We have feelings for a reason

In many ways the rational enlightenment, which was a critical turning point in human history together with the ascendency of patriarchal forms of social control put paid to so called ‘irrational’ feelings.  At the same time both forces created an enormous split between mind and body, a split we are working hard to understand and heal, a split that leaves us many of us lost, disconnected and disempowered.

I love how synchronicity works, most especially where my blog is concerned as this evening I was re reading a very important section in a book I have referenced before by Andrea Mathews, Letting Go of Good and that section, titled Understanding Your Inner World : Your Internal Messaging System addresses the issue of repressed feeling.  Shortly after reading it I came across a link to another post that had been reblogged by a follower on the work of author and therapist Mama Gena (aka Regina Thomashauer) and in the words of the author of that blog

She discusses how our patriarchal society trains us to control and stifle our emotions, which causes them to fester. She writes “our patriarchal society doesn’t honor grief. (Or rage. Or longing. Or jealousy. Or frustration–just to name a few).”

According to Mathews, following the rational enlightenment

Emotional people, or people who are in touch with internal message, such as intuition, came to be thought of as unstable.  This was because emotions and other internal stimuli could not be trusted or relied upon at the time.  They are here one minute and gone the next.  They make us do things we later regret. They drive us insane or to a proximity of insanity.  They make us worry, ruminate, and do all kinds of other things with our thoughts that are not at all rational.  No.  We need to turn off emotions and other internal stimuli in favour of thought.  Thought is always rational.  But, of course, this is not true.

What we have done in the name of reason is repress.  We have repressed emotions, intuition, discernment, and other internal stimuli, as well as awareness of actions, words, thoughts and anything else we consider to be unacceptable.  We have, in fact, repressed awareness of our own inner world.  And of course, any time we repress awareness of our own inner world our thoughts are not going to be very reasonable – or rational – because they cannot now come from wholeness but from only one segment of who we are.  Thought that exists without a direct connection to emotion, intuition, or other internal messages, or which exists relative to a bunch of connections to repressed material is not going to be reasonable  Indeed repression make us more unstable – not less.

.. most of us don’t want to know what goes on in our inner world… we suspect that we will find badness and all kinds of pain, betrayal, secret darkness and angst that we just don’t want to have to wade through… there is also a large contingent of spiritual leadership… that teaches that our so called “negative” thoughts and emotions are dangerous to our well being.   According to these teachers, our thoughts are always supposed to be positive and our emotions are always supposed to be set on bliss, and when they are not, that is evidence that bad old ego has stepped up and taken hold of us. …. Much like the old traditional ideas about the devil, these ideas about ego set us up for a battle between various aspects of the identity.  They do NOT facilitate an awakening to the authentic Self.  They simply have people struggling and striving to rid themselves of an essential part of their being, in much the same way that the Age of Reason did.

..These teachings and those that remain from the Age of Reason have a very similar result – self-betrayal….(but) our emotions, our desires, our intuitions, and our discernment are essential to understanding both the identity we have and the authentic Self.  We will not come to understand either, nor will we heal any brokenness until we have come to understand the inner world.

And those emotions which are most helpful to us are very much a part of our inner world and exist for a reason.  In the following chapters of that section of her book Letting Go of Good Mathews deals with the emotions which she sees as critical to our internal messaging system along with intuition, discernment and desire.  We literally cannot survive nor thrive well until we have learned what these emotions have to teach us.  In an earlier post I already shared a post taken from that book on fear as one of the internal messengers that come as protector and teacher.

The other three emotions explored by Mathews are as follows :

  1. Resentment
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness/Sorrow

I am sure many of us out there have been educated at one time or another to believe that one or other of these four emotion is bad or negative in some way but really, as Mathews explores in chapters devoted to each, each has a message for us, a message that we ignore or dismiss at our peril.

Resentment comes to teach us when we are overstepping our boundaries and not sufficiently honouring ourselves. When we have been hurt or shamed or our anger invalidated.   Resentment makes us feel something over and over again until we pay attention to that something and deal with it.   If it is something we cannot change we need to walk away or at least put up boundaries.

Anger comes as a cry of authenticity from our true sense of self to let us know if we have been diminished or treated unjustly in some way,  “when we forget (anger), it comes up to remind us that we exist, that we are real, that we are here in the room with others by whom we wish to be seen and heard, and that we matter.  We have a primal need to exist, to be real, to be here, and to matter to ourselves.”  Anger will let us know when something that is not okay is happening to us.  Abusers or drainers may try to convince us anger is a selfish emotion but anger always exists in tandem with assertion so we can take action to self protect and self care, so “anger is an energy that must be heard and authenticated”, most importantly by us.  Buried anger will make itself known in psycho somatic ways if we don’t listen to it and take heed.   Anger cannot be denied without difficult consequences.

Sorrow or sadness is an “admission that we are not in control…(letting us know) there has been a searing loss…. Sorrow knows that what we wanted is gone.”  According to Mathews the purpose of sorrow is to get us to acceptance, the more we accept sadness and allow ourselves to grieve, rather than block, defend and deny our grief, the more transformation can happen in our lives, or opening to deeper spiritual truths.  Good sorrow (well grieved) can cleanse us, clear away fog and toxins, ground us and make us more human and authentic, as well as emotionally available.

