On overwhelm and traumatic anniversaries

I just spoke to my sister and on the weekend she was involved in a minor accident with turned into a huge bleed, my mother tore her skin on an open cupboard, because she is on certain blood thinning drugs she bled and bled.  My sister convinced her she needed to go to hospital, due to a huge accident occurring at the same time with people being flown in from the country to our town they had to wait all night in casualty.  My sister had no sleep which is always triggering for her due to her own psychological issues, I was also aware that this time of year is the time of year our sister had her cerebral bleed and last year, on this anniversary my sister who was on medication for bi polar had two falls, and cut her head open, she ended up in hospital and then my mother had another fall in trying to carry a suitcase with her clothes down a long flight of stairs alone. Not asking for help.

What made matters worse was that just prior to this last year we had had a huge disagreement.  I had confronted my Mum on some of her boundary violations and my mother had got extremely upset, accused me of judging her and my sister had sided with my mother.  Both decided they would not talk to me for a while and then the “accidents” happened,  all on the anniversary of my dead sister’s stroke.

I received a call from my Mum yesterday telling me of their traumatic experience in emergency.  She was asking me to go to the market to get her a piece of fruit she wanted.  I had to say no.  I was struggling myself and feeling very tired.  I offered to buy her anything she needed from the shop where I was at the time of the call, but that wasn’t good enough, so I had to stand firm on my boundary.

After the call I experienced a lot of anxiety and guilt.  I knew I had acted to take care of myself for once.  Mum understood, she wasn’t upset with me, but still I felt bad.  Aware of the anxiety I went into a spin for some hours.

Last night I was thinking of a comment my therapist had made recently.  “It is important to take care of yourself on the anniversary of traumas”, she said  “you can be particularly vulnerable to accidents this time.”  I have certainly experienced this in my own life.  On the first two anniversaries of my husband telling me he had decided to leave our marriage I had two accidents, one a major bike crash where I split my head open and in the second a fall where I hit my back really badly on a piece of metal.   I was contemplating all of this last night as I became aware of the resonances of emergency visits all around the anniversary of my eldest sister’s trauma.

When I spoke to my sister this morning she said to me “I am feeling so overwhelmed, it feels like everything is coming in on me”.  I am aware that lack of sleep, lack of food and extreme loneliness can all be triggers which awaken the traumatic imprints buried deep in the subconscious.  At these times it is so important that we take steps of self care and look after ourselves.

I also wonder about our interconnectedness to those people with whom we share emotional history and DNA connections.  On the day my mother fell down the stairs last year (early March when the sun was activating my transit her Mars in Pisces) I had a major meltdown at the park.  I just started to experience extreme psychological distress.  It was so bad I walked off and left my dog in the small dog enclosure that the park, when I came back a young man was taking care of Jasper. “Are you okay?”, he asked at which point I burst into floods of tears.  I could not quiet express what was wrong as I didn’t know but much later that evening a family friend arrived on the doorstep to tell me my Mum had fallen and was in casualty.

Can you imagine the guilt?  I had had a disagreement with her a few weeks before.  We had spoken since.  I know her fall wasn’t in any way my fault (rather the outcome of her own actions) but I still felt some guilt for bringing up painful wounds from the past and expressing anger (admittedly in an assertive rather than aggressive way) that may have triggered anxiety for her.

I am very aware that in my family I act as a container and a conductor of energy.  I had a very strange sleep on Saturday night when all of this was happening.  It was as though I didn’t sleep and was on hyper-alert even though I know I did sleep.

Prior to logging on to write this blog I was experiencing much anxiety.  What helped was calling my sister, checking in and then getting online to write about what was happening.  This morning I felt all churned up and very spun around.  I also felt tired.  It was only when I spoke to a good friend that I could achieve some kind of clarity around the weekend’s events.

I am facing my own surgery in just over a week.  The timing of the finding of my breast cancer is not lost on me.  I went for the mammogram just before the anniversary of my father’s death and now I will have the surgery very close to my sister’s stroke.  Maybe there is no interconnection.  Perhaps all of these connections are a vast convoluted tapestry I have woven with my own mind.  Or is there a chance that my own wound relates to earlier traumas never fully mourned or resolved asking now to be noted and honoured?

