Fear of Insanity Narcissism and Denial of Feeling : more insights from Alexander Lowen

the experience of horror (in childhood) makes one question one’s sanity.  What one is experiencing does not make sense, it doesn’t accord with one’s image of reality which even a baby has on a biological level.  To avoid the resulting mental confusion, one must dissociate and deny all feelings.  As long as one sticks to logic, one is safe.  But feelings are life, and one cannot fully avoid emotional experiences no matter how coolly one plays it.  The narcissist faces the risk of being overwhelmed by feelings and going wild, crazy, or mad, should his defence of denial break down.  This is especially true of anger. Every narcissist is afraid of going crazy, because the potential for insanity is in his personality.  This fear reinforces the denial of feeling creating a vicious cycle.

Reading the above paragraph again in Lowen’s book today gave me more insight into my brother, who threatened to walk out on me last October when I got angry with him.  It reminded me of terrifying incidents he faced in childhood and of how my father did pretty harsh things to him as a boy as his own childhood had been similarly harsh.  I was in tears again last week after yet another conversation with my brother where we was working as hard as he could to split off all expression of emotion.  I usually leave every interaction with him crying or disturbed in some way.  Now instead of feeling angry I  just feel really sad for him as I don’t ever think he will look at the roots of his own workaholism.  Once again I shed heaps of tears after I got off the phone on Thursday.  It is not that he is an unkind person either, all time the conversation revolved around helping my sister and I to get the best interest possible on the money Mum has left us.

It is now never the less a great comfort to me to be able to say I now know I am not crazy and I know why his side of the family have sidelined me before as well as other members of my family, looking upon us with such distain and disapproval due to our emotions.  That said I am also aware of the charge of anger that I have carried which I know I inherited from my mother’s side of the family.

Collapsing into a state of helplessness may be one response to such terror or violence in childhood.  Flight or fight may be two other  responses but both the later would often be blocked by an abusive parents.  Escaping or fighting back may be shamed or made  impossible as was the case of Bill whose story Lowen covers in Chapter 7 of this book.

Bill did not feel any anger.  He denied his anger, just as he denied his fear.  Instead, he adopted an attitude of submission and attempted to understand the irrational behaviour of his father, and others,  His submission to his father may have had a lifesaving value, but almost cost him his life.  (Bill was later on nearly killed by a hitchhiker he and a friend picked up on the side of the road who began to attack them.)

Lowen explains how Bill then came to fear his own anger.

(he).. believed that if he lost his head he might kill someone.  But to lose your head is equivalent to going crazy. Bill was terrified of the potential craziness in himself as he was of the craziness of others.  When I made this interpretation to him he remarked, “Now I know why I became a psychiatrist.”

Not everyone will be able to contain their rage from such incidents, others will act it out.  Lowen tells the story of David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam”, serial killer who murdered 6 and wounded 7 others.

What then are the dynamics that precipitate a seemingly sane person into insane action? … there must be some subconscious force.. This force is the denied feeling of anger.  Because the anger is denied, it is not experienced, which would give he person some control over it.

Many narcissists develop an ego unconscious split in these circumstance which means at times such subconscious forces can erupt and cause havoc or be projected on others.  Such and effect is called flooding…. an overwhelming feeling or excitation which ..”(temporarily drowns us)…in the torrent of sensation.  Imagine a river overflowing its banks and sweeping across the surrounding country side.  In a similar way the gush of feeling wipes out normal boundaries of the self, making it difficult for the person to distinguish between inner and outer reality.  Reality becomes confused and nebulous….. (there is a sense of) nothing solid to cling on to.  The person feels ‘at sea,’ estranged.

Such estrangement is not dissimilar to dissociation although Lowen compares it to disorientation.   The flooding of something we held down can make us dizzy, it may erase normal consciousness for a time.  It may well be what we experience in a panic attack (repressed or split off lively life energy or anger).  We can also be overwhelmed by pleasant sensations and if our sense of happiness or joy was also supressed or shamed in childhood we can begin to get fearful of insanity when we start to feel energised or even happy.

In the bioenergetic therapy Lowen used feelings which have been repressed or shut down are helped to liberate by the therapist who assists in the process so flooding and disorientation is not as intense as it would be if we were misunderstood or unsupported in the process.

The problem is that those damaged in childhood continue to carry split off emotions such as anger and sadness into adulthood, we may even attract relationships with others who act them out for us or vice versa, one partner can then pretend they are okay, it’s just their partner that is the problem.

Lowen points out in his book Narcissism : Denial of the True Self the connection between being called ‘mad’ (as in insane) when one is actually angry.

To say a person is mad may mean that person is either crazy or angry.  What this tells us is that anger is not an acceptable emotion.  Children are taught very early on to curb their anger; often they are punished if, in the course of an angry reaction, they hurt someone.  Disputes, they are admonished should be settled amicably and with words.  The ideal is to have reason prevail over action.

But conflicts can not always be settled amicably, with reasoning.   Tempers may flare.  I don’t mean one has to resort to physical violence to express an angry feeling.  Anger can be expressed in a look or by the tone of one;s voice.  Once can assert with feeling.  “I am angry with you.”  Some situations do call for the physical expression of anger.  If violence is used on you it may be appropriate to fight back.  Without the right to strike when one is hit, one feels powerless and humiliated.  We have seen what that can do to the personality.

I strongly believe that if children were allowed to voice their anger at their parent’s whenever they felt they had a legitimate grievance, we would see far fewer narcissistic personalities.  Giving a child this right would allow a real respect for the child’s feelings.

Lowen goes on to site an experience of watching a Japanese woman being hit by her daughter in anger.  He explains how in Japan a child is never disciplined before the age of 6 because they are regarded to be innocent  and such children don’t end up disrespectful or misbehaving.  However when the right of angry expression is denied a child it has an adverse impact and then there are the parents who cannot express their own anger with a child in a healthy way and use punishment instead.  Lowen doesn’t negate the need for discipline, only the use of power and control in the face of a child the parent does not have a healthy way of relating to and helping to develop emotionally.

