Understanding, accepting and trusting your feelings

The following excerpt from Jonice Webb’s book Running on Empty : Overcoming Your Childhood Emotional Neglect may help you if you struggle with emotions.  I know in my own life a lot of problems were caused by not understanding nor fully accepting or trusting my own feelings.   An education in a Catholic school taught me certain emotions were really bad, such as anger.  Ideally in childhood we should be helped to understand and identify our emotions so we can use the information they give us and respond wisely, but if we were emotionally neglected we never got to build these skills.    I hope this excerpt may be of help to others who struggle with understanding and accepting their emotions.

If you were emotionally neglected, chances are you have difficulty with accepting and trusting your feelings.  Some emotionally neglected people are completely unaware of the existence of emotions.  Others push their emotions down because they have a deep seated notion that feelings are bad, will burden other people, or can make them a bad person.  Remember the following three rules:

1.  There is no bad emotion

Emotions themselves are not good or bad, right or wrong, moral or amoral.  Every human being has felt rage, jealousy, hate, destructivenss, and superiority, for example, at one time or another.  Most people have even had homicidal feelings  These feelings are not bad, and do not make us a bad person.  It’s what we do with them that matters.  Do not judge yourself for your feelings.  Judge yourself for your actions.

2.  Feelings do not always make rational sense, but they always exist for a good reason.

Emotions do not follow the principles of logic. They can seem inexplicable and unpredictable.  But every emoiton can be explained if you try hard enough. With every emotion our body is trying to send us a meassage, no matter how bizarre that might seem.  As an example, lets go back to David, the forty something businessman who had zero supervision as a child.  David once shared with me that he occasionally felt an unbearable disgust and repulsion when he saw a random person eating at a restaurant.  He was mystified by this feeling, and worried that it might mean he was crazy.  Eventually, through a lot of exploration of his Emotional Neglect, we figured out the reason : David’s limbic system, unbeknownst to him was equating eating, the taking in of food with nurturance.  David himself took no enjoyment from food.  He had great difficulty letting himself enjoy nutritional nurturance as well as emotional nurturance.  Unconsciously, he felt disgusted when he saw someone letting down their guard, and allowing themselves to enjoy taking in nurturance.  This is an example of a feeling that seems on the surface irrrational and meaningles, but was actualy quite meaningful, and existed for a very good reason.

3.  Emotions can be powerful but they can be managed

Emotions that are hidden tend to have a lot of power over us.  When we are aware of an emotion, we can then take charge of it.  David felt at the mercy of his intense feelings of disgust, and sometimes avoided going to restaurants in order to avoid that feeling.  Once he realised the source of the feeling and didn’t judge himself for having it, he was at a point of full awareness and acceptance.  He started to fight it off, and the feelings of disgust lost its potency.  Eventually it disappeared altogether.

The IAAA Steps

IAAA may sound like a retirement fund but it is not.  IAAA stand for Identify, Accept, Atrribute, Act.  These steps are a culmination of the three rules above.  They are the four steps to maximising the value of our emotions, and gaining energy and guidance from them.  First, Identify the feeling, then Accept it.  Do not judge it as bad or good.  Third, try to discern the reason you are having the feeling, or Attribute it to a cause; fourth, identifty whether there is an Action that the emotion calls for and, if so, take it appropriately.

Whar are you feeling right now?  Close your eyes and ask yourself that question.  If the answer is ‘overwhelmed” don’t despair.  The process of making friends with your emotions may seem complicated, or even insurmountable, but you can do it.  Yes, it will take time.  But if you keep working at it, you will start to notice small changes in yourself.  The changes may be subtle and may at first seem unimportant.  But each time you have an emotional realisation that’s new to you  its a sign that you are growing and learning.  If you find yorself struggling too much, or on the verge of giving up, look for a therapist to help you.  A skilled therapist will be able to help you to build these skills, so that you can become fully connected, present and alive.

Difficulty accepting criticism : how and why borderline anger can be triggered

Reading my current book on men who suffer from borderline personality disorder Hard To Love I am being reminded of how early attachment or abandonment wounds leave us with a thin skin covering over a sore raw spot that can often be triggered by perceived threat of abandonment.  At these times if we suffer from borderline wounds we may fly into a reactive rage rather than feel the soft,  vulnerable spot that is being triggered deep inside.

