An anchor in the storm

Listening to music often sparks thoughts or memories or associations, this song is one I first heard a few months back, I believe it was featured in a movie. When I listen to it and the desire the singer expresses to have a guide in the storm it makes sense, for if we are left at the mercy of big inner storms, floods of feeling or shock trauma re-actions from PTSD it can be harder on our own..

I remember after my second accident which occurred late in June in 2005 how the hospital connected me with a lovely woman around my own age named Marlene, by a weird case of synchronicity Marlene was Dutch and even from my Dad’s home town. After coming to see me in the hospital after the crash I remember the day she supported me to do my grocery shopping.. Just this simple task was so overwhelming for me, I was in Cambridge lodging with a family, I had no car and I would get flooded all of the time, experiencing nausea, and profound dissociation/dislocation feelings, even getting out of bed was a major achievement.. Those days are behind me but I still get the morning post eating head rushes and I just had one after walking Jasper to the oval and kicking the ball around.. It wasn’t long after lunch but my entire system and chakras were flooded, maybe some of the cold and fresh air played a part.

Marlene and I ended up becoming good friends I still found it hard to draw as close to her as I would have liked, when I went to Glastonbury shortly after the accident due to the family finding my trauma ‘too distressing a reminder’ I think she hoped I would eventually return to Cambridge and we may live together but she did not tell me this until I had booked a return fare home that Christmas, one of the last things we did was attend a beautiful church service with classical music.. Marlene really represented a strong part of my European soul I wish I could have lived then but the pull of family was strong. due to my older sister still being in a need of a lot of support and my Mum as well.

It is easier for me to tolerate being on my own now and I can hold all of these memories close as I am mindful to remember things evolved as they needed to at the time for my soul journey.. I had to come home and go through worse things in order to grow.

To be honest over the past few years in my home town I have managed to build some genuine connections with people related to my family, some relationships have changed and since my sister has been struggling in some way this has brought me closer to some of her friends that her depression often tries to cut her off from… I actually had two calls from people yesterday wanting to know how best to handle the way she is treating them.. I know for myself depression can sometimes lie, it tells us people are not safe who may be (especially if we have anxious attachment) and if we have the huge fear of vulnerability and of feeling unmasked (which my sister seems to have even more of than me) it gets doubly hard.

Sometimes too friends do not know how to be present with someone in the depths and silence of freeze, profound introversion or withdrawal.. The person may actually be comforted by you being there even if they cannot express it if you do not invade them and can simply show them via touch or acceptance a sense of allowing them to be where they are. This is something my family could not give to me when I hit the wall in 2004 and sadly something my sister seemed to get a bit better at after Mum died, for me, if not for herself.

Places of holding and anchoring are important.. Its an interesting thing I was saying in therapy to Kat yesterday that when I visited my sister in that small room close to the nurses station close to dusk on Sunday sitting quietly with her for some time it seemed to me like a womb. She didn’t have the light on at first and she was sitting fully dressed on the bed.. the words that came to me then were ‘unborn; as if she was existing in some kind of womb. I also got the impression when she turned the small upturned light on and looked at the fixtures of the bedside table that we were in some kind of ship cabin..

The night sea journey is a profound symbolic metaphor for a journey of transformation or dissolution and reforming such as my sister seems to be going through at present.. This experience appeared in one of my pre sobriety dreams and has always seemed very significant to me in terms of the journey my soul was set to embark upon then

As I write this I can call to mind the dream I had a long while back of both my sister and I walking the length of Mollymook Beach close to the house my father built shortly before he died and coming upon a beached whale, in the dream my sister looked at me with those pleading eyes of infinite sadness and longing she sometimes turns on me lately and said the words “the whales are such sad creatures.” Jonah travelled in the belly of the whale on his transformative journey, I also think a beached whale may associate to buried feelings of the ancestral history emerging from a deeply submerged collective oceanic state..

These associations and symbols ring true to my soul, they give a sense of meaning to what seems to be transpiring in my sister’s life right now and in my own over the past 19 years of my mid life journey. I need to remember too that sometimes a lot is going on inside the depths of a person when they undergo reversions or deep repressions of feeling (depression). Jung believed we can and do experience many of this kinds of dives inwards, in order to move forward and incorporate hidden parts of our self or shadow.. He underwent many himself.

