How trauma fractures the psyche, causes dissociation and creates the persecutor/protector in our psyche.

In response to trauma or emotional abandonment our psyche will splinter or fracture.  Ideally parents help us to mediate as young ones the big feelings we have to deal with and help us to integrate them. But in situations of abuse or neglect this doesn’t happen and we are left to contain unbearable feeling.  Since all feelings occur and are felt in the body if our parents don’t help us to do this we are left with the split off feeling buried or held in tissue or psychic space.  Memories associated with the feelings and accompanying sensory traumatic events then become somatic and walled off, they still affect us we just don’t know why and how.

Jung wrote on how dissociation works and this overview comes from Donald Kalsched’s excellent book The Inner World of Trauma : Archetypal Defences of the Human Spirit.  

individuals who might be described as ‘schizoid’ in the sense they had suffered traumatic experiences in childhood which had overwhelmed their often unusual sensitivities and driven them inward.  Often, the interior worlds into which they retreated were childlike worlds, rich in fantasy but with a very wistful, melancholy cast.  In this museum like “sanctuary of innocence”… (they) clung to a remnant of their childhood experience which had been magical and sustaining at one time, but which did not grow along with the rest of them.  Although they had come to therapy out of a need, they did not really want to grow or change in the ways that would truly satisfy that need.  To be more precise one part of them wanted to change and a strong part of them resisted this change.  THEY WERE DIVIDED IN THEMSELVES.

In most cases these patients were extremely bright, sensitive individuals who had suffered on account of their sensitivity, some acute or cumulative emotional trauma in early life.  All of them had become prematurely self sufficient in their childhoods, cutting off genuine relations with their parents during their developing years and tending to see themselves as victims of others’ aggression and could not mobilize effective self assertion when it was needed to defend themselves or to individuate.  Their outward façade of toughness and self sufficiency often concealed a secret dependency they were ashamed of, so in psychotherapy they found it very difficult to relinquish their own self care protection and allow themselves to depend on a very real person.

Kalsched goes on to point out that such people developed what Elaine Aron has called a virultent persecutor-protector figure in the psyche which jealously cut them off from the outer world, while at the same time mercilessly attacking them with abuse and self criticism from within.   Kalsched believed this figure had a daimonic cast calling on the idea of Jung that energy split off into the psyche can become malevolent and acts as a powerful defence against what Aron calls ‘linking’ with others and with the vulnerable innocent or inner child it has been called in to protect.    The figure may not only be malevolent it may also be angelic or mythical or heavenly in cast.  Together with the inner child/innocent this force formed an active psychic dyad (or duplex) structure which Kalched calls the archetypal self care system. 

Jung showed that under the stress of trauma the childhood psyche with draws energy from the scene of the earlier injury.  If this can’t happen a part of the self must be withdrawn and ego thus splits into fragments or dissociates and it is a natural psychic defence mechanism that must be understood and respected.

Experience becomes discontinuous.  Mental imagery may be split off from effect, or both affect and image may be dissociated from conscious knowledge.  Flashbacks of sensation seemingly disconnected from behavioural context occur.  The memory of one’s life has holes in it – a full narrative history cannot be told by the person whose life has been interrupted by trauma.

For a person who has experienced unbearable pain, the psychological defence of dissociation allows external life to go on but at a great internal cost.  The outer sequalae of the trauma continue to haunt the inner world, and they do this, Jung discovered, in the form of certain images which cluster around a strong affect – what Jung called ‘feeling toned complexes’.  These complexes tend to behave autonomously as frightening inner beings, and are respresented in dreams as attacking ‘enemies’, vicious animals, etc. (not under the control of the will… autonomous.. .opposed to conscious intentions of the person…. they are tyrannical and pounce upon the dreamer or bearer with ferocious intensity.)

In dissociation the psyche may also splinter into various personalities which may carry rejected aspects of the person.  The mind becomes ‘split apart’ and such defences involve a lot of internal aggression as one part of the psyche tries to attack and protect the other more vulnerable, rejected parts.  The psyche cannot integrate these parts without therapy and active help.

In the course of natural therapy for such people the hostile attacking or protective force that acts to keep the person remote and in lock down will begin to arise in dreams and active imagination.  Elain Aron’s book The Vulnerable Self in Chapter Six “Dealing with Inner Critic and Protector-Persecutor” outlines some of this process as she give more insight into the role the persecutor-protector plays for highly sensitive individuals.  She also gives some examples which will help fellow sufferers to deal with their own dreams or nightmares where such forces arise. After dreaming we can through a practice of active imagination find a way to interact with these forces and help get them working more for us than against us. Aron’s book will help you in this regard too.

