The wounds in my heart

Wounded heart

I perhaps write about the wound in my heart in indirect ways, but yesterday I really encountered it in therapy in a deep and painful way.  We were exploring my difficulty with attaching and bonding to my Mum as a child, how I had to revolve myself around my parents in order to be seen, how I felt invisible a lot of the time and  how that original wound has dogged me.  I am beginning to realise it wont every fully go away, it makes up a large part of my experience and soul.  There are wounds that added to that wound and deepened it over years.

I still long to connect with my Mum and at times it is just impossible.  I tried to write a poem about it last night but I couldn’t post it.  Mum gets fixated on what is happening inside her own head.  She makes up what is best to do without really asking and forms all kinds of ideas that are just not related to the other person at all.  Trying to connect from this point of view becomes so impossible and leaves me so alone and if I try to point something out I am told I mustn’t speak and influence her train of thought or else she wont be able to hold onto her own mind and thoughts.   As my therapist pointed out it them becomes almost impossible for me to hold onto my own reality, to have my own thoughts or find a place to go when I am struggling with issues or dilemmas.  All I can say is thank God for therapy and blogging!  Here I try my best to pour things out but even here at times the critic endlessly critiques them!

I was crying with Katina over how strong my separation anxiety is and how it would manifest in my past relationship.  I actually googled it last night and there is a disorder called Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder.  Katina told me that separation anxiety is stronger if you never really got to fully bond or connect in the first place.   Then she said this to me “it is a tragedy”. (By this she meant the unrequited longing and needs not ever being fully met.) Wow!!! That really hit home.  I was able to actually grieve not only for the young me who went through so much other trauma due to my wounds but also for the fact of how judgemental I have been of myself and of how often I attracted that judgement from others with no possibility of help to get through it.

I said to Katina “presently it seems as though there is another part of me that witnesses all of this, and that feels like progress.  I am not judging myself as much and when the critic judges me I answer it back with compassion”.  I also asked her “do people get through or heal this”.  “You are doing that,” she said.  “You are working so hard!”

Today I am fully aware of how for so many years I have felt like an exile in the wilderness of life.  Cast out on my own with only a few belongings, carrying this unresolved pit of hunger and need.  I have also noticed that at 5 pm I start to get ravenously hungry.  I just eat and eat and eat and then I have a panic attack after dinner.  This time of day was the most lonely and painful for me growing up and particularly all through my teens when I was the only one at home after my sister left but even when she was home it was lonely.

I would come home to an empty house and try to fill in the emptiness with television and snacks.  Dad would come home and barely talk to me, just go immediately to his room, change and go out into the garden.  I would wait and wait for Mum to come home just before 6 pm and then I would revolve my evening around trying to help her so to get some of her attention but most of it was focused on Dad and the two scotches they had every night before meals.

It is interesting to me that after my marriage broke apart and I tried to go back overseas it was at this time of day I had my major head trauma after a body therapy session trying to deal with the trauma of my divorce and earlier accident at 17.  I came off my bike and split my head open and woke up sick and stunned in an ambulance all the way on the other side of the world with not one real friend or family member.   Apparently when my family heard about it they didn’t think the problem was serious enough for them to come and help.  The family I was lodging with saw it all as an inconvenience.  Why was I over the other side of the world after my marriage had ended?  Why wasn’t I with family?  If they only knew.  My family was NEVER emotionally supportive.

Within all of this emotional emptiness it was not easy for me to be the best partner, either.  To be an adult walking around with so much soreness is not easy as so many of us know.  Its a real journey to learn how to love yourself through the entire experience and not fall into the trap of blaming yourself when that is what often happens anyway if you are a child who comes out of a narcissistic or emotionally neglectful background.  You carry then deep inside you along with feelings that in some way you are the cause of it all, if only you had tried harder, not been so needy, got away sooner, seen the writing on the wall…. on and on and on goes the inner critic that forms inside the deep void space.  And then add to this the judgements that rain down on you from the outside world.

This morning when I woke with my usual anxiety I was reminding myself just to keep meeting my anxiety with tenderness and compassion.  I was reminding myself that the field of compassion which we can find within and with a good therapist is the one open loving containing space that enables us to feel all of the pain in such a way that we also shower it with tenderness and mercy, without making the wound worse.