Such repression of anger in a person in childhood means anger stays present in the person’s system much later in life.  In his bioenergetic therapy Lowen helps patient to discharge repressed anger so that it does not stay trapped inside.  However as he points out, the fear of ones anger and belief it will prove one is insane is a difficulty that many narcissistically injured person’s face on the path to healing.

For narcissists to know themselves, they have to acknowledge their fear of insanity and to sense the murderous rage inside that they identify with insanity.  But they can only do this if the therapist is aware of those elements and is not afraid of them.  I find it helpful to point out to my patients that what they believe is insane – namely, their anger – is in fact sense if they can accept it.  In contrast, their behaviour without feeling, which they regard as sane,is really crazy.

The behaviour without feeling that Lowen mentions here in fact leads to the growing or development of what he calls a thick skin, a protective defensive layer which will allow no real feeling for self or others in those with a narcissistic defence,

such denial is achieved by deadening the surface to stimuli, its effect is to rigidify the ego.  … the result is a diminishing of the ego’s capacity to respond emotionally to reality or to change reality in line with one’s feelings.. the ego’s safety lies in a deadened body, with little emotion.  Yet this very deadening creates a hunger for sensation, leading to the hedonism typical of a narcissistic culture.

But true feeling is then increasingly hidden behind a façade and the building charge of need and hidden feeling is defended against.  Thus addictions come to play a role in diverting attention from the truth.

By contrast those who develop a borderline defence to such negation actually become excessively thin skinned, unable to throw off hurts lodged deep inside from the past often from unfeeling narcissists.  Their work is to understand the source of pain and not project it onto the present, understanding how deeply its roots lie hidden in an often unconscious past.

 

 

 

 

Pain of early separation from our mothers and its impact on relationships

Pain of early separations from our mother can haunt us for a long time and we may not always know what the pain is about. It’s an issue that Mark Wolynn, San Francisco based therapist on multigenerational trauma addresses at length in his book It Didn’t Start With You : How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.  The separation may not have been physical alone, it could be just that our mother was undergoing a depression, grieving a loss or being unseen and unnurtured by her own mother did not know how to be fully present for us.  (According to Wolynn the original problem or disruption often lies a generation or two back and we may be unaware of it).  We feel the loss and absence keenly and such feelings can cause us to actually turn away when our mother tries to connect with us another time.

Wolynn shares just such a story on page 175 about a baby Myrna whose mother leaves for three weeks.  On her return as she waits and longs for her daughter to run to her Mryna’s mother experiences instead a daughter who turns away becoming even more distant.  Rather than understand her daughter’s reactions and look for a way to restore the bond Myrna’s mother instead encourages her independence.  The mother loses sight of her child’s vulnerability, so where did it go for Myrna?  Answer in short.  Into the unconscious.

Of course later when Myrna fell in love, love was experienced as a minefield and its something I can relate to as will anyone with insecure, avoidant or anxious attachment.  Vulnerability of needing another opens up a pit of loss we do not fully understand and we can relate by sabotaging things further should we choose to deny or repress our true need feelings and vulnerability.

Mark Wolynn talks of interruptions to the flow of love and energy between parent and child a lot in his book.  He knows a lot about it as he pursued a path of so called ‘spiritual bypassing’ seeking a healing he could not find in ashrams and through meditation (though he does use visionary meditations with a clients ancestors in order to effect healing of past wounds carried on).  Wolynn did not heal his early trauma with his mother until years later understanding how its roots lay far back in his own mother and grandmother’s history and eventually becoming a therapist himself.

When our early experience with our mother is disrupted by a significant break in the bond, shards of pain and emptiness can shred our well being and disconnect us from the fundamental flow of life.  Where the mother-child relationship remains severed, empty or fraught with indifference, a stream of negative images can lock the child in a pattern of frustration and self doubt.  In extreme cases, when the negative images are continuous and unrelenting, frustration, rage, numbness, and insensitivity to others can emerge.

Psychopathic behaviour can be the result but the key result if often a form of pathological narcissism – an inability to truly connect and take in love.

According to Wolynn the majority of us have experienced some kind of break in the bond with our mothers.  Many though, got enough of what was needed to be able to maintain healthy relationships later in life.  Many of us were not so lucky.  Ideally disruptions to attunement need to be healed in the context of any relationship.  How we deal with them are important as are the beliefs about our inherent lovability.  According to Janet Woititz adult children of addiction and trauma believed they will only be loved if they act in a pleasing happy way.  No relationship can survive like this and neither can we.

Knowing what happened in the bond with our mother and the impact it had on our attachment style as well as inherent negative self beliefs and development of what Wolynn calls ‘core sentences of separation’ is vitally important if we wish to heal.  We can become conscious of these, work to understand how they may be influencing our present and do inner work to change negative core beliefs we may have absorbed unconsciously so they do not continue to play our in our relationships.  I have found so much help myself reading Wolynn’s book which I shared from extensively in my blog last year.  It is well worth a look if you struggle to maintain healthy loving relationships in your own life and are working to understand how the flow of love between you and a parent (not only your mother) is impacting you in later life.

(Examples of core beliefs which negatively impact our capacity to love and be loved are :  I’ll be left:  I’ll be abandoned. I’ll be rejected.  I’ll have nobody.  I’ll lose control.   I’ll be helpless.  I don’t matter.  I’m too much.  I am not enough.  I’ll be annihilated.  I’ll be destroyed.  I will push love away.)

