Why self compassion helps us more than ‘self esteem’

Self esteem in later years has been touted as the be all and end all to good mental health and raising healthier children, but is it really, or in our focus on raising self esteem are we really teaching that the true basis of self worth, (which involves acceptance of the fact we cannot always be the biggest or ‘best’ someone) lies in becoming more outer directed and narcissistic rather than inwardly compassionate and empathetic to our own and other’s common humanity which involves a spectrum of all kinds of achievement and non achievement?

It’s a question I have been thinking about, now midway through Christine Neff’s book on self compassion.   She explains how self esteem is often about feeling that our worth is based on measurable things or behaviour, rather than intrinsic sense not only of our own worthiness but of our limitations and foibles as well.  If we think we need to perform in certain ways in order to raise our self esteem and be considered ‘worthy’, accepted or deserving we end up becoming quiet  outwardly oriented, rather than a inwardly focused in sense of  inward security.    We can also become less compassionate.

In counter balance to this self compassion enables us to embrace the whole of our selves even when we may fail to reach goals or act in certain ways not associated with high self esteem.  Self compassion enables us to embrace ourselves in the tough moments and surround ourselves in a blanket of care when we may feel sore or hurting.

The three foundations of self compassion, according to Neff are :

  1. Self kindness.   A sense of being gentle with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgemental.   Finding ways to self soothe and tap into what Neff calls ‘the mammalian – system’.  Doing this has been proven by research to raise oxytocin levels (the hormone of love and bonding) which also raises feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness while helping us feel warmth and compassion for ourselves.  In contrast habits of self-criticism have been shown to trigger the amygdala and raise our blood pressure, adrenaline and production of the stress hormone cortisol, in turn activating our fight flight brain.  Self criticism also lights up different areas in our brain increasing our stress levels.  Self kindness and self soothing is demonstrated by saying kind soothing things to ourselves in times of stress.  This is really hard right now.  I am with you.   This will hurt for a while but in time the hurt will pass.  It involves tuning in with awareness to how you are feeling or being triggered at that moment, what you are observing, what you are needing and what you require.  When we are not being kind we ignore or dismiss these things maybe because that is what we learned to do as kids due to emotional abandonment, disconnection or neglect.   Working to change inwardly critical self talk is also a huge part of this first component of self compassion.
  2. Recognition of our common human experience.  So often in grief or depression a huge part of our suffering relates to the feeling that we are so deeply alone in this experience and so very far from human aid or care.  This may on many levels be the truth of how it was for us as children in homes where there was not much emotional care or presence or if we are trapped in relationships with non empathic, abusive people.   Post traumatic stress and complex PTSD can also make us feel so alone and terrified at the same time, terrified to reach out only to be hurt again.   We may feel that unlike the rest of the world we are less than or not entitled to care, concern or belonging, when really the truth is that others also struggle with these same feelings as us and we are all worthy of care love and concern.  Such feelings of isolation can then go along with the development of globally negative views about humanity and the state of things.  While it is true that there is so much suffering in the world, the truth is that there is care and kindness too.  However part of a deeply depressive non self compassionate mindset is that we are alone in this, we keep our focus only on the negative as well as those things that hurt, we fail to trust and reach out and understand our interconnectedness and in this state of mind our focus on bad feelings grows.  On the other hand when we realise we are part of a wider humanity in which suffering is an intrinsic part of life we develop more radical acceptance and are more likely to take steps to improve things at the same time as being fully aware of the global nature of suffering.  In reaching out to share or care we move past our disconnection or deep feelings of not belonging.
  3. Mindfulness In self compassion practice mindfulness refers to the clear seeing and non-judgemental acceptance of what occurs in the present moment, including our so called ‘negative’ or difficult states of mind and being.  To give ourselves compassion we have to notice that we are suffering rather than be reacting to our suffering by distancing and dissociating (all of which we cannot notice when we are not being mindful).  “We often fail to recognise feelings of guilt, defectiveness, sadness, loneliness, and so on, as moments of suffering that can be responded to with compassion….When your boss calls you into his office and tells you that your job performance is below par, is your first instinct to comfort yourself?… probably not.”   Being conditioned to ignore our pain, according to Neff means that we are physiologically programmed to avoid it. “Because of our tendency to turn away from pain, it can become extremely difficult to turn toward our pain, to hold it, to be with it as it is. ” When we do this we shut ourselves off from our true emotions and we also lose our ability to learn at a deeper level about the deeper nature of our experience and reactions.  In mindfulness we develop the ability to turn toward our pain, suffering or other bodily sensations becoming aware of them while not exaggerating them.  For example, we can become aware when an emotion such as anger is occurring for us by noticing we are clenching our jaw, feeling heat rise in our body,  feeling a desire to lash out.  In her book Neff gives the example of a man who endured long term emotional abandonment by his mother.  His therapy involved becoming aware of his acceptable anger without lashing out or acting it out in rage on his mother.  With the use of mindfulness as well as the loving presence of his therapist he was able to feel and understand the basis of his anger and become attentive to what it was saying.  He was also in time able to see how his mother’s abandonment was not necessarily associated with a lack of love for him but was due to her doing what she thought was necessary.  He was able to share his real feelings with his mum in such a way that he expressed them, rather than depressed them and they were heard.  Mindfulness was central to this process.  “We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full.”  (Marcel Proust, quoted on P. 118 of Self Compassion)

