Have you ever? : reflections on the scapegoat and buried emotional trauma

Have you ever been scapegoated by family members? Have you ever had the finger pointed at you telling you you are the problem? There is a saying I heard in the 12 step rooms many years back… “when you point the finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back the other way towards you” (yes folks try it right now and you will see it is true.)

Many many years ago led by his unconscious and dream images psychiatrist Carl Jung had a dream that showed a psychic inner structure that he came to call the shadow. This shadow he came to believe contained all the characteristics of us we are not on friendly terms with or that our family or culture was no on friendly terms with (ie. there is both a personal and collective shadow).

Some people have a lot of darker emotions hidden in the shadow, fear, sadness, rage or anger and some others of us have a lot of gold in the shadow and we may have been the ones others in family or culture tried to project darker things upon. There is also a concept in family therapy that talks of the concept of the ‘identified patient’. This is the family member who develops an addiction or breaks down in some way or has to have treatment. This is the family member that struggles in the family to be the whole of themselves and express truths or secrets others would prefer remain hidden (eg. emotional or sexual abuse). This is the family member that may be more likely to be led on the individuation pathway, a path of trying to uncover and rediscover the entirety of the soul in them that got loss or buried.

I am mentioning this today as lately I am seeing this process play out in my older sister’s (now deceased) family. And it is interesting that this is happening very close to the anniversary of her death. As I see it in the alcoholic or traumatised family there is a lot of pain but rather than every member carry their portion of the pain, each struggles in their own way and often they will target someone else in the family and tag or dump them with things. They may even exile the person just as in mythology the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness with the so called ‘sins’ (or wounds) of the collective heaped upon its back.

Alcoholics are most usually likely to be the ‘family scapegoat’. They may struggle with emotions that were not permitted a place in the family and come to think of it in a feeling wounded culture there are feelings such as anger and sadness which are harder to express and which people are more rigidly defended against. These emotions are often not allowed expression and so they get dumped into a kind of collective psychic waste bin that is then passed on from generation to generation. Pain then accumulates and one person gives expression to it most overtly.

People who struggle with shadow projection may find it hard to ‘get their lives together’ in a culture that venerates this. That is not to say that there are no healthy ways to get our lives on track but mostly they should involve us being able to be real and struggle, to fall down sometimes, to make mistakes, to need help and support and just possibly not do as well on financially or externally on some level as others. Does that necessarily mean such people are actually failures? Does this actually mean such people are not worthy of help? Does this actually mean that such people have less value?

Today in therapy Kat and I were discussing how and why this process of scapegoating and shame dumping in family has been affecting me so bodily over the past few days. I got to therapy today in a lot of physically based emotional pain. I pretty much started crying as soon as I got in the car and the cascade of trauma flashbacks then began taking me back to a trauma (which come to think of it now took place around this same time of year in 1990) when I had to spend hours in casualty after driving myself with severe abdominal pain in the middle of the night. Turned out I was pregnant at the time and that the sac containing the tiny embryo had ruptured. I ended up having to have a termination of pregnancy (my fourth) and it coincided with having to leave the group house I was living in and with my them boyfriend lying to his family and pretending I had had an operation for kidney stones.

After the termination he broke things off with me and I got drunk and ended up at his parent’s place crying and yelling, of course they thought I was demented and out of control and they never found out the truth as he broke things off with me again fairly rapidly (after a brief reunion) and in the aftermath the next 2 years saw some of the lowest points of my addiction spanning the years to December 1993 when I finally got sober.

Well today in the car I was back here in St Vincent’s casualty lying alone for hours and hours as they ran tests. I think too this trauma was triggered over the weekend because calls were not returned by family, Scott was AWOL and my nephew then rang telling me I needed not to give help to my other nephew who is struggling financially in the aftermath of his relationship ending. Being left all alone and waiting and missing a therapy appointment which was delayed due to Easter Monday meant that issue of having to wait all alone was retriggered for me and then the shadow projection onto my lovely nephew triggered how I was treated over the next year by a so called ‘friend’ who kept confronting me about my addiction which was nothing less than self medication in the face of ongoing trauma spanning the years 1979 to 1992.

The truth is addicts often say their addiction saved their life. We use the self medication until it no longer keeps working for us. Recovery then involves a huge and long drawn our journey of unpeeling or unravelling down to the true causes of which addiction was only obscuring or a symptom of.

