Struggles with guilt : insights into anxiety

I awoke struggling with a lot of guilt this morning.  As much as I can write that its not okay for the critic to beat me up, its also important that as an adult I take responsibility for my own life and feelings.  The complication is that so many of my current feelings date back and are connected to old feelings and hurts, emotional absences and injuries from the past.  When I put the sole focus on those I can become resentful and bitter, hurt and angry which is fair enough but if those feelings are poisoning or affecting certain choices I am making today I am in trouble and not only am I in trouble but others around me are too.

The issue that I am struggling with this morning is my financial dependency on my mother.  Much as I express here all my angry feelings with my Mum she has tried to compensate in many ways for what she failed to give me by providing financial support when I have needed it.  As a result I have chosen not to work for the past 10 years following my accident which gave me a head injury and focus on my healing and recovery work.   Although I posted a post yesterday on how that is the most important work for me, at times I don’t fully believe it.  I feel that I could have been more responsible as an adult for myself financially.

Then I go through all the guilt over the chain of inner causes that contributed to the financial difficulty we had back in March when due to a real estate agents pressure I put in an offer for a townhouse that I then wished to retract but could not, he had kept us pinned at the house on the day of the auction when it was passed in and pressured for an offer that day, knowing that if we made that offer then we would have not cooling off period and no way out.  Due to the fact I had not properly read the contract I was not aware.  I made a mistake and I have had to own it, but my Mum has been the one who paid up.

I was willing to lose the deposit but due to my mother’s issue with money she was not prepared to let it go and so bought the place herself rather than see the deposit forgone.  She has tried to rent it since then but no renters have been willing to take it on and then a few weeks ago she asked me to consider moving into it and I have once again been stuck in a back forward process of trying to take the easier way and move in which means surrendering my older cottage but also the creative beautiful aspects of it.  One part of me says why not just let this place go.  It was my mistake that led to the problem and really as an adult I should own it, not depend on my Mum but it was a failure too on her part on the day when I turned to her for help on that day that made me make the offer and she also left me alone while chatting to her friend at the time the auction was taking place which gave the agent space to move in and try to force my hand by putting in the high bid the owner wanted when no one else was bidding.

All of this is interesting to me as I am in the midst of reading the book Power Over Panic at the moment and in it the author Bronwyn Fox explains how it is the passive perfectionist who most often ends up with an anxiety condition.   She suffered from anxiety and panic attacks herself so she knows what is involved in recovery and the point she makes is that it is our fear which drives so much of what contributes to the condition in the first place, fear of not being all things to all people, fear of being selfish if we care for ourselves and put our own needs first, fear of disappointing others and being real and then fear of the anxiety or panic itself which is what keeps the attacks going.

As I have been reading this book I have seen our own family pattern with poor boundaries and interpersonal connections of truth and emotional honesty.   Our family pattern is to always ‘do the right thing’, swallow our own feelings and needs and then to over extend ourselves and not take good care of our boundaries and body.   And then this can also dovetail into a very strong adult child pattern of taking on responsibility for what is not our issue due to feeling we are responsible for others, which leads to emotional caretaking and then emotional, physical and spiritual depletion.  We also loose our own deeper connection to joy if the inner critic is always driving us with its perfectionistic project and not letting us rest in and find what lights up our own hearts independent of other demands or our own inner pressure to help or be the good guy.

As I look at it I see my Mum has at times helped us too much in the wrong ways.  I went to another meeting yesterday of my Al Anon group and there were a couple there whose son has recently entered into recovery.  They were sharing about how they needed to support him but not too much and to his own detriment, for our recovery is really a personal issue, how others treat us can trigger us ultimately as much as people would like to argue that it doesn’t, but becoming an adult also means learning about what is triggering and taking the steps for self care.

Anyway I don’t know if this blog has a theme.  I just woke up and needed to write down some of the things I am struggling with in my own head.  I had pretty much made the decision I am not going to move into the town house but commit to this place despite all the responsibility such a decision entails.  Winter is a hard time as my house is very cold and really needs a better heating system.  But winter will not last forever and is a time when its good for the emotional psyche to get in tune with the swing of nature and look inwards.   Even as I type this I know I could make another decision and make the best of it and I realise how lucky I really am to have so much choice and the support that I do.