Mindful ways of working with pain are shared in detail in chapter 5 of Christine Neff’s book, which I highly recommend, she also goes in to more detail about the two other basics of self compassion I have shared in this post.  I have been using a lot of the self compassion practices myself lately,  I used them today when I went for my yearly breast cancer follow up screen check and I was able to calm myself when the therapist left the room for a long tme leaving me alone after telling me I may have a cyst in my breast.

I do believe that self compassion in my own case is far more important to me than high self esteem.  Self compassion gives me a way to be with what is occurring in love and acceptance.  It helps me understand myself and others better.  It is a practice I am very grateful to have found.  It is a practice I want to share more about in upcoming posts.

Self compassion helps us to understand that we are lovable as we are, even if we don’t achieve big things, it teaches us that its okay not to be perfect, to mess up and make mistakes.  It isn’t an excuse for bad behaviour but it is a way of allowing ourselves to soften and go more gently not only with ourselves but also with our fellow humans as we recognise how much we all struggle in the earthly sphere of life where there is often suffering and things are far from ideal and perfect.  It can also encourage to keep growing and be kind in that process rather than self punishing.

Separating : birthing : integrating

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Its such a tough journey to finally get to the point where we have to let our families go in order to birth the true life and connections that exist outside of its circumscribed limits.  Therapy and emotional healing is a process of both coming to terms with and integrating all of the formative experiences of our past, as well as the deeper hurts and injuries that happened to us in our family of origin.   Many of us battle for a long time against accepting harsh realties most especially if we were wounded or suffered developmental arrests and lost access to our True Self within over many years.  Abandonment gives us no way of accessing the truth of the lost self except through pain which is challenging to feel and integrate, especially in a society where pain is seen as a pathology or illness to be medicated instead of mined for wisdom, growth, connection and meaning.

In my own case a developmental arrest occurred at 17 when I should have been on the brink of opening up and launching.  I was cut down by an accident and then in the 6 years that followed the following traumas occurred : the cerebral bleed, coma and eventual psychosis of my older sister, her eventual abandonment and suicide attempt, two terminations of pregnancy and then my father’s death from cancer.  After my boyfriend broke the relationship off with me just a few weeks after my father died and cancelled our plans to meet abroad, something I had been working and saving towards for over 18 months my mother then decided it was best to push me overseas all alone.

How I was meant to cope with everything I had suffered to that point God only knows. And the truth is its deeper suffering was not even begun to be felt by me for about 14 more years.  I call those the years of unconscious descent, as 7 of them involved active addiction and the next 7 were just spent in AA meetings where it was really not possible to address the extent of my damage.   In 1999 I made my first attempt at therapy and here it is 18 years later and I only feel that I have now done the majority of my conscious descent, which had involved a lot of therapy and broken therapies in order to find the right help.

I only now feel that I am beginning to separate from my family emotionally.  The paradox is that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the suffering fully, in fact I feel it means I feel it at the deepest level as I have chosen not to self medicate as much as possible.  At times I have been very close to suicide, most especially in the past 6 years spent back here in my home town.  I beat myself up all the time about how I didn’t have the courage to move away and deal with it from a distance.  Maybe it was partly the illusion of the inner child pulling me back making me believe that in some way I would get what I wanted emotionally or at least be able to address the pain with family.  That illusion has caused me a lot of emotional suffering and has cost me years and the pain over all that lost life honestly on some days nearly drives me to want to take my life.  It is taking a long time for adult me to emerge and front up, and face the death of those old longings which I see now are not realistic and never were really.  There is a lot of grieving to be done in the shedding and the letting go and fear I am becoming aware does accompany the conscious descent that is asked of us.  In fact I read many years ago that poet Robert Bly spoke of how depression is a refusal on some level often to surrender to deeper grief work.  Only through it do we reunite with the lost child in side who holds so much of our power and inner gold, although often when we find him or her, he or she is most often covered in soot and ashes, this unparented one who is often also a part of our parents’ unconscious.