Much depends on how much meaning we can give to them and if we permit ourselves to ‘mine’ then and open us up, co-operating with egoic dissolution, rather than have them medicated or numbed by the medical model.. who knows what processes the soul is undergoing in its mysterious inner landscape over such long periods.. Depression could be a huge part of the dying out of old forms of the false self in order that a process of individuation and soul reclaiming or re-anchoring or more complete embodiment of split off parts of us can take place within the ego. In other words it often represents our Self with a capital S knocking on the door and throwing a lot up in the air that we thought we were or knew before.

Don’t keep me down

When i look back to the abuse and nasty things said to me in my last relationship I see how much I was also low in self esteem inside myself.. I have been working so hard on building up my sense of self in these past years.. It has taken a lot of work and grief and anger and lots of other feelings and to be honest a good therapist.. Also sharing here and trying to be as real as I can about my past and foibles, fears and insecurities..

These days I am being much more loving to myself and I am able to face criticism but also to know when it comes out of a not very fair place.. I do not need to shame myself for anything for I am a human and as a human there is stuff I cannot do and do not know, but there are things I do too.. In short, these days I try not to be super human nor to feel that I would be okay if only I had not endured a lot of the trauma I have, it is just that sometimes I do worry that my emotional neglect trauma has made much it harder for me to be and stay connected.

Listening to a lot of Louise Hay is really helping me lately.. Louise helps me to realise that I can leave my trauma in the past, that I do not have to allow it to define me, at the same time I will never be another Deborah who grew up with things I would have loved to have.. a mother who was present and engaged, a father who wanted to know about my day when he came home, a sister who was not hateful and hard at times when I really needed softness.. these are things I cannot change and the lack of emotional availability has left scars and made it hard to trust at times in a brighter tomorrow but still I know there is a chance if I take the actions to bring good things into my life and take the chance to stop doing things that may hurt me or be counter productive instead of sit around complaining about things…life can always improve.. just as long as I do not self sabotage.

This morning i let myself lay in bed for an extra hour and a half.. Its not something I usually do but today we had rain and I had a few rocky nights so I just let myself sink back into sleep again.. but when I woke in the darkness I must confess I did feel the shadows of those lonely years at that empty holiday house at the coast I retreated to in 2002 and 2004.. I saw how I pulled back but also how I was seeking the way home to my lost self.. to the littler girl who did not really know how to live with self confidence.. I see it all far more clearly now all of these years onward and I also see how I could be at risk of repeating old patterns if I do not champion myself and trust those who do reach out and want to be with me…

Sometimes I wonder if I am doomed to go through life without a loving partner.. God knows so many do it and they find the way to a full life of love in other ways, through ministry, friendship or career… but still deep down there is a part of me that longs for my own little family.. while another voice of doubt always seems to whisper “maybe it isn’t meant for me”.. Maybe I am pushing away an opportunity now due to past doubt and fear. I am not entirely sure.. All I know is that I will keep trying every day to grow in self esteem and love.. and to reach out to connect, even if so often there seems to be a voice so deep down inside that tells me not to trust and that I am ‘doomed’to always be alone.

My needs?

I try to understand

I try to be there

I held your hand so often when you screamed

But when I was crying

All you did was tell me

“To get over it!”

Was I truly blind?

To your unkindness

Did I matter so little to you

Was all you ever needed a mirror?

I let it go now

But by God it hurt my heart

It set me so far apart from what I really wanted

Truly needed

And sometimes I just seem to be crying to the silence

Why is it that my needs matter so little?

And then the answer comes

From a still quiet inner voice

Just let them matter

To yourself.

Feeling my true feelings : not easy!

Sometimes it seems to me that feeling my true feelings is impossible without my mind arguing back. There is the running critical commentary in my mind that argues with me about the way I am feeling and telling me I ‘ought to feel another way or uses some kind of philosophy.. This is not always bad as expressing our true feelings with some people may get us in a lot of hot water.. We may be judged. Then it is always a surprise to me when my repressed feelings just burst out sideways like they tend to do every second Wednesday when my gardener David comes..

