Pain is a traveller

This poem is prompted by a comment I saw on a blog recently and the title is the comment.

Pain is a traveller

It flows through the spaces of our being

Left vacant by wanting

It pulls on the tendrils of our heart

That lie all entangled

Tying us up in knots

We hold our breath

As pain reminds us of a past that is gone

While waking us up to what it is

We most need and long for now

Opening to the breath

And all of the deep feeling

The tendrils of our heart

And very being uncoil

As we fall into the truth

That the essence of our soul

Is love

More than ever before

We all need

The comfort of love

Someone’s shoulder to lean on

Just for a while

Even though in the end

As a child

So many of us

Only learned to hide or deny the truth

Turning away

Towards the silence

We all need

Periods of humor and silliness

Within the drama and the pain

We knew

Are integrating

Or working to move

On through

Despair may convince us of lies

Should we choose to live in illusions

For too long

There is a love

That we long for

A place of surrender we need to find

To transform the pain

And a healing baptism

Of flood and fire

We must walk through

To get to the other side

With more of our soul

Awake

Grateful

And alive

Than ever before

shed skins

When the past comes calling

Certainty unwinds

My soul is carried back

To where I lost the threads of self

All tangled up inside

There is a storm of feeling

That I have not fully

Explored

Before

And so the rain of tears begins

It nourishes my skin

All of this feeling

Deep within I discover

A young girl

Who never fully got the chance to live

As herself

And became a person lost

Inside that skin

Seeking the way to kin

Dread

A constant visitor

Should naked truth emerge

And she then become the

Scourge

That order sought

Eradicate

Where to show her true face

Then

Falling into hurting

Again

Only to find deep

Within

The deepest pools of loss

A sense of self that

So desperately wants to live

Now she must find a way

To begin

Too long she wandered there

All alone

So far from comfort

Miles from home

Longing with a longing scarcely felt

Until now

Discovering with the pain of her past

A soul so very desperate

To shed old skins

Vibrating with love

Banished desire and purpose

Hungry for

Her kin

The awakening

Waking up may come with a shock

There you lay dreaming of the way

Life imprisoned you

Beneath a wall of steel

Making you feel

It was impossible to live or breathe

As your self

And here you are now

Feeling the heartbreak of it all

As those walls of steel fall

To reveal the fragility beneath

That is also stronger than you may have thought

Many say that the world will break you

In the fragile places

But I believe that with the breaking

Comes a breaking through

Of what your soul

Needed to wake up to

All along

Do you feel it now

This river of love

That wants to flow

From soul to soul

Can you bear the brightness of the morning sky

Welcoming you to a new day

Will you open your eyes and heart

Fully to the sun

Or fall into darkness

And turn away

From this awakening

songs of happiness

some days I cannot believe

how much happiness floats by me

on the breeze

echoes of laughter

I lost the way to

as the veil of tears fell down

all around me

covering my eyes

sometimes with the dawn

I feel the passing sense of

the tragic and forlorn

leaving me

as deep inside my body

I sense

the resonating trance of rememberance

that bids me to uncoil the past

in a swirling dance

and so it is I feel the shame

dissolving just like summer rain

seeping into crusty soil that longed

for replenishment

this then is my recompense

for years of pain and bitterness

that finally my aching soul

can feel the joy

of winters left

and summers stolen

while deep inside my aching spirit rises

to greet the dawn

and dusk surprises

dancing upon the floating air

untangling the tendrils of past despair

weaving them into

songs of happiness

When love breaks through

When love breaks through

Something so deep inside my soul just opens

The defences in me that held me safe

Give way as I fall into the most profound ocean

Of understanding and peace

There is a part of us that is the heart

And that part is the deepest source of us

It shows our soul the way to truth

And provides all the proof that our mind can

Sometimes deny

Sometimes belie

With thinking

When you are kind enough

To extend your love to me

That is how I am freed

From suffering

And when you withhold your love from me

I can never be

Completely at peace

Until I dig so deep

To find the longing for love

That underlies the pain

And answer that with kindness

Again

Opening to

The deepest source of healing and love

Again

And again

And again

The spirit in us

The spirit in us may

Sometime be weighted down by care

May feel its silent wings fluttering

Never the less

In silent anticipation of flight

And yet the soul in us may have a larger say

Knowing the necessity of those times

We struggle

With our feet submerged

Feeling as though fashioned of clay

For we are often

Perched

Betwixt and between

The two dimensions

Of death and of living

And at times our silent hungers rage

Like beasts too long forgotten

In a hidden cage

While our silent heart weeps tears

For the remembering

Of all that once gave to it

Hope

And joy

And ecstasy

Before the slings of outrageous fortune

Cut deep into the roots of our wings

Like knives

Eclipsing spiritual hope

And yet out spirit still sounds out its note

And our soul will never allow it to be

Perpetually silenced

Getting free of my ‘bad’ self (recognising the deeper impact of trauma and childhood emotional neglect.)