I never fully got the emotional support I needed in the past. I came from a family where we were taught to serve others more than understand and respect our own inner boundaries, feelings and needs.  I see how the pattern has replayed and how so much of it was deeply unconscious.  In a post yesterday I was sharing how we can only say we are free to choose when we are fully conscious of all of these unconscious patterns and factors which makes me question a point that Bronwyn makes in her book on anxiety and panic  attacks.  We develop these conditions not because we are bad or weak but due to the fact that we have lot to learn and become conscious of.  Being diagnosed with such an illness or condition is actually a wake up call to our inner self to begin to become more conscious and aware and to take care of what most needs support, comfort and nurturing in our own lives.  If we beat ourselves up for suffering with them we cant really go forward on our recovery and being kind and compassionate and loving to ourselves is an enormous part of overcoming such conditions. If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks I really highly recommend the book.  I am learning a lot from it.

You didn’t protect me

I just had a watershed moment after briefly connecting with my sister at the markets and touching on the recent death of her daughter in law’s father about how alone I was following the death of my Dad and how prior to that Dad never protected me from Mum’s angry whirlwind energy and perfectionist project which was part of an onslaught on me from a very young age.

Byron Brown’s book which shows how we engage with the introjected critic from a young age in three ways, counterattack, rationalisation or by absorbing and collapsing in reaction to its energy has mirrored insights I came to following reading Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD a year or so ago but Brown expresses this information in a more useable way showing how each matter of relating means we respond from one of three bodily levels, gut, head or heart.

You will need to read the book to find the outline of the information he presents in it but his basic explanation is that early on we learn to take in the criticism that is not fair on us and identify with it even when we are defending against it, rationalising it away or using it to fall into a depression or psychic paralysis we are wedded to the critical energy and it exerts profound power over us.  When we respond to inner or outer criticism with any of these three methods we are in fact ‘hooked’ by the idea that in some way the critic is right or that we deserve such criticism on some level.  From this position we self reject and so disempower the helpful response which would be to let the critic’s criticism fly past us without reacting, instead staying connected to love and compassion for self from our inner centre.   Which is a powerful position of letting go.

I found myself crying on the way to the market after reading the chapter Engaging the Judge for I remembered how often as a child I was on the end of ‘attacks’ from my Mum.  I would defend against these attacks, sometimes by flying into rages or even pulling knife on my Mum at one stage after it had gone on for years and Dad would just sit on the sidelines and do nothing to help except say to my Mum behind my back “her mouth is her defence”.

I internalised my Mum’s own shame as I see it now and this is why my father’s death had such an affect on me, regardless of the fact I had no one nearby to comfort or protect me after he died, I was also without the inner protection I needed from internalised criticism due to my upbringing and I think this realisation is what really brought me undone this afternoon. I also identified how often when others criticise or hurt me I rationalise the pain away rather than feel it and I have also allowed it to enter me and overtake me so badly that at the end of my marriage I had completely absorbed it and collapsed under its weight.

Add to that this afternoon we were speaking about how much support my niece in law has around her following her Dad’s death and that triggers the deep pain that following my own father’s death I was completely unsupported which is why I left the meeting with my sister with a bursting chest and tears fell when I was soon out of the carpark.

In a way this blog isn’t really for my readers although I do hope some others gain some insight into how their own inner critic may not belong to them, it is my attempt to put in black and white what I have gone through.  I am recognising how emotionally abandoned I have been not only after my Dad’s death but by so called boyfriends and friends who didn’t recognise the full brunt of what I was going through in those painful years age 23 – 31 and even into recovery both with my ex husband and last partner.

On the way home from the markets I listened to Massive Attack’s song Protection full bore as I recognised how the loving arms I needed around me were never there.

I was never protected and even worse my own deep pain was never validated nor understood anywhere apart from with one or two therapists …oh and yes, on here with those who have gone through the same devastating soul crunching emotional abandonment in their own lives.  I watch other’s struggle with the critic’s attacks of their own process when they are opening to deep and valid emotional pain, so long buried in their own souls.  I recognise what they go through when that inner critical voice tries to shame them for feeling or starting to depend on someone who finally WILL protect them when the fear of being hurt again is so huge.

