Who ARE we really? The lost feeling self and it’s role in suicidal ideation.

Just re reading through key chapters in Jonice Webb’s book on Childhood Emotional Neglect, Running on Empty : Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect  is reminding me of this question and how hard it can be to answer fully and honestly if we were not fully allowed to express ourselves or unfold ourselves and our feelings in our family of origin.

In the chapter Cognitive Secrets : The Special Problem of Suicidal Feelings, Jonice outlines the story of Robyn who becomes suicidal after what seems to be a ‘fun’ night with friends.  What is not seen by her friends though or expressed by Robyn is her real and true self.  As Jonice describes Robyn’s childhood she describes a loving family who did not allow any displays of so called ‘negative’ emotions  :

Robyn’s parents seldom argued and they had very low tolerance for negativity of any kind  When a conflict would break out between the children, as they do with all siblings, the parents would crack down by sending all parties to their rooms immediately (no matter what the fight was about).. their motto was “Zero Tolerance”. They also applied this role to complaining or any expression of unhappiness, sadness or frustration.   The result was a quiet household.  The children learned early on that if they had something negative on their minds, they had better keep it to themselves.  Mom and Dad refused to be burdened by nonsense.. they didn’t have the time or energy to put into solving crises, assuaging tears and soothing frustrations  The Zero Tolerance policy allowed them to stay in charge of the household and they felt, keep a positive outlook on life.

Outside the house the siblings did fight and argue, however.  The older siblings could work with this conflict, contain the emotions and felt freed by it, but Robyn who was a sensitive child did not.  She was labelled a ‘Frequent Crier ‘ by the family, due to her tendency to burst into tears and was of course teased about being like this and if the tears continued too long she was,( of course), sent to her room (alone!).  Great solution, Mum and Dad!!!

Throughout all of this Robyn learned a powerful lesson.  She learned that negative emotion was bad and would not be tolerated.  She learned that any feelings she had that were not upbeat, fun or positive must be kept to herself and carefully hidden.  She felt ashamed that she had such feelings, and silently vowed never to let them be seen.  (to such an extent that she even hid them from herself!)

Robyn learned to withdraw, to stay busy and diverted, watch too much television or over work and to fight off any ‘negative’ feelings.

Robyn didn’t just fight this battle.  She lived it.  Her life was organised around making sure that she did not reveal, see, know or feel anything negative from herself.  It took a tremendous amount of energy.  She was bent on hiding the negative shameful part of herself (Robyn’s version of the Fatal Flaw most neglected kid hide deep inside)…..she couldn’t let anyone get to know her too well.

Robyn learned to live alone, to not invite friends around.  She hid even her intense loneliness about this from herself and struggled because she knew her parents loved her, so why would she be struggling so much if she was not fatally flawed?

Since adolescence, Robyn had an outside looking in feeling. At age 13, she had started wondering what was wrong with her.  She’d had a great childhood, so there was no explanation for how flawed she felt.  There was something missing something sick inside of her, a secret void.  The only way she could soothe herself was to imagine being dead.  Being dead would be such a relief  She did not have any intention to kill herself, but she reserved the possibility as a safety net…..Robyn used fantasies of being dead and her secret knowledge of her safety net as her chief method of soothing herself from age 13, all through her adulthood, but she had not breathed a word of it to a single soul.

Jonice goes on to describe how this fantasy and desire was, however, triggered after the night in question Robyn had shared with friends…. how feelings of numbness, emptiness and gloom suddenly began to over take and consume Robyn…As her desperation increased after failed attempts to distract herself with television comedy failed, Robyn reached for the bottle of pills and swallowed them compulsively.

Robyn’s suicide attempt and feelings would most likely make so sense to anyone who knew her because as Jonice explains “the Robyn that everyone else knew and loved was not the real Robyn… She was essentially a time bomb, set to explode periodically”.

Robyn was luckily found by her sister who happened to drop by that day…but many who feel and suffer the way that Robyn did are not so lucky….”they don’t get to share or understand their pain, and they don’t get to explain their final moments to anyone.”  They also never really get to know, love or understand their real feelings or true self.

When I first read this chapter in Webb’s book last year I identified with it so strongly.  I have not ever committed suicide though often I had cherished that fantasy too.  Luckily I got a sense years into sobriety that more was going on underneath my addiction that just ‘defects of character’.  Soul sadness, soul loneliness as therapist Tara Brach points out in her book True Refuge are primary feelings that drive us when we come to mistakenly believe “there is something wrong with me”, the fatal flaw which is symptom seven in Jonice Webb’s list of effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect.

