a generation in humans is approximately twenty years, the results from human studies spanning multiple generations are still pending.  However, with the research demonstrating that stress can be transmitted through at least three generations of mice, the researchers surmise that children born to human parents who experienced a traumatic or stressful event would also likely pass the pattern down not only to their children, but to their grandchildren as well.  Uncannily the Bible in numbers 14-18, appears to corroborate the claims of modern science – or vice versa – that the sins, iniquities, or consequences of the parents can affect the children up to the third and fourth generations.  Specificially, the New Living translation states : “the LORD is slow to anger and filed with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty.  He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations.”

As new discoveries in epigentics are revealed, new information about how to mitigate the transgenerational effects of trauma could become standard practice.  Researchers are now finding that our thoughts, inner images and daily practices, such as visualisation and meditation can change the way our genes express, an idea we will examine in more detail in the next chapter.

The idea that we relive family traumas may well be at the core of what psychiatrist Norman Doidge alludes to in his breakthrough book  he Brain That Changes Itself when he writes “Psychotherapy is about about turning our ghosts into ancestors.”  By identifying the source of our generationl traumas Dr. Doidge suggests that our ghosts can “go from haunting us to become part of our history.”

To be continued

So alone : reflections on awakening along the path of consciousness

Now that I feel I am finally casting off the demon of self blame I am seeing the deeper reality of my life and most particularly of my struggles after getting sober in 1993.   I was waking up, pure and simple, to the consequences of a tortured emotional past that I had buried over years and through my addiction lost the way to.  But with the surrendering of alcohol, I was finally committing to a pathway of descent and uncovery.

It has not been easy and my marriage had to go into the fire at 11 years in.   I know there are many sheddings, ending, losses deaths and surrenders me must undergo and accept as we struggle on the path to becoming more deeply conscious beings.  As we travel along the path it narrows before us as it lead us into a spiritual wilderness, we become the orphan and live out of that archetype as we are trying to birth something so deep our parents could not give us.  So many of us carry unconsciously their unintegrated children deep inside and we have the spiritual and emotional task to make something new of our ancestral legacy.  At least that is how I see the bigger picture and it is the only one that gives my life meaning.  And we have to undergo this journey alone but not necessarily without guides and companions.

I found my own guidance emerging in the final years of my addiction when my soul witness self knew something was terribly wrong with my life and my drinking.  That guidance came from people like Carl Jung, Marion Woodman and John Bradshaw who showed me my addiction was but a symptom and what I suffered was not purely personal but was strongly collective and affects so many others as we struggle under the weight of an unconscious past so spiritually bereft of the healing feminine.

My own parents had it hard.  There was no place of comfort or soothing for their inner children.  Both lives had been devastated by the impacts of World War ,I both lost their fathers as a result, not during it but in the painful aftermath.  That silent history of father absence dogged them both and has repeated its deep echo of abandonment all along our later genetic line.   I see myself as ‘the awakener’ to it all.  It took my older sister out, the pain of all of those hundred of years of trauma gone unconscious and I stood on the sidelines as the witness.   I did not know I was affected by so many larger forces and that my own struggle must, of necessity, be lonely and hard,] as I was trying to open up and break new ground in a family that in so many ways is deaf dumb and blind to deeper realities.

Kat, my therapist was saying yesterday what a lonely path the path of conscious awakening to the deep feminine soul is.  Carl Jung nearly went mad on his way to find it, if you read his autobiography and follow his journey it was just prior to the outbreak of World War One that he broke with Freud then had visions of a bloodbath in Europe and then he developed the concept of the shadow and the collective unconscious.  He could not agree with Freud that all was ruled by sex and death and that the child wanted to seduce the parents.  I am not saying that there are not valid points and great insights in Freud’s ideas and he was bringing them to birth out of Victorian times but Jung went deeper when he realised there are so many larger influences around us as individual souls which we are subject to.

Anyway, as usual I have digressed….back to the sense of being so alone.  If we don’t ‘fit in’ maybe it is because we see deeper, and this is what Kat was saying to me yesterday.  It IS a burden to see this deep but it is also a gift and a result of all we suffer in our path of being and feeling so alone yet knowing at a deeper awareness other truths we don`t fully understand yet that are emerging (if that makes sense?).  Our aloneness is a doorway into recognition of truths others may fear or shun, that they may want to turn a blind eye on and call us ‘mad’ for glimpsing.  And on the path we are not totally alone really as there are others souls who went before lighting the way.  There are also are our fellow travellers who are willing to dive below the surface to do their own deep work who we share with and recognise.  We are all in a process of waking up to what may be being asked of us as humans to recognise at this point our evolution.  Could it be an awakening to the truth of our own feelings, soul and love, to understandings of how thwarted power drives can shape and misshape us?