Mathews worked with addicts in recovery and in every case she saw how those who resorted to addiction had denied or somehow negated their true sorrow over a loss.  Many blamed themselves in some way and she tells the story of Jared in her book a man whose mother was murdered when he went out one night to a friends place and never spoke about the torment he carried inside, until it emerged in group therapy.  Through grieving and finally externalising the blame he had held silently within and drank over for years he moved towards a new acceptance and understanding of loss.  Love of his self which had been so absent before grew out of this experience, as it will for all of us when we finally have compassion and understanding shown to us which will help us to show to ourselves the same by and through honouring our true feelings.

Mathews concludes with these words.

When we make time to be with our emotions, listening to their wise messages, they often leave us with powerful and transformative shifts towards healing.

When we deny ourselves this process, when we continue to engage with the lie so widespread in a toxic and rapidly deconstructing patriarchal split mind-set, we cut ourselves off from the true source of our healing, which always lies deep within our selves and within the emotions that so often hide deep within buried under our thoughts about them.

How the inner critic hinders grieving (and anger)

Buried

The greatest hindrance to effective grieving is typically the inner critic.  When the critic is especially toxic, grieving may be counter productive and contraindicated in early recovery.  Those who were repeatedly pathologised and punished for emoting in childhood may experience grieving as exacerbating their flashbacks rather than relieving them.

I have worked with numerous survivors whose tears immediately triggered them into toxic shame.  Their own potentially soothing tears elicited terrible self attacks.  “I’m so pathetic! No wonder nobody can stand me!”  “God, I’m so unlovable when I snivel like this!” “I f@ckup then make myself more of a loser by whining about it!”  “What good is crying for yourself – it only makes you weaker!”

This later response is particularly ironic, for once grieving is protected from the critic, nothing can restore a person’s inner strength and coping capacity like a good cry.  I have defused active suicidality on dozens of occasions by simply eliciting the suffering person’s tears.

Angering can also immediately trigger the survivor into toxic shame.   This is often true of instances when there is only an angry thought or fantasy.  Dysfunctional parents, typically reserve their worst punishments for a child’s anger.  This then traps the child’s anger inside.

In the dysfunctional family however, the traumatising parent soon eradicates the child’s capacity to emote.  The child becomes afraid and ashamed of her own tears and anger.  Tears get shut off and anger gets trapped inside and is eventually turned against the self as self attack, self hate, self disgust and self rejection.  Self hate is the most grievous reenactment of parental abandonment…

Over time anger becomes fuel for the critic.. creating an increasingly dangerous internal environment. Anything the survivor says, thinks, feels, imagines or wishes for is subjected to an intimidating inner attack.

When we greet our own tears with self acceptance, crying awakens our developmentally arrested instinct of self compassion.  Once we establish self compassion through consistent and repeated practice, it becomes the cornerstone of an increasing self esteem.  When an attitude of self compassion becomes habitual, it can instantly antidote the self abandonment that so characterises a flashback.

(copywrite) Pete Walker : extracts from : Complex PTSD : From Surviving to Thriving

When our grief is hidden : reflections on finding and feeling our feelings

Pema

I read a long time ago in one of my favourite books on the planet Saturn that Moon Saturn contacts show a person whose emotions so often get buried or hidden deep in the body, they become what is called ‘somatised’.  Feelings that cannot be acknowledged or understood in childhood by our closet emotional caregivers, feelings we get left alone with become over time inaccessible to conscious awareness.  If we are shamed or meet prohibitions against feeling them it is even worse.  Now we are most certainly not only not allowed to have them but if we do we feel ashamed, we feel wrong and we feel bad and we then become conditioned to self reject and those feelings get mixed up.  Just writing that last sentence makes me very, very angry.   What a terrible predicament for a child or anyone really to go through as without access to our true feelings we suffer and get twisted in our deepest spirit and soul.

Come to think about it, this shaming or disallowing of feeling relates not only to individuals but to wider collective and social influences around how a culture allows the expression and working through feelings around death, loss and endings.  In a book which I believe won the Purlitzer Prize by Ernest Becker called The Denial of Death attention was bought to how much our culture since the middle ages has been arranged around the repression and denial of death, as well as by the seeking of power and control over nature and natural cycles which oh so naturally contain a death/decay component as part of the intrinsic wholeness of the life cycle.

It’s not a far step from here to see how the entire issue of grief and grieving becomes complex. Grief confronts us with our powerless and helplessness, it is a painful reminder of the depth of love and connection or attachment we feel towards what is lost.  Expressing grief over our true losses is essential to the integrity, truth and honesty of our soul.   And a soul whose grief is blocked becomes a kind of ghost, forever haunted by the spectral shadow memory and essence/imprints of feelings disallowed that hover in a far off place waiting to return or be called home leaving the self vacant and hollowed out, hungering, wandering and wondering endlessly what is really wrong, casting shadows upon real feelings that disallowed now have become invisible and mute and deeply confusing, only later to emerge in illness.

