Swirling seas : more reflections on trauma

Maybe there are oceans inside of us. Perhaps everything is not as solid as it seems.  I have experienced so powerfully since my 5 weeks of radiation for breast cancer last year how fluid the energy in my body is. When I was reading parts of Peter Levine’s book on trauma earlier this week he explained that part of his work involves getting us back in touch with this sense of the body as vibration and to feel our way into how it sings or pulls or tears or hurts or vibrates as a living energy that is not fixed and can oscillate and change.  Also to notice how pain is often a contraction and if we do not resist that contraction and stay with it mindfully in time contraction can change to expansion and release/letting go.

IAUSV.jpg

It is coming up both to my Dad’ birthday anniversary as well as the anniversary of my accident when I was only 17 in about 12 days.  I am aware of how my body still carries this shock trauma energy of expansion and contraction deep inside.  I had a repeat of the accident when I was 41 after a session of cranio sacral where I went back ‘in’  I watched things from outside of my body and saw the grief my parents went through. Dad only got to the hospital after I was taken by the ambulance but Mum came to the scene of it.  When they wheeled me past Dad he didn’t recognise me, I was so lacerated and cut up.  I was also screaming ‘let me die’ which was a pretty extreme reaction. He was so upset and I grieved in that session not only for what I went through but what my parents went through. The dramatic way I cried out also showed two things 1) I was resisting what was happening to me and 2) at that stage I felt very alone and didn’t really want to be alive (a lot was going down for me prior to the crash!).

Anyway the whole thing repeated in 2005 with me over the other side of the world. In many ways I wish I didn’t have the session then.  An astrologer who specialises in near death and trauma said to me that often its difficult to work with these old events in certain ways as they can be retriggered, sometimes, she said, we are best to leave the wound alone and mindfully send it love.  I am older and wiser now, however in 2005 the whole thing just opened up for me again and I got badly hurt.  In many ways I am still coming back from the trauma of that time that still lives in my body, as well as the grief I have that such a choice led to more damage and pain.

Peter Levine’s work with helping the traumatised to unpack it involves inner work to try to tolerate the strong sensations trauma leaves in the body without dissociating (which is what we usually do in trauma!)   It involves putting the focus on those sensations for a time which hurt or repel or are painful and then swinging or what he calls ‘pendulating’ awareness onto something positive and warm and life affirming.  This is to counterbalance the extreme fixing, pinning or magnetising affect trauma can have on our body/mind and psyche.

Lately I am aware of how much I have dwelt in and on my trauma over the past 20 years.  I have literally allowed it to ‘pin’ me and breaking out of that repetitive feedback loop of focus on body symptoms and negative thoughts or thoughts of doom that can recycle is taking me time.  Lately I am fed up with the way trauma has limited my life.  I am seeing things about the way I have dealt with it which have not always helped me.  I am also seeing how I spend a lot of time ‘running’ on an energy level instead of settling.  This the amped up sense I carry inside that death and danger is close and its urgent that I keep things rolling.  In fact I was listening to the lyrics of an old song by Foreigner last week that goes “urgent, urgent, urgent, emergency” several times in the chorus and thinking how often that speaks to how I can run my energy.

At the same time I am aware that movement towards positive behaviours, such as forcing my body out into the sunshine or wooded fields for a walk with Jasper, or making effort to pick up the phone and call that caring friend instead of ruminating in fear about how it would be better to keep up a distance and stay safe is essential for me.

One of the most damaging things about trauma is that it can lead us to freeze and get immobilised.  Peter Levine addresses this issue at depth in his first book Waking the Tiger.   Animals can play dead but then they get a burst of energy to get up and escape from the predator that wants to eat them.  If our trauma comes from abuse we need to be able to take action to move rather than become passive, or develop what Peter Walker calls ‘a fawn defence’.  Staying powerless and passive will not help us much and may lead to chronic illnesses.

Anyway it takes time to realise all of these things about trauma.  It takes time to be able to consciously shift our focus in such a way, not to deny the impact of painful effects but to release the powerful hold they can have over our thinking, energy and perception.  It takes time to begin to find the goodness again, to discover the things that we can focus on that don’t amp up our pain, but rather soothe it, that don’t keep it running over and over again on a repetitive feedback loop.  It also takes time to find those who understand just what a huge impact trauma has, for if we are lucky enough to find someone willing to be with our traumatised body in full presence we are more likely to be able to unravel from the painful effects of trauma and soothe them, than if we are treated callously or with a lack of empathy.

