Facing my aloneness

It has taken me many years to find out how alone I have felt deep down inside.  I remember a few years into recovery coming across the book Healing Your Aloneness by Margaret Paul and learning that the deep loneliness we feel comes when we sacrifice a relationship with our True Self to meet someone else’s need and abandon ourselves.  We may also abandon ourselves by reaching to a substance or activity to sooth us when we feel any kind of feeling.  All of these feelings just reflect how alone we felt as children being unnurtured or misunderstood.

There is a time when taking an action that is positive is good for us.  For example choosing to leave a situation when were are being bullied, starting to exercise when we have been neglecting our health due to depression. But there are other times when we reach to an activity to fill a void or mask a pain or realisation that we need to connect with and feel to understand.

I myself have been in recovery from alcohol addiction for over 20 years but in the last few years I have realised I have a food addiction too.  There are times I reach for coffee or food when really I either need to connect with someone else or with myself.  I know my habit of turning towards substances  began when I could not get the nourishment I needed in my home.  Lately I am finding its becoming more and more obvious when I have done the wrong thing by myself in reaching for the wrong “food”.  My body rebels.

In my body therapy I am only just becoming conscious of how terrified and unsafe I have felt since a young age.  Having an accident at 17 and then other traumas I witnessed in my family made me feel the world was not a safe place, unpredictable things could happen to shatter the continuity of life and I had not much power or control over that happening.

One of the damaging aspects of co-dependency and lack of a sold sense of boundaries is that we try to control every aspect of our lives.  If it feels too unsafe we will simply not engage with things that threaten us.  There are times for sure when we should not engage, but there are other times that we really need to. If fear holds us back our world grows smaller and smaller.

After my husband left me and I tried unsuccessfully to move overseas and had a massive accident I retreated home to a house where no one could come and I had no contact with anyone much apart from my Al Anon support group for over a year.  It was the deepest, darkest loneliest time of my life, but I will say one thing.  It was unlike the deep dark loneliness of my addictive years because I was not numb.  In fact I was unthawing. It just didn’t feel safe enough to feel with others.  I had been getting consistent messages from the last few years in my recovery that my feelings were threatening to others.

Its taken me some time to find people who are not threatened by my feelings.  I know I had a fine hair trigger that was hyper alert to abuse.  I have just read a powerful blog about how narcissists cannot be criticised and how doing so awakens narcissistic injury and then rage.  The rage is the rage at the parent who would not let them be vulnerable,  made them believe they were not good enough, humiliated them and made them feel small and they side with the abuser by becoming ashamed of their own vulnerability and never appearing vulnerable again.  If someone threatens to unmask their vulnerability they strike back.

I must say I can relate to this, but my problem in later years has been in being vulnerable and unmasking this around narcissists.  Vulnerability in recovery is best expressed at first with a therapist or with someone who is not narcissistic themselves.  Luckily in the past few years I have found safe people after many stops and starts.  But I still have times when I question who is actually safe and validating.  I have been invalidated so much it seems like second nature.

This weekend I had to make a few decisions to spend time alone with myself.  I had been invited to several events but I was aware that sometimes when I choose to socialise I end up feeling lonelier than I do when I am alone with me.  This weekend I made the decision to spend a lot of time just taking care of myself.  It paid off as I have ended the weekend feeling happier. But I still have a great fear that all of this alone time is not good for me. I get this message all the time from certain people.  “What have you been doing?” they ask with a heightened emphasis on the last word as if just being were a sign of some problem.  I love what John Bradshaw says :  “I am a human being, not a human doing.”

The point is as an introvert I am nourished by time alone and by time spent connecting with others on a deeper level than the purely surface.  Then there are times when it is just great to be out in the world seeing all the vibrant life and living going on in other people’s lives.  If I don’t judge myself as lacking I can see that time alone and just being does great things for me.

Sometimes it seems to me the price of growing is being alone for a time.  In and through coming to know this aloneness instead of running it seems to me that I can come into a deeper relationship with myself.  For so long growing up in my family the focus was always outside of myself.  I don’t remember my parents playing with me much.  The one time Dad did something I wanted was on holiday when we would go to the fair at the coast and ride the Cha Cha.  Otherwise I was dragged around to other activities they enjoyed or left in the car while they went into the club to have a drink.

It seemed also at big family events as the youngest I was on the outside and the observer of things.  I guess what I am saying is that I spent a lot of my young years and teens dissociated in some way from the family and in time I learned to dissociate from myself and my emotions which I did not understand.

I remember after my first AA meeting driving away in the car to a favourite spot near where I lived in nature and just crying my eyes out.  I had for the first time felt like I belonged somewhere with people who were taking down the mask and talking honestly about their addiction.   Sadly many of them spoke about feeling like aliens, alienated from life and only coming alive with the first drink or drug.

Like them I had learned to check out, in the absence of being able to relate to parents or siblings (most especially after the sister I was close to had a cerebral haemorraghe) I began to turn to alcohol.  Then after Dad died I was sent overseas alone again with a bottle of Scotch from the Duty Free which I awoke from a blackout to find nearly empty following a party in London.

Yesterday when reading Peter Walker’s book on Complex PTSD I related to the chapter in which he shared about the various ways we can react to a traumatising environment or childhood.  He uses the notion of the four ‘F’s to outline this : Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn.   A fight response leads to narcissism.  A flight response to Obsessive/Compulsive reactions, a freeze response leads to dissociation and a fawn response to co-dependence (see pp. 12 – 19)

I related most to the freeze response (as well as to the fawn response) and we can operate from a number of styles.  Often we flip between two in the effort to both act out trauma and heal.  Freeze states and reactions lead to a depressive dissociation from which it is difficult to feel and relate to anything outside the self. An involvement with self soothing activities which actually lock us up in isolation – eating, internet surfing, television watching, shopping etc is also a part of this state.

Realising what these states are, coming to know why we are trapped in them takes time.  It also takes real courage to move out of them, to seek for a different way of being beyond the old comfortable but life squashing reactions which limit us  and keep our lives small.  Along the way we have to grieve for what we have lost from being trapped here within these reactions and habits, maybe for years.

The  phase of intensely grieving our childhood losses can last for a couple of years.  When sufficient progress is made in grieving, the survivor naturally drops down into the next level of recovery work.  This involves working through the fear by grieving our loss of safety in the world.  At this level we also learn to work through our toxic shame by grieving the loss of our self esteem.

Facing the depth of our abandonment trauma comes next, according to Walker along with an unmasking and releasing of self protective defences we had to keep in place to protect ourselves from injury while young.

It is interesting to me that on the path of recovery, which is long and slow, material we need often comes to us just at the right time.  I feel this way about Walker’s book.  It meshes with the work I have been doing in talk and body therapy, most especially at the moment as I have begun to experience just how much I have checked out and erect defences against hurt.  Letting them down is slow work, fraught with fear.  Being patient and kind with myself is essential.  Writing and blogging gives me a way to share about it as it is occurring.

I’m not often the space where I advise or recommend.  I have a respect for each person’s path and need to find their own way.  However Complex PTSD : From Surviving to Thriving by Peter Walker seems to be an extremely valuable resource on the way to recovery.

Complex PTSD

Its strength is that in the book Pete Walker doesn’t just outline what is wrong but what can be done to heal from Trauma and a traumatising childhood.  His book is written by someone who has walked the path (is his surname any accident, I ask?  Pete Walker has obviously walked his talk). So I am giving the book a big recommendation and will be sharing some more information from it on my blog.

 

Thank you God – Even through the Dark Night

This is a blog I wrote heading in to my 22nd birthday of addiction recovery.  I felt reticent about posting it but today I am letting it out into the open air of blogsville to breathe:

Today I am full of an immense feeling of gratitude.  I love these kind of days.  In six days time it will be my 22nd birthday of sobriety.  On 6 of 3December 1993, I entered the rooms of AA and I learned that I could stop drinking a day a time.

It may seem simple but it had just not occurred to me to not take the first drink.  Wasn’t the problem that I couldn’t just stop at 4 or 5? In the rooms of AA I learned that the first drink set up a compulsion over which I was powerless.  I was not in a position to argue since I was SICK TO DEATH of they way I was feeling in being on the roller coaster of binge drinking that seemed to be like a run away train that would destroy anything good in my path.  That December I stopped drinking alcohol and a short while later I stopped smoking too.  I cannot tell you the happiness that followed for me.

It was not an easy time.  I had lost a job, I was newly married and I found I was not able to drink but at the same time I had the support of a good man who loved me and wanted to move forward in to a healthy life with me.  When I was shown that I was heading down a self destructive pathway that could ultimately hurt both of us I decided I had to do something.  Luckily from my first meeting I got sobriety and I haven’t drunk since.

Ten years into recovery I must say I was under the influence of my own inner script of powerless hopelessness even without a drink in me because all my past pain and grief that had not been dealt with which was rising up in me to be known.  It pulled me inwards and downwards and backwards.  I pulled the pin on my life attempt to move overseas and ground into a new life.  I cane back to Australia.

After much toing and froing after a few years of returning “home” my marriage ended.  Transiting Uranus which is natally in my first house was opposing itself and transiting the seventh house of relationships.  I felt the urge of a caterpillar spiralling about inside a cocoon bursting out but it was a bursting into a dark place.

I went into my cocoon at that time.  I was for me, the dark night of the soul that is spoken of in spiritual circles. It was a journey down, a descent into my body from which I had for so many years and after so much trauma attempted to take flight,  a descent into grief, into wracking painful body symptoms of being crushed, breathless, struggling to breath, feeling like a weight was on me, drowning, coughing up blood and phlegm, being shaken by paroxysms of muscular and nervous tension, pushing and pulling over which I had not much conscious control (or so it seemed to me, now I see the journey to heal was about seeing I did play a part in how how things turned).  It was like being buffeted about in wild seas, learning to ride the wave and being tumbled under at times, dumped, beached, coughing up sea foam, a twin dance of action and surrender.

Really this DNOTS (dark night of the soul) was and is indescribable.  Only if you have been through it will you know.  And while in it you don’t know how long it will last, if it will ever end and if you will come out alive, which on some level you don’t as you come out of it transformed on some level, while simultaneously also stripped back to the essence of who you really were that got covered over by layers and layers of soot and conditioning over many years.