All I can say is that such recovery takes so much courage and so much work for the worst ever thing would be for the critic to jump in at the most critical stage of healing and cause us one again to sabotage the process.  This is exactly what happened to me in two therapies, the first I started in July 1992 and the second attempt in 2001 and I am reliving that pain as the anniversary of the head smash up accident of 2005 draws close.  It was after this I met with astrologer Melanie Reinhardt and she gave me the gift of Byron Brown’s book a gift I could not open for 12 years.  Ouch and double ouch and triple ouch, but thank God now I can start to get a handle on so much in my own life and psyche that has been for me a permanent stumbling block.

Brown’s book is helping me so much because he brings recognition to a process whereby we can help ourselves by becoming more mindful and recognising too that our soul really is the part of us we most need to connect to in order to heal.  On one level our soul or essence or pure being can never be open to criticism, what flows out of it when our own energy is lovingly received (which happens for so few of us in) should be natural experiences of flow and discharge of essential energies inside of the soul and our inner being.

When all we meet in the outer world from day one is forms of resistance to the flow of our innate energy, hungers and needs which issue from the soul we naturally begin to dam ourselves up with alarming consequences, However later in life we can become more conscious once we learn to tap into who we really are deep inside, that instinctive innate part of which knows how to be and what to do freed of a hundred and one defences of the inner critic we internalised over years, inner voices and judgements which keep us locked up in defensive responses and reactions that keep us trapped and locked up inside.

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.

Disconnection, perfectionism, reconnection

The feeling and imprints of being disconnected, of being in the words of AA “so far from human aid” are so deep and such repetitive themes for me I am realising lately , and that felt sense or inner experience gets triggered at certain times of the day and the two times accompany the times of my accidents : early morning and dusk/early evening which have deeper ancestral echoes of past times of loneliness and disconnection for my Mum.

In these space of disconnection/trauma my energy starts to spin around itself and this is like the trauma vortex Peter Levine shows in one of his books on trauma which cycles inwards and down with repetitive thoughts accompanying of all the ways in which I have fucked up.  What stops it is being able to connect to something or someone true for me outside of myself who hears me and I hear them.

This morning it was a very important post from one of my most valued fellow bloggers, Rayne, on facing her own feelings of suicide and death thoughts   In that post Rayne shared how her connection with her therapist bought her through to the other side.  Before reading this post I felt like I was literally drowning in my own phlegm and at the same time a huge rain shower came with a torrential down pour, I really was in a dark place and it did feel as if I was literally drowning.

I then had a lovely connection from someone new to me who is on a very similar path and reading her blog warmed my soul.

I am aware that this trauma imprint of separation/disconnection/drowning is something my own mother carried,  my dusk/dinner time trigger points were also times she was alone.  And I am learning Mum never helped me know how to nurture myself.  I put all my focus out on trying to engage with a mother who was revolving her energy around her and my father, not me.  Dad didn’t engage with me at this time of day, both engaged with Scotch Whiskey and I am coming to realise more and more how alone I felt and how I could not know how to attach and so in time I started to use alcohol and drugs too.

I am 23 years out of active addiction but I am only just getting a stronger hold on some of my other patterns now.  That is many years of recovery.   I also think my natural difficulty with attaching and engaging with healthy others has at time stymied my recovery.  But reaching out and really connecting is for me a healing balm, for my heart lives to be connected to others and that connection is stronger and healthier when I am connected to myself.

Yesterday I had a far better day due to the fact I connected with three positive people.  I met my cousin for a coffee and our friendship has grown over the past year.  Sadly a legacy of our familial disconnection is that my Dad was so distant with her Dad, my Dad’s younger brother.  We are healing that now and I can talk to her with great honesty about my past and she shares with me her own struggle to be a good parent and get help for her son who has needed assistance to work through some psychological issues.  My cousin is comfortable talking about death, grief and emotions in a way other members of my family are not and that helps me as I naturally express how I feel, it is so essential to me that I can be with others who can also express how they feel and not shy away from emotional matters in the way my family do.

I think one of the reasons I really struggled last week was that on the third anniversary of her death my oldest sister’s name was not mentioned once by any of my family.  I knew they were probably thinking of her, but in our family the deeper, painful issues are shied away from, all hidden under the surface.  We eat and drink over them.

In a way for me now it is okay on one level to recognise this, there is so much pain and trauma in my family that can never be healed.  I am also learning that its not my responsibility to heal it for anyone else.  I think one of the big delusions I carried in my sobriety was that I could and would in some way heal the legacy of mutigenerational alcoholism, trauma and emotional neglect legacy for my family.  I now see that is hubris, the most I can do is work to understand.

