The poetry pharmacy

Autumn Leaf

Wow, I am loving this collection of poems assembled by William Sieghart.  I just took it out with me and was moved to tears by several of the poems.  To explain William suffered from depression himself and enduring all the usual questing and questioning that we souls go through on this journey of life most particularly as we age and inevitable losses and disappointments occur.  In the midst of that process. poetry soothed his soul and so in time he decided to post his favourite poems up in random spaces.  He then set up a space where people who were struggling could come to him with their particular issues and life woes and he would recommend one of his beloved poems.  This then morphed into the Poetry Pharmacy collection.

In the book there are chapters on subjects such as loneliness, feeling defeated, feelings of unreality and more with a page long piece of writing that contains William’s distilled wisdom of many years.  On the facing page is a poem.

To give you a sample I will include with this post one of the poems that moved me to tears and a little of William’s explanation.  I hope this touches you.

 

Condition : Stagnation

It’s easy to forget sometimes that however old we are, we still have the capacity to grow.  This poem is a reminder that it’s never too late to bud, bloom and flourish.  That winter only lasts as long as we allow it to.  Larkin expresses the wonder of that extraordinary potential for change.  It’s the feeling we recognise in the seemingly barren bush as it edges its way toward budding.  We know, intuitively and intensely, that transformation is on its way.  In a matter of weeks, that bush will be all but recognisable.  It will be fully alive again.

The Trees

Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf

Like something almost being said

The recent buds relax and spread,

their greenness is a kind of grief

 

Is it that they are born again

And we grow old? No, they die too,

Their yearly trick of looking new

Is written down in rings of grain

 

Yet still the unresting castles thresh

In fullgrown thickness every May.

Last year is dead, they seem to say,

Begin afresh, afresh afresh

 

When our world falls apart

Winter to spring

I am moved to write this post after a heart rending comment I received on another in which I shared some writing from Robert Romanyshyn on grief and reverie.  Grief and loss are universal experiences but so little understood in our modern technologically driven culture which can be so devoid of soul.  One of the issues Robert addresses in his book The Soul In Grief is just this, how do we honour and fully enter a deep process in which all known supports are torn away and we are literally left either falling through space with the feeling of nothing to hold us or as if we being sunk deep in huge chasm which seems as though it will swallow us up.  When these kinds of reality changing and transforming experiences occur to us we can never be prepared.  They demand of us on some level a deep surrendering into experiences which we can experience enormous resistence towards.

Robert speaks in his book about how after the sudden and very painful death of his wife he was like a ghost.  He struggled with all the tormenting questions which accompany the loss of a loved one, had he done something to contribute to his wife’s death, had he not been emotionally present enouh? (amongst other things). In time he found ways to enter the grief by experiencing it deep in his heart and soul rather than trying to make sense of it in his head.  On one level his mind was destroyed as it could not really take him into the deep mourning place and experience his body and soul needed to embody and my experience is that none of us find this easy or even have many overt examples of this process or even affirmation and support with it.  I know how my own mother was hurried out of her grief by my brother.  She never got to sit and cry her eyes or heart out with anyone following the loss of the love of her life.  I was overseas lost in my own vacacny and wandering of the London streets.

Grieving most often goes on in silence and is not spoken of although in recent times more is being done to address and help those who are grieving to find their way. At the same time as I write this I know there is no deeper solution to grief and mourning but the experiencing of it and so much of this is a deeply lonely process but one that can on some level be mysteriously spiritually transformative.  (Although often we do not understand that until we have passed through grief’s long dark tunnel or night,)

To find our way when the path that we were travelling on previously has disappeared or been torn up, well that is another issue entirely.  In Robert’s case he learned to wait, to tune in and to listen in reverie.  In a powerful quote which I had used to head a blog I havent yet published he saids “reverie can hear, because first it has listened”.  In reverie we tune into the deep wordless spaces inside us, those vast expanses which are beyond words.  When the bottom drops out of our world our world also opens up to a vast cosmic emptiness.  In Robert’s case he experienced himself as an orphan as we all do after loss but he also found that in the cosmic emptiness he found his angel too.