Its not nice having the skin stripped off you.  You feel raw and exposed.  At times you feeling like am amorphous omeba who does not know who or what it is for.  You look around and everything you thought you knew, trusted or defined you no longer makes sense and there is a terrible feeling that you are dead and there is no energy left to keep living and yet still from somewhere comes the desire to live anyway.  Often only after enduring the darkest of dark moments where you have had to make the perilous journey back to meet the child, adolescent and young adult you were, to bear witness to the traumas, see your powerlessness and unconsciousness, feel and allow to move through you those overpowering (at times) emotions of anger and grief and when you do find the lighter ones hidden inside that got covered over love, enthusiasm, joy.

In a way its almost impossible to communicate about the DNOTS…. but I try anyway.  I get upset when I see people going through it being treated like they are mad.. as one of my favourite spiritual writers had said sometimes on the spiritual path you have to go mad in order to transform into the one you were always meant to be, outside of what was demanded of you by people who didn’t have a clue and led you to feel you don’t either.

In the end its a great paradox and like all paradoxes, difficult to locate and name, and yet perhaps due to the fact that Uranus soon will station forward and finally pull free of its long drawn out square to Pluto it is incumbent on me to try.  For Uranus awakens that which Pluto transforms through these kind of Dark Night Experiences and those who undergo them, must speak to help others to know there is a light the other side of the Dark Night if you trust, surrender and weather the storm.

Wow where did all that come from in a blog that started with a feeling of immense gratitude?  Well my gratitude is that all through this Dark NIght something has sustained me.  At moments of most intense suicidal feeling I have found somewhere within the will to keep living, but only when I have been vulnerable enough to surrender to and articulate the truth I was feeling, dark and scary and strange as it seemed to myself and others.  I’ve been misjudged, I’ve been rejected, called names, subject to dismissive and minimising comments and these reactions hurt me but in the end I was able to bear them when I found the love for myself to not be crippled by them and not to take them on.  They were, in the end the a reflection of the level of consciousness of those who spoke them and came out of fear, perhaps at seeing me have to struggle.  I understand that now.

Recovery has shown me that I have to be willing to look death, pain and suffering in the face and know truly that none of these things can really destroy my essence.  Recovery has shown me that only surrender to a deeper will and wisdom ever really helps, for to choose not to surrender, to choose not to die every day means we never truly live and can never truly be reborn, refashioned, made new through acceptance of our all too human imperfection.

There is enormous love there hidden deep which we find when we are willing to be in the dark and face our past pain, unconsciousness and despair to find the truth that we did the best we could.  Despite all of this pain and suffering it is a wonderful world, full too of good things. A kindness that comes out of nowhere, acceptance shown to us when we truly unmask and find our spiritual family, and the love we feel when through loving and accepting ourselves in all our wounded and hurting places we emerge, from out of the dark night into the day of light.

 

Permission to grieve

Can you allow yourself to feel your feelings? Most especially do you feel permission within to go deeply into the grief you feel?

I am writing this post is in response to thoughts and feelings triggered after reading a fantastic blog : The Mourner’s Bill of Rights. (I am sorry I cannot provide the link right now, I am having trouble accessing it.)

When my own grief hit following my father’s death in 1985 I was encouraged to go far away from my family alone to the other side of the world. I was already indulging a lot in addiction as there was so much earlier grief over my accident in 1979 and my oldest sister’s cerebral haemoraghe, psychotic break, subsequent abandonment and loss of her family, as well as her suicide attempt.

In the absence of knowing how to grieve, finding a place and permission to grieve I now know I turned to substances such as alcohol and the lighter drugs. What occurred for me was that my grief got buried and transformed into a frantic search for connection, most especially to men. I would open my body and my heart only to have it broken because my behaviour at times could be very much a push pull dynamic of fear, grief, longing and confusion all tied with a lot of mixed up complex feelings of which grief was one.

As result I had by the age of 31, six terminations of pregnancy over which I felt such shame.  At the same time on some level I was conscious that I did not want to bring a child in the world that I knew I was so ill equipped to nurture and support.

At the age of 31 I got into recovery and my drinking and drug taking stopped, but the emergence of my grieving process took a lot longer. Following my first AA meeting a dam burst inside me as I recognised a place I could let go of an old dysfunctional pattern of seeking relief and reach for healing,  a place where I could be honest about my life.  I heard the words “many of us do recover if we develop the capacity to be honest.”

At many meetings in the early days I would just sit and cry my eyes out, listening to other’s stories, empathising with their pain, connected to my own deeply buried pain.

In time I moved away from meetings and got into therapy after my husband and I moved overseas. In 1999 my grief broke open in therapy, I suffered a very deep depression and I needed the support of 3 days a week therapy. My husband got really angry about this.

I remember one day I was in bed at 10 am as I had been urged to take some time off work (something I NEVER did) for depression by my therapist. My husband came in to the room and shouted at me to get out of bed.  He made scathing comments about how my therapist was only after my money and was constantly asking what we were talking about.  I feel so sad about this now.  He had his own grief too, he just didn’t want to explore or feel it too much.  One day he said to me “I want back the happy girl I married.”

In time I started to feel I could not really go through this process of feeling in my relationship. Rather than move away I clung on and made the decision to move back to Australia to my family which was the very last place I was going to get any recognition of my grief process, and admittedly this ended in much more unhappiness for me.

At one level my Mum was trying to offer support but at the other she was telling me I had to move on and get over it. This now I know has to do with my Mum’s difficulty feeling and sharing her own feelings of grief.

At one point my sister asked my mother to choose who she would rather spend time with following the first Christmas in the four months after my separation Mum decided to spend with me. My mother chose my sister as she told me “she isn’t sad all the time like you”.   I was so angry and hurt but rather than express it I began to get headaches.

Following this I made the decision to move back overseas where I moved in with a family to lodge who sadly treated me in the same way. As I have shared before here I went over the handlebars of my bike one day while living with them and hit my head open and was in hospital for a week. They made it clear I needed to make other arrangements for a place to live as they didn’t want anyone sad in the house.  Their daughter had just lost her best friend and my sadness was an all too painful reminder.

I moved to Glastonbury and attempted more therapy, in time it was so difficult financially I made the decision move home again. I then went into almost total isolation at the coast house my Dad had built in the years just before my accident.

There I just wrote and grieved when I could. I had little support. I see that now. In time I attracted another relationship in which when my grief arose I was met with anger and rage. I clung on, sadly for four years to this relationship.

Four years later I moved back to my family and home town again. Was I mad? What was I hoping for after everything? Validation, understanding, support are the answers. Instead I saw my sister’s descent into more acute bi polar disorder as she struggled herself and met with similar invalidation. I struggled to support my Mum following a painful knee reconstruction that ended up in serious clotting and over the next two years through several hospitalisations.  I also struggled to support my sister as she underwent shock therapy, unending medication and four hospitalisations.

Over the past four years I have been learning a lot about invalidation and how people who try to express true grief can be sidelined or exiled or their process numbed out with excessive medication.  I saw my older sister end up bloated from all the drugs she was given the moment a true feeling tried to burst our of her.  It was a sad story of abandonment and emotional invalidation playing out I have had to feel and witness.  I feel  little scared of being judged, but I wanted to stand by and love my family, or was it too painful to move away.

Going through all of this has taught me truths.  One of these truths is that the injuries we go through leave deep scars. The losses we go through which can be many when we come from an emotionally non nurturant or distant, preoccupied family like mine can be subtle and deep. There is also the deeper multigenerational sadness that we may unconsciously carry if we are attuned in this way. The legacy we have been handed to address and heal can be a painful one. I do believe that one person in the family may be the designated carrier for the more deeply painful emotions.

We can see this on an astrological level when there is a connection between our personal planets, Sun, Moon, Venus, Mercury and Mars and the planets Saturn, Neptune and Pluto. Strong Pluto aspects most especially show that it is our fate to undergo a descent into loss at some stage in our life, a loss which has a deeply transformative effect on our soul.

But in terms of the Pluto connection we may also encounter deep resistance within ourself or others from going there or even of letting go of the wounding and injuring patterns.

The truth is that we need to give ourself permission to feel and grieve, most especially in a society that may be defended against suffering grief and may exile those who are grieving or present them too much with shadow stuff others do not want to face.

In my own case I am still on the journey to accept and feel my own grief. I am finding more support now in this process after many challenges, stops and starts along the way.

When my oldest sister died last year I was able to grieve a small amount with her sons. There was an attempt at one point by her oldest son to shut the process down and turn the whole event into a “celebration”.  This son in particular struggles so much to accept his own painful feelings of grief and powerlessness over how his father abandoned my sister following her illness all those years ago.

In another case I was told by the second son’s wife that I needed to live my life for Jude now, rather than be pulled down by grief. A few years ago I could not have stood up to this in a kind way and spoke for my need to feel and grieve but this year I was able to.

My purpose in writing this blog is to encourage those out there who are undergoing grief to feel it deeply, to seek out those people who will help you to express it and to avoid those people who try to invalidate you and shut you down.

I do believe that so much of aborted mourning goes into addictions and war. Just look at what happened after 9/11 with the “war on terror”. That was during the last Saturn Pluto opposition in the signs Gemini and Sagittarius 14 years ago. At the moment Saturn has entered Sagittarius and will soon aspect Pluto again. Have we learned anything since then about the powerful reactions to and defences we can mount against fully feeling our grief and the powerlessness we feel when tragedy strikes?

For me I know I have gone a long way along in my grieving process and found ways to tap in, I also know at times my blocked grief and need to assert and express has led to painful body symptoms.  Our minds can lie but our bodies know the truth.

Grieving is not easy, it makes us tired and takes a lot of energy but it is also deeply enriching for in our grief is the love we felt for what we lost and what had value. Grieving allows us to let go eventually into the depths where we can feel most deeply the voice of our own soul.

Grieving itself may be our own dark night.  It is a process and we dont have a lot of control over it, but we can surrender to it, allow it a voice and a channel.  We can also expect to meet misunderstanding and misjudgement from some people.  Never the less trust your grief, give it a voice, don’t let anyone take that precious if painful gift away from you.

My wish

This a cry from the heart blog which comes from a very raw and vulnerable place.  I just spoke to my sister and when I ended the call, I was brimming with sadness and inside my heart from the ache I was feeling came the cry “I wish my sister wasn’t on medication”.

