Using The Presence Process to make sense of my trauma

I am a huge fan of Michael Brown’s wonderful book The Presence Process.  Its not just a book it is an entire programme of weekly meditations with exercises and one pertinent focus or insight which he outlines on a week by week basis to help us connect to deeper levels of our being.  In the book he explains how we tend to disconnect from our bodies feeling and inner child so that later in life we end up with all kinds of problems and shut downs on emotional and bodily levels that limit us and bring our old pain alive and how we struggle to really recognise the deeper experiences from the past that are drawing challenges and pain into our present lives.

Logging on to re-edit this post today I just came across a fellow bloggers post entitled No Words.  Over the past few days I have seen her flip from a place of radiant happiness to a very dark place and I can only imagine a happy time is triggering all the unresolved pain of her past.  There is no drug that can take this deep pain from us.  That is my experience, in fact in a novel I am reading about a girl who is raped and given a drug immediately after to ‘forget’ she ends up trying to take her life.  In the novel what is explored is how the mother unconscious history is carried by the girl attracting to her a violent incident.

It is my firm belief that trauma is passed down to us, disconnection from the body into the mental body or defensive ego (as opposed to the ego as a centre of consciousness that may or may not be open to the connects of the unconscious or subconscious) is passed down to us.  If we really want to heal we have to look deep within and learn to connect to the vibrations in our cells, vibrations of anger, grief, fear and distress that so long ago we locked away.

In his book Michael explains that every single incident that appears to trigger our pain in the present is always triggering our past.  We cannot blame the present trigger for being a ‘messenger’ that carries within it echoes and echoes of earlier experiences which hold up a mirror to our earliest years.  Only by connecting to and exploring how we are reacting including examining the stories we tell our selves about what happened and our capacity or incapacity to bear or feel it can we start to gain any deeper clarity into our deeper felt sense and the impact such things have had on our emotional body.  By learning to be present to our inner child on a bodily level we can learn to pay attention to the stored charges and do the work to release them by releasing the vibrational energy, be that tears or anger or shame or fear which may be felt quite literally as a quaking in our entire being and body.

I have had the book since January and  I am still only part of the way through and yesterday I found it so very helpful, especially the chapter on freeing ourselves to feel safer and more connected to the child self within who holds at a very deep level vibrations of emotions and feelings we had as youngsters and learned to bury or shut down deep inside.

In the chapter today Michael was speaking of how as children we learn to naturally dissociate or disconnect from bodily and instinctual felt realities and place our attention in the mental body.   We take distance from what was too painful at the time to feel, what the adults around us shamed us for feeling.  Their own disconnected behaviour injured us and made us feel powerless at the time, especially if we were not allowed to express how we felt about it and we store those unexpressed feelings deep inside our emotional body.

Yesterday I was working with the dental trauma that is being triggered for me with the prospect of dental surgery to remove my front tooth.  As I have shared before this was the tooth that got broken, split in two when my mouth hit the steering wheel in the serious MVA I had at age 17 and my tongue torn right down the middle amidst other injuries.  At that time I was only just a few months out of braces.  This afternoon I felt the deep emotional charge of how it felt to be forced to go through painful tooth removal and orthodontic procedures when I was about 15 by my mother.  For some reason she was always trying to perfect me and make my appearance more appealing.  She also didn’t like the way I spoke and threatened to send me to a speech therapist.  The belief that was passed on to me so often throughout my childhood was that there was intrinsically something wrong with me and how I looked and behaved.  Also I was what is known as a tongue sucker as a child and this was something that I learned from the orthodontist was not a good thing.  It pushed my front teeth forward but when I look at photos of me as a child my teeth aren’t really that bad and I look quiet happy and secure before I had the braces.

