Feeling my way into my heart

A truly heart centred life is not easy to live in this world.  So many claims are made upon our time and energy.  In many respects I am lucky not to be pulled on by a ‘day job’, as I have shared before I stopped work after two traumas and then I isolated alone for a few years before seeking release or ‘rescue’ through a new relationship, although I did not fully understand at the time that that was what I was doing. Instead this strong guy turned up at the units I was living in, in an semi isolated place on the coast and we were pulled into a relationship.

Our very first conversation was one in which I shared that I was a sober recovering alcoholic. Not that that is really who I AM but it was the space I was in at the point, abstinent from alcohol, trying to get a handle on the forces that had been pulling on my life and heart and struggling to see how I could find a new direction inward to my heart in order to know my way.   But I didn’t even know all of that at the time and I had been severely discombobulated by two accidents, the first of which happened overseas when I was trying to make a ‘break’ and move forward but also being impinged upon by other wills, other voices, others’ resistances.

I now see I was on the edge of my ‘grief work’.  The lost kid inside me was trying to find a way back to herself and if that lost kid lives anywhere, I believe he or she lives in both our gut and our heart.  We absolutely cannot know her ways until we can open the door and find a path inward to those true places of being and knowing inside of us, no matter how long barricaded or buried.

In many ways this guy I met was also a lost child. As I look back I see that at that point in 2007 we two lost kids found each other and then went to war with the barricaded places.  In my case I was sad a lot and angry when old wounds of lack of attention and abandonment were triggered.  In his case the way to his sadness was barricaded by an angry monster who had erected a sign on the door.  ‘Do not enter’.  So I was angry and sad a lot but also full of joy when our two little kids came out to play together at times and we touched base with a place of heart, being and may I say love.

The entire 4 and a half year story is too long to go into here.  We eventually split up and my heart was now not only trying to deal with the grief I took into that relationship but also the resonances of older griefs it had stirred up.  Overpowered I ran back to my home town after another aborted attempt to make a break in a new place.  And here over the past 6 years I have been trying to find my way to my heart, or rather the place in it that is not broken or shattered, the place within it which has a wellspring of hope, joy, promise, self expression and love.

Today I sat in my local shopping centre drinking my coffee at my favourite place, reading the biography of someone also in addiction recovery who eventually after finding sobriety made the decision to leave London and return to her home, Orkney an island in the Scottish Hebrides.  Here she touches base with nature and eventually takes on a position working in the Royal Society For the Preservation of Birds.   It is a biography tinged with isolation and aloneness but also with the courage of a woman trying to find a way forward from a destructive past. Sadly it doesn’t really go into the hidden pain in her heart. As a young child she watched her father flown away to a psychiatric unit after a ‘manic’ attack.   But it is still hauntingly beautiful and today as I read I felt tears in my eyes as I thought both of my self and this woman, two survivors trying to find a way forward after suffering the wreckage of a confused and lost past.

And those tears were a relief because those tears spoke to me of truths that I could never fully articulate in this blog where so much grief and pain lurks in unspoken spaces but also a winged bird of heart awakening to truths that in burgeoning there so long to arise and take flight.   So on a half used tissue I wrote these words, my meagre attempt to express this ;

I can cry,

no one can see me sitting here

silently

fissure deep broken open

to reveal a heart,

longing,

so long buried

forsaken

or denied

where could I find myself

under such barren skies

lost

wandering

artless

it seems so long since I ever had a home.

If home is where the heart is…

where is my heart?

Silently beating

between breathless fits and starts

it flutters in my chest

like a broken winged bird

who so long ago lost direction

finding itself in the middle of the flock

broke off

soared freely

captured by winds of desire and inward turning

it was lured to another destination

beyond the mainstream

Where storm filled skies and winds

Led it to crash amongst the rocks

Slipstream

carry my heart,

let it open its wings to the breeze,

let it surrender those defences

which arrest the flow of breath and blood

so that new life can enter

and that broken winged bird

can finally

gain enough strength

to fly again.