I also wish my sister had never had to go through the violence of shock treatment which she did two years ago. I felt sick today while we were talking, my sister is suffering really bad nausea and a headache because she has recently had her medication changed. I cannot tell you how many different medications she has been on over the past 10 years but after her suicide attempt two years ago I had to take home a bag of empty packets she used and there were about five different meds in it. When I googled several of them I read the following “may cause (amongst a heap of other things) anxiety”. WTF.

Sorry is it obvious I am in a recovery programme and have been for over 20 years and I HATE THE FUCKING MEDICALISAED PSYCHIATRIC SYSTEM which offers fuck all insight into childhood at times and just resorts to drugs?

While my sister was in intensive care following the suicide attempt in 2013 a doctor asked me :

“why is your sister on an anticonvulsive.”

I was so distressed that I exploded.

“You want to fucking know why, because they don’t have a clue, they play Russian roulette with her meds and take a look at the result, without any awareness we have a family history of alcoholism on my mother’s side.”

I expected them to send in the men with white coats and put me in a straight jacket, following my angry outburst.  I had really screamed in the middle of the ICU unit.  Instead I was stunned to see them treat me with tenderness and a new found respect. The nurses took me to another room and sat me down while I began to cry and tell them about our history. They had put my sister on yet more medication which they then decided to stop. They showed real compassion and care for me and for my sister.

Possibly my sister needs to be on meds as it is clear she cannot manage her moods alone and without this, but never the less it makes me feel so very sad to see what she has to go through and the lack of emotional nurture and insight that at times surrounds her. My heart breaks for her. I wish she had a therapist, that she could explore the impact of her childhood, and our family with, as I have done as I believe it may help her more, but in the end it’s not my decision and its out of my power and control.

At the moment I am just aware that my sister is suffering deeply and I can’t do anything but call her, show my support, concern and love and then let go to focus on my own recovery.

I can also share about these feelings in a blog for at the moment there is no recovery meeting to go to pour it out.  Just being able to voice it in this space will help me to process and come to terms with my feelings and the burden I feel in seeing another sister suffer in this awful way with so many memories of how my other sister ended up at the end of her life bloated from all the drugs they gave her that never took away the deeper pain she suffered until it all got to much and death came for her last year.

Having written this I am aware both sisters could have tried to find a healthier way, but could not.  This gives me the incentive to keep working hard to heal myself and make healthy choices and find a way to deal with the feelings in a positive way.

Today we laid her to rest

It is now just over fifteen months since my eldest sister died in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning, 2014.  A call came suddenly as I was pulling up in the car close to the park where I walk my dog, Jasper on Good Friday last year.  It was my brother and I hear from him so rarely.  The news was a shock, my eldest sister who had been living out her final 12 years in a care home for those living with acquired brain injury was in hospital on life support following a bout of pneumonia.

“Deb, we need to make a decision as a family whether to take her off life support, I think it is what Judy would have wanted.”

Shock, disbelief, then I bristled at this inwardly.  Old pain surfaced as I thought “how the fuck would you know?  You so rarely visited her.”  On reflection this was my reaction at having to face painful news.  Later that day I made the journey to the hospital to find my sister unconscious and having difficulty breathing.

My sisters four sons live away from here.  The eldest was af that time living overseas in Singapore.  The younger three live up north with their partners, an hour’s plane ride away.  “We’ve called the boys”, my brother said.  Huge heart leap, excitement at seeing them, when I see them so rarely mixed with such painful sadness to know the reason they would have to visit.

When my father died a month before my 23rd birthday I did not get to visit or say goodbye.  I had had vaccinations the day before for an overseas trip and was feeling unwell after the injection.  I received a call at work the next day to say he had passed earlier that morning following the performing of a tracheoctomy to help him breath.  He had recently been operated on for stomach cancer and had experienced complications following the surgery.  A few weeks later he was dead.  No chance to say goodbye as he had been unconscious for a few days due to a reaction to a drug given to calm him down.  I did not see his body.  My brother handled all the details.  That time is blur to me as it was such a shock and his death came hot upon the back of six years of trauma we had endured as a family.

Jude’s passing was different, an opportunity to be with her  (even though she was unconscious), many hours alone sitting holding her hand knowing that soon the decision would be made and it would be time for the final good bye.

I was able to say how much I loved her, to ask her please not to leave, but also say “if it is your time Jude,  its time to let go”..  time to cry (for the first time, to share the grief with my much loved nephews) two of whom stayed for a further week, time to talk over the traumatic years in which she was separated from them while her ex husband conducted an affair, to learn details of her psychosis, to share memories, pain and feelings.

Its a paradox to say this was a special time for me, it was a chance to finally share some grief.  After my father died I left to go overseas and drank over a lot of the pain. I did not begin to truly process my father’s death until I was well in to sobriety and recovery some 12 years later.  Some losses are just too huge to process at the time and we need support to grieve.  This is something I have had to learn over many years of my body holding complicated, unresolved grief.   A new loss triggers the old ones.  My marriage ending also brought a revisitation of the pain felt once the protective masculine influence is gone.

I remember just following my father’s death how a little mouse came to visit and I was the one who had to take the steps to get rid of it.  The same thing happened in the weeks after I had been informed my husband would be leaving me after returning from an overseas trip.  I buried a little mouse body in the rose garden and remembered the weeks after my father’s death.

Luckily today was also an opportunity to share grief.  My mother, my sister and I made our trip to the crematorium and the beautiful memorial garden there.  My sister’s ashes had been sitting in the office for some time.  My other sister was taken into hospital with depression on the day of my older sister’s funeral.  A decision made by her sons (one that upset me deeply but that I now understand).  A second hospitalisation took place this year between January and June, on the anniversaries of both my father’s death and Judith’s cerebral bleed.   As a family the time was not right to lay my sister to rest yet.  And it would be the women in the family doing it, in the absence of the masculine, an echo of both the death of my mother and father’s fathers at a very young age, an association made by all three of us today.

A lovely gentle man met us at the office of the crematorium.  He walked with us to the garden where the plaque was laid for my sister, very close to the plaque for my Nana who died when I was overseas in 1987 two years following my father.  How hard for my Mum.  Three major losses.

I was the one chosen to place the box with Judith’s ashes in the earth.  It felt so heavy and as usual I was the one in the active masculine role, I was the one who drove there, I was the one who thought to bring flowers, I was the one crying all the tears. But I was not necessarily the one grieving most.  I just always seem to be the one expressing the feelings most externally.

Birds sang as I placed the box in the ground, we then placed a handful of earth and some rose petals in the hole which was then filled.  My sister had finally been laid to rest.

As an astrologically minded person I always look at the transits.  Today the transiting Moon was opposite my own Mars Saturn Moon and conjunct my sister’s Pluto in Leo at the time of our ceremony.  It was squaring Mum’s Sun Mercury Saturn conjunction and my sister’s Saturn in Scorpio.  Transiting Venus was conjunct to my second sister’s Pluto in Leo. As I wrote in an earlier blog at present the transiting Sun is close to both Saturn and Mars in my dead sister’s chart.  And most appropriately today Venus is exactly smack bang on my Uranus in Leo in the first house as Saturn in Scorpio squares it.  I am aware of the many powerful eruptive Uranian events that have littered my life and splintered things apart.

Following our little ceremony we drove to our favourite café and had lunch.  We then spoke of many things.  I was asking questions about what occurred all those years ago following my sister’s cerebral bleed.  I was 18 at the time, then 20 when she was sent back with a one way ticket by her husband.  I learned at the time of her death from my nephews of what occurred in New Zealand in 1982 when she was in a psychosis.  Her husband had been carrying on a affair. He had planned to meet the woman he was having an affair with over there and my sister had to be a party to this.  Later, as I shared before, he had her committed to an asylum.

I wont ever know what my sister suffered.  She would not speak of what happened at this time. I do know that my sister was not an easy person.  She had addiction issues, in fact, as an adolescent she encouraged me to drink at a time when it had a bad effect on me.  I have had such a struggle to make sense of it all, being the youngest, I was bonded for many years to my sister due to unresolved trauma.  I understand that now.  At some level I felt responsible for her, especially when I found out more about the multi-generational legacy of addiction in our family on Mum’s side many years after I got sober in 1993.

My sister’s ex husband died a few years ago.  In all that time he never talked to his sons of what occurred in his marriage but I learned today that on his death bed he admitted to his oldest son that he had really betrayed my sister and regretted his actions.

It was good to be able to talk about this with my sister and mother today.  I am so grateful for the softening in my remaining sister who put her arm around me as we laid my other sister to rest.  My sister who died was like a mother to me growing up.  She was 16 when I was born and she would wheel me in the pram around the neighbourhood and received funny looks when it was assumed it was a teenage pregnancy.  With her wicked sense of humour she drew great delight from this.

It is now close to dinner time. I sit typing with the soft glow of lamps around me and the buzzing of a silence that is always present at deeply spiritual times.  I have danced out some of the complex emotions that today has evoked.  Exhausted when I left my family, I am now refreshed by time alone.

Its a great mystery to me, the family we choose.  The question, do we choose?  How fated it it?  What are the common themes that wend their way tendril like throughout the generations?  I see patterns, creating patterns. I see that sometimes we choose, sometimes we are compelled, sometimes magnetised and then we live to reap results we could never had imagined.  Much as we try to control things at times, greater forces work their way out. It seems at times we make fatal choices and mistakes which then we learn from, even though the learning is gut wrenchingly painful at times. If we can bear the consequences we live on.  And sometimes fate forces upon us a hand we wish to lay down or escape.

Today the issue of my father’s grave came up.  Unlike Nana and my sister Dad is exiled to another part of the cemetery, buried in a coffin.  At the time he died the Catholic church did not accept cremation.  Mum cried today as she hates to think of Dad being alone.  We spoke of Dad’s belief that when you are gone you are gone, and yet you are not wholely gone when others remember.  I guess we project our own feelings on the dead.  The memorial is probably mostly for us who remain and need a place to remember.  But the exile of my Dad’s grave, so rarely visited does reflect something of how, in the past our family has not fully dealt with our grief.