The truth is everyone in my family has been affected and few have wanted to acknowledge the roots of it.  I think my brother trying to bring attention to the way Mum treated Dad the other day was all part of him trying to make sense of things and wanting to open up a dialogue but Mum could only leap to a defensive position.  There are much deeper layers to the way my mother developed as a person and most especially developed striving defences of perfectionism and control as a result of the painful empty legacy of her past.  This has reverberated on all of our lives along the generational line, but most especially in the lives of her daughters.  I think my Dad just wanted to relax more, he never could as someone was always pushing him on, his defence was to go AWOL, he didn’t abuse alcohol but used it to take the edge off.

Much as I have had compassion for my Mum, what I do not have compassion for is her not being able at times to say a genuine, ‘sorry’! The amount of times she has allowed us to take the wrap for her bad behaviour and control mechanisms is huge.  My brother the other day was trying to lift the lid on something and Mum wasn’t going to go there.  Maybe she might at a later date.

For myself at the moment though I just need to keep remembering to focus on all of my recovery tools.  I need to start doing more to nurture and nourish the good connections I do have,  they are there, just at times I check the impulse to reach out due to fear.     I also need to stop reaching out to my Mum all the times in hopes of getting the empathy and attention that is so absent.  My Mum is a vey self centred person.  I think a lot of it has to do with having no siblings and zilch emotional attention and nurture.

Thinking about it today I realised fear was actually the underlying emotion that drove my mother.  Fear of not being able to survive materially, fear of not being good enough, this later fear fostered in climate where no one championed or fathered her.  In the absence of that she learned to ‘pull herself together’ and put on a shiny perfect face that hid far deeper insecurities inside.  She pushed and pushed and pushed in an effort to try and perfect us and the home environment but to a point where there was no place of being or rest.  I feel it finally killed my father to be honest.

And sadly my brother as the oldest also learned to push himself and my Dad too, later when they got into business.  My older sister was separate for a time but then tried to come back and push and compete and well and then had her cerebral bleed.  And in the face of all of this, as the youngest I was the observer and my other sister just became the lost child and learned to try and assist the oiling of the family machine.  Is it any wonder she broke down later in life when all of that familial conditioning was trying to dismantle itself?

I can see all of this now and know why my suffering was so strong.  I see why and how I became a substance abuser in my teens and I feel grateful that I could arrest that at age 31 and get sober.  But the real work of recovery began 6 years in and there was so much to feel, heal and work through.

There is so much grief in realising that what we needed and wanted as a child to grow and be nurtured was missing. Its difficult and painful to live with residues of trauma which were a result of emotional neglect that then drove us on to yet more trauma and abuse and neglect.  It is so much to take on board.  But what is most important is that on some level we can express and vocalise our pain, panic or distress, that we can reach for compassion and a deeper understanding, that we can turn around and embrace our wounded self and the wounded selves of others in love.  For if there is a Jesus figure or a Christ or God force in the Universe well isn’t that just about love?  Isn’t that force about understanding our wounds?  Isn’t it about the capacity to bear with suffering and trials in order to gain wisdom and to grow in love? And isn’t it also about learning that when we reach beyond and share our own and other’s truth and pain, connection and healing is born out of endless disconnection, suffering and fear?

And at the end of a lonely road when we find the missing father to be absent, just as Christ did, don’t we then have to grow that father inside?  Isn’t it now our responsibility to be the father we always needed? To find the strong boundaries for self care?  To find the strong voice to cry out or speak up for what is real and true? And to find the power to leave our victim self behind, knowing that past suffering was real but does not have to mean a totally disempowered, disconnected present?

 

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Realisations

I posted this, then took it down.  I then went off line and meditated.  I thought about my Mum and her suffering and how her past multigenerational trauma affected all of us.  I started to cry.  I realised true wisdom essentially comes with forgiveness as it allows us to see deeper than just ego centred thinking mind.  We are part of something far far bigger playing out than so many of us realise.  My own awareness continually morphs into larger dimensions.  I go back forward, in out, higher lower, above beneath, looking upon things from inside out and then outside in, I see my perspective and then consider yours and perhaps consciousness is essentially so fluid in this way.  That said I then post this and may later want to take it down again!