If I had one purpose in my life I feel it would be to be a grief crusader.  I would want to be the one out there saying, don’t bury your grief, don’t hide from it, allow it a place in your life.  Dis those people who shower you with platitudes in the midst of your grief due to their own problematic relationship with feeling powerless.  Honour your grief, don’t feel like it will kill you…..although I know how painful it can be to feel it, how feeling it often feels as though your soul’s skin is burned or seared by a fire whose white heat seems almost impossible to withstand.  Hold yourself there in the midst of those flames and let grief do its work.  Rage if you need to in the midst of that process if that is what your soul demands for a time as part of the process of letting go or what helps you recognise your deepest truth and authenticity.

Friend

Because this cry of mine speaks not only for grief but for other feelings too.  Maybe it is not your grief but your anger and sense of protest you have buried, maybe it is your own deep need for personal authenticity or agency that was stolen or given away over the course of your years, if so that is where you work lays, in the reclaiming of it even amidst the giant wave of repression and misunderstanding that so often meets you both from forces without so often internalised within.

And seek those who understand their own feelings.  That is most important.  Gravitate towards the ones who will honour rather than deny your authentic feelings, those who have the courage and heart to look more deeply below the surface of the so called ‘real’, for it seems to me that in modern society we have so sorely lost our way over years from our authenticity of soul.  Yeats said it well in these few lines written just a few years after the end of the First World War.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

We need to find a centre that can hold our hearts open in the midst of this falling apart process and maybe they are meant to fall apart. W B Yeat’s poem may have been about the grief he must have felt watching as forces of avarice and destruction were unleashed during those horrible years of devastation on battle fields of Europe, and yet were not each of our families in some way impacted upon by this war?   My own grandfather fought on the Western Front and returned, he was only 16 when he joined up.  He died when he was in his 30s of war related injuries and like him so many men returned unable to speak of what they endured suffering such deep wounds and scars then called shell shock.  They were deep in a wordless grief and complex trauma buried deep in cells that vibrated with the unspoken anguish, how many of us in later years also carry these imprints or the suffer the ripple effects as they have played out across generations?

So now, please let our grief be grief.  Let it not be turned against others as vengeance or buried and then turned against them and ourselves in criticism or misunderstanding or shame or unending resentment.  Let our true tears fall, let them soften our hearts and let them nurture for the rest of our lives tiny seeds of strength, tolerance, fairness, honesty, understanding, wisdom, empathy and love so that was is hidden in the dark and has gone mute can finally find some light, freedom, release and air, a magnificent falcon set free to fly.

 

A hollowed out shell : realisations on the way to freedom

******TRIGGER WARNING : THIS POST CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE *****

I’m having deeper realisations today.  I see how I am living in a hollowed out shell.  It’s an encasement I built in trying to stay connected to my family, out of fear of walking away and leaving them behind, staying tied in my mind to a childhood mythology of connection when in fact there is no deeper connection between us on a personal level.

I feel like a stranger in a strange land, a little child who lived for so long behind glass screaming out for love and attention from people who could never see her.  On my side of the glass I see all of them going through the motions but its a pane of glass which from their side is opaque, they cannot see me or understand or hear my soul and its beginning to occur to me that just possibly they were never meant to.  If I had become subsumed in their world would I ever have really fitted there?   Maybe it was always my karma as the youngest most attuned one to be more aware of deeper realities they were blind to.

The truth is that spiritually I don’t feel a great connection to the mainstream culture around me.  I watch it with a kind of curious detachment.  On some level I am aware that this world is not my ultimate home, that I am on some level on a spiritual journey that has set me apart and all my attempts at belonging are doomed to fail for ultimately they rest on the negation of who I really am at a deeper level, a person who lives as an essence beyond all human ‘roles’, ‘positions’ or even points of view.   I just never found ‘my place’ whatever that is and I feel more connected to the world of night time and dreams than to human schemes that often seem to end in such peril.

And yet as I am writing this I am also aware of the critic’s voice in the shadows saying to me, don’t you think this all comes out of your own childhood trauma of being raised in a family where you never felt connected to?  Yes, probably!  As the black sheep maybe I have yet to find my true place of belonging or maybe I have a job to do with learning to rebuild authentic connection with others which comes from living more ‘unmasked’, vulnerable, open, raw and real!

And it occurs to me that possibly at the moment that the past ties that bind me to others are breaking apart and I am being freed at some level. I had a chat with my mother yesterday.  I couldn’t talk to her last week after all my rage came out over the phone with her. It wasn’t targeted at her but at the dentist who has left my dental surgery hanging in a suspended sentence but the anger was also hers, the anger, frustration and perfectionism with a huge dose of survival fear that was passed down to all of us unrecognised, unmediated, undigested.   She seemed oblivious when she called me yesterday, more concerned with sharing the pain over the loss of a close friend, and telling me I really must learn not to get so angry.  I then started to feel guilt for my resentment and that she had to go to the funeral alone, but later on I realised I didn’t need to feel guilty, my anger was genuine and I am not responsible for my Mum, I can care for her but I can’t always be there when I am going through my own issues.

I have tried for so many years to be my Mum’s emotional caretaker and also she has roped me into that role with my other sister, getting me to feel all kinds of uncomfortable feelings of responsibility which are just not mine.   I recognised after yesterday that the pattern of connection with my Mum is that I care for her emotional needs and feelings while she tells me to put all of mine behind me and forget about them focusing on the present.  Ultimately that might be good advice when we have actually been able to have those emotions, feelings and needs and been able to express them in the first place.  I am FUCKING OVER THIS ROLE,   DID I SAY THAT CLEARLY ENOUGH, I AM FUCKING OVER IT!!!!!!  And the cost is that I carry everything and have not one recognition given of any pain I have suffered at their hands.  FUCK IT AND DOUBLE FUCK IT!!!