It is interesting to me to note that in the week that astrologers have gained their first sighting of Pluto, so recently demoted from the planetary pantheon, that we as a family have begun to bring our own grief out of the shadows.  I like to think this is a collective indication that our society is becoming more prepared to deal with the so called “dark” side of life.  Death has lessons for us and emotions, sometimes very hard to express and resolve.  It takes us into a place of healing, of recognising what was loved and what was of most value to us.  In feeling it through we have a chance to engage with our hearts and with the complexity of our attachments and interconnections.  Important work for our soul.

There attachments and interconnections are deep as our soul is deep.  Even when we seek to avoid or deny them the affect us in many ways.  We are not separate but inter connected.  Death, loss, separation does not end this interconnection just moves it to another plane.  That is my belief.

Cancer New Moon : Reflections on Ancestors, Family and the 12th House

I am entering a kind of inward dreaming of hosts of associations and tendrils at the moment as the Sun and Moon approach a conjunction in the 12th house of my chart ruled by the sign of the Great Mother, home, family, roots and maternal ancestral connections, Cancer.  Mercury and Mars are following close behind, as is usual with these transits I want to write, dream, eat soup, get cosy, read poetry, write blogs and explore the entire cycle of my life, drawing the whole host of interconnected resonances through my maternal history and DNA.  With Saturn Moon I have always felt a deep connection with the past on my mother’s side.

At age 31 when I entered recovery for addiction it slowly became clear to me that there was a deep wound to the feminine and to the family I was born into.  There had been a lot of separations over generations, stories of ancestors leaving their homeland to settle or pioneer in foreign lands far from family. Lots of father absence and father loss too.  Just recently after connecting with some relatives of my ancestral Great, Great, Grandmother I was shown a letter my Great, Great, Great Grandfather wrote to this son.  It was heartbreaking and sad, sent all the way to New Zealand from Cornwall in the midst of a harsh and bitter winter spent in poverty he was missing his son and knowing he would not see him again.

My maternal Great Grandmother left her own father behind in New Zealand to come to Australia early in the 20th century, he was suffering from addiction problems himself.  She was one of 18 children two of which also called Eliza Jane had died in childbirth.  Two other brothers came here too but I did not know that until this year, however they settled in the north while my Great Grandmother settled in Victoria.

She gave birth to three children and it was my Grandmother who moved to the town where I now live, alone with her husband who had suffered during the First World War.  He came here to build houses, but was also a bookmaker.  He died when my own mother was seven from war injuries, he had been gassed.  My second sister carries a congenital lung weakness.

The ancestral pattern repeated in that when my mother married she remained in the place of her birth but met and married my father who was from Holland. He left his homeland finally for the Dutch East Indies just on the eve of the Second World War prior to German invasion. He met my mother while seconded to Australia by the Air Force to collect B52 bombers which did not show up on time.  They married and after some years in Indonesia following the ending of World War Two decided to settle here.  They gave birth two four children.

The second child was my sister Judith a Sun sign Capricorn who had Mars and Saturn in Cancer very close to today’s New Moon in Cancer at 23 degrees.  My sister died on 20 April last year after a long and tragic life that was mired by a cerebral bleed, abandonment and betrayal, just as Pluto was transiting her Sun.

It was Jude whose chart interconnected so strongly to our maternal Great, Great, Grandfather Thomas Watts Trudgeon, (my mother’s Great Grandfather) and it was Jude who met and married a New Zealander and returned to live there two times, the first when I was only three.  The second time she was taken there by her husband following the cerebral bleed after which she developed psychotic symptoms together with her four children, so far from us. About a year later though the details are sketchy (it was an experience too painful fr her to talk of) he had her committed to an institution he had been having an affair with a woman who had gone over earlier to set up, they needed my sister out of the way.  She was very unwell, that is true, but no contact was made with my family and that family perhaps would have been of little help.  Two years later my sister was sent back to Australia with a one way ticket while her then husband disappeared abandoning her without telling her it was only a one way ticket.

In 1982 on hearing the news she tried to take her life.  She did not see her two youngest children for over 10 years they were 2 and 4 at the time her husband returned her to us. I, the youngest was back at home and I witnessed her attempt.  A bottle of pills downed and after which she lay down clutching a photograph of them to her chest.  I cannot remember what time of year this occurred but I do have a strong feeling it was winter.  I remember it being cold and such a very dark, dark, dark time.

I was 20 at the time and had began to drink a lot.  My father had forced me to give up uni studies and undertake a secretarial diploma.  I was also taking drugs and acting out within a silent internal rebellion.  Just a few days ago I woke up after a dream in which I was singing Billy Idol’s song Rebel Yell feeling deep in my psyche the rumbling giant of feeling that got buried for so many years, of thwarted development without masculine guidance.  Within three years my father was dead from stomach cancer and I like a lost boat was cast adrift overseas and into a succession of painful relationships driven by a deep father hunger but also a magnetic lure to those who could not truly appreciate my soul suffering but wanted to smelt it under the fire of their rigid imposed judgements.  While writing this I also cannot fall into the narcissistic trap of not admitting how hard it would have been for others to deal with someone suffering so many silent wounds that were carried deep within.  I had a way further to go along the unconscious pathway.

In an earlier poem posted here Emerging Through the Dark Night which was a piece of  stream of consciousness writing when I was deep in 12th house retreat (Saturn in transiting the 12th and 1st) I wrote the lines :

somewhere from deep with your belly

I hear a child is crying

longing for her pain and loneliness to be heard

After the suicide attempt the pain of that child within my sister got buried and she struggled with it for the rest of her life and with the separation from her children and the man she had loved with all her being.  All deeply Mars Saturn Cancerian experiences and Pluto in Libra was transiting over important planets in her chart too.

Blogs tend to assume a life of their own and so it is with this one.  But it is no surprise to me that today deep in dark moon time prior to this new one which  squares Uranus (planet of awakening and separation) and opposes Pluto (ruler of the subterranean wells of feeling carried over generations, buried, repressed or burning for liberation and transformation) consideration of these experiences is with me and I am feeling drawn to bring them out of darkness into the light.

Tomorrow, at midday after over more than a year, we will finally be laying my sister’s ashes to rest.  Is this writing for you, my beautiful sister Jude both memorial and remembrance?  You are not forgotten.  If it is true that her soul lives on most especially in all of these memories and associations so the transits to her chart are still in place as Pluto passes over her Venus and as Mars and Mercury oppose it.

Somewhere deep within I feel the need to give this a voice, today.  I think also of my own deep connection to  own mother and her repressed psychic life which became such an important preoccupation after I got sober over 20 years ago  I think of my own tangled journey with love, intimacy and relationships and of the twin pulls of both the call to individuation (my North Node in Leo in the first house widely conjunct Uranus) and of familial inter-relationship or the longing for such (a tight stellium of Sun, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, South Node in the seventh) both square Neptune in Scorpio on the third.

And I see that the journey of the Nodes is not an either/or dichotomy but more in the nature of a infinity symbol, figure 8 pattern of journeying between the opposites in a circuitous and meandering way.  It takes an enlarged consciousness to see this and a long journey wandering or pulled backwards and forwards between both polarities that then perform an alchemy on the soul.

Last night after an inward day of blogging it occurred to me that in esoteric rulership the sign Cancer is ruled not by the Moon but by Neptune.   I was blogging about Orpheus and the relationship of this myth to Neptune.  There was a deeper issue or subtext to that blog around the issue of letting go of and making peace with the past, of the need to regress to move forward but also I guess of loss and longing and their impact upon us.

The Crab which symbolises Cancer has a soft inward centre protected by a hard shell.  The mother must be intensely protective and the Crab claws can grab on and have a difficult time letting go but surely the square to Uranus of this New Moon and its opposition to Pluto demands it of us, either a letting go or a transformation of the ways in which we hold onto relationships through memory, thoughts and perceptions and our tangled association to past connections, pains, wounding and intimacies.

It seems to me that as I write ideas or intimations from my soul emerge in a way that would not have occurred had I not set fingers dancing on the key of my lap top keyboard.  Deep within the 12th house I find my home at present and wait patiently for Mercury and Mars to enter.  It seems that it may be even more difficult to get out my PJ’s for the next four weeks or so.

At this moment glint of sunlight peeping out from behind stormy clouds that have gathered on this cold winter day.  I feel the pull to get out of my PJ’s and walk lovely Jasper along the bush pathway by the lake.  To feel the buffeting wind and bracing cold, to know that I have the precious gift of life, despite and even within all the painful memories of Cancer time.  I remember the saying : light is never more visible than in darkness.

(Note: sadly my technical ability on WordPress and recent upgrades to my computer have made it hard to load up from my picture library so I am sorely limited so at this stage and unable to link to images or images of charts on my blog which would make this much clearer)

Setting Fire to the Soul

Don’t say a word

But just come over and lie here with me

Cause I’m just about to

Set fire to everything I see

I want you so bad

I go back on the things I believe

There I just said it

I’m scared you’ll forget about me.  

I fall in love with songs, not just the words but the entire soundscape wave melody undulating inward gripping soul engaging power of another’s emotional territory put into words which echoes my own experience, past or present.

I am deeply enthralled at the moment with this lyric and the soul of John Mayer’s song Edge of Desire, most especially the line “I want you so bad I go back on the things I believe”…..echoing a strong theme my tangled Venus square Neptune ruling Pisces in the 7th house of relationships.

Born into a much older family already well established when I arrived, by accident in the early 60s I learned to observe and orient myself around others but also felt a deep disconnect.  There were not many safe places to go, to be seen, to be heard, to be understood, to be nurtured, everyone was so busy working and my sister and I got left alone.  She took her frustrations out on me at times, probably feeling frustrated at having to look after her younger sister who was full of energy and fire.  I had a wild, expressive streak.

Anyway this theme of confusion and pain in relationships, of trying to connect and yet not quiet being able to manage it, of bringing to relationships a powerful backlog of unexpressed needs, difficulties and issues was highlighted yesterday when I caught up with a very old friend.

Quite a long time ago the man she loved chose not to follow her when she decided to return to her home town.  They had both been living and working away and the relationship had hit problems, he was shutting down, not communicating and the tensions between their two very different ways of being introverted (him) and extroverted (her) were beginning to develop a void too dark to cross. I think also from what I can gather her partner had suffered, was suffering depression, or was it just a deep introversion?