Peter Levine himself had a serious accident when he was young.  He sites the fact that he didn’t develop full blown PTSD to the fact that a woman was there by the side of the road when he had the accident and she sat with him, held his hand and helped to soothe his distress.  The last thing anyone with trauma needs to be told is that it doesn’t hurt, or that we should be over it.  But that is just what happens to us when confronted with our trauma others freak out or feel too confronted or threatened  It can take us some time to realise in this situation that this is a failure on the behalf of others, as trauma survivors we are more than likely to be hard on ourselves and blame ourselves which only makes living as a trauma survivor 1,000 times worse.

In my own case I think the reason I have struggled to heal over 12 years from that second accident in 2005 is that over that time I was rejected for trauma symptoms or misunderstood.    That made healing myself extra hard.  I was emotionally abused in the last relationship I had for my trauma symptoms and I can still side with my abuser in seeing how difficult it was for him.  It was a failure of empathy on one level, but I can still understand how challenging it is for other to see trauma survivors fixed to dark places when the impact of trauma or abuse still possesses us so completely at times.

Last week my therapist said something interesting to me.  It was this. “It is important that you know both how to be in the underworld but also how to get out of it.”  That made a lot of sense to me.  Those of us who have undergone dark things can get so overpowered by those dark experiences as well as the feelings of powerlessness they can leave that we can almost be consumed by our own personal hell and underworld at times.  When we are down in the dark and lightless, loveless place it is hard to believe there still is a sun shining above ground and a meadow full of flowers we can skip through.  What brings the faith back in that goodness must surely involve someone who can empathise with us and hold our hands in the dark but also not buy in too strongly to our thoughts of doom.  That person themselves needs to have a goodness and active energy around them that can embrace both polarities of dark and light.   For really they are just two sides of life and those of us who have known the dark may have had to visit it in order to know just how valuable and essential light, empathy and love are   Hopefully our own lessons in the dark mean we can be there for others to hold a light up when despair seems to become so overpowering.   I certainly hope so.

The painful cost of trauma : understanding abandonment depression

Painful trauma has a way of driving us out of our body.  To have lived with an intolerable reality which we are given no help to process or understand is an agony beyond words.  Not to be held, understood and empathised with in our suffering means our neurobiology cannot be soothed, we become flooded with stress chemicals such as cortisol.  Recent studies show that empathy increased the presence of oxytocin in our neurobiological systems.

I know the relief that has come for me in therapy as  have been able to let my own feelings out.  I know the damage that has occurred when, in trying to express said feelings with unsafe others who are defended, blocked or lacking in empathy they have become, not only trapped within, but other feelings have then occurred in reaction such as pain, disappointment and distress.  It was only last week in reading the chapter on abandonment depression in James Masterton’s book on the real self that I became aware of how complex and multilayered the feelings of that state are.  It is within the abandonment depression that we feel suicidal as it contains what Masterton has labelled the six feelings of the psychic apocalypse, very aptly named.  Guilt, rage, panic, fear are four of these feelings.

In recovery those of us who have undergone trauma or abandonment trauma need help to understand our feelings and the courage and strength to bear with or integrate these feelings. Rage is a huge part of what we feel when we meet again invalidation or similar abuse that triggers our earlier abuse.  There is panic when we face the rage which also comes with a great deal of fear, after all when we were younger and abandoned we experienced fear as we were confronted with overpowering situations of stress and distress which we can go on reliving unconsciously for years and had no help with.

In our recovery we begin to regress to these feelings and since such a huge part of so called borderline trauma involves invalidation or lack of support and empathy, when we meet such triggers again, we can regress and find ourselves once again filled with grief and rage.  Our overt reactions will most likely not be understood by those who have no idea of the complexity of feelings we are left trying to contain, process and express as a result.  This why we need in recovery an enlightened witness who is able to show empathy for what the real self had to suffer in childhood which led to the adoption of a false self as a defence against fully feeling the complex feelings of the abandonment depression.

