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.

 

 

 

 

Undermined reality and fear of intimacy : Insights into loving an Adult Child

There is nothing worse for  a child than having our inner reality undermined. Being told “no you don’t feel that way” “just get over it” “that didn’t hurt, you are such a baby” and worse things and this is the legacy sadly of those brought up in narcissistic homes.  Children raised in these homes learn to shut up and repress the reality of their True Self pretty quickly (especially anger which goes along with invalidation abuse but has to be supressed for us to survive).   We carry great fear and there is never really any freedom to take an unimpeded breath.  For those of us who meet partners in life later who aren’t this way and want to see, hear, validate and love us as we are, the struggle to trust is even harder.  IT IS something therapist and author Janet Woitiz deals with in her book The Intimacy Struggle which I have had for years but am rereading now I am in a new relationship that is so vastly different to the old ones.

There are ten fears that Janet outlines which hit the nail on the head for me lately.  Children from alcoholic or narcissistic and emotionally neglectful homes often will detonate a relationship that offers them exactly what they need as soon as it gets close and intimate, its due to a profound fear of abandonment we cannot often even fully admit to ourselves.  Partners of such people go through shock and confusion as the one they love acts out, especially after a time of closeness and connection.   The adult child will quickly pull the rug out from under such closeness by starting a fight, disappearing or going disconnected in some way, all due to not being able to stand the heat of their own feelings of sadness and longing for what they were denied needing or wanting from a young age which are evoked in intimate relationships.  As pointed out by Robert Firestone who has done a lot of work with inner voices and the inner critic often we will start to hear criticisms and doubts in our heads when intimacy threatens us putting ourselves or the other person down if we carry past unresolved attachment wounds.  Its something addressed too in the book on attachment by therapists Amir Levine and Rachel Heller ‘Attached : The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – And Keep Love.

Its helpful to know when our fear of intimacy is being evoked.  It may not always stop us acting out but it will start to bring awareness which is the first step, then maybe we can have a talk to our partner about it later if we can be honest and they are open. Partners of adult children of trauma, addiction or neglect can also educate themselves to the vulnerabilities of their partners if they don’t suffer this way and are more securely attached.

Below is a list of fears which Janet Woitiz outlines in her excellent book.

  1. Adult Children fear hurting others due to their own pain and sensitivity.  They make excellent loyal partners for this reason but such fear may make them into people pleasers because their fear of conflict is so high.
  2. Adult Children fear the person others see them to be does not exist.  They were not able to be their full selves and were never unconditionally accepted.
  3. Adult Children fear they will lose control if they love someone or connect with them, often due to the fact their homes were out of control or they had overly controlling parents.
  4. Adult Children will deny things hurt or matter, its a defensive approach to make themselves appear bullet proof and deny their vulnerability which was never safe before.
  5. Adult Children fear any love given is not real, things going well is so unfamiliar to them it seems unreal since all they knew growing up was chaos.  High drama doesn’t go along with a healthy relationship and they never experienced peaceful connected relating so they have no template for it.
  6. Adult Children fear their anger when exposed will lead to abandonment.  They have a power keg of it anyway due to the way they were treated growing up.  They have difficulty asking for help then get upset if partners don’t mind read due to a fear of expressing needs.
  7. Adult Children feel shame for being themselves and they feel responsible for everything that went wrong in their families.  This is unrealistic but its very true for them.   So how could you love them when they are so bad?
  8. Adult Children fear that if you really get to know them you will find out they are unlovable.  They were probably led to believe this anyway due to the way they were treated or blamed for things growing up that were not their fault.  They often feel failures that they could not fix their dysfunctional family.
  9. Adult Children have difficulty tolerating the discomfort that is a natural part of getting close to others.  Feelings naturally get stirred up with intimacy and adult children fear their feelings or don’t really know how to deal with them so often they cut and run.
  10. Adult Children fear they will be left and this fear harks back to their history.  It is important these fears are not discounted and that a loving partner gives them constant reassurance, they didn’t ask to be abandoned growing up, it wasn’t their fault and they don’t “have to get over it”.  Their fear needs to be understood and soothed until they can learn to trust in a present that is profoundly different to their traumatic past.