Anyway I am certainly not alone in facing this kind of pain in midlife.  My journey is made more complex due to two near death traumas which pulled me back when I was on the brink of what should have been a blossoming and emerging or burgeoning time.  My studies suffered in the years following my first accident as I also struggled with the terrible impact of witnessing what my older sister went through.  I was forced by my father at that point into a career I hated and it wasn’t until just before I got sober that I tried to break out of that but addiction wouldn’t let me move too far forward and at that time even more traumas and losses had piled on top of the original ones.

I eventually did manage to do some training in wholistic therapies and managed to secure myself a few jobs in an industry that was more to my liking but I hadn’t yet done my inner work, instead I chose to escape into marriage.   In those years I got sober and started then to really explore my interest in astrology and in 2001 managed to achieve a dream to study at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London which I aborted when my older sister who was now in a care home hit the wall. I also started serious therapy in 1999 in the UK but mid way through I had a powerful dream that an dark African woman had given birth to a baby who died just after its first birthday.  About a year and a half into therapy I aborted to come back home.  In the dream the deep sad eyes of the woman shone as she told me it was a necessary death.

And so it has been.  Death and more death followed.  The ending of marriage, another accident and then another, another relationship and the failing of that and my eventual return to the roots of my home and then a new start in therapy, the suicide attempt of my other sister, five hospitalisations for her for depression which I tried to give emotional support through and then the death of my older sister in 2014 and reconnection with my nephews her sons who were like my long lost brothers.

Wiser energy comes now on a spring afternoon where shadows begin to fall telling me it was all a part of the journey. Why beat myself up?  Will I ever fully leave my family behind?  They were the womb I was born out of but not the place that I am meant to end up but individuation is a journey and its not an easy birth to go through it all and in so many ways my own life is both a continuation of my ancestors life as well as a working out of issues and burdens and tasks they perhaps never got to complete fully which call to me from deep within intercellular tissue, at least that is how it feels for me. Even the ones I never met call to me and I feel their pain and deeper longing to be known and recognised, no longer so lost, exiled or forgotten, fallen deep down into the collective unconscious ocean like stones.  Possibly all configured by my natal Neptune in the third trine to Chiron in Pisces in the seventh more than I could ever fully express in words here.

So much to navigate and not all of it artificial imagining I am sure.  So I continue on some days weighed down so deep by a burden I never chose, but then on other days rising again with a new energy and power that has come from facing and surrendering myself body and soul to the deepest darkness.  So much is a mystery that is all I know.  So many unseen forces play out for us and we can never fully hope to solve the puzzle with our minds but if we still enough at times we hear the inner voice or call telling us things.  Our personal and ancestral soul trying so hard to make its authentic individual voice and inner purpose known.

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Finding connection through disconnection after trauma

Some people just get us.  Some people are an energy of love that you can just feel.   When you are with them your heart opens and you feel your energy lift.  They don’t subtly or so unsubtly invalidate you or put you down.  When you have not known this kind of pure love and open heartedness it can be so easy to distrust.  And we sensitive ones do need to be careful at times who we open up to as a lot of people may blame or shame us.  But still I do think there are also those out there who recognise our high sensitivity.

I often wonder how much less sensitive we may have been in a better or more self protective way if this side of us was seen, acknowledged or valued earlier on.  Traumatic things hit us hard and Peter Levine, the trauma expert makes the point that how we are treated immediately after trauma affects how well we recover.  In my own case I was on the other side of the world so far from family support when my second trauma hit and I escaped there as to be around their energy felt violent emotionally to me.  After the accident I struggled to find a safe space then freaked out and came back home.  It was a night mare.

I retreated alone and then got into a relationship with someone who brutalised me when I showed grief.  I justified how he treated me and kept going back because I did not know I needed more.  I was not kind to myself and had never learned really to value who I was and my capacity to feel.  I put down alcohol and smoking at 31 as I really wanted to live in a kinder way but that was just the beginning of understanding how the energies of others around me affected me and how I was responding.  As I look back over the past six years of being back near family I see I have struggled to maintain my own boundaries and self care with all the other traumas that followed especially the attempted suicide of my other sister.