In his book on Complex PTSD Pete Walker deals with the abandonment depression.  He also explains how the inner critic becomes very active at a certain stage in our recovery, shaming us for daring to recover and try to become well.  The inner critic may be comprised of things said to us when young by others who tried to shame or judge us instead of showing empathy or helping us make sense of difficult feelings.  We can shame ourselves in similar ways for our reactions, which comes often from the so called ‘adult’ part of us that won’t accept or allow the child to be the child, vulnerable, tortured at times and deeply confused.

Empathy is so essential as we begin to deal with our inner critic less we start to shame the child all over again in a bid to protect it or protect against the feared rejection of others that we experienced in the past.  It’s a complex process.  We do need to become aware of when we become triggered or start to act out old pain, but shaming ourselves for it won’t work and help us to heal.  Painful feelings need to be lovingly contained and soothed for true healing and integration to happen.

You weren’t there

Dark Spirit

I longed for someone to be there

On those lonely wide open afternoons

You were gone from home

In just the way your own mother was gone

I reached for the key

That hung on the hook in the shed

And on one of the days it wasn’t there

I broke the window

And cut my wrist

Thirty stiches

Neighbours took me to casualty

Do you know how much it hurt Mum

To know that dresses and other people

Were more important than me?

It wasn’t that you worked

It was that you left me alone

Why not get help?

But how could you know how it was

When you just repeated your own silent history?

Now I see

What I could not see then

I understand why panic attacks visit me at that time of day

When

One of the six horseman of the psychic apocalypse

Comes calling

Panic

Hidden deep inside panic are so many other emotions

That could neither be expressed nor contained

As well as a hungering heart

That needed to be held

And tended in love

Now I know why ravenous hunger visits me then

I eat and eat

But the hunger is for something else

My inner child

Help adult me

To remember and to understand

It all makes sense

That body will never lie

Show me how to be there for you

So that panic can end

And love attention and self care

Can fill up the empty spaces

Of a wound

Far larger than me

Understanding the wounds underlying borderline reactions

I often struggle when I read that people with so called BPD are struggling with being able to understand that what seem to others to look like ‘over-reactions’ are actually grounded in past experiences of not being met, responded to with empathy or sensitivity or being given what we truly need.  As a result we tend to carry a lot of inward frustration and what I would called ‘historical suffering’ which can get triggered in the present by either perceived abandonment or invalidation which we then project and can tend to respond to in ineffective ways.   Our reactions may seem out of order and beyond context but we do need to understand that they do make sense once our true history is understood.

Core wounds and old pain act in many ways like black holes of suffering that can be triggered in the moment and then suck us down.   Dialectical Behavioural Therapy was developed by Marsha Linehan a sufferer of BPD who found she needed help with thinking about her thinking and responses to current events when old pain was triggered.  From what I understand DBT involves finding ways to reframe our reactions to triggers and soothe distressing painful inner self talk which then promotes us to over react to current situations in which some old wound, pain or sensitivity is then triggered.

I am often wary about the diagnosis Borderline Personality.  Most so called ‘borderline’ individuals started life as highly sensitive beings who were supremely in touch and high wired in terms of respondability to external stimuli.  As babies they required a high level of attunement, mirroring, empathy and sensitivity to their cues, hungers and needs from caregivers and often they find themselves born into environments ill equipped to deal with and respond affectively and effectively to them.  As a result they often are not soothed adequately and also do not manage to internalise the messages of adequate self soothing and self care which would enable them to mother themselves effectively.

When such a conditioning occurs it leaves a deep wound or hunger in the soul.  The borderline or highly  sensitive person is highly attuned and intelligent.  They notice things that others don’t.  They may try to point out things others don’t see or do not understand and they can then be abused or invalidated for such perceptions, seeing or understanding as adults and also when young.  They can then internalise this kind of abuse or misunderstanding coming to believe ‘there is something inherently wrong with me’.

They may then try to adapt to what is expected of or projected onto them, rejecting themselves in the process.  They may also lack the capacity to understand the very real limits and different ways of reacting of the non highly sensitive individuals around them, getting angry or flying off the handle when empathy is not shown to them.   The realistic truth if understood by the borderline/sensitive would show that the less sensitive were only reacting to the highly sensitive individual out of not understanding a depth of feeling, particular perception or way of being which varies greatly with their own, rather than this being a sign of something ‘wrong’ with either person.

