A brilliant new resource for empaths.

As empaths we need all the resources and knowledge at our disposal to stay healthy and learn about the dynamics of emotions and energy exchange, that is why I was so pleased to come across the new book by medical doctor and empathic wise woman Christine Northrup : Dodging Energy Vampires : An Empath’s Guide to Evading Relationships that Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power.  

Dodging

It is already confirming a lot of things I have experienced and explains well the biological changes in stress hormones that we produce in relationship to being in toxic or draining relationships with others when we are very open to love and care as empaths and most especially those of us who never got a lot of emotional needs met in a healthy way in our families of origin.

I am just going to share a bit of it in this post to help readers.  This extract concerns how empaths in believing they should always work to help, heal or show support to others often stay stuck in detrimental relationships which cause us not only psychic and psychological pain but also increasing ill health or susceptibility to auto immune difficulties, weight gain and/or loss and other diseases.

If you’re in a relationship with an energy vampire, the question is: Why don’t you get out?  Why don’t you speak up and protect yourself?

As I mentioned, many empaths do get out. They see the problems and ditch the vampire pronto.  But for those who don’t there are two main reasons.  First, you are naturally compassionate and caring, so you may simply miss the red flags.  That can happen if you’re not paying full attention to your intuition and the circumstances surrounding you.  And second, your wounds have created in you a powerful desire to be accepted and an overwhelming belief that you shouldn’t hurt other people’s feelings.  And for old soul empaths, there is a third things that keeps us stuck:  We truly believe that our love and caring can heal other people – in this case, the vampire.  And although we may see the red flags, we believe that things will be different with us – that those other people who hurt the vampire just didn’t have the skill and compassion that we have.

While our initial response to the inevitable ill treatment of us in anger, hurt, and disappointment , we quickly squelch these natural feelings and replace them with guilt – something we learned to do in the past, either way far back in another lifetime or in childhood.  Or, more likely, both.

We make the mistake of thinking that energy vampires are as sensitive as we are.  We don’t want to risk hurting their feelings, so in order to protect them and their feelings – and because we are so good at solving problems in all the other areas of our lives – we keep giving them our energy and draining ourselves rather than risk standing up to them, standing up for ourselves, and owning how angry, hurt, and disappointed we really feel.  And then ending the relationship.

….trying to convince them to get help and to change their ways…..is a dead end street.. because they don’t change.  What has to change in every single relationship with an energy vampire is you.

The lack of self worth and need to be accepted and need to be loved that many of us have makes us a perfect target for energy vampires and the darker parts of human nature.  (This what we most need to work to change in order to heal the toxic pattern.)

Christine goes on to explain also how the Buddhist concept of sending love to those who hurt, angered or betrayed us is also not useful for empaths, something that has bothered me in the past when I have read up on Buddism and also when I was in AA.  The appropriate response to these kind of feelings should not be to work harder to forgive those who upset, distress or abuse us or don’t want to change or seek a true spritual or psychological solution or healing.  Really who we should be loving and praying and caring for is ourselves and those other kind, supportive, emotionally healthy people in our life who actually give to us rather than drain our energy or suck away our life’s blood continually.

The dark place of abandonment

Being made to believe we are not okay as we are and certainly not deserving of someone’s love and relationship does affect us so very deeply.  I am revisiting the work of abandonment therapist Susan Anderson lately.  I was lucky to be guided towards her book From Abandonment to Healing just over 13 years ago when my marriage ended and I found myself in a very dark place.

This was not the first time as abandonment has been a pretty much constant theme for me starting with my older much loved sister leaving home when I was only 3 to marry and start her own family and live overseas.  My Mum wasn’t emotionally available to me at all, she worked all the time and when she was home we had to duck and weave around her compulsive cleaning, there was never a place to rest and my Dad also vacated through his own addictions (minor ones) when he was around he wasn’t really there.  Later in life after I nearly lost my life at the tender age of 17 in a motor vehicle smash up he was hard line forcing me to go to secretarial college in the painful aftermath of my older sister’s breakdown and cerebral bleed.  Later I saw her abandoned too at her most vulnerable time and was back at home when she tried to take her life in 1982 when I was only 20 years old.