I had similar experiences after my own life feel apart after my ex husband left me.  I would be lost and wandering for days.  I dreamed and wrote and then received channelled messages from angelic like beings, as well as doing battle with demonic energies that wanted me dead, trying to convince me that since my husband had left I was worthless.  Those profound expereinces are all recorded in the many journals I wrote in the intense period following his leaving from 2004 – 2007, when I met someone who tried to pull me away from that intense inner world which threatened him with his own abandonment and grief issues from the past.

I look back now after being part way through Robert’s book and think powerfully of how important and pregnant that time was.  My old world was being destroyed so that a new one could emerge in time out of the ashes of grief and my blog and many of the poems I wrote then that I shared here in the blogs early says were a big part of this process.

As I contemplate all today after reading Amy’s message of this some favourite lines of mine from the poet Rilke come to mind:

Oh how dear you will be to me then, Nights

of anguish. Inconsolable sisters,

why did I not kneel more to greet you,

lose myself more in your loosened hair?

We, squanderers of pain.

How we gaze beyond them into duration’s sadness,

to see if they have an end. Though they are nothing but

our winter-suffering foliage, our dark evergreen,

one of the seasons of our inner year – not only

season – : but place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.

What Rilke is speaking of in this, his tenth elegy from the Duino elegies is of the transformative power of loss and grief.  Most surely we do no want to have lost what we have lost.  There is a part of us as humans that longs for things to never change.  But what the Buddhists remind us is that suffering and loss and change are intrinsic to life and living, they are the shadow side of much darkness that we dont know how to face because we do not learn in our culture to honour or fully enter them, at least in my experience.

We are so much, particularly in the West, a culture in the midst of what Purlitzer prize winner author Ernest Becker has called The Denial of Death and yet nature and the seasons know what we seem oblivious to and forget, that for spring to come autumn and winter must occur too.   And so our losses and transformations ARE as Rilke and Romanyshyn points out just seasons in a life where all goes fallow and we find ourselves wandering the stony ground or buried down deep in dark and seemingly barren earth. And yet even here and in the midst of much loss new things can and are growing.   They will grow out of our suffering if we kneel and surrender ourselves to them fully rather than resist.

I don’t know how many of my followers also know of Amy Rose’s blog here on WordPress Petal’s Unfolding.  Amy posts stunning photos with gorgeous quotes and it was Amy who just shared with me in a comment how her own losses have inspired her art.  Art or poetry is the stuff that can help us when we are in the midst of grief, change, transformation or loss.  Art can come out of our suffering and our stumbling and our deep humanity which has been piereced open by things we were powerless over happening to us.  We can use them to mine or find soul consolation or expression on our many days and nights of suffering and to find the deeper often agonising beauty in the midst of them.   The glint of moonlight on water, the soft feeling of a summer breeze kissing our cheek or even the numbing chill of winter snow are all reminders of the deep soul that is still alive and beating even in us and in nature even in the midst of the most profound loss and sorrow.  Oh you nights of suffering let us find our courage and ability to kneel to meet you and allow ourselves just for a while to lose ourselves in your loosened hair.

A place within the pain to find a place outside the pain.

I awoke a little while ago to a golden morning.   I had such a fitful night last night.  I never take any medication but last night I took a Panadol hoping it would allow me to rest.  My body has been all over the place since the anniversary of my accident trauma.  I was also not fully aware of how much my nephew’s visit triggered and the aftermath of feeling.  I was up and down last night and had all the spasms and shock releases in my body which feels like it is trying to unwind.  I wind myself up in my mind with worry over my dog and my mother.  Despite the fact my relationship with my Mum is complex now she is aging so much and in pain I am full of care, this conflicts with feelings of frustration I have in longing for freedom from worry, care and trauma and anger I feel over past hurts.  But the truth is way more complex than I can fully express in any blog.  There are times I know she wanted to support me but since she struggles to accept her own emotions and responses (or does so under the cover of silence and protection like a lot of Scorpios) she hasn’t been able to validate me in the ways I wished, nor fully acknowledge her part.

I was watching the movie Thanks for Sharing for the second time on the weekend and I got triggered in the scene where the son of the older man in recovery confronts his Dad with hurt he caused him and his failure to apologise.  The father who was a big guy in recovery circles as well as full of AA platitudes and pearls of wisdom was being hypocrite pure and simple and refusing to face it.  I saw my self and how alone and emotionally devastated not getting the necessary apology leaves us.  It fucks with our heads as we question the truth and fear losing the parent’s love by confronting their defences with their shadow.