For me the original trauma is about attachment traumas, wounds and emotional neglect vacancies or ‘black holes”. I now know this without a doubt. After years and years of blaming myself (as most emotional neglect survivors do) today in therapy I finally wept for my true self who so often gets beaten up by a self compassion lacking inner critic who is echoed by the outer critic lately being turned on my nephew. Only another addict in recovery may fully understand that fact unless the person had been trained in empathic attunement. Attachment traumas and wounds so often become gravitational force fields for others, in the well known process of so called ‘repetition compulsion’ what we fail to call up to consciousness will repeat until it is addressed or felt and this must happen IN THE BODY. THE CELLS CONTAIN EVERYTHING.. THE MIND CAN BE USED TO MAKE SENSE OF IT WHEN ATTUNED TO THE BODY. JUDGEMENTS WILL NOT SHOW US THE UNDERLYING PSYCHIC REALITY WHICH MUST BE FACED IN TIME AND DEEPLY FELT IN ORDER TO BE RELEASED AND MADE SENSE OF (BROUGHT OUT OF DISSOCIATION INTO ASSOCIATION OR RE-MEMBERING!)

Scapegoating the sufferer is cruel. It is lacking in both insight and empathy. It concentrates on the ugliness of the symptoms while NOT FULLY SEEING OR UNDERSTANDING THE FEELINGS OF PAIN DISTRESS AND UNWORTHINESS WHICH UNDERLIE IT. Scapegoating serves no other purpose but to bolster up the defended ego and keep in place the ignorance of the Scapegoatees. In traumatised and addicted families or families with multi-generational trauma everyone struggles, but the one who struggles a little more with hidden emotions needs support and encouragement. They need to be brought back out of the cold place of exile and embraced in their full humanity but sadly this will be almost impossible unless the Scapegoatees also face what they are blocking, projecting or defending against or finding it hard to open up to or face. Blaming and targeting others in such a way never really ends well and it blocks connected healing and embracing of the actual trauma that sorely needs recognition.

What do I see, when I see ‘you’?

I wrote this piece after working through the conflict with my therapist in session on Monday.  It just a stream of consciousness piece that flowed out of what I experienced in session, before and after:

Do I see you clearly, or only my perception/projection?  How much of my hope is real? For surely you are not me.  At times we may meet and our souls join and then we are bathed in sweet harmony.  At other times we clash and you become to me the rejecting mother that one who never saw me and never felt my pain at all.  Then my pain is globalised because inner child’s wound opens and is bleeding, but at these times I need to remember that my wounded self is not the whole of me and beneath it lies a deeper sanity, I may not yet have tapped if I have not learned to trust or too many times met the rod of iron laid hard against my back with no hope of surrender.

The demon face I see in my mind dissolves as we greet each other and you look on me with love.  I am so glad I did not let past fears block me.   I see that when there has been great pain, it can be so hard to see realistically.  I am so glad for this moment of trust when I was able to fall apart with the recognition you gave and find the wound again but this time, in feeling work towards tending and healing it.  When you love and accept me in that place you remind me it is not the whole of me, only what happened to me and something my soul can be free of in time.

We see what we project

I was moved to write a poem yesterday on darkness gathering which I didn’t post then.   It was prompted by reading the post of someone who was struggling with seeing how much hatred, violence and suffering there seems to be in the world. If we are a sensitive person and most especially if we have been abused or neglected seeing so many painful things going on hurts and is a reminder of how challenging human nature can be.  I still think it is important though for us to maintain a sense of hope and a remembering that there is a lot of goodness and heart out there in the world.  When very painful experiences and things happen to us they can absorb all our energy and pin us in the most difficult place where it is difficult to see more than darkness.  Those experiences obscure the light of love and joy and simplicity, all the beauty there is in the world which we no longer see if our focus is always on darkness.

I am midway through the biography of Eva Schloss, the step sister of Anne Frank this week, After Auschwitz.  As a Vienesse Jew, Eva and her mother had to leave their home in Austria when war broke out and the Nazi’s began their campaign of hatred over the Jewish people.  They escaped to Holland and were hidden there by two families but the second family betrayed them to the Nazis and on her 15th birthday Eva and her mother were taken to Auschwitz.

In a remarkable story of survival they managed to live, due to a set of coincidences which saw them both very close to death on several occasions.  Only part of the book concentrates on their time in Auschwitz but most of it is devoted to the issue of how one survives seeing such unspeakable suffering and hatred and lives in the traumatic aftermath without being totally defeated by anger, hatred and resentment.  In the end it is only by actively choosing to embrace the attitude of a survivor rather than a victim that Eva rises above the pain that in the end killed countless others.   It really is a great read for those of us who suffer with resentment and issues of forgiveness.

I tried to write a post yesterday about Nazism as a symbol of the narcissistic negative killing ego gone horribly wrong.  The entire story of Hitler and his attitude to the Jews is related to issues deeply imbedded in humanity in relation to the scapegoating of others and shadow projection.   Jews were resented at a time where many were poor and suffering following the end of the First World War when Germany and the German people were highly penalised for their involvement in that war by the Treat of Versailles.  The hatred shown towards them meant that people could download their own painful feelings onto a scapegoat people and send them to extermination and exile.  Its a repeating theme in history with archetypal and mythical themes : the way darkness is projected and how pain and suffering then end up breading more pain and suffering in an endless feedback loop that then recycles over and over without end.  And it seems that the only way out in the end is through forgiveness, empathy and understanding.