Today when I sat with my body and inner child and felt deep inside how it felt to be forced into something that I was entirely powerless over I suddenly knew so much more about why I have struggled as I have in my life at the deepest emotional level, how and why I came to be almost stuck and unable to move very far from a few rooms in the house at the coast I was taken to in the months following coming out of hospital after 3 months of being pinned to the bed in skeletal traction all those years later after a marriage ended, a marriage in which my husband was threatened by my need TO REALLY FEEL WHAT WAS NATURALLY COMING UP IN MY RECOVERY PROCESS AT 10 YEARS OF SOBRIETY.

I was aware of how and why over the past 10 years or more my body has gone through nightly spasms, twists, tics and turns around both the time of the second accident and head injury triggered just after a session of cranio sacral to deal with the trauma imprints of the first.  And it occurred to me last night that between 4 to 7 pm is the time of night when as a baby I struggled to be born against the resistance of my mother holding me up and inside her because she had other tasks to do that had to be completed before I she would go to the hospital.

I understood the deep imprint of why I naturally hold myself back, why I challenge everything and question if my instincts and responses are real or true.   And I not only understood but I actually felt the entire enormity of it in my body, not in my head, not as ideas about what happened to me, not a stories but as a fully lived body experience that made my entire body shake.  It was then that I understood how powerful the work and words of Michael Brown are and how powerful his presence process work really is.

Luckily I had my therapy session yesterday afternoon due just about an hour after all of this rose up inside me today.  It could have been the next natural phase after the experience of surrender I had yesterday when I realised I had to have the tooth finally taken out, but as I have struggled with it last night I realised how the so called infection in my body could be related to other factors and having that tooth out is going to trigger a lot for me.

I am going to need to be so present to my body if I do decide to go through with it.  And I am aware of the anger and feelings of powerlessness I carry as I feel so much has been stolen as a response and continuation of what others power over me as a young child felt like, while on some level I am grateful to know now why and how I have felt powerless for so long.

I now know how ignorant it is for others to say to us that ‘we should be over IT by now’ (whatever ‘it’ is) when dealing with deeply rooted pain that has not been fully processed or that ‘we should use mind over matter’ to overcome things when actually doing so is actually no more than a diversion or a temporary escape from what our bodies need to remember and draw our attention to, so that we can bear witness and release those old vibrations of grief, or fear, or shame, or anger from our systems, not by projecting them onto the triggers today but by pulling the projection back and learning to responding to them from within in such a way that we uncouple them from those triggers in present time which are nothing but messengers for old pain and trapped or blocked emotions we so need to liberate and release in order to understand better how powerfully our present can awaken our past.

To end this blog I am going to share some of what Michael wrote in the chapter I read today in the hopes that it may help others out there to find their own healing.  Over years of using the presence process Michael cured himself of a formerly intractable neurological condition that plagued him for years.  Using his process and reading others testimonials makes it very clear that such inner noticing and attending to the inner child and his or her responses and feelings to triggers in the now really can help those of us who have so long ago somatised deep emotions, or trauma.  We need to bring all the presence we can, not only to our deep reactions and responses.

As we become proficient at responding to surfacing charged emotions, a sense of safety gradually seeps into our overall human experience.  This means that as we step into the role of taking responsibility for the quality of our experiences, our child self starts feeling safe again.  It becomes safe to depart this illusory mental experience called ‘living in time’ and re-enter our body, which is our authentic home while we journey through our current experience.  By intending a conscious return into our body, we simultaneously choose to become physically present in each aspect of our experience. As we do so, we discover that a safe child is a spontaneously joyful and creative child

Our regained physical presence is a gift because it empowers us to redirect our intent, which enables us to consciously steer ourselves into experiences that serve us.  This is the moment in The Presence Process when we embrace the task of taking charge of our experience.

We have two tools we use to navigate toward, through and out of all our experiences attention and intent……Because we are adrift in the mental plane, we don’t realise our life experience is a vessel that’s being driven by the continual surfacing of unintegrated discomfort.

In our view of our physically and mentally transfixed condition, we tend to perceive ourselves as being forced, moved along against or will by seemingly unexpected and unpleasant physical events.  We tell ourselves stories about these events.  Based on the stories we tell, we take reactive counter measures.  But as we are discovering, these unexpected and uncomfortable physical events are all messengers – outer reflections of our surfacing unintegrated emotional charge.