I have pretty much come to the point where I know now Mum wont own her own part in ways she abandoned me emotionally.  To do so she would have had to face her own history and lately she has shared that she was also emotionally abandoned, but the sorry for what she unconsciously did is never coming.  Sharing about it with my therapist the other day she said that she feels to my Mum I am the child inside her she had to cover over long ago and whose pain it hurts to face, sadly.  It takes so much courage and vulnerability to truly own where we fail, often due to unconsciousness.  Not getting that acknowledgement from any member of my family has been painful and difficult.  But at least now I know where NOT to look for it.

In a way I am glad I had no contact with my brother on his birthday.  His daughter shared with me a while back how shut down both her parents are.  She doesn’t blame them for her emotional abandonment and it is ongoing.   I think its a big step to really feel our anger over this, as it can be prohibited.  To stay trapped in anger though in time means a failure to accept and grieve a harsh reality that must be faced and grieved.  I feel in time I will be able to have an honest conversation about how I feel about how he is in terms of being as emotionally distant as my own father was.  He never got the help to face his softer needy side and his wife is furiously defended against her own in so many way too, but the truth is I don’t know her well.  She has always kept up a cold hard distance with the female side of my family, especially after my oldest sister’s breakdown and told her children to do the same.  That is another grief.  I know she has reasons to be angry at my Mum and they are valid.  Mum admits she was in the wrong but doesn’t really have empathy for my sister in law who lost her own mother when she was on the brink of adolescence.

Facing our grief and pain is huge work, I now see.  I feel we skirt around it for so long and as I write this that poem of Emily Dickinson comes to mind : there is a pain so utter it swallows substance up and covers the abyss with trance so we step above or around it (those are not the verbatim words but it goes something like that.)  The reason I think so many of us who carry abandonment trauma suffer and are sidelined by others is that they either have no idea of the devastation it causes or are so deeply invested in denying or covering over their own grief and pain that they can feel scared and threatened when we do and so do things to shut us down or shame us.  Then we can be labelled as ‘ill’ and medicated to shut the fuck up.  (Writing that last sentence I am also aware medications in many cases are used to soften the blow while inner work is prepared for but in many cases they are used to hide from it in the absence of inner reparative psychodynamic work and there is anger for my sisters in that sentence which I own fully!).

As I look back I see this ocean of deep grief and pain began to open up for me in 1999 when my ex husband and I were in the UK.  Facing the enormity of it scared me so I ran home to Australia and then hid out.  My husband and mother were trying to get me some help but I was resisting them a fair bit.  I ran back to the UK and then back to Oz and then back again when I was struggling to find a way to trust and move forward.  So in many ways the anger I have at my family not fully understanding is also anger of my inner child at the adult who would not take the right steps to care for her before. My grief and fear was so huge they were terrifying to face.   And so much went into the fire.

It was only the ending of the next relationship which freed me for the inner work and then my older sister died and that was so hard.  We got to reconnect for a short while with her sons and that opened up feeling but also more fear.  It has taken until this late Mercury retrograde transit to see how strong the Uranus rebellion streak has been in me and how deep the Plutonian deluge of ancestral pain that we carry as a family really is.  In many ways I am the shadow bearer for a lot of repressed energy so its no wonder I have struggled so much and been sidelined so many times by others who are ignorant, misunderstanding or misjudging.  And then I judged myself not seeing how big the task was or how well I was trying, until I found this last therapist who has just been so present, so adaptable, so open and so warm and caring, things I have never received much in my life before.  I come from such a constricted family that holds down so deep so much repressed life force and childlike joy and human wanting/needing, all of which I split off for so many years until now!  Was it any wonder I suffered from anxiety.  It was just repressed life force, wild horse energy in my beautiful body stampeding with hooves of wanting and desiring for release against huge forces of internalised repression!

Phew! Sun is literally streaming in on me at the moment and I awoke today and saw the beauty of my home, which has been such a cocoon and which I nearly discarded earlier in the year in quest of a space that was not the real me I am but the me I thought I should be to be better or neater or more in control.