I am still only beginning to understand how my own self punishment and attempts to make myself bad and shame myself for what I have endured in my life play out. The last relationship I was in was very damaging from this point of view. I was very isolated when I met him and he never really was ever able to show empathy for my PTSD symptoms which I was trying my best to manage. When the first abuse began I should have perhaps broken contact but I was at that stage very isolated and alone and hungry for connection.

My own ability to practice self care, I see now was severely limited at that stage due to childhood emotional neglect. CEN can be hidden as many of us neglected came from what, at least from the outside, may appear to be affluent ‘together’ homes, but the neglect is there due to emotional unavailability of parents and the claims made that you are loved and cared for which may be true on one level but are not always backed up bpresence and truly engaged physical and emotional support and so sufferers of CEN tend to blame themselves.. it is one of the major symptoms.

It was hard for both my parents because they had to grow up very fast both having lost their fathers, my Mum at 7 and my Dad at 12 years of age. By the time I came along they were working very hard to survive materially and beginning to get a taste of affluence. They were there but they were often missing emotionally and sometimes I was punished when I really needed support.

I was listening to a programme on teenage mental health on radio in Australia this morning and psychologists involved said the worst thing that can happen to teenagers is to be punished when they are acting out, the better thing is for them to be educated and the reason why they are acting out understood. I wasn’t acting out so much as a teenager but due to lack of parental supervision I was smoking and drinking behind their backs and in the absence of someone being present I was trying in some way to raise myself and felt often I had to put on act to show I was feeling okay and coping when the truth was I often felt insecure and confused about how to live and connect.

I still have this fiercely independent streak (or rather anti dependency streak) and I can find it hard to ask for help or know when I need support. I can tend to push back or push away or deny that I would like support, I feel on some level shame for it or that I don’t deserve it. The sad thing is that later in life when I got to begin to uncover some of my buried emotions and past in sobriety I ran again instead of getting the right help and trusting those close to me to care for me. I have only realised this lately and as a result I ended up crashing and burning. I also aborted several therapy attempts and got lost in the last abusive relationship which ended 8 years ago.

Anyway I need to remember lately that I am making good progress and turning around over 50 years of unhelpful patterns takes time. It also takes some time to see where our own defences can be operating. My therapist feels a lot of my survival defences are now melting and I really am finding new levels of compassion for myself and feeling a lot of the grief, frustration and powerlessness that underlay past anger and rage which kept deeper feelings at bay. Blaming myself or blaming others is actually I am beginning to see a way of defending against my feelings and situation instead of feeling them. Accepting that I was powerless over so much has taken some time. And knowing that I do have power to change some things even longer.

I still struggle a lot with panic attacks and overwhelm symptoms at critical times of the day. I notice what triggers them and then takes me into a down ward spiral. Once the spiral or trauma vortex starts to manifest (which on bad days can happen up to 4 or 5 times) it can be very hard to pull myself out of it and get my attention back in the ‘now’. One of the hardest things about Post Traumatic stress is this vortex pull which is centrifugal. I noticed that I had coped better on the days I actually have plans to meet someone and connect which was happening more over the past week. This week I have felt more anxious having more open time. I still need to remember I am managing well though. The tendency to be down on myself and beat myself up can still be very powerful. I wish that I was better than I am at times, but wishful thinking wont get me very far. I do still struggle a lot, maybe with my complex trauma history I always will??

Happy to live in the present : with a growing awareness of the past.

I just dropped Jasper off at the groomers and I took the way home that leads past where my family and I lived when all the tragedy began to befall us between 1979 and 1985 : the year when my father died.  As usual when I drive along this long street we moved to when I was about 7 I start to feel a blackness and darkness all around me.  I named my blog Emerging From the Dark Night because I guess I began to realise around 2001 about 8 years into my sobriety I had been living out that dark past unconsciously.  Now that I have done the years of therapy and grieving, the long work of coming to terms with things and seeing how it was for the young me I feel a kind of distance from it.  It is no longer affecting me as unconsciously.