Then there is the work to do with reaching out to others for relationships and to express ourselves which also becomes the path we just don’t want to have to walk down due to the wounds we have known in the past,  we see phantoms all around and its hard when our insecurity or fear is not met with tenderness and compassion by others.

I mentioned the astrologer Melanie Reinhardt in a recent post.  I went to see her in London a few months after my accident.  She was speaking about the painful spiritual journey of being wounded and almost killed.  She was explaining to me how a near death experience such as I had at 17 opens someone up to a spiritual aspect of life where we are removed from the ordinary, veils get stripped away and we enter a place where things are never secure or solid or certain again.  Come to think of it its a lot like what certain Buddhist teachers such as Pema Chodron talk of : the groundless space where we experience the falling way of solid ground and our ego falls through space.  When I think about it this kind of void experience is something that many of us who have known emotional abandonment, betrayal or neglect encounter and so I guess such experiences do, in some way open us up to harsher realities and we feel the need to find sources of spiritual support.

At that meeting Melanie said to me that many therapists are not fully able to help with this kind of injury.  She made two recommendations.  Nurture your inner life and find a spiritual practice.   She also recommended the work of trauma specialist Peter Levine to me that I have shared about in other posts.  Today I am aware that this wound in my heart that I carry needs to be tended lovingly.  I need to realise that so many others suffer from it to.  Its not just me all. alone in an alien universe although this is how it often feels for us as children when we had no enlightened witness or support.  The wounds I went through are real but they can be the doorway that leads me into a deeper life and experience.  Much of my blog has come out of this wound space too and for that I am so grateful.  Today I know that opening up about my wounds connects me.  I don’t have to live in them every day, but they are very real and can not just be cured with platitudes or quick fixes.  I need to remember that and keep speaking about those deeper truths.

Last night I watched a programme on sex addiction and there were so many arguments on it from different points of view, but sadly early attachment trauma was not even touched on.  I left a comment on the programmes comments page.  It saddens me at times we don’t look deeper in our society into the soul of things.  That is also a form of heartbreak.  For me I can only find my own answers to the wound, others may have their own answers.  But it was also encouraging to see others opening up about their wounds on this programme.  I do believe that is where we find our healing, through that kind of openness and vulnerability.

 

Turning back to face myself

Child 2.jpg

I have been reflecting on my experience today in yoga class of my inner child looking this way and that, towards others, hoping to be seen and then of the sad feeling that came when there was really no one to connect to from my deep feelings.  I became aware of a pattern of looking outward when I needed to turn my gaze back within.   I had the revelation in the active imagination today that I need to turn the child’s face back towards me, the adult.  I am no longer a child but the inner child in me can often be abandoned by that inner adult the one whose true responsibility it is to take care of this inner child.

I am aware that after some years of becoming more and more conscious of my anger towards my mother for what I didn’t get I am now moving past that anger to the grief that was underneath it.  I could not really feel the true grief if I was always reacting in anger towards the person who due to her own limits could not give to me what I needed. I  can see that my Mum gets really annoyed when I try to point out any grief about certain things.  We had a huge fight five or so years ago about it and I swore at her.  She told me to leave her house and so I drove for four hours through the night to the next major town and slept in my car, I was homeless as my ex had just broken off the relationship a few weeks before while I was visiting my Mum.  I had no home to  go to, and this all happened on the anniversary of my father’s death, it was extremely traumatic.  I couldn’t go back to my mother’s place for some months, until things became badly unstuck in the town.  I was engaged in a fruitless battle with my Mum for recognition and attention of my emotions.  Now that I have a good therapist that recognition has come, and my therapist has made clear to me that while she can support me, it is up to me to feel my feelings, she consistently affirms that my feelings make sense, even though often I have been told they don’t.

I was not sure for so many years of how I was using various addictions to run from these feelings and due to my difficulty with making sense of feelings.  When I attend any AA meetings (and this is rarer these days) I often hear others share how much difficulty they have in feeling and staying with painful feelings.  Often they judge themselves for natural feelings, or substitute certain feelings for other primary feelings.  Today I feel I am making progress.  I am really making progress in being a better mother to myself and understanding that I do have the power to contain my own feelings and make sense of them..

Today when I realised I needed to turn back towards myself I think I made a big step forward in my recovery.  I am also recognising I feel less painful symptoms in my body when I find a home there for myself in which I can be fully alive to and receptive towards all my feelings and meet them in a tender way and allow them to diffuse instead of build, escalate and magnify.  With the capacity to tolerate difficult emotions, the capacity to experience the positive ones increases too and I start to feel a real sense of homecoming and peace.  This for me is what emotional recovery means.