On that subject last night after I got home I listened to the greatest conversation on radio with a student of ethics and philosophy on transcendant experiences.  What was being discussed was how much the rational enlightenment in the 17th century has stolen from us in terms of raising up qualities of self control, rationality as supreme, making us numb and blind on so many levels to nature and inner mystical worlds that our ancestors were more in touch with.  In the wake of this experiences of feeling connected to a greater power or peak experiences of seeing spirit in matter or feeling that vast overwhelming of love, luminosity and connection have become increasingly pathologised by the mainstream.

On the way home just a while before I had one of those experiences when I saw a hedge of the most glorious yellow wattle shining out at the side of the car.  I was overcome with the awareness of how much love there is in nature and of how much of our suffering is man made by the heroic questing ego that seeks power over nature instead of union with it.

When we fail to see the beauty in who we really are as natural beings, when we go deaf dumb and blind to sensitivities and feelings of connection or suffering, we shut down all that is most beautiful, honest, open and true in ourselves and others.  I know how many others there are out there who also suffering and in many ways our suffering in opening our hearts also connect us to each other.  When we resist that suffering or try to make a illness of it we cut ourselves away from love, life and light.

I saw so much light and love in that wattle yesterday.  I only saw it as I went to visit my Mum for an hour and we had a few moments of connection.  I connect to the pain in my Mum that she has had to deny for so many years.  Long ago as a child she was left alone without resources.  I see how she coped to the best she could.  It was NEVER enough for me but it was all she could do.  Facing the harsh reality of that means grieving not only for her but for all of my family.  It means not living in denial as so many of us do but it also involves realising the beauty that remains even amongst what at times seems to the rubble and wreckage that is left and it occurs to me as I read this back that grieving and feeling the pain is a form of transformation and birthing, it is a dying to the old past so a new present can rise up and live with more awareness of how deep losses and original injuries go.

What is most important for me at this stage of the road in my emotional recovery is self love not self denial or rejection.  I don’t like what I had to suffer and I wish it was different. I know I deserved more but maybe there was a deeper lesson or learning in every single thing I have gone through.  Making meaning of it, accepting what is, grieving the losses to realise what is most important, most luminous so I can come awake again and fully embodied in both my longing and my pain as well as my luminosity and joy, well to my mind that is essential work maybe not for everyone but most definitely for me.

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Friends with your shadow : on fear

It seems for many of us who undergo pain or difficulty the transformative encounter with our own shadow is an essential part of our awakening journey.  I am called to write about this subject today after picking up a beautiful book by Deepak Chopra called The Deeper Wound : Recovering the Soul from Fear and Suffering.  And my reflections on fear were also prompted after listening to a radio programme on the subject this morning which reminded me to pick up the book.

I would like to share here three of the 100 meditations that Deepak writes in the middle of the book.  The book was actually written just shortly after the experience of 9/11 in America and was his response to the massive level of fear and suffering that the terrorist attacks awakened.  Astrologers know that at that time a major opposition of two very strong planetary energies Pluto and Saturn was taking place.  Saturn in astrology rules, boundaries, defences and fears, also the ring pass not we often erect to hide from us the deeper Plutonian feelings which can include intense feelings of grief, sadness, powerlessness, obsession, a lust for control or rage often prompted by a deeper wound (thus the title of the book).  Pluto rules what becomes hidden and then persists and exerts a powerful hold – thus its association to the shadow.  But it also deals with transformation in and through facing and making friends with our dark side.

It seems to me that fear is one of the shadow energies in our lives that we need to learn to face and deal with, for often fear is feared and fear of fear means we can and do project it onto others who the split ego judges to be ‘not like me’ and therefore a necessary target for anger, rage or judgement.  We struggle with our fears and don’t often quite know what to do with them and in this situation fear becomes anger and defensiveness or it becomes a paralysing anxiety that is diffuse, generalised and non specific.  And such fear can plague us.

Fear is a large subject but I hope these readings speaks to you, as they did to me today.  When I read something this powerful that really makes me think I like to share it.