So many of us who suffer urgently need to understand it’s roots if we really are ever to recover our true sense of self which contains all kinds of feelings in response to a life which we didn’t choose and is so often influenced by all kinds of toxic, negating and restrictive influences beyond our control.

(For a full list of all 10 symptoms of Childhood Emotional Neglect please see the following post or read Jonice Webb’s book.)

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/signs-you-may-have-been-emotionally-neglected/

National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence

Tomorrow, March 16th has been designated a national day of action against bullying and violence here in Australia.  Young people subjected to bullying often find it difficult to speak up and awareness is being raised as featured on tonight’s episode of The Project, here in Australia to encourage young people to find their voice and come forward to report bullying and find support as soon as it happens.

Tonight several famous Australian personalities came out to advocate about speaking up against all bullying despite fear, despite embarrassment, despite shame.  Featured was heartbreaking footage of the parents and sister of young Dolly Everett who took her life by suicide recently after being bullied.  Before dying she sketched the following drawing :

speak

Dolly’s parents are asking for support… They wish to raise funds by creating a foundation Dolly’s Dream….. the links to their Facebook page can be found via the Anti-Bullying Foundation website link below.

https://www.antibullyingcrusader.com/campaigns/dollys-dream-foundation

No young person should have to struggle with this alone.   Beautiful young souls are dying.  We must do all we can to raise awareness and make sure this stops.   Please help where you can to support this important cause and let young people know they are not alone and can speak up.

Dolly

On compulsive repetition in the life of Rimbaud : Alice Miller

The following quote is taken from Alice Miller’s book The Body Never Lies :  The Lingering Affects of Childhood Trauma in which she addressed the subject of repressed childhood trauma.   Miller has written many books and they include biographical details from the lives of famous adults abused in childhood who then either re-enacted that abuse whole sale (Hilter and Sadam Hussein for example) becoming perpetrators in later life or decended into addiction or repression, many taking their own lives in the process (Virginina Woolf).   In the following extract which I found on Goodreads she addresses the life of the poet Rimbaud whose entire journey was a quest to seek the lost sustenance of a loving emotionally available mother.

“To salvage the genuine love he was deprived of in childhood, Rimbaud turned to the idea of love embodied in Christian charity and in understanding and compassion for others. He set out to give others what he himself had never received. He tried to understand his friend and to help Verlaine understand himself, but the repressed emotions from his childhood repeatedly interfered with this attempt. He sought redemption in Christian charity, but his implacably perspicacious intelligence would allow him no self-deception. Thus he spent his whole life searching for his own truth, but it remained hidden to him because he had learned at a very early age to hate himself for what his mother had done to him. He experienced himself as a monster, his homosexuality as a vice (this was easy to do given Victorian attitudes toward homosexuality), his despair as a sin. But not once did he allow himself to direct his endless, justified rage at the true culprit, the woman who had kept him locked up in her prison for as long as she could. All his life he attempted to free himself of that prison, with the help of drugs, travel, illusions, and above all poetry. But in all these desperate efforts to open the doors that would have led to liberation, one of them remained obstinately shut, the most important one: the door to the emotional reality of his childhood, to the feelings of the little child who was forced to grow up with a severely disturbed, malevolent woman, with no father to protect him from her. Rimbaud’s biography is a telling instance of how the body cannot but seek desperately for the early nourishment it has been denied. Rimbaud was driven to assuage a deficiency, a hunger that could never be stilled. His drug addiction, his compulsive travels, and his friendship with Verlaine can be interpreted not merely as attempts to flee from his mother, but also as a quest for the nourishment she had withheld from him. As his internal reality inevitably remained unconscious, Rimbaud’s life was marked by compulsive repetition.”

The following quote also expresses how we may try to compensate for the love and emotional availability we never attained.   Miller explains that it is only when our body knows the emotional truth has been understood that we can find release from what she calls the lingering effects of cruel parenting or emotional neglect.