David gets very focused on the garden, he was a bit mean and abrupt with me last year and I nearly told him not to come back, instead he reduced me to tears as I pleaded with him for help…he took mercy on me then but today he nearly tore my jumper when he was trying to take a branch off me I had pruned and I just said to him “please can you be more gentle with me?” On reflection I do think David’s visit triggers my painful feeling around masculine Mars energy and about my Dad too.. The struggle I seem to have with my living sister who can also be short, sharp tongued and abrupt seems to correlate with her Mars in Sagittarius at 4 degrees and squaring my natal Chiron at 4 Pisces in the 7th house of relationships. However in her chart Mars also squares her own Sun and Venus conjunction in Pisces and often I see her softer feeling side buried.. Mum had Mars in Pisces at 4 degrees.. Dad was often wounding her with his disconnection when she got highly emotional or triggered.

I woke today all twisted around anyway.. I have been listening to videos going to sleep from Louise Hay but I wake up and the phone is on fire next to my body, I know we are told not to sleep with our phones but I love the soothing of Louise’s voice and her focus on loving ourselves and this one I listen too involves also taking the inner children of both parents into our own heart.. for so often our parents inner kids caused us problems growing up…

It also occurred to me in the middle of the night that my brother’s oldest son lost his Grandad (my Dad) at the exact same age that my Dad lost his father.. 12 years of age.. That was also the age his Mum was when her mother died.. and that death marked her for a long long time. I had taken a family friend out yesterday who worked for my father and brother for a long time and when I mentioned wanting to try to improve this distant relationship she just said to me “Deb, be careful, Anthony is very controlling and narcissistic and anything you say will find it back to your brother” Its so tough to fear I will be judged, but his perfectionism/control issue is something I saw one time when we visited my nephew’s place and he talked down to his wife in a bossy way. In a strange stroke of synchronicity when I came back to my home town this house I ended up buying was the one his wife grew up in and at a recent family event my niece in law’s mother asked me if they could come and see it… I have not been prepared to do that before now as I did not feel safe or secure enough but I long to do it as I just love connecting.

I am realising that I have had so much to grieve today as I shed all of those tears trying to cut through a tree branch without a lot of success. I thought of the terminations of pregnancy particularly.. How sad that was.. to never be able to bring a child to term and how hard it was for my husband.. I was not ready… but sometimes it feels I am just cursed to so much aloneness. The battle is going on with Scott too.. I have few doubts he is not genuine now but this money issue is hanging over my head.. Money is a horrible issue because I have not lacked for money but I have lacked for attention, togetherness and most of all TIME.. Scott only has brief windows of contact due to his heavy schedule with training and patrol. We have two hour or hour and a half windows 5 days a week but lately with the morning’s closing in and due to the fact sometimes I am awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night I am not often awake to talk.. I pushed myself today then got the shits he had to go.. I am never like this usually but I got really really angry about it and later was shouting at people in traffic blocking my way and going at a snail’s pace. WHY DOES EVERYONE ELSE’S SCHEDULE DOMINATE MINE.. WHY IS MY TIMETABLE SO FUCKING UNIMPORTANT.. Could be another wounded ego issue? Or a valid anger.. just not sure at all????

I know enough by now to know that when I react like this its about me not anything happening around me.. I just went down by the lake then and sat under a tree and prayed.. the cursing coming out of me was pretty darn intense and dark…

Buried feelings of grief so often masquerade underneath anger.. That is something I am learning more and more lately… with my Saturn Mars I feel blocked and put upon by the Universe but such an attitude isn’t a good one for me to feel happy and free.. So I try to keep always examining my motives and where my blocked or heavy feelings may be causing current problems or outbursts with the life and people around me.

True : some reflections on being true to ourselves on the path of recovery.

When I am not true to myself I lose my way. I feel it more and more lately that empowering sense of being in tune with my own soul note and of how it feels when I step away from that more primal, intuitive in touch side of myself and fall into self abandonment or self rejection.. Many of the conditioning forces of society especially for women turn us away from the more powerful authentic embodied side of us, religion for me was particularly toxic in this regard. Today in therapy Kat and I were exploring the strong forces of repression in my family that put us three girls to death on many levels , we were talking of my father’s remoteness and unwillingness to step in to protect us from Mum, too. In this way my father dying at the age of 23 was even more painful, but Dad was a young kid in flight from his family and terrifying conditions around World War Two. In many ways both of my parents were emotional orphans, young kids on the run and trying so hard to survive and build something new.