I do not think we should shun or stigmatise the so called ‘mentally ill’; if we are on the pathway of emotional recovery we have to go a bit mad on the way.  Our addiction or bi polar or BPD or other diagnoses are but symptoms of soul suffering that we are being asked to understand.  We are not our diagnoses and our true selves lay buried somewhere deeper inside.  All of our reactions make sense, most particularly our violent reactions to the emotional violence we are so often subjected to in childhood, which may I say has become more endemic in a technologically oriented industrialised society.  Go study the myth of the Handless Maiden if you want to see a parable or metaphor for what happens to our soul or inner feminine when it is neglected or abandoned in such a  cutlure.  We loose our hands, our access to our inner life and our emotional agency and we only grow those functioning hands back when our deep soul suffering awakens our tears which we, in crying use to wash our tortured souls clear and clean of illusions and within that seemingly powerless place, find and embrace our true soul power.  We are all in a process of awakening.  Let us remember that.

In the depths of our personal and collective dark night we fall down and struggle and awaken alone but we are also connected, nothing of our shared collective human experience is alien or strange, just our dissociation from it and from the larger awareness that we are only as separate as we believe we are at certain points along that path of awakening.  At times we are so deeply alone and yet, paradoxically, it is through that aloneness that we are also connected at deeper levels.   That said the path does narrow as we move further along it and the loneliness we feel at certain times is so acute, but my deeper experience is that as we deepen into the loneliness a great spiritual light so often is felt if we just hold fast and keep opening our hearts to the deep truths we glimpse and face and integreted the painful realities we have known inside.  Through this painful path we finally come to know what love is.   Both feeling and action.

A bit lost? : a meandering journey through family karma

I had a retrogressive day yesterday.  I was back in the hard to get dressed and out of the house deep introspective mode yesterday after talk in therapy on Tuesday I shared about yesterday around how my needs were not met.  And yet when I come to think of it its the same burden both my parents carried and was generational.  I seem to be carrying the end of the line abandonment trauma that goes generations back and all my siblings are carrying their own version of it.  I havent passed it on to any children as I decided not to have them and have chosen to do my inner work.  So why beat myself up like I did yesterday?

I think what triggered me was that I had once again tried to heal the pain in my Mum’s heart or at least soothe it in some way.  She shared that on Saturday she stayed in bed, a family friend tried to visit to give her flowers and she slept through their buzzing at the door, the friend called my sister who let her in and they were sitting on the edge of the bed when she woke up.  May I say this friend has so many abandonment issues herself which have manifested in schizophrenia in her daughter.   It reminds me that our wounds are not just ours and we are all reflectors, or birds of a feather flocking together.  Anyway the movie Shall We Dance was on television her on Friday night and Mum was sharing how she loves the scene where Richard Gere comes up the elevator with a rose for his wife and that made me realise how much Mum was missing Dad who loved to dance too and so I went out on Sunday to buy her the movie which I dropped around after therapy on Tuesday.

Mum kept up her front until just before I left when she broke down in tears about the pre dinner nausea she suffers sharing with me she dry retched before each dinner.  She has been on pain meds for over a year now and they are taking her toll.  I wish she had fucking therapy so she could cry the pain out of her body or body therapy where they could hold her as she has had to hold it all inside. That is the time of day she was left alone after her father died when she was 7 and Nana had to leave her to go out to work.  It breaks my heart but I didn’t cause it cannot control it and there is no way I can cure her soul burdens and losses for her,  I am just a witness and the carrier and I also suffer at that time of day.  As Kat and I discussed on Tuesday the inner child in me with her magical thinking cannot quite get it that she can’t help or fix any of this, she so desperately feels all that pain and tries to something, anything to help.

Anyway yesterday after phoning her to find a friend was taking her out I just started crying.  It’s such a burden for me to carry all this.  They were going to the Botanic Garden to have lunch on what is an elevated platform only later did it occur to me that just prior to this I had awoke from a dream in which I joined her and her best friend on a roof top looking out over a city.  Was I picking up psychically on this? As an empathic intuitive it seems my soul psyche is picking up all kinds of energy in the ether.

As an astrological aside both women are Scorpios, we are still in Scorpio time and that is death time and about deeper emotional wounds that go underground, both lost partners, both have schisms with family members.   I struggled with all of this yesterday and with my understanding of how I am some kind of conduit on some level.  Mum asked me to lunch with her and her friend but I couldn’t go.  Maybe if I had my day would have been better but I am still trying to find my independent life.  On some days I wonder if that is an illusion and if my karmic destiny isn’t in some way related to this, to bringing forward deeper understandings about an ancestral past that is trying to find resolution in me? I don’t yet know the answer,  I just have a lot of intuitions and questions.

Other heart concerns of yesterday : my oldest nephew`s wife has been trying to fall pregnant for over 10 years.  They had their final try two weeks ago with implanted embryos and it failed again (this is about their 10th or more attempt of some kind).  This is the wife of the oldest son of my sister who died.  He was the one who found her collapsed on the carpet after her bleed.  He was the one who took himself off to live miles away overseas.  He has achieved a lot but he goes through such a struggle every time he comes back here to visit trying to reconnect.  He carries the knowledge of how his father abandoned my sister and of how his father then bankrupted his own mother and father, I cannot help but feel this struggle to have kids is all tied up with ancestral karma and burdens.  They now live in the UK very close to the place my step grandfather was born and grew up and UK is the land of our ancestors.