I titled this post ‘we see what we project’ to address this issue but I guess in a way a better title may have been we see what we have experienced and we act out of that experience and often unconsciously react out of those experience at least until we become more conscious of the seeds we learned to sow as a result of what we went through.  There comes a time when we get to see what the cost of our projections and colouring of the world is and what plants grow out of those seeds.  Then we get to see that there comes a time when there may be another way or looking or projecting.  We then get to see that in the end we do have a choice in how we choose to react and respond out of our suffering.  We never fully escape suffering and some of us have a huge dose of it, but those of us who do often birth deep wisdom out of such suffering.

Along with the Buddha I do not believe there will ever come a time when painful things no longer happen.  Hatred, violence and destruction will always be a part of our human experience, but the degree of our suffering does in some way depend on where and how strongly we place our focus on destruction or creation, on love or fear.  That is not to imply that we ever get beyond pain but we can learn to embrace that pain and those who cause it tenderly and gently, without unnecessary harsh defences which only end up causing us more pain.

In the end much also depends on where we place our focus, on fear or on love, on hatred and holding on or on letting go and surrender of hate in time.  The choice is up to us.  We may never be able to turn blind eye to our own or another’s suffering and we should do all in our power to change it if we can, but if not let us place our focus on what love we can give to ourselves, to others and to a hurting world that so badly needs our wisdom, sensitivity and care.

Forgiveness : a high price?

I am reflecting a lot on forgiveness lately.  Part of us when hurt wants to exact a retribution of kinds or at least block love from flowing back to the source of the hurt because perhaps we feel this is the only way we can hold onto a boundary and escape the pain of more hurt.  And by all means consciousness demands we find out who is hurtful to us most often from their own unconscious pain and wounded.

I always loved the saying “hurt people, hurt people”.

I shared earlier in a blog that I was so angry when I learned of something intensely hurtful my brother did to his daughter yesterday.  I felt anger burning through me like wild fire.  Maybe it triggered my own wounds, I am not sure but I was so impressed by my niece’s reaction.  She clearly owned the damage and lack of love in both parent’s as well as the unresolved hurt.

Maybe it might help more of us if we saw this kind of unfeeling narcissistic abuse as the outgrowth of an evolutionary pathway in which older generations were not allowed to feel hurt or pain or were humiliated or emotionally abandoned by a parent stunting permanently their own empathy.

In his excellent book on narcissism therapist Alexander Lowen shares his insight into how much early humiliation in childhood can lead people to develop a narcissistic defence, blocking feelings of vulnerability and deep anger at violation which then being disallowed may often permanently disable the person turning them into a rationaliser or someone who avoids further emotional pain by becoming a people pleaser or adopting a false self, or alternatively shutting them down emotionally and leading them to project rejected vulnerability towards others, most often children who act it out then get shamed, exiled or scapegoated all over again.

The way out of this dilemma involves owning the anger, to re-engage the assertive impulse for self care and self protection and end the shaming that can be internalised.  Holding onto the anger helps keep the defence in place, turning too soon towards forgiveness may mean being open to more abuse.  But in the long run some letting go of intense anger may need to take place as anger that hardens into resentment can become corrosive and lead to physical and emotional problems.

The next step often lays in realising the damage in the person that caused the pain.  Seeing they were once a vulnerable child defenceless against a parent’s inner conflicts or aggression or splitting of and hardening of feeling.  In my brother’s case I see why he may have had to shut down his sensitivity early on.  I know some of the things my Dad did to him in the late 1940s that were punishing and over the top. Last year he also revealed a bit about the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Christian brothers.

I asked my Mum if she was aware of this abuse and she said that no, my brother just came home and hung his school coat on the wall and quietly went off saying nothing.  I felt so sad for him when he told me that story in June last year I wrote a blog about it.

When I felt the anger to my brother I wondered at my right to judge someone who was acting out of buried pain.  I almost considered that I never want to have contact with him again on the other side and then questioned that.  Then today I read this on forgiveness :

Forgiveness is a selective remembering of what someone did right, at a time when the ego mind is shrieking about what someone did wrong  We always have a choice about where to focus – whether to blame someone or to bless someone.  I can concentrate my attention on what you did wrong, or I can seek to remember a moment when you tried to do right.  Although the ego insists that you don’t deserve it, the spirit absolutely know that you do.  And my ego has an ulterior motive, in seeking to attack you, it is seeking secretly to attack me.  Only when I remember who you really are (an innocent child of God, regardless of your mistakes) can I remember who I am (an innocent child of God, regardless of mine.)