The stories we tell ourselves…..establish our current library of core beliefs.  Because much of the charge that drives these beliefs was imprinted in our energy system before we had mental and hance a conceptual capacity, none of these stories are valid.  They are all effects, which means our beliefs from an illusory mental passageway we mistakenly walk along as a desperate measure of making sense of the apparent chaos and unpredictability of our circumstances.  To direct our attention and intent toward them is self defeating.  On a psychological level its insanity.  We appropriately called it “being mental”.

Because our stories are rooted in what we believe happened to us in the past and what we suspect this means for the future, it means that until recently we have been designing the quality of our human experience based on fearful “guesstimations.”  Actually it may be more accurate to sate we have allowed the unintegrated aspects of our child self to be in charge of determining what’s best for us base on its undeveloped interpretation of the world.

Only feeling what is, without condition empowers a return to an awareness of Presence and the radiance of the present moment awareness that emanates from us whenever we identify with this authentic expression of our being.

Michael goes on to talk about how we cannot think our way through the experience of actually connecting in our emotional body, the experiences we have with entering the emotional body of the past bring realisations to us, and its challenging work to stay with this on a felt level without making up too many stories about what is felt.  We have to live it which I guess is where I reach the limits of what I am trying to explain in my blog here.  Much of what we go through is beyond words and yet as bloggers we use words to try to express.

In any case this post doesn’t really flow or read well but I am going to keep it up in the hopes that some of it may be helpful to others.

An agent of destruction

My godmother died yesterday.  Her death has provoked so many memories.  In the later years of her life we were estranged after years in which she and my godfather tried to support me at times when my emotionally unavailable parents failed to.  It was with her I lived for a short time after returning to Australia to live a few years after my father died.  As I look back to that time I see the deep, deep pain my young adult self was in and the wreckage she had already begun to live at that state at the age of 25 in the early stages of my alcoholism.  I was hungry and empty and longing for love and a present family and parents and my god parents gave me some of this.  However, emotionally it was my godfather, Piet who really saw into the depths of me and validated why I needed to turn to alcohol in the family I grew up in, he gave me the missing love and understanding I never got from my father.

Piet left Holland in 1938 with my father and they both went to the Dutch East Indies and he told me in later years of my father’s relentless dream to become a millionaire, in later years he did not see my father as much as Uncle Piet was only ever a ‘lowly’ mechanic and I loved him so much for that and use the word ‘lowly’ to describe how society might view a person who was more real than real and had a heart of gold and who I admire more than any millionaire in the world.

My godfather was the soft emotional one, my godmother was harder having had a very tough childhood and having lost a brother to suicide at a young age, she had to bury her pain under a lot of stoicism and philosophy.  In later years she turned to yoga to find peace but there was always a hardness in her and she shut down in later years and had my godfather diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when really it was just the pain of his own deep childhood abandonment having lost a mother very young that came to the surface and began to manifest in anger and clinging.

Anyway the story of my connection to them both would take many pages, and in the later years we were less connected especially after Piet died in 2003 and my marriage broke up the following year.

In the later years my quest for love took me into a very dysfunctional relationship and it was to my godmother that I turned in 2011 when that relationship finally hit the wall all around the anniversary of my father’s death.  My emotional wounds and inner child’s emotional abandonment was so close to the surface and I ran to Sydney and away from my home town after a fight with my Mum when she callously mocked me for grieving.  My godmother took me in but she didn’t understand any of the emotional side of what I was going through and so, at that time and I must say in a lot of pain, I turned to internet dating thinking that if only I could find another man to love me everything would be okay. I now see the fallacy of that, my real inner work had to begin with the ending of that relationship in 2010.  My godmother turned on me one day and said I had to leave her place the next day, as her grandson was coming and that was not true as she had a spare bed and room for both of us.  I was distraught and ended up moving to a boarding house and then into a share house with an abusive alcoholic before finally returning to my home town 6 months later.  It was hard to forgive my godmother for not supporting me at the time I most needed it but I don’t resent her for it as much any more, it was what she felt she needed to do and what she did put me in a deeply painful place .  For some time I turned towards more dysfunction as a result.  Now I see that then I was on the brink of my deepest wound and emotional work in recovery, emotionally I needed to take care of myself but that would take some time and a lot more realisation to happen.