Not one family member has chose to do any emotional work at all.  I try to point things out but it is often like trying to lead a horse to water.  And I am beginning to see that by myself I suffer in a family at times where feelings and sensitivities have to be so hidden and that is physically so repressed and non demonstrative.  I see how my living sister uses exercise herself to connect in the absence of the love and holding that is really needed.  These days I only see one or two friends who I can really connect with and often I think my body is suffering and crying out for holding care and love.  Maybe it is time for me to start to seek out some kind of touch therapy and holding, I have been considering Reiki.

I have often come to grief with holding therapies.  I had the accident after a session of cranio sacral.  The second time I tried it I freaked out with the therapist and she shamed and invalidated me so much I left, letting someone into your body when you have suffered traumas to it and violations of it is fraught with peril and such big feelings but at the moment I think it may help to release some of what my tissues have had to hold so deep inside over past years.

I am sharing about this today and the synchronicity with astrology is that today Mercury is in the body ruled sign of Virgo which relates to earth mother and is coming up to oppose natal Chiron in the seventh which is all my wounds in relationships from the past and maybe that is healing now as on WordPress I now seem to have made so many good connections with people who truly validate and understand.   It helps me to write about all of this and what others post really prompts and awakens my own healing.  In this way I make connections in all kinds of ways and that is the work of Mercury who travels and links us.  Today I as I was walking I was imagining the entire world as a web of interconnected energies.  Who we meet with and connect with on any day has such a powerful impact on us for good or ill and surely there people out there who we could really gel with but just never get to meet.  In any case here is where I get to share and pour out the way I feel and I am so grateful for that.

Friends with your shadow : on fear

It seems for many of us who undergo pain or difficulty the transformative encounter with our own shadow is an essential part of our awakening journey.  I am called to write about this subject today after picking up a beautiful book by Deepak Chopra called The Deeper Wound : Recovering the Soul from Fear and Suffering.  And my reflections on fear were also prompted after listening to a radio programme on the subject this morning which reminded me to pick up the book.

I would like to share here three of the 100 meditations that Deepak writes in the middle of the book.  The book was actually written just shortly after the experience of 9/11 in America and was his response to the massive level of fear and suffering that the terrorist attacks awakened.  Astrologers know that at that time a major opposition of two very strong planetary energies Pluto and Saturn was taking place.  Saturn in astrology rules, boundaries, defences and fears, also the ring pass not we often erect to hide from us the deeper Plutonian feelings which can include intense feelings of grief, sadness, powerlessness, obsession, a lust for control or rage often prompted by a deeper wound (thus the title of the book).  Pluto rules what becomes hidden and then persists and exerts a powerful hold – thus its association to the shadow.  But it also deals with transformation in and through facing and making friends with our dark side.

It seems to me that fear is one of the shadow energies in our lives that we need to learn to face and deal with, for often fear is feared and fear of fear means we can and do project it onto others who the split ego judges to be ‘not like me’ and therefore a necessary target for anger, rage or judgement.  We struggle with our fears and don’t often quite know what to do with them and in this situation fear becomes anger and defensiveness or it becomes a paralysing anxiety that is diffuse, generalised and non specific.  And such fear can plague us.

Fear is a large subject but I hope these readings speaks to you, as they did to me today.  When I read something this powerful that really makes me think I like to share it.

I ask my shadow self to emerge 

This is the first step of healing it

.. we are all aware of having dark impulses, which include hatred, fear and aggression.  These impulses arise from our unconscious and our normal response is to keep them there.  We push the dark side out of sight, yet it doesn’t go away.  It seeks expression as all energies will.  Healing isn’t possible when dark energies are kept bottled inside.  To being healing, invite the shadow self back into your awareness.  This isn’t the same as acting out rage or terror or revenge.  You are only sending the message that you are no longer shunning the shadow self : you are acknowledging its right to exist

My shadow self is serving me 

I am grateful for that

This affirmation is about repression.  Your shadow self has gained the energy to frighten you because you are repressed it.  But the shadow doesn’t see itself as the enemy.  It sees itself as your guardian.  It protects you by holding onto those energies that belong to you even though you feel guilty and ashamed of them.  Guilt made you turn to suppression as a solution.  Shame makes you not want to look or listen when these energies call out.  Because the shadow energies got pushed out of sight, they never had a chance to show you their hidden spiritual message.  This message was for your growth, and thanks to the shadow self, who has held these old forgotten experiences, you can revisit them.  As the shadows of fear, rage, terror, and revenge return, you need only see them and understand.  As soon as you do they will deliver their message and then go.  This is the whole process of healing the shadow self.