Donald Kalsched’s book is also an excellent reference for anyone suffering trauma.  It is more analytical in tone and quiet detailed.   The self care system that works to protect us can end up working against us too, this is the prominent point Kalsched makes in his book.  The inner persecutor-protector will sometimes work to organise a suicide if the psyche feels too much under threat from internal or external forces.  The persecutor-protector needs to really be understood by anyone attempting to free themselves from the crippling effects of childhood trauma.

I have a second associated post to post after this with some of the information from Elaines’ book on the persecutor-protector.  I will post it and link it to this post later on.

Sorting out the mixed up world of repressed and shame bound feelings

Bradshaw

When we are young and go through deep feelings of being abandoned, being left alone or are traumatised by big feelings of others or left without sufficient mirroring and empathy for our feelings we develop a deficit in our capacity to make sense of these feelings as well as express them.  Our feelings are still held deep inside and stored in our bodies but at the same time we form defences against feeling them and the pain or liberation that may bring.

We also live in a shame bound society and feeling wounded culture that so often fails to identify and acknowledge certain feelings, most especially painful ones such as sadness, anger, shame and fear.  Therefore the shame component of repressed, invalidated feelings grows huge for many of us.  John Bradshaw in his excellent book Healing the Shame That Binds You explained in great detail how and why feelings we are taught to repress or meet with difficulty in being expressed or felt in dysfunctional families get shame bound.  This means that as we evolve we develop an arrested feeling self.  In this state of shame biding even the threat or whiff off feeling a certain feeling brings up the most intense shame or inward self criticism.

We cover this shame over or react to the emergence of shame bound feelings with defences in our mind, most of which form the inner critic who then attacks the feelings as well as us for having them, telling us all kinds of lies and untruths about what a bad or damaged person we are when the deeper truth is that we are really out of relationship with a most vital and alive part of ourselves.

Bradshaw 3

When we being the difficult emotional uncovery work of feeling our feelings in therapy, recovery, sobriety or healing this is when the inner critic will step in and try to protect us from feeling them in some way.  To the inner critic who formed to keep us safe in unsafe family or social environments the emergence of repressed feeling is cause for major panic and alarm, all the critic can see is that we are breaking out of a safe holding space.

The critic often forms in childhood to keep us safe from the parent or a world we have come to believe would be hostile to our true expression of feeling.  Add to this that if we haven’t matured psychologically through being able to process, understand and feel our past traumatic feelings and imprints when they do emerge in us as adults they can feel unmanageable in their ferocity.  Suddenly we find we have age regressed to feel about 2 years old in some cases and to the critic that is another cause for attack, aren’t we supposed to an adult now?  Someone who is in control and shouldn’t have to ride this huge roller coaster?  But this intense period of hyper feeling is actually a good thing if we can stop the shame spiral, pause and spend time connecting with what is being triggered. Here is where group wound and individual therapy or 12 step recovery work can help.

A large part of our healing process is coming to understand when we have age regressed to an earlier time of trauma which was very painful for us.  I wrote about age regression some time last year in a number of posts which I will include at the bottom of this one.  Age regression or reversion to an earlier experience of trauma or deep feeling which will emerge when we are triggered, most especially in therapy, group work or relationships is a God given opportunity for us to grow in awareness of feelings and needs we may have repressed and learned to bind in shame.

Feeling the shame associated to the feeling, sharing about it, bringing it out of hiding with affirmative and validating others is most essential to our healing process and will help us grow in awareness.  While others cannot feel our feelings for us (though they may do this through the healing power of empathy) doing so will not take our feelings away but if they have gone through their own healing process or are qualified therapeutically, help to hold the space for us while we have our process and feelings this kind of holding can help us begin to make a relationship with what we formerly could not feel and may dull the voice of our inner critic.

We need this kind of support, being designed and wired as humans to be connected and to form attachments, attachments we may have failed to form with emotionally unavailable or inconsistent parents in childhood we do need, at some point, to have our feelings in relationship.  Thus the need at certain stages of recovery to have some who can consistently mirror us while helping us to develop our own capacity to hold and process feelings.