Initially he said he wouldn’t make the move but later he changed his mind, just after she got used to the idea that she would be facing a move and a new life alone.  Turns out a few months later he changed his mind and said he would be taking a job in a far away town instead of moving to be with her, but could he keep calling her every Tuesday? Needless to say she drew a boundary saying it was over, angry at being messed around and deeply confused by his behaviour.

Whenever she would relate this story to me in the past, I empathised with her but I also empathised with her partner and his need for introversion, whilst feeling how frustrating it was for her.  Her needs were obviously different and she did not know how to meet him in his dark spaces.  I have had a similar experience in being depressed (deeply introverted) with a partner who did not want to understand, called me agoraphobic and was hostile towards sadness, confusion and pain.

Fast forward to 12 years later after much confusion and heartbreak a mutual friend who introduced them had a stroke and my friend knew her past lover may be unlikely to find out in any other way. Through another mutual friend she got in touch to let him know.  He asked to meet her for a coffee. What followed was a dramatic outpouring of grief and regret on his behalf as well as declarations of all the plans he had lately been making (unbeknownst to her) centred around being with her. Although they had been apart for over 12 years she had been constantly in his mind.  This was confusing to her.  How could he now profess all this, her idea of what was reality for him, was not hers?  Although I know she had been secretly hoping for this for many years.

Additionally he revealed that over the past few years he had been prospecting and he laid out before her some jewels to select he wanted to get made into jewellery for her.  At this point I started crying.  It all struck me as so very human and deeply sad, the tangled vagaries of the human heart. All the fears, tears, confusion and defences dismantling.  Tangled hopes, dreams, disappointment, frustration and thwarted desire thrown into the mix.

The telling of the entire story went for well over 40 minutes and I while it was going on I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. It was not only the emergence of the buried emotion that he had not allowed to express before that resonated for me but also the deep confusion she was experiencing in the face of long ago given up hopes being re-awakened and questions around his state of emotional health.

My friend is currently in a really secure and relatively happy position, but the return of this person to her life has now upset the apple cart.  Which way should she turn?  Should she hold out hope?  Could he be trusted?  So many questions and underneath it all a tender heart.

Her dilemma really got me to thinking about my own push pull dynamics in relationships in the past, push pulls dynamics evoked by extreme outbursts of emotion on both sides and in response too to lack of empathy shown at critical times by past partners.

In my own life the prospect of hoping to be loved again has at times opened up deep, powerful and complex emotions, emotions that would flood the landscape often triggered by some perceived abandonment or lack of attention or misunderstanding, emotions that were difficult to regulate and articulate.  These would cause confusion for others and sometimes the severing of ties.  I have also been on the receiving end of the same.

At many times in my life I have been exiled or made to feel bad for expressing very real, raw human emotion.  As a person who developed addictions as a way of coping with a lack of emotional understanding and support, it took a long time in sobriety to sort out all that had been  suppressed and so lay unmatured deep within my psyche.  Only relationship could bring those wounds to the surface in order to feel, to heal, to become aware and to grow.

Over the past few years I have begun to realise how difficult and confusing my own emotions and those of others in response have been especially where there is minimal awareness of the history of past pain carried.  I carried a huge backlog of emotions and then 7 years ago I entered into a relationship with someone who was carrying a huge backlog of their own.  Sadly they were invested in not exploring any pain, only projecting it, so I was made to carry the burden of being the one “with the problem”.  The realisation of all of this has made me very wary of relationships.  The fact is I have opened my heart and been bruised again, but the bruising had a gift and lesson within it.  It was the fuel for understanding.

After having lunch with my friend today and contemplating the echoes and synchronicities I went to visit my Mum. Despite all challenges we have had over years I am still in a process of trying to meet, engage with my Mum and find some understanding.  Over the past few months it seems Mum has had an interest in reaching out and exploring the hurts between us. I have been taking the risk of opening up about hurts and we have been talking about past issues : anger, frustration, thwarted need, miscommunication and difficulty with empathy.

Today she opened up to me about the impact my addiction had upon her in the years following my father’s death when I was 23. At this stage I was yet to find sobriety and I had a back ground of much emotional hurt, betrayal and abandonment.

Some of the background which I have shared about here online in the past was that at 23 I was already struggling in a pretty dysfunctional relationship in which I had fallen pregnant twice, two pregnancies which I had decided to terminate due to the fact that my then partner had addiction issues and I was aware the ground that I was standing on was precarious, unstable and could easily give way, no where enough support to bring in another life dependent on us.

As more background my then partner had been in love deeply before meeting me and his past girlfriend left him as her parents did not think he was good enough….according to them he came from the wrong side of the tracks. (And he was a fairly frequent dope smoker.)

Throughout the relationship I was aware things were off but I didn’t have the strong sense of self that would allow me to leave, the emotional vacancy of my own childhood had left me vulnerable, emotionally illiterate and oh so hungry.

My ex ended up abandoning me twice.  We had made plans to travel overseas.  I had been working two jobs for a year to save the money.  He left before me.  I was to meet him.  Around this time my father was diagnosed with operable stomach cancer.  He died within two months. I had to delay my departure.  A few days after his death I received a 4 am phone call.  It was my boyfriend.   “I don’t love you, please don’t come,” he said,  “I’ve met someone else”.

I was devastated.   Part of me broken.  I did not feel prepared to make a trip which now had to be altered.  I would be alone.  I faltered as I packed my bags crying.  “You must go”, Mum said.  “Dad would not have wanted you to change your plans.”  And so I went and found comfort in a bottle of Johnnie Walker.

I spent some months in London, living and working.  Later in 1985 in Greece while changing money at the American Express office I saw my ex again.  He drew me in (or my fear of being alone did?).  I allowed the hope of being together again.  I opened up the door to my heart and slept with him turning my back on the truth of past patterns that showed so clearly he did not love me.  My own lack of self love and understanding hooked me in again..  Only a few weeks later after meeting with the friend I met today by accident in Greece we both went out to dinner, he did not come.  Later that night when I returned to our room I found him fucking a girl he had met that night (or was it the woman he had thrown me over for who suddenly reappeared out of nowhere that night? I was so traumatised I don’t remember).

I only remember the pain of him calling me a crazy bitch for having an angry emotional reaction to his callous treatment of me. But I was the fool, hungry and lonely enough to be with him, burying the knowledge of his treatment of me over years and all the hurts.

Following this for the next 6 months I was spinning all around over there in Europe, no stable base, travelling, drinking, working.  I found a job in Switzerland in 1986 and while there I fell pregnant to a man I adored on the first anniversary of my father’s death, but he was also in love with someone else.  I had the termination I spoke of in an earlier blog.

I remember Mum calling me in the midst of this and telling me to come home.  We have been discussing this today. She sensed something was up but I could not open up to my Mum, just buried it all for the next eight years.  She had confronted me and shamed me following my father’s death when after reading my journal she found out about the two earlier terminations, so  why would I have trusted her with this information.

All these memories are so strong at present as the Sun is passing through the deep emotional territory of Cancer, inching close to my Mum’s Pluto in Cancere which trines my Neptune in Scorpio (as transiting Neptune has turned retrograde in exact opposition to my own natal Pluto in the first).

At times I have felt that my mother did not care.  I have been so angry at having no place to go and angrier still that the angry outbursts were misunderstood. Today I know she cared but it was not expressed in a way I could make sense of. While she was trying to draw me close, I was pushing her away with anger and rage at not being responded to in the way that I needed.

According to her, my anger scared the living daylights out of her.  She could not feel through it to the deep longing for love that underlay those fits of passionate anger the hurt, wounded, tend, vulnerable underbelly of my Saturn Mars Moon. So many times I needed the loving arms of my Mum wrapped around me, but all the trauma in our family that went down from the age of 18 meant that attention energy and care was directed elsewhere.

I witnessed my eldest sister being discarded by her own husband and then trying to take her life. Lots of drugs and alcohol to try and numb the pain and then a few years later my father’s shock diagnosis with terminal cancer and his death six weeks later. So much trauma, no time to process it, to feel it through.

After my father died my Mum’s grief over her own loss was so all consuming it blinded her to the pain her youngest daughter was going through. Yes I turned up hung over reeking of alcohol after an all night  bender after returning from overseas in 1987. I spent 6 more agony years in the wilderness of addiction before finding enough self love to reach for sobriety.

Mum said today she felt she could not reach me, she did not know what to do.  I understand : we struggled to reach each other in the way we both needed and wanted.  I had withdrawn from her in self protection due to times of hurt when her concern was felt as an invasion, taking place in secret behind my back, reading my personal journals and poems and making hurtful comments or at least comments that showed a lack of understanding.

All this hurt that I have held deep inside is like a tangled knot of Gordian proportions and my pain expressed evokes not only my mother’s own pain but also her own wound her deep feelings of  inadequacy in knowing deep down the way she handled things was ineffective, left me bleeding more, vulnerable to more toxic relationships but could not be better due to her  own history.  Tears and hugs between us today signal a melting of old defences, a reaching across a deep chasm filled with pain, loss and trauma.

When my friend was telling me today about her lover’s tears and al the precious jewels laid out I found myself crying. I felt the pain he must have experienced somewhere that made him withdraw or to hold back and sabotage his chance of connection as well as the pain of loving but not being able to express it in a way it could be understood due to being held prisioner by depression which can create huge barriers and walls between people.

I thought of the times I hurt my past love by not being there to be supportive due to the fact that things he was going through evoked my own pain from past things that had never been fully processed, pain which then expressed by me brought anger and misjudgement and even the silent treatment from him.  Emotional cut off for days.

I question my own narcissism and self involvement due to the fact of having carried pain and I recognise the pain of my friend as the pain of past partners who felt alone when I was captured by deep pain of past hurts I was trying to feel, understand and heal..

Today I have a sense of the healing balm of Neptune being poured on the deep soul searing pain of that Pluto in the first of mine that forms and opposition to Chiron in the seventh house (so much early wounding in relationships) carried on and held deep inside as both touch that sore spot Mars Saturn Moon.

Such is my legacy of Mars Saturn Moon : the deep dark pain that is a bitter fruit that has healing hidden only in the recognition deep within my soul of what was its genesis : this being my ancestral karma/dharma: a life path not chosen (or was it?) that administers to my soul the necessary medicine that in hurting grows consciousness and wisdom through pain.