Death of someone is very final but I guess it is not the end of the relationship we had with them that lives on in our inner life and soul.  I spoke to my godmother last night in my soul and shared with her the tears and pain of how hard it was to be abandoned emotionally again by the one person I hoped to trust, but while my tears fell I saw she did the best she could from her level of consciousness.  Speaking to her daughter a moment ago and hearing how she suffered at my godmother’ s hands from her harshness and emotional shut down confirmed so much for me.  It was that generation’s way of coping and my godmother shut down on so much, so of course she had to shut me out and send me away into the wilderness, that was all part of my journey.

My godmother and my mother were best friends. I feel so deeply for my Mum today.  She has lost her best friend after 70 years of friendship and today she has responsibilities due to the debacle with the property we bought at auction to deal with on the back of her grief.  I started this post with the heading An Agent of Destruction because sharing about all this with my therapist this morning that is how I feel.  I feel bad due to what happened with my godmother, even though I was only seeking a place to protected and cared for, I feel so bad about what happened with the property even though that all happened too because I didn’t really have adequate protection and care from outside or inside.  I am not a destroyer and I am not bad, but that is how it sometimes feels.

I was reading something about blame, struggle, grief and suffering in a book by Buddhist Teacher Londro Rinzler last night in which a student had gone to a Zen teacher crying over all of their heart break and saying to the Rishi “Why, why, why”, the teacher looked at him and just said “no reason”.  That really made me realise how much we make up about the reasons why something happened, how habituated and conditioned we are to look for someone to blame at times (most often ourselves) and how often we cause so much further suffering by not just sitting still and feeling what we need to feel and letting go into and learning, but insteaed thinking, thinking, thinking and questioning in such as way as we get tied up in knots and experience even more the suffering of suffering.

Do we need to create more suffering by the way we react to our suffering?  Is there a point where we can let others off the hook?  Can we also understand that at times there are reasons but the reasons we make up are off base and don’t have to focus on projections of badness and blame?  Are there ways we can show each other more tenderness, mercy and compassion.  These I feel are such important questions to ponder and amidst them they allow me to enter my heart and be with my own and other’s suffering in a way that doesn’t end up creating more suffering through judgement.

 

 

Love makes you ache at times

I am feeling for my nephew and his partner and family at the moment.  The place they are living has been becoming a harder and harder situation for them over the past year or so.  The gallery my nephew put so much love into had to be closed due to the owners selling to those who put the rent up far too much for it to be sustainable any more and then last week they were told their rental property is being sold as well.  After a lot of thinking it through (and I should image agony and heartache as well), they have decided to pack up and move a long way south to Tasmania.

In one way it may be a good move for them, to be able to live more sustainably in a cooler climate with perhaps more artistic possibilities, never the less last night I woke up feeling very distressed for them.  They will be moving away from his two brothers and their children won’t see their cousins all the time, Tasmania is a long way away.   I felt so sad for them last night and it’s probably a case of projection on my part of my old pain around moves.   But it’s also a concern around old ancestral pattern repeating, having to move due to financial constrictions rather than purely to heart felt considerations and making another separation all around the anniversary of my sister (and my nephew’s mother’s) death.

And it calls to mind the painful migration that occurred for my nephew after his mother’s aneurysm in the 1980s when he was about the same age as his young son.  Knowing all of this history makes my heart ache for them but at the same time I have to put some of the emotional considerations aside (or do I?) to recognise that much of life and growth and forward movement does involve at times painful separations.  Birth or change is painful and involves death of certain things too.   I still feel for my nephew.

