Building and Fortifying the Self : Strategies for dealing with negative thoughts from being raised by self absorbed parents

This is a continuation of recent posts on narcissism, narcissistic injury and boundary building.  It contains information and extracts from Nina Brown’s book Children of the Self Absorbed.  This part of her book contains suggestions for dealing with the difficulties we face when we never got to develop high self esteem or healthy emotional boundaries.  It give techniques to cope when we may be faced with the difficult parent in order to self protect in a healthy way.

Building your self means that you develop empathy, creativity, inspiration, and relationships or connections.  Doing so will enable you to let go of old grudges and resentments, have sufficient psychological boundary strength to lessen emotional susceptibility and judge what feelings are yours alone, uncontaminated with other’s feelings; and better cope with your triggered feelings that are aroused in interactions with your self absorbed parent.

Block and Control Your Feelings

These are strategies that can allow you to be calm with being blamed or criticised, demeaned, devalued, and the like so that you can think and act more constructively.  The feelings are still there but can become less intense, which then makes them easier to put aside for the moment.

Blocking your emotions requires the following :

  • An awareness of what you are experiencing, including the intensity of the feelings.
  • A desire to avoid revealing or acting on these feelings (never a good idea with the narcissist.)
  • A personal strategy of momentarily dissociating from the feeling.  Complete dissociation is not recommended, as this can produce or increase cutting off or distancing yourself from your feelings in all parts of your life.  What could be helpful is a statement to yourself that you’ll get back to the feelings when you are in a safer place.
  • Using thoughts as expression rather than feelings.  Thoughts are cognitive and easier to handle that are feelings, and you want to be in control for the time being.

..suppose your prent has made a demeaning comment about your appearance, and you feel yourself becoming angry.  Instead of staying with the anger and firing back at the parent or letting the anger move you to shame for disappointing the parent, it is at this point where you can mentally say that you don’t want to act out of anger.  You’re going to choose to push the anger away and not let your parent know that the comment really angered you so you decide to make a noncommittal response, such as “Really?  I’ll need to pay better attention next time.  ” You can also ignore the comment, change the topic or make pleasant comment about the parent’s appearance.  Any of these can defuse the situation.

Use Self Affirmations

Instead of getting caught up in intense negative emotions triggered by your self absorbed parent, you can moderate and counteract these with self affirmations.  It can be important to remember that your triggered feelings are impacted when, on some level, you are buying into your parent’s perception of you and fear that these have some validity.   You may also find yourself in trouble with you are still engaged in the magical fantasy that your parent will change, or when you’re feeling powerless to get your needs met.  Self affirmations remind you of your strengths and positive characteristics so that you don’t get mired in thoughts and feelings about your real or imagined flaws.

On a sheet of paper list 10 to 12 things you consider to be your accomplishments, such as holding a job, overcoming an illness or condition, rearing children etc.  Next to each, list all the personality characteristics associated with it.  Review the list and compile another that incorporates personality characteristics that are repeated two or more times.  On top of an index card write “I am” followed by the list of characteristics.  Read this card once a week until you can effortlessly recall the items when you are experiencing intense negative emotions, such as triggered by your self absorbed parent.

Choose What to Feel 

You may find it difficult to accept, but you do have choices about what to feel  It may appear to you that your feelings just emerge and that you have no control but you do have the ability to decide what to feel, especially when you understand the roots of your feelings and have resolved some of your family of origin issues and past unfinished business.  The negative feelings that you did not choose are triggered because of old parental messages that continue to affect your thoughts about the adequacy and acceptability of yourself, thus setting off guilt and shame.  These messages also impact your perceptions of your competency, efficacy, and lovability; your unconscious fears of abandonment or destruction; and your needs for liking and approval of the parent that are still lacking.

Don’t get the idea that you should experience feelings like shame.  It can be growth enhancing to realise and accept your flaws, as long as there is also resolve and opportunity to address these.  What we’re talking about here is preventing your self absorbed parent from setting your agenda for what you will feel, especially in interactions with him (or her).