I ask the dark energies to teach me

This affirmation is about facing fear.  Like the shadow self, your fear doesn’t see itself as harming you.  It, too, believes that it is a safeguard.  Stored in everyone’s memory are past experiences of terror.  By reminding you of those feelings, fear is trying to protect you from repeating the traumas of the past.  As long as you push down your fear, you will nor be able to receive it as an ally.  By the same token, you cannot just act on the basis of fear.  At a soul level you see no need for fear, because you don’t need protecting.  Living in the now poses no threat, and therefore referring to the past serves no purpose.  It is safe to go into your fear and ask it where it came from and what it wants you to know.  Having seen the world from its perspective, reassure yourself that the soul needs no guardian.  Learn from fear, heal it, and ask it to leave.

So often when we keep the door locked on our fear or tell ourselves we shouldn’t have it we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.  If we can really face our fear, know the situations from the past that gave birth to it and make peace with these events we can know that there was at one time a very real threat that caused us terror.   It may be difficult to feel that we are safe now but if we deny our fear we don’t really get that chance or opportunity to give up old defences that no longer serve us and keep us blocked, trapped and driven by fear.

Trauma and silence

The following is partly verbatim extract from the video of Diane Langberg’s talk on trauma I reblogged earlier, and partly some of my own thoughts interspersed.  We so badly need to speak about our trauma and be understood, heard and validated.  The paradox is that so much of trauma is hard to articulate at first, our body carries a hidden burden that often is so difficult to give form and substance to, but it is so important that we try.

Trauma silences human beings partly because there are no words to really describe what that was a like.  It brings emotional darkness, isolation because you feel like nobody cares or even if they did they wouldn’t understand,  it makes time stand still because we get so lost in what happened we cannot see ahead we have lost hope

Trauma heals through : talking :  tears:  time.

When somebody does not talk when all of that is shut down they are broken emotionally (and deeply wounded in a wordless space).  People often will not talk because the pain is so great they cannot find the words. Or they talk over and over again not touching the real deep place.  To remain silent is to fail to honour the event, the memory.  (It is so hard to find the words…. words are often so inadequate when it comes to trauma. After a major trauma in the beginning often there are no words.  (Can we ever really explain what trauma is as it goes into the body?  The body knows!)   Dance it! Draw it!

To recover from trauma we must find a way to live in the truth and not pretend.  Minimising trauma, saying it didn’t hurt, should not hurt or leave lasting effects is wrong.  That is silencing.

Talking says I am here I am alive and for people with trauma that is a huge step.  Most of all letting someone talk or being there for them shows you have ‘care for their broken heart’.

Most especially sometimes what really helps is to sit in silence with the person.  Join with them in the darkness.  Let them know by your presence they are not alone in it.

Most important is gaining power over trauma by learning to tell the story. At first trauma will come out in fragments that slowly have to be pieced together.  Telling and being listened to restores the interpersonal bridge broken in and through trauma.  It CONNNECTS us to others and to our trauma.  When we are believed our trauma is validated.

Thank you so much Broken Blue Sky for sharing Diane’s video with me.  She speaks of things I did with my sister who died and never got free of her deepest traumas, but how could she.  I often just sat with her and held her hand.  How often I have wished someone was there to do that with me.  🙂

 

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.

Raw

I wrote this prose/poem last Saturday, my critic said it was too raw badly written and not easily relatable.  Going through drafts I will post it.  I struggled to find an appropriate image.  If any of my followers have an inspiration for an image I would love to hear it.

