The mother wound we carry

I wanted to share the following excerpt from Mark Wolynn’s excellent book on inherited family trauma : It Didn’t Start With You.   It is one of the most important books I have ever read, just sad I heard about it over 2 years ago and only just bought it.  What he shares of his own experience and understanding with healing multigenerational trauma in both his own life and lives of his clients is nothing short of remarkable.  He also uses the latest research conducted into epigenetics to support his claims showing how early stress and lack of nurture affects our neurological structure even in the womb, as well as how inherited trauma of a grandparent or great grandparent can be carried and communicated even along paternal (as well as maternal) streams of inheritance.  It is changing the way I am thinking about my own mother nurturance wound and the addiction that grew out of it.

To put it simply, we receive aspects of our grandmother’s mothering through our own mother.  The traumas our grandmothers endured, her pains and sorrows, her difficulties in childhood or with our grandfather, the losses of those she loved who died early – these filter, to some degree, into the mothering she gave our mother.  If we look back another generation, the same would likely be true about the mothering our grandmother received.

The particulars of the events that shaped their lives may be obscured from our vision, but nevertheless, the impact of those particulars can be deeply felt.  It’s not only what we inherit from our parents but also how they were parented that influences how we relate to a partner, how we relate to ourselves, and how we nurture our children.  For better or worse, parents tend to pass on the parenting they themselves received.

These patterns appear to be hardwired into the brain, and begin to be formed before we’re even born  How our mother bonds with us in the womb is instrumental in the development of our neural circuitry.  Thomas Verney says, “From the moment of our conception, the experience in the womb shapes the brain and lays the groundwork for personaltity, emotional temperament, and the power of higher thought.”  Like a blueprint, these patterns are transmitted more than learned.

The first nine months outside the womb function as a continuation of the neural development that occurs within the womb.  Which neural circuits remain, which are discarded, and how the remaining circuits will be organised depend on how the infant experiences and interacts with the mother or caregiver.  It’s through these early reactions that a child continues to establish a blueprint for managing emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

When a mother (or father) carried inherited trauma, or has experienced a break in the bond with her mother (or father), it can affect the tender bond that’s forming with her infant, and that bond is more likely to be interrupted.  The impact of an early break in the mother – child bond – an extended hospital stay, an ill timed vacation, a long term separation – can be devastating for an infant.  The deep, embodied familiarity of the mother’s smell, feel, touch, sound, and taste – everything the child has come to know and depend on – is suddenly gone.

“Mother and offspring live in a biological state that has much in common with addiction,” says behaviour science writer Winifred Gallagher.  “When they are parted, the infant does not just miss its’ mother, it experiences a physical and psychological withdrawal… not unlike the plight of a heroin addict that goes cold turkey.”  This analogy helps to explain why all newborn mammals, including humans protest with such vigour when they are separated from their mothers.  From an infant’s perspective, a separation from mother can be felt as “life threatening.” says Dr, Raylene Philips, a neonatologist at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.   “If separation continues for a prolonged period,” she says, “the… response is despair….  The baby gives up.”

In my early life, I knew that feeling of giving up.  It came from my family.  What my mother didn’t get from her mother affected what she was able to give to me and to my sibling.  Although I could always feel her love shine through, much of her mothering was infused with the traumas in our family history – specifically the fact that her mother, Ida, lost both of her parents when she was two.

Orphaned at two, my grandmother was raised by her elderly grandparents, who earned a living peddling rags from a pushcart in the Hill District in Pittsburgh.  My grandmother adored her grand parents, and often lit up with she shared memories about how much they loved her.  But that was only part of the story – the part she could consciously remember.  A deeper story lay beneath her reach.

Before Ida was a toddler, perhaps even in the womb, she would have absorbed the sensations of her mother’s distress caused by the constant arguing, the tears and disappo8ntmets.  All this would have had a profound effect on the crucial neural development taking place in Ida’s brain.  Then, losing her mother at age two would leave her emotionally shattered.

It’s not only that my mother was raised by an orphan who couldn’t give her the nurturing she never got from her mother, my mother also inherited the visceral trauma of Ida’s separation from her mother at an early age.  Although Ida was present physically in my mother’s life, she was unable to express the depth of emotion that would support my mother’s life.  That missing emotional connection also became part of my mothers’ inheritance.


