Bigger than words

I just read a blog about a person’s struggle with therapy and with the pain they deal with on a daily basis that needs to be worked through in that context of therapy and with their frustration over the use of certain words and terms.   I understand exactly how they feel.  I get frustrated at times with concepts, intellecualisations, formulas, and descriptions or pidgeon holes of psychic suffering, the map is not the terrritory and what we suffer cannot always and easily be placed in these boxes.   And yet in a world where we have to communicate and interconnect such terms or words or diagnoses are used to make sense of suffering….the problem comes when we identify with them too much and loose that natural spaciousness that is part of our deeper being, soul and who we are in experientia….

I feel the most comfort when I can float within my own ocean and on the days when the seas are not made too choppy by to many mental winds sending up storms of criticism and judgement within then I can, on a day like today just sit quietly feeling myself in the room while being gazed at lovingly by my dog Jasper and feel myself surrounded by peace and love.   But only half an hour prior to this my inner critic or ego was on the rampage and I was crying about how I am not a very good mother to this dog, which is not true, what is truer is at times I abandon our world of love and peace for a world and relationships which are often fractured or jarring to me.

I used to think that the problem was in my being ‘too sensitive’ and needing to adapt, to try harder, to be more pleasing but what I am seeing is that when I try to adapt outside of my natural pace then I get lost and because I am highly empathic and intuitive I do absorb energies in the ether which are non physical, such as emotions.

Anway I have had experiences and times when I have turned up at my own therapist feeling frustrated when I was deeply feeling something and being asked to explain what it was.  Just how do you find a word for deeper feelings and exactly how can you fully communicate the abject terror, despair, sadness or elation and joy that you feel in response to certain events?  Feelings can have such layers and are even not the same as emotions which are never only pure and simple when we try to make sense of them for such an emotion as grief may have sadness in it but also anger and despair.  When we start telling ourselves stories about those feelings then we have moved from the deeper felt sense of ‘my heart feels like its in a vice and I cannot breath’ (which is an experience in which tears are being held so deep inside) to thoughts such as : ‘this should not have happened, would not have happened if I had not done x y or z!’ which just ends up making us feel much much worse and may end in depression or even suicide.

Sometimes I feel its best just to sit with ourselves and try to touch base with our inner world quietly, tuning in.  In my experience all of our restless seeking out there for the critical support or emotional connection which may be lacking can a lot of the time, detract us from the source of inner peace inside.  That is not to say we should isolate and never connect with other humans, at times when we do it works and we feel connected but of course at others it does not and then we may need just to withdraw and return within in order to befriend our own aching heart.

Being our own best friend, may sound like a truism to some but if we don’t have our own love and ability to be present to what is arising inwardly even in abject pain (which I KNOW is very hard at times) we won’t ever really find true healing, comfort, and peace.

Giving Back Responsibility to Others

For the good guy, taking responsibility for other’s emotions, well being, finances, etc., is a way of breathing.  This comes from a deep seated belief that he can only call himself a good guy if he is always being there, being present, being attendant to the needs, desires and happiness of others.  Changing this belief is vital.

Beliefs change slowly over time due to experimentation with an alternate belief.  Generally speaking, the belief that we are not, and indeed, cannot be responsible for others comes slowly due to the lifelong bargain with trying to take responsibility for others.  Eventually the body and mind begin to scream their exhaustion and the person begins to listen.  When that happens the person might be willing to begin to experiment by deliberately choosing to give responsibility for other’s lives back to them.

But if we implement a practice meant to lead to a process, perhaps we won’t have to wait to get to exhaustion before we can yield the floor of responsiblity for someone else’s life to them.  Therefore, the practice goes something like this.  Every time you find yourself worrying about someone else’s stuff, you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them for them to carry.  It does not belong to me.”  Every time you feel guilty for saying no, for thinking no, you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them to carry.  It does not belong to me.”  Every time you realize that you are carrying someone else’s stuff you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them to carry.  It does not belong to me.”  In this way you are training your mind to accept the belief that it is not possible for you to be responsible for someone else’s life.  You may also come to understand and therefore believe that when you take over someone else’s responsibility, you are actually robbing them of one of life’s most precious jewels – for it is in taking responsibility for our lives that we give ourselves permission to become whole.  As you practice this more and more over time, it begins to become a process in which you recognise immediately when you have taken on someone else’s stuff and you surrender it willingly to them as a precious gift of love.