I awoke with so much travelling around my mind this morning.   My brother’s visit stirred up so much about the past, he is only ever here for a really short time, we have to slot into his small windows of opportunity between business meetings as a family to have some time with him and then during his visit yesterday he dropped a clanger on Mum, telling her how hard she was on Dad over many years.  It’s probably true, Mum carried multigenerational survivor trauma of being the adult great grandchild of a pretty heavy alcoholic and she used to be quite anxious and stressed, with the hardwired conditioning to make things more perfect than perfect and control any messy chaos inner or outer that may have served as a too painful reminder of hidden emotional difficulties, traumas and influences unspoken.

Even though she never met her  great grandfather as his grand daughter left New Zealand with my grandmother (Mum’s mum) some time in the 1910s the impact of the struggle to survive against difficulties and separation continued on and has had complex emotional ripple affects right down to today.  All three of us, myself, and my two sisters have been divorced, every single one of us left by our partners.   Two of my sisters have had bi polar diagnoses and I have struggled with alcoholism and other adult child issues.

Last night at dinner my Mum was sharing her grief over all of this trauma as well as her grief over what my brother had said off the cuff about her and Dad.  Mum is on fairly heavy pain meds at the moment after a fractured pelvis and while I know there is truth in what my brother said, he doesn’t know the entire story and nor did he think of or mention the pressure I know he put my father through in the final years of his life after my older sister underwent her stroke, breakdown and abandonment trauma all of which contributed to his stomach cancer along with too much rich food and alcohol.

The other thing that came up last night was that Mum owned the pressure she and my brother put on my father to move from a little house we all lived in as an extended family when I was young.  Dad didn’t want to move, he wasn’t sure we could afford it.  This was the ‘cosy jumper’ house and I cried and cried and cried as a youngster when we moved from it.  What came up this morning was a realisation of the dilemma to move to something better saga of past months that has all played out with Venus retrograde.

I realised mid way through that Dad had the Venus Chiron Pluto T-square which speaks of pressure from bigger outside wills on your own value system and the wounding of that and the exact degrees of this were triggered over that time.   I was thinking this morning of how subconscious things from the past can affect us in ways we don’t even realise at the time.   And sadly I am still in many ways a prisoner of my own lonely childhood at the age of 54, I haven’t got that far from my family, two major relationships have broken up for me in sobriety and now I am alone again.   Its not a complete tragedy the last thing I want to come across as, is a victim, but at times it gets lonely and sad.

What I realised today was how for so many years I have just sat around in a passive state for a lot of the time with all this loneliness kicking around in side but even that is judgemental as my trust was in many ways broken by trauma.  The deeper truth is that it is a long journey of self discovery taken over a very harsh rocky landscape to realise and surrender old defences.  Only after you have gained true awareness can you actually do something about wounds to self.   In truth there was so much affecting me I just did not realise was affecting me so deeply really until now.  My strong connection to my family and the trauma of the years 1979 – 1986 has plagued me in some way well into my sobriety journey which began in 1996, but why wouldn’t it, since that is the nature of trauma?

I realised yesterday that I am not born to be entirely alone.  While there are those on the so called spiritual path that say your emptiness cannot be filled from outside, I am not so sure that that is entirely true.  We actually do need positive, loving connections with us to sustain us.  We do need recognition for what we have suffered, most importantly from ourselves.  No man or woman is truly an island, we don’t get sick in isolation,  most of our wounding and descent into addiction is a result of early trauma or attachment trauma, we are wired to connect to something or someone and if there is no some one we look for something.  The trick is to fill our needs in a healthy rather than an unhealthy way.

In my own life I know I was not helped by those in recovery who had not really healed their own deep attachment trauma who told me I needed to find God alone and could only ever totally rely on a higher power. I know to truly recover we do need a positive loving relationships with a source of deeper substance call it higher self or higher power but we also do need other loving relationships, we just have to be careful we don’t burden earthly human relationships with a huge fund of unmet emotional and spiritual needs that we carry due to our past that may be too much for one human person to really carry or heal for us.

This morning I found myself getting a bit frustrated with my therapist when I was trying to discuss what happened over the past day with her.  She wasn’t saying much and there was a huge empty void space of silence through out most of the time I wasn’t talking.   I felt then how it was to be so small and young and lost in my family with no one much there to see me or hear me or notice me or contain my feelings, nor give me guidance,  I was always it seems foundering alone.  That is why I became a good student and an avid reader I was always looking for wisdom somewhere.  And when the pain of my sister’s trauma struck at home alone on the nights Mum and Dad went to sit by her bedside while she hovered in a liminal state of coma trauma I turned to the cask of red wine on top of the fridge.