Dad ended up dying when I was only 23 and that was followed by my then partner (who I had two terminations of pregancy to), ringing me at 4 am in the morning just a few days after my father died to tell me not to bother joining him overseas as he didn’t love me any more and had found someone else.  Do you believe that later when our paths crossed in Greece I slept with him only to come home one night and find him in bed with someone else only to be accused of being ‘mad’ when I reacted to it poorly?  Luckily at that time I was with other friends in Greece and the owner of our B and B deplored my ex’s behaviour.  Never the less I internalised the abandonment seeing it as due to a flaw in me.

I won’t go into the pain of three more similar ‘leavings’ of exs over a period of 18 more years, often on the back of being told there was something wrong with me.  What that ‘something’ I now know was terror and fear pure and simple and Susan Andersons’ newer book which I just bought Taming The Outer Child : Overcoming Self Sabotage and Healing from Abandonment explains how very real changes in our neurochemistry involving the amygdala leave us with an over active fear, flight and fight response which is automatically triggered in any new relationship or prospective interaction  (and not only with new potential partners, from my experience).  This reactive pattern she gives the name Outer Child and it can sabotage and lay to waste new connections but not only that leaves us with cumulative Post Traumatic Stress as a result of our abandonment trauma or ‘schemas’.

Anderson.jpg

As I sat with my sister yesterday after she tried on the clothes I bought for her and saw how much of her self love had been decimated I thought it is criminal what people are telling her, I know her fixation on clothes and looking good are symptoms of her abandonment but its not only that, the roulette wheel of psychiatrists and medications has left her depleted, she went down the exercise route but withouth any psycho dynamic therapy and no emotional recovery buddies.  She is not able to express and read as I am and that works against her.   I know new clothes will not fix that deeper wound to her self esteem but I think it doesn’t hurt to be there to try as it’s getting so much colder here and she has no warm jumpers and when people tell her ‘its all in her head as she has lots of clothes’, that to my mind is pretty invalidating and harsh.

I seem to have gone a little off track here but what I am trying to address in this post is how our abandonment at another’s hands can leave us questioning our own use, meaning, value, beauty and goodness and how healing involves not internalising those feelings from someone else.  In her earlier book Anderson uses the acronym S.W.I.R.L. to describe the process of working through a recent abandonment which may trigger far earlier ones.  (Shattering, Withdrawal, Internalisation, Rage, Lifting).

The true abandonment as adults is then self abandonment which occurs as we internalise false beliefs about our value and worth and fail to understand or validate reactions to abandonment and its deeper triggers. For sure we may not be perfect and have wounds and scars and reaction patterns we need to understand and work with : the process Anderson outlines in the second book, but we are not worthless because we have been abandoned or gone through loss and all our feelings and reactions make complete sense once we understand their roots and work to understand our own history and self sabotaging behaviours.

From this position we should be showing compassion to those who have suffered emotional abandonment not be taking out a big stick to hit them over the head with.   For healing involves compassion, wisdom and tenderness both to others and to our inner child that bleed from very real wounds in earlier life.

The importance of consistent reliable attachment

I now know a lot of my inner insecurity and fear and descent into addiction from the age of 17 comes from the removal or absence of significant attachments growing up.  The early loss of my sister to a new life far away from us was a wound that went deep but one I could not share with anyone or even fully understand at age 3.

When I look at photos of my sister’s wedding with myself in them I look sad and bewildered, like I don’t know what is going on.  I am the only child in those photographs and my sister and her new husband left on a boat for a different country the following day.  I imagine now the hole that was left by my sister’s absence then and now with the death of my Mum I feel the shadow imprints of that hole, but not as deeply for luckily over these past few years I have managed to reach out more to those I would love to share a friendship or connection with, those who I can say how I really feel and what I am really experiencing inside.