Interruput Negative Thoughts and Feelings

Another strategy is to interrupt your negative thoughts yourself.  These can included self criticism and blame, negative feelings such as shame and anger, and unrealistic ideas about yourself, such as the need for perfection.  This strategy works best when you not only interrupt negative thoughts, but also substitute more positive thoughts, feelings and ideas.  When you are able to avoid having these negatives and can insert more positives, you become better able to tolerate interactions with your self absorbed parent and will not be as vulnerable to getting mired in enduring and unpleasant thoughts and feelings about yourself.  Using the self affirmations about your good qualities (shared in an earlier post) can also help.

  • become aware of when you are experiencing negatives (eg feeling inadequate and flawed)
  • practice interruption and substitution
  • notice “should” or “ought” statements   (eg I should not let this get to me) These are unproductive and unhelpful
  • next substitute a positive self affirmation or self statement,

You may also want to remind yourself of the following :

  • Others will not change because I want them to change.
  • I do not have control over others’ feelings, thoughts, and ideas
  • I don’t have to fear being abandoned or destroyed, as I can take care of myself.
  • I am independent, and others are too.
  • When I think, feel, or imagine negatives about my self, that confirm my self absorbed parent’s perceptions.
  • I have flaws and faults, as everyone does, but I am working to correct them.
  • I have many positive attributes.

Practicing these when alone can pay off and slowly they will become more integrated.

Remember What’s Real

Use your self talk to remind yourself of what is real and what is fantasy.  The line between these can become blurred, especially when intense emotions are involved.  Your negative feelings are easier to control when you can introduce some realism and not get caught up in fantasy.  Try answering the following questions to get some idea of how fantasy interferes with reality.

  • Is it realistic to expect your parent to see your hurt and try to make amends?
  • Can your parent admit mistakes or accept his errors?  If not, how realistic is it to point these out or to try to correct his misperceptions?
  • Have you ever experienced empathy from your parent, and why do you expect it now?

All of these thoughts exhibit the yearning you have for the fantasised loving and empathic parent.  Your longings are keeping the fantasy alive, contributing to your distress, and preventing you from mobilising your resources to remain centred and grounded.  These untapped inner resources could prevent you from being hurt any further.




On Shame and vulnerability

I am half way through Brene Brown`s wonderful book Daring Greatly : How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.  It is resonating with me so deeply and making me so much more aware how defences against shame and vulnerability underlie so many of our challenges in life.

When I got sober in 1993 I was introduced to the work of John Bradshaw.  For those of you who dont know John is a recovering alcoholic who was one of the first to address the issue of toxic shame in his book Healing the Shame That Binds You.  Some of the most enlightening points in that book concerned so called religious addiction and poisonous pedagogy​ Inherent to both is the idea that who we are is intrinsically flawed and that the only way we can over come this flawed condition is to seek perfection or correction of the beastly, sinful parts of us.  While it is true that we do develop flaws and vulnerabilities growing up, associating such with toxic shame leaves a lasting legacy and burden it can be hard to get out from under.   Shame concerns the feeling that who we are is flawed.  We loose a sense that who we are is actually good at the core and then we learn to engage in all kinds of behaviours where we learn to try to either deflect the hot shame potato to others or deflect the blows of projected shame coming at as.  Some of us who become scapegoat or shame identified take on the mantle of shameful one and seek to attone in all kinds of ways.

In order to deflect shame Brene explains we respond in one of three ways :

  1. We move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets;
  2. We move toward by seeking to appease and please;
  3. We move against by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive and by using shame to fight shame…..

According to Brene all of these defences actually move us away from connection both with ourselves and others.  They lead us to disconnect from our deny or bury the true source of shame which lies within.

The alternative (which is not very attractive to some) is to keep our heart open when we may feel the hot shame potato being lobbed at us.  This is what happens with bullies or critics when they seek to attack us or bring us down (often projecting their own shadow onto us).  We need a deeper understanding of the other person`s defences against experiencing and taking on board their own shame.   This takes a of work most especially if as children we were shamed for feeling natural feelings (this leads to what John Bradshaw calls shame bound feelings.)

I know I most certainly entered the rooms of Alcoholic’s Anonymous just under 24 years ago all of my feelings were bound in shame.  I had gone through so much in my life and like Brene learned to use alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms.  I did not know anything about shame.  I did not understand how much it had been a part of my life post particularly having gone through a Catholic education and in this way I fared even better than my two sisters who went to school during the 1950s and 1960s.