Creating Boundaries

The practice of ceating boundaries starts internally.  First you recognise that you are doing something or engaging in something that is not authentic for you.  Then you can decide where to put the boundaries so that you can stop betraying yourself by violating your own boundaries.  So many times we think that we put up boundaries to keep others out. But actually, we put up boundaries to keep ourselves in – within our own bodies, our own authentic life structure, our own power to respond, and our own personal responsibility.

The practice of creating boundaries begins by checking our energy levels, desires, passions, and compassions against our patterns of behaviour.  When the thought of doing something for someone makes us feel a deep sense of exhaustion or tiredness, that is a signal from the Self to say no to doing that thing.  When being around a particular person trains our energy, that is a signal from the Self to stop being around that person.  When we are asked to do something but our compassion is not in it, that is a signal to say no to doing that thing.  When we are charged with a job that we have no passion or desire to do, that is time to delegate that task or to talk to our boss about reassigning it.

Making these kinds of decisions on a regular basis means that we develop a process of being led by the internal messaging system rather than by the shoulds, have-tos, ought-tos, obligations, and loyalties of the culture, family, or social agenda in which we hapen to lve.  This procss is genuine and it offers the potential of manifesting an authentic life.

Andrea Mathews : Letting Go of Good : Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self.

Its not easy for me to take on board the advice above.  I read this out to my therapist today in session and she clapped her hands, she told me it is what she is hoping that we are working towards in therapy.  It seems in my family I have always placed myself in the position of emotional caretaker.  I did it with my older sister who died and then with my Mum and now at times it could also happen with my sister who is the only one remaining here in my home town following my mother’s death and is struggling with depression.  I just know as much as I love her I cannot take on board her suffering as mine.  I feel for her, I try to ring her every second day but more than that I cannot do and I have finally made the tough decision that I will no longer sacrifice my life in caring when that care goes down a drain of endless sadness.

Believe me I know how much suffering there can be in life.  I see how much we live as a culture divorced from deeper values of self care and care for the feminine as well as the natural environment, but I also know that its up to each of us at some point to make a strong choice for solid values to invest our energy and time in.   I cannot live for another person.  I can feel for their problems but often I am powerless to do more than just care and over caring when it drains me leaves me in an empty place.

Today I was thinking of the line from a poem of T S Eliot “teach us to care and not to care”.  I dont know if I can ever ‘not care’ but I can detach to a degree with love.   I can make an active choice to say that I am human and this is my limit over which I cannot cross.  It doesn’t mean I am abandoning you, I am here if you want help and will take the steps to help yourself but if not, there is no more I can do.  I watched my Mum overcaring at times and struggling to keep her boundaries and failing at times.  Often she was punished by my older sister for that care.   I dont want to travel down the same road so my new years resolution is to care for me, and my dog this year.   I know I am now an adult enough to do it.  And its not anyone else’s job.  If you care for me that is wonderful and I am so grateful but care is only a given and cannot in the end be demanded.   I am going this year to work to take the advice of Andrea Mathews which I quoted above.

Taking responsiblity for other people’s feelings is often learned in a childhood in which the parent’s needs came first and/or took priority.  We learned it wasnt okay to have needs and desires of our own.  We end up not knowing what we want and need or feeling guilty if we do want or need what runs counter to other’s wants and needs. We then suffer anxiety if we dont think of others all the time.  We then learn to chronically self abandon.  It may be a long road to learn to know, value and champion our own needs but if we want to regain our emotional help we must learn this, or else we will suffer much anxiety and depression in our lives.