Bradshaw 2

Being left alone with our feelings is difficult, when we cannot make sense of them, feel ashamed or feel they are mixed up, intense and overwhelming.  We need to feel them for ourselves in order to liberate them and reach understandings of why we blocked them in the first place.  Doing so was a survival mechanism we learned at that time to keep us safe, but it may take a lot of time and help if our feelings have been repressed or shamed.  Not being able to have and feel and understand our true feelings in the present, judging them, over intensifying them due to shame, keeps us imprisoned in a false self and leaves our true feelings buried under layers of defences.  Developing deeper insight into the nature of such defences and compassion for ourselves in the midst of them is such important work as we go through the process of learning to liberate, understand and feel our true feelings.   As we do we will be restored to our true selves.

At the same time we must do work on what Pete Walker calls Shrinking The Inner Critic.  We can turn the criticism on ourselves or outwards on others, in either case we are not really acknowledging the truth depth of our plight and such criticism in keeping us locked in shame may deeply hamper both our progress and our healing process.

Acceptance : healing from the inside

Acceptance 2.jpg

The single most healing attitude we can hold towards ourselves is one of acceptance.  Even if there are parts of ourselves that we don’t like or that we struggle with, is there some way we can learn to love and accept these parts of us and understand where they come from and perhaps even learn to look deeper into where self critical views came from?

Self rejection seems to be such a huge part of our culture.  It becomes even more prevalent if we were raised in an environment or home where there was neglect or invalidation abuse.  In this case self rejection can become a huge part of our inner landscape, not really loving and accepting ourselves for who we truly are means that self condemnation and low self esteem become an habitual way of life.  The inner critic forms inside of us making feelings guilt, shame and powerlessness central issues we struggle with and we may try to hide these feelings from ourselves and others or silence then with addictions.

Add to this the complication of the fact that if as a child difficult things occurred which may have not been our fault we may have mistakenly come to believe that something we did played a part, for example the early death of a parent, illness in a sibling, abuse or chronic rejection.   Well into adulthood we may go on struggling with the critical voice inside of us or deeply unconscious feelings of guilt that cause all kinds of probelms.  We may also begin to learn to turn that critical voice outwards.  We come to believe in negative expectations.  If we feel we are not good enough we won’t learn to set appropriate boundaries against abuse or we may go on fearing rejection when there is actually no need to maintain such a fear.  We then learn to live from a self fulfilling prophecy which just brings more of the same to us.

The way out of such a dilemma is the practice of self acceptance, self care and love.  When we have distressing critical attacks we can learn to address the critical voice and the shame it may be trying to pass onto us in a loving way.  We don’t even have to argue, we can agree with the critic that we are messy or absent minded or careless but recognise that such traits have nothing to do with our self worth or lovability.  As human beings we don’t need to be ‘perfect’ to be loved, we should not have to ‘earn’ love by forcing ourselves into shapes others would like us to assume or by hiding who we really are deep inside, even if we are deeply emotional and deeply hurt or angry.  All such feelings really are acceptable, but he hard truth is that in childhood and even well into adult hood we may have been around those who struggled to accept such feelings and so we learned to internalise a similar lack of acceptance.

We can also, as we grow in critical self insight and self acceptance, learn that we cannot always expect a perfect love from those around us, who in being human are not perfect either.   I struggle at times when I hear of those who suffered some neglect in childhood saying they are going ‘no contact’ with parents.  Often it is apparent the parent has suffered deep wounds, wounds they may have passed on, and I do understand if the abuse is bad the person would not want a lot of contact.  But at the same time it is true that human beings suffer in all kinds of different ways in the course of their upbringing and so often pass this suffering onwards.

When we choose to undertake a journey of inner healing we are on a course to open up to this so called ‘shadow’ material or dark side in ourselves and in others.   We are on a journey to explore all the blockages of separation, fear and guilt as well as shame that have kept us from the experience of love, we are also being called on a journey of forgiveness.  We don’t ever have to like what happened to us, forgiving does not mean we ever say that what happened to us is okay, but forgiveness is the conscious choice we make at one critical stage in our healing process when we get to see the cost of pain passed on over years, ages or generations and resent into and through our own emotional systems and in relationships and see with absolute clarity that the cost of holding onto it is too great a price to pay and solves nothing.

Working through our anger may take years.  We find it hard to let down that steely defence which in keeping us protected blocks us from truly expressing the deeper pain or sadness of the hurt we feel, grieving and mourning in order to pass through the process, releasing from deep within our cell tissue traumas that hurt.  We may never have the hurt, or anger or sadness validated by the other person. In order for many o fus to heal we most certainly initially need to seek validation from someone but most importantly in time we must learn to find it from deep within our selves and our own souls for this is where our true healing lies.