As I read Brene`s book I am becoming also very aware of how even years into recovery shame played a huge part in the last dysfunctional relationships I entered.  By that stage I had so much to grieve and had aborted several therapies.   I did not have any form of trust in people and in my family I watched grief being buried or deflected.  I was aware at that point that grief work was a big part of recovery, but I was not aware that the energetic lively self that got buried was also wearing a huge overcoat of shame as I carried a fear if I ever got too happy things would decombust.

Now I see how much shame and fear of vulnerablity ruled my own life, I am also developing a lot more compassion for others, most especially members of my family.  If we get raised never feeling good enough we do begin to adopt some of the armouring defences Brene discusses in Chapter 4 of her book.  We feel scared of risking expressing who we really are and can begin to put on masks.  In my own case from early days on in AA I was committed to taking the mask down.  I heard deeply with my heart as others shared of their own feelings of being exiles and aliens in a strange world and I cried so much at meetings hearing these stories.  Eventually I moved away from meetings to pursue therapy in the UK after my husband and I moved there in my 6th year of sobriety.  Understanding the roots of shame and vulnerability has been a far longer journey.

Today I was listening to the breakfast programme on our national radio station in Australia where the sexual abuse case against producer Harvey Weinstein was being discussed.  The commentators where saying how the revelations of those abused by Weinstein were awakening revelations of abuse for many women and how some of these women were being publically shamed by men on social media.  Oh, I thought, here goes the hot shame potato again.  Why is it so hard for us to have compassion for a person`s vulnerability?   (Often because those people judging and defending have not one clue of what it feels like to be violated in such a way.)  It saddened me while I also realised this is really just human nature, the sad state we find ourselves in collectively at present.

In my own life I am very glad that over time I have been able to open up my vulnerability.  That said opening up my vulnerability to shame bound or defended persons was not only not helpful, but down right damaging.  In that last relationship I was shut out and shamed so often for genuinely expressing my feelings.  It took me so long to understand that the partner I had chosen was so defended because his own pain was so huge and his own fear of vulnerability and his true feelings so powerful.

Today I can be honest most of the time.  I still engage in a lot of perfection seeking behaviours around my home which as so deep rooted I despair sometimes of ever fully overcoming them but I always draw comfort from the AA idea that we seek progress rather than perfection.   Perfection is an ideal perhaps never to be fully realised.  That said I keep striving for wholeness, to take on board my own shadow and defences a d olf fears against opening up and being emotional vulnerability.   It is a work in progress and along the way I am so so grateful for those people such as John Bradshaw and Brene Brown who are engaged in working to unmask and enlighten the powerful role shame and perfectionism play in our lives and world presently.   What a gift to have this knowledge and understanding.

The antidote to our inner critic

The inner critic in some of us is such a powerful force, some call it the negative super ego.  My feeling also is that the more we have been hurt by others or life in the past, the stronger our inner critic becomes as really when you understand its function it is trying to protect you.  I learned this while reading the book Freedom From Your Inner Critic earlier in the year.

In my own case I was raised in a house with an OCD mother who had perfection as a defence.  So I equate needing to be perfect and in control with being loved and I know when I got sober I came to understand the huge part toxic shame had played in my own journey.   I could be messy in my addiction and so called ‘out of control’ which was really about part of my repressive self and shadow wanting to break free  but not in any kind of balanced way.

Of course shame and vulnerability are so closely linked and I  also learned to hide and fear in my young years in the absence of care. I was not protected in any way in the course of growing up and was also left alone a lot.  That is what one therapist I saw called benign neglect and I understood a lot more about that too when I read another book Running on Empty : Overcoming Your Childhood Emotional Neglect in which the author Jonice Webb outlines so clearly the consequences of such neglect which include :

  1. Feelings of emptiness
  2. Counter dependence
  3. Unrealistic Self Appraisal
  4. No Compassion for Self, Plenty for Others
  5. Guilt and Shame : What is Wrong With Me
  6. Self directed anger : Self Blame
  7. The Fatal Flaw (If People Really Know Me They Won’t Like Me)
  8. Difficulty Nurturing Self and Others
  9. Poor Self Discipline
  10. Alexithymia : Poor Awareness and Understanding of Emotions

As I view this list again is obvious how for each of the 10 points the inner critic can come in to blame and shame us.  For example if we have no compassion for self, we tend to criticise ourselves all the time and with no true compassion for self or understanding of our emotions we give ourselves a hard time for feeling or acting as we do and also for our wounds which were not really our fault in the first place but now have at responsibility to understand feel and heal.