Such an understanding for the so called borderline or highly sensitive individual requires a high level of inner work as well as a detailed unpacking of ways in which the nurturing environment failed to respond in empathic ways, leaving key wounds or perceptual distortions kicking around inside the borderline or HSP.  Arming ourselves with such deeper emotional understanding involves work with an empathic person who can help us with this process.  Then and only then can we begin to work effectively with extreme feelings or so called ‘over reactions’ to outside events which are really just triggers.

I have only ever read books on DBT and my understanding of it may be limited but this is my understanding of how it works.   It works by helping us to correct our thinking and as a way of helping us to self sooth and not attack ourselves more with painful thoughts and feelings which in belonging to old events may be re-experienced in the present moment and projected leading to confusion and distress for those around us who do not understand our trauma/disconnection history.  In the end we must understand in a way others who do not suffer could never possibly understand unless they lack that empathic framework.

When I read the blogs of borderlines I see how much self judgement they have.  We self judge because we know how extreme our behaviour can be at times and we can often feel shame.   Unlike narcissists who in many ways are full of a shame they buried long ago and often will not face, Borderlines feel our shame over and over and over and can almost drown in it.  We are often scapegoated and we so often need to break that identification and projection because the original shame was never ours to own,  our responses came out of finding ourselves in consistently disabling or unempathic environments in which we struggled, pure and simple.  Certainly we do not have the right to enact our rage at a lifetime of frustrations, misunderstanding and invalidation on others, we need to understand where these feelings comes from and feel them and transform them rather than act them out.  This I guess is where DBT can help us teaching us ways to talk to ourselves compassionately and with empathy to pour balm on burning wounds that so often can flare up in the present.

Listening with empathy

We all have a need to be heard at the deepest level.  The capacity for others to be receptive to our deeper true self, from our earliest years influences how healthy we become emotionally, how connected to our needs and feelings.  Learning to listen with empathy is a skill we need to master if we really wish to be there for others.

Listening with empathy requires giving up a self centred view of the world in order to participate fully in another person’s experience.  It requires focusing and paying attention not only to the words being spoken but also to gestures, body position, and facial expressions.  When you listen with empathy, you make a conscious effort to set aside your biases or any distorted thinking you tend to employ.  You learn how to connect with the other person’s emotions without being carried away by them, to step in then step back, reading the other person’s cues to judge when to move closer and when to give distance.  Part of the reason my mother was such a great empathic listener was that she understood how to live with ambiguity and the inability to find answers or solutions to all problems.

Listening with such clarity and depth of feeling that the other person truly feels heard is a kind of holy listening…… Empathic (holy) listening goes deep into the other person’s heart and soul to reveal what is hidden by fear, anger, grief, or despair.  This kind of listening can be taught.  It can be passed from one person to another.  We can learn how to listen with empathy by being around people who are empathic and who understand how to “listen to our souls in life.”

Empathic listening releases the compassion hormone oxytocin, which blocks the release of the stress hormone cortisol.  Your brain releases oxytocin when you feel understood and connected to another human being.  In addition to releasing stress and preventing the release of cortisol, this neurochemical helps us to live longer, promotes calmness, reduces fear and addictive behaviour and increases trust and feelings of security.  When we feel calm and secure, we are in a position to correct our distorted thinking.

Empathy is therefore strongly connected to validation and the above quotes from The Stress Solution : Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience reveal how a child that is not responded to with empathy will find their body and brain flooded by stress hormones which leave negative consequences.  Invalidation abuse triggers a stress response in a person and then tends to amp up the stress response through negative thought leading to more painful feelings.  Difficult feelings can then intensify if the person is left alone with no empathic witness.

If we want to help ourselves when we are feeling flooded with stress it is so important to respond to ourselves with empathy or find someone who is empathic to share our feelings with. If we can learn how to respond with validation and empathy we can become soothers in the world and for ourselves.  Listening with empathy is such an important skill to learn.  Understanding the consequences of having lived with those who lack empathy is also important.  We cannot blame ourselves for having developed real scars and difficulties with anxiety or stress if we have consistently found ourselves in situations where we are consistently being treated with a lack of empathy.