Once our reality is validated from inside it becomes so much easier to love ourselves, to know that we were always worthy of protection and care but that also life is not perfect and due to this we as humans can and do suffer all kinds of hurt and abuse.  We may think “this should never have happened to me” but the truth is it has.  Hate it as we must we have to deal with the consequences and further we have to learn how to live a peaceful and loving life from within that place in order that we don’t go on to re-enact the hurt upon ourselves or others over and over and over again.

Most certainly it helps to have a champion or companion on this journey.  In my own life the unconditional loving presence of my therapist Katina has meant so much to me.  I have and do struggle with such self criticism at times, mostly over things that were so far outside of my control, with Katina I get a reality check as to where I am being too hard on myself and I see also where others can at times be hard on me and I see that I can stand up for my truth in the face of that.  I had an incident yesterday where I had to do that with someone who was a bit of a bully and was trying to criticise me in a joking way.   I didn’t have to carry the anger of it as I took the steps to stand up for myself at the time.  In years past his criticism could have launched me into a negative spiral for some days.

Self love, self care, self compassion and self acceptance are such critical issues on our healing journey from neglect, emotional abandonment and any other kind of trauma or abuse.  These are the healing balm to counter the voices and forces of self condemnation and self rejection that we may have internalised while growing up in dysfunctional environments and societies full of shame based attitudes which can leave such a destructive lasting legacy and impact recycling for years.  Without them it is hardly possible to heal and grow as we so need to.

 

Judging affects our body

This is another post inspired by Byron Brown’ book Soul Without Shame. Ever since starting to read about it I have been connecting the dots on so many things, on how John Bradshaw years ago connected addiction and disconnection with the inner child to toxic shame, pointing out how often addicts came from religious or other overly controlled and controlling households where certain feelings and expressions meet with hostility, rejection and shame becoming ‘shame bound’.   Shame bound feelings explains a state where you cannot have a feeling such as sadness or anger without also feeling ashamed for the pure fact of having it, you then have a lot of feelings locked up inside that you exist in a deeply problematic relationship with.

Shame becomes internalised in this state of being and feelings can only be had under her cover of night.  If we have a lot of anger over stuff that happened to us we swallow it down since it would be shameful to express it and then we become the super nice do good people pleaser who jumps through hoops by day but becomes on fire at night or when drunk with blind reactions or rages.  We then wake up and feel ashamed about the shadow energies that came alive in us when we took the risk to shut the judge up with some form of numbing.

Recovery opens us to a cacophony of feelings bound in shame that we can no longer suppress, we try extra hard to work on our recovery and ‘become good’ but the fact is that our self judged ‘bad’ isn’t really bad at all, its just repressed life energy now bound in shame and fear and we no longer have the liberation of the ‘numb’ to at least let us blow off some steam.  Now we not only have to feel but we need to feel what is real for us in a body that is slowly waking up or becoming less numb.  How will we allow this when the  judge that is on our case exists inside us an energy of self suppresssion?

I cant clearly articulate any kind of process or formula here of the ‘way out’ as so many of us find our own ways out of toxic shame.  We all have our own unique battle with the forces of judgement and self judgement we have internalised but what may help some of us most particularly on a somatic/emotional level is the recognition of how shame and self rejection of our needs, wants, desire, meaning and feeling may manifest on a bodily level.  We can engage in a process of self monitoring towards what happens in our body when we try to meet certain standards. and react to inner and outer judgements and shame.

Late last week I also began to read the book Power Over Panic in which the author draws attention towards perfectionism, control, the need to impress others or live to certain ideal standards that are not realistic and panic attacks.   Apparently a panic attack can only happen when there is resistance on one level to an emotional truth which we are attempting to suppress or deny.  Such information interested me since I have suffered from a host of weird body symptoms and manifestations of anxiety ever since my marriage ended just under 13 years ago    Slowly while reading this book I was connecting the dots, dots which are becoming even more connected now reading Byron Brown’s book on shame and the inner critic.

The chapter I am currently reading speaks about developing a process in which we become attentive to what goes on in our body as we talk to ourselves in certain ways.  I have noticed in myself that a state of contraction comes with feelings of fear and shame and with inner voices saying things around me are out of control or not perfect enough.  I have noticed too how a deeply compassionate loving attitude in which I put my focus on my heart and the opening healing breath actually allows my being and consciousness to expand and the result may be tears of relief and release following often by feelings of joy, peace and happiness.  I am noticing more and more how my own consciousness can both contract and expand as I judge not only myself but others as well.  It is enlightening to me and so I wanted to share my own insights around how I am noticing judgement impacts and affects my body, for we live in such a judging culture that is externally focused in this day and age, is it therefore any wonder that anxiety conditions are so prevalent.  I am sure it is in no way a new insight, but it is one that I am coming to understand and become aware of more and more lately.

