Have you ever? : reflections on the scapegoat and buried emotional trauma

Have you ever been scapegoated by family members? Have you ever had the finger pointed at you telling you you are the problem? There is a saying I heard in the 12 step rooms many years back… “when you point the finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back the other way towards you” (yes folks try it right now and you will see it is true.)

Many many years ago led by his unconscious and dream images psychiatrist Carl Jung had a dream that showed a psychic inner structure that he came to call the shadow. This shadow he came to believe contained all the characteristics of us we are not on friendly terms with or that our family or culture was no on friendly terms with (ie. there is both a personal and collective shadow).

Some people have a lot of darker emotions hidden in the shadow, fear, sadness, rage or anger and some others of us have a lot of gold in the shadow and we may have been the ones others in family or culture tried to project darker things upon. There is also a concept in family therapy that talks of the concept of the ‘identified patient’. This is the family member who develops an addiction or breaks down in some way or has to have treatment. This is the family member that struggles in the family to be the whole of themselves and express truths or secrets others would prefer remain hidden (eg. emotional or sexual abuse). This is the family member that may be more likely to be led on the individuation pathway, a path of trying to uncover and rediscover the entirety of the soul in them that got loss or buried.

I am mentioning this today as lately I am seeing this process play out in my older sister’s (now deceased) family. And it is interesting that this is happening very close to the anniversary of her death. As I see it in the alcoholic or traumatised family there is a lot of pain but rather than every member carry their portion of the pain, each struggles in their own way and often they will target someone else in the family and tag or dump them with things. They may even exile the person just as in mythology the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness with the so called ‘sins’ (or wounds) of the collective heaped upon its back.

Alcoholics are most usually likely to be the ‘family scapegoat’. They may struggle with emotions that were not permitted a place in the family and come to think of it in a feeling wounded culture there are feelings such as anger and sadness which are harder to express and which people are more rigidly defended against. These emotions are often not allowed expression and so they get dumped into a kind of collective psychic waste bin that is then passed on from generation to generation. Pain then accumulates and one person gives expression to it most overtly.

People who struggle with shadow projection may find it hard to ‘get their lives together’ in a culture that venerates this. That is not to say that there are no healthy ways to get our lives on track but mostly they should involve us being able to be real and struggle, to fall down sometimes, to make mistakes, to need help and support and just possibly not do as well on financially or externally on some level as others. Does that necessarily mean such people are actually failures? Does this actually mean such people are not worthy of help? Does this actually mean that such people have less value?

Today in therapy Kat and I were discussing how and why this process of scapegoating and shame dumping in family has been affecting me so bodily over the past few days. I got to therapy today in a lot of physically based emotional pain. I pretty much started crying as soon as I got in the car and the cascade of trauma flashbacks then began taking me back to a trauma (which come to think of it now took place around this same time of year in 1990) when I had to spend hours in casualty after driving myself with severe abdominal pain in the middle of the night. Turned out I was pregnant at the time and that the sac containing the tiny embryo had ruptured. I ended up having to have a termination of pregnancy (my fourth) and it coincided with having to leave the group house I was living in and with my them boyfriend lying to his family and pretending I had had an operation for kidney stones.

After the termination he broke things off with me and I got drunk and ended up at his parent’s place crying and yelling, of course they thought I was demented and out of control and they never found out the truth as he broke things off with me again fairly rapidly (after a brief reunion) and in the aftermath the next 2 years saw some of the lowest points of my addiction spanning the years to December 1993 when I finally got sober.

Well today in the car I was back here in St Vincent’s casualty lying alone for hours and hours as they ran tests. I think too this trauma was triggered over the weekend because calls were not returned by family, Scott was AWOL and my nephew then rang telling me I needed not to give help to my other nephew who is struggling financially in the aftermath of his relationship ending. Being left all alone and waiting and missing a therapy appointment which was delayed due to Easter Monday meant that issue of having to wait all alone was retriggered for me and then the shadow projection onto my lovely nephew triggered how I was treated over the next year by a so called ‘friend’ who kept confronting me about my addiction which was nothing less than self medication in the face of ongoing trauma spanning the years 1979 to 1992.