Then I go online to Facebook to see another of the skulls his younger brother paints with floral designs staring out and I cannot help but feel the God Pluto looking at me from the spaces in the skull that eyes should inhabit.  This beautiful boy at the age of 6 stood behind the curtain watching as his Dad put my broken sister into the car to take her to the airport for a journey she would never return from.  I believe he told the boys she has chosen to leave, they never saw her for 8 or more years and when they walked off that bus they did not know who she was.  The truth was their father was, with that decision, abandoning their mother to live with another woman who made them all sleep in the garage for years.  They were then sent to boarding school.

I have not yet made it north to visit my nephews.  I need to do it but I am scared to.  I carry the memory of all of this from the outside, what happens if I go up and collapse under the weight of it?  It isn’t mine to fix I was only a bystander but I still want (no need) to give them love, comfort, understanding.   Its such a tear on my heart but maintaining my Aquarian distance isn`t helping, is it?

I am aware that Saturn Lord of Karma is ending its long cycle through my fourth house of family, roots and karmic inheritance sometime in December or January.  We are in the final stages of that year long cycle which begins when the Sun and Saturn meet to cast light on family karma.  Reconciling or breaking the powerful unconscious hold of karma occurs as it transits the fourth house.  These are truths I know deep inside.  In the words of Mark Woitiz, It Didn’t Start With Me but I hope it ends here.  I want us connected, not separated or divided but sometimes it seems I forget or don’t know exactly what role I am meant to play or whether I am supposed to be here or walk away or if I can really help in that task with my own small will.  I don`t want to walk away, that is an old family pattern and where ever we go we take our karma with us until we reconcile the ill matched threads of our fate.  Maybe on some level I am now making my peace with it.

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.

Stopping the running from my mother wound

I had a clear awakening today after posting an earlier post and then finding a quote on the ancestral mother who is calling us on a path of healing that until I make true peace with my own mother wound I can never find true healing and release.  I am sad in a way to see how much anger I have borne my own mother when she acted in ways she was conditioned to due to mother and father wounds in her own heart.

I went to lunch with a good friend today and she said how tough and hard her mother was (but loving too) and how she saw the damage and stoicism coming out of being a child of war.  I thought about how my Mum was the only child of a World War One survivor who only lived until she was 7 and then of how my Dad lost his own father at 12 and then was called far away from the land of his birth when large forces were breaking open in Europe during the 1930s. I see how little they could give in terms of warm holding and affection that was physically demonstrated and now I feel so strongly the burden of all that I carry wasn’t it that that led me to seek the warm embrace of alcohol?

I was saying to my friend that when I try to hug my older brother’s oldest son he is stiff as a board, and how he and his wife air kiss you on either cheek.  So so sad.  I feel the abandoned body in them and feel my own body hunger to be enveloped in a big hug the one my other nephews of my older sister seem to give so easily. But I also see one nephew a few weeks ago crying at his mother’s grave and my Mum and sister standing on the side not touching him.  It was me who tried to give the love and it was hard at times as I did not want to invade his boundary.  Never the less it was given.  I wanted to give him a letter his Mum had written and a school report but I was scared to on some level.  I passed on instead the nature book that my sister had at the home that she never lived to give her grandsons and little Aiden was so sad when he left us a few weeks ago.  I will treasure that moment with him for the rest of my life.

I see until I make peace with my own mother wound and allow my own need to be connected and depend I will never heal.  There are places I can express that and other places where I cannot.  So much of the twisting and spasming my body goes through on a daily basis is about this unexpressed need and longing of my own body to be held.  One of the saddest things of my own trauma mother wound history is that I have terminated 6 pregnancies.  The last one in the first year of my sobriety and marriage.  I just did it and didn’t really think of the impact on my husband at all.  When he left me he quickly found someone to have a baby with. When I cried about that with my new partner he accused me of being jealous. It was not that.  I was grieving for what, at that point I could not give. I decided at the earlier point my own wounds were too deep to pass on but maybe the baby would have helped me heal and feel them,  I don’t know.

Today when my body symptoms around twisting and my pelvis were happening I felt the times the instruments went in to suck out my womb.  At times after I eat I feel I am being sucked and all my fluid is being drained away. Its helpful now to associate that to earlier traumas my body is carrying.

Anyway I am so glad I happened upon that quote about the ancestral mothers calling on our soul for healing.  A year ago I found out that it was after the death of his mother that my great great grandfather left the UK and then he became an alcoholic and his wife left him and then there were migrations and leavings/divorces or other deaths along the maternal ancestral line.  My older sister who died replayed all that when her husband abandoned her taking her back to New Zealand from Australia which is where my great great grandfather emigrated in 1874 and was eventually abandoned himself. The wounds I carry are not mine and yet it has been my task to become conscious of the ancestral thread and to face the pain that comes when I act all of this out unconciously from wounded child self who does not realise the deeper complexities of everything.  I am so lucky to have found that quote which I posted on an earlier blog.  Funny how life is always trying to bring us toward growth, healing and consciousness.