Understanding abandonment depression : insights from James Masterson

Abandonment depression appears as a subject in a few of my posts.  I made a leap forward in my own recovery when I first began to become aware of the term just over a year ago following reading Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD where he deals with the subject in depth.  Abandonment depression is different to basic depression which can be a feeling of depletion or lowered energy following a loss of massive change of some kind in a person’s life.  When dealing with this kind of depression easy solutions of distraction for a time or a taking of pain relief to help when people find them selves in the critical stages will help.  In the case of abandonment depression we are dealing with something that will not be helped by these kind of solutions since it involves a core wound that must be understood, felt, mined and addressed through psychological work.

Here is how James Masterton describes the abandonment depression :

In the throes of the abandonment depression, a person will feel that a part of his very self is lost or cut off from the supplies necessary to sustain life.  Many patients describe this in graphic physical terms, such as losing an arm or leg, being deprived of oxygen, or being drained of blood.  As one patient put it : “I felt as though my legs would not work so I couldn’t possibly leave the house, and when I went to fix lunch I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to swallow.  And if I did I would probably throw it back up.”

At the darkest level of this depression, a person can despair of ever recovering her real self, and thoughts of suicide are not uncommon.  When one is brought low enough repeatedly, or for an extended period of time, it becomes increasingly harder to imagine oneself happy again or able to push through life with the strength and confidence with which the reasonably healthy go about their daily living. At this point a person can teeter on the brink  of despair, give up and consider taking her own life. If the separations they experience in their external lives are painful enough to reinforce the feelings of fear of abandonment, some will commit suicide.

(this is well beyond an acute episode of the ‘blahs’)… The roots of depression push farther into the past than seems apparent.  In time, true sources, eating away inside, make themselves known.  But initially they are well defended by the false self.

It is the nature of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of our unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are – vulnerable, afraid, terrified, and unable to let our real selves emerge.  Nevertheless, when the defences are down and the real self is thrown into situations calling for strong self assertion, situations that trigger the repressed memories of earlier separation anxieties and feelings of abandonment by the mother, the serious nature of the depression is glimpsed and felt.  At this point it is not uncommon for the patient to panic and slide down to the very bottom from which he convinces himself he will never recover.

(Panic hides fear of the rage underneath depression).  Depression and rage ride in tandem.  As depression intensifies, and comes to the surface of awareness, so does anger.  At first (the real reasons cannot be pinpointed)…rage is diffuse and projected onto outside sources (anger at life or the world or just angry in general…..Anger of the abandonment depression is far more intense and complex).  Anger that is part of the abandonment depression. has more damaging consequences.  Its intensity can cause bodily shaking, feelings of helplessness, feeling like a baby (age regression) and it comes from painful childhood experiences that may not be easily recalled because they are so solidly defended against.

Eventually in therapy real causes of the anger begin to become apparent but the anger is still defended against by being projected onto targets that are often stand ins or proxies….this occurs because feeling anger is associated with fear of rejection as well as fear of intimacy since in childhood being close came with difficulties and rejections.

Rage and fear (the) lead to panic.. Panic feeds on the fear that we cannot express our anger over abandonment.  It can be a claustrophobic strangling of energies, a tightening up of options : either we express our anger and risk losing the love of others or we deny the anger in order to remain in the helpless state of dependency and hold onto others.  As the panic grows, patients report that it feels like facing death or actually being killed.  Often this anxiety will be channelled into psychosomatic disorders such as asthma and peptic ulcers, each being a perfect metaphor for the underlying fear… A person with a peptic ulcer is often hungering for emotional supplies that were lost in childhood or that were never sufficient to nourish the real self.  As an adult, she is unable to find sources to supply the needed emotional support or to get through life without it.

The person living with (such a) death threat, or what is perceived as a death threat, hanging over his head necessarily leads a fearful life, in which every move to express hiself, to allow his rea self to emerge, is accompanied by the need to look over his shoulder in fear and panic… panic can escalate as the patient slowly becomes aware of the depression and anger that have been bottled up over the years.  The false self has blocked any expression of these feelings for so long that when they do manage to surface, even in the slightest way, the resulting panic can be paralysing and terrifying.  Fear of letting these feelings out into the open, even in therapy can mushroom into panic proportions.

Guilt is the fifth column behind.. the patient’s frontline of defences.  (This is not normal reasonable guilt but rather)… fed by the guilt we internalise in early childhood from the disapproval expressed by the mother for self actualisation or individuation……Not being able to face up to the internalised guilt about that (healthy) part of themselves, these individuals will suppress making any moves in forbidden direction and resort to old familiar clinging behaviour that they remember made them safe and good years ago.

(Clinging and guilt lead to…) helplessness.  Failure to activate the impaired real self (and) to deal with painful feelings.. which in the abandonment depression is abiding and total…. staying in unhealthy jobs and relationships, fearing moving on from old unhealthy patterns, even denying that we desire to.

James A Masterson, Fear of Abandonment, The Search for the Real Self

The anger against, fear of and panic due to devaluation of our true self internalised by the false self in the course of growing up lives on inside of us and must be faced on the path of healing.   Facing such internalised voices, feelings and fears means we must also confront the inner critic who has become hostile to the real self ever breaking free and asserting its real needs which bring with them the deep seated fear of abandonment by others that had its roots in the past.  Mastering our fear of abandonment and the abandonment depression is the price we pay to discontinue the inner self abandonment we face when we begin to become more conscious and aware of the real roots and aspects of the abandonment depression.

Difficulty accepting criticism : how and why borderline anger can be triggered

Reading my current book on men who suffer from borderline personality disorder Hard To Love I am being reminded of how early attachment or abandonment wounds leave us with a thin skin covering over a sore raw spot that can often be triggered by perceived threat of abandonment.  At these times if we suffer from borderline wounds we may fly into a reactive rage rather than feel the soft,  vulnerable spot that is being triggered deep inside.