What I noticed over the lead up to my Mum’s funeral following her death was the insecurity and unreliability of many of my familial attachments.  My brother was the only fully physically present figure but he was not operating on an emotional level, so when he wanted to extend his support I found myself brushing it off.  With other family members I noticed they were just not there or were only there in a very inconsistent way.  When they were there I did a sideways dance due to fear and lack of trust

Due to my abandonment history I am not used to either consistency or reliability in attachments or support.  I am used to insecure unreliable attachments and those who try to fob me of or gain distance from me.   This was made clear to me this morning when I read the chapter Just Like A Timepiece in the book Beyond Borderline : True Stories of Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder. 

In this story the sufferer speaks of making her first most significant attachment shortly after her first hospitalisation for the disorder.  The doctor she bonded and attached to then left the programme at the hospital and the sufferer then spiralled into addiction.  I could see as I read the clear connection between that emotional abandonment and the sufferer’s need to medicate her pain.   Luckily seven years later the teller of this story moves to a new town where the doctor who treated her is in practice as a therapist.  Through trust and courage she makes the attempt to connect to her and her therapist makes herself available 24/7 which is what one therapist told me years ago is the only thing that works for those of us with deeply disordered and insecure attachment experiences.

Looking back I see how many therapies broke for me when my therapist took a break.  I am also wondering at the wisdom of what my therapist told me this week, that by leaving me alone to cope she was helping me to build that resource inside or look to others.  Maybe there is a lot of truth in this but a deeper truth is at a time I really needed her 24/7 she refused to be there for me.  She told me this week when I went back to see her she was surprised I had come back, coolly and calmly she explained she thought she would not see me again.   It would have been no problem for her, but it would have been for me.  I would have had to find yet a new therapist, explain my story all over again and I have been with this therapist for 2 years now and that’s a lot of sessions building a knowing and a history.

I felt so sad when I read this story this morning.  Of course I was glad for the writer she was able to find such a consistent reliable attachment with her therapist, Dr. Chase.   She writes :

Dr Chase and I still continue to meet twice a week at the time of this writing.  She is by far the most important person in my life.  She has done more for me than anyone else I have ever known.  There are still moments when I struggle, and she is available to me at any moment, both night and day.  The diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is not an excuse for me.  Its is simply an explanation. I have begun to tentatively form friendships , although many times I still retreat within the safety of myself  The other day I found myself saying “I like myself.”

And I cry now.

I felt upset this morning that my own therapist does not provide that kind of support.  I felt I had no other alternative but to accept her boundaries last week, but that doesn’t mean I think they are right.  I think what she did to me over the time of Mum’s death was hard and unfair but I also know she had the best of intentions and understand her reasoning.  I am used to giving over in this way. Another person’s will and desire was stronger than my own.  She held all the power and control and I accepted it.  I could have left to start again with someone new I guess but what I get most of the time from Kat works.

I am going to find other sources of support next year.  Like the person who told the story I quoted from above I am now building in my own life growing connections with several people in my own life. I know the fears I have of abandonment relate back to very real experiences of being alone and abandoned when I most needed support.  With my Mum’s death around the anniversary of my Dad’s that empty black hole does open up within me some mornings.  But the difference is that now, armed with inner psychological awareness  I know the need I have to reach out, I can also reach inside for the love and understanding, it is where life has always forced me, so why argue with reality?

Yesterday I was brave enough to visit the husband of a good friend who was part of my trauma past in the aftermath of Dad’s death back in 1986 who had undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor on Thursday in the hospital where I spent 3 months following my accident at the end of 1979.  I needed a cup of coffee before I got there and he was doing well.  His wife was there and we talked for well over an hour.  I thought then as i drove home of how life and recovery is always trying to bring us full circle.  Recovery is like a spiral dance in which we pass over and re-experience old ground, pain, trauma and issues but with a new elevation or perspective on them.  At times we have to go into the fire and face or front up to those triggers or re-enactments, but armed with the knowledge we gain from our journey we grow in awareness on each revolution around the center of our self and past.