Condemning another person, while it might give us a few moments of temporary relief, will always boomerang and make us feel worse.  If I attack you, you will attack me back – or at least I’ll think you did.  In terms of how consciousness operates it doesn’t matter who attacked first, who ever attacks feels attacked.

Forgiveness takes us off the wheel of suffering. It delivers us to quantum realms beyond time and space, when thoughts of guilt have marred neither your innocence nor mine.  This is summed up by Rumi “Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”  There, in this space of no-thing the universe miraculously self corrects.  In the presence of love, things automatically return to divine right order.  That which the ego has made imperfect is returned to the track of divine perfection, releasing possibilities for healing that would not other wise exist :

I’m sorry

I’m sorry, too.

Simple worlds, and how much better those words are than the ego’s alternative.

Mmm, but what of the person who when you say sorry, uses that as an opening to deny or as a weapon to beat you over the head with?  I was warned of this in my last relationship with a narcissist, to be aware that apologising to someone such as he may be used against me and it was.  In this case it was his ego that had shut down and locked the door and I could do nothing about it but walk away, knowing I was powerless and in time knowing that the price of holding onto the outrage was too much to bear, that in the end letting go and allowing the person to be shut down was the only way to become free, knowing I deserved something else.

Forgiveness, it most certainly is a thorny issue.  There are times I was slighted and could only see the wrong and the hurt and anger eclipsed other things that were right, so I do agree with some of what Marianne Williamson writes in that quote above but I still have some reservations and I wondered what others think of it?  Maybe you might like to comment below.  If we are repeatedly hurt and other refuse to own up, surely its in our best interests to keep a wide berth.

If I knew then, homecoming

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If I knew then what I knew now it would not be then and we would not have been who we were, two lost souls clamouring for connection against great obstacles of the past.  Today when I think of you I realise we were not meant to travel the whole journey together as there was so much to learn through break up and separation, firstly of my own fears and insecurities which laid projections on the present from the past, but for you also who threw your own projections of past lovers and mothers onto me.

I became then for you someone who I was not and you could not see me clearly for it was a part of your shadow you projected on me, as I grappled with my own repressed shadow expressed by you.

Now I am older and there are years that have passed in between, years in which I travelled down into such bitter memories of utter emptiness, the drug driven days in which I was a phantom and stranger to myself cast into a wilderness I could not understand living so many meters beside myself, outside of my body.  How could you love a disembodied self when you were so full of life, but then that is the affect of trauma.

It forces our soul out and away a long distance and it will be real work to call our soul back home.  We have to be strong enough to feel and enter the void that was left when the soul exited and travelled so far, yet remained attached as an umbilicus that called us home reminding us of its deep exile with every empty echo and heart beat.

No we were not meant to travel that far together and our separation was so necessary to effect the deeper work.  I had so far to travel back to my body and remember my dismembered soul, scattered like breadcrumbs along a pathway of years.

Now I arrive on the doorstep of a dwelling that no longer appears as dark, inside I sense the light shining from an inner fire that was stoked with each moment in which I remembered what became split off and did the work of healing and homecoming, re-championing the lost child, finding out where and why she exited a body that then became barren and hungry.

With this homecoming I cross the threshold, re-entering the deep dwelling of myself and find myself surrounded by a healing slipstream of comfort and love in which the soul re-embodied is finally restored to its chosen temple.

Golden flame

Golden

Darling you were never born for the dark

with that light that shone

like golden sunlight in your smile

don’t you see why they wanted to kill it

or cut you down to a size

that would fit the small box they lived in

you thought it scary and strange

but where is there for you to go but out

out of this body,

out of this life,

in to drugs and booze

the refuge where you can turn

all burning and hurting inside

drinking wildfire down

 taking it into your stomach

acid rain

so much pain

for years and years and years

and then deep into the wilderness you travelled

wandering with cut off hands

you found the prince to rescue you

he took you to the land he knew

and you grieved there deeply

for other lives and pain

you only knew unconsciously

through deeper cells

now you stand beyond it

on an open plain

a place

where all the darkness suddenly reveals

the truth

loss of a consciousness

that could only be birthed in a later generation

through your own complete exile from love

you travelled alone

so deep down into the dark

and found there after all the weeping

a buried light

a small hidden flickering flame

a tiny ember of life

guarding it you sought and sought

the den of the wise woman

here you nurture it together

until everything is aflame

and you finally know your own truth

and finally is revealed

your golden hidden self

that shines with a radiance

nothing can diminish

Some times I forget : counting my blessings

Bad things

I was reminded today when reading back a post I wrote but didn’t post yesterday of the very real reasons I felt suicidal and went through a painful dark night of the soul over at least 10 years.  I was reminded that I didn’t end up in that state for no reason and that without the constant realistic loving presence of a very good therapist that took me so many years to find I would not today be feeling the degree of joy that I am feeling and the sense that I have in some way emerged, even though at times on certain days I can get a pull back into that deep dark space where my mind remembers all the pain and the long time this journey has taken.