Acting out rage is a reaction to the hurt, pain and fear that lives inside.  We may not be fully conscious that we fear rejection because someone around us saw a part of us that may not be well formed or is a source of shame, youngness, pain, or fear for us.  Often such reactive anger or rage is a response to having early abandonment experiences triggered or feeling we are not being valued or validated.  When others only see the angry or raging response and don’t dig deeper to realise the wounds that led to it, true understanding, connection and repair is not possible.  When we have been triggered in this way it takes some age regression work to become aware of the wounds and earlier incidents of abandonment we carry and experience that are being triggered by such criticism in the present moment.

I am posting this today as a bit of a response to an earlier post on the negative side of the inner critic.  Criticism from others when it triggers our own inner critic can tend to make us defended or angry if we have these kind of wounds and most especially if we have a powerful inner critic inside and lots of earlier hurt.  If we want relationships to survive we need to find ways to express our vulnerability with others.  We need the capacity to take the little one inside us onto our knee and get at the root of what is going on.  For the abandonment actually happens when outer criticism triggers our feeling of not being good enough inside and as much as we needed someone in childhood to let us know we are good enough, as adults we really do not need this approval of our selves.   Later on we may then be able to have an honest conversation with the person in question and say  “when you did X I started to feel scared and abandoned and criticised.”   We may be able to communicate needs that we have that were never fully met growing up.

It is very painful to have these unresolved and often unrecognised needs inside of us.  In my post on the antidote to the inner critic yesterday I brought attention to the issue of childhood emotional neglect, and pointed out how suffering from such neglect which is not fully even conscious for many of us leads to certain deficiencies within and in the way we relate to our selves in terms of empathy and feeling a sense of inner value.  Educating ourselves about the areas of neglect is an important step forward, for how can we get needs met or change behaviours we don’t fully accept or even understand?

In my past relationship often my ex partner would feel triggered by a little criticism comments like :  “the griller door needs to be open when you grilling”.  He took that as some kind of slight on his intelligence.  And my abandonment wound could be similarly triggered at times when I started to feel left out or ignored.  It was then hard to find the words to express how I was really feeling because I lacked the necessary insight and language.   When I was finally able to speak up for my needs I was told that they did not matter has his needs came first, always.  At that stage self care would have seen me make a re-evaluation of the relationship if I had been in a healthier place.

That said not all criticism is valid and some people use put downs or other subtle or not so subtle means to put us down.  In this case we can stand up for ourselves against the criticism in a firm and loving way.

Borderline wounds are very real, they come from key experiences in the past of feeling alone and abandoned which are so often deeply hidden from view and even conscious memory.  They make us vulnerable in the present.  They put the locus of control and reaction outside of ourselves, at least before we begin to get a handle on them.  Understanding how and why we react as we do is important, just as important as others around us taking the time and caring enough to want to know why it is happening rather than blame or shame.

In my last relationship neither of us had sufficient insight to cope with the self soothing and other centred understanding that was needed for a healthier relationship to survive when we both carried our own version of abandonment wounding.   So many things can happen to us is childhood that we are powerless over and end up leaving deep scars.   There scars can mark our relationships but they are also signs, pointers or signals of a damage that when understood and worked with consciously can help us to move through to more committed, honest and understanding relationships with others.

Separating : birthing : integrating

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Its such a tough journey to finally get to the point where we have to let our families go in order to birth the true life and connections that exist outside of its circumscribed limits.  Therapy and emotional healing is a process of both coming to terms with and integrating all of the formative experiences of our past, as well as the deeper hurts and injuries that happened to us in our family of origin.   Many of us battle for a long time against accepting harsh realties most especially if we were wounded or suffered developmental arrests and lost access to our True Self within over many years.  Abandonment gives us no way of accessing the truth of the lost self except through pain which is challenging to feel and integrate, especially in a society where pain is seen as a pathology or illness to be medicated instead of mined for wisdom, growth, connection and meaning.