The antidote to the inner critic is to become more realistic in our self appraisal.  To understand the nature of our wounds while not using them as an excuse to blame ourselves or stop us from growing in positive self discipline.  Permissive parenting combined with emotional neglect means we tend to become addictive and don’t know how to nurture ourselves by setting healthy limits on say food or alcohol or drugs as well as using them to mask our pain.  We may be the ‘spoilt’ child who really was so damaged and longing for love, attention and care that was needed but just never available in the emotionally necessary way.

I just opened my daily reader to the following reading and it was with the purpose of sharing it that I opened up this page to write.  I felt that it was a powerful antidote for the hard time I so often give myself on the tough days, those days when I am not even conscious of the inner critic working away inside to reduce me to a pile of ash.  I just felt the need to share it. None of us deserves blame or shame from others or from ourselves on this healing pathway.  God knows its hard enough.  So lets work to learn how to be more honest, fair and loving to ourselves as we do the hard work of emotional recovery.

Learning from Life

There are no ‘buts’ today.  I am where I am, others are where they are, life is what it is.  I will not parenthesize my life growth with a ‘but’, or hold back my forward moving spirit with second guesses.  For today, I am living with things as they are.  I am exactly where I am meant to be, learning what I need to learn.  All I need to do is move through situations with willingness to learn and openness to feel.  When feelings are brought up, I can accept them as what is happening within me – no need to resist and analyse them.  Transformation will happen in the moving through and acceptance of what’s happening right now.  I trust that my life is unfolding in such a way that what I need to become aware of, will reveal itself to me.  I am willing to learn.

I see meaning in my day to day life

The meaning is there even as we become aware of ways we are limited or have fallen short.   Some things the critic has to say may be helpful to help us move forward but we have to be careful when the inner critic is running a perfectionistic monologue that is not helping us to embrace our vulnerable humanity.

Suicide Prevention Month :

I was 20 years old when my older sister made an attempt on her life.  To be honest there was so much trauma going on the memories of finding her body were obliterated by my psyche and later I took to addiction due to the distress caused that I could not share with anyone.  That was in 1982.  My other sister attempted suicide in 2013 and at the hospital she was blown up like a balloon from the effects of the drugs which was so distressing to witness.  I was asked to take a bag of her things home from hospital and it had about three medications including anti psychotics and anti anxiety meds and when I googled them some of the side effects were anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  I was fucking angry.

Later at the hospital I was asked by the doctor “do you know why your sister is on anti convulsive meds”  I hit the roof and nearly screamed the place down.  “You want to know why because they have been overmedicating her ever since she had a hysterectomy a few years ago and playing Russian Roulette with her meds.”  I then told her of my family history of addiction and how I was in AA.  I thought the men in white coats would come for me but a few nurses took me to another room while I cried and they really listened.  Later the doctor came in and said “we have taken her off that medication.”  It was still a long way back for my sister and for my mother who found her it was terrible.   My other sister who had attempted suicide years before was at that stage in a care home and she died never knowing about the attempt my sister took on her own life.

It pays to remember that witnesses to suicide are also traumatised for the rest of their life and may struggle to understand.  They need a lot of support afterwards and may be similarly forgotten.  Of course there were complex issues as to why my sister wanted to end her life and I fully understand them having witnessed a lot of the difficult treatment she received in the family from those who could not relate to her emotionally and had their own defences.

I am writing this to raise awareness.  I have suffered from strong feelings of wishing to end my own life, most especially after my last relationship which was quite emotionally damaging left me with profound feelings of low self worth.  I have always tried to reach out when I feel that way in past years and be honest about how I feel.   But this is just not possible for many.  We need to be aware that modern life is full of stress, dissociation, dislocation and emotional isolation.  We are urged to put on a front a lot of the time and can feel scared and afraid when we cannot cope in ways others seem to be able to.