Many of my attachments broke all through out my life.  Some broke in later years due to unconscious fears, but many of them also held firm.  Those who have loved me have watched me battle with my need to connect amidst enormous fear.  They have stayed close but not too close and then there are those who over this most painful time have made real efforts to draw close and be near.   Their consistency in being there for me has made me aware that it is safe to trust in world I so long ago learned to doubt or fear.

Maybe it took my Mum’s death for this to all come full circle.  I don’t know.  I only know I am so grateful all these years later to be living just a little further outside of all of that insecurity and fear that plagued me unconsciously for so many years.  I will perhaps always carry deep insecure attachment and abandonment fears but hopefully with mindfulness they will no longer need to dominate my life so unconsciously and I can learn who is secure/safe for me to trust and place my faith in.

Sore

Today was a tough day, in the morning.  Last night afer a dinner at Mum’s my nephew opened up to me about the terror he went through after my sister sustained brain damage from her stroke.  I never knew why her husband left her and sent her home,  his family in New Zealand would not help.  He ended up telling the two older boys they must leave and go it alone when they were just teenagers, the two younger ones (including my nephew who is visiting) were taken here and there and the woman my brother in law took up with following my sister’s illness was unkind to he and his brother.   I heard a lot of things last night I wont share here that hurt me so much to hear.   I have no medication to dull the effect.  I got to sleep after an hour or so of twisting and turning after I finally got to bed just before midnight.  I awoke to hear what I thought was my grand-niece having a bad dream.  My nephew is taking a valium before bed so as to get a proper sleep.  I got back to sleep but awoke with so much going around in my head when they did not get up for an hour and a half I started to feel very anxious and unsettled.  Things calmed down but then , when my sister died, I was the one left the task to clear out her room at the care home with Mum and it was such a big task as she kept so much, photos, letters, the children’s drawing, school projects, reports and other nick knacks I have held onto these for over three years now but today I wanted to pass them on.  There was a photo of my sister at about age 24 holding her first born and my nephew said, Mum was so beautiful then.  I just broke down.  It was so hard I was crying so hard I had to leave the room as he was so caught up in looking at the drawings he did as kid that contain similar themes to his later art work (he is now a well recognised artist) and they were images of trauma, I could see that clearly.   I felt the terror he was under when my sister ran after him with a pair of scissors.  I think after the bleed a part of her brain must have been badly damaged.  So hard to hear.

I phoned my other sister as my therapist has told me she won’t answer calls out of session.   I had taken on so much of the pain I had to download it somewhere.  “He shouldn’t be telling you those things,” my sister said to me.  Part of me feels he needs to but I am not his therapist.  I want to be there but I realised when I broke down what was really happening was I was seeing how much I have been trying to compensate for my sister’s damage and loss, when really it is not my responsiblity and yet in one way it is.  I am so confused!!!

Time out in the bedroom helped, as did the call to my sister.   I wondered though if I was the one doing all the feeling,  When my nephew knew I was upset he gave me a huge hug, but thats confusing as he is the one who also went through so much pain and when he gets home he has to have an operation to stop a swelling in his cerebellum from impinging on a nerve at the base of his neck.  I am frightened for him and was worried when over the past two night he continued to drink two thirds of a bottle of wine.  At the same time I dont judge him, I understand its just being in addiction recovery I so wish he did not drink or smoke.

I am aware of my boundaries though.   What he does is up to him.  After all he told me I know how much he feels he needs pain relief.   I think it was such a big thing for him to bring his daughter down here for a few days when he is facing such a huge thing in his life.   I now understand why my own Mum was worried and did not know if it would be okay for him to come.