In my own case a developmental arrest occurred at 17 when I should have been on the brink of opening up and launching.  I was cut down by an accident and then in the 6 years that followed the following traumas occurred : the cerebral bleed, coma and eventual psychosis of my older sister, her eventual abandonment and suicide attempt, two terminations of pregnancy and then my father’s death from cancer.  After my boyfriend broke the relationship off with me just a few weeks after my father died and cancelled our plans to meet abroad, something I had been working and saving towards for over 18 months my mother then decided it was best to push me overseas all alone.

How I was meant to cope with everything I had suffered to that point God only knows. And the truth is its deeper suffering was not even begun to be felt by me for about 14 more years.  I call those the years of unconscious descent, as 7 of them involved active addiction and the next 7 were just spent in AA meetings where it was really not possible to address the extent of my damage.   In 1999 I made my first attempt at therapy and here it is 18 years later and I only feel that I have now done the majority of my conscious descent, which had involved a lot of therapy and broken therapies in order to find the right help.

I only now feel that I am beginning to separate from my family emotionally.  The paradox is that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the suffering fully, in fact I feel it means I feel it at the deepest level as I have chosen not to self medicate as much as possible.  At times I have been very close to suicide, most especially in the past 6 years spent back here in my home town.  I beat myself up all the time about how I didn’t have the courage to move away and deal with it from a distance.  Maybe it was partly the illusion of the inner child pulling me back making me believe that in some way I would get what I wanted emotionally or at least be able to address the pain with family.  That illusion has caused me a lot of emotional suffering and has cost me years and the pain over all that lost life honestly on some days nearly drives me to want to take my life.  It is taking a long time for adult me to emerge and front up, and face the death of those old longings which I see now are not realistic and never were really.  There is a lot of grieving to be done in the shedding and the letting go and fear I am becoming aware does accompany the conscious descent that is asked of us.  In fact I read many years ago that poet Robert Bly spoke of how depression is a refusal on some level often to surrender to deeper grief work.  Only through it do we reunite with the lost child in side who holds so much of our power and inner gold, although often when we find him or her, he or she is most often covered in soot and ashes, this unparented one who is often also a part of our parents’ unconscious.

Anyway I am certainly not alone in facing this kind of pain in midlife.  My journey is made more complex due to two near death traumas which pulled me back when I was on the brink of what should have been a blossoming and emerging or burgeoning time.  My studies suffered in the years following my first accident as I also struggled with the terrible impact of witnessing what my older sister went through.  I was forced by my father at that point into a career I hated and it wasn’t until just before I got sober that I tried to break out of that but addiction wouldn’t let me move too far forward and at that time even more traumas and losses had piled on top of the original ones.

I eventually did manage to do some training in wholistic therapies and managed to secure myself a few jobs in an industry that was more to my liking but I hadn’t yet done my inner work, instead I chose to escape into marriage.   In those years I got sober and started then to really explore my interest in astrology and in 2001 managed to achieve a dream to study at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London which I aborted when my older sister who was now in a care home hit the wall. I also started serious therapy in 1999 in the UK but mid way through I had a powerful dream that an dark African woman had given birth to a baby who died just after its first birthday.  About a year and a half into therapy I aborted to come back home.  In the dream the deep sad eyes of the woman shone as she told me it was a necessary death.

And so it has been.  Death and more death followed.  The ending of marriage, another accident and then another, another relationship and the failing of that and my eventual return to the roots of my home and then a new start in therapy, the suicide attempt of my other sister, five hospitalisations for her for depression which I tried to give emotional support through and then the death of my older sister in 2014 and reconnection with my nephews her sons who were like my long lost brothers.

Wiser energy comes now on a spring afternoon where shadows begin to fall telling me it was all a part of the journey. Why beat myself up?  Will I ever fully leave my family behind?  They were the womb I was born out of but not the place that I am meant to end up but individuation is a journey and its not an easy birth to go through it all and in so many ways my own life is both a continuation of my ancestors life as well as a working out of issues and burdens and tasks they perhaps never got to complete fully which call to me from deep within intercellular tissue, at least that is how it feels for me. Even the ones I never met call to me and I feel their pain and deeper longing to be known and recognised, no longer so lost, exiled or forgotten, fallen deep down into the collective unconscious ocean like stones.  Possibly all configured by my natal Neptune in the third trine to Chiron in Pisces in the seventh more than I could ever fully express in words here.