 

 

Transforming that which is difficult through showing mercy towards it

I had to take a day or two off from Word Press after the pain of late last week.  I had to do some deep soul searching and want I found is that like many humans I have some deep wounds inside myself that I carry.  When those wounds trigger others wounds and nasty words are said there is a toxic aftermath that goes on in my body, almost like fighting off an infection and its not just a metaphorical reality it really happens kicking around inside of me and making me feel like I have a low grade flu.

In any case there is a chance I actually have had an infection in one of my teeth for some time. Just before my breast cancer surgery in March last year, I broke the veneer off one of the teeth on the bridge which is four teeth wide and covers the space where I lost one and a half teeth in my accident in 1979.  I have needed two reconstructions on the bridge one in 1998 and on in 2010.  Now I have been informed I will most likely only be possibly able to sustain a bridge for up to 5 years. Its either implants after that or a denture.  And I am not having implants due to major PTSD from a head trauma of 2005 which still means I never sleep through the night but often wake up 2 to 4 times during the night.  I am just not up for it.

On Monday I go in to have an infection in one of the teeth cleared out and a temporary bridge fitted.  I am a bit apprehensive but not as fearful as I was going into major dental work about 5 and then  3 years ago.  I am no longer avoiding as much as I do and I am facing up to my PTSD and fears.  And despite that apprehension there has been the deeper pain over the clash I had with a fellow blogger which just made me very, very sad over the weekend.

I know by now the best thing to do is to take care of myself when I am hurting.  I am sure the other person was hurting too.  I tried to make my amends by email and it wasn’t responded to which I am fine about.  Taking a 10th step inventory I apologised for my part but discussing it all with my therapist yesterday she said that a lot of the nasty things said to me were not fair or even true.   It was very much like when my ex partner and I broke up around this time of year 6 years ago.  Painful things were said to me when he devalued and then discarded me. There was no possibility of repair and that as my therapist said does tend to leave a person in a frustrated place.

I have been grieving and then letting myself just be low to ground so I am moving through it. Today my dog Jasper perhaps sensing I needed a break didn’t come to the car when we were due to go to the park, instead he gratefully let me go out alone and so I went and got a lovely cup of coffee and sat under the big old trees in my local neighbourhood shops and drank it, after that I went out to lunch and then bought myself two books, one a novel and the second a poetry anthology of poems to ease stress.  I was so soothed by the first two poems I read in it today that I then sat down and wrote 3 poems myself.

This latest set back which happened at a time when I was really starting to feel happy and supported by others, did make me feel suicidal for a few days but I have come through it now.  I am grateful that over the past two days I have been able not to be so inwardly self critical.  I am seeing how criticism from others perhaps mirrors inner self criticism and it seems to me that in this social media focused world we currently find ourselves in there is just SO MUCH CRITICISM on any day.  To be honest I am jack of it.  I see how the critic can hurt and wound, how it is never satisfied and often doesn’t see things realistically anyway  one of my favourite quotes is by Oscar Wilde and it says

A critic is someone who knows the cost of everything

And the value of nothing

Focus on inwardly or outwardly directed criticism costs too much and it forgets what is good and has value with its endless focus on the negative, seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full. It goes along with a perfectionistic mindset that does not allow any tenderness or mercy for humanity, foibles, mistakes, error or wounds or anything else outside of its black/white view.  Getting a handle on how and why it operates in this way is essential for all of us but most especially for those of us who suffer from Complex PTSD.

This afternoon I am off to do some reading again and take a gentle time at home alone.  I need to practice tenderness, love and kindness in every moment at the moment.

Unburdening the Child within : healing limiting false beliefs

As a child (although we may or may not be aware of it) many of us were burdened with negative beliefs or painful negative emotions that had little to do with us.  These burdens, negative beliefs and painful emotions had much more to do with the quality or absence of care, validation, nurturing and support we received or did not receive and which affected in different ways our ability to sooth, cope with and understand all of our complex emotions and needs.  Many of us were crippled by these feelings and beliefs which we need to understand and release in order to heal our Inner Child’s pain and disconnection from an inner source of love and nurturing support.  Negative beliefs and feelings lead us to be inwardly critical and they generate negative emotions that wound, sabotage and keep us stuck in self hatred.