Letting go, love and Let it Be

I decided it was too much to visit the hospital today to visit my Mum.  I had a killer morning with my new denture.  I rang a beautiful new friend I made a few months ago and was in tears,  immediately she said to me “would you like me to come over?”   That threw me,  I am so unused to that kind of care.  I said yes, then went through swings and roundabouts in my mind.  I answered the door with no teeth and her visit which was only brief filled my day with light.  I then got rugged up to take Jasper to a woodland area to kick the ball around and we watched in fall down a deep embankment to a stream and the be carried along.  I didn’t panic, Jasper was off like a rocket down the wall.  I thought to myself “its gone!” but at that part of the wall I looked to see four or so small metal handle-like step/protruberances enough to climb down and for some reason that was the only place I saw any at all.  What a miracle! We got our ball back and continued on.  I was grateful for two small miracles in my day.

I then went to do my groceries, have a coffee and read my book After Auschwitz by Eva Schloss the step sister of Ann Frank and it was revealing to me as following the rise of Nazism in Austria her family managed to escape to Holland where my father was from and in the book she was saying that as Nazism began to gain a strangle hold on Europe the Dutch blithely believed all would be okay with a kind of wishful thinking.  Wow I thought to myself, so that is where it comes from.

Cosy now back home, late afternoon shadows are falling, the heating hums gently and quietly.  I have said a big no to any guilt for not making it to the hospital to see my Mum today. Today I needed to take care of me.  I then read some lovely comments on my blog on forgiveness that comforted me a lot, too and made me feel so understood and connected with.   So all in the all a day that started out difficult has transformed due to actions I have taken and due to the love and care of a truly good friend who was willing to extend her love to me at a sad time and a kind follower who reached out to share. Thank you!

Then what came to mind was the Beatle’s song Let It Be so I am going to post that there to perhaps comfort others who may be struggling with letting it be and letting go into release, relaxation comfort and love.

Finding peace

Beyond

I went through the most intense rage a few weeks ago over the prospect of realising that I need to have my front tooth extracted, to be promised an appointment in July only later to be told they would not take be able to take the tooth out for 3 months.  On Monday the dentist called and they are going to take my tooth out in three weeks time.  I was grateful that I wont have to wait so long.  I can get the tooth out, get my denture and no longer have the prospect hanging over my head with all the attendant anger about the way things have turned out in my life.   If I continue to dwell on all of that pain I could go mad, but the point I am beginning to accept is I can not change one single thing from my past and so I now need to accept what my life and story has been so far.  All of that said feeling the rage was a very important part of the entire process.

As I consider this it occurs to me that often people struggle for they feel they should not have the story or life they have.  With our chronic self improvement culture, it seems to me that we are often trying to be or do or get somewhere else than where we are.  Many of us don’t seem to truly love and accept who we are, how we feel or even what we need.  We seem to be hell bent on changing things, improving things,  upgrading things and for sure some kind of improvement or progress can be a good thing, but to self reject all of the time, to believe that we are defective in some way and can only be loved if we change, well where is the love, healing and acceptance in that?  This is the question I have been asking myself more and more lately.

I have a close family member in my life who is struggling with a huge issue at present.  In fact this struggle and issue has been going on for years and years and years.  My relative cannot accept the situation she is in.  The truth is that if she accepts the truth of the situation she has to feel pain and thwarting of her will.  She has tried so many ways to fix the problem, but no fix is coming.  When she shares about it with me I want to honestly say ‘let it go, you are hurting yourself more by your lack of acceptance”  but I don’t feel its my place to point out a truth that may hurt her and one she has to arrive at by herself in her own time.   So I have just told her I feel for her and hope that in time she won’t cause herself more angst by struggling so hard to have what it is she wants but cannot have.

At the moment I am so glad I have a 12 step recovery programme which teaches me to seek the serenity that comes when I can accept what cannot be fixed, cured or changed.  I am so grateful I have a higher self or higher power I can turn to when I struggle in similar ways to ask for help and get my own will out of the way. For sometimes in life our will is just not meant to be, what we want is not what the universe thinks we need and how we handle this critical issue can be the thing that makes or breaks us.

Acceptance does not mean we like a thing, or love a person.  It is just a saying of an unconditional ‘yes’ to the will of life which may act at cross purposes to our will.  It is an ability to say I will let go of my need for you to be different.  I may not be able to let go of my want and my hope, but at some stage in order to find peace I need to let go into the reality.  I may need to let the person go if they infuriate or consistently hurt me enough.  My letting go in that case is a sign of sanity to my mind.