I was reminded that I didn’t make it all up and that my loneliness was so bone crushing because it was deeply real.  It wasn’t something I chose but something that happened to me out of unresolved experiences of being so very far away in my consciousness from connection with others who could not understand and due to having been left alone so many times without protection that I had to look to unsafe things and places and spaces for it.  I was also reminded of how all along even when it hasn’t felt like it some force or power has been taking care of me from behind the scenes.

This is most certainly not something I could prove to anyone, but I have had some very challenging things happen over years in terms of danger or loss or confusion and at some stage an angel has stepped in at the eleventh hour to help.  It has happened to me too many times now for me to doubt that I am cared for and loved and that feeling is such a long way from the feelings of deepest aloneness and lack of care that at times have tried inside my mind to lead me to take my life.

When I start to recover my sense of happiness and the feeling that I do have the power to make healthy choices on days which will bring me light and life and joy it can sometimes seem to me that in some way what went before was a kind of aberration, that I have been crazy or stupid to have lost trust in life, other people and love.  But I have to keep reminding myself that those feelings came from somewhere.   I hope never to lose a sense of gratitude that on many days now I simply do not have to live deep down in that dark night space so much now as I used to in the past.  Consciousness is always changing.

Recovery to me doesn’t mean I am suddenly bullet proof or impervious to pain, most especially when those I love are suffering, recovery means I can feel those feelings at great depth but they no longer place such a strangle hold on my consciousness.  On the days such pain visits, that I feel capable of taking some action to express love and care for myself and for others, while knowing realistically that so much of what happens for others is not my fault and outside of my power to control.

And the other miracle now is that I no longer see the world in such black/white terms.  I can see some of the deep human complexity in people who have been ‘bad’ to or hurt me in life.  I can see some of the shadow and insecurity even in those who appear to be so strong and have it all together and I am aware that both positive and negative forces and powers and manners of perception reside inside my own consciousness and can dominate on different days.

There can be days when I am tempted to judge my insides by others outsides, by the happy image they present to the world.  On these days I see myself as so inherently flawed and lacking that a dark cloud comes down but the miracle now is that on those days and in those dark moments a loving voice comes to me and tells me where I am seeing things incorrectly or incompletely.  This voice inside me encourages me to focus on what is good, while not ignoring what hurts, it encourages me to put some good into my day to soothe any pain or hurt or fear or doubting that is trying to lay claim to and imprison my soul in negativity.

And I can understand and accept that others suffer too from all the same fears and doubts and insecurities that I do and that often those people on any day may be fighting a battle I can not fully see or recognise.  When I am tempted to view things from a difficult or more painful perspective I can remind myself to pray to see things more realistically, more lovingly and more meaningfully.  I can pray to be relieved of the bondage of self centred or unrealistic perfectionism that may lay love, a sense of value and a sense of connection to waste.   And at the end of those days on which that force turns my life and day around I can go to bed grateful for all that I have survived, even the most painful of experiences for each and every one has made me who I am.

Safe To Say : Liberating ourselves from repression through recovering our lost self expression and self assertion.

How safe do you feel to say what you need to say or feel to be true?

When I was growing up didn’t feel safe to express how I really felt.  I was used to hiding a lot of things that I did wrong, because I had learned I wasn’t able to depend on support or understanding.  Recently I read the following comment here : https://anupturnedsoul.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/a-must-read-on-npd-narcissism-living-without-feelings/

“growing up with narcissists, I learned fairly early on that I was not allowed to express myself in any way at all unless it was in a way the narcissists wanted me to do so (and even that could be wrong). If I expressed myself in a way which upset them (which is easy helped to do and pretty much everything can upset them, trigger them and get you shot because of it), then there was censorship hell to pay for it. They need control more than they need air, food, or other vital things for basic survival. I learned to shut up and listen (with more than just the ears). But that too could be perceived as a threat by them.”

Reading this helped to make sense of the continual questioning and deliberation that goes on within my head as I argue with myself about my right to feel what I need to feel and say what I need to say. It can all get very tangled inside my head when this is going on.  So many questions about how others will react if I say something especially insights I have into the depths of things.

It was a number of years ago I became more conscious of this hyper-vigilance I experienced and then I met a narcissist and outbursts and emotional cut offs could be the consequence of expressing myself in a way that challenged him.  Today I see the parallels with early relationships.

A while back after my eldest sister died I came across some letters she had saved that my mother wrote when I was a young child. The clear thing that came out of reading those letters for me was the realisation that my mother just did not get me, that her ability to empathise and link into her youngest daughter’s mind, emotions, heart and need for self expression was severely limited. I know this in many ways was a result of her own lonely childhood, a childhood in which she had to learn to be quiet, hide her fear and loneliness and had next to no validation.