Deep despair : on pain and being swallowed by the whale

I couldn’t even log on to WordPress yesterday.  I have not had one of those killer days that leaves me feeling like my body won’t function and my mind is in hock for some time now and I guess the only light I saw yesterday when I was in that deepest of dark spaces was shone by the part of me that saw how far I had come before my recent dental surgery in that in the past year I can count on one hand those days of darkness and despair, where as in the years before they were frequent and often crippling.

Yesterday the crush was back.  People who don’t suffer from Complex PTSD or depression never understand what an all encompassing prison it is, nor how powerful are the physical effects.  It was interesting to hear an interview yesterday with a woman who  has written a book on pain which speaks of how difficult it is in modern times for us to find powerful language for pain.  In years gone by pain was less feared and shunned as it is in modern times, people expressed pain metaphorically through poetry and other mediums, but in modern times when both physical and emotional pain has reached epidemic proportions what this woman has found is that we struggle to express pain and also we struggle to have it heard.  We are asked what scale of pain we are experiencing on a 1 to 10 spectrum.  We distance ourselves from the crushing reality of it with numbers which objectify what is a total spectrum experience that can overpower so many of us and affects us so profoundly and wordlessly on every single dimension of our being and experience.

The sad thing her research also found it that the more deeply you experience pain both physical and psychological, the less you are helped.   Often people are shunned if they are grieving or suffering psychologically or in pain.  Is it that others fear other’s pain will kill or contaminate them in some way?   Is pain now a modern leprosy?

The truth is that if we have suffered pain and suffer pain we fare better if we can communicate about it and be shown empathy.   This power of empathy to alter neurochemistry is something I drew attention to in a post last week.

As I write this I am also aware how hard deep pain is to articulate well.   Poetry or stream of consciousness writing are two forms in which through metaphor writers and sufferers try to articulate what Van Morrison has called ‘the inarticulate speech of the heart’.  Much of the appeal of the WordPress blogging community for me is that here others whose souls have been drenched in pain of different kinds make the attempt to reach out and share that deep distress or pain.  Often poems and blogs I read resonate with me so deeply in a way beyond which even therapy helps at times.

As a blogger I know how much I have feared at times sharing deep pain on my blog.   It has been hard to post those posts in which a lot of frustration fury and anger with my family’s lack of feeling and empathy with deeper emotional realities has caused me.   Often I have felt great fear and then the inner critic has lept  in and made me take blogs down.  But the price of staying silent and keeping it shut in, often in the end proves too high.  I always feel better if I can give expression in some form to my own pain.

Yesterday wasn’t one of those days.  I wasn’t capable of much.  I think I was reliving yesterday every single crushing injury, invalidation and painful experience of my life, culminating with the piece de resistance, the removal of my front tooth that supported a four tooth bridge, now gone, never to be seen again just over 10 days ago.  Yesterday I was contemplating the steps to take to get my affairs in order to shift off this mortal coil finally.  It’s not something I felt I could share yesterday, as I didn’t want to ‘disappoint’ my followers, having recently read a post in which someone said they could not read posts that discussed suicide as an intention.

However in the interests of honesty and authenticity, that was where I found myself yesterday, in a dark deep and wordless place in which inarticulate pain had nearly buried me alive.  Beyond sharing that today, I don’t have any other words.  I have shared so much of my pain on here and I really prefer not to be in pain, as we all do, and yet at times that is where I am returned,  a modern Jonah swallowed deep inside the belly of a whale sunk, deep, deep down to the bottom of a murky ocean.   At those times I can only hold fast inside, hoping in time the whale will resurface and I will find myself, head above water and able once again to gain sight of blue sky or dry land.

 

A sanctuary for lions

lion-14841339

The following quote just made my heart sing and at the end of it I hope that idea of ‘A sanctuary for lions’ brings a smile to your face.   I wanted to head this post The Lion’s Roar 2, as it touches on so many things I was struggling with this week.

Be Gentle with Anger

Be gentle with anger, Bow before it.  It is not what you think it is.

Let it come closer, let it enter you if you must.  Feel its power.

Until there is no division between “self” and “anger at all.

Until there is only fire,  passion.  But no violence.

Anger is the roar of a lion, the cry of a universe longing to be born.

It reminds you, when you have forgotten.

That the power of life moves through you.  That you matter.

That your voice will not be silenced.

That you have self respect, and deserve to be treated with dignity.