“In his famous novel Fateless, the Hungarian writer and Nobel laureate Imre Kertész describes his arrival at the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was fifteen years old at the time, and he tells us in great detail how he attempted to interpret the many grotesque and appalling things he encountered on his arrival there as something positive and favorable for him. Otherwise he would not have survived his own mortal fear. Probably every child who has suffered abuse must assume an attitude like this in order to survive. These children reinterpret their perceptions in a desperate attempt to see as good and beneficial things that outside observers would immediately classify as crimes. Children have no choice. They must repress their true feelings if they have no “helping witness” to turn to and are helplessly exposed to their persecutors. Later, as adults lucky enough to encounter “enlightened witnesses,” they do have a choice. Then they can admit the truth, their truth; they can stop pitying and “understanding” their persecutors, stop trying to feel their unsustainable, disassociated emotions, and roundly denounce the things that have been done to them. This step brings immense relief for the body. It no longer has to forcibly remind the adult self of the tragic history it went through as a child. Once the adult self has decided to find out the whole truth about itself, the body feels understood, respected, and protected. ”

“But it is one thing to complain about one’s parents deeds and quite another to take the facts of the matter fully and completely seriously. The latter course arouses the infant’s fear of punishment. Accordingly, many prefer to leave their earliest perceptions in a state of repression, to avoid looking the truth in the face, to extenuate their parents’ deeds, and to reconcile themselves with the idea of forgiveness. But this attitude merely serves to perpetuate the futile expectations we have entertained since our childhood. ”

The following extract pertains to the life of Virginia Wolfe who took her life on 28 March, 1941.  Miller addresses in her book the repressed trauma and abuse she suffered and that Miller beleives contributed to her suicide.

“Can we say that she had no courage? No, we can’t; she showed more courage than most people in denouncing lies, but her family could not come to terms with such honesty. This is not surprising. The little girl continued to live in an adult woman’s body, fearing her molesting half-brothers and her beloved parents, who remained silent. Had she been able to listen to her body, the true Virginia would certainly have spoken up. In order to do so, however, she needed someone to say to her: “Open your eyes! They didn’t protect you when you were in danger of losing your health and your mind, and now they refuse to see what has been done to you. How can you love them so much after all that?” No one offered that kind of support. Nor can anyone stand up to that kind of abuse alone, not even Virginia Woolf. ”

Miller consistently makes the point of how essential validation of early abuse is for survivors to get free of suffering and their symptoms.   We need someone who can support us and believes what bodies and souls knew most deeply was true,  without this support and belief so many lose the fight or remain endlessly trapped on the hamster wheel of repetition compulsion.

Understanding the truth beyond suicidal urges

This is a deeply enlightening video which I found a while back after reading Jeff Foster’s wonderful book The Way of Rest and deals in depth with the existential feeling of homelessness we can feel which so often leads people to feel suicidal.   What is it that we really wish to kill when we feel suicidal?  And how can we really help someone in this place?   He answers these questions in a deeply spiritual way.

Tussle : a conundrum

Difficult night’s sleep last night after the revelations that came to light yesterday about my older sister (who is now dead) and her suicide attempt.   I felt very enmeshed coming out of yesterdays meeting with a family friend who is the oldest daughter of my god parents.  The background is that my godfather, Piet, left Holland with my father in 1938 to go to Indonesia.  Growing up Uncle Piet was more like a father to me, especially in later years after I got sober.  He validated my pain and struggle in my emotionally neglectful family to a great degree.  It was with he and my Godmother I went to stay after returning from overseas at 25.  I went there (overseas) a few months after Dad died and stayed 2 and a half years.  There was no place back home with my mother who was on the phone pleading with me to come home after sending me away and then told me when I arrived home she was remarrying.   I left shortly after to live in another town and my God parents took me in.  They took me back in when I fell pregnant in the darkest final years of my addiction and needed to have a termiantion as the sac with the baby ruptured.  My sister told me many years later my Mum was questioning whether she should support me or not at that time.  Thanks a lot Mum, when I needed you when the fuck were you ever there!!!  (This is past anger I am working on it!)

I woke in the middle of the night with all of this going around and around in my head.  A photo of my godfather sits on my bedroom table.  It was taken on the day of my wedding in 1993, he gave me away and we are hugging in the photo.  I cried a lot last night with missing him.   He died in 2003.  He was more emotionally there for me than my father ever was but perhaps if Dad had lived it may have been different.  The difference was Piet was not hell bent on becoming a millionaire and sadly in later years my Dad had less to do with him because Piet was only a ‘lowly’ mechanic.  I use that word to convey my Dad’s bias not mine

My Godmother and I had a difficult relationship after Piet died.  I felt upset because in final years they were trying to paint him as angry and full of dementia.  What was happening was that his maternal abandonment (his mother died when he was only 3) which had never been dealt with came to the fore.  His daughter was telling me yesterday how she spent a lot of time with him in the later years talking about it.  What if she had not done that and just tried to judge him as my Godmother did?   I knew myself what he had endured and it was a part of our bond.