I ask my shadow self to emerge 

This is the first step of healing it

.. we are all aware of having dark impulses, which include hatred, fear and aggression.  These impulses arise from our unconscious and our normal response is to keep them there.  We push the dark side out of sight, yet it doesn’t go away.  It seeks expression as all energies will.  Healing isn’t possible when dark energies are kept bottled inside.  To being healing, invite the shadow self back into your awareness.  This isn’t the same as acting out rage or terror or revenge.  You are only sending the message that you are no longer shunning the shadow self : you are acknowledging its right to exist

My shadow self is serving me 

I am grateful for that

This affirmation is about repression.  Your shadow self has gained the energy to frighten you because you are repressed it.  But the shadow doesn’t see itself as the enemy.  It sees itself as your guardian.  It protects you by holding onto those energies that belong to you even though you feel guilty and ashamed of them.  Guilt made you turn to suppression as a solution.  Shame makes you not want to look or listen when these energies call out.  Because the shadow energies got pushed out of sight, they never had a chance to show you their hidden spiritual message.  This message was for your growth, and thanks to the shadow self, who has held these old forgotten experiences, you can revisit them.  As the shadows of fear, rage, terror, and revenge return, you need only see them and understand.  As soon as you do they will deliver their message and then go.  This is the whole process of healing the shadow self.

I ask the dark energies to teach me

This affirmation is about facing fear.  Like the shadow self, your fear doesn’t see itself as harming you.  It, too, believes that it is a safeguard.  Stored in everyone’s memory are past experiences of terror.  By reminding you of those feelings, fear is trying to protect you from repeating the traumas of the past.  As long as you push down your fear, you will nor be able to receive it as an ally.  By the same token, you cannot just act on the basis of fear.  At a soul level you see no need for fear, because you don’t need protecting.  Living in the now poses no threat, and therefore referring to the past serves no purpose.  It is safe to go into your fear and ask it where it came from and what it wants you to know.  Having seen the world from its perspective, reassure yourself that the soul needs no guardian.  Learn from fear, heal it, and ask it to leave.

So often when we keep the door locked on our fear or tell ourselves we shouldn’t have it we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.  If we can really face our fear, know the situations from the past that gave birth to it and make peace with these events we can know that there was at one time a very real threat that caused us terror.   It may be difficult to feel that we are safe now but if we deny our fear we don’t really get that chance or opportunity to give up old defences that no longer serve us and keep us blocked, trapped and driven by fear.

You are worthy

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I really should be getting my act together to walk my dog but I feel compelled to write this after spooling through my reader to read other follower’s blogs I follow.  It makes me so sad to read of the self rejection and even self hatred people can have for themselves in their lives when they are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress or any other kind of heavy emotional burden.  I personally know how much it crushes your soul (to say nothing of the effect is had on your spirit) when you try to express painful truths others don’t want to hear and try to silence in you.  Narcissists by their very nature will never own the fact that anything they did ended up wounding you.  In fact they get the shits that you dare to say they hurt you and in fact can’t you see how much you are hurting them by daring to even bring the subject up? How could you do this to me! Yawn.

My advice. Get the hell away from that shit.  Your pain needs to heard, it is real, you aren’t making it up.  You are not a malingerer for suffering from trauma.  You are not worth less or worthless. Your soul and body have been injured and scarred. That said are you going to beat yourself up all over again and treat yourself unkindly?  Please DONT DO IT!  Tell the inner and outer critics to take a hike and get off of your case.  In fact though in the end you find yourself letting go because when you argue you realise you are already off the side of self compassion and radical acceptance.  What do you have to prove??  Don’t keep beating your head against that brick wall.  It doesn’t know much about love!

You are not unworthy for suffering trauma.  You didn’t bring it on yourself.  You may however caused yourself more trauma by running in the wrong direction or seeking healing in the wrong places and that in itself is to my mind a sad symptom of emotional neglect, betrayal, abandonment and abuse.  And is the single agony fact behind why and how we get so stuck and some people never escape.  They end up going mad or killing themselves if they cannot get the truth out there or feel the feelings that others find too problematic due to being shut down themselves! Or else invested, for their own reasons in the can of worms being kept shut!