 

Separating : birthing : integrating

Ancestral.png

Its such a tough journey to finally get to the point where we have to let our families go in order to birth the true life and connections that exist outside of its circumscribed limits.  Therapy and emotional healing is a process of both coming to terms with and integrating all of the formative experiences of our past, as well as the deeper hurts and injuries that happened to us in our family of origin.   Many of us battle for a long time against accepting harsh realties most especially if we were wounded or suffered developmental arrests and lost access to our True Self within over many years.  Abandonment gives us no way of accessing the truth of the lost self except through pain which is challenging to feel and integrate, especially in a society where pain is seen as a pathology or illness to be medicated instead of mined for wisdom, growth, connection and meaning.

In my own case a developmental arrest occurred at 17 when I should have been on the brink of opening up and launching.  I was cut down by an accident and then in the 6 years that followed the following traumas occurred : the cerebral bleed, coma and eventual psychosis of my older sister, her eventual abandonment and suicide attempt, two terminations of pregnancy and then my father’s death from cancer.  After my boyfriend broke the relationship off with me just a few weeks after my father died and cancelled our plans to meet abroad, something I had been working and saving towards for over 18 months my mother then decided it was best to push me overseas all alone.

How I was meant to cope with everything I had suffered to that point God only knows. And the truth is its deeper suffering was not even begun to be felt by me for about 14 more years.  I call those the years of unconscious descent, as 7 of them involved active addiction and the next 7 were just spent in AA meetings where it was really not possible to address the extent of my damage.   In 1999 I made my first attempt at therapy and here it is 18 years later and I only feel that I have now done the majority of my conscious descent, which had involved a lot of therapy and broken therapies in order to find the right help.

I only now feel that I am beginning to separate from my family emotionally.  The paradox is that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the suffering fully, in fact I feel it means I feel it at the deepest level as I have chosen not to self medicate as much as possible.  At times I have been very close to suicide, most especially in the past 6 years spent back here in my home town.  I beat myself up all the time about how I didn’t have the courage to move away and deal with it from a distance.  Maybe it was partly the illusion of the inner child pulling me back making me believe that in some way I would get what I wanted emotionally or at least be able to address the pain with family.  That illusion has caused me a lot of emotional suffering and has cost me years and the pain over all that lost life honestly on some days nearly drives me to want to take my life.  It is taking a long time for adult me to emerge and front up, and face the death of those old longings which I see now are not realistic and never were really.  There is a lot of grieving to be done in the shedding and the letting go and fear I am becoming aware does accompany the conscious descent that is asked of us.  In fact I read many years ago that poet Robert Bly spoke of how depression is a refusal on some level often to surrender to deeper grief work.  Only through it do we reunite with the lost child in side who holds so much of our power and inner gold, although often when we find him or her, he or she is most often covered in soot and ashes, this unparented one who is often also a part of our parents’ unconscious.

Anyway I am certainly not alone in facing this kind of pain in midlife.  My journey is made more complex due to two near death traumas which pulled me back when I was on the brink of what should have been a blossoming and emerging or burgeoning time.  My studies suffered in the years following my first accident as I also struggled with the terrible impact of witnessing what my older sister went through.  I was forced by my father at that point into a career I hated and it wasn’t until just before I got sober that I tried to break out of that but addiction wouldn’t let me move too far forward and at that time even more traumas and losses had piled on top of the original ones.

I eventually did manage to do some training in wholistic therapies and managed to secure myself a few jobs in an industry that was more to my liking but I hadn’t yet done my inner work, instead I chose to escape into marriage.   In those years I got sober and started then to really explore my interest in astrology and in 2001 managed to achieve a dream to study at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London which I aborted when my older sister who was now in a care home hit the wall. I also started serious therapy in 1999 in the UK but mid way through I had a powerful dream that an dark African woman had given birth to a baby who died just after its first birthday.  About a year and a half into therapy I aborted to come back home.  In the dream the deep sad eyes of the woman shone as she told me it was a necessary death.

And so it has been.  Death and more death followed.  The ending of marriage, another accident and then another, another relationship and the failing of that and my eventual return to the roots of my home and then a new start in therapy, the suicide attempt of my other sister, five hospitalisations for her for depression which I tried to give emotional support through and then the death of my older sister in 2014 and reconnection with my nephews her sons who were like my long lost brothers.

Wiser energy comes now on a spring afternoon where shadows begin to fall telling me it was all a part of the journey. Why beat myself up?  Will I ever fully leave my family behind?  They were the womb I was born out of but not the place that I am meant to end up but individuation is a journey and its not an easy birth to go through it all and in so many ways my own life is both a continuation of my ancestors life as well as a working out of issues and burdens and tasks they perhaps never got to complete fully which call to me from deep within intercellular tissue, at least that is how it feels for me. Even the ones I never met call to me and I feel their pain and deeper longing to be known and recognised, no longer so lost, exiled or forgotten, fallen deep down into the collective unconscious ocean like stones.  Possibly all configured by my natal Neptune in the third trine to Chiron in Pisces in the seventh more than I could ever fully express in words here.