I like to believe my Godfather is around me in spirit.  I was praying to him last night.  I know he was in no way a perfect father and had heaps of flaws but he was the one male figure I felt close to.

I am having some residual anger towards my Mum.  My sister wanted to strangle her for all kinds of reasons.  I can get it.   I still have empathy for my Mum though, but at times its tough as she has never owned her own part in emotional abandonment.   She wants me to go and pick her up tomorrow night to take her to a function 10 minutes away.  Partly I dont want to do it.  I want to tell her to get a fucking taxi.   I dare not say it!  There I go miss ‘nice girl’.  Maybe I need to be honest.  Luckily I have therapy today so we can discuss this.  I try to compensate when I know my Mum and my other living sister are in pain.  My other sister’s suicide attempt 4 years ago came up yesterday too.  It was the first time Mum could unburden her story about it with someone.  I wish to God my Mum was in therapy, all this pain is too much to carry alone, its why her pelvis fractured several times and why she is now on constant pain meds.  Feeling the feelings and being honest enough to face her part in things would free her.  But she wont do it.  I do feel compassion but I no longer want to sacrifice my life.

I am a bit scared at the moment as I have been reading a book on Radical Forgiveness in which the author claims that failing to forgive often leads to cancer and that often a broken heart proceedes breast cancer.  I had my heart broken in the few years before my cancer appeared.  I also had a lot of anger to my Mum in those years.  I want to heal it, but suppressing or denying it wont help either.  Its a conundrum for sure but at least its one I am gaining greater insight into lately.   Feedback and comments greatly appreciated

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.

Rocking

My heart broke this afternoon to arrive to see my Mum in her chair in the hospital arms wrapped around her shrinking body rocking with her head down.   I wrapped my arms around her and cried.  She spoke of her anxiety attacks and how finally one of the doctors had asked her about her emotional history.  Thank God they finally began to make some connections between what she has gone through emotionally and the physical ailments that are besieging her.  I wish my Mum had found somewhere to pour out her pain years ago when she struggled to deal with the abandonment issues that led her first daughter to collapse.   I think now it is a case of not enough and too late.

I emotionally connect to my Mum only when we are alone.  When my sister is there or there are other visitors Mum stays silent about her pain.   It may be good that the focus is off of her pain for a while but at the same time there is so much I feel she needs to share.  I am under no illusions that I am my Mum’s saviour but I know how painful grief and isolation are.  I look back with sadness at the time I needed to ask for or lean on my Mum’s support but could not due to an old pattern. I got angry or fearful and ran.   I can not have those lost years back, over 13 years now that saw the end of my marriage which also hurt my Mum so deeply and led me to a deeply isolated place from which I am only now beginning to emerge.

I know I didn’t do anything ‘wrong’ but choosing the actions I did led me to more isolation, at the time I was in recovery for addiction so my emotional awareness had not yet begun to open up.  I did not know how I would deal with what was below the surface if I reached towards those who were struggling with their own pain and so several times I took myself off alone.   Its confusing as I probably could have healed on my own at a safe distance years ago, but now I don’t feel that either me or my mother can.  Our healing or coming to peace involves our need to connect and come out of the prison of emotional isolation that seems to have dogged us like a curse along the multi generational line.

It was so hard to leave the hospital just over an hour ago, but I knew I had to come home to take care of my dog Jasper and myself too.  Without self care there is nothing for me to give to anyone else.  I am so sad that I cannot connect with anyone else in my family at this level at the moment.  My nephew who I thought I was close to has not returned my calls.  The sad fact is that fear keeps many members of my family emotionally distant and disconnected from each other, that and a stoic kind of self sufficiency and concern with material worldly things that ultimately, to my mind, seem unimportant at the level of heart.