Reasons people choose suicide are complex so let us stay open and not believe we have the answers for those who are feeling confusion and profound despair.  Let us be present for what people are really feeling and be present and open our hearts and really listen when we can.  We just don’t know how much a caring ear or smile or work of kindness may help someone who is silently contemplating if it may not just be better to end it all.  I recently had a call on a day I was in such a state and the man really listened.  He said to me his father had tried to take his life and if I ever needed to talk I should give him a call.  His kindness to me on that day meant a lot to me.  Life is full of inner struggle so let us show as much compassion and sensitivity to others as we can.



Love you are really all we ever longed for

Beneath the quest for power or control

You are there in the shadows

Hiding under all the hurt and pain

Hoping that we will not take too long

Before we uncover your true face

Love you may often wear the disguise of fear

Of anger or of shame

In a vain attempt to keep the truth hidden

But somewhere deep within

Our cells and bodies know

A truth far more profound

That love is found in the holding

And the unmasking

And yes even in the honouring of all of these states

Love you are the wholeness that awaits us

In the midst of great emptiness, sorrow and pain

Reminding us that life is such a powerful journey

One that asks us over and over again

To dig deep

And leave no stone unturned

Until we see your shining face

And that it is in the embracing

Of all of these states

Through love and loving

That we bring

What was nearly dead in us

Back to life

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.

The judge


All you do is sit on high

And from your lofty perch

Rain down judgement on my soul

You are the voice of ‘reason’

Of so called ‘sanity’

Which is actually insane

From the point of view of the soul

But who sees from there

In a sick society that is chronically

Externally focused?

We who turn within

Who open up presence and the witness in our soul

Open too to your attacks

But they are not the voice of love or unity

But of fear and separation

That want to cleave us from healing

So judge

I will listen to you speak

But wont be hooked by what you say

I choose trust

I choose self belief

I choose love

The cost of caring and connecting

My therapist often points out to me the heavy cost that caring and connecting with my family can bring.  I was made even more aware of this on the weekend before last when, after meeting my sister I absent mindedly banged my car into a car I didn’t see behind me when reversing.  My mind was in a bit of spin at the time and I wasn’t paying attention.  I often find connecting with family means I have to operate on two levels, there is a longing there that has a grief underneath it that can never be fully expressed together, I often come away brimming with tears.

After I hit the car of this younger woman that is what happened, my eyes brimmed up.  I apologised and owned my lack of attention that caused the smash,   “Its my fault”, I said.  “No, she said, it was an accident!”  This made me cry even more as I know my PTSD trauma condition often brings other traumas to me.  It’s close to the anniversary of my older sister’s death and my therapist often says how important it is to be careful around anniversaries.  I had the major smash up of 2005 where I sustained a serious head injury on the one year anniversary of my husband telling me he was leaving me.

Just a few weeks before while rushing to get to a funeral for a friend of my mother’s mother I didn’t realise I was in a school zone and got booked by a speed camera for doing 53 in a 40 km zone, and I very rarely speed, so it bit me.  In the end going to the funeral cost me a $257 speeding fine and it wasn’t really essential that I attend.   The excess on my insurance is going to cost a fair bit, but I’ve fronted up with it.  In considering things and looking at the chain of events that led to them and my own motivations shows me how often I strain to be connected and when I do there can be a backlash that costs me dearly

It is something my therapist brings up a lot.  She often makes the comment that connecting with my family comes at quiet a cost.  Entering their world I have to operate to their likes and in trying to bond I need to show an interest in things that interest them.  I do have a voice though, but there is always a lot more going on under the surface than meets the eye and at times I come away feeling that something has been taken or I have moved just a little bit outside who I really am and what I really need as a person.

The positive thing though for me these days isvthat I do connect more with others.  I just have to remember that I don’t have to strain so hard to be connected.  I think all of this is coming out of what I really felt that I had to repress growing up.