So much to navigate and not all of it artificial imagining I am sure.  So I continue on some days weighed down so deep by a burden I never chose, but then on other days rising again with a new energy and power that has come from facing and surrendering myself body and soul to the deepest darkness.  So much is a mystery that is all I know.  So many unseen forces play out for us and we can never fully hope to solve the puzzle with our minds but if we still enough at times we hear the inner voice or call telling us things.  Our personal and ancestral soul trying so hard to make its authentic individual voice and inner purpose known.

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An instrument of awakening

I have some powerful moments of realisation at times.  You know the feeling where a new vista opens up on past issues and you suddenly see things from a new and different perspective?  Often it occurs after a long, long period of suffering and questioning.  You descend to the depths in order to see things at a more profound level, so that in some mysterious way the deeper you go the higher your view.

Today I had the thought about my brother in law, the one who caused so much pain and fracturing for our family, or rather was the instigator of a lot of it, what if he was just an instrument of awakening and what also if he carried some of the family shadow?   My Dad for most of his later life was preoccupied with financial success.  Deep down he was a soft man, but born to harsh conditions in 1920 in Holland.  He was also born in a patriarchal world.

I had a counsellor for a while, who was herself Dutch about 4 years ago and when I explained how my father treated his daughters and displayed little affection physically, she told me that was usual for Dutch fathers of his age.  He also did not believe that women should pursue further education to advance a career.  In my case I was forced to go to secretarial college, which I hated and my older sister who had the stroke became a nurse when she would rather have gone to Uni.

Anyway to cut a long story short, my father was responsible and strove and did well, but my brother in law ended up falling short, getting into debt, absconding with the family then sending some of the boys back when things got too hard after he abandoned my sister.  I don’t know the full story, in the end he hurt my sister deeply but she always forgave because that is the kind of heart that she had.  Perhaps she understood more of how hard she pushed to try and move them forward in a way to which he may not have been suited.

The entire result was devastating in every way.  It has marred so many lives including my own.  But today when I rose a little while ago to see the Sun shining I felt a kind of awakening.  What if all of these trials were for a larger purpose of awakening?  What about if our family had to go through all of this separation and disconnection so that in the end it could come back together in a healthier or different way?  What if we could make gold out of this blackness and see how old patterns were actually trying to be arrested?  And what if love was the answer?  Loving something even though it contained such pain?

I also awoke today thinking a lot about alchemy and containment.  For the purposes of maturing we need to contain our impulses and emotions in a healthy way.  We should not repress what we feel but we do need to make a relationship with feelings, most importantly with our reactions to difficult events.  Things not going our own way is challenging for sure.  Having to face frustration of our needs and impulses is so challenging, deeply painful but also essential and important. In order to be emotionally and physically healthy in our world we need the drive and ability and power to express our spirit in some way, rather than have it blocked.  At the same time it seems to me that containing and working through our frustrations, losses and thwartings and handling the associated feelings involves a kind of alchemy.  We have to digest our experiences often over a long period.

This is where the sign of Virgo comes in that we in now.  Mercury is retrograde in Virgo at the moment. It has been for some weeks.  For me it hit the deepest part of my chart when it stationed backward a few weeks ago.  It hit my Pluto.  We had the lunar and solar eclipses during this time.  Personally I have felt so much going on in my physical and emotional digestive system.  The sign of Virgo is ruled by Mercury and I was thinking today that we actually have two brains in our system.  There is the brain in our head as well as the brain in our gut.  I read in a book by trauma specialist, Peter Levine a few years ago that for every nerve fibre travelling from the brain to the gut we have 10 more travelling in the other direction.

Our deepest emotions live in our gut. This too, is where the inner child lives (in esoteric astrology the sign of Virgo is ruled not only by Mercury but by the Moon which relates to emotions and our inner child).  The gut is where we digest things and experiences and process them to then make sense of them in our brains. What is processed here is also passed onto other organs such as the kidneys and liver.  Add to this that we have a heart too that is ruled by the Sun and fiery Leo where we feel the will to both love and expression.