 

We have feelings for a reason

In many ways the rational enlightenment, which was a critical turning point in human history together with the ascendency of patriarchal forms of social control put paid to so called ‘irrational’ feelings.  At the same time both forces created an enormous split between mind and body, a split we are working hard to understand and heal, a split that leaves us many of us lost, disconnected and disempowered.

I love how synchronicity works, most especially where my blog is concerned as this evening I was re reading a very important section in a book I have referenced before by Andrea Mathews, Letting Go of Good and that section, titled Understanding Your Inner World : Your Internal Messaging System addresses the issue of repressed feeling.  Shortly after reading it I came across a link to another post that had been reblogged by a follower on the work of author and therapist Mama Gena (aka Regina Thomashauer) and in the words of the author of that blog

She discusses how our patriarchal society trains us to control and stifle our emotions, which causes them to fester. She writes “our patriarchal society doesn’t honor grief. (Or rage. Or longing. Or jealousy. Or frustration–just to name a few).”

According to Mathews, following the rational enlightenment

Emotional people, or people who are in touch with internal message, such as intuition, came to be thought of as unstable.  This was because emotions and other internal stimuli could not be trusted or relied upon at the time.  They are here one minute and gone the next.  They make us do things we later regret. They drive us insane or to a proximity of insanity.  They make us worry, ruminate, and do all kinds of other things with our thoughts that are not at all rational.  No.  We need to turn off emotions and other internal stimuli in favour of thought.  Thought is always rational.  But, of course, this is not true.

What we have done in the name of reason is repress.  We have repressed emotions, intuition, discernment, and other internal stimuli, as well as awareness of actions, words, thoughts and anything else we consider to be unacceptable.  We have, in fact, repressed awareness of our own inner world.  And of course, any time we repress awareness of our own inner world our thoughts are not going to be very reasonable – or rational – because they cannot now come from wholeness but from only one segment of who we are.  Thought that exists without a direct connection to emotion, intuition, or other internal messages, or which exists relative to a bunch of connections to repressed material is not going to be reasonable  Indeed repression make us more unstable – not less.

.. most of us don’t want to know what goes on in our inner world… we suspect that we will find badness and all kinds of pain, betrayal, secret darkness and angst that we just don’t want to have to wade through… there is also a large contingent of spiritual leadership… that teaches that our so called “negative” thoughts and emotions are dangerous to our well being.   According to these teachers, our thoughts are always supposed to be positive and our emotions are always supposed to be set on bliss, and when they are not, that is evidence that bad old ego has stepped up and taken hold of us. …. Much like the old traditional ideas about the devil, these ideas about ego set us up for a battle between various aspects of the identity.  They do NOT facilitate an awakening to the authentic Self.  They simply have people struggling and striving to rid themselves of an essential part of their being, in much the same way that the Age of Reason did.

..These teachings and those that remain from the Age of Reason have a very similar result – self-betrayal….(but) our emotions, our desires, our intuitions, and our discernment are essential to understanding both the identity we have and the authentic Self.  We will not come to understand either, nor will we heal any brokenness until we have come to understand the inner world.

And those emotions which are most helpful to us are very much a part of our inner world and exist for a reason.  In the following chapters of that section of her book Letting Go of Good Mathews deals with the emotions which she sees as critical to our internal messaging system along with intuition, discernment and desire.  We literally cannot survive nor thrive well until we have learned what these emotions have to teach us.  In an earlier post I already shared a post taken from that book on fear as one of the internal messengers that come as protector and teacher.