I’ve noticed that night mind for me can be full of these kinds of agonies and connections.  And then this morning I awoke feeling very sad because of all the separations and knowing how my sister’s death anniversary brings up essential themes of this kind of movement and disconnection.  Its a strong reminder of my painful family history where a lot of connections suffered.  At the same time I see the ancestral history playing out with it themes all of which are somehow so much bigger than one finite human consciousness.

There is a theme here for me of noticing the sadness and realising how ‘big’ life and certain issues are.  A knowing of this has almost paralysed me at times that its been hard to make any move forward and I am called to remember while writing this how on Friday I had a big ah ha moment of realisation when I saw how much I associated forward movement with death or danger or accident.  Its a deep imprint and one I need to be mindful of as the unconscious is very powerful whether we choose to realise it or not. It cannot just be glossed over.

Last night I was thinking of all the things I could do to try and help my nephew so he did not have to go through this kind of separation again.  Maybe they could move into my house as a family and I could go and rent something else and then we could all live in my home town as a happy family, but I know this dream is probably an illusion or deeply impractical and I am reminded of the Al Anon three Cs :  I didn’t cause what is happening for them, I can’t control it and I cannot cure it either.  Those kinds of ideas are I guess all a part of my co-dependent feelings at times (all around what may be a good move for them in the end) but reading this back I know they come out of my own deep wish and longing for closer physical and emotional connections which has been so thwarted at times and caused me a lot of grief.

The deep love I have for my nephew is real.  I feel sad that I haven’t felt up to visiting him prior to this but I have been putting the focus on my own life and staying in my centre while I choose to do the inner work of understanding the part of my painful unconscious history.  But I also realise that that there is a degree of fear of being close and then threatened with the sadness of loss when I have to go away again.  Maybe I have been protecting my heart from all the love inside that can get so big at times and feels so overpowering to me.   I recognise that this is deeply true for my life and it is something I want to change a bit.  I now feel there is perhaps a way to be close while not losing myself and being totally overwhelmed by my feelings.  In the end I live inside my own skin and that is the only thing that I have some control over at all in this life, dealing with all the things in life that affect us is big work, especially if we have known pain in the past.  It helps me to sit down and write about the feelings and all the thoughts my mind goes through so that I can achieve clarity.  I see more of myself and have to act fewer things out.

In the end for me I guess its about containment, knowing that however painful or sad I do have the ability to deal with my feelings, knowing that its okay to love and hope and long even if at time that longing isn’t returned or always easy.  Knowing that I have the capacity to survive and reach out for connection, well that’s a big step for me. And each day is full of little deaths, changes and endings but new beginnings too.   For my nephew I pray this move doesn’t bring isolation for him and his family, I pray it is the start of a new beginning and hope that I can make some trips to visit in years to come when I feel even stronger within myself and capable of being together with him and his family.

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.

The problem of judgement for emotional sensitives

what-is-love

I found the following information extremely enlightening.  It concerns how judgement affects those of us who are emotionally sensitive, the wound it creates and how to step outside of self imposed black/white, wrong/right judgements to ease our emotional intensity.

If you’re emotionally sensitive, it may be that ever since you were a child, people have said or implied there’s something wrong with the way you feel or think.  Comments such as these, as well as the mere thought that people are judging you in this way, have probably been such a source of pain for so many years that you’re hypersensitive to any hint of criticism.  Although no one likes to be judged negatively, for the emotionally sensitive its agonising.  Negative judgements, both actual and imagined, may often lead you to feel shame, and to experience hopeless thoughts as well as to fear rejection.

Even positive judgements, such as saying something is ‘good’, can be problematic, because if one thing is good then a different thing might be ‘bad’.  In this way, positive judgements maintain your potential for negative judgements.  They strengthen your tendency to make comparisons and see things in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ qualities.  Although, for the most part, you may assume that when I talk about judging…I meant making negative judgements, keep in mind that making positive judgements can also contribute to the issue in almost every case.

