The need to feel safe and the healing power of presence

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In order to be able to open ourselves up totally we need to feel safe and we can only feel safe in a climate of acceptance and love.  I do believe it is this open non judgemental acceptance which can free us and often it is given the name presence.  Being present with someone, totally with no agenda is such a gift.  It is about the best gift we can give to anyone who is struggling and has locked up things inside.    People who are suffering don’t need to be told what to do.. they JUST NEED TO BE HEARD AND VALIDATED!!

For so many of us it wasn’t safe to fully express ourselves growing up.  I know I suffered doubly from being at a Catholic School where it was soooo repressed.  As kids we learned just to suck it up but I was listening to part of a radio play in which a young boy was sharing what a preacher had told him from the bible and saying how it was all about being bad and needing to be made not so bad, the inherent idea of original sin was a toxic poison so many of us imbibed with the rancid morning tea milk we were forced to drink that had become tarnished from being left outside too long in the sun. I know I used to gag on mine.

Its a very long journey to learn to be present to ourselves and not totally possessed by the voice of a voracious inner critic we internalised composed of all the things we were told about our badness or need for correction.  And yes sometimes we do need to monitor behaviour but what we most categorically don’t need is blockage against knowing who we are and what we truly feel.   And this can only begin to emerge in a climate of empathy and open presence.  Being present for our own self and offering understanding compassion and love is in my experience the thing that most soothes my anxiety.   Soothing comes from the love we give, increased anxiety comes from speaking to ourselves or others badly or in a critical or unloving way.  We are all human and do it but we can all become more mindful of it too, we don’t have to be perfect just a bit more aware.

 

The melting of love : insights from Anam Thubten

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.. love melts us.  When we feel love, our entire being becomes that love and the channels in our bodies begin to open.  We have to bring our bodies into our spirituality.  The body should not be rejected.  Enlightenment, transformation, healing, whatever we are aspiring to, we cannot experience any of them without bringing the body into spirituality.  So there is healing in the body, there is enlightenment in the body.  When we become that divine love, the body literally begins to melt, the channels, the chakras within it, begin to open, and we feel more love, more courage.  When we feel this divine love, the mind begins to melt, and it undoes all the knots inside it.  There is a large mass of knots in the mind: our belief systems and the thought patterns that we are so attached to are the knots in our minds.  These knots bind, imprison, and torment us.  They take freedom and peace away from us.  This love that I am speaking about is a pure experience of melting our frozen hearts.

This true love is not the feeling that we are one with the universe.  True love embraces everything, it does not reject anything. This love that I am speaking about is something we can cultivate.  There are many methodologies to cultivate this love.   There are beautiful songs we can sing.  There are profound verses we can recite.  There are mediations we can practice as a means to cultivate this love.  Sooner or later we feel that we become this pure love, this objectless love… the very quintessence of your being is pure love.  The nature of the river is this beautiful flow, even though it sometimes freezes.  To truly realise that the very quintessence of your being is true love, you may have to have self knowledge, which is this honest and complete understanding of yourself.  It is being aware of your divinity as well as your limitations.  YOu already know that you have divinity, and you know that you have courage and love.  You know that you are generous and open hearted.  You also know that sometimes you are able to give of yourself for the well being of everyone else.  It won`t be difficult for you to own your own holiness.  At the same time you have limitations – fear, insecurity and selfishness.  Once you become aware of these limitations, don’t try to demonize or condemn them.  If you demonize your imperfections, then you may end up being more and more frozen.

Once you become aware of your coarse neuroses as well as your subtle neuroses, love them.  Love all your neuroses.  Love all your imperfections.  Learn to love your fear and your anger as well.  Always be aware of them, and they will dissolve on their own. They will keep dissolving without any effort.  As time goes by, you become more and more this melting, living mandala rather than this frozen one.  Your heart is filled with more joy and more love.  You feel more and more connected to this world as a paradise – an imperfect paradise, not a perfect paradise.  In the end, you may love everyone and everything that exists.

Being kind and patient with ourselves

Sadly in our society so few of us learn to be kind and soft towards ourselves.  We may equate this with an attitude that won’t help us to get far or achieve our goals but if we suffer from a remorseless inner critic that won’t let up (most common to suffers of PTSD and Complex PTSD or childhood trauma), its going to be harder to reach any goals anyway.

Sadly some of us were not encouraged in our childhood, we may have been shamed or blamed.  We may have learned to pretend or to put on masks, we may never have been rewarded for authenticity.  In my own childhood I was stomped on many times, or just left alone and ignored and in adulthood I have learned holding onto resentment about it isn’t going to help and if I don’t change that same internalised attitude of being too critical of myself or others I am not going to get far, in fact my perfectionism will make me too weak to even start.