Acting out rage is a reaction to the hurt, pain and fear that lives inside.  We may not be fully conscious that we fear rejection because someone around us saw a part of us that may not be well formed or is a source of shame, youngness, pain, or fear for us.  Often such reactive anger or rage is a response to having early abandonment experiences triggered or feeling we are not being valued or validated.  When others only see the angry or raging response and don’t dig deeper to realise the wounds that led to it, true understanding, connection and repair is not possible.  When we have been triggered in this way it takes some age regression work to become aware of the wounds and earlier incidents of abandonment we carry and experience that are being triggered by such criticism in the present moment.

I am posting this today as a bit of a response to an earlier post on the negative side of the inner critic.  Criticism from others when it triggers our own inner critic can tend to make us defended or angry if we have these kind of wounds and most especially if we have a powerful inner critic inside and lots of earlier hurt.  If we want relationships to survive we need to find ways to express our vulnerability with others.  We need the capacity to take the little one inside us onto our knee and get at the root of what is going on.  For the abandonment actually happens when outer criticism triggers our feeling of not being good enough inside and as much as we needed someone in childhood to let us know we are good enough, as adults we really do not need this approval of our selves.   Later on we may then be able to have an honest conversation with the person in question and say  “when you did X I started to feel scared and abandoned and criticised.”   We may be able to communicate needs that we have that were never fully met growing up.

It is very painful to have these unresolved and often unrecognised needs inside of us.  In my post on the antidote to the inner critic yesterday I brought attention to the issue of childhood emotional neglect, and pointed out how suffering from such neglect which is not fully even conscious for many of us leads to certain deficiencies within and in the way we relate to our selves in terms of empathy and feeling a sense of inner value.  Educating ourselves about the areas of neglect is an important step forward, for how can we get needs met or change behaviours we don’t fully accept or even understand?

In my past relationship often my ex partner would feel triggered by a little criticism comments like :  “the griller door needs to be open when you grilling”.  He took that as some kind of slight on his intelligence.  And my abandonment wound could be similarly triggered at times when I started to feel left out or ignored.  It was then hard to find the words to express how I was really feeling because I lacked the necessary insight and language.   When I was finally able to speak up for my needs I was told that they did not matter has his needs came first, always.  At that stage self care would have seen me make a re-evaluation of the relationship if I had been in a healthier place.

That said not all criticism is valid and some people use put downs or other subtle or not so subtle means to put us down.  In this case we can stand up for ourselves against the criticism in a firm and loving way.

Borderline wounds are very real, they come from key experiences in the past of feeling alone and abandoned which are so often deeply hidden from view and even conscious memory.  They make us vulnerable in the present.  They put the locus of control and reaction outside of ourselves, at least before we begin to get a handle on them.  Understanding how and why we react as we do is important, just as important as others around us taking the time and caring enough to want to know why it is happening rather than blame or shame.

In my last relationship neither of us had sufficient insight to cope with the self soothing and other centred understanding that was needed for a healthier relationship to survive when we both carried our own version of abandonment wounding.   So many things can happen to us is childhood that we are powerless over and end up leaving deep scars.   There scars can mark our relationships but they are also signs, pointers or signals of a damage that when understood and worked with consciously can help us to move through to more committed, honest and understanding relationships with others.

The painful cost of trauma : understanding abandonment depression

Painful trauma has a way of driving us out of our body.  To have lived with an intolerable reality which we are given no help to process or understand is an agony beyond words.  Not to be held, understood and empathised with in our suffering means our neurobiology cannot be soothed, we become flooded with stress chemicals such as cortisol.  Recent studies show that empathy increased the presence of oxytocin in our neurobiological systems.

I know the relief that has come for me in therapy as  have been able to let my own feelings out.  I know the damage that has occurred when, in trying to express said feelings with unsafe others who are defended, blocked or lacking in empathy they have become, not only trapped within, but other feelings have then occurred in reaction such as pain, disappointment and distress.  It was only last week in reading the chapter on abandonment depression in James Masterton’s book on the real self that I became aware of how complex and multilayered the feelings of that state are.  It is within the abandonment depression that we feel suicidal as it contains what Masterton has labelled the six feelings of the psychic apocalypse, very aptly named.  Guilt, rage, panic, fear are four of these feelings.

In recovery those of us who have undergone trauma or abandonment trauma need help to understand our feelings and the courage and strength to bear with or integrate these feelings. Rage is a huge part of what we feel when we meet again invalidation or similar abuse that triggers our earlier abuse.  There is panic when we face the rage which also comes with a great deal of fear, after all when we were younger and abandoned we experienced fear as we were confronted with overpowering situations of stress and distress which we can go on reliving unconsciously for years and had no help with.

In our recovery we begin to regress to these feelings and since such a huge part of so called borderline trauma involves invalidation or lack of support and empathy, when we meet such triggers again, we can regress and find ourselves once again filled with grief and rage.  Our overt reactions will most likely not be understood by those who have no idea of the complexity of feelings we are left trying to contain, process and express as a result.  This why we need in recovery an enlightened witness who is able to show empathy for what the real self had to suffer in childhood which led to the adoption of a false self as a defence against fully feeling the complex feelings of the abandonment depression.

In his book on Complex PTSD Pete Walker deals with the abandonment depression.  He also explains how the inner critic becomes very active at a certain stage in our recovery, shaming us for daring to recover and try to become well.  The inner critic may be comprised of things said to us when young by others who tried to shame or judge us instead of showing empathy or helping us make sense of difficult feelings.  We can shame ourselves in similar ways for our reactions, which comes often from the so called ‘adult’ part of us that won’t accept or allow the child to be the child, vulnerable, tortured at times and deeply confused.