Sad as the situation is though, I must accept it.  I can only give the love I feel and I can pour out my disappointment about my family’s lack of emotional availability with my therapist, Kat who understands.  Modern life seems so busy and superficial at times.   People shake their heads when someone chooses to end their life as if its a great mystery as to what made them do it.  “Why didn’t they reach out?” they bemoan.  But when did that actually pick up the phone to say “How are you, and how are you feeling?”  How many people end up suiciding because for years they were never truly seen at an emotional level?   Of course if we feel desperate we can and should open up emotionally but what I feel is more of a problem for our society is how deaf we have become to essential matters of the heart with our rampant preoccupation with the cult of materialism and individualism.   Its a deep dark truth and its one we need to change.

 

Deep despair : on pain and being swallowed by the whale

I couldn’t even log on to WordPress yesterday.  I have not had one of those killer days that leaves me feeling like my body won’t function and my mind is in hock for some time now and I guess the only light I saw yesterday when I was in that deepest of dark spaces was shone by the part of me that saw how far I had come before my recent dental surgery in that in the past year I can count on one hand those days of darkness and despair, where as in the years before they were frequent and often crippling.

Yesterday the crush was back.  People who don’t suffer from Complex PTSD or depression never understand what an all encompassing prison it is, nor how powerful are the physical effects.  It was interesting to hear an interview yesterday with a woman who  has written a book on pain which speaks of how difficult it is in modern times for us to find powerful language for pain.  In years gone by pain was less feared and shunned as it is in modern times, people expressed pain metaphorically through poetry and other mediums, but in modern times when both physical and emotional pain has reached epidemic proportions what this woman has found is that we struggle to express pain and also we struggle to have it heard.  We are asked what scale of pain we are experiencing on a 1 to 10 spectrum.  We distance ourselves from the crushing reality of it with numbers which objectify what is a total spectrum experience that can overpower so many of us and affects us so profoundly and wordlessly on every single dimension of our being and experience.

The sad thing her research also found it that the more deeply you experience pain both physical and psychological, the less you are helped.   Often people are shunned if they are grieving or suffering psychologically or in pain.  Is it that others fear other’s pain will kill or contaminate them in some way?   Is pain now a modern leprosy?

The truth is that if we have suffered pain and suffer pain we fare better if we can communicate about it and be shown empathy.   This power of empathy to alter neurochemistry is something I drew attention to in a post last week.

As I write this I am also aware how hard deep pain is to articulate well.   Poetry or stream of consciousness writing are two forms in which through metaphor writers and sufferers try to articulate what Van Morrison has called ‘the inarticulate speech of the heart’.  Much of the appeal of the WordPress blogging community for me is that here others whose souls have been drenched in pain of different kinds make the attempt to reach out and share that deep distress or pain.  Often poems and blogs I read resonate with me so deeply in a way beyond which even therapy helps at times.

As a blogger I know how much I have feared at times sharing deep pain on my blog.   It has been hard to post those posts in which a lot of frustration fury and anger with my family’s lack of feeling and empathy with deeper emotional realities has caused me.   Often I have felt great fear and then the inner critic has lept  in and made me take blogs down.  But the price of staying silent and keeping it shut in, often in the end proves too high.  I always feel better if I can give expression in some form to my own pain.

Yesterday wasn’t one of those days.  I wasn’t capable of much.  I think I was reliving yesterday every single crushing injury, invalidation and painful experience of my life, culminating with the piece de resistance, the removal of my front tooth that supported a four tooth bridge, now gone, never to be seen again just over 10 days ago.  Yesterday I was contemplating the steps to take to get my affairs in order to shift off this mortal coil finally.  It’s not something I felt I could share yesterday, as I didn’t want to ‘disappoint’ my followers, having recently read a post in which someone said they could not read posts that discussed suicide as an intention.

However in the interests of honesty and authenticity, that was where I found myself yesterday, in a dark deep and wordless place in which inarticulate pain had nearly buried me alive.  Beyond sharing that today, I don’t have any other words.  I have shared so much of my pain on here and I really prefer not to be in pain, as we all do, and yet at times that is where I am returned,  a modern Jonah swallowed deep inside the belly of a whale sunk, deep, deep down to the bottom of a murky ocean.   At those times I can only hold fast inside, hoping in time the whale will resurface and I will find myself, head above water and able once again to gain sight of blue sky or dry land.

 

Understanding the power of destructive inner voices

Have any of you ever come across the work of Robert Firestone? When I was living in Cambridge I came across his book Combatting Destructive Thought Processes in a bookshop.  It was very expensive so, sadly I didn’t buy it but going back to read it day after day it connected so many pieces of the puzzle of suicidal ideation and depression for me that I almost jumped for joy.