Our true self, our living soul, our essence and the judge

Enthusiasm

We each come into this world as a precious spark of divine spirit, I believe we each come with our own energy imprint and its a big gamble as to how this unique part of us is received.  So much can happen in the interface between our spirit seeking to unfold its uniqueness and what occurs as we look to find a ‘home’ for who we are, a place of  grounding and seeding with particular parents within in a particular family and a particular society.

In the course of growing up all kinds of beliefs get imprinted in us.  We are told certain things, we either meet a mirror or a blank wall or a wall of anger, shame and fear.  Some of us may be fortunate enough to find loving arms that soothe and hold us and comfort us in our distress.  Those of us who aren’t so lucky may meet crossed arms and a sneer or a snub or a look of disgust or be teased or taunted when distressed.  Some of us will be held in mind, some of us will fall out of mind or barely register on a depressed or self involved parent’s radar.  Some of us may meet a void in many ways, an empty place where the inner feelings inside we have not yet found words for turn around and around inside us like shards or splinters. Some of us will hear soothing words, some of us will hear sharp words and all of these words will register on us in our consciousness to one day reappear as voices inside or within, voices we absorbed, voices that advise us, voices that limit us but underneath all of these voices there is one still small voice that speaks to us, not from a sense of contraction, fear, approval seeking and limitation but from purer place of love, openness, expansion and unconditional acceptance and this voice may know a lot about who we really are in essence as opposed to who we may have become in an attempt to fit in or not be hurt again.

Just following my bike accident in June 2005 I had a reading with astrologer Melanie Reinhardt in London.  At the reading she recommended a book to me Soul Without Shame  :  A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within by Byron Brown.  Sadly for me I didn’t get the book until last year and it has sat on my bookshelf along with other books “I just haven’t got around to reading yet”.  But lately I have been becoming more and more aware of the voice of the judge within, which can also go by the name of the inner critic or superego that I really felt the need to open the book.  I am so glad I did, as it is not a book by an ‘expert’ but by a writer and spiritual seeker who on his own path has learned a lot about how the judge operates within his own life and consciousness through watching how his own inner judge works.

He also calls attention to the fact that underlying this part of our consciousness is that precious unique energy of our true nature which is less concerned with approval seeking and more concerned with pure self expression.  This is this part of us that is so often stymied or limited or undermined by conditioning factors in our upbringing which make the power of the judges voice become very, very strong, often working to over-ride some of our best creative impulses.

Any of you who are creative surely know this force well.  It is that part of us that wants to tell us all about how inept you are, how far you will fall short, how badly your creative efforts may be received and how you should just learn to play it safe, not dream too large, risk too much or express your heart, opening up to all the other critics out there who will certainly remind you of how what you are trying to express is rubbish.

And most certainly we do need some kind of discriminative sense to decide what we feel may be worthwhile or not, but the point that Brown makes about the judge is that he is never concerned with you expressing your true nature, only that what you express be well received and meet with the expectations and social accepted ideas and ideals of others.  The judge constantly evaluates you to see if you are ‘good enough’ according to others and to imposed standards, it gives you no awareness of the fact that being good enough is not important, what is most important is to be authentically you (and even if you cannot not even judging that!  Gets tough, doesn’t it?

Negative judgements stimulate feelings of rejection, guilt, doubt, shame and self hatred, while positive judgements tend to arouse feelings of self esteem, pride, excitement, self righteousness, and superiority.  Either way, these results are conditional, and you are left dependent on the judge to reject or approve of you…I am encouraging you to go beyond turning rejection into approval and to question the very assumptions underlying self judgement.

Byron Brown

I am sure there are some lucky souls out there who don’t let this side of them permanently stymie them or their creative efforts, in the face of the judge’s criticism they go ahead anyway and with courage take action to move through the wall of fear.  We all have to face the judge, and we all have to do our own battle with this force, but with awareness and attention we can find ways not to be so strangled by it, we can understand how fear of being rejected can underlie certain behaviour and then we can choose to embrace and love our true self or essence anyway, taking the risk to be ourselves and let out from inside of us the individual life juice that so wants to flow forward and builds its containers of valid self expression, acceptance and being.

Often when we get quiet enough we hear all kinds of voices inside.  We can do inner work with these voices and judgements in order to understand which come from our inner essence of soul, expansion, creativity and joy and which come from contraction, fear, separation, false beliefs and old pain.  We can open to all the voices and find which support us, which heal us and which cut us down causing us pain in our body and disconnecting our soul not only from ourselves but from others too.