The truth is addicts often say their addiction saved their life. We use the self medication until it no longer keeps working for us. Recovery then involves a huge and long drawn our journey of unpeeling or unravelling down to the true causes of which addiction was only obscuring or a symptom of.

For me the original trauma is about attachment traumas, wounds and emotional neglect vacancies or ‘black holes”. I now know this without a doubt. After years and years of blaming myself (as most emotional neglect survivors do) today in therapy I finally wept for my true self who so often gets beaten up by a self compassion lacking inner critic who is echoed by the outer critic lately being turned on my nephew. Only another addict in recovery may fully understand that fact unless the person had been trained in empathic attunement. Attachment traumas and wounds so often become gravitational force fields for others, in the well known process of so called ‘repetition compulsion’ what we fail to call up to consciousness will repeat until it is addressed or felt and this must happen IN THE BODY. THE CELLS CONTAIN EVERYTHING.. THE MIND CAN BE USED TO MAKE SENSE OF IT WHEN ATTUNED TO THE BODY. JUDGEMENTS WILL NOT SHOW US THE UNDERLYING PSYCHIC REALITY WHICH MUST BE FACED IN TIME AND DEEPLY FELT IN ORDER TO BE RELEASED AND MADE SENSE OF (BROUGHT OUT OF DISSOCIATION INTO ASSOCIATION OR RE-MEMBERING!)

Scapegoating the sufferer is cruel. It is lacking in both insight and empathy. It concentrates on the ugliness of the symptoms while NOT FULLY SEEING OR UNDERSTANDING THE FEELINGS OF PAIN DISTRESS AND UNWORTHINESS WHICH UNDERLIE IT. Scapegoating serves no other purpose but to bolster up the defended ego and keep in place the ignorance of the Scapegoatees. In traumatised and addicted families or families with multi-generational trauma everyone struggles, but the one who struggles a little more with hidden emotions needs support and encouragement. They need to be brought back out of the cold place of exile and embraced in their full humanity but sadly this will be almost impossible unless the Scapegoatees also face what they are blocking, projecting or defending against or finding it hard to open up to or face. Blaming and targeting others in such a way never really ends well and it blocks connected healing and embracing of the actual trauma that sorely needs recognition.

Happy to live in the present : with a growing awareness of the past.

I just dropped Jasper off at the groomers and I took the way home that leads past where my family and I lived when all the tragedy began to befall us between 1979 and 1985 : the year when my father died.  As usual when I drive along this long street we moved to when I was about 7 I start to feel a blackness and darkness all around me.  I named my blog Emerging From the Dark Night because I guess I began to realise around 2001 about 8 years into my sobriety I had been living out that dark past unconsciously.  Now that I have done the years of therapy and grieving, the long work of coming to terms with things and seeing how it was for the young me I feel a kind of distance from it.  It is no longer affecting me as unconsciously.

I’ve made a friend over the past year who Jasper and I met first at the dog park then later on we both ended up walking our dogs in a big oval not far from where I live.  My friend was in the middle of a thesis when we first met which she has now completed, and its only really in the past few months she has been opening up to me about her own childhood which was a lot like mine.  She also became a family caretaker as her own needs were not met and she said she really struggles with the inner Persecutor too.  We have a lot in common and its good to be able to share honestly with someone who understands how it is to come out of such a stoic emotionally repressive family where issues of perfectionism and emotional overcontrol were writ large.

I know we never totally escape the influences of our past but I do believe once we become aware of the darkness we can begin to live in the light but that means making new choices that are healthier for us and more conscious than the past ones and it does take some time.

I was also thinking today after listening to a radio interview on misfits how lonely it can be if we feel on the outside of society, peers or family.  The point made on the programme was how misfits are able to see things in society that others do not see, due to the distance from involvements and their own, at times painful path, they see below the surface of things.   It was an interesting interview too as the writer interviewed Mandy Sayer was speaking of how as a writer she cannot live with her husband who is a playright. They both live separately and get together in the evenings as both need the days for work.  It struck me as a really good arrangement because one of the things I fear most about a relationship is being swallowed up and having no time to imagine, reflect, create and dream and so for those of us who are creative or introverted in this way it is important to find the right kind of relationship balance for us.