Now even after many years in sobriety I need to notice when I turn to things that cannot really give me the comfort I crave.  I can use coffee or other sweet food in this way at times, most especially at times of the day or life that are triggers of past loneliness, memory or pain for me.  Blogging is a positive thing I can do, sitting and tuning into myself and my inner child and deeper feelings about what may be being triggered for me is also important.

I guess over time I am learning more and more.  I am noticing more and more.  I then get to see where I may be making mistakes or missing the mark and get to make adjustments to try and bring myself on a healthier track emotionally and physically.

Today its bleak cold and overcast, and so I will need to move towards connection and warmth.  I think I will also start going back to some group meetings as I need to be connecting more with people in recovery who operate and look at things on a deeper level, and while blogging does help its not as good at times as actually being able to connect to warm bodies face to face.

The trauma history in my family is not going away.  It doesn’t really even matter who was ‘to blame’ anymore, as I feel the real important thing is that we learn to live peacefully today and work together to connect and give understanding for mistakes that may have happened in the past due to other’s wounds and ignorance.  That said the power of apology and the deeper recognition of where wounds have played out helps us better than defences or denial to ground into emotional truth.  We often face defences and denial when we try to confront a painful family of origin and its issues.  When we do, we can only show compassion and work to keep close to our truth and set our boundaries where they are needed in order to nourish our deeper emotional and spiritual life.  This is what I feel I am have been trying to do, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.  Sometimes I float around in confusion, and at other times a spark of understanding will appear from behind clouds obscure, that I guess is at heart the ongoing nature of growth in awareness in life and recovery.

When things ‘look’ bad : some thoughts on perception and mindfulness!

Head stream

I am thinking about perception today.  What it is that makes some of us see sunshine and rainbows while others heads are full of clouds and storms even when the sun is shining.   I seem to have a state of mind in which things can become negative.  I am no fan of false ‘positivity’.  I actually think it can be very damaging to be told you need to look on the positive side of a very damaging, abusive or heart breaking situation and yet there is usually some kind of silver lining if you are not totally inundated by negative experiences and abuse which, after all, is where so many of us find ourselves at the start of a hard healing journey.

If friends or emotional support or a good validation are absent it can become even harder.  In my own case I have seen a very entrenched suicidal depression lighten over the past few years as my connections with positive, connected and validating people have grown, still at times I also battle inner forces and perceptions that focus on decay and the dark side, particularly when I am alone in my home.  It can seem as though decay surrounds me, that I am not ‘keeping on top of things’ as others do.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to have things looking good and I am also aware at times that I do get pulled into addictive bad habits which is when a positive inner parent needs to step in to nurture and take care of my wounded inner child in more loving ways.

Wounded child is not a great place to spend heaps of my time if love isn’t being given in some ways to make things better, and so often that love has to come from inside me in terms of my self talk.   But its a fine line between imposing positive self talk and being able to be with what is arising when it is painful and difficult while giving it space without allowing the ‘bad’ to dominate my consciousness.   These days I spend less time in these states and encourage myself to see if there is some kind of positive solution, something I can do to ease the loneliness and pain or the negative thoughts when they can begin to dominate especially those thoughts are being driven my other thoughts that are perfectionistic in nature.  And I guess at base this is practicing a kind of mindfulness around my inner thought processes while tapping into a more loving, nurturing witness being inside that can raise rather than lower my vibration.

I notice the critical negative thoughts seem to be triggered for me when I return home to my house alone after being out.   The inner critic is so powerful at these times that I nearly lose consciousness of the ‘good’.  I guess becoming aware of this pattern is the most important thing for me, for once I can see and name it : that is the first step towards making a change.

I was thinking today of how helpless and passive and hopeless I used to feel in my life.  I truly felt I had no power. It was such a terrible place to live and when I see it in others my heart aches for there are people out there in situations where their power has been stolen and there is not a lot of support.  I can’t afford to have a Pollyanna view of these situations of real suffering such as the plight of refugees on Manus Island.  Seeing these kinds of situations can put my own into perspective. The lonely tough days can be hard but there is usually something I can do and some way to comfort myself.  Today I reminded myself that the things that sometimes look ‘bad’, are not really.  A bit of mess or broken things lying around is not ‘bad’ : the feeling that it is all comes out of my conditioning.  Mindfulness reminds me of a different perspective, one that can build me up rather than tear me down inside.