Anyway we went out for lunch and were able to soothe ourselves.  There has not been a bad word between any of us.   Last night Mum opened up about the circumstances surrounding my father’s death just after Christmas and was able to cry.   My nephew held her hand.  My Mum got a lot of cuddle time with little Lyra and it was such a sweet visit.   It is going to be hard to say goodbye to them tomorrow but at the same time I will be glad also to have some of my space back its so mixed, time with family when there is so much trauma from the past.  My sister was always gentle but a strong willed person, its obvious the brain injury changed her.  At times she scared even me.   I sacrificed so much to stay close to my sister in 2002 and 2005 then again in 2011.  I had to come back to my home town to face all of this.  I could have gone away but it would all have been kicking around inside of me anyway, and still I long for a life outside a life of pain and grief that is really only tangital to me.   I felt such soreness today when the full weight of it all it me.  I was aware that at the moment Mercury is about to stand still and station before moving  backward to cross critical degrees of Sagittarius that were strong in my dead sister’s chart for her own Mercury which on some level rules the brain and spinal cord as well and Neptune was passing over it when the bleed occurred and Neptune rules the cerebral spinal fluid.  (this placement ties into strong placements in my great great grandfather’s chart to which my sister was deeply connected inter cellularly.)   Now my nephew has damage to his brain too.   I am frightened for him.  I want to wrap him up in cotton wool and keep him safe.  He is such a beautiful man and I love him so much.   I feel so sad, but will pray that he will be held in loving care.  Last night we both spoke of how we both felt we had been kept safe at key times we drank too much.   He carried similar trauma to me and I am glad now he is in a loving relationship, for many years he was living out in the bush all alone with only his art.  I feel the deepest connection with him.   I love him with all my heart.  Please, if there is a God, keep him safe I beg of you, and help me to contain this suffering which feels like just such a huge ocean of pain and powerlessness today.

The final 3 strategies for overcoming the effects of self absorbed or emotionally unavailable parents.

This is the final installment which follows on from two earlier posts on the header subject and contains exerpts that come from Chapter 6 of Nina Brown’s book Children of the Self Absorbed : A Grown Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents.

Change of Pace

(We can) become so stuck in one or more routines that (we) limit (ourselves) from expanding (our) horizons, meeting new people or challenges, learning and developing (our) resources and talents, and limiting our choices.  Thus, (we) place restraints on (ourselves) and limit (our) personal growth and development in some ways.  An occasional change of pace can energize (us) and (our) thoughts in many ways, enrich (our) inner self, and provide for wonder and beauty in (our) life.

This is not to say that (we) should disrupt (our) life and do away with (our) routines.  Such routines are beneficial.  For example, I do my writing in the morning, shortly after I wake up.  I first read the paper and have a cup of coffee.  After that I pick up my pad and pen and begin to write. You want to maintain your constructive routines.

A change of pace is not a major disruption, it is doing something different on a trial basis to see if it is right for you, energizing in some way, or has other positive outcomes.  It can be almost anything that is different from your usual routine.

Mindfulness

Becoming mindful teaches our valuable concentration that can help you stay focused on what is truly important in your life.  This  can be very helpful to you in interactions with your self absorbed parent, where your heightened emotional state can be distracting, even disabling.  Once you get distracted or lost, you’re left with the same old feelings.

Mindfulness is done with conscious thought and intention.   You expand your awareness in the moment and notice, appreciate, and even sometimes savour what you are experiencing.  This awareness allows you to notice things you didn’t notice before, being something into clearer focus, sort through confusing stimuli and zoom in on important aspects, reduce some anxiety, and help you feel more in control.  For example, lets suppose after by becoming more mindful you notice and experience the following with your self absorbed parent :

  • Your parent is saying the usual hurtful things, but you are not confused about why he is doing this and are able to see the fear your parent has of becoming old and no longer in control.
  • The words used by your parent seem meaningless and inaccurate and, although designed to hurt you, are bouncing off you like ball bearings bouncing off a wall.
  • You are able to discern your parent’s anxiety without taking it on or even feeling that you must fix it.
  • You are becoming aware that a role shift is in process, and that your parent is fighting but is also consciously unaware of it.
  • You leave the interaction less upset and stressed than usual.

Mindfulness allows you both to expand and contract.  You expand your awareness and contract your focus.  Practice the following exercise as many times as you possibly can throughout your day.  It doesn’t take long to do it, but you can do it as long as you wish.