In order to end the cycle of inherited trauma in my family, and ultimately for my own healing, I realised that I needed to heal my relationship with my mother.  I knew I couldn’t change what had happened in the past, but I certainly could change the relationship we had now.

My mother had inherited her mother’s stress patterns, and so did I.  She would often clutch her chest and complain about feelings of agitation in her body.  I realise now that she was unconsciously reliving the fear and loneliness that rippled through our family, the terror of being separated from the one she needed most – her mother.

There is much more to the story of family patterns Mark inherited and finally uncovered and discovered after a long journey of seeking outside for answers to his own psychological anxiety and trauma issues.   Reading his account has made so much sense to me of the symptoms of separation anxiety I experience at exactly the time of day my own grandmother, widowed in her early 30s, left my own mother (aged 8) alone to go and clean offices.  The two times of day were 4 to 8 pm and in the early hours of the am.  These are the times of day I experience my own anxiety/panic issues.  I had a growing sense developing in later months that what I was experiencing at those times was not mine alone, that it didn’t start with me.  And that was the exact time of day I had my head trauma injury in 2005 a year after my husband and I separated as I ran from him and my mother out of fear they would not support me in my own deep grief which I now know relates to a mother separation wound going back 4 generations.

Mark’s evidence and experience of his own and in his clients life (which I will share more remarkable examples of in a following post) backs up my own.  His work with inherited family patterns is so important that I am going to make it focus of my following posts.  This is important knowledge so many of us need to have, in order to heal and end deeply entrenched patterns of emotional blindness, ignorance and blame that keep us separated from a profound psychological understanding.

Triggered by exercise, joy, power, happiness!

I wondered how many of you get triggered when you start to exercise?   If you were in fearful situations a lot as a child or if like me you suffered a few life threatening events where you pulse was raised, I have read that exercise can trigger panic as the body/mind registers the raising of the heart beat as fear.  This thought is also triggered by a response to a comment I read on another post about self harm where the commenter recommended the gym as a diversion from pain and anxiety.  The person replied about how the gym triggers them.  Ideally we feel our pain and don’t try to escape it but one of the long term impacts of paralysis, freeze or collapse which is such a big part of both Post Traumatic Stress and Complex PTS is that we don’t exercise or even move enough but get locked in self protective patterns which may include ingestion addictions to calm feelings.  That is okay if we turn to healthy food but if we turn instead to wheat or sugar laden snacks it can be a problem for some and as survivor of breast cancer I have had to watch that I don’t turn to those kind of snacks when my anxiety gets triggered in the now.

I was also prompted to write this post as Jasper and I just returned from a good long walk.  I then did some stretching at the bench in the field I sometime sit on to read my book mid walk.  When we drove home I felt such a surge of happiness, joy, power and wellbeing but as soon as I got inside to make a late lunch my thoughts started to race and I felt my heart beating fast and happiness turned to panic and fear.

I then though of all the times when I was attending AA that I was warned to not get too high or happy and when I share this with my therapist she is shocked.  I get triggered by happiness or assertive energy anyway because often as a young child in a much older family I was helpless at the power used over me not always in very nice ways, especially not by my older sister but the second one who used to pass off her own frustration about no one being home with us and having to care for me, onto me.   Also in later years when this sister was supposedly ‘manic’ (to a degree this was true but in some cases she was being pathologised) I began to feel a lot of fear.

Anyway today I was glad to be able to make the association to the way I was feeling.  I know that often my anxiety is manifesting without me consciously registering it as anxiety.  I just have all these strange flooding or drowning sensations in my body and I don’t always recognise feelings as such, at first they appear as somatised body symptoms.  When I spoke to my Mum this morning she was expressing something very similar.  I thought it might be good feedback for a post.  Last week with Kat in therapy I was sharing how I felt my feelings about past mistreatment as a few wild horses in my breast champing at the bit to get out.  My teeth were aching where my denture attached to that two top back teeth and that reminded me of being in bridle head gear every night for over a year when I was 16 and had braces.  I am SO ANGRY I had to go through that :  it was fucking torture for a highly sensitive person and I just had to grin and bear it and swallow it down.

There are some of the things I need to externalise and share here, when I share them at 12 step meetings people get triggered and get in trouble for saying how it really was, which also makes me angry.  But if I don’t speak about it I will get sick and my cancer may even return.