So much to navigate and not all of it artificial imagining I am sure.  So I continue on some days weighed down so deep by a burden I never chose, but then on other days rising again with a new energy and power that has come from facing and surrendering myself body and soul to the deepest darkness.  So much is a mystery that is all I know.  So many unseen forces play out for us and we can never fully hope to solve the puzzle with our minds but if we still enough at times we hear the inner voice or call telling us things.  Our personal and ancestral soul trying so hard to make its authentic individual voice and inner purpose known.

Absence.png

 

A place within the pain to find a place outside the pain.

I awoke a little while ago to a golden morning.   I had such a fitful night last night.  I never take any medication but last night I took a Panadol hoping it would allow me to rest.  My body has been all over the place since the anniversary of my accident trauma.  I was also not fully aware of how much my nephew’s visit triggered and the aftermath of feeling.  I was up and down last night and had all the spasms and shock releases in my body which feels like it is trying to unwind.  I wind myself up in my mind with worry over my dog and my mother.  Despite the fact my relationship with my Mum is complex now she is aging so much and in pain I am full of care, this conflicts with feelings of frustration I have in longing for freedom from worry, care and trauma and anger I feel over past hurts.  But the truth is way more complex than I can fully express in any blog.  There are times I know she wanted to support me but since she struggles to accept her own emotions and responses (or does so under the cover of silence and protection like a lot of Scorpios) she hasn’t been able to validate me in the ways I wished, nor fully acknowledge her part.

I was watching the movie Thanks for Sharing for the second time on the weekend and I got triggered in the scene where the son of the older man in recovery confronts his Dad with hurt he caused him and his failure to apologise.  The father who was a big guy in recovery circles as well as full of AA platitudes and pearls of wisdom was being hypocrite pure and simple and refusing to face it.  I saw my self and how alone and emotionally devastated not getting the necessary apology leaves us.  It fucks with our heads as we question the truth and fear losing the parent’s love by confronting their defences with their shadow.

I have pretty much come to the point where I know now Mum wont own her own part in ways she abandoned me emotionally.  To do so she would have had to face her own history and lately she has shared that she was also emotionally abandoned, but the sorry for what she unconsciously did is never coming.  Sharing about it with my therapist the other day she said that she feels to my Mum I am the child inside her she had to cover over long ago and whose pain it hurts to face, sadly.  It takes so much courage and vulnerability to truly own where we fail, often due to unconsciousness.  Not getting that acknowledgement from any member of my family has been painful and difficult.  But at least now I know where NOT to look for it.

In a way I am glad I had no contact with my brother on his birthday.  His daughter shared with me a while back how shut down both her parents are.  She doesn’t blame them for her emotional abandonment and it is ongoing.   I think its a big step to really feel our anger over this, as it can be prohibited.  To stay trapped in anger though in time means a failure to accept and grieve a harsh reality that must be faced and grieved.  I feel in time I will be able to have an honest conversation about how I feel about how he is in terms of being as emotionally distant as my own father was.  He never got the help to face his softer needy side and his wife is furiously defended against her own in so many way too, but the truth is I don’t know her well.  She has always kept up a cold hard distance with the female side of my family, especially after my oldest sister’s breakdown and told her children to do the same.  That is another grief.  I know she has reasons to be angry at my Mum and they are valid.  Mum admits she was in the wrong but doesn’t really have empathy for my sister in law who lost her own mother when she was on the brink of adolescence.

Facing our grief and pain is huge work, I now see.  I feel we skirt around it for so long and as I write this that poem of Emily Dickinson comes to mind : there is a pain so utter it swallows substance up and covers the abyss with trance so we step above or around it (those are not the verbatim words but it goes something like that.)  The reason I think so many of us who carry abandonment trauma suffer and are sidelined by others is that they either have no idea of the devastation it causes or are so deeply invested in denying or covering over their own grief and pain that they can feel scared and threatened when we do and so do things to shut us down or shame us.  Then we can be labelled as ‘ill’ and medicated to shut the fuck up.  (Writing that last sentence I am also aware medications in many cases are used to soften the blow while inner work is prepared for but in many cases they are used to hide from it in the absence of inner reparative psychodynamic work and there is anger for my sisters in that sentence which I own fully!).

As I look back I see this ocean of deep grief and pain began to open up for me in 1999 when my ex husband and I were in the UK.  Facing the enormity of it scared me so I ran home to Australia and then hid out.  My husband and mother were trying to get me some help but I was resisting them a fair bit.  I ran back to the UK and then back to Oz and then back again when I was struggling to find a way to trust and move forward.  So in many ways the anger I have at my family not fully understanding is also anger of my inner child at the adult who would not take the right steps to care for her before. My grief and fear was so huge they were terrifying to face.   And so much went into the fire.