The other three emotions explored by Mathews are as follows :

  1. Resentment
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness/Sorrow

I am sure many of us out there have been educated at one time or another to believe that one or other of these four emotion is bad or negative in some way but really, as Mathews explores in chapters devoted to each, each has a message for us, a message that we ignore or dismiss at our peril.

Resentment comes to teach us when we are overstepping our boundaries and not sufficiently honouring ourselves. When we have been hurt or shamed or our anger invalidated.   Resentment makes us feel something over and over again until we pay attention to that something and deal with it.   If it is something we cannot change we need to walk away or at least put up boundaries.

Anger comes as a cry of authenticity from our true sense of self to let us know if we have been diminished or treated unjustly in some way,  “when we forget (anger), it comes up to remind us that we exist, that we are real, that we are here in the room with others by whom we wish to be seen and heard, and that we matter.  We have a primal need to exist, to be real, to be here, and to matter to ourselves.”  Anger will let us know when something that is not okay is happening to us.  Abusers or drainers may try to convince us anger is a selfish emotion but anger always exists in tandem with assertion so we can take action to self protect and self care, so “anger is an energy that must be heard and authenticated”, most importantly by us.  Buried anger will make itself known in psycho somatic ways if we don’t listen to it and take heed.   Anger cannot be denied without difficult consequences.

Sorrow or sadness is an “admission that we are not in control…(letting us know) there has been a searing loss…. Sorrow knows that what we wanted is gone.”  According to Mathews the purpose of sorrow is to get us to acceptance, the more we accept sadness and allow ourselves to grieve, rather than block, defend and deny our grief, the more transformation can happen in our lives, or opening to deeper spiritual truths.  Good sorrow (well grieved) can cleanse us, clear away fog and toxins, ground us and make us more human and authentic, as well as emotionally available.

Mathews worked with addicts in recovery and in every case she saw how those who resorted to addiction had denied or somehow negated their true sorrow over a loss.  Many blamed themselves in some way and she tells the story of Jared in her book a man whose mother was murdered when he went out one night to a friends place and never spoke about the torment he carried inside, until it emerged in group therapy.  Through grieving and finally externalising the blame he had held silently within and drank over for years he moved towards a new acceptance and understanding of loss.  Love of his self which had been so absent before grew out of this experience, as it will for all of us when we finally have compassion and understanding shown to us which will help us to show to ourselves the same by and through honouring our true feelings.

Mathews concludes with these words.

When we make time to be with our emotions, listening to their wise messages, they often leave us with powerful and transformative shifts towards healing.

When we deny ourselves this process, when we continue to engage with the lie so widespread in a toxic and rapidly deconstructing patriarchal split mind-set, we cut ourselves off from the true source of our healing, which always lies deep within our selves and within the emotions that so often hide deep within buried under our thoughts about them.

Letting go of numb

The following extract comes from Tara Brach’s book True Refuge : Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.  Interestingly it concerns a woman who Tara was working with in therapy who as a young child had her long hair cut off by her mother as it was too much bother. I was sharing in a post a few days ago how this also happened to me and the trauma of it was felt when I went to the hairdresser late last week following my Mum’s death.   The woman in question, Jane, had also had her mother die a few years before the time she was seeing Tara.  In therapy she was sharing how the pain of this event had awakened in her heart through intense feelings of fear, felt as a claw “pulling and tearing at my heart”.  What followed was an outburst of anger towards her mother for subjecting Jane to this ordeal.

The anger soon turned into deep sadness as Tara worked with Jane encouraging her to feel the pain and grief deeply in her body, and in time it transformed into peace.  Jane had reached some deeply powerful realisations as a result.

Brach writes the following in her book :

Carl Jung wrote, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parents.”  The outer domain of our unlived life includes all the places where we’ve held back from pursuing and manifesting our potential – in education and career, in relationships and creativity.  But it is the inner domain of our unlived life that sets this suffering in motion.  Here we find raw sensations, the longings and hurts, the passions and fears that we have not allowed ourselves to feel. When we pull away from the energetic basis of our experience, we turn away from the truth of what is.  We make a terrible bargain.  When we separate from the felt sense of our pain, we also separate from the visceral experience of love that allows for true intimacy with others.  We cut ourselves off from the sensory aliveness that connects us with the natural world.  When there is unlived life, we can’t take good care of ourselves, our children, our world.