Right effort

There is a Buddhist precept of right effort.  It comes from the understanding that taking certain actions can help us and hinder us, motivation is everything, most particularly motivation for self care that comes out of a balanced idea of what our souls and bodies most need on any day.  Only we live inside our bodies and only we know what works for us.  Often in depression we have to work to make an effort outside what our heads might be telling us.   Stay in bed, see no one, hide under the covers.  Sometimes we do need to rest but I know as I know so many others do that even a 20 minute walk out in nature can boost my mood, as can connecting with an empathic friend.   What we eat can affect our mood too.

I would like to share the following meditation taken from Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On, by Tian Dayton.   As someone in long term addiction recovery I know I can sometimes push myself too hard if I am reacting out of stress of underlying feelings of not being worthy or good enough.  At those times I may need to slow down, remember to breathe and take a break and some time out for quiet reflection.  Sometimes we don’t need to make heaps of effort just effort of the kind that is ‘right’ for us at that particular moment.

Less Effort

Today I make a small, positive effort.  If the efforts that I make are not coming froma good place inside of me, they will get me nowhere.  If I make negative efforts born out of attitudes that are not helpful no matter how hard I work at them, it will yield little positive change in my life.   Much less effort in the right direction will yield quicker and better results.  If I can calm and clear my mind by slowing it down, I can actually see what is in it.  I will get a feeling for what needs to be done and what direction would be most fruitful for me to take.

I make less but better effort.

Human nature is not a machine built after a model and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.  

John Stuart Mill

Real pain and sadness

I wish that so many people who suffer from depression or bi polar could have it affirmed that their pain is real.   I just read a blog of a fellow sufferer who could not get out of bed on Christmas Day,  I know how that feels.  I always force myself out of bed though.  I am not able to stay in bed all day, just cannot do it, even when I am sick and need to.  But I know that deep binding and paralysing depression that hits as a real response to challenging life events of change, hurt or loss, have undergone it in my own life. There were whole days and weeks and months I never got out of my pyjamas all day, I didn’t shower, found it difficult to stomach food and did not see a single soul.

I look back to those terrible crushing days of extreme physical and emotional as well as spiritual isolation and wonder how I survived them.  The pain was just so intense but on another level I was numb.  Critical killer inner voices besieged all my waking hours.   Love had left my life, my marriage was over, I had no home of my own and no employment.  All I did was write all day.

I am here to say though that today my life is not like that.  Sure I am very sad on some days, but those feelings of  complete inner hopelessness and emptiness are no longer as strong.  I reached out to get help and it took me many therapy attempts but in the end I found that help.  I found a therapist who helped me.  I got this blog started.  I started to write how it really was for me.  People reached out to me. I learned to get in my car and go for a walk or a drive when I was lonely to a place where I could be with people.  5 years ago I got myself a dog and then started going to the public dog park with him every day and making some new friends.  Some days I had to drag myself there in the afternoon.

I joined groups then left groups, told by them I wasnt allowed to have certain feelings or express certain feelings.  I had to let certain relationships go.  I had to believe in myself.  I had to keep reaching for validation of my suffering true feelings and pain.

I am here to say that I believe recovery is possible for those of us who are willing to reach for help and become aware of how past emotional abandonment,abuse or neglect may have dogged our lives, our pain was real, it wasnt a figment of our imagination.  We suffered and we bled.   We were not responsible for the emotional neglect we suffered or the abandonment that happened to us.  It left real deep scars in us.  We don’t have to take the blame even though the harsh truth is that our recovery is our responsiblity.  No one else can do it for us, but us, and we cannot do it alone.

So if you are suffering, trust yourself.  Keep reaching out for love, keeping taking those baby steps forward even if you suffer set backs.  Just keep at it one day at a time, one minute at a time, believe in you.  You are worth it?  You are worthy.  There will be days you wish you were dead,  days you feel the pain is too much, those are the days you are probably all alone with no one to give you a hug.  On those days I reach out here and often I am responded to.  I know it’s not the same as a physical hug but it helps.  It has brought me back from the abyss many times.

Life at times can seen so dark and lonely it really can.   But there are those out there who love and care despite their own pain and despair, so keep reaching until you find that connection, validation and love.