For myself, I feel so grateful to have escaped the medication pathway and even the AA pathway saying I have defects of character. If you don’t get to fully blossom as the true you and cannot rely on healthy attachments and then other linkages get torn apart you end up doing all you can to surive and stay afloat and if the original deficits arent acknowledged and some attempt at rebuilding and repair made, healing and change is not possible. Some schisms and wounds stay with us for a long time and we replay them over and over until we develop in sight. It is now recognised that even later in life our brain can make new connections and set down new neural pathways if we can find positive affirming attachments to assist us. Some of us, many of us, however, do have to go into the wilderness alone and some of us find or manage to hold onto shards of our splintered being or hidden truth there. We can also explore what got torn severed, split off, buried and involve in recollecting. Each trauma memory maybe a necessary thread that goes on to be part of the tapestry.

Rilke expresses this beautifully in the following lines of this poem shared with me some years ago by a previous therapist Rae:

She who reconciles the ill matched threads

of her life, and weaves them gratefully

into a single cloth –

it is she who drives the loudmouths from the hall

and clears it for a different celebration

where the guest is you.

In the softness of evening

it’s you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,

the unspeaking center of her monologues.

With each disclosure you encompass more

and she stretches beyond what limits her

to hold you.

The stretching beyond what limits us requires us to move out of ‘safety’ in the face of what threatens us with misjudgement that is sadly often the obvious response of a world oblivious to the authentic roots of our trauma. This poem also speaks about the healing witness both inside and outside as well as how the true self waits for us to hold all of us, as we increasingly develop that capacity through telling and feeling the organic truth of our trauma trajectory..

A good therapist is invaluable and even as I type this I realise how many struggle without this which is where blogs or books or other tales of survivors in recovery can help us.. Just hearing another’s story, noticing the resonances, being able to say “Ahh .. that rings true for me too”, can help us, it certainly has helped me.

And on the healing pathway God also sends us angels at critical times.. I cannot tell you the number of times an angel of some kind has whispered in my ear or saved my bacon from a near miss or accident, it happened twice last week and it has happened in terms of me finding my way to the right literature, person, group or place AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME too many times now for me to doubt it.

The true self I do believe waits on us.. the most authentic part of us will not be forever foresaken without grave damage befalling us on some level. Jesus said it well in the Gnostic gospels.

If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

In this quote Jesus challenges the assumption that the Kingdom of Heaven lives in a far off place. These words also speak of it’s closeness to us if we undertake the path of individuation, and resurrection of the true self often attended my mockery and scorn from the unwise:

The Kingdom of God is within you and all around you.

I think a person who loves and respects his true self, must also respect the true self of others and naturally finds his way to the inner kingdom. He no longer exists in a state of inner division. That person will weep for the one who loses the way to it and will never be able to put on a false mask in the face of that.. This is not always easy.. To say to a brother or sister you see them suffering and falling short (even through no fault of their own) but it seems necessary to a vibrant authenticity.. And similarly we must be vigilant in taking out a sword to cut off from anyone who tries to deny us this truth the meaning behind the saying of Jesus that he came to bring a sword.. There is a time to be real and not be nice or ‘civilised’ if that means sugar coating an inner truth that our soul very much depends upon for its survival.

It wasn’t my fault!

Kat assured me in therapy today after reading everything out my sister’s struggles are not my fault. In 2005 I expressed anger at invalidation and ran to be in a better place but my sister blaming me later for her breakdown was not fair. It was like her saying to me ‘you always were a naughty child’ when I fought for my emotional truth. She assured me nothing I can do can fix my sister but keeping in touch is good as long as I detach from the illusion I can save anyone. Phew. She also said she thought it has been mean of my nephews not to acknowledge or include me. I cried when she said that to me.

We spoke alot about how the family victimises the alive one..they get abused and scorned or shamed and laughed at..dismantled psychologically. But they carry what the shut down dead family needs. Coming alive feels like dying cause of the fear that if we take the risk punishment or annihilation will happen so we turn against our True self too…so so sad but hard to see how this happens especially as a younger one in a family geared around narcissism.

I sat with my head in my hands at Kats earlier while the inner storm went on and said I don’t know how I’ve survived the emotional confusion. I am not ‘bad as they tried to say I am.

All of this is such a relief. Like busting out of a prison created in my own mind. There is more to share but for now I just wanted to post this as I eat my lunch awake and alive surrounded by other humans in the shopping centre..no.longer all alone in the cold dark place where a grey heavy loveless energy hovers over me threatening death.

moving too fast : today’s reflections

Somedays it all seems to be moving too fast, life and demands seem enormous.. It is one of the reasons for the past three mornings I have let myself settle back to rest for a hour or more just to slow myself down, constant demands play in my head, fears for my sister, lists of things I need to do to maintain my own life and health and that of Jasper, so today I just stopped the angst and settled my breathing and rolled over and got an extra hour’s rest (did the same on Friday and Saturday too!)