Empathy is so essential as we begin to deal with our inner critic less we start to shame the child all over again in a bid to protect it or protect against the feared rejection of others that we experienced in the past.  It’s a complex process.  We do need to become aware of when we become triggered or start to act out old pain, but shaming ourselves for it won’t work and help us to heal.  Painful feelings need to be lovingly contained and soothed for true healing and integration to happen.

Over taken : reflections on feeling powerless

I had a very intense experience today.  It made clear a really deep theme and imprint in my life and for the first time I really felt free to connect with the deep rage and grief at the bottom of it.  Being a fairly sensitive person who is open, I open myself up, it doesn’t always serve me well and there are times when I need to be more protective of boundaries.  I have had several experience since I have lived in my cottage of gardeners coming and doing thing to plants or trees in my garden that I didn’t ask for and the other problem was I trusted they were going to do what I had asked or wanted and got distracted or wasn’t there to oversea.  It happened to me again today. I had an arborist in to take out some small trees at the back of the garage that were interfering with power lines and then I asked the person to prune my plum tree.

I had a call with a friend and then when I went out the arborist had pruned away a significant part of another tree that I had not asked him to touch.  I had a stunned moment and when he asked if everything was okay I just went kind of numb and speechless.    I felt this slam to the gut like I had been violated.

At the time this was going on another voice inside me was telling me not to over-react, that it was just a tree and the limbs would grow back but they had been sawed off and were all torn away leaving a huge ugly space in a place where there was formely a protective canopy and may I re-iterate.  I didn’t ask for this to happen”.  It took about an hour after the arborist left for the full impact of what just happened to hit home.  I got so, so angry and was in the shower screaming out “I never asked you to cut into that tree”.  After my shower I was doubled over in grief and my inner child was just crying and crying and so angry with adult me.  Why didn’t you protect me? she was screaming and adult me was crying.

What was also going on was just this feeling of being back inside the car all smashed up with bits of the engine cutting into my legs and lacerations to my mouth, not able to breath with my lung collapsed.  I was crying over how powerless I felt, how I could not stop so many bad things happening to me that were outside of my control going way, way back to my childhood : when I would be tickled in an abusive way or given enemas when really I had a stomach ache from loneliness or after a fight with my Mum, of being alone after school and having serious accidents with no one there to help or protect me.

All of this just hit me in the deepest, deepest way which is so difficult to really express in blog space.  Anyway I stayed with little Debs and comforted her.  I listened deeply to all of her pain and anger.  I told her how sorry I was she had had to go through these things from the past.  I helped in the best way to say how sorry I was that a mistake had been made that I didn’t intend and that next time I will be more aware but I also reminded her that her pain over the tree was really about a lot of other incidents of feeling powerless.  There was a lot of very deep grief and pain there going way, way back.  I then asked her what I could do to make her feel better knowing that I could not take the pain of the past away.  What she wanted was a quiet lunch and a trip to the library and not to have to take Jasper to the park today because adult me was too tired.  We also needed to cancel some other plans just to be able to ‘be’.

Its hard to explain but what happened today with the trees was not a small thing for me.  It was a deeply significant thing with roots reaching far back.  I am always anxious to allow gardeners into my garden as so many times I have had a similar thing happen.  I now have a very part time gardener who never does anything I don’t ask because he respects my boundaries he just wasn’t equipped to remove my trees and prune them.  What the arborist did today wasn’t right.  He thought he was doing the right thing so my anger has passed now, but never the less it was extremely important for me to feel it and express it to myself today.

I had a panic attack just after the arborist left and the panic attack only ended after I really listened to my inner child and did what I needed to do today which was just take care of me.   This latest incident with Venus retrograde square to Saturn shows me where a lot of my wounds to boundaries have happened.  Trees are very, very important to my soul.  They provide me with shelter and healing, to have one just cut about when I didn’t ask for it really does affect me. Others may think I am being too precious or sensitive but deep down I know I am not.  I know my body connects to these kind of things and so does my soul.  If my soul is hurting so am I and I wont find peace until I really turn within and trust what I feel even if its anger and realise the associations.  All feelings have messages for me about my past.

Tonight I have been panic attack free for about the first time in a few weeks. I am so grateful that I could really listen to myself today.  The torn tree wont go away and it will still hurt a bit to look at it, but I don’t feel angry tonight, only a bit disappointed but at the same time happy and at peace, because today I really listened to me and took my feelings seriously.

Lancing a boil, cleaning out the wound

We are currently in the midst of a conjunction or meeting together of the planet of communications, perceptions, early relationships and siblings (Mercury) with the planet that deals with subconscious intense experiences which lead us either to a negotiation with deeply buried pain. We can deal with this pain through ongoing resentment or find a transformation of perspective (Pluto) through facing the dark and painful reactions we meet through the experience most especially through accepting and grieving the wound.  I  touched on this subject in an earlier post.

When I read about this conjunction the other day it made sense of the deep pain I went through between Friday and Sunday.  Today I feel I have come out into a clearing where I can see the deep, deep resentment, pain and anger I have always carried at a deeply subconscious level as a result of repeated abandonments, many of which took place at this time of year.   The abandonments go way, way back to my earliest childhood and I see the repetitive theme as it has played out over at least 50 or more years.  The intensity of the pain on Friday and Saturday felt for me almost too powerful to contain. Certain avenues of support were pulled back due to the rage that came out of me and other avenues of support opening up (thankfully) as I am not sure I could have contained the experience on my own, without both validation and an awareness of others who could help me raise my own perspective.

I guess that our psyche in some strange way arranges for us, experiences in which we get to discover our wounds.  There are wound awakeners around us who catalyse old pain in intense ways.  Through this experience we get to learn more about ourselves and the unconscious impact of our past on us, through them we get set up for an encounter with our wounded self or inner child.