Do not push your anger away, or label it “negative,” “unspiritual,” or even “unhealthy”.  Do not pretend  it is not there.

Feel anger’s pounding, its vibrations, its fire, its longing to be acknowledged, held.  At its burning core, discover your courage.

The courage to be yourself.  To hold to your path, fearlessly.   To speak for those without a voice.  To stand up for truth, for your rights, for the rights of your brother and sister’s, with passion, but without violence.  Know that your heart is vast and spacious, and anger, so often misunderstood, has a home in you.

Be a sanctuary for lions

Jeff Foster

The Way of Rest

Wow!  Doesn’t the wake up the firey sunshine in your Lion heart?  Please join me in my sanctuary for lions, or build your own.

 

Decisions, boundaries and self care

It was a tough therapy appointment yesterday.  I am really regretting having my tooth out.  I don’t seem to feel any better at the moment and not being able to chew food well is really affecting me.  I am aware that I need to be patient as what I am going through is as huge adjustment but I just wish I had stuck with the crack in the tooth as I am not really sure it was giving me an infection, as my body is still full of phlegm and gunk.  I also felt very disappointed in my therapist and wanted to throw the whole therapy over yesterday but at the same time I was aware of the state of mind I am at and it was poisoning my right view of the value of what Katina does give to me.  So I just went to it and fully expressed all my feeling to her.

She was amazing, she sat there and empathised and then apologised for influencing me because she had said to me several times “if you do have an infection it is probably poisoning your entire body”.  I am not sure that is really what has been happening, the poison is the anger I sometimes feel that I don’t use effectively to assert boundaries at times.   Anyway we discussed it all and I left the session feeling a whole lot calmer basically because of the empathy Kat showed to me.  And I am adult enough to know no one has the answers always for me.  They may be able to understand or empathise but they may not know how things will turn out for me if I make a decision and they can advise but they don’t have to live with the consequences which is something my niece and I were discussing the other day.

Have you ever decided you wanted to do something that may be good for you, but when you mention it to others, they try to dissuade you or pour cold water over your decision?  I think it happens a lot and its something we were also discussing in therapy yesterday, how do we know who to truly trust with our decisions?  After all no one else has to live our lives.

I have been on the end of discouragement when I have asked for advice on doing what would have ultimately been good things for me.  I look back to those times and see I didn’t stay strong and own my own power.  And afterwards I felt resentment but also had to accept I was responsible for the decisions and choices I make.  As a people pleaser it is sometimes hard for me to say I wont do something that I think may bring joy to another person or to take care of me when you are hurting or in need.  As I shared the other day, when I have the energy to give to others, I will give it, naturally it is what I want to do as an empathic person.  But there are times I just need to take care of me.  And I guess that is where discrimination comes in as well as a good sense of connection to my inner energy levels, feelings and needs.   What I am talking about here are boundaries and on some level we can say that on the spiritual plane boundaries don’t fully exist as we all come from the source, that grander sphere where we are connected to each other beyond words and other human constructs and as our egos form we learn what is ours and what is not ours if we are lucky enough to have good help to build healthy egos but if not we can be in trouble.

And that is why empaths and highly sensitive people can struggle a lot.  We instinctively feel the feelings of others and want to reach out and to do so is natural and good most of the time.  When others have defences against us though we suffer.   I heard a saying a long while back and its a major lesson that I learned in my last intimate relationship that a person can never reject you, just a part of themselves they see in you that they have not befriended in themselves.   This is the defensive ego that may want to reject you if you are feeling sick or vulnerable.  This is the protective ego that doesn’t want to see that you may have hurt and a deep longing for love hidden beneath anger. For if you think about it if we get rejected for anger the person is not seeing that on some level we felt hurt and are trying to get that hurt addressed.  Then the hurt has no where to go,  and we are left holding it and then as someone asked me the other day “where do I put this anger?”.  I responded by suggesting prayer.  It seems to me the only thing I can do when my anger gets too much, I pray to my higher power for help with it.  And if someone won’t address it with me and I see that my anger is justified I have to beware of how I relate with that person in future.  I may need to forgive so I don’t keep holding onto the pain and hurt myself more, but I may be better off not having that much to do with them if they express no concern for how their actions affect me.