Letting go of fear, obligation and guilt

At times I need to let go of ideas or hopes or dreams I have of how life would be ideal.  I am having to let go of the idea of having permanent fake teeth in my mouth and accept that from here on in I will have 3 teeth on a plate that is then inserted into my mouth.

When I saw the dentist yesterday he was very slow and measured.  He wanted to make sure “I was entirely ready” to have my tooth out and cope with the denture.  I gathered from what he said that so many people could not cope with it very well and he was worried as to how I would react having to see myself every morning with no front teeth when the denture is out.  I must admit that before I went yesterday my inner child or inner self just cried and cried and told me she doesn’t want to have the tooth out and have to go through this hurdle to wear and denture and be a gummy shark with no front teeth!  And while I can hold her and my hand through this I KNOW I have to go through with it and feel the pain.  I had to tell my child and inner self that sometimes I have to go through something I don’t want for a higher reason or for the sake of better physical or emotional health.  It was the same feelings I went through when I had to face breast cancer.  I felt like Jesus in Gethsemane pleading with God to not have to face it, but I did and I survived.

Facing this yesterday and letting myself fully grieve and have all the associated emotions was painful but ultimately good.  I was able to get myself dressed and get to the dentist and I cannot tell you how many times I have cancelled out of dental appointments before.  But it also made me realise that I have also avoided heaps of things that it would be better if I had faced, and that there were times when I needed to let go of much loved or needed attachments that were actually holding me back and I could not.  I wanted to be the nice girl and do the right thing, or at the very least not abandon others who were in pain.  That was a positive motivation but not when it led to the loss of my own inner needs and happiness.

Today we had a heavy fog.  As I write this the first rays of sunlight are only just starting to shine through at 11 am.  And today I was thinking about another kind of FOG which obscures the sunlight for me : Fear, Obligation and Guilt.  I was thinking of how many times these three have stopped my own individual Sun essence from shining forth, from allowing myself to separate and go for the good things especially when others were suffering.  Another thing I noticed this week is how my Mum unconsciously evokes these kind of feelings in me by telling me about how my sister is going through some emotional struggle.  The assumption she makes is that my sister is weak and cannot cope and then I feel drawn in and as though I need to do something to help my sister when really what she is going through is about her and I struggle along silently with my own problems and others in my family rarely reach out to see how I am coping.

I opened the post intending to write about letting go and my insight earlier into FOG while doing yoga stretches is associated.  I need to be much more aware of letting go and realising when fear, a sense of obligation or guilt are motivating my actions or alternatively limiting them.

In the case of fear I have not always been able to recognise that is what has been imprisoning me.  I think the accident I had it 2005 has left me with huge fear/trauma imprints about moving forward or taking any action and subconsciously this fear prompts the panic attacks I have around 5 to 7 pm every evening and to a degree the problem I have with waking up in the morning.

This morning I remembered to be extra conscious of making sure I had my attention on the breath when trauma flood had me pinned.  I was aware of the funny cartoon in Bev Aisbett’s book which portrays the panic attack as funny carton dragon who hovers in the shadows and sends up all kinds of thoughts.  In my own case it isn’t just thoughts that prompt my attacks there is a stored vibrational charge of chemicals in my body that wake up every day in the morning.  I then get extra focused on my body and find it hard to bring my energy into the day.  But thinking too which runs along negative lines can also hold me back.

I read a older post on a site earlier about how one survivor of an eating disorder which spoke of how ED as a voice tries to keep the person thinking along negative lines.  It will see all the things that are wrong.  In this way it keeps us trapped and from seeing what is actually good.  I am noticing more and more these days when my focus is pulled toward the negative so that I can then put my energy on something beautiful, good or positive.  Yes there is a lot of pain and negativity in people and in the world but we don’t have to allow it to capture us all of the time, or at least I am realising that I don’t have to.

I can also let go of the sense of obligation I feel to take care of others in my family and realise that there is a force beyond me that is meant to help them.  I am not put on earth to give all of my energy to others who are suffering.  I can show support and care when I am in a strong place, but otherwise at times my need to help comes out of something else and may even be a projection of a neglected part of myself that in fact needs my own care.  It may even come out of guilt I have or a belief I am not worthy of a happy, free life and that is not fair, for I am worthy of these things, but thinking that I am not does keep me bowed under, or most definitely has in the past.