It was only the ending of the next relationship which freed me for the inner work and then my older sister died and that was so hard.  We got to reconnect for a short while with her sons and that opened up feeling but also more fear.  It has taken until this late Mercury retrograde transit to see how strong the Uranus rebellion streak has been in me and how deep the Plutonian deluge of ancestral pain that we carry as a family really is.  In many ways I am the shadow bearer for a lot of repressed energy so its no wonder I have struggled so much and been sidelined so many times by others who are ignorant, misunderstanding or misjudging.  And then I judged myself not seeing how big the task was or how well I was trying, until I found this last therapist who has just been so present, so adaptable, so open and so warm and caring, things I have never received much in my life before.  I come from such a constricted family that holds down so deep so much repressed life force and childlike joy and human wanting/needing, all of which I split off for so many years until now!  Was it any wonder I suffered from anxiety.  It was just repressed life force, wild horse energy in my beautiful body stampeding with hooves of wanting and desiring for release against huge forces of internalised repression!

Phew! Sun is literally streaming in on me at the moment and I awoke today and saw the beauty of my home, which has been such a cocoon and which I nearly discarded earlier in the year in quest of a space that was not the real me I am but the me I thought I should be to be better or neater or more in control.

On that subject last night after I got home I listened to the greatest conversation on radio with a student of ethics and philosophy on transcendant experiences.  What was being discussed was how much the rational enlightenment in the 17th century has stolen from us in terms of raising up qualities of self control, rationality as supreme, making us numb and blind on so many levels to nature and inner mystical worlds that our ancestors were more in touch with.  In the wake of this experiences of feeling connected to a greater power or peak experiences of seeing spirit in matter or feeling that vast overwhelming of love, luminosity and connection have become increasingly pathologised by the mainstream.

On the way home just a while before I had one of those experiences when I saw a hedge of the most glorious yellow wattle shining out at the side of the car.  I was overcome with the awareness of how much love there is in nature and of how much of our suffering is man made by the heroic questing ego that seeks power over nature instead of union with it.

When we fail to see the beauty in who we really are as natural beings, when we go deaf dumb and blind to sensitivities and feelings of connection or suffering, we shut down all that is most beautiful, honest, open and true in ourselves and others.  I know how many others there are out there who also suffering and in many ways our suffering in opening our hearts also connect us to each other.  When we resist that suffering or try to make a illness of it we cut ourselves away from love, life and light.

I saw so much light and love in that wattle yesterday.  I only saw it as I went to visit my Mum for an hour and we had a few moments of connection.  I connect to the pain in my Mum that she has had to deny for so many years.  Long ago as a child she was left alone without resources.  I see how she coped to the best she could.  It was NEVER enough for me but it was all she could do.  Facing the harsh reality of that means grieving not only for her but for all of my family.  It means not living in denial as so many of us do but it also involves realising the beauty that remains even amongst what at times seems to the rubble and wreckage that is left and it occurs to me as I read this back that grieving and feeling the pain is a form of transformation and birthing, it is a dying to the old past so a new present can rise up and live with more awareness of how deep losses and original injuries go.

What is most important for me at this stage of the road in my emotional recovery is self love not self denial or rejection.  I don’t like what I had to suffer and I wish it was different. I know I deserved more but maybe there was a deeper lesson or learning in every single thing I have gone through.  Making meaning of it, accepting what is, grieving the losses to realise what is most important, most luminous so I can come awake again and fully embodied in both my longing and my pain as well as my luminosity and joy, well to my mind that is essential work maybe not for everyone but most definitely for me.

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Coming to peace : reflections on the past week

I woke to streaming sunlight this morning.  I was aware of what a huge wave had been building to carry me through another ancestral swell over the past week.  Before the visit of my nephew and my family I was waking up around 4.30 or 5.30 and unable to get back to sleep.  While they were here I was conscious of how many different levels my being and body was operating on.  Any visit by one of my four nephews who were disconnected both from my sister and I after her abandonment is a huge thing for me.  After all these four boys were close to age to me than my own siblings.  We laughed and played together and is funny as I just thought I re-experienced that on the weekend when I played with my nephew’s two youngest boys.  The older son is around the age my older nephew was when his mother had the cerebral bleed that tore us all apart.

I struggled so much on Saturday with the abandonment feelings not only of my own but through reflection on how they have played out over 5 generations.  In my own case my sobriety and work on my own addiction and recovery has given me deeper insight into dynamics and I also have the added burden or awareness of knowing the ancestral history.  I struggle to be known to this particular nephew as he keeps in touch more with my mother and what she says to him about me I am not sure.  I struggled on the weekend to know how much connection to have and I felt the conflict of that as on the Saturday I held my self back as I had offered to take my nephew to the cemetery and I knew that was going to be a big deal for both of us so I felt I needed my time out with my dog.  But deeper inside I was so aware of the inner child in me who longed for so much love and connection of a deeper kind.  We came close to that at the cemetery when we both had an arm around each other as we stood and wept.  Its hard though because I am the emotional one and I didn’t want my pain to eclipse the pain of others,

Anyway we did connect a little and I managed to share with my nephew’s wife a little about my recovery from addiction as the subject of booze and drugs came up as we were discussing the painful impact.  For those of you who don’t know my sister abused alcohol but this came more out of survival drive and a degree of emotional neglect, my parents were very poor when they returned to live in Australia after the end of the Second World War and had to work very hard,  too hard in the end, ambition destroyed both my sister and my father (well more the painful aftermath that hit my sister in my Dad’s case when she had the cerebral bleed and was weeks in a coma he was the one sitting by the bedside holding her hand and talking to her even though the doctors told him she could not hear – not true!)  She did come back but what happened to her at the hands of my brother in law almost destroyed her life and in the end it broke her emotionally.

