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?