Sorting out the mixed up world of repressed and shame bound feelings


When we are young and go through deep feelings of being abandoned, being left alone or are traumatised by big feelings of others or left without sufficient mirroring and empathy for our feelings we develop a deficit in our capacity to make sense of these feelings as well as express them.  Our feelings are still held deep inside and stored in our bodies but at the same time we form defences against feeling them and the pain or liberation that may bring.

We also live in a shame bound society and feeling wounded culture that so often fails to identify and acknowledge certain feelings, most especially painful ones such as sadness, anger, shame and fear.  Therefore the shame component of repressed, invalidated feelings grows huge for many of us.  John Bradshaw in his excellent book Healing the Shame That Binds You explains in great detail how and why feelings we are taught to repress or meet with difficulty in being expressed or felt in dysfunctional families get shame bound.  This means that as we evolve we develop an arrested feeling self.  In this state of shame biding even the threat or whiff off feeling a certain feeling brings up the most intense shame or inward self criticism.

We cover this shame over or react to the emergence of shame bound feelings with defences in our mind, most of which form the inner critic who then attacks the feelings as well as us for having them, telling us all kinds of lies and untruths about what a bad or damaged person we are when the deeper truth is that we are really out of relationship with a most vital and alive part of ourselves.

Bradshaw 3

When we begin the difficult emotional uncovery work of feeling our feelings in therapy, sobriety or healing this is when the inner critic will step in and try to protect us from feeling them in some way.  To the inner critic who formed to keep us safe in unsafe family or social environments the emergence of repressed feeling is cause for major panic and alarm, all the critic can see is that we are breaking out of a safe holding space.

The critic often forms in childhood to keep us safe from the parent or a world we have come to believe would be hostile to our true expression of feeling.  Add to this that if we haven’t matured psychologically through being able to process, understand and feel our past traumatic feelings and imprints when they do emerge in us as adults they can feel unmanageable in their ferocity.  Suddenly we find we have age regressed to feel about 2 years old in some cases and to the critic that is another cause for attack, aren’t we supposed to an adult now?  Someone who is in control and shouldn’t have to ride this huge roller coaster?  But this intense period of hyper feeling is actually a good thing if we can stop the shame spiral, pause and spend time connecting with what is being triggered. Here is where group wound and individual therapy or 12 step recovery work can help.

A large part of our healing process is coming to understand when we have age regressed to an earlier time of trauma which was very painful for us.  I wrote about age regression some time last year in a number of posts which I will include at the bottom of this one.  Age regression or reversion to an earlier experience of trauma or deep feeling which will emerge when we are triggered, most especially in therapy, group work or relationships is a God given opportunity for us to grow in awareness of feelings and needs we may have repressed and learned to bind in shame.

Feeling the shame associated to the feeling, sharing about it, bringing it out of hiding with affirmative and validating others is most essential to our healing process and will help us grow in awareness.  While others cannot feel our feelings for us (though they may do this through the healing power of empathy) doing so will not take our feelings away but if they have gone through their own healing process or are qualified therapeutically, help to hold the space for us while we have our process and feelings this kind of holding can help us begin to make a relationship with what we formerly could not feel and may dull the voice of our inner critic.

We need this kind of support, being designed and wired as humans to be connected and to form attachments, attachments we may have failed to form with emotionally unavailable or inconsistent parents in childhood we do need, at some point, to have our feelings in relationship.  Thus the need at certain stages of recovery to have some who can consistently mirror us while helping us to develop our own capacity to hold, process and make sense of feelings.

Bradshaw 2

Being left alone with our feelings is difficult, when we cannot make sense of them, feel ashamed or feel they are mixed up, intense and overwhelming.  We need to feel them for ourselves in order to liberate them and reach understandings of why we blocked them in the first place.  Doing so was a survival mechanism we learned at that time to keep us safe, but it may take a lot of time and help if our feelings have been repressed or shamed.  Not being able to have, feel and understand our true feelings in the present, judging them, over intensifying them due to shame, keeps us imprisoned in a false self and leaves our true feelings buried under layers of defences.  Developing deeper insight into the nature of such defences and compassion for ourselves in the midst of them is such important work as we go through the process of learning to liberate, understand and feel our true feelings.   As we do we will be restored to our true selves.