As I write that though I am not daring to blame my brother in law.  He did the best he could but he was a runner, he didn’t face up or talk about what help he needed he just took them all off to the land of our ancestors and in the end the boys had to leave home and fend for themselves.  There is a karmic repeat theme in even this though.  And he may have even been having an affair around the time my sister had the stroke.  He had the woman shacked up to fly over too and he knew that when he took my sister from her home and away from us in 1981.  We will never know as he never spoke about those years even to his sons.  As he lay dying a few years ago he would only say, “I didn’t do very well by your mother.”

I have to be aware of the terrible burden all of those boys carry in different ways.  At times I get so caught up in the feelings around my sister and her life that I forget about them.  But even as I write this I am aware too of how much I need to bring the focus back on my own life.  So much of it has been dominated by this family trauma to the extent that two major relationships went to the wall.  I had the option to live my life in the UK 13 years back but I could not, at that point leave my Mum and sister alone.

I was reading back on some journals too, last night about the time things were breaking apart with my husband.  I put him in a difficult situation by asking that we come back to Oz then changing my mind and not being able to be close to my Mum in terms of living in the same town.  It is very hard to have emotions around my mother who puts them aside all of the time with practicalities.  It all ended up with me alone in a collapse nearly buried under the weight of it all.  I am only now really beginning to get any insight into what occurred in 2004 with the break up and the aftermath in which I had two major accidents.  It might sound strange or out there to some readers but I feel on some level the ancestors were always calling me back here to Australia and even called me over to the UK before in order that I could honour their hidden emotional history.  Why did my sister end up marrying a New Zealander when that was where our ancestors migrated to in 1874?  Why was she taken back there and away from us when she first married in 1965 when I was only 3?  Why was that the place she ended up in an asylum put there by her husband to get her out of the way when my Great Great Grandfather also ended up in some kind of institution in New Zealand?  Many years ago a lady who did spiritual ancestral healing work told me “your sister isn’t bi polar she is living out a generational wound/split”.  I firmly believe that to be true.

Anyway family history is such a gigantic Gordian knot of a thing.  The fates in mythology weave it onwards and we in later years may be the one’s bequeathed the task of the unravelling or at least the ones of us in the family with a strong Saturnian (or ancestral) link.  And yet even as I write that part of me asks “are you really meant to unravel this mystery or are you meant to put the knotted ball of fate/karma down?”

Big wave washed over us in the last week following the eclipse on the 22nd.  It was about my Uranus in the first house and Uranus is the force that both severs and enlightens.  It may be the force that asks us to see where the splits of leaving in terms of pursuing freedom may even have led to a deeper unconscious bondage and those words just came to me so I will have to reflect on them.

I was listening to part of a scientific programme on the nature of time yesterday and what the scientist was saying is that past and present are both realities.  We are told all the time that we need to let the past go or leave it alone but the truth is the past is here with us at every moment.  Our challenging task, as I see it now, is to be able to live in the present with full awareness of the impact of the past but not drowned by it.  Losses challenge us because they take from us in the present something we love and then seem to relegate that loved one or object to the past but really what has happened is just that the nature of the relationship has changed form.  In my own case I speak to my ancestors who have passed on all the time.  Often I feel them around me in meditation or I call on their help and remember their emotional lines when I am going through my own challenges.  Often in deep despair I feel the imprints of their own deeper suffering bleeding through into my own.  I know this as a fact I am made of DNA that came from their DNA encoded by their own sufferings, trials, loves, losses, adventures and experiences.  Knowing the past helps me to understand and grow in awareness, so how does “putting it all behind me” help?  To be honest I think what I have needed is to make my peace with it.  Even this morning as I lay in bed crying over things from the past I centred in my heart and held myself tenderly in the midst of the pain and comforted myself with these words “you did the best you could at the time, you struggled with such enormous things, know this darling its all okay, you are safe, you are loved and you are growing even if your inner critic doesn’t want you to know it” and golly how well my body responded to those words and that is when I realised that how we speak to ourselves and what we say affects every single cell in our body, so why not give love, why not find peace, why not just be the witness to it all as it unfurls before us, this mysterious tangle of experiences and suffering that we call life?