The feelings you are trying to ignore are like a screaming child who has been sent to her room.  You can put earplugs in and barricade yourself in the farthest end of the house, but the body and the unconscious mind don’t forget.  Maybe you feel tension or guilt.  Maybe…. you are baffled by intimacy or haunted by a sense of meaninglessness. Maybe you fixate on all the things you need to get done.  You can’t live in a spontaneous way because your body and mind are still reacting to the presence of your distressed child.  Everythingy ou do to ignore her, including becoming numb, only strengthens your link with her.  Your very felt sense of who you are …is fused with the experience of pushing away a central part of your life or running from it.

In shutting down the passion, hurt and pain she had experienced as a young girl whose precious hair was butchered, Jane had locked herself into a numb and anxious fragment of who she was.  Yet something in her was calling her to live more fully.  By beginning to contact her body’s experience, by touching ground, she was opening the door to what she had been running from.

Traumas of this kind may seem inconsequential, but really they are not.  Something was done to us we didn’t want or need and had no power over and feelings do remain.   The true self in Jane probably loved her long hair,  it wasn’t all just about ego and looking a certain way, hair does hold our power and is connected to our heads which are such a vital part of our being. To be subjected to something that upset us and then to be laughed at for reacting (as Jane was) leaves a scar and a powerful subliminal message.  Going numb to it does not mean the feelings go away, they need to be dealt with, with compassion and sensitivity.

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.

The power and necessity of self expression in healing trauma

A

I woke late this morning to hear the tail end of a very powerful interview with an aboriginal writer and artist. Rhonda Collard Spratt who has recently written a book on the trauma of being one of the stolen generation, those precious young children who were forceably removed from family and community ‘for their own good’ by white people who actually invaded their country and set up missions to educate them out of their indigenous ways and subjected them to all kinds of abuse.

She was sharing about her experience, about the power of story and the importance of grieving for those of her people who suffered abandonment and abuse on an emotional level due to be stolen and were subjected to harsh discipline.  One of the things she said which really struck me were the words :  “Many of my own people are drowning in their unshed tears”.  She then spoke of the essential need to grieve, of taking that little one on our knee, caring for him or her, loving him or her, listening to his or her pain, letting him or her shed tears.

She also went on to share about how many times when she has tried to share her pain or her story she has been ‘shut down’ by white people.   I hear it myself all the time on various media, white commentators saying how its been going on too long and that aboriginal people ‘need to put the past behind them’.  Little understanding is given to how that is actually done nor is their a recognition that is a process and that what was stolen in childhood left wounds, wounds and memories that will always be there no matter how much so called ‘healing’ happens.

It is really only since the formal apology to aboriginal people in this country which occurred in 2007 that attention is actually being given to the grief of the stolen generation together with the recognition that what was done all those years ago caused great hurt and trauma which has left a lasting legacy, especially of addiction for so many.

In another interview last week a woman who was subjected to years of sexual abuse by a priest was speaking about her experience about which the movie Don’t Tell has been made.   Her therapist was also interviewed and she was saying how important an apology or recognition of what was done to children is, and how healing is blocked when we cannot find this.  I know this is an issue I have struggled with all of my life, mine was not sexual abuse, it was emotional neglect, invalidation and teasing but I have been so often gaslighted or blamed in the past that I learned to turn my painful feelings inside and medicate them with booze and drugs.