I guess that place of peace and sanity is where I am finding myself living more and more lately.  It was definitely a stormy, stormy journey to get there.  A journey on which I got lashed almost to shreds on psychological rocks of pain and anxiety.  But today I can see more clearly where those rocks may lay.  When I find things are getting stormy I can take cover in a place where I am not as exposed to the elements, or I can decide to toughen up and weather the storm, letting it tear away what wants or needs to be released.  I can look for something beautiful or joyous to fill my day and uplift my spirit.  Once I am aware of my pain I can treat myself in a tender self soothing way and not make things harder by beating myself or others up.   I can stop in pray or meditation and ask for help or guidance when I am struggling with issues of anger or grief.

And I am finding that I can open my heart to life more fully even on the cold dull grey days like today, for I live in a world with other humans who also struggle just like me on those days.  When I reach out, get myself to a group meeting or just make the effort to connect I can find that I am less alone and that there is someone out there struggling even more than me.  Together we can share the burden so that we know we are not alone.  We can speak out our pain, we can recover from that deep aloneness which comes from being imprisoned inside wrong ideas of self rejection, or unfulfilled and sadly unrealistic expectations.  Often these form a prison that keeps us trapped in angst, preventing us from accepting the grace we find when we turn towards ourselves, life and others in openness, acceptance, surrender, trust and love.

There are no wrong turnings.

Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.

Guy Gavriel Kay

 

Mistaken

Wow

Little one

You never got to form a protective coat

You had holes that formed in your ego

Where bad stuff seeped in

So hard to make sense of it all

When it never really belonged to you

Hungry heart beating silently

So difficult

To sustain and nurture

Love

To grow a sense of meaning

And protection

When you were

Left alone one too many times

There was not really any place to turn

And no way really to know

That the feelings you had were real

Seeking something to ease the loneliness and pain

Your soul cried silently

And if you didn’t learn that you had value enough

To be worth someone’s time

Was it any wonder you gave yourself away

So freely and so cheaply

But now all this is changing

Although you cannot change the past

Recognition means

Now you can

Wrap an overcoat of protection and love

Around yourself

Now you are free to express

And give full vent to what you feel inside

And now you see how others are hurting

And damaged too

You will no longer expect

What cannot be

And be so bitterly disappointed again

It was all so much larger and more complex

That you ever could have known

In the child self

For all along you needed adult you

To show up

To hold you

And help you understand

The source of true love

True connection

For that lonely soul inside

Who believed for so long

Things mistaken

False beliefs

False conclusions

That were never really true

Judging affects our body

This is another post inspired by Byron Brown’ book Soul Without Shame. Ever since starting to read about it I have been connecting the dots on so many things, on how John Bradshaw years ago connected addiction and disconnection with the inner child to toxic shame, pointing out how often addicts came from religious or other overly controlled and controlling households where certain feelings and expressions meet with hostility, rejection and shame becoming ‘shame bound’.   Shame bound feelings explains a state where you cannot have a feeling such as sadness or anger without also feeling ashamed for the pure fact of having it, you then have a lot of feelings locked up inside that you exist in a deeply problematic relationship with.

Shame becomes internalised in this state of being and feelings can only be had under her cover of night.  If we have a lot of anger over stuff that happened to us we swallow it down since it would be shameful to express it and then we become the super nice do good people pleaser who jumps through hoops by day but becomes on fire at night or when drunk with blind reactions or rages.  We then wake up and feel ashamed about the shadow energies that came alive in us when we took the risk to shut the judge up with some form of numbing.

Recovery opens us to a cacophony of feelings bound in shame that we can no longer suppress, we try extra hard to work on our recovery and ‘become good’ but the fact is that our self judged ‘bad’ isn’t really bad at all, its just repressed life energy now bound in shame and fear and we no longer have the liberation of the ‘numb’ to at least let us blow off some steam.  Now we not only have to feel but we need to feel what is real for us in a body that is slowly waking up or becoming less numb.  How will we allow this when the  judge that is on our case exists inside us an energy of self suppresssion?

I cant clearly articulate any kind of process or formula here of the ‘way out’ as so many of us find our own ways out of toxic shame.  We all have our own unique battle with the forces of judgement and self judgement we have internalised but what may help some of us most particularly on a somatic/emotional level is the recognition of how shame and self rejection of our needs, wants, desire, meaning and feeling may manifest on a bodily level.  We can engage in a process of self monitoring towards what happens in our body when we try to meet certain standards. and react to inner and outer judgements and shame.