It felt a little strange to come back to my home just a short while ago.  I felt that the trip I took down memory lane a moment ago has shown me how long it took me to be able to feel I could move back to my home town, just over 7 years ago and how important it has been for me to be here for these years.  I got to have those final years with my older sister and my Mum and I feel fully reconciled to the way things were now.  It is very sad because I see how much my older sister suffered and was trapped.  I was thinking last night of how often she was denied things she wanted.  The story line was that due to her ‘mania’ she was an  who needed to be reined in.  I do not think it was really true at all I just think Jude has such creative life energy and somehow she came undone before she could fully manifest it in the world and as a woman born into a patriarchal world in the 1940s she really struggled.  She was so artistic and she didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. She always forgave her husband for abandoning her following her cerebral bleed in 1980 but sadly she was over medicated for most of her life and I am sure at times in the care home she lived, sometimes she was abused and her things got stolen.

I had a long chat with my other sis yesterday.  I am glad now that a lot of the childish resentment I had towards her is healing.  I am see her also as a product of her time, born in the 1950s she had her own struggle to try and find her way and sadly she married perhaps a little too young to someone who carried shadow qualities often denied in our stoic household, were ‘doing the right thing’, keeping up appearances and struggling to become upwardly mobile materially eclipsed to a large degree more underground energies and emotions.  When he left her he was considered the bad guy and it is true he didn’t really treat her as well as he should have due to his own complex background as a adult child of an alcoholic but of course he married into our family which had its own history of addiction hidden in my Mum’s past.

It has been a battle for me to become separate, psychologically as the youngest in a far older family.  There was 17 years between my older brother and I, 16 between Jude and I and 8 between Sue and I.  With these large age gaps it was harder to relate and I often felt like an only child born to at that time (in the 1960s) far older parents whose focus was really not on raising a young daughter but more on the external focus.   In my discussion with my friend yesterday she was talking of the mixed feelings she has around forgiveness with her own parents.  On one hand she says she has empathy for them and knows they acted the way they did and treated her the way that did due to their background and past.  At the same time she said she struggles a lot with issues of anger too.  I could really relate to that.

I told her that my perspective is that in regards to the Inner Child we are still moving out of the medieval dark ages emotionally speaking.  We are also trying to break apart patriarchal values which keep both men and woman as well as boys and girls trapped in limiting roles. I was listening to a programme on this today.  I do feel for men at the moment as their behaviour towards woman is generating a lot of justified anger but I wonder too at the level of compassion that is really shown towards men who are also in many ways just victims of a repressive heroic dominance archetype of the supremacy of masculine (as opposed to male) power.  Women and men both suffer in this climate and I hate to see men being blamed without a deeper insight being given into the causes that generate problematic behaviour towards women.  In truth at a psychic level it is the inner feminine in both men and woman that suffered coming out of the patriarchal dark age.  Men don’t need to be emasculated and boys need help to come to terms with softer emotions and vulnerabilities.  My own family was dominated by excessive masculine values.  Mum always worked and was never emotionally present.  Feelings were not understood nor addressed.   And then my Dad over worked and abused his own body with smoking, one of the reasons I do believe my older sister had her stroke was that she smoke and drank too much while overworking and taking birth control.  It was a recipe for disaster really.

Anyway today I am sad for all of the past, but I am also grateful that in 1993 I finally bit the bullet and found sobriety.  Along the pathway of recovery I have had to give up many things, jobs, relationships, houses and friendships.   Lots had to go into the fire, but a lot has been transforming too.  I feel many times like a witness who stood on the outside of a family watching at a critical time of soul evolution for us all.  I feel blessed for all of the gifts given and I wont say I enjoyed all of the sadness and pain.  At times I have felt like the weight of it would break me in two.  But in the end I guess it was only my unhealthy ego defences that have dissolved or shattered along the way.   My mistaken reactions of resistance and resentment had to go into the fire too so that I could understand the heart of innocence that underlay everything and feel the love and peace and happiness my parents and ancestors missed out on in their awesome and overpowering struggle for survival.

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.)