I am wearing the cost of a traumatic head injury all as a result of what went down when I really needed my family’s emotional support following the end of the marriage I sacrificed 13 years ago.   At that point my sister forced my Mum to choose between her and I… it was insane….. my Mum chose her because I was ‘too sad’.  That drove me 12,000 miles away.  At that time I should have broken all contact with them and gone forward into my own life, but my older sister was still alive and I didn’t want her to be emotional abandoned so I was back and forward between the UK and home and at that point (a year out of my marriage and when I suffered the head trauma) I was 12,000 miles from home with next to no protection or support around me.

I think there is an anger which is separation anger.  I think it is a legitimate feeling that we need to feel.  This kind of anger is clean and clear, it isn’t resentment.  It helps us to recognise what needs to be done, what is needed by our soul to be free and get clean and clear.  This anger helps us to recognise what hurts us and say ‘ouch’ so that we can set boundaries.  It is the rebel yell we need to have to maintain our authentic essential connection to self and yet we float about as an individual in a precarious sea of others who have a very deep investment in us not being different or real or true to ourselves by rocking their boat and so often if we are empathic, in feeling so deeply what they don’t feel, expressing anger becomes deeply problematic as we see how unconscious others so often are.

The choice to be us, to be an individual is ultimately our responsibility and demands that we leave the victim stance behind and yet we are also part of collective and families where we struggle to express and live our essence surrounded by the force fields of others.   My anger says “others hurt me, I need to care of myself”.  We need boundaries but what happens when boundaries become walls and defences that we use to keep all others out, is this where love compassion and discrimination comes in.  If others are dismissive to our deeper wounds do we accept that they were never meant to understand and also accept that in the end our task as emotionally mature adults is to take care of our own inner child.  In the end isn’t it only we who can do that to the extent that we become aware of our inner child’s wound and in doing so don’t we become aware of the wounds of others and learn to show compassion but when is our compassion self defeating to our own needs and journey  I am struggling here as you can sense.

In the middle of writing this blog my Mum called me back.  We had an honest talk.  I shared with her how angry I feel when she doesn’t seem to hear me and she shared with me her vulnerabilities and her deep sense of inadequacy, how alone and ill equipped she had felt following my father’s death, how exhausted by the mental health struggles of her two daughters (I really wish she would have some therapy and take some ownership of what went down.   She broke down and I felt so much compassion for her which is the old pattern but as an empath I can’t seem to stop it.

I saw how even though she is my mother she may not actually be the emotionally mature parent figure in our dyad, she hasn’t had the benefit of any therapy or emotional recovery.  The good thing was that we could each share out pain honestly and I saw more and more clearly how I have to look to others to provide and help me learn to provide for myself emotionally what is impossible for my emotional ill equipped Mum.  In the end she passed on a portion of her wounds to each of us.  In the end she has done what she could to provide for us on financial levels, in the end she gave to the very best of her ability all that she could and perhaps too much in the wrong ways.   In the end its time to for me to separate and grow up realising more and more about the wounded abandoned child who living so deeply buried inside so often had to remain hidden or find guises to hide behind which may help him or her appear big and strong when really he or she wasn’t.

Compassionate consciousness, empathy, realisation of where the bondage of self may obscure from us a larger view of all important things these are all so essential on my path of recovery.  One things I know Mars in Cancer coming towards an opposition with Pluto soon is revealing deeper layers of the generational mother wound deep inside that left a hollowed out shell in which new seeds of life and consciousness are growing.

Mars Chiron : awakening old wounds for healing and care

Chiron

Apologies to those who get sidelined by astrological symbolism, but when I read the monthly astrology on Lua Astrology’s website last night where astrologer Lea Whitehorse spoke of the Mars Chiron square to become exact on June 2, suddenly the deep pain I was in over the weekend made sense.  Prior to this we have  also  been experiencing Mars opposite Saturn which is not the easiest of transits.  Mars represents our self assertion or self expression, the soul desire for forward movement and action from heartfelt or imperative need and when it meets Saturn we experience deep frustrations, blocks or no go areas, alternatively we may have to slow down, mature and look for different options and so adjust our desires and need for movement or expression.  Its painful.

I have the aspect in my birth chart and I can tell you that since I have been young trying to express and go after what my soul and heart desires has been problematic to the degree that in childhood I began to subvert my true needs and desires.   I also have Moon with Mars and Saturn and we were raised in a very duty bound house when I was growing up.  Life was intensely serious, my mother was either elsewise engaged and trying to keep everything running perfectly or overworking and was then exhausted to the point any fun or mess or natural chaos caused an angry reaction or was a drain.  My parents fun times involved a lot of older adults and drinking or going out on the boat which I abhorred.  I was happiest on the beach with my surfboard growing up.