It can take a long time for some of us (like me) to see we have the right to set this kind of boundary if people have blown us off before for expressing how we feel.  And we also don’t have to take every hurt we feel to someone else, for in the end its really up to us to care for ourselves and protect ourselves and we all have the right to do this .

If we were sensitive and hurt a lot in childhood.  If we were teased, humiliated, made to feel small, gaslighted or invalidated developing the wisdom and power to develop and set boundaries may be a process fraught with peril.  If we were led to believe that emotional abuse was not emotional abuse we may be very confused as to our boundaries.  That is why we absolutely need an empathic person to go to, to express our truth with and get a reality check.  And we need power and strength to know we have the right to take care of ourselves and that we are not bad or wrong or selfish for doing so.   And some of us can keep chosing to love even when on the end of shitty behaviour from others once we have learned to practice self care, we can learn to positively detach not with hatred and anger but with love, a true honest love that comes out of respect, maturity and a deeper empathy for suffering.

I know

I know I have to go forward in love.  I am spending most of the day with my denture ‘out’.  It is painful to have it in place and I start to feel very confined and its making my teeth ache as they used to ache when I had to wear that bridle contraption in my teens at night while undergoing orthodontic treatment.  But I also have to be aware that due to the extraction I will be in pain for a few days and that pain will be trauma trigger for me, so I have to be kind and gentle with myself over the next few days.

I know that I am without a doubt someone who is born to be a free spirit.  I don’t cope well with being shackled or confined or held in too tightly.  I need to burst forth and express, often from a stream of love that I feel. And it occurs to me that if I have been angry or raged in the past those feelings, too, have come not out of hate but out of love, out of the longing for connection and love in world in which at times people can push us away and become so disconnected and deny love.   But the truth is we cannot force love from those who do not know how to, or don’t want to give it to us.  So if we are wounded or healing we do need to surround ourselves with those people who can love us and allow us to be who we are and express and release what we feel from deep within the spring flow of our inner spirit.  If we love ourselves enough we can set those boundaries.

I am also now past caring what people think of me if they see me without teeth.  I don’t really care anymore about appearances as I know that true love and beauty come from deep within, as clichéd as that may sound to sceptics out there. I know I have a spirit of beauty and compassion deep inside me. I know I don’t do well around negative or dishonest people and I don’t view the expression of painful realities as negative at all.  Its just being honest in a society that so often encourages us to numb or shut down.

Anyway writing is how I connect and today I have been spending most of the day at home following my dental surgery, so a few blogs have poured out of me.  I have been able to cry with the pain of a young girl who started out with all her teeth and through a set of painful circumstances lost them over years.  Its a reminder of how I have so often bit down on and swallowed or denied or buried my own frustration and tried to fit into places I wish at the time I had been strong enough to leave behind.  But saying that I know my own emotional abandonment left me disconnected, and vulnerable and begging for scraps.  Now that I am beginning to find a deeper source of love inside I no longer need to reach for those from outside.  I want to be filled from within and be force of love and to me that starts with naked honesty, vulnerability and being true to my essence despite what others may think or not think of me.

Sorting out the mixed up world of repressed and shame bound feelings

Bradshaw

When we are young and go through deep feelings of being abandoned, being left alone or are traumatised by big feelings of others or left without sufficient mirroring and empathy for our feelings we develop a deficit in our capacity to make sense of these feelings as well as express them.  Our feelings are still held deep inside and stored in our bodies but at the same time we form defences against feeling them and the pain or liberation that may bring.

We also live in a shame bound society and feeling wounded culture that so often fails to identify and acknowledge certain feelings, most especially painful ones such as sadness, anger, shame and fear.  Therefore the shame component of repressed, invalidated feelings grows huge for many of us.  John Bradshaw in his excellent book Healing the Shame That Binds You explained in great detail how and why feelings we are taught to repress or meet with difficulty in being expressed or felt in dysfunctional families get shame bound.  This means that as we evolve we develop an arrested feeling self.  In this state of shame biding even the threat or whiff off feeling a certain feeling brings up the most intense shame or inward self criticism.