A grief deeper than I can name

A grief deeper than I can express or name is bursting out of me lately.  After years of working through my anger and frustration and disappointment with my parents I am seeing and feeling a much deeper reality that lay beyond my own needs, wishes, hopes and dreams.  I am fully experiencing the truth that my parents did the best they could with what they knew and I am feeling even more deeper grief for the lost children in them that had to go on in such harsh conditions.  I am even feeling the same for my much older brother and followers of this blog for some time will know of the conflicts I had with him just prior to my Mum’s death in December last year.

He is America for six weeks at the moment at the house he owns over there.  My cousin asked me on Friday, why don’t you go over.  Simple answer.  Never been invited but then my brother would not.  When I asked him how he is spending his time now his wife went back home he told me he goes for three hour long walks and about the deer that come into his garden then and leave their pooh.  I had a dream the other night I was in a cave and there was deer pooh everywhere and I had bare feet but where ever I trod I could not escape the pooh which was then ankle deep.  I understand that this is actually a dream about grief and about the messy uncontrollable world of emotions that my family found so problematic and me too with my descent into addiction from a very young age.

My brother was 39 when my father died and they worked together for years.  Mum would tear up when she told me of how she went into their office one day in the year after Dad died and my brother was sitting there wearing his cardigan. This is a man whose own wife never once told him she loves him and told my mother after Dad died she needed to toughen up and ‘stand on her own two feet!’ What the fuck else did my Mum do for most of her childhood?  Anyway leaving aside my sister in law who is incredibly severe and scary I feel for my brother so much and realise what is hidden under the words he does not say.

I’m feeling for my Mum and Dad too and I feel them over in the land of the passed with so much love in their hearts for me.  I feel them as they guided me to Scott who also lost his Dad a year before me at 21.  Don’t ask me how I know this, I just do.

I just came home from the veggie markets crying listening to one of my most favourite songs If You Wait by London Grammar.  This song is so evocative and it blows my emotions wide open.  At times the grief I feel feels too large for my body and I wonder if what I carry is not only personal but ancestral for I feel the connection to my maternal great great grandfather so deeply at times.  He entered an institution for alcoholism later in life, never having been able to grieve for the mother he lost at 12 years old (the same age my father lost his father!).   I think of how each of my sisters and were also left by men and of how now I have been trying to help someone get out of a life and death situation overseas where war is just about to be declared so we can come together and start a new life.  And how terrified I am that he will be killed before we can finally meet.

I am also aware we are deep in the final shedding time prior to the New Moon Solar Eclipse in Leo on 11th August.  It falls  smack bang on my North Node In Leo.   So much is coming to light from deep within my own shadow and unconscious as well as that of the family.   I know I can bear whatever happens but lately I feel so many echoes around me. Echoes within echoes within echoes resounding along a long corridor of time.   I am in the antechamber awaiting a new birth, what ever comes to pass.

Hidden sorrow

Every man.jpg

They carried their grief

Silently close to their hearts

Hidden under an overcoat

That they learned to draw around them

In the absence of human comfort

And loving protection

Silently and wordlessly

They carried on

Through the storm

Seeking a land of sunshine

Where they would never again

Need to speak of or suffer the pain that they endured

Little did they know though

That scars and pain and wounds live on

Even if unspoken

Passed down to a generation

Who thought they knew everything

But never ever really knew of silent heartbreaks borne

The secret sorrows

By their progenitors

And yet here were those who also sensed

What was hidden in the heart

Obscured under the overcoat

But when they offered an unwrapping

The suffering ones

Saw them as a wind

That would tear their protection away

And so they gripped more tightly

To their guise

So now I do believe

After so many years of blowing gale like

Perhaps what is needed

Is to become more warm in our understanding

Closer to the energy of a radiant sun

That just glows

Offering silent understanding without a word

Letting wisdom and discretion

Over come

The desire of unmasking

Using intuition to sense

Where those deepest

Most secret sorrows lie

It’s not about us : raising our perspective on emotional neglect and carried trauma

For those of us who had wounded or emotionally unavailable parents it takes a lot of time to realise that the original problem was in our parents, upbringing and conditioning, not us.   Because of the hurt we can experience due to this, it can be hard to think about what the parent may have suffered.  I am not saying that gives the parent the right to be hurtful or abusive, but there is a saying that is used a lot in AA : ‘accepting life on life’s terms’ and when those terms are harsh and cruel and hard and unfair this can be hard to do.   Nevertheless the world is deeply imperfect, flawed and at times wounding.   We can suffer in all kinds of ways as sensitive souls and modern society is not geared towards acknowledging this suffering some of which is perpetrated anyway by the purely survival based evolution and dog eat dog nature of a society evolving out of medieval times.