This authoritarian, dogged, do the right thing side of me often squashes the fun part.  My ‘fun’ later in life involved alcohol and drugs and these are not enriching pass times, they drain life and energy and leave one with a hangover and even more disconnected, or at least they did in my case.  So it is interesting that this aspect coincided with getting together with old drinking buddies from that time of my life and being faced with a huge brick wall of deep pain and hurt from the past.  I opened up my wound with them late on Friday night shortly before we were due to go home when they were already on about their 6th glass of champagne.

I know I am so lucky to be sober.  I was in deep pain over the weekend but I did my best to sit with it and feel it and affirm myself for feeling it.   The Chiron wounding part though is that it brought back to me the ways I have felt imprisoned or caged by a dark past I am trying my best to break free of.  In her commentary on this aspect currently Lea Whitehorse, UK based astrologer made the point that being opened to wounds at this time would draw our attention to the need for better self protective boundaries.  This rang true for me and dovetailed with what I wrote yesterday in one of my posts.

Chiron was a centaur in mythology who got wounded in the Achilles heel with by a poisoned arrow left lying around in the Hydra’s den after one of the Hydra’s battles, probably with the Gorgon.  The poison on the arrow going into Chiron in a vulnerable place (and heels or ankles ground our feet and contain tendons that help us to move forward or get away from damaging situations) relates on a psychological level to wounds we encounter by accident or just in the course of life that may leave a poison inside us or paralyse forward movement and faith in life and goodness.  We do not necessarily bring them on ourselves (though we often make them worse by the way we react).  In the myth Chiron’s wound is incurable and acts as a wisdom or insight builder into internal wounds, difficulties, challenges and psychology.  Chiron spends a lot of time helping others and birthing creative visions from the wounds but he never heals and if he did, come to think of it his purpose would be done.

So reflecting on it Chiron Mars times bring those times when we face deep wounds or watch them re-enacted and have to learn strategies to be with them in ways that don’t make the poison or pain inside worse.  Then yesterday when I wrote a little post about the pleasure of finding myself in a lovely present moment free of body and soul pain which I did not post but will today, I was thinking about Echardt Tolle’s concept  of the pain body and how that related to how I was feeling over the weekend.  The wound inside me from the past and due to 5 broken relationships could possibly be healed or eased in a new one, but the pain of aloneness on some of the dark days is hard when I don’t sit with my wounds and be my own best friend, finding ways to self soothe and come to think of it I really experience a paralysed ankle on those days when getting out can in fact be a necessary distraction that helps ease the pain for a time.

Today as yesterday the sun is streaming through windows on a very cold winter morning while my icy numb fingers type.  I find the Sun so healing and warming, it opens up and expands my being and my PTSD is very much about shock, removal, disconnection, dissociation and contract.  The warming power of the Sun counteracts this and lets me open myself more, it counters my Mars Saturn tendency to bite down hard on difficulties and pain.  Earlier today I found myself re-experiencing the anger towards this particular ‘friend’ who many years ago when I was really struggling kicked me out of her party as she had an issue with the guy I was dating at the time.  At that particular point I was in such grief over the loss of my father and was a long, long way from home.   I was very reticent about going to the dinner last week and my inner child was giving me curry over it this morning.

Talking about self protection and Chiron wounds also brings to mind the need we who are traumatised must learn to exercise around discriminating those who are and are not healthy to share our wounds with, when exactly do we open up?  How do we cope with some of the wounding things others who don’t have a clue about trauma and its deep impact say  to us?  How do we deal with the pain body when it becomes very active and preys upon us with its negative thoughts or chains of wounded logic?  How can we release and express our wounds in ways that are not retraumatising for ourselves or others, in way which makes them sources of creative insight?

This morning an idea came to me ‘the juice of the wound’.  In the myth the wounded arrow contains poison and that in itself is a kind of ‘juice’ with certain affects upon us.  That poison or ‘juice’ can and does lodge deep in our emotional bodies, it can immobilise or paralyse it.  Finding a way to ‘let’ it or dispel it seems essential as we don’t want to just stew in it always in a deeply painful way, and yet some kind of ‘stewing’ gives birth to art and poetry.  Juice and stewing images bring to mind the idea of alchemy or cooking our instinctual energies that run amuck or go awry.  It was something Carl Jung devoted a lot of time towards exploring with alchemical images such as those of Lion’s with their paws cut off being roasted in vessels over a fire which a kind of therapeutical or alchemical image for deep wounded healing processes.

Speaking of roasting Lions, last night I watched some of Madonna’s Rebel Heart concert on television.  I am not a huge Madonna fan but I was taken with the anger she was expressing and the hurt that formed the basis of two of her more recent songs Heartbreak City and Living in Love, as a Sun Sign Leo she expressed her angst and hurt in a very dramatic way.  The second song is full of positive lines about how as hurt as she has been she will not allow the hurt to poison her, it was an interesting case of synchronicity after just reading about the Chiron Mars Saturn transits of late.  We all go through pain, we all suffer and some of us do good work with the wounds.  We have our days when they consume us entirely.  The poison runs around our systems and we can feel paralysed or wired, on fire with anger and outrage or flooded and drowned in grief, these are all very human responses to what it is to be a soul that can suffer in the instinctual emotional part of us but we are then left with the outflow or outfall to deal with.  What we do with it I guess in the end speaks a lot about who we are and the attitude we take, after the flood or fire has passed or we have passed through it.  Many of us try to use our wounds to help others. By sharing our pain and suffering we connect to each other and are helped in some small way to feel less alone, in pouring out our experience or by sharing another’s we find the spot where we connect and through expressing and witnessing vulnerability become empowered.