I’ve made a friend over the past year who Jasper and I met first at the dog park then later on we both ended up walking our dogs in a big oval not far from where I live.  My friend was in the middle of a thesis when we first met which she has now completed, and its only really in the past few months she has been opening up to me about her own childhood which was a lot like mine.  She also became a family caretaker as her own needs were not met and she said she really struggles with the inner Persecutor too.  We have a lot in common and its good to be able to share honestly with someone who understands how it is to come out of such a stoic emotionally repressive family where issues of perfectionism and emotional overcontrol were writ large.

I know we never totally escape the influences of our past but I do believe once we become aware of the darkness we can begin to live in the light but that means making new choices that are healthier for us and more conscious than the past ones and it does take some time.

I was also thinking today after listening to a radio interview on misfits how lonely it can be if we feel on the outside of society, peers or family.  The point made on the programme was how misfits are able to see things in society that others do not see, due to the distance from involvements and their own, at times painful path, they see below the surface of things.   It was an interesting interview too as the writer interviewed Mandy Sayer was speaking of how as a writer she cannot live with her husband who is a playright. They both live separately and get together in the evenings as both need the days for work.  It struck me as a really good arrangement because one of the things I fear most about a relationship is being swallowed up and having no time to imagine, reflect, create and dream and so for those of us who are creative or introverted in this way it is important to find the right kind of relationship balance for us.

It felt a little strange to come back to my home just a short while ago.  I felt that the trip I took down memory lane a moment ago has shown me how long it took me to be able to feel I could move back to my home town, just over 7 years ago and how important it has been for me to be here for these years.  I got to have those final years with my older sister and my Mum and I feel fully reconciled to the way things were now.  It is very sad because I see how much my older sister suffered and was trapped.  I was thinking last night of how often she was denied things she wanted.  The story line was that due to her ‘mania’ she was an  who needed to be reined in.  I do not think it was really true at all I just think Jude has such creative life energy and somehow she came undone before she could fully manifest it in the world and as a woman born into a patriarchal world in the 1940s she really struggled.  She was so artistic and she didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. She always forgave her husband for abandoning her following her cerebral bleed in 1980 but sadly she was over medicated for most of her life and I am sure at times in the care home she lived, sometimes she was abused and her things got stolen.

I had a long chat with my other sis yesterday.  I am glad now that a lot of the childish resentment I had towards her is healing.  I am see her also as a product of her time, born in the 1950s she had her own struggle to try and find her way and sadly she married perhaps a little too young to someone who carried shadow qualities often denied in our stoic household, were ‘doing the right thing’, keeping up appearances and struggling to become upwardly mobile materially eclipsed to a large degree more underground energies and emotions.  When he left her he was considered the bad guy and it is true he didn’t really treat her as well as he should have due to his own complex background as a adult child of an alcoholic but of course he married into our family which had its own history of addiction hidden in my Mum’s past.

It has been a battle for me to become separate, psychologically as the youngest in a far older family.  There was 17 years between my older brother and I, 16 between Jude and I and 8 between Sue and I.  With these large age gaps it was harder to relate and I often felt like an only child born to at that time (in the 1960s) far older parents whose focus was really not on raising a young daughter but more on the external focus.   In my discussion with my friend yesterday she was talking of the mixed feelings she has around forgiveness with her own parents.  On one hand she says she has empathy for them and knows they acted the way they did and treated her the way that did due to their background and past.  At the same time she said she struggles a lot with issues of anger too.  I could really relate to that.

I told her that my perspective is that in regards to the Inner Child we are still moving out of the medieval dark ages emotionally speaking.  We are also trying to break apart patriarchal values which keep both men and woman as well as boys and girls trapped in limiting roles. I was listening to a programme on this today.  I do feel for men at the moment as their behaviour towards woman is generating a lot of justified anger but I wonder too at the level of compassion that is really shown towards men who are also in many ways just victims of a repressive heroic dominance archetype of the supremacy of masculine (as opposed to male) power.  Women and men both suffer in this climate and I hate to see men being blamed without a deeper insight being given into the causes that generate problematic behaviour towards women.  In truth at a psychic level it is the inner feminine in both men and woman that suffered coming out of the patriarchal dark age.  Men don’t need to be emasculated and boys need help to come to terms with softer emotions and vulnerabilities.  My own family was dominated by excessive masculine values.  Mum always worked and was never emotionally present.  Feelings were not understood nor addressed.   And then my Dad over worked and abused his own body with smoking, one of the reasons I do believe my older sister had her stroke was that she smoke and drank too much while overworking and taking birth control.  It was a recipe for disaster really.