As much as I can take.

I had to leave the hospital in the midst of the doctor being there trying to explain everything to my sister, brother and I.  I seem to get overwhelmed or triggered so often and this afternoon the doctor showed up an hour later than he said he would and I hadnt yet had lunch.  After one and a half hours I just had to grab my bag and leave, not able to explain as the doctor was in the middle of a long winded repetitive speech about my Mum’s condition.  Last night I had to watch her in agony as they stuck canula needles in her arm, and could not find a vein.   By the time I arrived it had been going on for over and hour and I had to say something.  The doctor didnt like it.

Even today I struggled seeing how doped up Mum is, how yellow and how weak.   At one point while I was trying to help her eat, I just could not stop crying, I took myself off to the little chapel they have at the hospital she is in and just wept.  I felt drug fog cover my eyes even though I havent taken any drugs.   I am just so sensitive and I am over tired as i only slept for four hours last night before waking and then got back to sleep for one hour.   I’m drained.

Knowing when my internal battery is on low is so important.  Last night my sister was in such a state I offered to cook her a meal, I held her as she was very down and struggling. My heart went out to her, when Mum dies she will lose her best friend.   The truth is my sister has relied a lot more on Mum emotionally in many ways, but this latest illness with Mum is seeing how much she has tried to give in later years and now its all too much.  She needs a gentle calm space where she can be cared for with love and she needs support, she cannot be pulled upon any more.   Its a wake up call for me, too, if I am honest.

I know so many others also struggle with elderly parents.   Its not easy to witness the vulnerability and decline.  It reminds us of our own mortality, of what we didnt get and what we did,  it reminds us the aging and decay is part of the larger life cycle, no one escapes it.  Today I saw in my mind’s eye my Mum’s long long journey of loss that leads to here.   I feel she is so utterly, devastatingly tired.  The doctor has hope as its seems she may have a kidney infection and her liver is toxic from all the pain killers she has been on.  I wish to God a few years ago when she had an appointment with a Traditional Chinese Medicine specialist she would have gone down that route but at the last minute she cancelled it.  I know what help the Chinese herbs and supplements I take give me in terms of cleansing and assisting chi flow and function in some of my organs.   My Mum needs to be in a facility where she is treated holistically, when she comes out of hospital one thing is for sure, she cannot be alone.

I cannot and will not abandon my Mum in her illness.   I was pleased my brother is delaying flying out of Australia for a while, I was shocked to hear it, but he was still wanting to know how long he had to hold off, yesterday it looked as though Mum may not be with us much longer.   I am prepared for that eventuality and I will care, but I also need to take care of myself.  I won’t be any use to anyone at all if I don’t.

Making myself wrong : taking on other’s burdens, some reflections.

I wrote this post late last night after working through some of the events of the past week.

think I tend to take on a lot of responsibility for situations I did not cause.  Someone pointed this out to me in a comment on another post.  That when we care and know pain and can feel it deeply there really is no insulation that we have from other’s pain. The best we can do is make a decision with our minds to detach from it and be realistic about the limits of our involvement.

In this current situation that I have been sharing about over past weeks there is a long history going back to 1980 when critical events took place in my family.   I make sense of a lot through astrological cycles and when I look to current transits I see what is being triggered at the moment but so much of it was way outside of my control, never the less the ricochet effects deeply affected me.   I was at that stage coming out of my own motor vehicle trauma when the trauma befell my sister and I was about to embark on studies that got aborted and then I got no counselling to help me and was very much on my own in the coming years after my father died.

When I got sober in 1993 I had all of this trauma still locked up inside me.  I tried my best to come to terms with it but I was not helped by my partner nor family and at that point I see I would have been best to make a complete break away, but I needed some kind of support.  Today I was clear with my sister that I could not go to the hospital with my Mum in the ambulance and that I could not go to the hospital tonight either.  My three hours there on Monday night set me back big time on Tuesday.   I don’t want to go under again and if I am going to continue to make progress it really is time to start setting some boundaries.