When that fire goes out our vital spirit feels almost dead. It is hard to eat and even to breathe as our heart connects so closely to the lungs (ruled by Gemini and Mercury too).  We have to process things.  We have to contain them.  We have to chew the raw food of experience over and over in order to gain the right understanding and nutrition, wisdom, intelligence and insight.

And I guess that during this current Mercury retrograde period that is what has been happening for me.  I have began to make sense of the fact that perhaps every thing that happened to my sister via my brother in law was really the working out of something deeper, some thing that had lessons for all of us.

It seems to me that often when we blame circumstances in some way we miss the deeper understandings that can come.  You see it all the time when tragedy strikes, people quickly rush to blame or seek the person or person’s responsible and punish them.  And most certainly people should be held to account.  But what if when tragedy strikes really there is deeper work than this to be done?   If we don’t stop and grieve and allow our pain to go deeper and teach us important things or birth deeper realisations it seems to me that we can often miss the deeper truth or meaning or purpose of the experience.

In my own case I am seeing now how much fear I have carried in my own life.  I was scared of my brother in law in many ways.  I linked that fear to fear of being close to my nephews in some way in therapy yesterday.  I both longed for connection and feared it.  Would they be safe? Would they end up hurting or abandoning me in the way their father did my sister?  Is it any wonder I felt so much fear?  That in the years following my sister’s abandonment and suicide attempt that I had 6 terminations of pregnancy and untold difficulties in getting close to any man in a deeply intimate way?   That I myself, came to fear life and love and risk as well as full embodiment?

The answer is NO its obvious that is how it would have affected most of us!  In the end I would rather this experience never had to befall any of us in my family, but the truth is that it did.  And now our task or my task is to live in the best way with the result and after examining the forces and impact make new choices for happiness or at least gain deeper insight into my fears.

I spoke in an earlier post about the wave I felt pass over me last week and weekend with my nephew’s visit.  I thought a lot yesterday about how much I can actually fear my own feelings and fear having them in relationship.  I intellectualise a lot because I was left alone for most of my life trying to make sense of deeply painful and confusing experiences in the adult world that befell both me and others.   I learned often to take myself off alone.  I learned to knee jerk react and act without containing often as a reaction to over whelming stress and then I hit walls with accidents which pulled me up short, but maybe for a reason, so that I could internalise to then be able to make a more conscious step forward, one that was not so dictated by trauma but informed by it, if that makes sense.

Today that is the realisation and reckoning I am arriving at.  Mercury moves back into the final degrees of Leo in a few days where it slows to station forward.  As it does it hits the degree of the Solar Eclipse of 21-22 August.  That is right on natal Uranus in the first house which is all about individuation, shock, disconnection, severing, enlightenment and awakening.  Oh and freedom!  But its also about turning away at times from the instinctual world of feeling to a realm of intellectual understanding which at times can be a divorced or disconnected from earthly containment and emotional realities.  In the best sense enlightenment brings light to those deeper darker Plutonian experiences and emotions we all go through.  Hopefully in the end deeper understanding when digested helps us and will help me embody more and no longer split.  Maybe it will help me to ground, turn back, embody and make peace with the earthly shackles of a far from perfect or ideal life and experiences which were so often so far beyond my own control.

A day to myself

Today’s posts aren’t in any kind of order.  I write a lot more than I post and this one was from yesterday.  The critic often reminds me a lot of what I write is just for me and at times its verbal diatribe, its the working out of inner processes and then the critic doesn’t want it posted to bore other’s senseless or remind them how self obsessed I am.  But followers that’s the critic for you and the way he is  (yes, my critic is male and I call him Mr A!)  Anyway I am going to post this anyway.  Not to say the critic is all wrong by the way!

What a day.  I have moved through so many feelings and states today.  Dusk will be soon with us and Jasper is looking longingly out of the lounge room window as he does on the rainy days when we don’t get out.  Today for the first day in ages I stayed in my PJ’s until about 3 pm.  I didn’t eat until later and I watched part of a movie in between writing and crying and thinking and dreaming and doing a bit of house work.