So it was with a smile I read the following reading from Tian Dayton last night about patience.  Patience may be a disregarded or maligned quality in modern society but if it’s well done patience can get us much further and bring our closer to our dreams.  The following reading is about self love too and today I am sharing it as the Sun starts to move through critical Virgo and we are drawn toward noticing the earthly practical dimensions of our experience and how far we have come or not come, let’s be kind to ourselves.

Patience

Today I will be patient with myself.  When I do not do as well as I wish I would I will not make that a reason to get down on myself.  I will instead recognise that the fastest way to bring myself out of a painful funk is through understanding and being good to myself.  I get caught in my own cycle of shame, resentment and blame.  If a child is upset,  I comfort it because I understand that that is what will make things better.  Calling a child names will increase its hurt and shame.  I will not call myself names either.  Rather, I will show love and patience in every way I can.

I am patient with myself.  

Patience accomplishes its object, while hurry speeds to its ruin.

Sa’di

Wild Geese : Mary Oliver

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I love sharing poems on my blog by published poets, most especially the ones that speak to my heart and soul (and body).    The following is such a poem that forms part of William Seighart’s collection The Poetry Pharmacy which I have shared from before.  In his introduction to this poem by Mary Oliver which he prescribes as an antidote for self recrimination, Sieghart writes :

There is a small, wide eyed animal in each of us that doesn’t understand why we keep kicking it.  All we need do to overcome is to treat ourselves like a loyal pet with love, forgiveness and understanding.

Wild Geese

 

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies

and the deep trees and the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely.

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

 

Mary Oliver

Dialogues with my inner critic

I have been trying to use active imagination with the force of the inner critic inside me lately.  For those who dont know active imagination is a way we can dialogue with an inner psychic force inside us, Robert Johnson Jungian therapist addresses it in his book Inner Work but my talks with the critic were also inspiresed by another book called Freedom from your Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approcach.  

One of the things my inner critic does is drive me hard.  As a child growing up we were not allowed to play or have fun until all our chores were done.  A friend in later years said it was like coming to a military operation in our home.  We had to iron our own school uniforms, polish our shoes and clean our rooms I also learned to run around after my mother who would get herself in a state of apoplexy at any sign of mess.  In later years when my older sister was in the care home for acquired brain injury she would laugh uproarously about an incident at a farm when Mum got chicken shit on her shoe.

It was a bit mean come to think of it for as an emotionally neglected child my mother had no one at all there for her.  Her father died when she was 7, her own mother had no war pension and had to work afternoons, evenings and mornings just the times she should have been home for her daughter.  Mum got her own dinner, she made own breakfast, got herself ready for school (where she was abused and punished and used to clean the Nun’s chapel or stood in the corner for not doing home work COME ON!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!)  Those were harsh times during the 1930’s coming out of the depression years and First World War into the intense climate of the Second during which she met my Dad.

Dad was the oldest of a fatherless family too, fleeing Holland just prior to German occupation in 1938.  He was hell bent on becoming a millionaire.  My godfather, his best friend told me this when I got into addiction recovery in 1993-1996.  We had many chats because my father died when I was 22 and I never knew his history over which he remained quite silent like many of his generation.

Anyway back to my inner critic who I call Mr A and my therapist calls The Annihilator.  He often wont let me rest and the other morning when he was off on a rant I just gave him a hug in my active imagination then I put an ice pack on his head.  It was a while until he calmed down but I got a good insight into what lay beneath just as when one time I stopped my Mum mid flight in an OCD cleaning spree to hug her and she also burst into tears!!!

I have been grieving a lot more since this incident.  The self punishing voices are still there but I am able to bring them out and ‘unblend’ from them (a term used in the second bood mentioned above.)  My child inner often gets tormented by Mr A he blames her for everything, including a host of things that never in a million years could be her fault.  But of course this is what happens to those of us emotionally neglected in childhood.  But we can take back control over these inner forces if our desire to love and seek the truth is stronger than our possession by them, if we are willing to do the inner work to make them more conscious.

As Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss point out in the second book our Critic is so often hostile to our Inner Child but we can learn to change this by self compassion and in the process our compassion for the wounds of those who abused us also grows.  We know they were hurting and did the best they knew, even if it was in no way good enough, we are on an evolutionary trajectory in regards to that carried or inherited trauma.