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.

Working with the inner critic to help depression

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I have just been reading part of a post on what it feels like to go through one of the so called ‘bad days’ of depression and it was hard to keep reading.  I know that depressed place so well and most especially the depressed place which is a result of being beaten up by the terrorist/destroyer/inner critic inside that wants to lay everything we are and do to waste and can see nothing at all positive in us.  I am losing tolerance for living in that place these days.  I am sick to death of my own beat up am very grateful that I am getting a an increasing insight into how and why my own savage inner critic has operated in the past.

I want to share in some of my upcoming blogs about a method of working to understand the Inner Critic in such a way that we can befriend it and develop an insight into its deeper purpose in our life and I think this centres all around the issue of shame and judgement which seems to be so endemic to our present culture in the west.

Many of us have know shame, most definitely many of us who suffer or have suffered from depression.  We are all too familiar with how it feels to be not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, just not enough in anyway.  How very sad it is that we are conditioned in and by this culture to believe this of ourselves from a very young age.  And the truth is this kind of criticism may not always be triggered by outer voices but it may be triggered too by being left all alone at a young and tender age when we didn’t have the power to make sense of deeper feelings and emotions.  The critic within us may have grown larger in this void and begun to tell us all kinds of things.

According to Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss authors of Freedom from your Inner Critic : A Self Help Approach the inner critic can adopt 7 common forms:

  1. The Perfectionist.  That part of you that tries to get you to do all things perfectly and shames you if you don’t.
  2. The Inner Controller.  The part of you that tries to control impulsive or indulgent behaviour, shaming you if you fall short of its control.
  3. The Taskmaster.  That part of you that wont let you rest but just gets you to work or try harder and harder often in line with impossible standards.
  4. The Underminer.  That part of you that tries to undermine your sense of self value and self esteem, pulling the rug out from under you when you try to take positive steps  (I guess this could also be called the Saboteur.)
  5. The Destroyer. This part remorselessly attacks your sense of self worth, shaming you and telling you should not be yourself, it wipes out your sponteniety and vitality.
  6. The Guilt Tripper.  Attacks you for past action taken or not taken, never lets you forgive yourself or allows you to be human and make mistakes.
  7. The Moulder.  Tries to mould you into a shape that may have nothing to do with who you really are, or with your true talents.

When these different manifestations of the Inner Critic are explored and understood more deeply it appears that what they are actually doing is stepping in to protect you in certain ways for example from judgement or rejection.   Maybe if you can just be perfect enough others won’t abandon, betray or let you down.  The critic may be aiming for approval from some outside source in the hopes that such approval will leave you in a better place and it may, some of the critics goals can be valid.  The critic may also be trying to prevent you from being hurt, shamed or attacked by others for similar reasons to the above.

Understanding the true motivations of the Inner Critic helps us into a better place where we can understand what it is trying to do.  From this vantage point we can open to explore some of the fears and insecurities of our inner child that we absorbed and swallowed wholesale and which now lead us to stay locked in a trapped cycle of self sabotage, criticism and self blame.

The authors explain that when the critic shames our inner child that child becomes not its true self but instead the criticised child or the scared child.  It is this child punished from within that holds the key to our depression and feelings of low self worth.

When a Critic is trying to protect us, it is really trying to protect one of our wounded inner child parts.  (called exiles in Inner Systems Therapy due to the fact they are forced out of consciousness to keep us from feeling their pain).

When we can find ways to stick up for and protect the inner child from our inner critic’s attacks we are in a better position to overcome old patterns of depression and self abnegation.  However this involves feeling the real pain of the wounded, criticised, shamed or scared child parts that in childhood overpowered us and led us to patterns of self criticism.

In the work which the authors outline a conversation is opened up between the self in us and the attacker or critic.  We ask that part of us to explain its motivation.  Once we are aware of this motivation our attitude to the Critic will change and often the attacker or critic becomes smaller in our consciousness due to the fact its voice is being heard.  The work then shifts towards understanding the inner child parts of us which got exiled and damaged.  It is this exile and damage that leads us to feelings of depression and suicidal ideation.