To be honest as much as I loved my nephew’s company, staying up late while he was drinking and smoking a lot was not something thats good for me.  I had a lot of cleaning up to do yesterday and we had torrential rain while they were here.  When he left he hadnt cleaned anything up.  There were his dirty dishes in the sink and outside a dish full to the brim of cigarette buts with rain water in them.  I cleaned it all up yesterday and finally feel that I have my space back.  I am glad to be able to have my sanctuary here back, as its where I recharge myself.   Now I just need to work to keep at bay critical thoughts and keep practicing self care.

On that note I went to the library this afternoon and a book was waiting I ordered in called Finding True Refuge,  I don’t know if any of you have read the author Tara Brach’s earlier book Radical Acceptance, I  read it quite a few years ago and got a lot out of it, in it she talks a lot about shame and how she came face to face with her own on her spiritual path.  In this one she speaks about cultivating a loving kindness meditation practice where we seek refuge within, in the silent interior spaces of our heart.   I already got a lot out of the first 30 pages I read this afternoon.

The idea of seeking and finding a refuge within appeals to me.  It is what I feel in that nourishing, nurturing, alone time of solitude when I touch base with a source of peace that lives beyond all the traumatic events others seem to keep bringing into my life.  I am aware that on an astrological level Saturn and healthy mature adult boundaries and protections are an antidote to all my strong Neptunian tendency to be overly empathic and compassionate.  With Jupiter magnifying Neptune in Scorpio’s influence lately (by transit) I was also warned in another reading/interpretation by astrologer Leah Whitehorse that what people are saying or projecting may not be totally true or based on reality.   I need to keep a mindful watch over my own energy frequency now.   I was starting to feel happiness and contentment and experiencing solid sleep before my nephew’s visit last week.

I got a lot out of the visit but it also made me aware that as an empath I can and do take on other people’ s struggle and suffering at times.  My therapist suggested this week that when I get full to the brim with it, I try to discharge that energy by grounding, putting my feet on the earth and letting it flow down out and away from me.  Last week after each afternoon walk I was taking off first one shoe and then the other to place each bare feet on the ground to earth myself and settle my energy.

Its interesting to me that I got breast cancer just a few months after my older sister was diagnosed.  When I think of the amount of trauma we both went through from 2005 – 2015 when we were both diagnosed it doesnt surprise me.  Tbere is an element of strong enmeshment in our stories.

Anyway I will keep working to have better boundaries and become more aware when I feel the saviour archetype is overpowering me.   I should not make myself responsible for what others have to bear.  At the same time I need to be aware of their boundaries as well.   I notice that so often what I give is not so often reciprocated.   I dont give to get but when you do have a giving heart its so important to keep a balance.  If we give more than we get back it can tend to make us ill or drained.   This is something I need to keep a really close watch on in myself.

Rescue

AB

In  the pool Of your tears You found a girl who was drowning And could not see The life within that pain That for long years was hidden beneath the surface

So much misunderstanding Bred by a silence She could never fathom Became an ocean And now from deep within the pool She is asking of you rescue And you know you have to take her hand

There are things she did Not knowing which way to turn There was only fear and longing that drove her to empty places Not knowing how or why she repeated this ancestral pattern of darker times Awakening in dreams Ghostly spectres arising from cells Cloudy ocean depths Obscuring day vision

This ghost girl became a waif With no blood pulsing through her veins Feeling herself to be So deeply alone Yet all the time her sense of aloneness Of drowning Came from disconnection

Once she found another soul To share her space and true being with Her folded up heart unfurled like a flower In the sunlight cast by affection and attention The pool of tears dried And slowly she found herself awakening in paradise

And so now When darkness threatens She runs to the light Knowing she must not stay here alone too long Listening to damaging thoughts that only grow in isolation and silence Whispering lies she had no protection from

Now she has found you And you can take her by the hand She knows she is never alone And that she can receive all the love she longed for From the one inside Who will never leave her so alone again.

Slowly over several years You taught her how to do this How to turn away from the false places And towards the real

Now she no longer needs to dream Of rescue But can summon her own life By breathing deep and acknowledging her self From within