The issue of unburdening our inner Child is dealt with in chapter 7 of Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss’s book Freedom From Your Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approach.  The issue of uncoupling or releasing from false beliefs we have assumed is also addressed in depth by Margaret Paul in her book Inner Bonding : Becoming a Loving Adult to your Inner Child.

The negative feelings we have as a result of painful treatment and mistaken beliefs, for example that we will only be good enough if we perform in certain ways or display certain traits which pleased or were valued by a parent or other caregivers can cripple us well into adulthood.  We need to be able to release these feelings and beliefs in order to heal ourselves from the stunting seeds of depression and low self esteem which were planted in us in our youth in our thoughts and feelings.

Earley and Weiss outline a process of releasing these burdens once we have done the work to locate where we are holding them.  Often we hold them in our bodies somewhere, as well as deep inside our minds, and since mind and body form a continuum both are connected and experienced simultaneously!

If we identify one of our burdens as a stone we may choose to bury it in the earth.  We can also choose to give the burden to the light, watch it blown away by the wind.  We may write our burdens down on a piece of paper and then burn it.  We may imagine the burden we carry subsumed in flames or washed away in a flood of water or golden light.

We can also do the work to subplant some of the painful negative messages that we absorbed and were told as children with positive ones that no longer lie to us keeping us locked in shame, blame, guilt, self rejection, or self abandonment.

Below I am sharing the list of negative beliefs we may have absorbed that we now need to release adapted from the work of Margaret Paul.

Six Major False Beliefs

  1. There is something wrong with me.  I am unlovable. I am inadequate, basically defective, bad.  I am insignificant and unimportant.  Therefore, if I let people in in on who I am or if I am me, I will not be loved.
  2. I am powerless over how I feel.  Other people or outside events are responsible for making me happy or unhappy.  Other people are responsible for my hurt, anger, guilt, or disappointment.  I can’t help how I feel.  My good feelings come primarily from other’s approval and my bad feelings from their disapproval.  I do not have the power to make myself happy within myself, or to take care of myself in the world. I have to rely on other people, things, or substances to make me happy or take care of me.  I am a victim.
  3. Other people’s feelings are more important than mine, and I am responsible for their feelings.  When others feel hurt, disappointed, or upset because of something I’ve done (with no intent to hurt or harm them), I’m wrong and it’s my fault, and I deserve the guilt I feel.  Making myself happy (again with no intent to hurt or harm others) when others want me to make them happy is selfish, and unloving and therefore wrong.  To be a loving person, I have to sacrifice what I want for what others want.
  4. I can control what others think of me, feel about me, and how they treat me.  I can ‘make’ them like me or love me or be open to me by being good, nice or open.  Or I can ‘make’ then treat me how I want to be treated by getting angry, righteous and blaming.
  5. Resisting others’ control over me is essential to my integrity.  As soon as someone wants something from me,  I have to do the opposite, even if it’s something I want to do or give, or I will lose myself to that other person.
  6. I can’t handle pain, discomfort, shame or aloneness.  I have to protect myself from these feelings with my anger, caretaking, and withdrawal, with activities such as sex, or work, or with substances such as alcohol, drugs or food.

Margaret Paul believes that there is rarely a child who is not brought up with some of these beliefs which are self limiting and that as long as we believe we must look outside of ourselves for happiness we remain stuck within these imprisoning lies and limited beliefs.  We need to learn we have the power of choice, to react differently and to take good care of our Inner Child and its true impulses and needs by developing a Loving Adult inside.

I see these beliefs as very similar to the notion of burdens spoken of in Earley and Weiss’s book on the Inner Critic.  We can and do traumatised and limit ourselves by continuing to carry these burdens.  We limit our selves through negative beliefs which don’t give us freedom to feel the inner joy that comes about as a result of feeling a true connection to who we truly are, how we truly feel and what we truly need which comes from a good relationship with our authentic inner self or inner child.

Regardless of how we were treated in childhood we can explore and overcome the damage.  Only we can take responsibility in the now for changing the core negative beliefs outlined above and releasing the burden of painful feelings left in us as children by parents who could not help us develop a good relationship with our authentic inner centre or inner child.

We need to replace the false belief we hold with positive ones.  We can release other burdens of shame, blame, pain, anger and rage and let them go once and for all so they no longer block our freedom and happiness.  When our Inner Child feels uncared for by us we leave that Child alone with its pain, we force it to carry burdens and believe painful things it should not have to. We need to listen to our Inner Child.  That authentic place in us that has the ability to break us free from false burdens.