Healer

 

An agent of destruction

My godmother died yesterday.  Her death has provoked so many memories.  In the later years of her life we were estranged after years in which she and my godfather tried to support me at times when my emotionally unavailable parents failed to.  It was with her I lived for a short time after returning to Australia to live a few years after my father died.  As I look back to that time I see the deep, deep pain my young adult self was in and the wreckage she had already begun to live at that state at the age of 25 in the early stages of my alcoholism.  I was hungry and empty and longing for love and a present family and parents and my god parents gave me some of this.  However, emotionally it was my godfather, Piet who really saw into the depths of me and validated why I needed to turn to alcohol in the family I grew up in, he gave me the missing love and understanding I never got from my father.

Piet left Holland in 1938 with my father and they both went to the Dutch East Indies and he told me in later years of my father’s relentless dream to become a millionaire, in later years he did not see my father as much as Uncle Piet was only ever a ‘lowly’ mechanic and I loved him so much for that and use the word ‘lowly’ to describe how society might view a person who was more real than real and had a heart of gold and who I admire more than any millionaire in the world.

My godfather was the soft emotional one, my godmother was harder having had a very tough childhood and having lost a brother to suicide at a young age, she had to bury her pain under a lot of stoicism and philosophy.  In later years she turned to yoga to find peace but there was always a hardness in her and she shut down in later years and had my godfather diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when really it was just the pain of his own deep childhood abandonment having lost a mother very young that came to the surface and began to manifest in anger and clinging.

Anyway the story of my connection to them both would take many pages, and in the later years we were less connected especially after Piet died in 2003 and my marriage broke up the following year.

In the later years my quest for love took me into a very dysfunctional relationship and it was to my godmother that I turned in 2011 when that relationship finally hit the wall all around the anniversary of my father’s death.  My emotional wounds and inner child’s emotional abandonment was so close to the surface and I ran to Sydney and away from my home town after a fight with my Mum when she callously mocked me for grieving.  My godmother took me in but she didn’t understand any of the emotional side of what I was going through and so, at that time and I must say in a lot of pain, I turned to internet dating thinking that if only I could find another man to love me everything would be okay. I now see the fallacy of that, my real inner work had to begin with the ending of that relationship in 2010.  My godmother turned on me one day and said I had to leave her place the next day, as her grandson was coming and that was not true as she had a spare bed and room for both of us.  I was distraught and ended up moving to a boarding house and then into a share house with an abusive alcoholic before finally returning to my home town 6 months later.  It was hard to forgive my godmother for not supporting me at the time I most needed it but I don’t resent her for it as much any more, it was what she felt she needed to do and what she did put me in a deeply painful place .  For some time I turned towards more dysfunction as a result.  Now I see that then I was on the brink of my deepest wound and emotional work in recovery, emotionally I needed to take care of myself but that would take some time and a lot more realisation to happen.

Death of someone is very final but I guess it is not the end of the relationship we had with them that lives on in our inner life and soul.  I spoke to my godmother last night in my soul and shared with her the tears and pain of how hard it was to be abandoned emotionally again by the one person I hoped to trust, but while my tears fell I saw she did the best she could from her level of consciousness.  Speaking to her daughter a moment ago and hearing how she suffered at my godmother’ s hands from her harshness and emotional shut down confirmed so much for me.  It was that generation’s way of coping and my godmother shut down on so much, so of course she had to shut me out and send me away into the wilderness, that was all part of my journey.

My godmother and my mother were best friends. I feel so deeply for my Mum today.  She has lost her best friend after 70 years of friendship and today she has responsibilities due to the debacle with the property we bought at auction to deal with on the back of her grief.  I started this post with the heading An Agent of Destruction because sharing about all this with my therapist this morning that is how I feel.  I feel bad due to what happened with my godmother, even though I was only seeking a place to protected and cared for, I feel so bad about what happened with the property even though that all happened too because I didn’t really have adequate protection and care from outside or inside.  I am not a destroyer and I am not bad, but that is how it sometimes feels.

I was reading something about blame, struggle, grief and suffering in a book by Buddhist Teacher Londro Rinzler last night in which a student had gone to a Zen teacher crying over all of their heart break and saying to the Rishi “Why, why, why”, the teacher looked at him and just said “no reason”.  That really made me realise how much we make up about the reasons why something happened, how habituated and conditioned we are to look for someone to blame at times (most often ourselves) and how often we cause so much further suffering by not just sitting still and feeling what we need to feel and letting go into and learning, but insteaed thinking, thinking, thinking and questioning in such as way as we get tied up in knots and experience even more the suffering of suffering.

Do we need to create more suffering by the way we react to our suffering?  Is there a point where we can let others off the hook?  Can we also understand that at times there are reasons but the reasons we make up are off base and don’t have to focus on projections of badness and blame?  Are there ways we can show each other more tenderness, mercy and compassion.  These I feel are such important questions to ponder and amidst them they allow me to enter my heart and be with my own and other’s suffering in a way that doesn’t end up creating more suffering through judgement.

 

 

Accepting who I am, the scars I carry and the feelings I have.