Late last week I also began to read the book Power Over Panic in which the author draws attention towards perfectionism, control, the need to impress others or live to certain ideal standards that are not realistic and panic attacks.   Apparently a panic attack can only happen when there is resistance on one level to an emotional truth which we are attempting to suppress or deny.  Such information interested me since I have suffered from a host of weird body symptoms and manifestations of anxiety ever since my marriage ended just under 13 years ago    Slowly while reading this book I was connecting the dots, dots which are becoming even more connected now reading Byron Brown’s book on shame and the inner critic.

The chapter I am currently reading speaks about developing a process in which we become attentive to what goes on in our body as we talk to ourselves in certain ways.  I have noticed in myself that a state of contraction comes with feelings of fear and shame and with inner voices saying things around me are out of control or not perfect enough.  I have noticed too how a deeply compassionate loving attitude in which I put my focus on my heart and the opening healing breath actually allows my being and consciousness to expand and the result may be tears of relief and release following often by feelings of joy, peace and happiness.  I am noticing more and more how my own consciousness can both contract and expand as I judge not only myself but others as well.  It is enlightening to me and so I wanted to share my own insights around how I am noticing judgement impacts and affects my body, for we live in such a judging culture that is externally focused in this day and age, is it therefore any wonder that anxiety conditions are so prevalent.  I am sure it is in no way a new insight, but it is one that I am coming to understand and become aware of more and more lately.

Mars Chiron : awakening old wounds for healing and care

Chiron

Apologies to those who get sidelined by astrological symbolism, but when I read the monthly astrology on Lua Astrology’s website last night where astrologer Lea Whitehorse spoke of the Mars Chiron square to become exact on June 2, suddenly the deep pain I was in over the weekend made sense.  Prior to this we have  also  been experiencing Mars opposite Saturn which is not the easiest of transits.  Mars represents our self assertion or self expression, the soul desire for forward movement and action from heartfelt or imperative need and when it meets Saturn we experience deep frustrations, blocks or no go areas, alternatively we may have to slow down, mature and look for different options and so adjust our desires and need for movement or expression.  Its painful.

I have the aspect in my birth chart and I can tell you that since I have been young trying to express and go after what my soul and heart desires has been problematic to the degree that in childhood I began to subvert my true needs and desires.   I also have Moon with Mars and Saturn and we were raised in a very duty bound house when I was growing up.  Life was intensely serious, my mother was either elsewise engaged and trying to keep everything running perfectly or overworking and was then exhausted to the point any fun or mess or natural chaos caused an angry reaction or was a drain.  My parents fun times involved a lot of older adults and drinking or going out on the boat which I abhorred.  I was happiest on the beach with my surfboard growing up.

This authoritarian, dogged, do the right thing side of me often squashes the fun part.  My ‘fun’ later in life involved alcohol and drugs and these are not enriching pass times, they drain life and energy and leave one with a hangover and even more disconnected, or at least they did in my case.  So it is interesting that this aspect coincided with getting together with old drinking buddies from that time of my life and being faced with a huge brick wall of deep pain and hurt from the past.  I opened up my wound with them late on Friday night shortly before we were due to go home when they were already on about their 6th glass of champagne.

I know I am so lucky to be sober.  I was in deep pain over the weekend but I did my best to sit with it and feel it and affirm myself for feeling it.   The Chiron wounding part though is that it brought back to me the ways I have felt imprisoned or caged by a dark past I am trying my best to break free of.  In her commentary on this aspect currently Lea Whitehorse, UK based astrologer made the point that being opened to wounds at this time would draw our attention to the need for better self protective boundaries.  This rang true for me and dovetailed with what I wrote yesterday in one of my posts.