Lately I have come to see, after a very long and painful journey of trying and failing to be seen by significant others that I have put in mother type roles that it was not my fault that my mother just did not get me and that that earliest relationship, as well as the one with my father who remained silent in the face of abuse set me up for painful relationships. I had no caring siblings to turn to either, in fact my closest sister who was 8 years older was fairly nasty a lot of the time.  My elder sister who was kind left home after marrying and moving overseas when I was three.

Somewhere along the way growing up I came to believe I was not good enough, that things were my fault which actually were the result of a faulty upbringing and stressful and traumatic incidents occuring at key developmental transitions. I cannot note down here all the significant failures that have mirrored these earliest ones, which set up a blue print for my life and relationships and for shame. But I can say now, that after having gone through about five significant failures within the same lesson or pattern in the past three years where significant others have tried to re-shame me, I am now able to recognise what is hurtful and safe and what is affirming and frees my spirit.

Having affirmation from certain people both online and in my life over the past two years has helped me to recognise the earlier empathetic failures for what they were, outside of my power to control and not caused by me.

I must say that sadly as part of my own difficulties when I was struggling during my late 20s and early 30s I got caught up in the New Age movement for a long time. I actually now recognise that at that time I was working for a narcissistic boss within the New Age industry. It was around the time I went through the Saturn return and was gettting into more and more problems with alcohol.. I was not yet aware of the difficult part lack of affirmation and just downright suppression of who I was as an individual by significant others had played in my life, but I was being driven unconsciously by these wounds into more and more painful relationships and so I was desperately reaching for answers. But some of the answers of that movement were that I had chosen abuse for myself.

I no longer believe this to be true. I now see it as an outgrowth of multi-generational woundings and legacy. I now know that victims do exist and we can and are victimised by forces beyond our control playing out both personally and collectively. Sadly many abusers have an investment in us remaining victims and in blaming us for things that are outside of our control, we even do it to ourselves as a result of being victimised. It is part of the way abusers operate and this idea stops the victim from knowing they were a victim and getting angry enough to moblise the energy to bust out of the pattern and reclaim our own power. And at one level although I don’t believe we chose it, we can learn from it and turn the wound into a blessing.

Often for those of us scapegoated and conditioned to be submissive, taught to fear our own anger and aggressive/assertive impulses, power only comes with the capacity to get angry enough to throw off victimhood and hold up the psychic shield to poison and projections.

Quite a few years back following the end of my marriage and an accident in which I had suffered a head injury while boarding with a family who were emotionally abusive I went for an astrology reading with Melanie Reinhardt. As part of the session she told me about a book by Peter Levine, who has done extensive research into trauma in animals and how this relates to trauma in humans. The book is called Waking the Tiger and in it he calls attention to the need of the traumatised animal to mobilise aggression in the face of threat in order shake off entrapment.

A large part of depression in vicitmised people, those who have been abused or traumatised, is that our instinctive impulse to lash out has been demonised, stifled or suppressed or it is judged not as a symptom  of a desire for freedom,  health and recovery, but as a symptom of a disease or mental illness.  I have always been drawn to the understandings of such therapists as James Hillman and Thomas Moore who see in the symptom not evidence of malaise but signs of the soul telling us about the nature of the wound and need for healing.

Recently I have been reading the book Animal Madness by Laurel Braitman. In it there are some very interesting stories of animals taken from the wild who then rebelled against the abuse of their captors, in some case taking lives or causing permanent wounds.

One of the saddest stories is of Tip, the Asian elephant donated to the city of New York by a circus owner, Adam Forepaugh. Five years into his incaceration within the Central Park elephant house, Tip began to display violent behavior directed towards abusive trainers and captors. The public began to call for Tip’s death and he was deemed to be “mad”. In the end Tip was executed.

Braitman writes :

“(Tip) was deemed mad not because he was rabid or demonstrably insane but because he acted violently toward the men who sought to control him, keep him in chains, and diminish his sensory, social, physical, and emotional world to a small barn. His badness caused his madness, his madness cemented his badness. Tip was a victim of the human tendency to punish what we misunderstand or fear.” P. 71.

Tip’s remains now lie in the American Museum of Natural History. I could not help but identify with Tip’s story. I felt an outrage for him, as I feel at times so much of a longing for the wild self within that has integrity at the core and knows deep down the truth of what is needed, what got thwarted and frustrated and which has suffered amidst psychic abusers the painful consequences of lashing : being demonised further.

