True : some reflections on being true to ourselves on the path of recovery.

When I am not true to myself I lose my way. I feel it more and more lately that empowering sense of being in tune with my own soul note and of how it feels when I step away from that more primal, intuitive in touch side of myself and fall into self abandonment or self rejection.. Many of the conditioning forces of society especially for women turn us away from the more powerful authentic embodied side of us, religion for me was particularly toxic in this regard. Today in therapy Kat and I were exploring the strong forces of repression in my family that put us three girls to death on many levels , we were talking of my father’s remoteness and unwillingness to step in to protect us from Mum, too. In this way my father dying at the age of 23 was even more painful, but Dad was a young kid in flight from his family and terrifying conditions around World War Two. In many ways both of my parents were emotional orphans, young kids on the run and trying so hard to survive and build something new.

For myself, I feel so grateful to have escaped the medication pathway and even the AA pathway saying I have defects of character. If you don’t get to fully blossom as the true you and cannot rely on healthy attachments and then other linkages get torn apart you end up doing all you can to surive and stay afloat and if the original deficits arent acknowledged and some attempt at rebuilding and repair made, healing and change is not possible. Some schisms and wounds stay with us for a long time and we replay them over and over until we develop in sight. It is now recognised that even later in life our brain can make new connections and set down new neural pathways if we can find positive affirming attachments to assist us. Some of us, many of us, however, do have to go into the wilderness alone and some of us find or manage to hold onto shards of our splintered being or hidden truth there. We can also explore what got torn severed, split off, buried and involve in recollecting. Each trauma memory maybe a necessary thread that goes on to be part of the tapestry.

Rilke expresses this beautifully in the following lines of this poem shared with me some years ago by a previous therapist Rae:

She who reconciles the ill matched threads

of her life, and weaves them gratefully

into a single cloth –

it is she who drives the loudmouths from the hall

and clears it for a different celebration

where the guest is you.

In the softness of evening

it’s you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,

the unspeaking center of her monologues.

With each disclosure you encompass more

and she stretches beyond what limits her

to hold you.

The stretching beyond what limits us requires us to move out of ‘safety’ in the face of what threatens us with misjudgement that is sadly often the obvious response of a world oblivious to the authentic roots of our trauma. This poem also speaks about the healing witness both inside and outside as well as how the true self waits for us to hold all of us, as we increasingly develop that capacity through telling and feeling the organic truth of our trauma trajectory..

A good therapist is invaluable and even as I type this I realise how many struggle without this which is where blogs or books or other tales of survivors in recovery can help us.. Just hearing another’s story, noticing the resonances, being able to say “Ahh .. that rings true for me too”, can help us, it certainly has helped me.

And on the healing pathway God also sends us angels at critical times.. I cannot tell you the number of times an angel of some kind has whispered in my ear or saved my bacon from a near miss or accident, it happened twice last week and it has happened in terms of me finding my way to the right literature, person, group or place AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME too many times now for me to doubt it.

The true self I do believe waits on us.. the most authentic part of us will not be forever foresaken without grave damage befalling us on some level. Jesus said it well in the Gnostic gospels.

If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

In this quote Jesus challenges the assumption that the Kingdom of Heaven lives in a far off place. These words also speak of it’s closeness to us if we undertake the path of individuation, and resurrection of the true self often attended my mockery and scorn from the unwise:

The Kingdom of God is within you and all around you.

I think a person who loves and respects his true self, must also respect the true self of others and naturally finds his way to the inner kingdom. He no longer exists in a state of inner division. That person will weep for the one who loses the way to it and will never be able to put on a false mask in the face of that.. This is not always easy.. To say to a brother or sister you see them suffering and falling short (even through no fault of their own) but it seems necessary to a vibrant authenticity.. And similarly we must be vigilant in taking out a sword to cut off from anyone who tries to deny us this truth the meaning behind the saying of Jesus that he came to bring a sword.. There is a time to be real and not be nice or ‘civilised’ if that means sugar coating an inner truth that our soul very much depends upon for its survival.

Love is waiting

Love is waiting for us

Just on the other side of despair

Love reminds us when we feel

The breath of cool air

Flowing through our hair

Of a million sunrises

That speak of hope

An opening to limitless joy

In places were before we could only sense

The deepest lingering of sadness

For all of the pain

All the things gone by we cannot ever change

Trust your heart

In the midst of this new unfolding

There is more wisdom to be revealed

And invisible presences of love drawing

Near

They need your loving presence too

Please believe

Freedom lies on the other side

Of all that is passing away

Now

So open to everything

As you surrender

Letting yourself go

Into this

New becoming

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??