A more detailed coverage of this work with the Inner Critic is to be found in the rest of the book and is too comprehensive to outline fully here.  I feel it provides a powerful antidote to living with the ongoing legacy of depression and pain that the critic causes in us.  When we are depressed it is almost certain we deep in criticised or shamed child  (in depression that is an outcome of inner alienation, rather than in a depression caused by or as a reaction to some kind of loss.)    I wanted to share it with you today as it really appears to be a powerful way of working proactively to heal ourselves from within.

The best that we can do.

When you get caught between the moon and New York City

The best that you can do is fall in love.

These lyrics were running through my mind as I worked in the garden this morning, tidying up after the spring rush of flowers, with weeds running rampant through the flower beds and pavement.  I have found a lot of joy over the past few months revisiting old songs from the 70s when I was an adolescent growing up just before or after my car accident put a violent tear through my life.  And one of my favourites is Sailing by Christopher Cross.  It transports me to a summer place of freedom and possibility and so after listening to it over and over on You Tube I got a copy of his album from the library and was listening to it on Sunday and the lyrics above, from Arthur’s Theme have been running through my brain for the past few days.

I find I often start to get stressed in the garden which should be the last thing to happen in such a calm green space.  I see all the mess and how far my garden falls short of some kind of ideal and then my thoughts tend to become negative.  I work hard these days to pull myself back,  one I must remember not to over do it and forget to eat (I hadn’t had breakfast before hand) and two I have to watch this stress dialogue that comes over me.  At that point I heard the lyrics that start this post in my head.  I reminded myself that this imperfection is in some way perfectly imperfect,  its perfect for me.  I am doing my best, things don’t really look as bad as they seem to when I focus on the details.  And because I love a house in which I can be close to an older time where there is wood and green and a cottagey feel around me I shouldn’t compare that to the manicured perfection of other gardens in my neighbourhood.  When I look at the flaws and faults I don’t see the real truth of things and my focus on the negative corrupts the pleasure of what I do have and what I can do to make things better if I need to.

I came in after the gardening to receive a text.  It was from my friend in recovery and in the text he was apologising and accusing himself of having been selfish for not having been in touch, I had given him a lot of emotional support when he was visiting his family a few weeks ago.  I personally thought he was being too hard on himself.  I thought of how he speaks all the time of his so called ‘defects of character’ and I am sure that he is not perfect but after reading his text and then reflecting on the issue of co-dependency I also thought about how one of the key characteristics of those of us who do become co-dependent or disconnected from our true self and locked in a shame bound view is an excessive focus on our defects.  Due to our shame we seem to end up putting so much emphasis on the ways we fall short and not enough of a focus on our good qualities.  I was wondering how much of this is the result of being caught up in a compulsive self improvement culture where everything is supposed to be clean, efficient, functioning optimally and sorted out with no cracks or kinks anywhere.

Its a stressful place to live and it creates an inner landscape not of comfort, relaxation and self soothing but one of discomfort, tension and inner grating and self flagellation.

It is important to know that we are not perfect and that there are ways we can heal and grow to become more at peace with life, with our inner and outer worlds.  But I do believe that this kind of change is more likely to happen in place where we create a sense of self value as the foundation or resting place upon with this other change can happen.  Do we really need to be so hard on ourselves and others?  Can we cut ourselves and others some slack?

It was lovely to hear from my friend and know he was thinking about me but the last thing I want is a relationship founded on someone’s guilt that they are selfish.  It is important to think of others, but we also need to take care of our own life.  I wasn’t caring for him just so he could show me care in return, although that would be nice,  I was caring for him because I could empathise with how it feels to be in a similar place and to remind him of how his strict religious background has left him with inner shame that still dogs his thoughts and beliefs.  I don’t say that directly but when he is not loving to himself I try to lovingly point it out, as I am increasingly learning to do with myself when I see myself getting stuck in shame, blame and self criticism.

 Today is a very hot day here and Jasper and I are now inside resting in the cool while the gardeners mow the lawns for us.  We are taking it easy and focusing on getting help so that its not so overwhelming to look after things on our own.  I am getting stronger and wiser now and part of that is reaching out and asking for help when I get too overwhelmed, its part of loving myself, seeing I always do my very best and that shame and self flagellation serves no useful purpose.  It only functions to rob me of life, joy and serenity.