I think of the words of astrologer Liz Greene for Saturn Pluto(my Mars/Saturn/Moon aspects Pluto)

Wisdom through suffering…..Purification through the ordeal by fire. 

I have burned, awake at 4 am with seering nerve burn pain of post traumatic stress due to accidents I had while running to find healing.  And it seems to me that the fire that John Mayer wants to set alight in his song is the fire that he must know inwardly burns when we long for that which in hurting us most at the same time heals.  It seems to be that true soul knowing burns and in so doing reminds us of love, of what is most true, most essential to our soul.  For there is love at the heart of the flames and it takes love to suffer the burning, the burning that transforms ash to tarnished gold and purifies our spirit through anger, through longing, through frustration and even through despair.  To keep our heart open in midst of the flames that is the task so wisdom and love can grow through the pain, through the burning.

And yet the burning must also one day surely end and then is our initiation done?  We will have garnered the necessary wisdom to step aside from that which in burning hurts us.  It seems so much self knowledge is necessary for this to happen for those of us who have been raised in Neptunian confusion, where what hurts us is portrayed as something else, maybe even something we brought upon ourselves.  Until we are conscious we will not see our part in it, since it was due to earlier patterns laid down that only suffering could make us aware of, that suffering births within us compassion not only for our own pain but for the deeply unconscious pain of others, pain they did not have the strength and courage to face.

Connecting through the healing power of blogging

images (12)

I’d like to think I am impervious to the approval of others, but I must admit my heart skipped a few beats and I did an inward dance of joy when four likes came through on three separate posts I wrote over the last few days. I’m not even sure it’s the approval I am looking for, more it is the indication that something I wrote has touched someone, resonated with someone, and that on some level I have connected.

I remember the first time I really felt I could be me, naked and honest, express some dark truths in my heart and be met, not with condemnation and blank stares, but with acceptance and understanding. It was in an AA meeting, nearly 21 years ago.   Other people had stood up and shared things I felt inside and this gave me the freedom and incentive to be able to expose myself.   It was really scary at the time, but one of the best things I have ever done.

At the same time, I see now that I could easily have embraced an identity of shame rather than understand it as a symptom of things that happened to me in trying to express myself coming out of emotional dysfunction. I was really just human, with very real wounds, weaknesses and strengths.

I shared in an earlier post on shame, about how riddled with shame I was by the time I was an adolescent. And also how being from a Catholic background I had the sinking feeling I wasn’t living up to certain standards. I had fairly emotionally barren childhood, and the one person who I really connected with was my eldest sister who died this year. Due to the age difference she was a surrogate mother to me for the most early formative years.  My Mum was working at that time and not emotionally available.  My sister understood me in a way my own mother did not, but sadly she married and left the country when I was three. In later years her influence was not a healthy one, she had her own struggles with shame and addiction and ended up permanently disabled.  My sister had a very strong spirit and for a girl growing up in the fifties and sixties.  It wasn’t easy for her to live her full light and power, so it got subverted. However, even in her later life, long after her health had failed, when she was in the care home, I still felt I had a place of refuge and being seen with her, but still only to a point.  She too had been wounded emotionally and suffered a kind of exile in our family.

It was always challenging when I cried, especially being an empath and feeling or resonating with her pain,  My sister was a pretty tough Capricorn with the Sun and Moon there and her Mars in Cancer which was the deep feeling side was squashed by Saturn, so tears were not always welcome.  Sometimes tears were acceptable, but at other times I got a slap on the wrist. My sister struggled with bi polar illness, psychotic episodes followed a brain injury but the brain injury was a result of alcohol abuse and over work.  In a way the light and fire and passion of her spirit met with many difficulties and losses – these cause her to feel trapped and in pain and powerless, all Saturn Mars issues.  Her own struggle with accepting and expressing feelings projected onto me, was her struggle, not really personal to me.

My sister lives in my heart every day, and it may sound strange to say that while I miss her, I am not truly sad that she has gone as I feel her living on and that the painful journey she had to travel has just reached a different stage. I also feel it was necessary for her to go as her spirit was too confined in the life she had, with little way out.

I am very aware of her spirit and of my dead father’s too, at the moment. I recently read a story of a woman, Anita Moorjani, who had a near death experience following a battle with lymphoma.  In passing to the other side she met with a great source of unconditional love and acceptance and met her dead relatives. She had the choice to return and understand all the conditions that led to her developing cancer. Basically the truth she realised was that due to the condition of an Indian culture she never felt acceptable and loved as a woman and developed the belief that she had to try so hard to win approval in order to be loved. Her passing to a point of great awareness also enabled her to see the imprisoning and damaging effect of beliefs, not only in her own life but in our collective lives.

untitled (4)

Listening to her story on audio helped me to come to so much peace about my sister’s death. Maybe the same spirit born into a later time or culture or family would not have suffered as much.  As an astrologer I see there is a place where the personal interconnects with the collective impersonal energies around us to affect lives and personal journeys in so many different ways. I am very conscious of this at present as on Saturday my mother turns 90 and a lot of us are gathering to celebrate. I am conscious of the ancestral component of my Mum’s life, of the time she was born into, of her limitations and strengths and of how her journey lived on in her children of which I am the youngest and of how we, too, were impacted by the beliefs of Catholicism and the effects of two world wars.  It strikes me now in editing this that there is a strong Plutonian theme to this and we are in the Pluto ruled Scorpio time of year, but Saturn the planet of shame is also related.  Mum has Saturn in Scorpio.

My mother lost her father at age 7 and that impact had a huge effect, not only on her life, but on ours too. After writing a blog about shame the other day, I have been considering the impact of shame in my mother’s own life. As a single parent in the depression left alone with no war pension my grandmother had to work and leave my mother alone to fend for herself for long periods.  She drove my mother hard too, in terms of making her clean and keep things together. Mum once said to me that I was a later developer, the truth was she had to grow up too young and shoulder adult responsibilities as a child. My mother was not nurtured, she never learned to nurture and expressions of need fell on deaf ears.

The shaming my mother experienced at the hands of abusive nuns, their lack of empathetic treatment of a child who had lost her father and so didn’t do her homework and played hooky from school has had an impact on her to this day. Sometimes I forget my Mum didn’t grow up with the advantages I had but her emotional lack of nurturing and shame was passed onto me my two sisters in different ways.

I was thinking last night when I got into bed how shame and perfectionism are inter connected.   Perfectionism is the antidote we try to apply to deal with our shame, but it ends up creating more shame for we can’t live up to ideals as a defence against shame without creating more misery for ourselves. At some level I feel these issues are endemic to our culture. Where one religion or group feel they have the rule book on what is right and wrong and others are damned it makes it possible to see others not as humans but as objects. Those who are not good or perfect enough, who don’t live by the right ideals, just deserve the worst hardship that can befall them. Certain people then, can act in shameless ways, without ever allowing their heart to be touched by the heart of another who exists beyond the artificial divide their beliefs set up.

The song Belief by John Mayer expresses these truths:

Belief is a beautiful armour,

But makes for heaviest sword,

Like punching under water,

You never can see who you’re trying for.

Some need the exhibition

And some have to know they’ve tried

It’s the chemical weapon

For the war that’s raging on inside

The Sufi poet Rumi says : out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field, I will meet you there. I want to live in that field. I can see in my own life where I have set up divides against right and wrong and have felt that those I saw to be doing wrong deserved some kind of punishment, so John Mayer’s words have applied to me too.  I wonder if some of this comes from my Catholic upbringing, or its just a human trait – that we tend to split and polarise.

At the same time I feel that to be able to own anger at boundary violations of others, is an important step in reclaiming esteem and personal power and energy that is lost in shame, especially where we are shamed by the shameless or those who just don’t have any insight into deeper emotional realities. Having been on the receiving end of this in my life I know how it stings. One is then exiled and doesn’t really have much of a place to go. Addiction is such a place as substances such as alcohol and drugs can, for a time, numb the emotional pain of a wound that one is not permitted to feel. It’s a painful dilemma. We then wind up in recovery and can share with others about the shame, but we must be very aware that in exposing our vulnerable underbelly we are not shamed yet again, for I think as addicts we can easily take on the shadow projections of others.

The truth is we did what we needed to try and survive hostility and in environments, which lacking empathy taught us to unconsciously turn against ourselves and retreat smarting. According to Kim Saeed who helps people deal with the damage of co-dependence that leads us to painful relationships:

The problem arises in where co-dependency can often be expressed through the relationships they develop with other people because they are hypersensitive to hostility and prefer to avoid conflict. Their natural ability to want to keep the peace and make their partners pleased can easily be manipulated by those who are prone toward anger and aggression.

Until we find the loving place of wisdom and acceptance deep within, we are doomed to wander lost.  Lacking the boundaries and courage to stand up against what hurts we allow ourselves to be wounded again. So we do need to believe in ourselves and our power to be stronger than shame.

I shared yesterday about my dog Jasper getting hurt on Sunday.   I think it was a bull ant sting. He yelped in pain (a natural response to pain), then limped home, retreated to the garage licked his paw and then went to sleep, a few hours later he was fine (regardless of my worrying, I was able to leave him and give him some alone time to rest and heal).

I love the fact that animals just know what to do instinctively. I think about this on a metaphorical level having spent years in retreat licking wounds and stings and trying to find a way to come back to healing and the centre of myself.  Many times a period of retreat and rest is needed when we are undergoing radical change and addressing our wounds.  . Not only that, I know why this injury hit me so deeply on Sunday,  having suffered really bad injuries myself, seeing others injured or hurt really triggers my own imprints of pain.

I feel in some way even this blog has been a way for me of licking invisible wounds, of sharing and then coming back to centre.  As I move towards its first anniversary in a few month’s time I am so grateful for the chain of experience that led me to WordPress, for me it is an avenue for expression and a beautiful resource of sharing and resonance in which I have found such comfort from other souls. For today I will let this gratitude flow over me as I move out into the windy day.

It gave me such a warm feeling to receive those four likes on my posts, and I think that makes me human. Truth is, my heart is warmed when I am connected, having gone through many years of disconnection, that warmth is a lovely feeling. So thank you to those who have read, shared, liked and followed.