In the interview the aboriginal woman was saying how many of her own people have died due to medicating pain in this way.  She was speaking of how essential it is for others not to judge, to show empathy and understanding.  She then spoke about going back to one of the communities with a fellow sufferer where she had been abused and of how the person wanted to hit one of the priests she saw there.  The person involved would hang aboriginal children on the clothes line when they wet their pants, leaving them hanging their for hours.  My immediate thought was that the priest deserved a smack!  I was thinking about that, what happens when we are not allowed to express the anger in some way and of how grief is so much a part of that anger and may only be felt once and after the angry outburst can be expressed.

Internalised anger is, I believe, behind so many auto immune diseases.  It relates to pain gone inwards or internalised, buried deep inside the tissues, healing involves externalisation and ex – pression that we press the pain outwards and let it exit the body.  We need places to pour in into too, places to contain it, and validation is so important in this regard, for from my experience and understanding when invalidation or blocking of our feelings happens we can de – press it and all the now toxic unexpressed feelings and pain gets sent back inside to kick around in our systems where it burns and lives a vibrational charge and other imprints dumped deep in the cells.

AB

At the moment in Australia there is a huge push by aboriginal people for recognition of what happened to them in the past.  Deeply painful as it is, what occurred for indigenous races all over the world at the hands of imperialist colonialism is part of the evolutionary story of mankind.   These primitive people are immersed in the unconscious and connected to the earth and to the deep soul in ways so many modern people are not, due to the evolution of ego centred consciousness where religion and materialism became so powerful as a way of defending against and finding meaning when humans were confronted with the power of destructive forces, namely the Black Plague which killed millions.  To be black or of a different colour to so many whiteys was to mean one’s value was diminished.  A lack of empathy and a rugged need for possession and survival was what pushed so many to overrun and steal and kill and disempower indigenous races.  It was a case of the heroic ego gone wild.  Such stealing and killing and disempowerment forces live on, these things happen not only on an outward physical level, but also as deeply powerful psychic forces both within and without form any of us who suffer abuse and neglect or shaming of our emotional selves and are now trying to recover while being left with a deeply painful legacy of years of trauma.

And that is why it is so essential for us to connect to the child within us, that part of us that like aboriginal people can feel him or herself to be connected to the earth and stars, that natural joyous spontaneous part of us which reaches out in love, does not take refuge from fear in separation, attack and killing off, that part of us that is open to all that we feel and all that we see and all that we know deep inside.  When this part is stolen or when it goes missing or is buried deep down inside, we lose so much of our essential connection to spirit, we lose our powerful rebel yell, we lose our joy, our hope, our strength, our power to say ‘No’ and we become immobilised and have difficulty moving with the feelings to flow forward in healing, instead blocking them or burying them.

What was being spoken of this morning in that interview really concerned that process.  The advice she gave was to find some way to be able to tell the story of what happened to us, to sing it, to write it, to paint it, even to dance it out.  These are all ways of ex – pressing of pressing the experience out and giving it some kind of shape and form outside the container of our body.

In true healing we open ourselves body, mind and soul to our story, to whatever pain arises, we welcome it in, we give it a place, we say to it “I see you, you are real”, but healing involves also the deep recognition that this pain is not ultimately stronger than the deeper spirit in us which can open to be its container and can become then too the releaser too of what ever pain, feeling or expression needs to be liberated in the singing, in the writing, in the telling, or in the dancing.  This to me is both the witnessing and the shedding which are such necessary parts of healing.

In another interview last night a video was aired of a young man who went through a very deep depression and recorded his raw pain one night alone on video on his computer in a Tennessee hotel room.  He felt the only way to go through that dark night was to express it, and to have no shame, but to be naked, raw and real.  The video was shown last night on the Australian Show The Project.  He has now started a movement called The Heart on Your Sleeve movement which is a kind of counterbalance movement towards the social media sharing of happy, shiney experiences.  It is a movement to encourage those who struggle to express the authenticity of their experience.