In modern times it is hard for many of us to realise how our ancestors suffered or how hard their experiences may have been.   In my great great grandfather’s case he lost his mother when he was about 12 and then he didn’t get along with his step mother.  He then struggled to find the right kind of work and support an ever growing family when the bottom fell out of the tin mining industry in which he was involved.  He then made the tough decision to emigrate a long way away from his home in the UK.

Following the sea journey that took three months, he and his wife, my Great Great Grandmother, Eliza Solomon lost two baby girls, one following the sea crossing and one a few years later.  My great grandmother bore the same name as those two lost baby girls, Eliza Jane.  Eventually (and I don`t know all the circumstances) he began to drink enough for his wife to leave him and his daughter (my great grandmother) finally broke contact emmigrating from New Zealand to Victoria Australia.  She married and gave birth to three children, including my grandmother but when war broke out my grandfather left and eventually the marriage ended.

My grandmother ended up marrying to a man who was a victim of war injuries sustained in the First World War and when they had to move to find work in another town all alone with their small daughter, my Mother, they again fell on hard times.  My grandfather died when my Mum was only 7 leaving my Nana and mother alone with no war pension and no income.  My grandmother would leave my mother alone every morning and every evening go to work.  My mother was eventually sent into domestic service where she remained for several months before rebelling and getting a job as an apprentice seamstress with a local tailor.

Eventually my mother met my father when he arrived in Australia to collect B52 bombers with the Dutch East Indies Airforce in 1940 during the Second World War.  They married and struggled to survive, starting a succession of businesses.   At every point my mother and father worked exceptionally hard, too hard really.   To the degree that by the time I came along everything was geared around business, looking good and achieving, rather than emotionally nuturing their children or themselves.   Anyway as readers of my blog know I ended up suffering from addiction problems myself between the ages of 14 and 31 as well as exceptionally low self esteem.

When a succesion of personal and family traumas hit from 1979 to 1985 I was not given the necessary support or guidance as my sister was critically ill and ended up after a serious brain trauma suffering psychotic episodes.  After her husband absconded taking her four boys to New Zealand as well as my sister then sending her back with a one way ticket she tried to take her life and my parents were left not really knowing what to do in the painful aftermath.

For myself I know my parents did the best they could but their attention was diverted and going through such a time of trauma sufferers need support, problem was in my family there was not enough to go around so I ended up taking myself off, as my therapist often says it was like being a person shot out of a cannon with no protection around me at all.

What I have learned in my own 24 years of emotional recovery is that many of us can come from homes that look good to outsiders but are emotionally vacant within.  A therapist I started to see 7 years ago described what I endured once as ‘benign neglect’.  Believe me its hard to suffer from this as in a way if you have been hit or emotionally abandoned or neglected in an obvious way people may at least see visible scars, and give sympathy or support.  However, if the neglect is benign (as in not intended but just a painful outcome of lack of energy and attention geared towards your developmental requirements and needs), in my experience it will not be easily recognised outside of therapy and sufferers tend to blame themselves saying they were the ‘bad’ child.

Indeed when I got involve in AA in 1993 I was led to believe I a sick individual with numerous ‘defects of character’.  Apparently if I prayed to God and admitted them then they would be slowly removed, what was not mentioned was how actually developmental arrests or trauma are actually psychic injuries not defects as such.  Many of us who resort to addictions in the absence of other support often do so because we don’t have any or know anywhere else to turn.   We never learned the skills to relate emotionally to our own insides, or self regulate emotions, we never learned to self nurture, or practice self care and often we blame ourselves or are told that in some way it is our fault. We also suffer ongoing attachment wounds that needs understanding and healing.

Many of us lack boundaries and are scapegoat identified.   We may have experienced a kind of energetic or psychic exile not only in families but in peer groups or at school.