Reflections on Shame

imagesCARNFQF2

I’d like to share here some things I have been reading and discovering about the role of shame in co-dependency, addiction and recovery.

Discovering the role of shame in my own life and its relationship to my addiction was a turning point for me. This discovery came several years into recovery and sobriety when I read John Bradshaw’s book : Healing the Shame that Binds You.  In that book John gave words to the feeling that had dogged me, especially during adolescence, that I was somehow defective as a person, not quite able to measure up.  This perspective led me to feel insecure and quite unsure of myself, it led me to hide and it also led me to my addictions, although I was not fully conscious of this at the time.

Shame was particularly associated with my Catholic upbringing. I learned to be ashamed of my body and my sexuality. It didn’t help being tall, I was often called names for being tall, skinny and gangly with did nothing to enhance my self esteem. Was I aware of this at the tender age of 18 when I started my first intimate relationship with my first boyfriend? No way. Hiding is a key aspect in shame and my shame and other feelings were repressed. I just wasn’t aware of the way they were driving me unconsciously.

There is a difference between guilt and shame but both can be used by parents and other caregivers who may want to induce in us, certain behaviours.  I recently read the following which explains something of how this happens:

These same useful (if painful) mechanisms can be turned against us by others who know (usually unconsciously) how to exploit them, and serve to drain off our own energy for their use. Guilt can be, then, inauthentic, like a computer virus, which hijacks our own circuitry for its purposes. Or shame becomes triggered not when we are doing something inherently anti-social, but rather when we are doing something that runs against the particular needs of an individual/group/family to have us hew to its rules, in order to have us accessible as an energy resource. In other words, the shame is not signaling that our behavior is anti-social (against social connectedness and cohesiveness), but rather is a chain that’s being yanked to keep us in line with another’s needs.

Source:  http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/energy-theft

Guilt figured greatly in the creation of the inherent feeling of myself to be shameful. It was a huge part of what I was taught in my childhood.  I remember being guilted and shamed for taking initiative in my class one day, going to the cupboard and opening a new box of tissues for the class.  I had disobeyed (apparently??) some rule of which I was unconscious and got a roasting for it.

Reading John’s book I learned how, in childhood, we can be shamed for our very real and natural feelings. Anger is one feeling that is often shamed. Sadness too can be shamed, but so can excitement and joy. Once feelings become bound in shame we no longer feel safe enough to feel them and to be ourselves, thus the generation of narcissistic disturbances and the splitting off and hiding of the true self with a false mask.

It is recognised that shame plays a huge part in narcissism because to be human is to be vulnerable, but due to humiliation and shame narcissists no longer feel safe in being vulnerable, imperfect and human. Thus they can act shamelessly and they often put on a mask. To own their very real shame would make them human and open to being intimate and vulnerable.

With most narcissists their vulnerability can be projected and they can reject their very humanness and imperfection, if they were taught in childhood that they only way they could win love was to deny very human feelings.   Luckily when I got into AA at the age of 31 I could share about my shame, in rooms with others who did so too. I just had to be careful about not taking it on as an identity.

I no longer believe in original sin, but that is one of the tenants of Catholicism that I was taught. It’s a horrible and damaging idea, that our very instinctual childlikeness is something to be ashamed of. For as a child we have not yet developed a relationships with and insight into our feelings, these come with the help of healthy mirroring and empathy which teach us about boundaries and help us to come to terms with our feelings. I don’t believe we are born “evil”. I believe a lot of what is judged to be evil is a projection and yet there are people out there who act with no sense of healthy shame and they can be perhaps capable of evil things, in the way they hurt others.

I have just been rereading Terry Kellog’s book on co-dependency: Broken Toy Broken Dreams, Understanding and Healing Boundaries, Co-dependence, Compulsion and Family Relationships. When I read really insightful stuff I have the impulse to share it on line. So I am including here some of the very perceptive things he writes about shame.

In the meandering of a lost childhood, one can remain on the path of perpetual suffering and victimization or be motivated into a path of abusive and using destructiveness. The journeys both begin with the child’s loss of childness, with the internalizing of the natural response to abuse, which is to feel bad about oneself, ashamed. One child continues to receive and internalize: another learns to project and offend. One identifies with victimization and postures of the victim, the other with the aggression and postures of the aggressor. Some of us may shift back and forth between the two roles. Those who do the hurting in our culture are the siblings of those who get hurt – both began life without the protecting and affirmation needed for sensitivity and gentleness to self and others.

The path from the pain and destruction is to embrace, feel and share the sense of shame, to feel it, not repress it; to share it, not hide it, to embrace it, not get rid of it.   In the shame lies our vulnerability and in our vulnerability lies our path to intimacy. In our shame is the gate to our humanity, honour, guardianship, spirituality.

Shame is not the problem – it is a key part of the solution. We need our shame just as we need our anger, fear, sadness, guilt and joy. Our feelings are interwoven and to be rid of our feelings spells personal disaster. To not deal with each feeling affects our ability to deal with the others. It would be a strange child that would not feel shame when a parent hurts the child. It isn’t the hurt, the abuse or the shame that creates the lifelong problem. It is the denial of the hurt, the abuse, the repression of the shame.

When the shame is expressed, the child finds vulnerability, healthy dependency and healing. In expressing and sharing the shame and how bad we feel about ourselves, we are learning to depend on people. By expressing and embracing the shame, the child learns to act responsibly with a sense of shame, a sense of honour and a sense of guardianship.

You cannot have honour without shame. The larger problem in our culture is with shamelessness which may come from hidden repressed shame, but it is a denial of the shame and an inability to use it as a sense of guardianships.

Shame is the felt sense of capacity to do harm to others, to our planet, and to ourselves. Co-dependency is not shame and shame is not co-dependency. Shame is a feeling that most of us have a difficult time embracing or dealing with so we repress, ignore or detract from it. Some of us self judge through shame and others will act shamelessly and roll over others. The more power a person or group has in our culture, the more shameless they tend to be, the more likely they are to abuse other people or the planet.

Shame accesses our spirituality because it is a felt sense of our incompleteness, that we are not perfect. This felt sense of incompleteness creates a craving. When the shame is repressed, the craving becomes a need for a fix through addiction. In the embracing and sharing of our shame, the craving becomes a need for completeness through spirituality, through a sense of higher power, through meaning and the integration of our path in the process of creation.

One of the reasons I do believe groups such as AA offer healing is that they allow us to unmask our shame and deal with it. When we take the steps to heal in the 12 step programme a central part of the healing tasks centres around steps four and five, where we investigate the nature of our shame and share it with someone else who allows us not to be judged, but to learn from it. In the course of this step we separate out our healthy and unhealthy shame. In this way we learn that a lot of what we did in our active using or addiction was the outgrowth of having learned difficult and painful ways of getting our needs met, needs we may have been ashamed of. Taking the steps, reaching a place of insight and awareness, enables us to embrace our defects and celebrate our gifts.

I guess I am sharing about this at the moment, as over the past few days I have been experiencing some shame around certain things in my life. Voices of the last narcissist that made me bad and wrong still reverberate through my brain. At times I can separate from these voices but the inner critical shamer still gets some air time.

With the hindsight of 21 years of recovery I can see where I fell short of being a person who took steps to take care of herself, and that indeed this lack of self care, placed a burden on others, it also placed great expectations outside of myself. At the same time I realise that I really did need someone to depend upon in childhood and that person was not there.   I got to feel wrong for needing to depend and the need to depend got repressed and kept me stuck in an old pattern of looking in adulthood for what I didn’t get in childhood.  In the end the journey was to become aware of all of this.

Feeling the sense of shame and lack is okay, it shows me I am human. I certainly know I am far from perfect. I have been aware that I can react with anger when my shame gets triggered. I have also been on the receiving end of projected shame and guilt from certain people in my life over the past year. In sorting out my boundaries around this I guess I have learned a lot about others. I am more aware than I was a year ago and so I am growing. Most importantly I am glad that I have, over the past 21 years been able to unmask myself in a way that was not possible before. Certain people have seen this as a kind of weakness, this willingness to be vulnerable and open my feelings. Most importantly I have no longer had to participate in self shaming quite as much.

As I have shared in earlier blogs at times I have been shamed most especially for feeling sad. But I do agree with Terry Kellog when he says that our sadness and willingness to feel it is a form of self intimacy. That sadness enables us to do our grieving and move through our losses.

10592688_833507520000562_1087161439138940237_n

Just this morning I felt really sad in response to something a relative had done in response to the wash up of my sister’s will and belongings. I expressed great sadness to my Mum who told me not to feel that way. This is not new for me. Later in the day we talked and she had exactly the same response to the issue last night when she had learned of the problem via my nephew. Mum couldn’t show compassion for me at that time but was distressed I was in pain.  Later in the day she called over to the house to see that I was okay..  I have to be careful where I go with this.  In the past my own distress sometimes does not allow me to see the blockages she has with feeling and accepting emotions.  This time I was not angry with her for not responding in the way I felt I needed. After all she is human, with her own limitations and defences. I brought the conversation to an end.

I know as a child and adolescent I was shamed for feelings, for being me, for being “too sensitive”. I no longer swallow that shame, just as I try to no longer swallow my feelings.

I know shame has been central to my journey and my ancestor’s journey.  My eldest sister who passed away earlier this year was crippled with shame, sadly.   I have the Saturn Moon legacy but I am beginning to see it is only a one part of who I am. These days I am a little more able to feel separate from the shame. It is no longer my central identity, masked through addiction and co-dependence. In being able to embrace true shame and less comfortable with acting shamelessly when I hurt others through my anger at this wound I have carried that has made life difficult, I can understand that often others can’t express their true feelings well, either. We are all human, we all carry wounds. In the end its about having manageable boundaries around feelings.

Often we learn to identify with the wounded self as being who we are, but this I believe is a mistake and core legacy of not having unmasked our true feelings and reaching an understanding around how these wounds which are the result of our past, re-enact, especially in relationships with others with narcissistic injuries. It took deeply painful relationships for me to reach these understandings. In the end the antidote was in the core of the wound, in allowing myself to feel it and in knowing that it was its own gift with lessons to teach me.