Every part of my flesh is on fire today

And I felt like my skin had been dissolved

In this liquid fire of pain

Which is old trauma and memories revisited

As  you remind me

Sharing that pain with others

Can retrigger trauma

Then I was made numb to truths

That burned so deep inside

So much of my trauma lies submerged

And when triggers come the pain burns and burns

Stripping away psychic skin and flesh

Leaving my lower lip burnt and raw

The feeling of being so alone

Never mirrored

Affirmed held or seen

Stays with me deep in my soul

Like an invisible wound

Or a deep empty well of emptiness and sorrow

Once we awaken to the truth

Of what our child had to bear

There must be a turning point

Yesterday I felt I travelled back

To that underworld place

And it was hard to believe that my soul survived

Living without that psychic skin

Perhaps over the past few days

It has peeled back again

To reveal truth and feelings

I was not strong enough to feel and realise before

It felt like bathing in ice and fire

My eyes burned and my nose stung

With all the shedding

Hours spend writhing around

Trying to dislodge the splinter of pain

That is only softened by tears

And deeper recognition

Living without skin

It really hurts

Your tenderness and soothing

 Your understanding is a balm to me

A salve

It cannot take the raw pain away

But it helps me make enough sense of it

So that I can open to the flames

And allow the trauma to work its way through

Body and soul

Mars Chiron : awakening old wounds for healing and care

Chiron

Apologies to those who get sidelined by astrological symbolism, but when I read the monthly astrology on Lua Astrology’s website last night where astrologer Lea Whitehorse spoke of the Mars Chiron square to become exact on June 2, suddenly the deep pain I was in over the weekend made sense.  Prior to this we have  also  been experiencing Mars opposite Saturn which is not the easiest of transits.  Mars represents our self assertion or self expression, the soul desire for forward movement and action from heartfelt or imperative need and when it meets Saturn we experience deep frustrations, blocks or no go areas, alternatively we may have to slow down, mature and look for different options and so adjust our desires and need for movement or expression.  Its painful.

I have the aspect in my birth chart and I can tell you that since I have been young trying to express and go after what my soul and heart desires has been problematic to the degree that in childhood I began to subvert my true needs and desires.   I also have Moon with Mars and Saturn and we were raised in a very duty bound house when I was growing up.  Life was intensely serious, my mother was either elsewise engaged and trying to keep everything running perfectly or overworking and was then exhausted to the point any fun or mess or natural chaos caused an angry reaction or was a drain.  My parents fun times involved a lot of older adults and drinking or going out on the boat which I abhorred.  I was happiest on the beach with my surfboard growing up.

This authoritarian, dogged, do the right thing side of me often squashes the fun part.  My ‘fun’ later in life involved alcohol and drugs and these are not enriching pass times, they drain life and energy and leave one with a hangover and even more disconnected, or at least they did in my case.  So it is interesting that this aspect coincided with getting together with old drinking buddies from that time of my life and being faced with a huge brick wall of deep pain and hurt from the past.  I opened up my wound with them late on Friday night shortly before we were due to go home when they were already on about their 6th glass of champagne.

I know I am so lucky to be sober.  I was in deep pain over the weekend but I did my best to sit with it and feel it and affirm myself for feeling it.   The Chiron wounding part though is that it brought back to me the ways I have felt imprisoned or caged by a dark past I am trying my best to break free of.  In her commentary on this aspect currently Lea Whitehorse, UK based astrologer made the point that being opened to wounds at this time would draw our attention to the need for better self protective boundaries.  This rang true for me and dovetailed with what I wrote yesterday in one of my posts.

Chiron was a centaur in mythology who got wounded in the Achilles heel with by a poisoned arrow left lying around in the Hydra’s den after one of the Hydra’s battles, probably with the Gorgon.  The poison on the arrow going into Chiron in a vulnerable place (and heels or ankles ground our feet and contain tendons that help us to move forward or get away from damaging situations) relates on a psychological level to wounds we encounter by accident or just in the course of life that may leave a poison inside us or paralyse forward movement and faith in life and goodness.  We do not necessarily bring them on ourselves (though we often make them worse by the way we react).  In the myth Chiron’s wound is incurable and acts as a wisdom or insight builder into internal wounds, difficulties, challenges and psychology.  Chiron spends a lot of time helping others and birthing creative visions from the wounds but he never heals and if he did, come to think of it his purpose would be done.

So reflecting on it Chiron Mars times bring those times when we face deep wounds or watch them re-enacted and have to learn strategies to be with them in ways that don’t make the poison or pain inside worse.  Then yesterday when I wrote a little post about the pleasure of finding myself in a lovely present moment free of body and soul pain which I did not post but will today, I was thinking about Echardt Tolle’s concept  of the pain body and how that related to how I was feeling over the weekend.  The wound inside me from the past and due to 5 broken relationships could possibly be healed or eased in a new one, but the pain of aloneness on some of the dark days is hard when I don’t sit with my wounds and be my own best friend, finding ways to self soothe and come to think of it I really experience a paralysed ankle on those days when getting out can in fact be a necessary distraction that helps ease the pain for a time.

Today as yesterday the sun is streaming through windows on a very cold winter morning while my icy numb fingers type.  I find the Sun so healing and warming, it opens up and expands my being and my PTSD is very much about shock, removal, disconnection, dissociation and contract.  The warming power of the Sun counteracts this and lets me open myself more, it counters my Mars Saturn tendency to bite down hard on difficulties and pain.  Earlier today I found myself re-experiencing the anger towards this particular ‘friend’ who many years ago when I was really struggling kicked me out of her party as she had an issue with the guy I was dating at the time.  At that particular point I was in such grief over the loss of my father and was a long, long way from home.   I was very reticent about going to the dinner last week and my inner child was giving me curry over it this morning.