I am aware of all the back forward, in out, wrong right swings my mind is doing at present.  At one moment I am aware of the pain in my heart over losses that I feel has immobilised me locked me away from others and sometimes shut them out.  At another I am aware that my pain needed a witness and on this score I was let down.  I then got to reading one of my old diaries from the before my husband and I separated and I see how I was struggling with a lot of dis-satisfaction and thoughts of leaving him.  I was also writing all the time, withdrawing deeply into my inner world, exchanging deep emails with a good friend who was very interested in similar things to me such as dreams, astrology symbology, writing and evolutionary history as well as the battle between love and hate love and fear that was raging at that time around the outset of America’s decision to invade Iraq and look for weapons of mass destruction.

I wrote in my journal that I had been crying over a news story in which it told of how the spine of a young child was shattered by enemy fire.  I had then had a dream of a crustacean with a shattered spine and I was starting to explore how the illness of my sister had had such a powerful effect but I was trying to do all of this in isolation in a place where I should not at that time have been living.

Anyway then I got a bit of a fit of the blues about how my ‘life is going nowhere’.   Fact is I had an interior day and when negative brooding thoughts like this come to visit its better to not engage too much.  I just made a cup of tea.  I am feeling a little guilty about not walking the dog but today I don’t feel like going out at all.  It was a huge few days after my nephew’s visit with his family, which really brings up the past.  I was so aware of how powerfully I get pulled on by this traumatic past and how little of my energy is actually in present time.  I have not heard back from his brother after two attempts to call and I cried about that : tears of actual acceptance, which felt good.   Sometimes the best thing to do is let go and move on.  Sadly its not what I have done for most of the past 10 years and at the moment I am seeing the cost of that.  I am seeing how it is frustrating for others.  But the truth is I have had a lot of grief and loss.  It is not something to ‘move on’ from easily.

As my therapist often points out the work I am doing in therapy is about a mid life process of reckoning with the past that takes time.  Its just that next year I am anxious to find a way to externalise in my life more.  I want to be out and interacting with other people, just not sure in what avenue and then even as I write that I am aware that as an introvert I will always be primed to turn within.   Self acceptance is so important, as we can so often judge ourselves and hear inner voices telling us we are not good enough which limits us and limits our life.  I am sick of limitations at present.

Well Sun, you are now peeping your head out from around the corner.  It is time to relax for now.   Mercury retrograde really pulled me deep inside today.  I am glad I was able to answer the call.  All in all its been lovely to have a day to just stay home with me after those intense days where I was so heavily pulled upon by the outer world and be by myself at home.

Anger with my therapist leads to deeper reflection

I found myself feeling a lot of anger towards my therapist, Kat yesterday.  The intensity of what my body goes through on any day and any night as a result of having recently had this tooth removed on the back of a traumatic head injury at occurred after a time I so needed family support and was once again denied it at the end of my marriage bites me hugely.  I feel like I have giant incisor like wounds from that bite lodged in my psychic flesh and over the past few nights of the eclipse I have been bang awake between 3 and 5 with all these powerful sensations coursing through my body as my mind has struggled to make sense of the tangled up jigsaw pieces of the past 17 years of struggle to find and make sense of my true feelings and find a centre of self in the messy conglomerate of energies within and without which like wild currents and eddies swirl this way and that, at times setting up huge surge like storms of ‘meness’ and then at other taking me down with the powerful centrifugal undertow of black inky sludge drowning me completely and making it hard to draw a free breath!!!

I am angry that Kat didn’t seem to even remember the piece of writing I actually read to her last Thursday, I had to read it all over again and I was feeling so tired,  she is my fucking therapist why can’t she remember, why doesn’t she take the time to read my blog before I go to a session so she can help me a bit, for fucks sake its only one hour and reading three or four blogs to catch up is exhausting because often when I write the feelings are there simmering away under the surface and only emerge when I read them in session which now that I write it just goes to show if she did read it then that wouldn’t happen so why am I getting so mad?  I still am because I have to work so fucking hard at times and there is so much to get through in session.

I do know why I am angry though.  This is old anger.  I have had fuck all help in my life in the way that really mattered.  I didn’t need money thrown at me, I needed a parent who got me, and was there emotionally not one who consistently abandoned me and then told me I was a late developer when I shared I got into sobriety.  Yeah Mum it was all my fault that I drank in a situation in which so many painful feelings were going down that I didn’t know how to deal with in the absence of support, after a major traumatic injury at 17 that I never got any help to deal with later only to be followed six months later by even less care available due to my sister’s aneurysm occuring with all the complications that followed all at a time I was trying to develop and mature.  Fuck That!!!