I think that in some families joy can actually be a quality that is shamed.  We can be shamed for being full of life, or different, or full of energy or happy.  We can be made to feel that if others are suffering we need to suffer too, or at least must not present them with the challenge of a happy, free person for whom things are going right if they are having problems.

I am now identifying this kind of thing in myself.   I am aware of the joy killer that lives within and dampens me down with all kinds of negative heaviness.  I actually am feeling more and more lately I want to let that killer go and get that negative energy out of my head.  I want to let go of fear, obligation and guilt, they were such strong conditioning agents of my Catholic education and come to think of it we have Jewish background on my Mum’s side three generations back and at times I feel that heaviness as a shroud that can be limiting and life denying when it focuses on obligation to family, rules, oughts or shoulds.

And outside my window now sun and blue sky has been revealed as the fog has slowly cleared away and so I want to go out and embrace the day with my dog.  I am so grateful that now I no longer spend days and days and days in immobility and pain.  I am so grateful for the life energy I feel returning when I face up to the tough stuff in stead of running away and find that when I let of certain attachments to ideals and hopes something else can present itself to me, something that may a precious gift hidden within it that I may never have been able to imagine myself or experience if I had not said yes to and embraced the necessary pain involved in the letting go process.

Post script :

After posting this I found the following in Bev Aisbett’s book on panic attacks listing the things which are required of us to recover and it was an interesting read as she touched on what I was writing about above:

In order to effectively make changes for the better you will need to set out to achieve the following goals:

An absolute belief that you deserve to be well, happy and loved

A complete shift of focus from being a loser to being a winner

A conscious awareness of choice

An ability to just BE

A total commitment to wellness not illness.

Just writing this triggers my inner negative voice but I will put it out there, as I feel it speaks to what a new approach to my life may be asking of me.

If Venus is the god of love what part does suffering for our art/love play?

Venus.jpg

Do you know the mythic story of the birth of Venus?  You may have seen the Botticelli painting of Venus that shows her emerging from a shell on the ocean waves but did you know that quiet a violent act gave birth to the so called ‘Goddess of Love’?  You see it was the mythic archetypal God energy of limits, severing and manifestation. Saturn cutting off the genitals of his father the mythic archetypal God energy of boundless freedom and creativity, Uranus and casting that spawn onto the ocean that gave birth to Venus and so on an inner level beauty, connection, harmony and love could be seen to be manifested or born when we allow our creative freedom to be restricted or channelled in some way and allow also that inherent alchemical creative tension of two forces or substances rubbing on each other to give birth to something cherished and valued, valued perhaps because of the sacrifice and labour, effort and suffering required.

Creating anything is not easy, its about reaching a hand down into the vast ocean of creative thought forms, experience, imaging and yes pain and suffering and pulling up  this creative energy, tossing it around internally, chewing on it, breaking it apart, mixing it with metaphoric saliva and digesting it deeply within psychological intestines to (excuse the crude term) shit out piece of lively, messy, pooh!  which is what our creative endeavours can appear to us at times…. “This is just a piece of shit” we say and then we see a like appear and think well maybe not????

I am just allowing myself to go along with a stream of consciousness at the moment.  But the idea I started with came from a dawning realisation with the planet Venus now moving backwards, that has been birthing in me of how struggle is so much part of the creative process of living, shaping our lives into new forms.

Its sad to think that often we can be judged for struggling, for ‘having issues’, for not being yet fully formed but instead a squirming worm trapped in a painful messy chrysallis of becoming.  “Why aren’t you born yet?”, others scream. “Why are you like this and not that?”  “You shouldn’t be so angry/bitter/sad/confused etc!” But the truth is that as humans we need to struggle, at times, we have to wrestle, we have to tussle with those things that want to bind us and trap us and imprison us, with those things that confuses us, hurt us or shamed us.  We need to get down in the mud and dirt with our messy, chaotic, raw emotions and reactions to work our way through to creative solutions or resolutions which are re-imagined solutions that we have had to turn this way and that like a prism of light refracting and reflecting many shades in order to see a light that we could not see before in darkness.

My own experience is in wisdom born through struggle and pain.  Through enduring the dark night of the soul we make creative discoveries.  Some of us are lucky enough to be able in that dark place to finally say an unconditional and creative ‘yes’ to that which has been buried and is trying with all its effort to work its way through a crust of repression into the warm light of day in our conscious awareness, emerging in time as a flower, just a Venus rose from the waves on her sea shell in Botticelli’s painting.