Negative thoughts cause negative feelings.  I would refer readers to the explorations in Margaret Paul’s book for further practical explorations of how this occurs.  When we shame, blame and criticise our Inner Child we leave that child alone.  Often our unloving adult is a mirror of a parent who treated us badly, later in life the parent’s attitude may change but our inner relationship may not and we still act towards ourselves in unloving ways.

If we wish to come to place of freedom and joy within ourselves we need to learn loving self talk, we need to protect our inner child from shaming or inner abuse or negativity, and only then can we set boundaries with those outside who continue to hurt us or treat us in unloving ways.  As adults this is our responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witnessing a beautiful thing

Mother-holding-childs-han-001

Today I took a diversion from my normal Monday routine that is to attend my support group.  Part of my current practice is about allowing myself as much time to follow my heart’s desire and be in the present moment – shift towards my Leo North Node in the first house.   The routine of my day always starts with taking my puppy Japser to the park.  We had another foggy morning and I didn’t feel much like getting up but the miracle this morning was that as soon as I was ready to leave with J, after having stewed apples and made porridge to serve with them this morning, the sun finally peaked out from behind the fog and clouds.

We got to the park and played, soon to be joined with by Jasper’s other playmates: Pymer, Bobby, Bootstrap, Charlie,  and Harry and then little Poppy who had been under the weather.  An hour passed in play and conversation about various issues, most importantly our distress at the Australian government’s response to the refuge issue.  We got onto the subject of the “it’s their own fault” argument, a view apparently expressed by someone at the park a few day ago. a view which made our collective blood boil.  We were talking about the lack of compassion that can be shown.  At the moment a man appeared who had been conscripted to the Vietnam War and was just saved from deployment due to election of Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam in the 70s33….. we spoke about the devastation of war, the impact on the soldiers and most especially the inhabitants of Vietnam from Agent Orange.  And then the subject of ancestry and history as this gentleman was of Chinese/Scottish background, his grandparents had been involved in the gold rush.

Soon it was time to leave and I made my way to my local coffee shop in a shopping centre not far from the park.  As I was sitting there I decided just to watch the passers by and be in the present moment.  At that moment I witnessed the most beautiful thing.  Close to where I was sitting is a two level staircase.  A little boy, probably not much older than 3 was standing on the bottom step holding onto the rail and attempting to climb.  His mother watched from a distance.  Rather than call him away or shout at him she came to where he was struggling to climb, took his little hand in hers and gently and slowly accompanied him on the slow climb up the two flights of stairs and back again.   Slowly, patiently, attentively she was beside him every step of the way as he worked to negotiate the task that would develop in him a sense of competence and mastery.   He had the most beautiful expression of delight on his face.  I cant tell you the feeling of happiness that came over me in witnessing this moment.  I felt it to be a precious gift.  It showed me so much of what was lacking in my own childhood, and yet I did not feel sad.   But there was just a great deal of understanding.

Yesterday I met my sister for a cup of tea.  She is recently out of hospital after undergoing a three month stay for depression.  She is in the process of trying to get herself together to move into her own unit, back staying with my mother for a time.  She was telling me how at every step she is taking, rather than be supportive my mother is undermining, criticising, and projecting her doubts and fears onto her.  I know my mother is tired and I know she wants her space.  It has been a long journey with my sister as she has struggled from manic depression, and my mother had endured some difficult so called “manic” episodes but while listening,  I did feel so much empathy for my sister.  We were sharing about how little joy there has been, and was in our upbringing.  I could identify, too, the negative unsupportive and admonishing voice that sometimes lives in my own head in much of what my sister was sharing.

I didn’t sleep great last night.  What came to me after a few hours of twisting and turning was how my Mum’s own attempts at independence were shot down in flames by her own mother.  Mum was strong enough to rebel and follow her own calling, and yet I realised the voices she suffers and which she is projecting on my sister have very deep roots.

As I write this I am reflecting on how, today, life has shown me something very important.  Has in two days, given me two very different examples of nurturance and non nurturance.  I was so grateful I made the decision today to give my support group a miss.  It occurred to me as I wandered off after having watched the little boy and his mother, that today I was in EXACTLY the right  place.  I had a deep feeling of peace, due to having been centred fully in the present moment.