Developing Mindfulness

Procedure:  This excercise can be done sitting, standing, reclining, walking and so on.  However it is best to be alone in a quiet place.

  1. Empty your mind.
  2. Don’t fight intrusive thoughts.
  3. Concentrate on your breathing and how this makes you feel.  Try to slow your breath.
  4. Become aware of your body, its tense spots, and its pleasurable spots.
  5. Focus on what you are experiencing, doing and feeling.  Stay with that and expand your awareness of sensations – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting.
  6. Notice colors, shapes, forms, sounds, and how your body feels.
  7. Continue your expansion as long as you wish.

Reduce your Self Absorption

This suggestion is the basis for entire books on narcissism, but we’ll only touch on the subject in his book  The major premise for this suggestion is that sef absorbed behavior and attitudes are not constructive or helpful.  It is important to remember that, just as your self absorbed parent cannot see his (or her) undeveloped narcissism, you are unaware of behaviors and attitudes you have that are reflective of undeveloped narcissism.  Your undeveloped narcissism can do the following:

  • Prevent you from detoxifying yourself.
  • Inhibit you from developing sufficient boundary strength.
  • Keep you in a position where you can be easily wounded.
  • Interfere with developing and maintaining meaningful and satisfying relationships.
  • Get in the way of your reaching out and connecting to others.
  • Keep you in a defensive state all of the time.

Be aware that (reducing self absorption) is a life long endeavour and that you are mostly unaware of your self absorbed behaviors and attitudes, but they do have a significant effect on your self and on your relationships.

End of direct quotes

Facing the fact that we too are self aborbed is difficult.  In one way we need self absorption for a time in order to delve into what is going on inside and understand how and why we are reacting as we do.  However it is now proven by research into mental health and happiness that happiness rests upon being able to sustain healthy mutual life giving, love filled connections with others.  This ability to connect is what is primarily wounded or undeveloped in narcissism and if we were raised with emotional neglect or by self absorbed wounded parents.  Learning to reach out and connect and show empathy and understanding to and of others is a life time work.  But it has great rewards.

Replicated trauma : understanding how trauma is carried in the family

The following is part verbatim excerpt from Chapter Three : The Family Mind of It Didn’t Start With You, part is a summary I have made using some of Mark Wolynn’s text.   The earlier part of this chapter addressed interruptions in the mother – child bond.  I will share that in another post.  This one shows different ways traumas can imprint and play out across generations.

The repetition of trauma is not always an exact replica of the original event.  In a family in which someone has committed a crime, for example, someone born in a later generation could atone for that crime without realising that he or she is doing so.  A man named John came to see me shortly after being released from prison.  He had served three years for embezzlement – a crime he claimed he did not commit.  At trial, John had pleaded not guilty, but because of the weight of the evidence against him – a false accusation made by his former business associate – he was advised by his attorney to accept a plea bargain.  The moment he entered my office, John appeared agitated.  His jaw was clenched, and he flung his coat against the back of the chair.  He revealed that he had been framed, and was now obsessed with thoughts of revenge.  As we discussed his family situation, it came to light that a generation back in the 1960s, his father had been accused of murdering his business partner, but had been acquitted at trial on a technicality.  Everyone in the family knew that the father was guilty, but they never spoke about it.  Given my experience with inherited family trauma, it wasnt surprising to learn that John was the same age his father was when he went to trial.  Justice was finally served, but the wrong person paid the price.

Bert Hellinger (a renowned German psychotherapist who developed what is called Family Constellation Therapy) believes that the mechanism behind these repetitions is unconscious loyalty, and views (this) as the cause of much suffering in families.  Unable to identify the source of their symptoms as belonging to an earlier generation, people often assume that the source of their problem is their own life experience, and are left helpless to find a solution.  Hellinger teaches that everyone has the same right to belong in a family system, and that no one can be excluded for any reason.  This includes the alcoholic grandfather who left our grandmother impoverished, the stillborn brother whose death broke our mother’s heart, and even the neighbor child our father accidentally killed as he backed out of the driveway  – they all belong in our family.  The list goes on.