My Mum once said to me after I informed her I was going to AA ‘well you always were a late developer!’  WTF Mum….. how can a teenager who is floundering unrecognised in an emotionally neglectful family develop early or even on time????

In my own life it has taken me the past 18 years mostly outside the rooms of AA meetings to understand the nature of my own traumas as well as the multigenerational traumas extending backwards of which they were a natural outrising.  Along the journey I have had to do a lot of reading, study, investigating, therapy, suffer more traumas and sidelining at 12 step groups as well at times in order to understand that the addiction that manifested in my life as well as my sense of deeper soul alienation actually had nothing to do with me being a ‘defective character’.  This is what society and even some members of 12 step groups have tried to tell me at times, such as when I was dealing with carried trauma and anger issues with my Mum several years back.

I now understand psychic wounds and injuries I carried were the result of far larger forces.  I understand that in fact I was in some way chosen (as many of us currently are) to be a circuit breaker or at least to become more conscious of a multigenerational legacy that has not only personal but also deeply collective ramifications.

We find ourselves at time in life where we would be hard pressed to find a person who is not suffering or touched by trauma and psychic suffering in some way, whether it be serious or more benign surely it is time that we stopped pathologising those who are carrying the impacts of pain and the legacy of emotional abandonment carried and communicated by proxy to them by parents who themselves were subject to all kinds of traumas and abandonments as well.

Our trauma does not just arise as a personal issue, there is always a deeply inter personal or collective interface of some kind.  Trauma does not happen alone (unless as a result of an individual accident), most often it arises in an interpersonal context as a result of inter association, projection, and projective identification.  An identified patient presenting from an emotionally vacant family may be carrying on their back the wounds of a sick system which will only be discovered once the situation they were involve in and grew up within is treated as a whole.

Much as they are carrying wounds, injuries and emptiness that emptiness is not actually saying anything about them, except that their pure soul sought as a baby or in childhood to find a place of visibility and connection that was in fact psychically absent.  All alone they struggle often with self blame, often being shamed and blamed by others or society at large, a society and host of others who lack the capacity to even ask the serious questions or know the truer causes that may so often lay hidden under an appealing exteriour.

The worst thing that can happen in this situation is that we blame ourselves or even anyone else, but we must recognise that certain causes and conditions led to these experiences of soul suffering which stretch back, perhaps a much longer way than we realise.   We must not personalise the suffering because then we become wedded to it, and it all too easily becomes a self fulfilling prophecy which is impossible to escape  And yet, until we can see that what happened was not about who we are but about what happened to us and how we learned to deal or not deal with it we won’t make much progess and we will not in D H Lawrence’s words attain a

realization of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake which mankind has chosen to sanctify.”

Or realise that in fact it was not a mistake but an evolutionary trajectory which in causing us pain and suffering was working all the time to awaken us and help us heal and evolve in new directions as human beings and a soul collective.

Parts of my mother my living sister carries.

It’s a very interesting dynamic I have with my 8 year’s older sister.  I have shared about our relationship on here a lot before about how the close loving bond I hoped for from her never seemed to be there and I wonder how much of it comes out of fear on my part, because of all the family members she carries a lot of my Mum’s perfectionism and wariness or shyness around people.  My Mum lost her own father at 7 and had to fend a lot for herself, there was just no protective parent there to care for her as her mother had to work.  My oldest sister who died in 2014 and had the brain trauma was born when Mum was only 22, Mum was 30 when my living sister was born and 38 when I was born, so we have large gaps in ages and I know that when my two sisters were born life was very different for both parents.   My two older sisters also got to have relationships with my mother’s parents in a way I did not as my mother’s step father who married her Mum when she was 14 died when I was only one year old.  An astrologer told me years ago that as the sensitive baby I had absorbed and lot of that sadness.   As Poppa lay dying they would take me to the hospital to sit on end of his bed in my basinette.   Was it any wonder I was called ‘the tissue queen’, as I am reading sensitive kids are born with acute radar and are absorbers.