Yesterday at my meeting the subject Easy Does It was set as one of the topics and I started my share with a reading from Hope for Today.  It was about how painful it can be for us to receive love or support when we actually have had so little experience of that in childhood.   It said how the prospect of kindness or empathy can trigger all our hurt and pain and actually make us feel sad at a deep level for all that we missed and longed for in childhood that was thwarted, but in many ways when we open to this pain we are opening beyond our defences, if only we don’t allow destructive voices to block that process.  Read On for more about that!

I cried myself after reading the reading to the group and it reminded me of what RF wrote in one of his books that intimacy brings up all our past defences and awakens destructive attacking critical voices that try to prevent us truly opening our hearts and connecting if we have been fed lies which have made us believe untruths about our intrinsic value, beauty, strength or worth.

I did buy Robert’s book a few years later second hand which he co wrote with Joyce Catlett called Fear of Intimacy and I have just re-read through a lot of it.   What I read reminded me of his central idea that defences formed in childhood can be triggered when we try to connect with others and we end up suffering internalised voice attacks from hostile energies within that ostensibly form both to keep us safe from a parent’s past criticism and or abuse, insensitivity or hostility.   Such voices in difficult cases can also often urge us to commit suicide.   They are composed of critical things we took in childhood or may have had to develop due to false beliefs instilled in us by a parent or parents’ unconscious hostility to our vibrancy and life energy, but in the end they are kept in place by fear and the inner critic which can becomes self protective to the point of destruction.

Reading those chapters today made me cry again.  The sadness is real because I am being reminded of the many times I have wanted to connect with someone and the voice has besieged such attempts at connection.  Getting a handle on this has taken me a lot of time.  I was very grateful to get to a meeting on Tuesday and be able to come across this reading, because I do believe those of us who resort to addictions are often trying on some level to shut these voices out,  they may have such power or control over us that they lead us to self damage or self neglect.  How sad is it that we came to believe there is something so wrong with ourselves or others that it is just too risky to connect?

In his therapeutic work Robert helps couples in particular to externalise critical attacks from within, a similar technique that is used by the author of Soul Without Shame.  We then learn to disempower the strengths of such criticisms, perhaps getting a reality check with those who help us to disentangle from them.   I myself at critical times of depression heard voices telling me to end my life and at one time a piece of writing I did engaged with this demonic figure who wanted me dead and said how from the age of 6 it had been trying to shut me down.  That experience was a kind of turning point for me.

I still often hear the voice of this energy but these days I try not to take it as seriously.  I no longer want it to cut me off from love both within and without.   I deserve better and so do you, for on the brink of connection is when such voices of separation step in  As Robert point out they are an anti-force, one that is anti love and must not be taken seriously.  Robert reminds us in the book that when we take the risk of breaking the power of these voices we go through a period of intense anxiety and fear.  We need positive ego strength and support to navigate this new terrain for we are taking the risk to change old patterns that open up our vulnerability, a vulnerability that we must bear with if we truly want to open our hearts and change old patterns in order to open ourselves to the fullness of life.

The alternative is to stay safe but alone behind a prison of defences that look as though they are protecting us but are truly not.

Footnote :  Robert Firestone’s latest book is now called : Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice: True Stories of Therapy and Transformation : a collection of stories that eloquently capture the transformative processes of psychotherapy working with true clients and their own inner voices.

Bring things out in the open

I have noticed this week a strong shift towards people in the public eye opening up about what has been going on deep inside when they have struggled in life.  The first thing was the airing of a two part programme of Insight on SBS our multicultural channel in Australia on the incidence of depression in sports stars and athlete’s, often but not always associated with their careers.  But what really came out of the programme was the understanding that so many long for attention and a sense of meaning in their lives and when such attention or meaning or connection is broken a lot of suffering ensues.

The second part of the programme aired on television here last night and a young footballer whose name I cannot remember was really open about his struggle with addiction and depression.  He tried to take his life a few years ago and since then has had good professional help to deal with his mental health issues, but he as also started a foundation to help young kids who are struggling too and this is what has helped him most of all.

Opening up and overcoming our shame of feeling vulnerable is a huge part of healing from mental health issues.  The more open we can be, the more understanding we can share.  The video above is just one example of how opening up can help us and others and is part of the UK initiative, Heads Together.  I would like to thank Summer for bringing this to my attention in a recent post.  This video links to others she has shared on her blog.