Letting go of self judgements, other’s judgements of you, and your judgement of others, whether positive or negative, is one way of keeping your emotions at a lower intensity.  The point isn’t to have a more positive view of everything, but to stop thinking so much in terms of good versus bad (or any other duality) and just accept that things are what they are.  When you replace judgements with facts, you’ll react less to misinterpretations, assumptions, and distortions about events and people.

Self Judgement

Judging creates emotion.  In addition, any emotion you feel in response to an external event will be  intensified if you judge yourself for that event.  For example, if you’re getting divorced and you judge yourself as unlovavble or as someone who always messes up the pain of divorce will become worse.  If you then judge yourself for being upset, that will add more pain.  Increasing your awarenss of your self judgements and better understanding the way you learnd to judge yourself in a particular way can help you reduce this behaviour.

If you were an emotionally sensitive child, maybe you were told you were too dramatic, emotional, needy, weak, manipulative, or attention seeking.  You might have been told to stop “being a baby” or “making a big deal out of nothing”.  Maybe you were ignored or were considered a burden.  Being judged by others when you were a chid can lead you judge yourself in the same way as an adult.

You may blame yourself for all sorts of flaws.  For example, you might believe that if you weren’t so lazy you’d have gotten a job by now, even though you put in five applications a day for the past two weeks.  But even if you haven’t submitted any applications that doesn’t mean you’re lazy.  If you look more closely at the facts, you may realise that your fear of being judged negatively, not laziness, has kept you applying for jobs.

Self judgement and fear of being judged will keep you trapped.  Instead of living your life the way you want, you’ll try to live safely, doing what others deem acceptable.  You may try to fit into molds that aren’t right for you. There’s no winning in this scenario.

Source : Chapter 6  Letting Go of Judgements in The Emotionally Sensitive Person : Finding Peace When Your Emotions Overwhelm You.

In the rest of the chapter  Karyn Hall outlines more specifically how our tendency to judge as emotional sensitives makes our life lonelier and harder.

  1. Emotions cloud our rational brain and contribute to emotional distress.  Eg someone doesn’t call us back and we make up all kinds of reasons why and then get angry and refuse to talk to them ever again.
  2. Judging often hides the primary feeling we were having.  For example often anger is a reaction to fear, fear of being hurt, fear of losing something or someone important to you, fear of being rejected.  Focusing on the secondary emotion becomes problematic when we react from here.  Our anger may be telling us something that isn’t true in masking our vulnerability.
  3. Judging often adds to loneliness by creating separation between us and other people, putting a distance between us, blocking out love if someone makes a mistake, causing a cut off that love and understanding and mercy could heal.
  4. Judging in addition narrows our view. We judge something as bad, react from there often without all the facts, fail to see the positive things in the situation and so damage a relationship.

Keeping an eye on our thinking and reactions as emotional sensitives is very important work.  Seeing how and when and where judgements of self and others can block love and relationship will help us feel less emotional intensity and feel more connected and soothed.

If my wounded heart was whole

heart-image

If my wounded heart was whole.  I would not need to please you so.  I would love to know that you are happy but I would know that as much as I care about your sadness there is not much I can do about it, except being a friend, for being a friend to your tender heart will allow it to speak its truth.

If my wounded heart was whole, I wouldn’t feel as divided and reactive, torn this way and that looking for a connection and knowing instead that I need to understand all the loss of connections and lack of connection and being connected to when young that has left me with this void at times that aches and pulls me here and there.   I would turn back within to the little child in me that is longing for connection and listen to what she has to say.  And when I met you who was barricaded and incapable of opening to my heart with your heart I would gently step away respecting that.

If my wounded heart was whole I would not have to make a comment on what you say when it disagrees with me, I would understand that your comments and your take on things comes out of your own character, feelings, thoughts, past and sensibilities.  I would just accept that that is the way you feel and that you have every right to feel as you do and I would care about it, if I really said I loved you.

If my wounded heart was whole when you said nasty things to me I would know that you are hurting or had a bad day or that something I did may have triggered you.  I wouldn’t spend too much time apologising beyond saying I was sorry if you were feeling hurt.