Society may tell you its not okay to be angry, to struggle to question, it wasn’t okay for you to be a victim, to suffer or be negative.  People may try to project a persona from which all anger, struggle, questioning, doubt and pain has been erased, but don’t allow yourself to be fooled for the truly loving creative person within and without is the one who will embrace you in that place, knowing it to be a birthplace.  Its only when we get stuck there that is gets problematic, so keep moving, keep growing, keep expressing until the tender new shoot within you finally emerges and gives birth to a beautiful flower. And during this retrograde Venus time if you find yourself struggling with feelings of low self esteem with deep old feelings of pain in relationships rearing their heads have the courage to work with the pain to find the self – love within it that is waiting to be born in you in this process.

Projecting pain: Understanding how it works and why we need to shrink the Inner and Outer Critic

If our childhood was traumatic it is likely that the unprocessed pain may be projected onto other relationships.  The chapter Shrinking Your Outer Critic in Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD makes for very enlightening reading.  It is teaching me a lot both about how parents can dump their own rage over past injuries onto their children, scapegoating them and then ensuring that the child has to find ways to offload this pain. From my understanding it can either be internalised and then we get beat up by a savage inner critic or alternatively it can externalised and then we beat others up for supposed transgressions which may be unconscious reminders of things that happened to us in childhood that hurt us deeply and we could never really unpack.

As Pete explains, often we oscillate between the two positions.  The cure he recommends and outlines in this chapter involves a combination of self awareness and mindfulness.  As he explains those with an aggressive ‘fight’ defence act pain out in rants or accusations.  Those with a more passive style may seethe internally and then their voracious inner critic kicks into gear.

There are two aspects to this mindfulness.  The first is cognitive, using thought awareness, thought stopping and thought substitution (substituting excessive negative critical thoughts for balanced positive thoughts).

The second aspect is emotional and involves grief work.  As Pete explains it this involves

removing the critic’s fuel supply – the unexpressed childhood anger and the uncried tears of a lifetime of abandonment.

angering at the outer critic helps to silence it (helping us to challenge the critic’s entrenched all or none perspective that everyone is as dangerous as our parents), and crying helps to evaporate it (and it also release(s) the fear that the outer critic uses to frighten us out of opening to others.  Tears can help us realise that our loneliness is now causing us much unnecessary pain).

It is my experience that those of us with a narcissistic style can most definitely not allow ourselves the vulnerability of the later response.

Mindfulness can and will cause us emotional and thought flashbacks to earlier incidents from childhood, consciously or unconsciously.  Our critic attacks may seem to grow in strength and power because we are becoming more aware of what we unconsciously defended against before.  And if part of our conditioning involved our parent’s disabling our angry reactions to unjustified shame, blame or criticism other painful feelings, sensations and thoughts will be evoked.  We may need a super aware ally to help us as we working with shrinking the inner and outer critic.  And in my experience the grief we feel helps us to come back to reality and remove defences even though this work is painful.

As Jay Early and Bonnie Weiss point out in their book Freedom From the Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approach it is important that we learn to stand with our inner child and help them to separate from the critics attacks which were designed to protect us in childhood but no longer serve us to develop a healthy relationship with our self or others.  For as long as the inner critic and outer critic is allowed to run rampant in our relationships the consequences will be the death of true love, respect, compassion, empathy, intimacy and connection.

 

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.

When resistance against control and shame imprisons us

Conflicts lead me to question myself deeply.   I am aware that with a strong Saturn defence against emotions that my relationships have not been easy.  I am beginning to see how fear has dogged them, that and mistrust which all relates back to essential losses, abandonment and lack of people being there when I needed them which then can make the outer critic stronger.  It is something my ex husband tried to point out to me at the end of my marriage.  Because I fear criticism and abandonment, sometimes I can criticise first so that I wont be hurt, but in the end that drives love away.

At the same time I know I must also remember that I do have good qualities.  What I do that hurts others can often come out of unconsciousness, intense sensitivity and fear.  But I am beginning to see that resistance to being there and trusting others in an open hearted way is a central defect of character and I need some help to work on it.

Its is confronting to expose my weaknesses and vulnerabilities in a blog such as this one.   I am grateful to those followers who stand by me and with every like help me to over com the deep shame I can carry at times.  I am interested in reading Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD again this weekend to hear that shame is actually blame from childhood turned inwards.  The inner critic replaces the outer critic and it shames us from within.  Pete says we actually need to put the blame back where it belongs with early caregivers who shamed us or neglected us.  But we have to be careful not to transfer it onto new situations for in doing so we block love and if we don’t embrace our fearful expectations and fears of danger with full consciousness we can remain in prison emotionally which is a very, very painful place to be.