At the same time we must do work on what Pete Walker calls Shrinking The Inner Critic.  We can turn the criticism on ourselves or outwards on others, in either case we are not really acknowledging the truth depth of our plight and such criticism in keeping us locked in shame may deeply hamper both our progress and our healing process.

John Bradshaw : on sadness, grieving and healing


“Our sadness is an energy we discharge in order to heal,

Sadness is painful. We try to avoid it.

Actually discharging sadness releases the energy involved in our emotional pain. 

To hold it in is to freeze the pain within us.

The therapeutic slogan is that grieving is the ‘healing feeling.” 

John Bradshaw

Mindfulness and panic attacks : some insights from Debra Campbell.

We are not problems to be addressed or sentences to be corrected. (Our) fault lines have a beauty and history that reach back before words.  They must be honoured.  They can’t completely be talked away, although this can help.  They won’t be bulldozed into non existence.  The past that put them there cannot be changed .  It can be tolerable, even good, to sit with the fault lines, with ourselves, in the courage and grace of being with what is.  Although the cliffs of the fault lines are dangerous, their genesis holds many clues about our personality formation, the wisdom of our feelings and some cautionary tales.

Mindfulness is a way of living with more awareness and less judgement, connected to a deeper sense of self.  In great panic and anxiety, alone on the cliff face, it can be the cable that holds you from plummeting and that gently reels you up from a fall.

The above excerpt is from the chapter on Mindful Love in Debra Campbell’s book Lovelands. In it she addresses a client, Alex’s panic attacks which were crippling and entirely overpowering in their severity.  I must say suffering the same up to two or three a day meant that the information in this chapter moved me to tears by the end.

Debra worked with Alex to develop a mindfulness practice which would allow Alex to stand present with himself through the abject terror of his panic attacks.  As Debra explains there were fault lines and deep fissures in Alex’s development.  His father had never fully parented him, leaving him with out a feeling of safety in life.  As  a young child, Alex had watched terrifying movies with his Dad which makes me feel his father must have gone through some kind of terror that he was passing onto his son or at the very least showing a lack of protection to his son’s developing consciousness.

Alex became obsessed with the darker side of life, this was what his childhood had opened him up to but his father had never really provided him with the support or resources he needed to cope in a life in which he often felt unconsciously overwhelmed.  In end Alex needed help with this and with Debra’s  assistance, guidance, support and love over time he learned how to self parent.

Staying mindfully with ourselves is the deepest form of self parenting.  But often we need a guide or midwife along the way for our soul, for alone we often get sucked into deep crevasses and fault lines not of our own making especially if we lacked attunement, protection, guidance and support in childhood to deal with big feelings.  Mindfulness practice gives us a  way forward to breathe and focus on the love in our hearts that can contain the fear, emptiness, loneliness, frustration, confusion and pain, a way of seeing that they are residues of a deeply unconscious past that can dog us well into adulthood, a painful past that doesn’t need to be a life sentence but does need to be understood.

Mindfulness can help us to become aware of some of the story lines we are running around our fear, and a deeper understanding of how our fear of our fear is the most challenging issue, keeping us stuck and preventing us navigating the crevasses which have lessons for us, without getting stuck there.

Often the origin of the attacks stems from a combination of factors or from being under too much stress for too long.  An exhausted soul’s fight or flight mechanism may mistakenly smell unseen danger everywhere, becoming hyper vigilant and increasingly activating the false alarm of panic with little or no reason.

Understanding when and why this is happening to us is very important.  The connection Debra makes in this chapter between being too overwhelmed often and left with out protection speaks to me of emotional neglect.  I got an enormous insight into my own panic attacks in this chapter.  I was moved to tears.  In the end Alex made friends with himself in the midst of his attacks and life became less frightening.

Concluding the chapter Debra has this to say :

Mndfulness helps you find the capacity to be with the inevitable pain that life dishes out.  Of tremendous value to me was finding such a practical everyday way to become less afraid of my depressive and anxious demons that drove me relentlessly back to my faultlines.  I had found a way to make friend with every part of myself and see every thought and feeling as an event, neither good nor bad, unless I decided it was so.