I saw this pattern in my eldest sister’s life, who ended her days in an institution. I have lived the pain too of trapped immobility in which true feelings and felt needs had to be repressed and I have felt the freedom that comes with the mobilisation of expressing, assertion and aggression that when operating in allegiance to the True Self enables us to liberate ourselves from confinement.

I have witnessed silencing of his impulse in loved ones, the burying of it deep inside the belly with meds designed to blunt the truth, to numb the rebel yell that would have brought freedom as it struck fear into the hearts of those who wanted certain truths and realities silenced or extinguished.

The capacity to mobilise our own assertive impulses and express our truth which may have been buried or atrophied after years of invalidation or abuse is so essential to our birth as individuals, we need our rebel yell to break free of unhealthy enmeshment with those who may have unconscious investment in denying aspects of a self that may threat or confront them.  And so, unsafe as it feels at times to say what we need to say, we must somehow find the courage to sound out our voice and challenge those who would silence us.

The price of speaking our truth may at times lead to exile.  In mythology the scapegoat is sent into the desert with the sins of the collective on its head.  In reality the sin of the collective may be the shadow qualities that could not be accepted or expressed beyond the bounds of what controlling forces deemed acceptable.

In a family in which feelings are denied or hidden, it is the passionate one who will be demonised.  I witnessed this scapegoating caper playing out last week.  I finally understood why the demonised person had needed to be as detached as she was. And why many years ago she advised me to get far away. But critical lessons have come for me with not running, with facing into the heart of the dark dynamics because enmeshment must be broken in the place we stand, and true psychic and emotional separation cis not necessarily always obtained with distance.

As I tune in with my minds eye while writing I see an image of Saturn bearing a scythe  standing on the right hand side of my inner child, holding her hand.  I am alone on one level and cannot return to what was once cosy because Saturn is asking for something to be cut away.  The sacred cows of  psychic blindness must be slaughtered and comfortable cosy enmeshment sacrificed.  I dreamed this image in a dream many years ago in a deep dark meadow in England many slaughtered cows lay on the ground.

Breaking free of the fear of censure and ostracism that often is the price of living true to our core, and releasing the projection of shame that does not belong to us is a journey we who may have been scapegoated must face.  Exile may  be necessary for a time from places, groups and family members who cannot allow the shadow qualities a place .  It may even have been our task to carry that energy.  Healing comes with the recognition that exile is the beginning of a journey to a new land in which we will discover the freedom of being released from a confining straight jacket which bound us up too tightly.

Projecting pain: Understanding how it works and why we need to shrink the Inner and Outer Critic

If our childhood was traumatic it is likely that the unprocessed pain may be projected onto other relationships.  The chapter Shrinking Your Outer Critic in Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD makes for very enlightening reading.  It is teaching me a lot both about how parents can dump their own rage over past injuries onto their children, scapegoating them and then ensuring that the child has to find ways to offload this pain. From my understanding it can either be internalised and then we get beat up by a savage inner critic or alternatively it can externalised and then we beat others up for supposed transgressions which may be unconscious reminders of things that happened to us in childhood that hurt us deeply and we could never really unpack.

As Pete explains, often we oscillate between the two positions.  The cure he recommends and outlines in this chapter involves a combination of self awareness and mindfulness.  As he explains those with an aggressive ‘fight’ defence act pain out in rants or accusations.  Those with a more passive style may seethe internally and then their voracious inner critic kicks into gear.

There are two aspects to this mindfulness.  The first is cognitive, using thought awareness, thought stopping and thought substitution (substituting excessive negative critical thoughts for balanced positive thoughts).

The second aspect is emotional and involves grief work.  As Pete explains it this involves

removing the critic’s fuel supply – the unexpressed childhood anger and the uncried tears of a lifetime of abandonment.

angering at the outer critic helps to silence it (helping us to challenge the critic’s entrenched all or none perspective that everyone is as dangerous as our parents), and crying helps to evaporate it (and it also release(s) the fear that the outer critic uses to frighten us out of opening to others.  Tears can help us realise that our loneliness is now causing us much unnecessary pain).

It is my experience that those of us with a narcissistic style can most definitely not allow ourselves the vulnerability of the later response.

Mindfulness can and will cause us emotional and thought flashbacks to earlier incidents from childhood, consciously or unconsciously.  Our critic attacks may seem to grow in strength and power because we are becoming more aware of what we unconsciously defended against before.  And if part of our conditioning involved our parent’s disabling our angry reactions to unjustified shame, blame or criticism other painful feelings, sensations and thoughts will be evoked.  We may need a super aware ally to help us as we working with shrinking the inner and outer critic.  And in my experience the grief we feel helps us to come back to reality and remove defences even though this work is painful.

As Jay Early and Bonnie Weiss point out in their book Freedom From the Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approach it is important that we learn to stand with our inner child and help them to separate from the critics attacks which were designed to protect us in childhood but no longer serve us to develop a healthy relationship with our self or others.  For as long as the inner critic and outer critic is allowed to run rampant in our relationships the consequences will be the death of true love, respect, compassion, empathy, intimacy and connection.