I think as a youngster I was naturally happy and joyous and full of life.  I loved music and dancing and connection but in a much older family that was work and duty bound I had to rub a lot of the shine off.  Added to this was the fact that as a very much younger sibling I was effectively like an only child.   I remember crying so much at my closest sister’s wedding which took place at 14 that I embarrassed her.  I never got a comfy hug of recognition.  I remember my sister kind of looking down on me with shame in her expression.  Should I really have been made to feel ashamed of needing and wanting to be connected?

It appears to me I learned ways to bury and hide that longing even from myself and my addiction covered it over in so many ways but was also a mixed up way of trying to connect while trying to keep my by then exquisite longing and vulnerability and fear hidden!

These days my heart does a little leap of joy in my chest when someone reaches out to me.  The other day I was at the dog park and lost my keys.  I had made a new friend and she helped me by taking me home to get my spare key and then dropping me back to the park.  I was so touched by this help.  Yesterday she rang to see how I was and see if I wanted to go for a coffee.  At the coffee date she asked me all about me.  That was such a new experience for me, but I was also aware of not wanting to take up too much attention at the same time, and as I write this I am aware that it is part of my programming not only from family but from a Catholic education in which I could be shamed for drawing attention to myself.

Well how interesting.  A post that began about the cost of caring and connecting has somewhere along the line had a shift of focus.  These days though something is calling me to become more aware of where I place my attention and needs, and to explore my motivations honestly when I feel the need to reach out and connect.  Maybe that in itself is even problematic though.  If I am conditioned to feel that connecting and caring comes at such a cost, then at times its difficult to be able to just spontaneously be and reach for connection.  I can end up second guessing everything due to past pain without realising that new connections may bring new and different affects into my life.   In the end I guess it is about being open and mindful at the same time and not overthinking to the degree that fearful thoughts block the life and love that is wanting me to just be me, trust, open, express and connect in the world free of shame self judgement and fear.


Integrating our child self


Last week I shared some content from Michael Brown’s book The Presence Process about how important rediscovering the original innocence of our inner child is.  Unfortunately as we grow and are subjected to upsets in the course of our development we learn that this innocence is not so, we may feel we are bad for expressing certain emotions or having certain needs.   When we have tried to express our pain or distress with our parents, often we were not responded to with unconditional support.  We may have learned to distract ourselves or deny what we feel, we may carry anger, hurt, sadness or fear in response to what has happened to us.

Unfortunately such feelings don’t go away but remain locked deep within us in what MB calls emotional charge located deep inside our body at a felt level though just below our conscious awareness. However these feelings can be accessed if we apply a process of being present when we experience our distress instead of seeking ways to distract, numb or run away.

This process involves being a caring adult to our inner child.  Michael has this to say :

If we haven’t consciously interacted with our child self before, then our current relationship with it is similar to that of a parent who has for many years abandoned their child.  At about the age of seven, our childhood experience is deliberately redirected in preparation to enter the adult world.  This requires a willingness to turn around and walk away from our childhood.

As the years unfold, it’s unlikely we will choose to look back and consider the state of the child we once were.  We lay a blanket of forgetfulness over this aspect of our experience and openly admit we can’t remember much of what happened to us when we were children  For this reason, we may no longer be aware of our child self even though it continually watches everything.  We seemingly no longer feel the unintegrated aspects of its condition, despite the fact our adult discomfort is a mirror of this unintegrated charge.

We are so out of touch with how our child self affects us in the present that we may ask “Why now go back and face the past?   Why not leave the past alone and carry on with our life?”

Often the wider society around us reinforces this view. How often is the childhood of celebrities who meet a harsh end through suicide or other trauma explored at a deeper level?  People shake their heads and say “he or she was so popular, why did this happen?”, when the truth is that despite the acclaim, attention or outer recognition that person received perhaps it was for a  false self they learned to adopt, a dark humour which covered up a far deeper wound to their self esteem and self belief that remained hidden or was carried alone deep inside that they found it difficult to share with anyone else and felt the need to mask.

Meeting the inner child’s pain is the most loving thing we can do for ourselves on the path of healing. Knowing and revisiting or original pain or wounds can bring a deeper understanding and liberation from the past, freeing us to be more present and less likely to attract repeated traumas that are old unconscious replays.  Being able to grieve and own the fact of our pain and wounds allow us to know that there is nothing wrong with us for feeling sad or depressed or less than and that really all of these deep feelings make great sense in the right context. As children we may have been shamed for them by adults who were wounded children themselves but if we can see and recognise this we can free ourselves from unnecessary shame.