So many of are suffering not only due to ‘mental illness’ but more as a response to the trauma history of our collective which is now seeking understanding and expression.  As I see it there is a deeper movement going on.  Its beyond what I can express this morning in my blog and breakfast is calling, but I think it involves realising that we all suffer and feel vulnerable, that strength lies in sharing that vulnerability, in opening our hearts to the truth, in banding together to accept and love and show tolerance, compassion and understanding.  To begin to pay more attention to depth of our being than the mere superficiality of our at times empty  or pretence filled ‘over doing’.  And that perhaps this awakening happening on such a collective level shows that as a collective we are at an essential time of growth in recognition and understanding towards a necessary evolution of consciousness in which as we connect to truths in our own cells we also connect to the cells of mother earth and learn how the ways we seek to run, deny or numb our pain impact there in terms of mass consumption and overriding of those indigenous cultures who have so much to teach us about how we could reconnect to nature within and without.  Its just a thought I will leave you with as I go off to get breakfast.

The wall of pain : reflections on trauma, healing, in-rage and out-rage.

I just read a comment from a new follower about trying to support a child who had been molested. My heart went deeply out to the mother but also to her daughter.   I was thinking about how much anger there is which comes from the deep sense of outrage a soul feels at being violated.  I believe there are natural laws of love, support, connection and protection which the soul in a body needs to be raised in a healthy way and grow a peaceful sense of self.  Often these are ripped apart due to the wounding of others.  We may have been so powerless over this wounding at the time and the result is a sense of deep rage or protest in the soul that can manifest in all kinds of destructive ways.  If we truly want to help others heal we have to be prepared to survive the onslaught of outrage and anger that needs to be expressed and find ways to contain it so that love and need and deep grief underlying it can break through.  It is not easy for anyone involved and empathy is the central ingredient!

The alternative when we have been violated is that out-rage becomes in-rage and we direct it towards the self and damage or self harm in some way.  This acting in is a huge part of so called ‘borderline’ conditions and may take the form of self harm like cutting or addiction or promiscuity which are just ways the soul tries to find to correct the deficits and express the truth of the pain.

A positive ‘holding’ environment is so important for those who were traumatised in relationship because then the entire issue of relating becomes difficult for the person and they are defences erected against it, necessary defences that enabled the person to survive such a damaging situation.  Such defences need to be dismantled slowly and the thought distortions due to lack of trust that developed to protect and keep the person ‘safe’ worked through over a long period.

In support groups such as Al Anon when my justified anger towards my parents was expressed, I was actively shut down by a couple of group members several times.  I also saw this done to another two people there.  Luckily during this time I finally found a good therapist and was able to work through my outrage at this further censoring.  (I have shared about it in my blog.)  I left the group as it wasn’t a truly supportive place for me.  I may have had more success in expressing all of that in AA with other survivors but even there I did not always feel safe and I needed professional support.

Anger and rage at times may seem over the top to those who have not been traumatised and cannot imagine what it is to live in that territory, but they are valid feelings which have a right to exist and need over time to be transformed so that deeper feelings that lie underneath can come to light.  Healing is a journey and a process and one in which we need to show love, empathy, support, encouragement, compassion and understanding to the survivor. They are not ‘mad’ (in the sense of crazy though they act this way) just carrying justifiable anger, an anger that is needed to mobilise their healing and the growth of healthy boundaries in which all feelings can be experienced and digested.

The rage of the survivor kept them safe.  It will need to be expressed and surrendered in the healing.  Support, love, compassion, empathy but also good boundaries on the part of the one who may be attacked are important too so as to recognise what his happening.

Turning back to face myself

Child 2.jpg

I have been reflecting on my experience today in yoga class of my inner child looking this way and that, towards others, hoping to be seen and then of the sad feeling that came when there was really no one to connect to from my deep feelings.  I became aware of a pattern of looking outward when I needed to turn my gaze back within.   I had the revelation in the active imagination today that I need to turn the child’s face back towards me, the adult.  I am no longer a child but the inner child in me can often be abandoned by that inner adult the one whose true responsibility it is to take care of this inner child.