 

If we are always scared how can we truly connect?

I feel as though some walls around my heart and some defences that have blocked realities are slowly falling down or fading away at present there is a raw tenderness and vulnerability I am feeling lately ever since my birthday.

I watched a very sad thing on the programme Married At First Sight in Australia last night.  It was about one of the brides who ran from intimacy at the 11th hour.  She just disappeared.  She then reappeared to confront the issues with her confused partner.  He was a very gentle man who was an ex teacher and could have provided the solidity she was looking for for her 11 year old son.  But it was clear that fear had made Laura run.  At first she focused on Andrew’s so called imperfections,  he wasn’t tall enough.  How often do we do this unconsciously out of fear?  We look for all the reasons it won’t work instead of looking into the other’s eyes, heart and soul staying open and taking a leap of faith.

It was clear to me that Laura was terrified, as I would have been terrified of intimacy and have been in the past.  In the end her joking defence slowly fell apart and tears fell as she explained to Andrew how scared she really was and asked for another chance.  He could not give it to her. He just couldn’t take that chance.  One thing struck me powerfully about this.  At first Andrew did not know what do to or what had happened and he blamed himself or thought he had done something.  He had done nothing, he had just been himself but Laura’s fear of abandonment from very real abandonments in the past made her run and set up defences.  In this situation if defences are in place around feeling our wound, we make up stories about what the other person did or didn’t do rather than see the part we and our past are contributing.  Really what is happening is we are meeting our own fear projected and then when we have to face the fear there is so much sadness underneath.

As Laura’s tears were falling the psychologist asked “Why are you crying, Laura?”   That got up my nose, surely he could see what they were about, the pain of longing for love and connection so long thwarted by her own fear and the past rejections.  Maybe he just had to ask that to get her to verbalise it for Andrew, but being me I felt it showed a lack of empathy and Andrew could not get beyond his own hurt to give her another chance, in case she hurt him again. That is fair enough he wanted to protect his heart and look for someone emotionally heathy.  It was so sad though and triggered my own experiences of pain in the past.  Laura is still alone and so is Andrew.  Lauren has some fear to work on and through but how can she do this outside of relationship?

Relationship is the mirror in which we find ourselves.  Our earliest relationships either mirror us or they don’t. Here lies the genesis of our narcissism, healthy or unhealthy and our ability to be intimate, both with ourselves and with others.  The lonely, neglected, unmirrored child goes everywhere looking for the love that should have been built into them by an affirmative gaze and firm parental boundaries of self.  Lacking this and suffering the passive abandonment of parental neglect (a term I am borrowing from CPTSD expert, Pete Walker) the inner child in us forms a painful inner critic that blames it for the abandonment and tries harder, or sets up impossible standards that block true humanity and intimacy not allowing us to trust again for fear of being hurt again.  And we can lie about this to others and to ourselves.

Lacking this inner grounding of self we feel defective in some way and carry that illusion of being defective or ‘not good enough’ everywhere.  We then become hyper-vigilant scanning the environment for the next threat or abandonment.  We are now projecting onto the present a painful past and ensuring that any new attempt at intimacy is bound to fail, until we go through enough pain to question why and how this is happening.  With deep wounds in this area we will need a partner who is willing to accept that we are not perfect and may be bound to set up old repeats and have much work to do to move through our fear.  And we will make no progress until we can understand and speak about it with them.  They would need to be very patient with our terrified inner child, and I can understand how for many that would just be to much work, but if we are wounded this is what we truly need in a partner, someone capable of extending themselves in true empathy.

Watching this show last night triggered something deep for me.  I see the times I have run myself and looked for all the excuses in the world as to why it had failed and I remembered times I too was on the receiving end of this treatment.  True in some relationships I did not choose well, but I also lacked a true belief in my value as a person and without that what did I have to truly give in terms of intimacy?  I suffered from covert narcissism.   My own parental neglect has driven me for years, to become the one who will bind up the wounds that I never caused in the first place but have contributed to by carrying on a pattern still working its way out across the generations unconsciously and it has also driven me to be the one who cuts off and runs when original wounds have been triggered in the past.

Often I exhaust myself in this process not fully having known before now what was driving me. Finding that out and having to bear the cost and pain of it is enormous as so many of you know but I do feel that it is only by facing the grief that I can see the part that fear has played in keeping me unconscious and locked in old patterns.  Once I can face and own that fear, like Lauren I am part of the way forward, more able to be vulnerable and conscious.  More able to both understand the roots of my fear and perfectionism and more able to encourage the wounded inner child in a new pattern of courage, fortitude and trust, one no longer so dominated by fear’s unconscious influence.