According to abandonment expert, Susan Anderson the way we deal with our abandonment which may be largely unconscious is to act out in outer child behaviours.  In this state we are age regressed, emotionally hijacked, no longer in our adult mind at all.  We are just overcome powerfully by an intense experience of pain, rage, discomfort, disappointment, anger, anxiety, emptiness or dread.

Susan uses the acronym of S.W.I.R.L. for how the abandonment depression affects.  First we feel Shattered, blown into a million pieces, dissociated or numb, secondly we Withdrawour energy into ourselves like a wounded animal with a painful splinter lodged in its paw, thirdly we Internalise the pain in our body and suffer from depression, loss of energy, heartache and interned helplessness and anger, fourthly we encounter Rage at the abandonment or loss, we rail against the injustice, we may go on binges of eating, drinking or sexing, and through our rage we can touch base with old pain and grief which we can then feel once we begin to let go of the powerful hold that rage can have on us.

Finally once we have negotiated all of the four stages we have the chance Lifting  out of the abandonment experience but only if we can get help and development of working through the initial stages.  I would refer readers to Susan’s book The Journey from Abandonment to Healing for a more detailed exploration of the stages of S.W.I.R.L.

Suffice to say for the purposes of this blog I know I have negotiated all stages since my marriage ended 12 years ago and then worked out more with the second relationship gone wrong 5 years ago.  Lately I have experienced times of lifting out of the abandonment depression but I was retriggered into it most intensely last week by a friend letting me down and then my therapist having trouble containing me on Friday.  Luckily for me I have another therapist I could turn to today.  I was able to be put back in my adult mind and self by talking through everything with her today.  We worked on some strategies to use when I felt over come.  I then talked it over with my mother and sister and they offered me empathy, validation and support but not the connection back to my childhood, that is and has been my work.

This afternoon I feel in a stronger place.  I know tomorrow when I meet my therapist I will be able to express my pain and disappointment not from the regressed outer child but from my adult and inner child.  I will be able to apologise but I also think that for now I have met the end of the road with Katina for a little while.  Mercury goes retrograde soon and that is a time to put the stops on too much outer activity and time to reflect deeply on past issues.  I want to spend some quiet time with myself and my inner child over the net few weeks.

Today I also bought Louise Hays’ book The Power is Within You.  I want to use her advice to get in touch with my best self and begin to make real efforts to demonstrate and practice self love and unconditional acceptance towards myself.  I no longer want the rage or negativity to dominate my life and relationships. I know facing my deep rage and anger has been necessary, now I need to put things in place to set good boundaries for my outer child.  I am at a critical phase of my healing and Mercury’s meeting with Pluto has lanced a boil that was simmering away inside me and needed to be purged, a wound that needed to burst open so that toxins could come out and healing energy could enter.  I know this most absolutely as a strong conviction within my inner self which I am learning is the true source of all love.

I want to be force for the love and light of this inner self in the world from now on so the wound no longer dominates by keeping me in withdrawal as it has in the past.  I know the withdrawal was a necessary stage, but now I want to re-engage with life and relationships, from a far clearer place than I have previously been able to occupy.

 

On the thorny subject of forgiveness

Many of us who have been wounded in childhood may have been told by others we won’t find any true peace until we forgive.  Most particularly if we are involved in church circles or other religious or spiritual communities forgiveness may be promoted as the ideal to aspire to.  But the truth is a forgiveness that is assumed or forced before we have really worked through, felt and owned all the complex feelings we have experienced about what happened to us, may come at too a high price.

This kind of forgiveness may be premature and may lead us to make excuses for others who really aren’t showing the necessary contrition.  It may keep us in denial or stalemated at the level of pure intellectual insight alone and it may keep us open to further abuse.  If it comes at the cost of denial or minimisation of the depth of pain we went through we won’t truly gain the opportunity to heal at a deeper level.

I was reading through a really wonderful chapter in the book The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists : Coping With the One Way Relation ship in Work, Love and Family today which is a very concise and practical guide to understanding and healing from the childhood damage of being raised by narcissistic parents or those who put their own needs above and ignore, dismiss or minimise our own  I thought it was really worth sharing here.

Grieving the losses and wounding in childhood may also involve recognising the unresolved losses our parents suffered in their own childhoods.  As we see past the brambles of our own defences, we can also see past the defences of our parents.  Yet again this is another place we can get stuck, if we are not careful.

Although we have gained a credible sense that our symptoms have a connection to how our parents cared for us in childhood, we may now hit the wall of our desire to protect our parents from any self reproach.  We want to protect them from ‘blame’ and again fall back into our defence of denial. We would often prefer to believe that somehow we were the cause of painful parenting or stick to the cliché that ‘our parents did the best they could’ rather than look directly into our feelings of hurt and anger.  In addition, we have multiple messages from society and religious teachings that tell us that the only way to release these feelings is through forgiveness.  Here Alice Miller .. makes a compelling case in her book For Your Own Good.

‘Genuine forgiveness does not deny anger but face it head on.’  She makes the point over and over again that when our history of childhood wounding is uncovered, then the repressed anger or rage will give way to the grief and sorrow that our parents were unable to treat us differently. At this point we can truly gain insight into our parent’s childhood and experience genuine, mature sympathy.  Alice Miller illustrates through all of her books that the child’s natural response to parental demand is always to try to understand and accept the parent’s narcissistic expectations as a matter of course.

‘But he has to pay for this pseudo-understanding with his feelings and his sensitivity to his own needs, i.e., with his authentic self.  This is why access to the normal, angry, uncomprehending and rebellious child he once was had previously been blocked off.  When this child within the adult is liberated,  he will discover his vital roots and strength…..To be free is to express resentment dating back to early childhood does not mean that one now becomes a resentful person, but rather the exact opposite.’

For the very reason that we are permitted to express these feelings that were once felt, but not allowable, we are liberated from the chains of our early defences and symptoms.