I am aware that after some years of becoming more and more conscious of my anger towards my mother for what I didn’t get I am now moving past that anger to the grief that was underneath it.  I could not really feel the true grief if I was always reacting in anger towards the person who due to her own limits could not give to me what I needed. I  can see that my Mum gets really annoyed when I try to point out any grief about certain things.  We had a huge fight five or so years ago about it and I swore at her.  She told me to leave her house and so I drove for four hours through the night to the next major town and slept in my car, I was homeless as my ex had just broken off the relationship a few weeks before while I was visiting my Mum.  I had no home to  go to, and this all happened on the anniversary of my father’s death, it was extremely traumatic.  I couldn’t go back to my mother’s place for some months, until things became badly unstuck in the town.  I was engaged in a fruitless battle with my Mum for recognition and attention of my emotions.  Now that I have a good therapist that recognition has come, and my therapist has made clear to me that while she can support me, it is up to me to feel my feelings, she consistently affirms that my feelings make sense, even though often I have been told they don’t.

I was not sure for so many years of how I was using various addictions to run from these feelings and due to my difficulty with making sense of feelings.  When I attend any AA meetings (and this is rarer these days) I often hear others share how much difficulty they have in feeling and staying with painful feelings.  Often they judge themselves for natural feelings, or substitute certain feelings for other primary feelings.  Today I feel I am making progress.  I am really making progress in being a better mother to myself and understanding that I do have the power to contain my own feelings and make sense of them..

Today when I realised I needed to turn back towards myself I think I made a big step forward in my recovery.  I am also recognising I feel less painful symptoms in my body when I find a home there for myself in which I can be fully alive to and receptive towards all my feelings and meet them in a tender way and allow them to diffuse instead of build, escalate and magnify.  With the capacity to tolerate difficult emotions, the capacity to experience the positive ones increases too and I start to feel a real sense of homecoming and peace.  This for me is what emotional recovery means.

 

 

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.

 

A Just Anger : Freeing our fight response

60534_20121208_221520_600365_235154439949545_372885216_n_11 (3)

It is fantastic to witness many female trauma survivors recently taking a loud stance against invalidation abuse.  For those of us who have suffered trauma and most especially women there appears to be a powerful prohibition against the expression of righteous anger and pain which is so necessary especially for those of us who have suffered due to being overwhelmed by a larger adult or bigger person’s power.

In this situation the likely response is that the individual goes into some kind of freeze state.  Sadness can also come to dominate a person’s emotional life, they may have been allowed to be sad but not really angry about what happened to them.  And in the end for people subjected to this kind of abuse righteous anger needs to be expressed so that the frozen individual can release their vital energy from its fundamental blockage and get free of the overpowering feelings of depression and often suicidal pain which results when the true feelings are never allowed to be expressed, released or fully addressed.

I thought that I would just share here in a small blog something I read this afternoon about this subject.  It involves some regression work being undertaken with a client of John Lee outlined in his book on age regression who suffered molestation at a young age.  Lee’s work with the client, Susanna involved getting her to liberate her buried fight response :

Before Susanna began discharging some of her pent up feelings, the fight response simply was not a choice for her.  Her uncle took away her choice to fight.  But now she is retrieving a part of herself that is rightfully hers.

When Susanna first consciously regressed back to that time with her uncle and started pushing out her anger… she began crying.  I said “Let the tears come, but not at the expense of your anger.”  As I said in my book on anger, Facing the Fire, many women were allowed to cry as children, but they were not supported when they expressed their anger.  For that reason, when grown women feel angry, they let the water of their tears douse the fire of their anger.  Many women have told me that the reason they cry is that they are sad that expressing anger was not an option – and still does not seem to be.

Only when a woman – or a man – feels safe can they begin to feel anger.  As Marge Piercy says in her poem, “A Just Anger,”  “A good anger acted upon is beautiful as lightning and swift with power.”

Amen, to that I say, Amen!!!