She ends the chapter by saying mindfulness, in opening her insight into her flaws also enabled her to glimpse new hope and possibilities not by trying to shut the door on or run away from them but through looking them closely in the face and not being turned to stone like Medusa.

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.

Re-experiencing trauma

Trauma image

If I have been deeply upset or traumatised by something, I may be hiding an unhealed wound in my unconscious.  While I was experiencing the original trauma, my reaction may have been flight, fight or freeze. All these were natural reactions, part of being a human animal: none allowed me to be in the situation and process it cognitively or emotionally. 

Unprocessed experience gets stored in a sort of flash-frozen state.  When it gets triggered by a current life event, it begins to thaw out and to hurt; it may cause me to over-react either inside myself or through my actions.   Today when this happens I will ask myself if my deep emotional reaction to a situation is appropriate or if an old wound is getting pressed.  If it is an old wound, I will let myself feel it and become aware of how that old pain is affecting me in my life today.

I find freedom through healing trauma

Truly one learns only by sorrow; it is a terrible education

that the soul gets and it requires a terrible grief

that shakes the very foundation of one’s being

to bring the soul into its own.

Lance Hawker

Source : The Soul’s Companion, Tian Dayton, October 25, p. 325

Projecting pain: Understanding how it works and why we need to shrink the Inner and Outer Critic

If our childhood was traumatic it is likely that the unprocessed pain may be projected onto other relationships.  The chapter Shrinking Your Outer Critic in Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD makes for very enlightening reading.  It is teaching me a lot both about how parents can dump their own rage over past injuries onto their children, scapegoating them and then ensuring that the child has to find ways to offload this pain. From my understanding it can either be internalised and then we get beat up by a savage inner critic or alternatively it can externalised and then we beat others up for supposed transgressions which may be unconscious reminders of things that happened to us in childhood that hurt us deeply and we could never really unpack.

As Pete explains, often we oscillate between the two positions.  The cure he recommends and outlines in this chapter involves a combination of self awareness and mindfulness.  As he explains those with an aggressive ‘fight’ defence act pain out in rants or accusations.  Those with a more passive style may seethe internally and then their voracious inner critic kicks into gear.

There are two aspects to this mindfulness.  The first is cognitive, using thought awareness, thought stopping and thought substitution (substituting excessive negative critical thoughts for balanced positive thoughts).

The second aspect is emotional and involves grief work.  As Pete explains it this involves

removing the critic’s fuel supply – the unexpressed childhood anger and the uncried tears of a lifetime of abandonment.

angering at the outer critic helps to silence it (helping us to challenge the critic’s entrenched all or none perspective that everyone is as dangerous as our parents), and crying helps to evaporate it (and it also release(s) the fear that the outer critic uses to frighten us out of opening to others.  Tears can help us realise that our loneliness is now causing us much unnecessary pain).

It is my experience that those of us with a narcissistic style can most definitely not allow ourselves the vulnerability of the later response.

Mindfulness can and will cause us emotional and thought flashbacks to earlier incidents from childhood, consciously or unconsciously.  Our critic attacks may seem to grow in strength and power because we are becoming more aware of what we unconsciously defended against before.  And if part of our conditioning involved our parent’s disabling our angry reactions to unjustified shame, blame or criticism other painful feelings, sensations and thoughts will be evoked.  We may need a super aware ally to help us as we working with shrinking the inner and outer critic.  And in my experience the grief we feel helps us to come back to reality and remove defences even though this work is painful.

As Jay Early and Bonnie Weiss point out in their book Freedom From the Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approach it is important that we learn to stand with our inner child and help them to separate from the critics attacks which were designed to protect us in childhood but no longer serve us to develop a healthy relationship with our self or others.  For as long as the inner critic and outer critic is allowed to run rampant in our relationships the consequences will be the death of true love, respect, compassion, empathy, intimacy and connection.


Care of the seeds of negativity that trauma leaves

I awoke this morning feeling the darkness of the trauma imprint that can grab hold of me, on the difficult days hovering there just beneath consciousness.  Asking me today which way will you turn?

Today being my birthday morning felt crystal clear and full of sunshine I was in the light but I could feel the seed of darkness, suffering, illness and pain just below the surface of consciousness.  On reflection I realised this is also an enmeshment seed in which I can get tangled up in other’s pain being an empath and also having suffered so much pain myself.