Being urged to forgive, or being told that we are doing something wrong for expressing these feeling of anger, rage or resentment before they are completely worked through places us back in repressive space.   We can only truly forgive when we have felt it all through, grieved, felt angry and integrated these complex and painful feelings.  It is a challenging process.

It is no one’s right to dictate to us what our forgiveness and / or healing process should be.  And in healing we need to look for someone who helps us work through our true feelings and does not encourage us to keep our understanding on a purely intellectual level alone.  As Eleanor Payson points out in her book they can only do this if they have removed their own rationalisations and denials and gained insight into the defences within themselves.  They need to be someone who has the capacity to hold us in the midst of intense emotional states without shaming or judging until the work is done and our feelings are resolved.

How comfortable are you with your anger?

Do you feel comfortable with expressing anger?  Do you have any kind of fear around it?  When you start to feel angry about something, do you also start to feel fear or shame?   I am asking this because of a blog I recently read and because that is how I realise I feel when I feel angry.  I am also aware that when I start to feel angry I can enter into a rational negating dialogue with myself, I want to be sure that what I am feeling is in proportion to the action and not over the top.

I am aware that this is due the way my anger was or was not handled by my parents.  Often when I was angry I got in trouble or I was sent to my room.  When my parents were angry with each other they didn’t handle it in a rational way, either and undercurrents of anger often ended with my mother giving my father the silent treatment or erupting into a storm.

In the past few years on the four or so occasions I have tried to express valid feelings of anger with my Mum, she immediately gets fearful and scared and says to me “I wish you didn’t have to get angry.”  Often my feelings of anger are justified and I haven’t even been expressing them in a damaging way, I have just been expressing very intense old feelings I haven’t shared before.  In this situation I have discussed them with an outside person to get a reality check as due to my conditioning I can never be entirely sure if I am being reasonable or unreasonable.  Often in the past I was being told I didn’t have a right to be angry, was made to feel like the bad guy for being real and expressing myself passionately.

I now know after many years of therapy that I learned over many years to swallow down my anger with other painful feelings much of the time.  When anger has come up I have often tried to share with people who could not or would not hear it, or with people who were invested in me keeping it under wraps.  It has taken me about five therapy attempts to find a therapist who helps me and is comfortable with me expressing anger.  She validates when she feels my anger is righteous.

Today I was at the dog park and a mother shut down her son for talking too loudly.  I must admit it triggered me.  I think that when we have had to shut down or repress anger for many years when it finally does emerge, at first it comes out like a tournado.  It has taken me some time to learn of the term historical anger.  Historical anger may be years of anger that never found expression before and got blocked or buried or barricaded away. When it finally emerges it can be immense and very, very big and can piggy back onto new hurts.

I have shared in another blog :

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/permission-to-be-angry-the-role-of-anger-in-healing/

that the Anger Detour process as outlined by John Lee has helped me to work through old angers  and work to find how they may be triggered or re-awakened by current incidents.  Unpacking and releasing old anger is very important for if we suppress our true feelings, in time we tend to develop all kinds of body problems, digestive upsets, headaches, stiff muscles and auto immune problems.

The truth is that as a baby or a child we have very intense feelings that require the mediation, soothing and mirroring of a caregiver.  I read a very powerful book many years ago by the psychotherapist Donald Kalsched called, The Inner World of Trauma.  In it he shows how when such intense bodily centred feelings find no way of being expressed, understood, held, mirroring and reflected by outside caregivers they build up within the baby or young child and can actually become powerful inner demonic figures or inner voices.  In some cases the inner voices become so all powerful and self protective they will encourage the person to isolate totally or even take their lives.

Kalsched came to his understanding through the experience of having people in therapy that were unable to be helped, they may abort the therapy or erect all kinds of powerful defences against being helped.  Due to the trauma of having been hurt in the past or neglected by those from whom they sought attachment, there was no way these clients could ever risk being cared for or loved again.  And the prospect of feeling this old pain (which is so necessary to the healing and maturing process) was too much for them.

Its is easy to see how borderline rage is a natural outcome of such treatment.  Borderlines are one of the most demonised of so called character disorders.  Many therapists abandon borderlines all over again if they are not able to handle the natural rage and anger of the borderline and help them to come to some kind of understanding of it. Of course the most essential healing of borderline rage must come from within the person themselves in understanding the hurt and pain of their abandoned or neglected inner child that they may transfer onto the therapist.   Only self compassion and a true understanding of our trauma history and our erected defences can help us to understand and meditate the anger, learning to express it in ways which no longer alienate others.

That said, there are times when we have to express our anger and we need to have that anger heard.  Anger is our legitimate protest that serves the protection and expression of the self.  When it comes out of a justified hurt anger is a protest that needs to be heard and understood by the parent in an empathetic and loving way when we are a child. If it is not, if justified anger is shut down or misunderstood we can loose a very important psychological defence that helps us to maintain healthy interpersonal boundaries. In this situation we take flight in defensive patterns perhaps of disempowerment and collapse associated with co-dependent coping strategies.

Certainly feeling the power of old anger is not very comfortable.  We have to be very careful in this process that we don’t dump old anger on new situations.  We need ways to understand when we are age regressing to an earlier inner child injury or undergoing a triggering flashback  (for help with this look to Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD).  Once we have done this we need to find assertive ways to express our truth and experience with someone safe.

Like or not anger is something we need to make friends with.  A natural understanding of what hurts us or makes us angry (justifiably) is necessary for us to find happiness and live with healthy boundaries.  It also will have a powerful affect on our immune system, so in the end may literally make the difference between living well or dying of an autoimmune related disease.  My own cancer journey has shown me this fact.  I know that I ignore anger at my own peril. And that those who deny it or negate it are just not psychologically healthy individuals for me to be around much.