Being present for our inner child as a loving inner mother and father to this child will allow us to integrate this deepest part of us that has so much to teach us about who we really are and how we feel and what we really, truly need inside.  It will show us a door into our secret heartache and then we will find the words to speak about it feel it, acknowledge it, accept it and free it.

The price of our liberation can be pain.  But it is far better in the long run to allow ourselves to feel this pain than to keep denying it and leaving it trapped inside.  For to do so is to shut the door on a most essential part of us that is so necessary to our healing. and can only be shut out and exiled at great cost.


So much deep hurt rose up in me this afternoon.  I met with my cousin who I have never really known very well but over the past year or so since my breast cancer surgery we have grown close. I have shared with her very painful experiences from my past because now I trust her.  Today so much opened up over the debacle with the townhouse and the fact I was left alone at the auction while my mother got distracted chatting to her best friend.  I did not realise before today that looking for and bidding for that house was all a replay of looking for something she would find acceptable and that was a reminder of my painful history.  Now that we are locked into a contract all the pain is coming up that was buried before and it was forewarned in the card I drew on Friday night for attending the auction : The eight of swords which shows being caught in an intractable dilemma.  I got the warning sign and felt trembly at the auction but I wasn’t strong enough to pull away and Mum admitted this morning she failed to support me when I needed it and left me vulnerable to the real estate agent.  I still don’t have strong boundaries and this latest incident occurring with Venus retrograde is highlighting all my Venus Neptune issues.  I am porous and don’t know how to protect or defend my psychic space well.

Today with my cousin all the pain around my first boyfriend who never really loved me came up.  I fell pregnant to him two times but I could not tell my mother. She walked into my house one Saturday morning when I was in my early 20s and found us in bed together and would not talk to me for a week.  I was crying with another close friend this morning about how I felt I could never go to either parent for support.  I wont go into all the painful details of the terminations but in those days I had to travel to the next major city and there were demonstrators outside waving placards in our faces.  Then I was whipped away on a long car journey taking 5 hours to be with friends of my ex.  The truth of the terminations was hidden from them and all but one of my close friends for years and I had to retire to the bedroom while they got stoned, feeling so much pain and so much shame.  This is only part of a story in a longer tail of how I was abandoned 3 times by this same person and went back for more each time.  He was the one who broke it off shortly after my father died.  And it was after my father died my mother read my diaries and confronted me about it saying how ashamed she was that I was her daughter.  My addiction really got a good boost from that particular betrayal of my privacy.

I was kind of relieved today that tears flowed with my cousin.  It felt like an authentic telling of the truth with appropriate feelings.  She didn’t say a lot but I felt she was with me.  I came home and was in a lot of pain.  My therapist failed to call me back today and then sent me a text which has pissed me off. I ended up shutting off the phone after replying to a text from another friend to say I want to be as far away from the world and other people as I can be at the moment.  I just came home and lay quietly on the floor with Jasper my dog hand to paw in the early evening silence.

The pain has eased a little now but this afternoon made me aware of the deep wound I am carrying.  This charade of looking for a new home is some kind of outplaying of some old imprints, I see that now.  Really I would have appreciated some of the money to help repair this place and make it cosy but that wasn’t good enough for my Mum and she cut off contact with me for a week when I challenged her on it a few weeks ago.  Idiot me, I ended up calling her.  Fuck and double fuck, no matter how much I get hurt I go back for more.  I feel like cutting off all contact with the agent.  He can deal with the sale through my Mum I don’t want any of it. I just want to be as far away as I can so that I can heal.  I have had enough am so fucking tired of having had to bury all this pain which is an outfall of being abandoned by my Mum and having that replay in so many relationships.  I feel I am done.

Anyway it is getting late and I wanted to rest tonight without too much time on the computer.  I am going off to have a cup of tea and a relax before bed.  I now know that for years I blamed myself for being a defective person but really I was doing the best I could with what I had. I know my Mum has done the same but her actions have still hurt me a lot and damaged my life,  tonight I am angry and don’t want to open the door again for a while.