The weaver

AB

I saw you running

From invisible ghosts

I was so young I could not know

The tortured by ways of your soul

You were just this being

And my ground

But that ground was not solid

Only a vast swirling sea of unfulfilled longing and angst

That swept me this way and that

Often casting me far adrift

High and dry on foreign soil

My longing for the you that got lost

The you that you passed onto me

Was so very deep and strong

I carried your child mother

The invisible magnet

Impossible to ignore

Cast its pull over my soul

Threaded its way

Into all my dreams

And returned me to

Absolute aloneness and despair

And hidden deep inside

A mystery I had to unravel

A Gordian knot of epic proportions

Now I sit in a room

A pile of unravelled thread

At my feet

And I have become the weaver

As we have all unravelled

Deeper mysteries and vast emptinesses

Have been revealed

So pregnant poignant and full of meaning

And so I see that this is not the end

And that yes

All that being swept this way and that

Had a purpose

And so I write and rest and dream

And dive deep

Into our ancestral mystery

With my waking heart become a loom

On which I weave

The ancestral story forward

A free life outside of this suffering

Today I am gaining a sense of what it may mean to me to begin to live a free life outside of the suffering of my painful family and past.  I read an interesting line in a reading today that said “because my fate – my very life – was no longer tied to theirs”.”  WOW!!! Did the lights come on when I read that reading.   It made me realise that in one line those words expressed a central truth of my life, and then I thought about something else I read about the North Node in Leo where the writer Martin Shulman spoke of how the central lesson with this astrological placement was to learn how not to identify with impersonal karma.

I am very aware of how much my own strong family karma legacy tied up with addiction and emotional abandonment has affected me until now and it is only lately that I am glimpsing the possibility that I may be finally able on some level to break free, that all along these wounds I suffered had nothing to do with me and my intrinsic soul but were learnings never the less.  They are ancestral issues that have replayed and I believe that also a huge part of my recovery journey involves learning about how to live as a person deeply conscious of all that ancestral karma but able to also transcend and live outside of it, too.

I do believe it is possible to no longer tie my energy to that ship of doom because I heard an inner voice telling me to open the book to that page to read those words this morning which turned a light bulb on inside my mind.

But just writing that I do believe that perhaps in someway it has been my necessary fate to be the one who brings conscious awareness to the wound which is really a deep mother wound, a mothering and mother wound that I recognise from knowing the ancestral history goes back to the death of my great, great, great grandmother hundreds of years ago.  That death and grief led to the migration of my great, great grandfather in 1874.  He travelled  thousands and thousands of miles away from his family in Cornwall with a young family and a little baby daughter who died and was the first one to bear the name Eliza Jane Trudgeon, the name of my mother’s mother’s mother!  And also the name of my oldest sister’s youngest son’s wife.  Really if you know the whole historic tapestry there are just so many of these marvellous, mysterious, interconnections that repeat complimentary colours woven by a skien unravelling across years and lifetimes!

I finally reconnected with my niece yesterday.   A schism between her Mum and my Mum has meant that distances and fissures have formed since the 1960s when a motherless daughter came home to meet our family.  She was, to my Mum, a curious emotionally detached creature who did not seem to want to ‘fit in’.  Then someone (my Mum) did something that hurt someone (my sister in law) and then that someone decided they did not want to have anything much to do with that other person (my Mum).   But what lies deeper is the fact that the mother wound in my sister was never understood, nor acknowledged by my own mother.  In not being aware many years ago she acted in a way that didn’t show empathy.  The issue and event is now really deeply regretted by my Mum but no forgiveness is coming from the other side which is understandable on some level but has had very painful consequences in the later generations and broken apart other relationships causing yet more separation.

These kind of emotional severings due to attachment wounds unprocessed are par for the course in alcoholic or feeling wounded families and I came across a book years ago that spoke of how such cut offs often lead to a mental illness with an emotional attachment basis in later generations.  To quote AA “we are only as sick as our secrets” or as damaged as we are to past wounds and issues gone unconscious or buried, severed or sealed off locked tightly away with fear and hate bred through misunderstanding and deep hurt unprocessed and unhealed.  Suffice to say that this wounded person also lacks empathy most particularly to her own daughter and then you realise it really is a case of the blind and wounded hurting the blind and wounded.  One or two scorpions locked in a deathly battle fearing ever to let down their guard and be open and vulnerable.

Together yesterday my niece and I unravelled and then tied back together some of the severed threads.   I missed my beautiful niece being in my life for so many years, as for a couple of years we were so close to each other.   There is really no one like one of your blood family who is also spiritually awakening to share with.   In each others eyes and from sharing heart to heart you find yourself no longer split off, but returned home to deep soul recognition.

Yesterday bought both sadness and happiness.  Mum is in hospital with blocked veins. Trauma gave me the courage to try to connect with my niece and that made my heart sing with joy,  she gave me so much affirmation and I learned even more from our hour long chat, but our conversation also brought into stark relief my own need to separate from an emotional caretaker or holder of wounded feeling/family scapegoat role that I seem to have been locked inside for years and years leading to inner unhappiness.  And I see most clearly that my need to break free must now be honoured.  So much of that karma was never personal but I took it on in a saviour role which was not healthy and I feel now must be firmly and finally let go.