 

 

The struggle to live as me

Contemporary interpreters of certain yogic and meditative traditions speak of keeping one’s awareness right with any emotional pain or physical discomfort, as that is where growth and change occurs, right at the edge of intensity, before pain or avoidance overwhelms us. It’s a subtle business for sure, but what else are we going to do when life is showing us that backing up and looking within may be quite revealing.

Mars Shows the Way, Mary Plumb, Mountain Astrologer.

Anyone else out there currently undergoing or experiencing frustration or banked up anger from incidents long past that strangled or disabled your true self, desires or needs?

Its Mars slowing to station direct territory and currently we are in the intense building part of the retrograde (Mars moving backward) cycle. In two weeks Mars will slow to move forward on the 23rd degree of the sign Scorpio, anyone with important planetary energies in the fixed signs Taurus, Leo, Scorpio or Aquarius will be feeling it, but not us alone, for Mars turned retrograde in the early degrees of Sagittarius some months ago.

For myself at the moment in my therapy I am touching base with intense feelings of frustration and anger towards my now dead father over the way he prevented me from returning to study teaching at a critical time of pain and stress in our family, forcing me to go to secretarial college which I loathed.  At that time typing was on manual typewriters it had to be done in triplicate with carbon samdwiched between pages and if you made more than two mistakes per page you had to throw the entire thing out and start again.  We were stuck in a room for 3 hours each morning or afternoon doing that mindless task, the other part of the day being given over to shorthand.

My rebellion was silent, secretive, I started smoking a lot of dope and going out on wild weekends to the local punk disco and having lots of random, casual sex, really I was longing for love but going about it in all the wrong ways. Eventually I met a guy still in love with his ex addicted to dope and fell pregnant twice, I was taking no precautions as I had been too shy and distant from both my parents to have the talk about sex, which was a subject of intense fear and shame due to my dysfunctional Catholic background. I had also been shamed for something intensely private surrounding my bodily insecurity at a tenuos time in adolescence that led me to distrust my father and fear him even more.

By the age of 23 when my father died, I was carrying deep in my body so much trauma, so much shame, so many secrets. Returning to live with my parents just prior to my fathers illness in late 1984 and then postponing my trip to meet my boyfriend due my father’s sudden death in early January 1985 I received a 4 am phone call from India asking me not to join him there as planned, since he no longer loved me.  We had just buried my father.  Mum read my diaries at that time found out about the two terminations and confronted me with the shame, no empathy expressed.  I was then pushed to get myself overseas just one month following Dad’s death, no place to grieve no place to be comforted only comfort a one litre bottle of Johhny Walker scotch.

I remember arriving to bleak cold Heathrow in the early morning dragging two big bags, boarding the Tube and having no idea where I was going.  Higher power stepped in at the eleventh hour and in the first hotel I visited there at the reception desk was a friend from the town we used to visit for summer holidays, Caroline, bless.

It seems that where this piece of writing started has led to another destination.  It began with the idea of what happens when the very thing we need and desire, the stepping stone to developing and manifesting our True Self in the world is thwarted or stolen from us and that frustration is buried only to emerge at a later time. NOW.

At business college I had no connections, my best friends (a close knit group) were all at the college I was prevented from returning to, my ties to them broke and we are only now reconnecting, they had no idea of all I suffered, cast out for so many years, only now returning. Is it any wonder I often feel propelled away from groups?

It would take seven years for me to get off the secretarial train led for dead end street and attempt in so many befuddled ways to find a new avenue, two more terminations of pregnancy, so many lost years of addiction, more painful relationships, and three more years to find recovery arriving there, dragging behind me a body loaded with the dumped unconscious wreckage of years which I have hauled along and sought a place to unpack over 13 more years.  Rivers of tears that hid the deeper rage, the primal scream of thwarted frustration, a forest fire dampened so many times by others invalidation or stuffed back inside again due to their fear..feelings shut down so many times by unhelpful platitudes : he did his best, just put it behind you, do anything but feel.

Well fuck no I will no bury this anger any more Dad..it wasn’t good enough, you didn’t see me or ever support my true self and all these years I’ve grieved a ghost who I never connected to on any conscious level, only on a deeply subconscious one.  You were a refugee of War thrown into a self imposed exile to pursue a dream that cost us all far too much in terms of connection and of feeling, and in the end your dream stole your life and prevented us ever knowing each other as adults,  these are the bones I’ve grieved over, holding the anger and grief inside and all these years I’ve been cast out, forbidden from grieving here with you my family.

Wow good to spit that out.  Without my loving therapist how would this ever have been validated?  I am realising that for all these years I have blamed myself for something far bigger than me that was never my fault.  I have denied my self true life as I was taught to do.  All that I have lost, all the potentials lost must now be laid to rest, so the future no longer becomes an echo of the past, for the truth is I deserve so much more than this and no one will give it to me now but me. Is there hope now that I can fly free from this place of pain, release and unload all of these painful feelings?   I cannot change the past.  But I can live now as me, owning this, denying nothing.

And no I cannot go free without feeling the anger I’ve had to bury and not without realising how damaging and powerful the rationalisations to deny its truth have been and what they have cost me and my body. And not without grieving what has to be grieved.

Mars you are the fire we need, you fuel our Sun and without you all becomes soggy and shapeless, and we become lost, ghosts aimlessl wandering in an empty wasteland, hungering, hungering the hungry ghosts Gabor Mate speaks of in his book on addiction.

Mars you are the sword we need to cut through the bullshit, the admonishments to feeling what is true and real cast upon us by less aware souls, shut in by lies, fearing us finding and owning our power and truth.

Mars you will not allow our grief to undo us but will rouse us from our numbed sleep and call us to awaken and remember the very real truth of who we really are and what truely happened to and hurt and scarred our souls so deeply.  Through connecting with you in our bodies we can find the power to live who we truly are and shine like the Suns we were destined to be

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