If my wounded heart was whole I would rest more, I would centre within quietly and silently listening to my heart beat, finding the courage to be brave and not react from the deep fear of abandonment that I have carried and projected for so long.

If my wounded heart was whole I would trust my feelings more but also know the part my past played in those feelings.  I would embrace what I love without guilt, fear or apology and I would leave you free to do the same even if that meant that our paths had to go our separate ways.

I am sorry I did not do that before.  I wish I knew then what I did now but I know having a healed heart means I accept I could not expect this of either me or you before the realisation and awakening came.

On not taking on board shadow projections of the narcissist

I have just been re-reading one of my favourite psychology books from years back Owning Your Own Shadow : Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche.  It is a tiny book on a huge subject so beautifully articulated by this wonderfully wise man, Jungian therapist Robert Johnson.  After my recent posts on the twisted tangled relationship between narcissists and empaths it really spoke deeply to me and I want to share some of what he has written soon in other posts.

I read this great comment on You Tube yesterday by a lady Angela Coffey in response to a Video posted on narcissism and narcissists.

In a devaluation period, by implementing manipulations, narcissists gain fuel and neutralise their subconscious feelings of unworthiness, self- hatred and envy by projecting these heinous feelings on to their victims. Thus the victims end up feeling these very emotions the Narcissist is so hell bent on repressing. In other words the victim feels what the narcissist so desperately needs to avoid feeling.

What Angela addressed in this comment was the shadow of the narcissist which is the key reason they are attracted to sensitive empaths in the first place, they see in us their own shadow material left over from childhood which they have blocked and defended against for most of their lives.  To admit it to themselves or to others is a literally impossibility for the true narcissist.  They are never wrong it is always others, they are never weak, or stupid or ignorant, or dull, that is always others, they never feel vulnerable, lost or sad or scared but will dump and project these feelings which we as empaths catch like a bad case of the flu!

We empaths on the other hand may have often had this kind of shadow material dumped onto us at home if we came from homes where low emotional intelligence and awareness was displayed by our parents.  We are used to feeling vulnerable, small, weak and powerless.  Part of the reason the narcissist attracts us is that in some way they carry our own repressed shadow.   They are strong, have presence and are often dynamic and expressive.  They also use a technique called love bombing at the start of the relationship, calling and texting us all the time, opening up with declarations of love early on and so forth.   If we are emotionally starved or starved in our own healthy narcissism all of this feels like coming home to some kind of heaven.  Soon we find ourselves deep in the throws of a love addiction.

We think we have finally found the one who is going to fill all the empty spaces left in us from childhood and from our own lack of deep self love and self knowing.  We think we have found someone who will recognise and not damage us like our narcissistic or emotionally repressed families did.  Some of us may not be emotionally empty ourselves as some of us came from homes where at least some love may have been showered on us.  We could never imagine how it might be to come from a home where you met abuse and lack of unconditional acceptance all the time, suffering untold humiliations and shame.

In the case of my own ex narcissist he had been through the most horrendous abandonment in childhood.  He carried the deep scars.  When he first met me he told me I was ‘too vulnerable’ for him to be in a relationship with but now I know he was actually scared of his own deep vulnerability and his comments were projections.   And I think I expected him to be strong as that was the persona he showed.

A few months in his deep narcissistic injuries would ark up when I was met with rage for making a simple comment about some household thing.  It would also ark up whenever I showed empathy or compassion to his soft side.  It is clear to me all of these years later that this sparked his feelings of inferiority which he felt he had to deny at any cost.