I do often wonder, much as the internet is criticised how so many of us would have survived as well if we did not have this medium and platform for self expression. Sadly it is a bit of a remote medium in that we don’t get to physically touch each other when we share and being touched, held, received, welcomed in our entire being and body is SO IMPORTANT in healing from trauma.  However we do get to voice it and that is a huge thing.  We get validation.  We get to know our pain is real. We get to express and not repress or depress it any more.

The only draw back may be that at times we go over and over and over the old wounds which may have the effect of making them deeper if we don’t at the same time have some love poured into those wounds. You know how a wound often smarts and stings just after it is fresh after you put some antiseptic on it.  It is singing out its pain as cells move into do the healing and ignite the inflammatory response.  Trauma is a super sonic kind of inflammation and one that can burn and burn and burn, but the burning in hurting is also a big part of the healing.  We are in the healing crisis of toxic repair.  We have to go through some pain and then we have to let the wound alone for a time so forces can work under the cover of darkness to repair.  Yes in the end we have a scar that bears a testament to what occurred and what we suffered. We then become what Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls ‘members of the scar clan’.  We bear our wounds and we can become the wound or we can decide that the wound is something we suffered and now bear the memory and evidence of but does not totally divine the deeper spirit in us which bears testament to it.  And its a fine line and in the end involves a conscious or unconscious decision about how we respond to the injuries.  No one outside of you can determine that outcome which is the result of a unique blend of factors that make you, you.

In my own case I would now rather say I have these wounds but there is more to me than them.  I would rather not keep running the wound over and over and over again.   I personally see where it takes me when that happens and its not into a good place and yet I still accept that to run the wound over and over is also a valid response to trauma. Part of the healing process involves going over and over what happened and experiencing the associated emotions and reactions until they transform or alchemise.

Whatever the case though, this is something I now know so deeply and powerfully that I must shout it out.  Whoever you are, whatever you have suffered, no matter what wounds, you are worthy, you deserve love.  You have a right to exist and be seen, and by God show yourself the respect and love you deserve by not allowing negative voices to take the power of this truth away from you.  For you are a beloved by life and to deny that love is to believe in a lie.

Swirling seas : more reflections on trauma

Maybe there are oceans inside of us. Perhaps everything is not as solid as it seems.  I have experienced so powerfully since my 5 weeks of radiation for breast cancer last year how fluid the energy in my body is. When I was reading parts of Peter Levine’s book on trauma earlier this week he explained that part of his work involves getting us back in touch with this sense of the body as vibration and to feel our way into how it sings or pulls or tears or hurts or vibrates as a living energy that is not fixed and can oscillate and change.  Also to notice how pain is often a contraction and if we do not resist that contraction and stay with it mindfully in time contraction can change to expansion and release/letting go.

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It is coming up both to my Dad’ birthday anniversary as well as the anniversary of my accident when I was only 17 in about 12 days.  I am aware of how my body still carries this shock trauma energy of expansion and contraction deep inside.  I had a repeat of the accident when I was 41 after a session of cranio sacral where I went back ‘in’  I watched things from outside of my body and saw the grief my parents went through. Dad only got to the hospital after I was taken by the ambulance but Mum came to the scene of it.  When they wheeled me past Dad he didn’t recognise me, I was so lacerated and cut up.  I was also screaming ‘let me die’ which was a pretty extreme reaction. He was so upset and I grieved in that session not only for what I went through but what my parents went through. The dramatic way I cried out also showed two things 1) I was resisting what was happening to me and 2) at that stage I felt very alone and didn’t really want to be alive (a lot was going down for me prior to the crash!).

Anyway the whole thing repeated in 2005 with me over the other side of the world. In many ways I wish I didn’t have the session then.  An astrologer who specialises in near death and trauma said to me that often its difficult to work with these old events in certain ways as they can be retriggered, sometimes, she said, we are best to leave the wound alone and mindfully send it love.  I am older and wiser now, however in 2005 the whole thing just opened up for me again and I got badly hurt.  In many ways I am still coming back from the trauma of that time that still lives in my body, as well as the grief I have that such a choice led to more damage and pain.