Chiron was a centaur in mythology who got wounded in the Achilles heel with by a poisoned arrow left lying around in the Hydra’s den after one of the Hydra’s battles, probably with the Gorgon.  The poison on the arrow going into Chiron in a vulnerable place (and heels or ankles ground our feet and contain tendons that help us to move forward or get away from damaging situations) relates on a psychological level to wounds we encounter by accident or just in the course of life that may leave a poison inside us or paralyse forward movement and faith in life and goodness.  We do not necessarily bring them on ourselves (though we often make them worse by the way we react).  In the myth Chiron’s wound is incurable and acts as a wisdom or insight builder into internal wounds, difficulties, challenges and psychology.  Chiron spends a lot of time helping others and birthing creative visions from the wounds but he never heals and if he did, come to think of it his purpose would be done.

So reflecting on it Chiron Mars times bring those times when we face deep wounds or watch them re-enacted and have to learn strategies to be with them in ways that don’t make the poison or pain inside worse.  Then yesterday when I wrote a little post about the pleasure of finding myself in a lovely present moment free of body and soul pain which I did not post but will today, I was thinking about Echardt Tolle’s concept  of the pain body and how that related to how I was feeling over the weekend.  The wound inside me from the past and due to 5 broken relationships could possibly be healed or eased in a new one, but the pain of aloneness on some of the dark days is hard when I don’t sit with my wounds and be my own best friend, finding ways to self soothe and come to think of it I really experience a paralysed ankle on those days when getting out can in fact be a necessary distraction that helps ease the pain for a time.

Today as yesterday the sun is streaming through windows on a very cold winter morning while my icy numb fingers type.  I find the Sun so healing and warming, it opens up and expands my being and my PTSD is very much about shock, removal, disconnection, dissociation and contract.  The warming power of the Sun counteracts this and lets me open myself more, it counters my Mars Saturn tendency to bite down hard on difficulties and pain.  Earlier today I found myself re-experiencing the anger towards this particular ‘friend’ who many years ago when I was really struggling kicked me out of her party as she had an issue with the guy I was dating at the time.  At that particular point I was in such grief over the loss of my father and was a long, long way from home.   I was very reticent about going to the dinner last week and my inner child was giving me curry over it this morning.

Talking about self protection and Chiron wounds also brings to mind the need we who are traumatised must learn to exercise around discriminating those who are and are not healthy to share our wounds with, when exactly do we open up?  How do we cope with some of the wounding things others who don’t have a clue about trauma and its deep impact say  to us?  How do we deal with the pain body when it becomes very active and preys upon us with its negative thoughts or chains of wounded logic?  How can we release and express our wounds in ways that are not retraumatising for ourselves or others, in way which makes them sources of creative insight?

This morning an idea came to me ‘the juice of the wound’.  In the myth the wounded arrow contains poison and that in itself is a kind of ‘juice’ with certain affects upon us.  That poison or ‘juice’ can and does lodge deep in our emotional bodies, it can immobilise or paralyse it.  Finding a way to ‘let’ it or dispel it seems essential as we don’t want to just stew in it always in a deeply painful way, and yet some kind of ‘stewing’ gives birth to art and poetry.  Juice and stewing images bring to mind the idea of alchemy or cooking our instinctual energies that run amuck or go awry.  It was something Carl Jung devoted a lot of time towards exploring with alchemical images such as those of Lion’s with their paws cut off being roasted in vessels over a fire which a kind of therapeutical or alchemical image for deep wounded healing processes.

Speaking of roasting Lions, last night I watched some of Madonna’s Rebel Heart concert on television.  I am not a huge Madonna fan but I was taken with the anger she was expressing and the hurt that formed the basis of two of her more recent songs Heartbreak City and Living in Love, as a Sun Sign Leo she expressed her angst and hurt in a very dramatic way.  The second song is full of positive lines about how as hurt as she has been she will not allow the hurt to poison her, it was an interesting case of synchronicity after just reading about the Chiron Mars Saturn transits of late.  We all go through pain, we all suffer and some of us do good work with the wounds.  We have our days when they consume us entirely.  The poison runs around our systems and we can feel paralysed or wired, on fire with anger and outrage or flooded and drowned in grief, these are all very human responses to what it is to be a soul that can suffer in the instinctual emotional part of us but we are then left with the outflow or outfall to deal with.  What we do with it I guess in the end speaks a lot about who we are and the attitude we take, after the flood or fire has passed or we have passed through it.  Many of us try to use our wounds to help others. By sharing our pain and suffering we connect to each other and are helped in some small way to feel less alone, in pouring out our experience or by sharing another’s we find the spot where we connect and through expressing and witnessing vulnerability become empowered.

Healer