Even people we wouldn’t normally include in your family system must be included.  If someone harmed or murdered or took advantage of a member of our family, that person must be included.  Likewise, if somebody in our family harmed or murdered or took advantage of someone, the victim would also need to be included….

Earlier partners of our parents and grandparents also belong.  By their dying or leaving or having been left, an opening is created that allows for our mother, father, or grandfather to enter the system, and ultimately allows for us to be born.

Hellinger has observed that when someone is rejected or left out of the family system, that person can be represented by a later member of the system.  The later person might share or repeat the earlier person’s fate by behaving similarly or by repeating some aspect of the excluded person’s suffering.  If, for example, your grandfather is rejected in the family because of his drinking, gambling and philandering, it is possible that one or more of these behaviors will be adopted by one of his descendants.  In this way, family suffering continues into subsequent generations.

…Hellinger stresses that we must each carry our own fate, regardless of its severity.  No one can attempt to take on the fate of a parent, grandparent, sibling, uncle, or aunt without some type of suffering ensuing.  Hellinger uses the word “entanglement” to describe this kind of suffering.  When entangled, you unconsciously carry the feelings, symptoms, behaviors, or hardships of an earlier member of your family system as if they were your own.

(Wolynn goes on to explain in subsequent paragraphs how each child in the same family can inherit different trauma regardless of similarities in upbringing.  The first born is likely to carry unresolved father wounds, the first born daughter what is unresolved with the mother.  The reverse can also be true.  Later children are likely to carry different traumas, or elements of the grandparent’s traumas.

Eg a woman who is first born marries an emotionally unavailable controlling man – similar to how she sees her father- and so shares the dynamic with her mother.  The second daughter may carry the unexpressed anger of her mother.  The trauma is the same but each carry different aspects of it.  One daughter may reject the father the other does not (this happened in my own family with my great great grandfather younger siblings embraced him despite his addiction and PTSD my own great grandmother got as far away as she could with her daughter, my grandmother.   That separation pattern in my family has continued down 3 generations.)

Later children can carry unresolved traumas of the grandparents.  In the same family, either the third or fourth daughter might never marry, fearing she will be controlled by a man she does not love.

With a break in the mother child bond among siblings, each child might express his or her disconnection in different ways.  One becomes a people pleaser (fearing separation and rejection for making waves) another feeling trying to connect is useless pushes people away.  Another child might isolate and have little contact with the family.

Wolynn writes that he has seem that when several siblings have a break in the mother bond they often express anger or jealousy, or feel disconnected from each other.  The older child resents the younger when seeing them given what they cannot remember they got (early holding and bonding) because they were then too young to remember.  The older may then blame the younger or be mean or abusive or rejecting to them.

Wolynn adds that some children are lucky enough to escape, carrying very little of the trauma of the past.  Some get more of what they need (bonding, attention, affection and love) while others miss out due to different things happening in the family when they are born and being raised and having a different kind of connection with each parent.  There are no hard and fast rules, says Wolynn and explorations needs to take place to uncover what trauma we may be carrying.

One becomes disentangled from such traumas through becoming aware of past family hisotry, by learning to self soothe, and use healing imagery and sentences, gaining insight into wounds, entanglements and blocks and giving back the burden to whom it belongs.    I will share some of these strategies in later posts and share also more of the next chapter which addresses the power of language in addressing trauma.

Finding happiness and support inside the grief and pain

Happiness and contentment has more of a chance to grow when we are responded to with empathy.  Realistically in a world which contains all kinds of people we cannot expect such empathy as a given.  I was thinking earlier of a reading from one of the daily recovery readers I own which speaks of expectations as a premediated resentment.  What the quote is getting at is that when we unrealistically expect empathy or some response from someone incapable of giving it, that failure to accept (the painful) reality can lead to resentment.