Peter Levine’s work with helping the traumatised to unpack it involves inner work to try to tolerate the strong sensations trauma leaves in the body without dissociating (which is what we usually do in trauma!)   It involves putting the focus on those sensations for a time which hurt or repel or are painful and then swinging or what he calls ‘pendulating’ awareness onto something positive and warm and life affirming.  This is to counterbalance the extreme fixing, pinning or magnetising affect trauma can have on our body/mind and psyche.

Lately I am aware of how much I have dwelt in and on my trauma over the past 20 years.  I have literally allowed it to ‘pin’ me and breaking out of that repetitive feedback loop of focus on body symptoms and negative thoughts or thoughts of doom that can recycle is taking me time.  Lately I am fed up with the way trauma has limited my life.  I am seeing things about the way I have dealt with it which have not always helped me.  I am also seeing how I spend a lot of time ‘running’ on an energy level instead of settling.  This the amped up sense I carry inside that death and danger is close and its urgent that I keep things rolling.  In fact I was listening to the lyrics of an old song by Foreigner last week that goes “urgent, urgent, urgent, emergency” several times in the chorus and thinking how often that speaks to how I can run my energy.

At the same time I am aware that movement towards positive behaviours, such as forcing my body out into the sunshine or wooded fields for a walk with Jasper, or making effort to pick up the phone and call that caring friend instead of ruminating in fear about how it would be better to keep up a distance and stay safe is essential for me.

One of the most damaging things about trauma is that it can lead us to freeze and get immobilised.  Peter Levine addresses this issue at depth in his first book Waking the Tiger.   Animals can play dead but then they get a burst of energy to get up and escape from the predator that wants to eat them.  If our trauma comes from abuse we need to be able to take action to move rather than become passive, or develop what Peter Walker calls ‘a fawn defence’.  Staying powerless and passive will not help us much and may lead to chronic illnesses.

Anyway it takes time to realise all of these things about trauma.  It takes time to be able to consciously shift our focus in such a way, not to deny the impact of painful effects but to release the powerful hold they can have over our thinking, energy and perception.  It takes time to begin to find the goodness again, to discover the things that we can focus on that don’t amp up our pain, but rather soothe it, that don’t keep it running over and over again on a repetitive feedback loop.  It also takes time to find those who understand just what a huge impact trauma has, for if we are lucky enough to find someone willing to be with our traumatised body in full presence we are more likely to be able to unravel from the painful effects of trauma and soothe them, than if we are treated callously or with a lack of empathy.

Peter Levine himself had a serious accident when he was young.  He sites the fact that he didn’t develop full blown PTSD to the fact that a woman was there by the side of the road when he had the accident and she sat with him, held his hand and helped to soothe his distress.  The last thing anyone with trauma needs to be told is that it doesn’t hurt, or that we should be over it.  But that is just what happens to us when confronted with our trauma others freak out or feel too confronted or threatened  It can take us some time to realise in this situation that this is a failure on the behalf of others, as trauma survivors we are more than likely to be hard on ourselves and blame ourselves which only makes living as a trauma survivor 1,000 times worse.

In my own case I think the reason I have struggled to heal over 12 years from that second accident in 2005 is that over that time I was rejected for trauma symptoms or misunderstood.    That made healing myself extra hard.  I was emotionally abused in the last relationship I had for my trauma symptoms and I can still side with my abuser in seeing how difficult it was for him.  It was a failure of empathy on one level, but I can still understand how challenging it is for other to see trauma survivors fixed to dark places when the impact of trauma or abuse still possesses us so completely at times.

Last week my therapist said something interesting to me.  It was this. “It is important that you know both how to be in the underworld but also how to get out of it.”  That made a lot of sense to me.  Those of us who have undergone dark things can get so overpowered by those dark experiences as well as the feelings of powerlessness they can leave that we can almost be consumed by our own personal hell and underworld at times.  When we are down in the dark and lightless, loveless place it is hard to believe there still is a sun shining above ground and a meadow full of flowers we can skip through.  What brings the faith back in that goodness must surely involve someone who can empathise with us and hold our hands in the dark but also not buy in too strongly to our thoughts of doom.  That person themselves needs to have a goodness and active energy around them that can embrace both polarities of dark and light.   For really they are just two sides of life and those of us who have known the dark may have had to visit it in order to know just how valuable and essential light, empathy and love are   Hopefully our own lessons in the dark mean we can be there for others to hold a light up when despair seems to become so overpowering.   I certainly hope so.