Shut the door

Dear Self

It is perfectly acceptable

To close the door

On those who want to bring you down

It is okay to brush off the hurtful words of those

Who do not speak the truth

It is a gift to be able to know your own value

To be humble

In the sense of having a grounded realistic knowing of your self

Some criticism may be constructive

And then it pays to open the door

If there is something new to learn

Or something to gain by finding another way

But this I say

Always trust your own heart

And your inner knowing

Because when all is said and done

When you close the door at the end of the day

You are the one you must come home to

And be at peace with

The girl and a lion

Cry lion

Deep inside my inner heart

Opened through a softened portal in my chest

I see a vision of my inner child

Armed with a sword and a shield

By her side a lion

Who is her closest friend

She understands that the shield and sword

Were necessary allies in a fight

Against a world

Too willing

To demonise inner children and lions

And yet meditation and silence

Reveal these truths

It is only the lion hearted

And inner child awakened

Who are truly able to attain this world

And stand free in the midst of the flames

As spiritual shield and sword

Are used

To vanquish the demons

That would put death to

Conscious embodied femininity

Conscious embodied masculinity

In women

And in men

The fear of true feelings that underlies narcissism

Ive watched and read a lot on narcissism in my time of dealing with my own and other’s wounds but this video is the one that most clearly articulates the inherent scars that underlie the disorder and keeps us off the blame spectrum.   It also explains to me a lot of what I went through in struggling with repressed feelings and with those in relationships who did not want to deal with theirs.   Well worth a view.

Enough

How different would our lives be if we only believed we were enough and had enough?  As I look around this society and even consider my own life and past I see that a fear of not enoughness can dog so many of us.  This fear can cause us to compete or to believe we are not worthy enough, it can prevent us from expressing ourselves, from reaching out to love and be loved and it makes us attack or collapse when that reaching out hits a brick wall or is demonised or rejected by another person who also feels not enough or that we are not enough for them.

I guess this is coming to mind as its interesting I had the clash with the gardener the other day all around the 11th anniversary of getting together with my ex partner back in 2007.   At the outset of the relationship he had a long list of why and how others were not enough and of how he had struggled to find enough love, and during the entire relationship he found it so difficult to relax and then began to point out to me all the time how I wasnt enough this or that.    I know now that as an adult child of an alcoholic parent he had never had a resting place either and he was driven by a lot of unresolved grief which manifested as rage when things triggered him.  He drove one of his sons very hard and would call him mean names if the son refused to do something his father wanted often only because he was tired too and loved to play guitar and needed to rest or just loved being in the ‘now’ as I did.

I thought of this unhealed wound yesterday as I have reached the chapter in Jeanette Wintersons’s book Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal (which is what her stepmother said to Jeanette when she found out she was gay) where she has a breakdown after a love relationship dissolves in her adulthood.  Reading it reminded me that suicidal feelings often accompany the opening to the realisation of our wounded self that never got to fully birth in dysfunctional homes that could not honour our sacred wholeness.   Jeanette expresses very powerfully the forces within herself that she struggled with and that over the period 2007 to 2008 caused her to break down and break open to the self hatred and ‘madness’ inside her which was nothing less than a composite of all the toxic things, behaviours and beliefs her mother had introduced into her life over years as well as associated feelings that for most of her life she was writing over the top of.

Jeanette tried to take her life in 2008 and had what I can only call a spiritual experience in which she understood her old self was dead and she had to be born again on a deeply psychological level, she also began to realise she needed to address and understand the feelings and forces that were driving her from within.

In a very heart wrenching paragraph she writes :

extremes – whether of dullness or fury – successfully prevent feeling.  I know our feelings can be so unbearable that we employ ingenious strategies – unconscious strategies – to keep those feelings away.  We do a feeling swap where we avoid feeling sad or lonely or afraid or inadequate, and feel angry instead.  It can work the other way , too – sometimes you do need to feel angry, not inadequate, sometimes you do need to feel love and acceptance, and not the tragic drama of your life.

It takes courage to feel the feeling – and not trade it on the feelings exchange, or even transfer it altogether to another person…..you know how in couples one person is always doing the weeping  or the raging while the other one seems so calm and reasonable?

I understood that feelings were difficult for me although I was overwhelmed by them.

She then began to hear voices and inside them found : ‘a piece of me…..so damaged that she was prepared to see me dead to find peace…. my violent rages, my destructive behavior, my own need to destroy love and trust, just as love and trust had been destroyed for me…. The fact that I did not value myself”  And she also found that ‘the lost furious vicious child’ was the ‘war casualty’ and that was the part of her hated herself and also hated life.