We cover this shame over or react to the emergence of shame bound feelings with defences in our mind, most of which form the inner critic who then attacks the feelings as well as us for having them, telling us all kinds of lies and untruths about what a bad or damaged person we are when the deeper truth is that we are really out of relationship with a most vital and alive part of ourselves.

Bradshaw 3

When we being the difficult emotional uncovery work of feeling our feelings in therapy, recovery, sobriety or healing this is when the inner critic will step in and try to protect us from feeling them in some way.  To the inner critic who formed to keep us safe in unsafe family or social environments the emergence of repressed feeling is cause for major panic and alarm, all the critic can see is that we are breaking out of a safe holding space.

The critic often forms in childhood to keep us safe from the parent or a world we have come to believe would be hostile to our true expression of feeling.  Add to this that if we haven’t matured psychologically through being able to process, understand and feel our past traumatic feelings and imprints when they do emerge in us as adults they can feel unmanageable in their ferocity.  Suddenly we find we have age regressed to feel about 2 years old in some cases and to the critic that is another cause for attack, aren’t we supposed to an adult now?  Someone who is in control and shouldn’t have to ride this huge roller coaster?  But this intense period of hyper feeling is actually a good thing if we can stop the shame spiral, pause and spend time connecting with what is being triggered. Here is where group wound and individual therapy or 12 step recovery work can help.

A large part of our healing process is coming to understand when we have age regressed to an earlier time of trauma which was very painful for us.  I wrote about age regression some time last year in a number of posts which I will include at the bottom of this one.  Age regression or reversion to an earlier experience of trauma or deep feeling which will emerge when we are triggered, most especially in therapy, group work or relationships is a God given opportunity for us to grow in awareness of feelings and needs we may have repressed and learned to bind in shame.

Feeling the shame associated to the feeling, sharing about it, bringing it out of hiding with affirmative and validating others is most essential to our healing process and will help us grow in awareness.  While others cannot feel our feelings for us (though they may do this through the healing power of empathy) doing so will not take our feelings away but if they have gone through their own healing process or are qualified therapeutically, help to hold the space for us while we have our process and feelings this kind of holding can help us begin to make a relationship with what we formerly could not feel and may dull the voice of our inner critic.

We need this kind of support, being designed and wired as humans to be connected and to form attachments, attachments we may have failed to form with emotionally unavailable or inconsistent parents in childhood we do need, at some point, to have our feelings in relationship.  Thus the need at certain stages of recovery to have some who can consistently mirror us while helping us to develop our own capacity to hold and process feelings.

Bradshaw 2

Being left alone with our feelings is difficult, when we cannot make sense of them, feel ashamed or feel they are mixed up, intense and overwhelming.  We need to feel them for ourselves in order to liberate them and reach understandings of why we blocked them in the first place.  Doing so was a survival mechanism we learned at that time to keep us safe, but it may take a lot of time and help if our feelings have been repressed or shamed.  Not being able to have and feel and understand our true feelings in the present, judging them, over intensifying them due to shame, keeps us imprisoned in a false self and leaves our true feelings buried under layers of defences.  Developing deeper insight into the nature of such defences and compassion for ourselves in the midst of them is such important work as we go through the process of learning to liberate, understand and feel our true feelings.   As we do we will be restored to our true selves.

At the same time we must do work on what Pete Walker calls Shrinking The Inner Critic.  We can turn the criticism on ourselves or outwards on others, in either case we are not really acknowledging the truth depth of our plight and such criticism in keeping us locked in shame may deeply hamper both our progress and our healing process.

Brave

Bleeding Heart 2

You are brave

To bear your scars

You say I hurt

You say I am vulnerable

You say at times I feel like I wish that I could die

Because the deep down truth is that you suffer

At the hands of others

Who could not bear you being you

It takes such courage to feel that pain of inauthenticity

But somewhere deep inside

You love life

And a fire burns

All your pain

Comes from the harsh realisation

Of how in being starved

You could feel you were less than

And therefore had to beg for or buy love

But true love

Lies in authenticity

Even if the authentic real dark at times with tarnish

Obscures the true brightness of your orphan soul

Exposed to pain

Exposed to life

You travelled down so deep and into such pain and emptiness

Bearing things others could never imagine

To find a love

That now

No can take from you

 

For all survivors of abuse