How the Light Gets In

32d284c1a2a51b02a81ec2f478d8353d

I was reflecting in my garden, as reflections of the shadows of leaves waving in the breeze, being tossed lazily around fell before me, about how important nature is to me, and about how I see my recovery from addiction and the pain I carried as a way of seeking to come back into step with the natural cycle and order of things.

When I got sober in 1993 it was the beginning of summer here in the southern hemisphere. Winter brought a new relationship into my life, and by spring, we were married.  By early summer I was in so much pain I around my alcohol abuse that I entered the rooms of AA and found sobriety. Now that I look back I know there was something not quite conscious about the speed with which my husband and I committed, and yet our marriage and coming together was all part of the path, of what was meant to happen in my life in order for me to grow.

Ever since that time, spring represents me a coming to birth and light out of a deep heavy fog of darkness. The loneliness that had dogged me ever since my father’s death and all through adolescence really lifted in the light of new love when my husband and I met. The love of my husband gave me enough support to allow me to make the decision to deal with the impact of my binge drinking.   His love gave me a window and insight into the hurting in my heart and the support to heal. For the rest of my life I will be so grateful to him, even though he is not now in my life. In four days we would have been married 21 years.

I do believe that even when relationships end in real life, the relationship that you had and continue to have with that person lives on inside you. People can remain like ghosts, leaving you haunted or, through a process of healing, you find a way eventually to come to peace and transform the relationship. I feel that peace around me in my heart at the moment despite the ending that came in early 2001 when we left England and the promise of a new life there.

Home brought me back to a sense of deep loss and trauma and our relationship only survived another three years. With so much trauma still undealt with and unprocessed over here in Australia with my remaining family; with my sister incapacitated and stuck in an abusive relationship which was ending; with my mother having sustained a major injury; with the burden of the promise I had made to my dying father to take care of my mother weighing heavily on my heart, I could not live in peace without coming home.  But a part of me was rebelling so deeply against this.  It didn’t seem entirely fair.  Exactly how was it my responsibility? And yet, on some level I thought it was.  The astrologically attuned may understand if they saw all the conjunctions to the South Node in my seventh house of relationships, while the North Node in Leo roars out alone in the first house.

I now see that although I gave myself such a hard time for leaving what was unfolding in the UK for me during 2001, it was necessary for me to come home to deal with the past.  I chose to remain somewhat removed from home and yet got stuck in a place so associated to the past and trauma. It was the house my father built in the final years of his life, those difficult years of trauma, 1979 – 1985.

These days I know the impact of unresolved trauma, of feelings we have no permission or avenue to process can and do often keep us in a freeze state : an inner purgatory or liminal space with is like a cocoon or alembic, a receptacle in which death processes are going on that are not accessible to thought but live like echoes or intimations buried deep. The entire body psyche is bound and regurgitating on an unconscious level, that which was too huge to process and which is needing to be worked through.

Giving a name to our traumatic imprints, finding words is essential to find the freedom, to loosen the tenacious grip that unconscious trauma can leave on the soul. We unravel from it and uncoil, slowly in the presence of acceptance, understanding and love which are difficult for a traumatised person to find amongst even the most familiar to them. In their absence we remain bound and imprisoned until enough failures lead us to no longer abandon ourselves, encourage us to find the love needed inside as well as the courage to make our way through unleashing the necessary feelings.

images (14)

I was chatting to a friend of mine who is sober like me, has been sober and in recovery for over 20 years and she was saying how difficult it is in her family to find understanding and recognition. “I realise” she said to me (echoing my own recent experience, “when I can have my feelings and find help to feel them I move through them. When I don’t get this I stay stuck.”

Later that day I was making my way through Judith Herman’s chapter on safety in her book Trauma and Recovery where I read the following :

The traumatised person is often relieved simply to learn the true name of her condition. By ascertaining her diagnosis, she begins the process of mastery. No longer imprisoned in the wordlessness of the trauma, she soon discovers that she is not alone; others have suffered in similar ways. She discovers further that she is not crazy; the traumatic syndromes are a normal human response to extreme circumstances. And she discovers finally, that she is not doomed to suffer this condition indefinitely; she can expect to recover as others have recovered.”

Such recognition, understanding and healing is only possible when we can feel and give a name, true name to what we have experienced. We may have to live the realisation over and over to come to acceptance in a long and drawn out process of healing, but once we can understand and express our complex feelings we are closer to acceptance and freedom.

Judith Herman notes that people with the complex disorder of post traumatic stress (those who have been impacted severely or by several traumas stacked on each other, or those whose PTSD has been worsened by a lack of empathy around them) often feel they have lost themselves.

“The question of what is wrong with them has often become hopelessly muddled and ridden with moral judgement. A conceptual framework that relates the person’s problems with identity and relationships to the trauma history provides a useful framework for formation of a therapeutic alliance.(which) recognises the harmful nature of the abuse (or trauma) and provides an explanation of… persistent difficulties.”

It seems to me that in giving our traumas words we are recognising the truth of their impact too, recognising this truth may necessitate a period of suffering and or mourning.  That profound period and stage of healing takes the time it takes to work through.  Once negotiated it can and does lead us to re-integration and once we choose it, re-engagement with life.

Tied up with healing may be experiences where we replay unresolved traumas or issues by what is known as repetition compulsion. Before the traumas or losses we have been through can be named we may need to re-experience then in differing guises.  Anniversaries can bring new traumas or events that echo earlier ones.

It has been recognised that unresolved trauma does tend to magnetise to it other traumas which are attempts of the trauma to make itself known (see Peter Levine’s work : Taming the Tiger). I certainly experienced this in my own life. The end of my relationship with my husband brought up not only all the unfelt grief and unnamed trauma of my father’s death and eldest sisters’ illness and breakdown to the surface, but pain of three other major relationships ending.

In the absence of support and recognition as well as the down right hostility of my family and friends to the deeper layers of trauma and grief I was literally driven away, scapegoated and set up to repeat not only those traumas but the very profound trauma of my earlier accident of 1979.   These repeats occurred following the end of my marriage as I had made the choice to return to the scene of earlier “crimes” because their true impact remained unconscious and unprocessed.

The pain of my relationship ending, led me to repeat old traumas over a period of six years. It led me into a relationship in which I would be abandoned in nearly exactly the same way as I was in the month following my father’s death 26 years later. This pattern was not conscious as it was unfolding, only as I worked through the pain, did the repetition elements reveal themselves and in so doing helped me to heal and make sense of how the compulsion to repeat had replayed in my own life.

On an astrological note the true integration of all of that pain took an entire Saturn cycle to play out.  In the last two years, Saturn’s transit through Scorpio has crossed over my natal Neptune and returned to the place it occupied when my father died in 1985 and I took flight over to the land of my ancestors.

When I began this blog earlier it was with the idea in mind of how we can fall out of step with natural cycles or of the profound power of natural cycles to play and replay sometimes in a spiral pattern. The point I was hoping to make was that when I found sobriety in 1993, eight years following my father’s cancer diagnosis and death it was to nature and to a tree that I turned for solace and healing. (This makes great sense to me as I read the blog back, humans around me often were not safe and could not be trusted to be true witnesses to my grief as nature can.)  This may seem strange but in 12 step groups we are encouraged to find a sense of higher power or strength in any avenue that is fitting for us. The word God is used but many people have difficulty with God due to the abuse of certain religions.

For me in the summer of 1993 it was to the roots of a huge fig tree in McKell Park in the eastern suburbs of Sydney that I turned for refuge. It absorbed the tears of mine which fell to the ground when following my first AA meeting I had an experience of coming home, of opening up, of letting go and of being held and comforted by unseen forces, of knowing I was in the right place. It was under this tree that I could sit and feel my way into the heart centre that I closed down over all those years, years during which I felt myself to be driven so far from my own body into addiction and painful relationships.  These were all necessary but misguided attempts to run from a pain I was not able yet, to fully feel my way through to the dark centre of, while replaying an unconscious pattern.

autumn-fall-nature-tree-outdoors

As I sit and type this today these words appear on top of a background of reflected green : the shimmering leaves of the beautiful tulip tree which graces my back yard. As spring birds call out in the distance I find myself at home and at peace. Through all of this unfolding nature and the unfolding of cycles, the turning of wheels within wheels, has carried me through.  Nature bids me these days to find rest when I am overtaxed, it lets me know by its slower natural rhythms when I am out of step or overtaxing myself.  When relationships got stripped away or fell apart because and grief and anger I carried seemed to tax every single relationship, apart from the one with myself,  trees and nature like my little dog have waited patiently giving me something deep and soothing that is in the absence of words a lot like love, that reaches a far deeper place than words could.

Not all humans have failed me and god knows I have failed people too, at times. There have been those, particularly in later years, in person in and online who have been willing to listen and to help me name my true experience, just as there have been those who have been so damned uncomfortable with this that they have sidelined me or tried to shut me up.

Was it that in my addiction I fell out of step with the natural cycle? In trauma something gets ripped open or torn apart. The natural cycle is interrupted or shattered for a time and such shattering leaves a legacy of symptoms which speak of dis-order.  There is, on the astrological side, something profoundly Uranian to this, in that often Uranus disrupts the natural order, perhaps to bring to birth something individual that could not come to birth out of that natural, unbroken order.

And yet in the living of a life that has balance I know I have needed to seek for the order within that disorder, to seek for connection even in the midst of disconnection. To make of the torn apart threads a new garment that has an individual beauty and complexity that rests on the disordered skeins being woven into a new pattern.

So perhaps what happened was this, things fell out of order to find a new order. It is said that it is through the cracks that open from these kind of things that light enters what was previously opaque and impenetrable.   Traumatic events can bring about amazing healing and reconnections between people who might never have met or never experienced connection nor come to outgrowths of new understanding.

And so trauma has its place and things do get torn apart, fall apart and break. Perhaps in the end much depends on the perspective we take and the perspective we reach. Often that change in or re-framing of perspective rests on having travelled a little further down the road. I certainly find this to be true.

Sometimes our healing and resolutions demands of us a patience with that which, as yet has not fully come to birth or form. Life itself and our understandings, too are ceaselessly evolving.   It is good that this is true. That we stay open, that we don’t seek to fix things into place too soon. That we expand our minds eye just a little wider and with the benefit of that expanded aperture find a perspective that reveals to us more of wholeness, of truth of life.