I have a brother who is incapable of emotional responses to suffering.  He also NEVER turns up on time.   He will call my Mum really early in the morning and she will crack the whip on herself to get ready only to be left waiting for up to an hour. One day (Mother`s Day many years ago) he actually failed to turn up.  I had to hand it to my sister the last time he called us all together.  She arrived an hour later than the time he said he would be there, she just pleased herself.  That was sensible behaviour where my brother is concerned as expecting him to be on time is just not realistic.

I don`t want this to turn into a criticism blog about my brother but what I am trying to get at is that its painful to set ourselves up to be hurt by others failure to respect us or show empathy.  We may need to be on the receiving end of hurt many times before we finally get the lesson that what we need from this person is never going to be forthcoming.  We can respect that they are only human and doing their best.  In the end we all have different thresholds of tolerance for this kind of thing.  If we have been neglected or kept waiting or wounded by others misattention or misattunement, such things can trigger us to age regress back to an earlier time of hurt that we then feel with full force.  We then have to process this.

I had just such an incident with my gardener the other day.   I got up early waiting for him to show at the allocated time, a while later, no gardener.  This kind of being kept waiting scenario is a big trigger for me.  I noticed my anxiety level rising and my head searching for reasons he was late.  I then did the sensible thing.  I called him to find out what was happening.  Turns out his children were playing up and he had a school commitment they hadnt told him about so he was running last but neglected to call.  I nippped things in the bud, prevented myself regressing into anxiety then got on with another task until he arrived.   I recognised my abandonment schema had been triggered too, so I practicee self soothing. Later we talked in through and I explained my trigger to him.

A year ago I decided to stop meeting a friend who always kept me waiting.  The final straw was when she cancelled just after she had sent a text to say she was leaving home to be here for a morning tea I went to a lot of effort to make.   It retriggered a lot of pain but also anger at myself too because throughout the past three years she had been consistently late to each and every meeting we had agreed to.   I hadn’t set a boundaries until a big upset when she was late to take me to an oncology appointment.  She was defensive and upset then and the behaviour didn’t change.  I do miss elements of our friendship and I didn`t throw her out entirely.  I just chose to limit contact as each meeting would amp up my anxiety.    I still keep in touch though our communciation has lessened in the last six months.

I seem to have got a little diverted off topic in the course of writing this post.   What initiated it was the idea I wanted to communicate that when we are responded to in grief or any other emotional difficulty with empathy and consistent loving support, the chance for happiness to grow increases.

It is shown by recent research that being met with empathy actually increases the production of positive neurotransmitters such as oxytocin (the love hormone) while being hurt, invalidated, or criticised lights up a different site in the brain and leads to higher levels of cortisol.  I just started to read Christine Neff`s book on Self Compassion this week and in it she quotes this reasearch that had been referred to in other books I have read recently.

The bad news is that insecurely attached people who learned they could never consistently rely on others or were shown abuse, neglect or lack of empathy are more likely not to be able to show themselves self compassion and attract those who won`t either.  Positive effects can come for them later in life though if they can find a therapist or friend who will listen with empathy and validate their experiences.  Most certainly we don`t always need to be surrounded by yes people, but if we have had attachment issues or difficulties in the past it is essential we find those who can respond to us in empathy with consistency in order that our neurotransmitters can be altered.  In the long run this kind of support helps us more than any drug will.  We can also learn to show ourselves this kind of care.

I believe that some kind of inner peace and happiness can grow out of our grief or other wounds if we are shown empathy in the midst of them and helped to process and understand them.

If you have significant grief, abandonment or trauma in your life or inconsistent attachments it is essential you find one person you can unburden yourself with, a person who is consistent and reliable.    On line support groups and some blogs can most definately help in ths way if you are isolated but ideally its good to be able to connect face to face as our bodies respond to each other when present through mirror neurons.   We who have been wounded, damaged or traumatised so badly need this kind of support to find some happiness inside the sadnesses that can beseige us from that painful past of neglect, loss or trauma.