Throughout the relationship I got in trouble for the following things; expressing deep sadness when we travelled to see his father who was dying of cancer (I had lost my own father to cancer at 23!), accepting financial support from my Mum to help with some dental work (he had literally no financial support throughout his life), deciding to not seek employment in order to concentrate on my psychotherapy (he had to work so why didn’t I?).  I got in trouble for reading books on narcissism and psychology as well and by about a year in I was desperately seeking information from so many sources in order to try to understand what was happening in the relationship.  I would be shamed for ‘reading all that psychobabble stuff’, for my interest in astrology (according to him it was ‘all bunkam!!’).  Then I got trashed for setting boundaries ar0und having him come to live with me (he wanted my emotional support while he was working), he broke up with me over that one.  According to him I was like all of his past partners who didn’t know how to share.  On some level I was holding myself back out of fear of being flooded and overwhelmed by his repressed pain.  I had got dizzy and collapsed the first night we slept together, something I did too quickly by the way.  I have to own my part in this dynamic!

I will admit that I became less willing to do such things after I saw that the more I gave, the more would be taken and the less he would give to me. He told me once “you need to know surfing will always come first for me, you will always be second”. Would a person with a solid sense of self have stood for that? Also “I can’t care about your needs, my needs come first!!”

When I cast my mind back to all of these things now it is clear to me that my ex narcissist was actually doing what I needed to do.  I needed to care less about whether he loved or accepted me and  care more about providing for my own needs.  Instead of getting upset by his long, long absences due to surfing I would have been better to have developed solid hobbies of my own.  Instead of pulling on him and asking him for his attention and care I needed to look to myself and to other sources.  However none of this was conscious for me at the time as my own deep wounds from childhood had not been addressed and I was suffering from intense PTSD from two injuries which had taken place on the first and second anniversary of my marriage breaking up which triggered much earlier loses that due to my active alcoholism I had neither grieved fully or addressed.

What is also clear to me many years later is that we were attracted to each other by our own wounds from childhood.  I was working on mine but my ex narcissist was not willing to work on his. At the end I got dumped and blamed. In the break up email he sent I was called flighty, screwy and insecure.  Discussing this with several therapists over the past few years it has become clear to me that a lot of what he said was actually projection of his own dark side and I took it on board for years.  As a good friend of ours said to me later, “Deb he used you like a bar of soap to wash his dirty soul clean.”.  Kapow!!!

I want to close this post with some paragraphs from Robert Johnson’s little book.  The book doesn’t address narcissism per see but healthy narcissism is something that can live in our shadows.  As Johnson points out a lot of us have a lot of gold and good in our shadow, strong qualities and characteristics that we don’t own or develop but need to. Healthy narcissism is about things like positive self esteem, good boundaries, knowing one’s intrinsic worth and self care.  These are the shadow qualities we as empaths need to develop in ourselves after we come out of the devalue and discard by the narcissist.

I am often asked if it is possible to refuse a shadow projection from another person.  But this works only if one has one’s own shadow reasonably well in hand.  Usually when you receive a shadow projection, your own shadow erupts and warfare is inevitable.  When your shadow is like a gasoline can waiting for a match to fall into it, you are fair game for anyone who wants to irritate you.  To refuse another’s shadow, you don’t fight back, but like a good matador, you just let the bull go by.  I remember a woman who consulted me long ago; her husband had made it his retirement sport to put his shadow on her.  She was reduced to tears sometime each day and neither seemed to be able to stop the destruction.  I trained the woman to refuse his shadow  – neither to fight nor to withdraw into icy solitude but simply to stay grounded in herself. Since she didn’t take the bait, the house shook with shadow power for many days.  Finally the man saw what he was doing and a conversation of fine quality was possible between them  The shadow returned to its original source and became highly constructive.

In this case I wonder if the husband in question was truly narcissistic as he was able to take shadow material on board.  Many narcissists will not.  We can still exercise the same discipline though, we can let the stormy angry bull go by.  We can refuse to take the projection on board.  We can own our own power to accept and love ourselves unconditionally by not rising to the narcissists bait by standing on the solid ground of our self.  But for many of us wounded in childhood with porous egos we have some work to do to develop this solid sense of self, so in many ways our relationship with the narcissist is god given.  It points out to us where our own shadow is rejected, were we need to gain solid ground and strength.  It is a wake up call, divinely designed to help us become whole.