Jeanette began to dialogue with this destructive part of herself which was really a defence against her childhood pain and that is what brought her back home to herself.  It also led to the writing of a children’s book The Battle of the Sun which as a person with an astrological interest intrigues me as the Sun in our chart is our spiritual centre, it is the essence of us born to shine before it becomes in many cases covered in tarnish or buried under the force of our inner demons or monsters, or what Jeanette imagines as ‘the Creature’ within.  It was this creature which was a representation really of all the lies she had been told about her being a bad self, never good enough, and it’s primary purpose (as for all of us who internalise the critic) was to mock, disparage and tear her apart, but never the less giving this part of herself a voice in the end, as for all of us, helped Jeanette to reclaim her sanity.

Her pen ultimate realisation which she shares at the end of the chapter The Night Sea Journey makes me cry :

A few months later we (the creature and Jeanette) were having our afternoon walk when I said something about how nobody had cuddled us when we were little.  I said ‘us’ not ‘you’.  She held my hand.  She had never done that before, mainly she just walked behind shooting her sentences.

We both sat down and cried

I said. “We will learn how to love.”

Learning to love ourselves, to accept our pain, to hold our own hand, to know that we were and will always be ‘enough’ no matter what other forces or voices in the family or culture have told us well really isn’t this our most important challenge?  And doesn’t the deepest recognition of this truth mean a lessening of our insane and voracious consumption which drives us in covering over our sense of emptiness and not enoughness to over produce and over consume in ways that close our eyes to the reality of vast magentic gift of enoughness that surrounds us on this living, breathing, fully sentient, spirit infused love infused planet earth?  Is it not the trance of our not enoughness either internalised or projected the thing that keeps us hungry and blind, causing us to lash out, over protect or self or other harm?   Is not what is needed on this planet an awakening to the sacredness of earth and all life which can only come from a deeply realised sense of preciousness and enoughness?

A good heart

I spent a lot of years in the rooms of AlcoholicsAnonymous before I decided to concentrate more energy on personal one to one therapy in my recovery and what I witnessed there was that most people who own up to addiction are good people at heart, people who had a lot of challenges or loss or may have turned to addictions to cope with emotional neglect or abuse.  And that is why it hurts my heart when those who work so hard at recovery day in day out put themselves down.  I know I do it to myself all the time and am so glad I found  good therapist who helped me to see beyond this to deeper injuries and lacks which drive this inner self critical perfectionist within me that formed as a defence against loneliness and emotional neglect/abandonment.  It just really hits me full force when I witness others doing the same and so I felt the need to write this to affirm what goodness I see in your heart, all people working in recovery to overcome past neglect, abuse, humiliation, betrayal or pain.

I believe there is an essential part of us that is our core and that is whole and good, it is complete and it does not really require anything outside of the self to complete it.  I hear echoes of this in the Buddhist idea of bodhichitta which is a name given to that which exists beyond and beneath all the thoughts and actions and mind forms we engage with that is purely wholesome and complete, lacking in nothing.  It is really only when we have the time to sit with ourselves and feel deep within in the silence that I feel we most truly touch base with this part of ourselves that knows at heart we are connected to everything.  It happens when the voices of criticism and shame are silent and/or when we can answer back with love.

In this place live memories of all those souls we connected to in our lives and even if we had tough experiences with those people underneath there is a part of our soul that knows this experience was given to us for a reason, not one we chose but one that we can and do learn from if we can trust ourselves to be honest and question deeply inside.   I wrote a poem about this the other day but a strange thing happened it just vaporised from WordPress.  I was at the library typing it and I hit publish and it just disappeared.. very strange, it was called Eternal and was about a spiritual experience I had recently of revisiting painful relationships from my past and feeling them resolved.   Oh well its gone now and its a mystery as to why.

I am presently reading Bev Aisbett’s book I Love Me.   As a survivor of anxiety and panic attacks herself Beth has worked for nearly 30 years on a path of self discovery to help others, what she sees as lying at the basis of all of these disorders is actually a lack of self love, not self love of the narcissistic kind, but that which lets us know our true worth as souls and persons equal to others.   When I read this kind of stuff it fills me with the understanding the self love is really the start of all love, I know it’s a kind of truism we hear a lot about but the more we can work to stay in touch with this pure essence of us which is heart centred and that means taking good care of ourselves across all levels, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual the more connected we feel, the less anxious and the less alone.

We are wont to condemn self love, but what we really mean to condemn is contrary to self love.  It is that mixture of selfishness and self hate that permanently pursues us, that prevents us from loving others and that prohibits us from  loving ourselves.

Paul Valery