Anyway my older sis was more involved with me as Mum went out to work all the time leaving me alone, she looked at me with eyes of love.  My second sister got to be the good girl who was the one who geared herself around helping the family to function in its business drive which consumed most of every day.  She was not happy to have to take care of me after school a lot of the time and at times I got bullied.  I still longed for my sister’s love and I have realised yesterday though she sometimes says she loves me I don’t feel it and I wonder why?  As a perfectionist also when she comes over to my house I cannot but help feel she is casing the place and she told me the other day my dog is fat while another friend told me she feels he is a good weight.  I told this to my therapist yesterday and we smiling over how people’s perceptions can vary. At the same time she was kind enough to come over unannounced on Sunday with an easter bunny for me which really touched me but when I see her walking down the drive my first reaction is fear.

Thinking about it astrologically my sister has the Moon in Virgo which is where my Mum’s Venus was.  Mum’s Venus was triggered by retrograde Mercury in Sagittarius back in December when all the trauma occurred that led to her death.  This was hitting the aspects that hit my older sister’s Mercury in Sag being triggered by Neptune at the time of her cerebral bleed.   As some of you know my grand niece (her granddaughter and my Mum’s great granddaughter) ended up having a seizure during that visit while at my mother’s house and that precipitated a chain of events that led to my mother’s death 7 days later following a fall.  I know it’s all interconnected really.   My grand niece is a very sensitive little girl and I cannot help but feel she picked up on something.  After some time on medication following my Mum’s death my nephew now tells me she is fine, no more medication and no seizures which makes me realise the family unconscious is such a powerful thing and Neptune which rules the collective unconscious was opposing my grand nieces Mars in Virgo back in December during the visit and seizure time last year.

Anyway I digressed or followed a flow here as I started to write about how lately I am becoming aware of what my sister who still lives is carrying of my Mum, how it has in some way kept her a prisoner and how she longs to be more free.  This was made clear by comments she made while having a cup of tea here with me on Sunday.  I started crying while she was here and my therapist seems to think that due to the fact my sister’s emotions are repressed with medications, as a sensitive person I am picking up on her sadness.  I am not sure whether it’s that or that she just triggers my own wound when she comes around and I start to feel that carried familial anxiety and trauma.  Even when she was hospitalised several times for depression when I visited I would often cry while with her and the last time was just after my older sister died and Mum and had to clear her room from the care home alone due to lack of any other help. We then went to visit my sister whose family decided she was too ‘ill’ to attend her older sisters’ funeral… so sad….:(

With her strong Pisces I also feel my sister carries some multigenerational pain of the ancestors as her birth date is the death date of one of my great great grandmother’s baby siblings two of which had the same name Eliza Jane and died in infancy.  My sister also has a lung condition that I have felt for a long time goes back to the trauma to his lungs my grandfather suffered during his time being gassed during World War I.  I cannot prove this but intuitively I know it and Mark Wolynns’ work on ancestral trauma being carried multigenerationally shows how epigenetics affects ancestral descendents cells.  I have written several posts about his work which I will link to below later.

Anyway what prompted me to write this blog was reading the following excerpt in a Jungian book on the archetypal mother

the queen has divided her mother’s image into good and bad and kept the good parts for herself.  Everything that was unpleasant about that relationship she plans to give her sister, whom she already detests.   Her rejection of the bad mother is so complete, the queen even forgets to take that piece along on her trip.

It made me wonder how much of the bad mother I often project onto my own sister when I feel unseen by her and unwanted.  Is what I think I see and feel true or not, does it come out of my own psychology. Most certainly my sister keeps her emotions close to her chest and doesn’t display them readily.  I don’t really ever remember seeing her cry.  Or could it be that it is true what I am reading about in my book on high sensitivity, that as the feeling child I do give expressions to emotions my sister finds hard to feel.  My therapist was quick to point out to me yesterday how loving I am about family members even when they hurt or ignore me or sideline my feelings.   As the baby I always longed for their love but what I am learning is that no one else can help me understand my own self or heal my hurting places but me.  I dont want to make my older sister all bad because she has good parts its just that a lot of her is repressed due to the trauma she underwent through several hospitalizations and harsh shock treatment.   I treat her tenderly as I have seen all she went through and at times it really, really breaks my heart but is this sorrow mine to carry?