Yet even as I write this and consider my last post about the poor fit between a mother and child that leaves the child, lost, confused, split off from her body and feelings and lacking self containment and integrity of being I realise that I must accept my mother went through the same with her mother and so just passed down the wound. The anger is understandable that I feel but it wont help me unless I use it to drive a deeper understanding and also to set boundaries so that I don’t open up and share intimate emotional stuff she is likely to dismiss, deny or be confused about herself.

So its probably not really even my therapist I am really angry with but with the entire sad history of a child who came to not be able to understand, express, or even tolerate her own feelings and then became an addict, only to get sober and be told it was the result of ‘character defects’ which just reinforces the scapegoats idea fixee of being the ‘bad’, ‘wrong’ or damaged one, inherently flawed in some way.

I don’t actually remember in the rooms of AA being given any help to understand my own feelings.  I do remember sitting there in meetings and crying my eyes out as other’s shared from such a damaged split off place, full of self blame and self denigration.  It broke my heart in two.  And then in Al Anon meetings I got the askance looks from those trying to whip alcoholic loved ones into shape with their own self righteousness not getting for a moment the suffering or deeper dilemma the person concerned was going through.   I remember not being hugged after a meeting or reached out to after I shared from a deep well of pain.

I know it probably wasn’t their job but I do feel that once our buried feelings begin to open up in sobriety we need some form of encouragement and affirmation from others to assist us and yet even that hope or demand has hidden deep in the centre of it a hope or demand that is loaded with the sadness and longing of deep needs of long ago for the parent’s unconditional love, understanding, mirroring and acceptance of feelings; needs we never got to fully understand or contain.

In the end, as I was discussing with Kat yesterday, perhaps no one now can give us enough to make up for what we lost or never received in the first place.  Such an empty void or space in the place where we most needed to be met, filled up, affirmed, received  must be acknowledged, deeply understood and grieved.  And then we must meet the challenge of finding ways to fill our lives with the good energy of connection and love, learning how to understand, feel and tolerate all our feelings.   Being or becoming the good loving mother and father to ourselves so that ultimately we don’t end up re-enacting our emptiness, wound or anger on others or keep ourselves lost and trapped inside the deep dark desolate place of that emptiness.

I do wonder now, though, if we end up alone with no life partner and disconnected from so many friends due to the wounds we have carried driving so many away from us in misunderstanding how sweet can life be?  Can we really fill ourselves up from the life font or spring of spirit that was meant to flow within and through us and can that be enough?

Its obvious to me now that the hyper sensitivity that so many of us feel who were not met or received in the needed ways, grew larger in the absence of such love and care.  The burden of our so called ‘over sensitivity’  needs to be understood and we need to make sure that we don’t blame ourselves while at the same time learning to take responsibility for the wound we carry in terms of taking care of ourselves, learning to be open, vulnerable and honest to ask for what we need rather than demand it or get shitty when it doesn’t just come automatically.

We also need an awareness of the real failures of others which came from the limits of their own capacity to be fully embodied themselves, a wound that seems to plague so many in a technologically driven modern society that has grown increasingly removed from the natural and soulful elements in vibrant earthly life.   To begin to feel that love means that we open ourselves body and soul to the soft caress of the sun on skin, to the luxuriant feeling of sea water on flesh, to the sheer love that shines in our dog’s eyes as he runs to great us, to the joy of feeling our free spirit express its bounty through dance, movement and song.

It surely means we open up again to try to find the love and containment we missed from a loving mother’s arms in places and spaces where it does exist.  And it also means that we as ones who have been damaged and know the cause and consequences of such disconnection and damage make a stand in a world where sensitivity and depth is so often not championed.  For the pain our souls have suffered has perhaps highlighted for us how essential such an earthly connection to life, feeling and nature is and to the deeper realisation that the wound to the mother that leads to severing from body and deep feeling is one we end up enacting on the earth and ourselves over and over again if we don’t fully face, feel and speak for the painful and agonising consequences of its loss or absence.

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.