Yesterday I watched a brilliant video on the difficulties of being an empath.  In it Lisa A. Romano  spoke of how our own childhood emotional neglect and lack of validation can lead us as empaths to become co-dependent on things outside of us that mirror our own wounding and reflect our own unacknowledged or unmet needs.  We also have sensitive mirror neurons inside which scan environments we are in and are almost like osmotic sponges in which we absorb and are attuned to the pain, emptiness or distress of others.

Our childhood most likely set us up for this though our inherent sensitive sore spots and voids of emotional attunement also contribute to it.  The entire thing was so clearly explained by Lisa who is a Pisces herself and thus ruled by the emotionally absorbent  planet Neptune that it was no wonder with my strong Neptune and Chiron in Pisces the video spoke to me.  It put so much into perspective most especially the way I relate to family and how others with problems gravitate towards me and then open up from that place of deep suffering.  But maybe it is also that the pain in me finds a mirror in their pain which at times can feel overwhelming.  In the video which I will link to below Lisa gives tips for getting free of this.

Today I was also thinking about how our trauma implants within us a seed of suffering which can easily turn towards negativity and attract us to pain, making us suspicious or prone to a less positive view.  Most certainly it is not negative to be in pain as pain is part of life, it is what we make of our pain that can and does lead to negativity, feelings like we don’t belong, that others cannot be trusted, that life is not safe, that we do not deserve good things, that people are intentionally setting out to harm us.  At the same time we need to be savvy for there are times when if we are too open we can attract harm from others.

Its a fine line we tread in being careful not to water these negative seeds while and when our trauma imprints or triggers are provoked.  Uncoupling negativity from the pain happens when we face the old trauma with a hand to hold or meet a more positive experience like my Mum and I did the other day in the emergency ward while in the midst of trauma.  I keep thinking of the distressed child within us with every sensitive fibre of its being on high alert then being dumped with a shit load of negativity when what that child most needs is tenderness, support, empathy, understanding and soothing.

What we say to ourselves in the midst of pain or stress is so important, an attitude of trust and a sense that good things can happen will dictate often that we can and do see the positive side.  Learning that other’s trauma is not ours to take on board is also another way to prevent our own trauma imprints buried deep within being linked into and replayed over and over again.  Understanding that as empaths we are vulnerable to a high degree of emotional contagion is also important and this is where Lisa’s five tips can help us from getting enmeshed or trangled up inside another person’s pain or negativity.

Today I awoke feeling much more positive than yesterday when I was having old death thoughts most especially watching Lisa’s video really helped me.  I had a tough week and I realised later last night I was just probably tired.  This week I got drained by being latched onto by a woman at the dog park offloading about an abusive work situation as well as going through the stress of being with my Mum at the emergency ward for hours and then having to do shopping, come home, make a meal and then take care of Jasper.  The next day I was drained by my cousin’s problems.   I am beginning to see that self care and a negative or positive frame of mind are closely linked.  If I want to stay positive I need to make sure my own fuel tank is full, that I am nurturing myself and not getting too caught up in others or my own problems when the seeds of trauma and pain and suffering and negativity weave dramatic stories that would be best not engaged with.

Deep underneath the pain still lives but there are more effective ways to deal with it.  As Lisa reminded me we are each on a spiritual journey and each of us must ultimately learn how to care for and love ourselves.   This does not mean we cannot also care for and love others but we need boundaries around that caring.  And its not really our job to care for other’s pain if they won’t do it.

I will not stop caring but I do need boundaries so as not to be overwhelmed and drained because as an empath I can and do find that this happens to me a lot.  When it does it has a negative impact on my emotional, physical or mental health and I get a warning sign or message from my body to step back, take a rest or disengage.  Taking care of me means that I must listen and respond to these messages.

I took the risk

I took the risk this morning of speaking to my sister about the intense reaction I had to her going to the coast on her own and not including me today.  She didn’t have a clue as to how I was feeling, had made all of these assumptions, such as I would just go down sometime on my own despite the fact she knows all the trauma I went through down there at her hands and those of my ex and that I have told her several times next time I go down, I don’t want to go down alone.  Its also clear to me that she didn’t really want me going down with her as I may cramp her style and to be honest on reflection we are so different perhaps its for the best.  However after the conversation I ended up feeling even more alone.  What’s new?!  Its a wake up call and a reality check for me.