Today the neighbours needed to meet about a new fence they are building as their home is nearing completion over the next few months. I had to get to the fruit and veg markets today as I had spent yesterday afternoon with my sister the round trip can take up to 3 hours depending on how long I stay. Its a constant balancing act but today my own needs came first and Jasper and I managed only a short walk around the block.

I’ll be glad to settle in and rest again at home this afternoon… Commitments to help my sister with clothes will have to wait and even though today is Dad’s birthday I am letting it pass in silence.. no one has reached out and he was in my thoughts a lot this morning… It is interesting visiting a house under construction as it reminds me of being with Mum and Dad when the Mugga Way place was being built. It was a big move for us and we had to live in a very cold house with only concrete floors through a tough, bleak Canberra winter. The number of that house 88 relates both to transformation and death, during the years there I crashed and nearly died, my sister had a stroke and entered a coma for a month later turning psychotic and my Dad became ill and died.

Today I am not crying over Dad I just have acceptance for it all. I am not fighting life or my past today.. Some may say you need to keep expressing the pain and fury or hate or hurt over what happened to you, but what if your soul chose it on some level? I know that angers a lot of people who have been abused or endured a lot of loss. I know for myself, as therapist Alice Miller says, genuine anger cannot be passed by on the road to authentic healing from trauma, abuse or injury….and believe me in no way am I saying we deserve abuse or pain but when we let that pain turn us into a person who only uses it to feed ongoing feelings of hatred, resentment and hurt what is the purpose? And when we use it to amp up the fight/flight response all of the time we just end up triggering more panic and anxiety and disturbance.

Yes there is a time to vent and get that unearned shit or slander or the put downs out of your system. Yes there is a time to rebel, to say no, however surrender and letting go is not always about defeat but about saying some things are just larger than us and so far out of our control.. This realisation is part of the reason I wept so deeply and for so long and so quietly with my sister yesterday.. there were no words to say and she didn’t say much either was just perplexed. But sharing about it on the empath page others said they also cry around certain people and energies and then feel a release as soon as they leave. Who knows what I am clearing for the collective when I cry, who knows if just being with my sister opens up all of our shared pain…. The grief I felt yesterday went so deep into the core and heart and soul of myself, the tears were not only for what got stolen from me in terms of life but for my mother and father and sisters too in dealing with the long term affects of multi-generational traumas our grandparents and great great grandparents endured.

Pulling back from the downward spiral of hurt and angst is never easy for me. Saying “No” to others demands in the past has often been beyond me..but at the moment, I am at my limit and IT MUST BE DONE FOR SANITY AND HEALTH, if only for a few days.

I was grateful to be guided by higher power to a good reading on anger earlier today in the reader Hope For Today. I will share it at the bottom of this post, later.. Recovery shows me with time I have a choice of how to respond to hurts, angers, invalidation or triggers. I do not have to give the power to others over my reactions.. I can go vent to get a grip on what is burning me, share the frustration and pain with a safe person and then quietly go back and speak my truth to the triggerer if that seems right and valid.. If not I can pray to release the charge or externalise it somehow…..

Sometimes in the past I have had to scream NO only to have people look at me like I have leprosy of some kind.. But my experience is that those who know why I had to yell that NO end up sticking around, they get it. I wish my sister was strong enough to say NO to shock treatment but she isn’t.. Being passive serves no one and I am not talking about passivity when I talk about surrender and letting go. I am talking about an active step of sanity and health that shows me where my boundaries lie.. I am not super human I am just not and there is a time to pull the pin and walk away from shit rather than lose energy in a response that will only end up depleting me further.

The reading on handling anger taken from Hope For Today follows.

I was around a lot of anger this weekend. Some of it belonged to the alcoholics in my life, and some of it belonged to me as I came to grips with my powerlessness over people, places and things.

By applying the Serenity Prayer to the various situations that occurred, I was reminded that my anger can be an attempt to change someone or something because I don’t want to change. Being willing to change – to acknowledged my anger, identify its source, look at my part in it, and express it lovingly – is a big part of my Fourth and Tenth steps (inventory and daily inventory).