Talking about self protection and Chiron wounds also brings to mind the need we who are traumatised must learn to exercise around discriminating those who are and are not healthy to share our wounds with, when exactly do we open up?  How do we cope with some of the wounding things others who don’t have a clue about trauma and its deep impact say  to us?  How do we deal with the pain body when it becomes very active and preys upon us with its negative thoughts or chains of wounded logic?  How can we release and express our wounds in ways that are not retraumatising for ourselves or others, in way which makes them sources of creative insight?

This morning an idea came to me ‘the juice of the wound’.  In the myth the wounded arrow contains poison and that in itself is a kind of ‘juice’ with certain affects upon us.  That poison or ‘juice’ can and does lodge deep in our emotional bodies, it can immobilise or paralyse it.  Finding a way to ‘let’ it or dispel it seems essential as we don’t want to just stew in it always in a deeply painful way, and yet some kind of ‘stewing’ gives birth to art and poetry.  Juice and stewing images bring to mind the idea of alchemy or cooking our instinctual energies that run amuck or go awry.  It was something Carl Jung devoted a lot of time towards exploring with alchemical images such as those of Lion’s with their paws cut off being roasted in vessels over a fire which a kind of therapeutical or alchemical image for deep wounded healing processes.

Speaking of roasting Lions, last night I watched some of Madonna’s Rebel Heart concert on television.  I am not a huge Madonna fan but I was taken with the anger she was expressing and the hurt that formed the basis of two of her more recent songs Heartbreak City and Living in Love, as a Sun Sign Leo she expressed her angst and hurt in a very dramatic way.  The second song is full of positive lines about how as hurt as she has been she will not allow the hurt to poison her, it was an interesting case of synchronicity after just reading about the Chiron Mars Saturn transits of late.  We all go through pain, we all suffer and some of us do good work with the wounds.  We have our days when they consume us entirely.  The poison runs around our systems and we can feel paralysed or wired, on fire with anger and outrage or flooded and drowned in grief, these are all very human responses to what it is to be a soul that can suffer in the instinctual emotional part of us but we are then left with the outflow or outfall to deal with.  What we do with it I guess in the end speaks a lot about who we are and the attitude we take, after the flood or fire has passed or we have passed through it.  Many of us try to use our wounds to help others. By sharing our pain and suffering we connect to each other and are helped in some small way to feel less alone, in pouring out our experience or by sharing another’s we find the spot where we connect and through expressing and witnessing vulnerability become empowered.

Healer

 

A Band Around My Heart

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Today earlier after dropping my car off to be repaired and getting the bus to my Mum’s so I could borrow hers for a few days I started to feel this tight band around my heart.  We spoke of things others in the family share with her, they don’t share with me these kind of being cared for experiences by their siblings but when all this was being shared I was conscious of this tightness and then tears.  No words, no stories, just deep disappointment, sadness and a pain in my heart.

I never hear much from my sister who is living about what is really going on either and most especially after I tried to connect with her late last week.  It turns out my nephew’s wife’s father died sometime over the weekend.  I had spoken to my sister expressing my care and concern.  Mum only mentioned it remotely in passing.  I come from a FUCKING WIERD FAMILY!!!  Or MAYBE I DONT.  MAYBE THIS IS HOW FAMILIES ARE : Great emotional distances, little connection especially over the most important things.  Or I could be being very self centred and selfish because they are probably just caught up in so much grief, grief which mirrors older grief and is triggering such deep, deep grief for me around persistent disconnection which ends up making me feel lonelier than when I am really alone with either my dog or my higher power or others who are actually open hearted rather than shut down and stitched up.

Add to this I am still struggling to accept I have to have my tooth out. I am struggling with resentment toward my Mum, even though now she has offered to give me all the support in the world to help as I go through the procedure (when, I don’t know as I have to get a referral tomorrow!).

Perhaps I need to speak to Mum about what is going on in my heart. On Saturday when all my abandonment and trauma pain was going on I wanted to leave a message on her phone giving her a serve.  I thought better of it.  And I recall a quote that says I spoke my anger to a friend and my anger had an end.  In the past anger has just erupted out of me.  I haven’t spoken it cleanly and clearly. And it occurs to me that I can express anger with love and that my words would have more power and strength if that power of anger was harnessed in a more productive way that just scatter gun rage blowing at a target!