“It wasn’t maliciously intended.”  She said to me at one point.  Why use that word?   I didn’t think that at all, rather I just thought was a case of her not communicating and then assuming she could mind read me which is what she does all the time.  Also I find that because she is on medication rather than doing any emotional work she operates on a very cut and dried level of purely based physical activity and with little regard for the subtleties or consequences of her reactions.

I got off the phone feeling like a bit of a freak to be honest that I don’t operate in that way.  Anyway I spoke to my therapist and she told me I did very well.  That I expressed how I felt calmly, which I had.  The charge went out for me too and the nose bleeds have stopped.

I guess what is being driven home though is how lonely it really is in my family.  How its not going to be possible for me to have any more than limited contact at the moment.  I took the opportunity to express how I truly felt and I got the brush off.  She was obviously in a hurry to get everything done and dusted so she could just get on with her day which is the way she operates.  Maybe it would be better if I am more like that, providing a container for deeper feelings and only sharing them with people who are capable of meeting me on that level.

I’ve lost the really happy space I was in yesterday when things were going well, though before the phone call to my Mum.  I operate in a happier place when I am outside family relationships with both my Mum and my sister which have been the cause of so much pain and hurt in the past.  That much has been made clear to me over the past 15 hours.  For those of you who don’t know my major traumatic head injury came on the back of their emotional abuse and sidelining of me during my depression following the end of my marriage when I made the mistake of choosing to stay close to my family rather than make the break and get away and concentrate on my deep emotional healing.

I lost 10 years of my life in the wilderness trying to get back on track and the decision was my responsibility so I have to be an adult and wear it.  At the same time it was the way they treated me with such contempt and complete disregard of my feelings which drove me into such a painful and lonely place.    I was warned how they were by others who saw but my inner child kept clinging on in the hopes of getting unrequited needs met they could never, would never fulfil.  Some hard lesson is being driven home currently.  I am sure now that being empathetic to me and caring about what I need doesn’t really enter their radar,  perhaps is not even their job now that I am an adult.  Expecting anything better is part of my own mixed up co-dependency.  But there I go again second guessing and giving a way out for poor behaviour and selfishness.

I read a great post last night on which wolf we should feed, the wolf of anger or the wolf of love.  An interesting comment from someone said they have learned that they must steer clear of those who awaken the angry wolf within them. I think that the angry wolf isn’t bad at all.  It is the part of us that tells us what isn’t right for us when it gets angry and we should listen.  I personally watch in the dog park when dogs set their boundary snappishly.  The emotionally healthy owners don’t mind this if they realise their dog is just setting a boundary.  So should it be for us.

I awoke this morning after all the nose bleeds feeling like I would never get out of bed.  I am glad I made the risk of talking to my sister so I could get into a clearer space.  I am grateful I could talk to my therapist but I still came off the phone from her feeling nauseated and ill deep in my gut.  What has helped me become clearer and to release the sick feeling has been writing this blog.  Blogging helps me to get the feelings out there.

Yesterday I posted and then took down a post of a poem which expresses valid anger at my sister. Shame and fear made me take it down.  I am going to restore it this morning.  At times due to my Catholic education and due to a childhood where anger was expressed in a dangerous way I get so scared expressing anger.  I am scared I will lose followers cause I get more likes when I post about ‘love’ but still the genuine feelings of anger I have had are real and I need to honour them and express them.  I need to release them so they don’t poison me from within and expressing them makes it easier for me to let them go.

I am inspired by this comment from a fellow blogger appearing on the blog I referred to earlier:

….I struggle when freeing myself from that wolf of hate….. I accept my wolf of hate whenever it finds me because to not accept it would be a form of self-hatred. I don’t believe in that.

Source :

When I see its me who is suffering from an emotionally insensitive or unconscious person’s actions its best for me to let it go.  They don’t see what they are doing or even care or lose any sleep, so why should I?  I can’t go all bullet proof and say it doesn’t hurt.  The valid feelings of hurt will give me good information about actions I need to take around them in the future in order to steer clear and not be hurt so much next time.  It seems clearer and clearer to me lately how much better my body feels when I steer clear of toxic, triggering influences in my life.  My body shows me pretty quickly what’s what.