I gain self worth when I change the things I can and accept responsibility for my reactions rather than blaming or shaming another. I have choices. I can stay in my anger, or I can use it as a signal that I need to change. I trust my Higher Power (or inner sane parent) to show me what I need to do so that I can experience the sense of self that comes from accepting emotional responsibilities and realities.

The how, what, when, and why of expressing my feelings is one major part of life over which I do have control.

How shame and the inner and outer critic prevent us living wholeheartedly.

It was shame researcher, Brene Brown who a few years back coined the term foreboding joy which is a term to describe the fear we carry into life that can protect us from embracing joy in the moment and living wholeheartedly… We see a small baby and our heart just fills with love but then fears of loss can come too and steal that moment from us..

While driving home I was thinking about a very involved and informative post Trauma Research UK recently shared on shrinking the inner and outer critic.. In fact I read it in therapy today crying at some parts as well as being doubled over with pain in my gut at others.. there is so much in it that resonates with me…

My inner child is speaking very loudly lately about how she felt in our family and how she struggled with very distant and preoccupied parents.. and about how painful it was to be sent to my room when I was legitimately angry, or hurt over some incident. In the post the writer shares that toxic parents do hurtful or neglectful things, but then also shame and silence the child’s legitimate protest, as a result the child has no alternative but to turn those feelings back inside the self and develops a virulent inner and outer critic that shames the child or seeks to protect and avoids other people who have that fear of the hurtful parent projected on to them…

Today in therapy I felt the pain of being sent to my room with all of those feelings I needed help to manage from one of my parents deep in my body while my inner child articulated it.. the feelings felt so so big… .. In fact Dad often laughed as Mum terrorised us with rage, things that hurt then being mocked is just an awful kind of pain for a child. I also remember being laughed at and shamed for being passionate and dramatic and come to think of it not hearing or validating someone’s grief for a lost loved one is a lot like shaming them for passion and deep feelings.

I will share the link to the related post as I believe it is essential reading for people who have endured relational and attachment trauma. What a painful place to find ourselves, cut off from relations in the outer world that could reconnect us all due to the fear of experiencing what we did in the past, or seeing rejection when it isn’t really there?

https://traumaresearchuk.wordpress.com/2020/08/21/the-role-of-the-inner-and-outer-critic/

I have written extensively on the protector/persecutor complex in my blog before.. The persecutor is an inner figure that goes on beating us up well into adulthood.. It may be that we experience a sense of shame and guilt for what was done to us. It was a very powerful relief in therapy today to hear my mother’s voice telling me how proud she was of me to be doing this work and how none of what went down in terms of my own neglect was my fault. In later years I saw her struggling with seeing how it brought about the ending of my marriage while at the same time wanting me to stop any focus on inner work or therapy which, at least initially she did not understand

In later years she actually came to some appointments with me and began to open up to me about her own neglect and I know she wished in some way my living sister could follow this path instead of a purely psychiatric ‘drug relief’one.

I understand my father has having endured neglect too and he ran away from Holland n 1938 leaving his family behind to save his own life.. He worked so hard to put all of that behind him but he just created more problems as neglected children of neglected parents often end up crashing and burning.. This has not applied so much my older brother who has been able to hide neglect behind enormous outer success in the world, especially financially, although his only daughter has borne the brunt of much of this. I was so sad to hear from my sister on the weekend that she had a stroke recently something my brother did not feel safe enough to share with me.. and we tried to get close many years ago (my only niece and I) but this was derailed by the family which made me cry for years…it being just more of the same old same old emotionally distant family pattern.

I notice at times I can attack people in the outer world who want to get close to me.. I am more aware of the pattern lately.. In fact on the weekend I had to own some of this with someone I care for deeply, luckily ours is one of those relationships able to hold the paradoxical feelings of hate and love, longing and fear and he never ever ever shames me.. Something I cry deep tears of gratitude for. As a Complex trauma survivor I need these kind of relationships in my life, as I am still healing and very raw with grief lately.

Much as we say we need to do our own healing work alone, sometimes the Complex PTSD ‘warrior’ defence may work against what Elaine Aron calls ‘linkages’, bonds that we try to establish as adults.. The outer critic can function to try and cut these bonds by seeking that ‘worm in the apple’ I have mentioned that those of us with avoidant attachment so often go looking for in relationships. Also when we split people into all good or all bad we loose the capacity for connection. A good enough relationship is one in which we make mistakes but can express our full range of feelings and be heard.. it comforts me so much when someone says they understand how I feel to me that is a strong healing balm, since as I child I was so often led to believe my feelings were wrong or made no sense at all.