Love

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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

How being present heals disconnection and absence

When therapists are present with a client’s experience (in unconditional presence) something inside the client begins to relax and open up more fully.  What I have found, time and time again, is that unconditional presence is the most powerful transmuting force there is, precisely because it is a willingness to be there with our experience, without dividing ourselves in two by trying to manage what we are feeling.

For example, a client fears that she is nothing – that if she looks inside, she wont find anything there.  Although I first ask her to pay attention to this fear of being nothing in her body and we discuss how it relates to situations from her past, eventually I invite to open directly to the sense of being nothing.  And after a while she says … `​It feels empty, but there is also a fullness and a sense of peace`​, she feels full because she is present now, rather than disconnected.  It is her being that feels peaceful and full.  And she starts to realise that her sense of nothingness was actually a sense of being cut off from herself – a disconnection reinforced by stories and beliefs she has about the dreaded void at her core.  Of course, feelings don`t always transmute this easily.  Yet for clients who have experienced this a number of times it can happen more and more readily.

Feelings, in themselves, don’t always lead to wisdom,  but the process of fully opening to them can. When we no longer maintain distance from a feeling, it cannot preserve its apparent solidity, which only crystallises when we treat it as an object separate from ourselves.  In the above example, the clients fear of being nothing only persisted as long as she resisted that experience.  But when she opened unconditionally to being nothing, this inner division ceased, at least for a while, as she stepped out of fixed stance/attitudes/associations she held toward being nothing with their long history dating back to childhood.

In becoming present in a place she had been absent, she experienced her being, rather than her nothingness.  Being nothing translated into the empty fullness of being – where the fear of being nothing no longer had a hold on her.

John Welwood  :  Towards A Psychology of Awakening

Mistaken

Wow

Little one

You never got to form a protective coat

You had holes that formed in your ego

Where bad stuff seeped in

So hard to make sense of it all

When it never really belonged to you

Hungry heart beating silently

So difficult

To sustain and nurture

Love

To grow a sense of meaning

And protection

When you were

Left alone one too many times

There was not really any place to turn

And no way really to know

That the feelings you had were real

Seeking something to ease the loneliness and pain

Your soul cried silently

And if you didn’t learn that you had value enough

To be worth someone’s time

Was it any wonder you gave yourself away

So freely and so cheaply

But now all this is changing

Although you cannot change the past

Recognition means

Now you can

Wrap an overcoat of protection and love

Around yourself

Now you are free to express

And give full vent to what you feel inside

And now you see how others are hurting

And damaged too

You will no longer expect

What cannot be

And be so bitterly disappointed again

It was all so much larger and more complex

That you ever could have known

In the child self

For all along you needed adult you

To show up

To hold you

And help you understand

The source of true love

True connection

For that lonely soul inside

Who believed for so long

Things mistaken

False beliefs

False conclusions

That were never really true

Grey days

Autumn 2.jpg

Grey skies draw you in

Cosy in cuddly clothes

You don’t want to venture far

But wish instead

To light a fire and stay close by your soul

Warm comfort here

Far away from dark skies

Even while you struggle with deeper things

There is no longer that yawning inner emptiness

You knew before

Drawing on your insides

Grey skies

Remind you of what dreaming is

And of darker bleak times

Long gone

But deep amidst the loss

You now are finding gratitude

And inner calm

All that hurting

Birthed artistry

Creative self expression

Would these things ever have been born in you

Had you not known that inner emptiness

And the desertion of those

Who claimed to love you

But then turned on their heel

When true love was asked of them?

Blaming you

You were never the leaver

You stayed close

You knew what had most value

But you made yourself wrong for so many years

You were never wrong darling

You only ever loved

And you have known great trauma

So now on the grey days

You can honour and need no longer

Fear the deep and dark

That makes others run in fear

Let those who run away run

They were never meant to stay

And your soul cannot always demand

A companion

On the dark road

That leads deep within

Abandonment trauma burned there

All aflame

But your soul bore it

Not only for you

But for your ancestors too

And this is not the final chapter

In the book of your life

For your soul path has shown

Brighter days

Always follow the grey