Accept ourselves

Just a few thoughts after a painful though healing session at therapy today.

The happy family I long for never really existed.  My longing for it probably wont ever go away.  It is natural that I carry grief around this and it can be triggered again in the present time.  I have also had experiences of being sent out to the periphery of things more times than I care to remember, so it is natural that I fear getting close to others.  Despite this I know there are people out there who are sensitive and kind and would not choose to hurt me but at times they may hurt me with things they do.  That is part of the struggle of being human. When they do, even if it hurts its up to me to treat the wound tenderly and good to look for help with this if I am struggling.  This isn’t a sign of weakness, it is a sign of self care.

Its okay and understandable that I have the feelings I do.  They are not a sign of something ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ with me.  All feelings make sense.  It is understandable that I would carry a fear of being judged as ‘mad’ or ‘bi polar’ for having intense reactions to things.  The intensity of my reaction would all make sense if you truly knew my history and looked deep inside my heart.  Its often likely that you cannot or will not unless you have struggled as I have and felt deeply too.  (I know there are a lot of you out there like me by the way.)

Its natural that having lacked an emotionally connected and loving present background I find it hard to connect at times and validate and be present to my own deep emotions.  A symptom of disconnection will be some kind of disconnection or dissociation in me.  If I have the wound it may be highly likely that I attract other who dissociate and if they aren’t connected to their own feelings they wont be able to understand or connect with mine.  This is a pattern that I will need to do a lot of work on, learning to hold and contain lovingly the part of me that feels hurting or wounded without lashing out and making things worse.  If I feel the need to say I have been hurt I can do so in a loving and non violent way.

When I go through hard things that hurt its okay if I feel upset, fearful, angry, sad, bitter or disappointed.  I can acknowledge these feelings are natural and I don’t have to make them worse.  I may choose to make some philosophical sense of them but that does not mean the pain no longer exists.  If I feel it and honour it, my experience is that the pain will lessen but I may always carry a wound.

If I had disordered attachment or bonding experiences in childhood I am not wired in the same way as those of you who did.  I can try to mend this in therapy or with others but there will always be scars.  I can be kind and loving to myself in the midst of this.  It doesn’t mean I am full of self pity.  It means I am trying so hard to make a better present out of a painful past.

The empty space we are left with : the pain of unmet needs.

I just read a very well expressed post on the legacy of trauma of being left with an empty space of unmet need from childhood posted by Courage Coaching.

https://couragecoaching.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/the-loss-of-what-should-have-been/

It occurred to me how deeply and painfully this empty space affects so many of us well into adulthood.  And it is so hard to recognise what needs you did not get met  until the true ache and emptiness of this begins to make itself felt and for so many of us that does not occur until we are a long way down the road of addiction and possible addiction recovery or deep depression, mental illness or psychosis.

Getting into recovery and being told you have ‘defects of character’ does not help with the self blame that also so often accompanies being a child who suffered emotional neglect or from narcissist parents who were so busy living out of their own wounds they had no time to care about yours.  The defects are really deficiencies of nurturance that we suffer which draw us towards unhealthy behaviours and relationships and we may go a long way down the road in those before we come to truly understand the deep legacy of the empty space we carry around so deep down inside.

For me reading about childhood emotional neglect in the book Running on Empty by Jonice Webb last year was a turning point.  In that book she clearly outlines both the consequences of unmet needs as well as the degree of self blame as a sufferer of this we end up carrying deep within.  In short if we suffered from unmet needs we tend to feel there is something wrong with us and this something is our own fault, when really it relates back to our own emotional trauma history. In addition if our parents didn’t do their own healing work we carry similar wounds but as they pass along the generations they become more severe.  That has most definitely been the case in my own family.

In the course of our recovery we need help in identifying exactly what our unmet needs were.  I know in my own case I learned to dismiss my own unmet needs, telling myself I did not have them and they were not a problem most particularly my need for attention.  I see how my own mother coped with a childhood in which not one person was emotionally present.  She coped by denying her own feelings and needs a lot while at the same time feeling she had to meet them alone.  In a way she was lucky when she met my father as together they got to meet some of their unmet needs but they also passed a lot of unmet ones down, most particularly to their youngest child: me.

Even now I find one thing I really struggle with is allowing myself to have my needs and feel that I deserve to have them met.  I was just reading a post on dissociation before reading Athina’s post mentioned above and in that Annie addressed the problem of how one huge legacy of childhood trauma is dissociating or disconnecting from our deep feelings and needs and of how we can then have a delayed reaction when a trigger occurs that mirrors what we suffered in childhood.  Instead of affirming and validating ourselves for how we felt we tend not to do this.  Instead we may judge ourselves critically for having the impulses or feelings that we do.

Just before going out today I was going to post the following quote as a post of its own.  In it the author addresses how hurtful and unproductive judging ourselves for our negative feelings is.

Judging creates emotion.  In addition, any emotion you feel in response to an external event will be  intensified if you judge yourself for that event.  For example, if you’re getting divorced and you judge yourself as unlovable or as someone who always messes up the pain of divorce will become worse.  If you then judge yourself for being upset, that will add more pain.  Increasing your awareness of your self judgements and better understanding the way you learn to judge yourself in a particular way can help you reduce this behaviour.