Shame and fear of experiencing joy seem to be interconnected in so many ways in those of us with Complex PTSD, taking the risk to open our hearts again often opens us to old pain but that also has a purpose… so we can grow in awareness of the complex mix of feelings we can so often experience in relationships. Working on listening to all of the inner voices we hear too is ongoing work in order that we can sort out the mix of those that are helpful and life promoting and those that hinder us, keep us trapped in shame or only promote a freezing or disconnection from the heat of engaged interaction and possible attachment. There is a part of us that often seeks to sabotage our healing if we were badly hurt in childhood… those interested in this could look into the work of therapist Donald Kalsched who wrote brilliantly about it in his book The Inner World Of Trauma.

shed skins

When the past comes calling

Certainty unwinds

My soul is carried back

To where I lost the threads of self

All tangled up inside

There is a storm of feeling

That I have not fully

Explored

Before

And so the rain of tears begins

It nourishes my skin

All of this feeling

Deep within I discover

A young girl

Who never fully got the chance to live

As herself

And became a person lost

Inside that skin

Seeking the way to kin

Dread

A constant visitor

Should naked truth emerge

And she then become the

Scourge

That order sought

Eradicate

Where to show her true face

Then

Falling into hurting

Again

Only to find deep

Within

The deepest pools of loss

A sense of self that

So desperately wants to live

Now she must find a way

To begin

Too long she wandered there

All alone

So far from comfort

Miles from home

Longing with a longing scarcely felt

Until now

Discovering with the pain of her past

A soul so very desperate

To shed old skins

Vibrating with love

Banished desire and purpose

Hungry for

Her kin

The problem of self calming : some reflections on activation and calming

Recently my sister and I were discussing our childhood. Her words were this when talking about my mother : “she was like a tornado”.. to be honest it was hard to relax around my Mum.. I got my foot burned on one caravanning holiday when she left a bucket of boiling water underneath the table I was drawing on while cleaning the floor and I stepped into it and got 3rd degree burns.. now another more attentive child, perhaps not so ‘lost’ in her own world or passion of the moment may have seen it and averted disaster.

I learned in time to try to use substances to calm me down or take the edge off.. my parents used alcohol for this purpose at the end of each working day and we were encouraged to do the same.. for me it ended in addiction and I am happy I got to put alcohol, drugs and cigarettes down in 1993 but I still find looking for comfort in food just comes naturally…

I had a discussion with a friend over the past week in which she said that being told to ‘be calm’ or ‘calm down’ is a sure trigger for becoming less calm….it might be like telling a person with really bad insect bites not to scratch without some other kind of soothing being offered such as balm for the soreness. Balm for the uncalm might be words like “I am sorry its so uncomfortable right now” or “that must have been very distressing” validation, empathy causes the increase of oxytocin and the reduction of cortisol.

I don’t know what would have calmed my mother during one of her frenzies or OCD rampages…its taking me years to know I don’t have to clear up and wash all the dishes immediately I stop eating or cooking.. one of my ways of being seen was to run around after Mum cleaning up after she got home from her job at her dress shop every day around 6 pm. Later in my recovery I had a dream in which the dream young me was all wired up through the shoulder with a wire coat hanger.. What a powerful metaphor for how entwined I was body, mind and psyche with family energy patterns of looking good and over drive…

Calming for me now comes with writing in which I tap into and release the stored vibrational charge of feeling; in writing poetry, in listening to music, it comes in nature (as I share ad infinitum here); with my dog; with calm loving friends who are emotionally present and honest with true open hearts..

Triggers for me are : criticism, the disapproving stare (flared nostrils and hard dark stare often proceeded one of my Mum’s rages.) I can forgive my Mum in a way now as I know she never got lovingly contained or mirrored and she carried so much from the maternal generational legacy of buried built up stress and repressed emotions…that was impossible to contain. I can forgive my Dad for not knowing how to cope with it, and so checking out… and I can understand the deep roots of my anxious avoidant attachment style which at other times can be disordered..

Calm is only coming slowly but it is coming… I am still activated but only by the old triggers and stepping down from them is becoming quicker and easier as learn where my wound and necessary boundaries and self soothing strategies lay.