Anyway today I am sad for all of the past, but I am also grateful that in 1993 I finally bit the bullet and found sobriety.  Along the pathway of recovery I have had to give up many things, jobs, relationships, houses and friendships.   Lots had to go into the fire, but a lot has been transforming too.  I feel many times like a witness who stood on the outside of a family watching at a critical time of soul evolution for us all.  I feel blessed for all of the gifts given and I wont say I enjoyed all of the sadness and pain.  At times I have felt like the weight of it would break me in two.  But in the end I guess it was only my unhealthy ego defences that have dissolved or shattered along the way.   My mistaken reactions of resistance and resentment had to go into the fire too so that I could understand the heart of innocence that underlay everything and feel the love and peace and happiness my parents and ancestors missed out on in their awesome and overpowering struggle for survival.

On creativity, poetry and the journey to The Abyss via The Dark Night of the Soul

DNOS.jpg

The following is an excerpt from Linda Schirese Leonards book Witness to the Fire : Creativity and the Veil of Addiction.  

The necessity of facing death and going into a dark night of the soul is, according to Jung, essential to human development.  This dark night may be forced upon one (in the case of addiction or neglect) or it may be freely chosen, as in the case of the creator.  But, in any case, it is the way of the transformation process.  And as is the paradoxical nature of human kind…

When libido leaves the bright upper world, whether from choice, or from inertia, or from fate, it sinks back down into its own depths, into the source from which it originally flowed, and returns to the point of cleavage, the navel where it first entered the body.  The point of cleavage is called the mother, because from her the current of life reached us.  Whenever some great work is to be accomplished, before which a man recoils, doubtful of his strength, his libido streams back to the fountainhead – and this is the dangerous moment when the issue hangs between annihilation and new life.  For if the libido gets stuck in the wonderland of this inner world, then for the upper world man is nothing but a shadow, he is already moribund or at least seriously ill.  But if the libido manages to tear itself loose and force its way up again, something like a miracle happens :  the journey to the underworld was a plunge into the fountain of youth, and the libido, apparently dead, wakes to renewed fruitfulness.

(Carl Jung)

This describes the challenge for the addict (or depressive) who has fallen into The Abyss – to turn that addictive underworld journey into the fruitful return to life and creativity.

The poet takes the turn of transformation in The Abyss by giving expression to what he finds there.  In this respect, poetry, is a call to all of us to embark upon the nightsea journey.  It calls us forth, if we respond, into the dark unknown by jolting us from the ordinary with its unusual and powerful images.  Yet it is also an attempt, while in the depths, to articulate the numinous unknown – a primordial beginning to name that which emerges towards us from the depths.  Poetry invites us to accept momentarily the death of our ordinary ego world so that we may enter into a strange, often terrifying new vision, and from this extraordinary experience to return renewed  .. to a more differentiated level of human existence – one that can accept and dwell more consciously in mystery… revolting against the one-sidedness that has far too long rationalised existence.. (the artist must) confront those opposite unconscious chaotic forces that have too long been repressed.

Only if we confront the chaotic irrational power at the very depths of our being will we be able to transform them into something more meaningful.  ..

The readiness for the creative journey requires giving up possessiveness and expectation, dying to old ways of perceiving, daring to leap into the unknown, and being ready to open and receive what comes, be it something or nothing.

Perhaps everything terrible is its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.  

Rilke, Letter to a Young Poet

 

Psychologically, then, the “Dark Night of the Soul” is due to the double fact of the exhaustion of an old state, and the growth towards a new state of consciousness.  It is a “growing pain” in the organic process of the self’s attainment of the Absolute.  The great mystics, creative geniuses in the realm of character,have known instinctively how to turn these psychic disturbances to spiritual profit. 

Evelyn Underhill

 

In the act of creation, we wrestle with the elements.  To bring the new creation into being requires our standing in the struggle between that which shelters and conceals and self disclosing openness.  The artist is a gentle warrior who must stand between these opposing elements to allow and bring forth the new.