If our valid childhood need to have our true emotions and feelings valued and validated is not met we do tend to lack this ability.  We suffer a lot of shaming and inwardly critical self talk that does not lead us to truth or understanding.  Learning what our true needs and feelings are and seeking those who will validate them (such as a therapist or recovery friend) and learning to value and validate them from within is deeply important work.

As Athina points out grieving our unmet needs and losses from childhood is also important, even if deeply painful inner work and if we bypass or skip it by reaching for philosophical or so called ‘spiritual’ platitudes or insights instead we do tend to by pass a most critical stage of our emotional healing.  Recognising and dealing with emotional invalidation is so important.  It is critical to our recovery.  Knowing accurately our needs and feelings enable us to set boundaries and is essential for both emotional and mental health.  There may be much grief work to do for many of us before we begin to be able to do that and recognise how important it is.

 

Unconditional love and Complex PTSD

I really do believe the most powerful force in the universe is love.  This week I have had some powerful moments of feeling love break through to me, most especially when the defences around my heart have melted and I have felt such enormous grief.  At these times I have been hearing an inner voice that says:

Only love is real.

I am not meaning to imply here that the painful things that happen to us didn’t happen, that they are not real but that the real force that opens us to the truth of what happened to us is actually love.  For without it there are only defences, protections and minimisations all of which block the true flow of love.    And it is the absence of true unconditional love the ends up damaging us as children.

C-PTSD is a syndrome of the dearth of unconditional love or what the great therapist Carl Rogers, called “unconditional positive regard”.  C-PTSD can occur when unconditional love is shut off in an all-or-nothing way in early childhood.

Without the unconditional love of a parent (which includes the discipline to help the child set boundaries at the appropriate age related time) we simply cannot thrive emotionally and we are left with deficits.  These can be repaired later in life if we can find a source of unconditional love from at least one person.  Alice Miller has given the name “enlightened witness” to this source.  The presence of just one person who can be there to help the child know and mirror its true reality including painful responses to the trauma of loss of love will make all the difference for healing.

As Peter Walker points out and so many of us in recovery know we often carry this desire for unconditional love and positive regard into all of our relationships in later life.  In fact the sheer longing for it will bear testament to the lack we feel.  Healing and growing in awareness will confront us with the painful reality that very few people will be able to provide this for us later in life.  There is no one out there who can heal our childhood longing and hurt.  When we transfer it onto ordinary human relationships we ask too much and often we attract to us the vary partners who are most unsuited to give us this love.

Such a heavy demand can exact a huge toll on later relationships and part of healing requires understanding at a deeper level where our deep feelings of emptiness and longing come from and finding ways to meet them in different relationships and activities that nurture us and fill us with a feeling of peace. It also requires that we turn around and give to ourselves the unconditional love we longed for in childhood when we experience emotional distress and pain.

Although Michael Brown doesn’t ever use the term Complex PTSD in his book on presence, he does talk of unintegrated emotional charges which cause us pain that relate back to our childhood.  His method for working with them is outlined in his book.  Often we turn to others when we are distressed hoping they may give us this unconditional positive regard, some people will be able to do it but there will often be times they are not available.  In that case we need to turn back towards ourselves.   Sitting still with ourselves. Focusing on our breath. Speaking loving and soothing words towards our inner child, even opening up to ask him or her how she is feeling or what reminder from the past is being triggered for us will help.

Yesterday while sitting through a very long Catholic funeral service I started to feel distressed and agitated,  Part of me wanted to get the hell out of the room into the fresh air or far far away.  But for the moment I concentrated on my breath.  “What does this remind you of?” I asked my inner child.  She was telling me how much she hated having to sit through benediction services every Wednesday, how restricting and confining she found the space and the smell of the incense, how emotionally shut down and full of guilt and shame she found the service with its emphasis on the judgement of god for sins.  I was able to hear all of this and my distress soon ended.  I didn’t actually have to get away from the service, I could watch it as a witness and see how it and why it was affecting me more deeply inside.   There was some freedom in that. By simply being present with myself I learned something and not all things about the service were ‘bad’, I was able to see some of the good things without running away.  I shared about it later with my therapist.  Of how often I can get this urge to run and get away from heavy things but how lately I don’t have to react as quickly to do so if I check in.  It was a good observation to make.   I felt apart from but not lost somewhere deep inside.  The presence process had really helped me deepen my understanding.

On Grief

purple

Grief can be a teacher of the soul.  It can temper me.

It can open my eyes and heart

to wisdom and understanding born from suffering. 

When I cannot grieve, I carry wounds in silence. 

Grief can cleanse my psyche of frozen patterns –

of complexes and compulsions held in place and hidden by unfelt pain. 

Feeling the pain that drives me into destructive forms

of thinking and behaving

can release the energy within me

that has been stored and used to maintain rigid defences. 

If I am willing to feel grief,

then I don’t have to defend against feeling it. 

All the energy I have used to keep from feeling pain can finally be freed. 

Grief is just a feeling,

and I will survive feeling it,

knowing that it is only by experiencing that that I can let it go.

I am strong enough to feel real grief.

Let the young rain of tears come

Let the calm hands of grief come

It’s not as evil as you think.  

Rolf Jacobson

Source :  The Soul’s Companion,  Tian Dayton, January 19, page 21