Truth is as a child and young teenager things my Mum and Dad and family did REALLY, REALLY HURT ME, deeply. I didn’t feel seen and I didn’t feel held in mind.  I feel the same things would not have happened in this day and age.  My opinion as a child may have been consulted.  It is very important to me now that I have a voice, that I am not ridden rough shod over by others, that others don’t force their will and agenda on to me.  However sometimes in my quest for power, protection and control I just go off and become silent and try to cope alone instead of unburdening what is in my heart because its too much to take risk.  It is then I feel the tight band around my heart, squashing all the pain down deep inside, not allowing me to cough it up and spit it out.

The best process for me currently though is for my inner child to speak to my adult self about the pain I went through all of those years ago, about how it was for her and how, when my adult self isn’t aware or present that old pattern can replay.  The adult me needs to hear it so we can look for a way to take care of the child in the midst of what is painful, so that she feels safe, held and cared for.  Others will not always give this to me.   They may have had to block their own pain, or they may have been feeling guilt or shame and so get defensive if I bring up mine.

One thing is for sure though.  The tight band reminds me all the time of the cost of not nurturing my heart or paying kind attention to what triggers.   I may need to feel and free the tears that need to fall but may not if my mind or stories are blocking those deeper feelings from being expressed.  Fact is that I had so many experiences of being overpowered on a bodily experience level when young that I felt I had lost all power.  This issue was highlighted last week when I chose a novel from the library about a teenage girl who was raped and had another’s will forced upon her.  She had to feel the painful consequences of that, of knowing that at times the world and others can disempower or overwhelm us.   How to take control in this situation, when all control has been stolen?  How to deal with the rage and anger that is left in a way that doesn’t destroy what precious connections remain?   This is just such a huge issue for those of us who suffer Post Traumatic Stress distress, it what I have been grappling with for years and now wish I could let go in some way, but it still hurts, the reality hurt a lot!

Kindness restores me to true feeling

Kindness is what the Dalai Lama has called ‘his religion’ and when I think about it, often it is kindness shown to me in the form of empathy that brings my heart undone.  It happened today.  I had a follow up appointment with the dentist who removed my broken bridge and gave me a temporary one in February.  Before that appointment I believed I would be getting a new bridge shortly but was informed I had a crack in one of my front teeth, the one that got split apart in the accident that occurred with I was 17 and that now a new bridge was not possible. Implants for three front teeth are one option but due to PTSD I cannot go through that kind of invasive procedure.  The second one is that the tooth must come out and I will wear a denture.   Its a hard thing for me to swallow.  I will need a denture for three teeth as over the course of the past 37 years I have had two reconstructions on that part of my mouth parts of other teeth have had to be removed to build a new bridge.  Back in February it was hard to face a loss of this kind.   I am still relatively young (at 54) and I will now have to have that huge gap in the front of my mouth.  It is something I have to struggle to come to terms with.

I don’t want to avoid any more what needs to be done.  I have an infection in that tooth that is causing me problems.  The option to just plaster it over for another six months seems too hard to bear.  At some point I have to face the grief of loosing the tooth.  When I spoke to the dentist I was really honest about how I was struggling.   This is the kind thing she said to me.

“It is totally understandable that you feel the way you do.  A front tooth is such a big part of you and to have it removed is hard.   Its not just like cutting off a fingernail or something.” She then turned away and my tears just fell.  I realised in that instant the trauma I have gone through will always live on in my body and I have endured losses, but I also know if I face the facts, feel the grief and go through the procedure things will be better in the long run than avoiding it.  Maybe readers won’t relate to what a big thing it is for me.   I also know I MUST FACE IT.  Avoiding things that are painful for me is no longer an option.  I know in the past I have avoided pain and I know its because I have gone through so much pain in my life.

What was really beautiful today though was the empathy and kindness that my beautiful dentist, Sunny showed me.   She only has 2 and a half weeks until she takes leave to give birth to her daughter and wont be back to work until November.   When I left after absorbing a truth I had tried to avoid before and felt the problems the infection is causing for my body I wondered how I will last 6 months now waiting for the procedure to be done.  I don’t know the answer.   I have a bit of a headache at the moment as these big emotions are around.  But I do feel as I sit typing this with sunlight streaming though the window how grateful I am that in being shown empathy and kindness I was able to feel the full impact of the thing.  I have had dental trauma since age 16 when four teeth were removed in preparation for 18 months of braces during which I had to wear a bit and bridle to bed at night to pull the teeth back.  My teeth are aching as I write this.  That cellular memory lives on and I rarely have an undisturbed night’s sleep due to it as well as the impact of the head trauma I had 12 years ago,  I am aware as I type this that the anniversary of that accident is approaching… its ripple affects live on.  Trauma brings more trauma…that is a sad fact.   There is so much our bodies go through that other minds so often don’t understand.  I am just so grateful that my dentist does.