I do not know the answer.  I can only use my intuition.  I can watch the astrological connections and see how the wheel of the year and the zodiac carry me across familial ground with themes that repeat and replay over time.  Most especially I can work to be aware of both my personal and familial triggers in order to live more consciously and to become more aware of how I am interconnected and how living in touch with a deeper level of things brings me a sense of wholeness and leads me away from overwhelm and anxiety.

 

 

Coping with the really tough days.

Today is one of them, the really tough days when my legs and stomach ache from the struggle I go through with my PTSD symptoms and when I sit quietly with my hands on my body in the painful places, grief like an ocean rises up.  My symptoms seem to have flared up after a treatment yesterday with a body worker, it has taken me five hours to get out of bed, have a shower (huge panic attack while in the shower which seems to trigger all my pain), make breakfast, feed the dog, clear up dishes and get dressed.  Its now nearly 2 pm and I woke at 7.15 am.

On these days life seems too hard.  Yesterday I touched base with the feelings of profound sadness, fear, desperation and powerlessness I experienced following the bike accident in 2005 when I went over the handlebars and hit my head open on the iron foundry on a busy Cambridge street.  I didn’t remember the impact, just awoke some hour later with an ambulance officer looming over me and most horrible pain in my head and nausea running all through me.  For the astrologically minded of you it happened when transiting Chiron was conjunct my natal Mars, Saturn, Moon in the 6th house on the first anniversary of my husbands decision to walk away from our marriage.

I had gone back to Cambridge hoping to start a new life there, where we had tried to settle three years before.  I was boarding with a family who would only allow me access to the kitchen and bathroom, not the living areas of their home.  I don’t know why I settled for this arrangement and later when I started to express some of the grief I was undergoing they made it clear such feelings were not acceptable in their home.  Their daughter had lost a best friend to addiction a few years before and they didn’t want her faced with any additional sadness.  It was an old familiar dynamic.  Anyway I ended up having this crash and it was plain to me they were not prepared to offer any support so I took myself off to a retreat in Glastonbury.

Its a far longer story.  I spent a lot of my time in severe disorientation due to my PTSD and I spent a lot of time crying.  I did make some supportive friends and I joined a Five Rhythms dance group where I could express my feelings in free form dance.  I look back at that time and see the pain was precursor to a potentially new life, but I felt too far flung out into space with no safety net, so about 6 months after my accident I made the decision to return to Australia.

What came up for me yesterday were all the feelings of powerlessness, compassion for myself at having been treated with lack of compassion by that family and the compassion of the therapist who shared with me how much she feels for people who suffer a traumatic accident which ruptures the fabric of a person’s physical integrity and leaves huge psychological scars.  I know that if you have not been through trauma its impossible to understand how it affects you.  The loss of continuity, the difficulty feeling real, the sense of profound displacement and the strange impact on the body where the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems get forced into full flung hyper arousal that cant be quietened over time.

This week I have been reading about the neurobiology of trauma in Babette Rothschild’s book The Body Remembers : The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment.  What strikes me is the nightmarish quality of it all and the powerlessness we sufferers experience as the body takes over launching us into a world of painful symptoms which are difficult to understand and manage.  Then the double wound which hurts even more deeply when we as sufferers are faced with the lack of empathy and understanding we meet when others don’t want to be bothered by our pain which is seen as a hindrance and the lack of proper emotional support which leaves us so very isolated and alone.

Profound feelings of rage can be one consequence and I know these led me to abort two previous attempts at body work and trauma healing.  I am now with a body therapist who is able to contain this rage and see that it is a symptoms of powerlessness, not a cause to punish me further.  I have compassion for the pain that underlies it.

Writing this is, I now understand, a way for me to manage the pain I feel on the really tough days.  Speaking about it, even just to a blank page helps.  I long to connect with other sufferers as I know they would understand me and I would understand them.  I feel isolated at times.  I have few friends who are willing to understand.  I have a house to cope with and manage while trying to manage all my symptoms.  Some days I cope but on others like today I find it really hard.

One interesting thing that I have read in Babette’s book is that trauma affects the ability of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps us to make sense of events, in an adverse way.  It can shut the hippocampus down when it is severe while it amps up the limbic system, that part of the brain that has profound control over body function, enervation of nerves and muscles and over emotional reactions.  Healing involves engaging the hippocampus through story telling, therapy, writing and other methods which help us to make sense of the trauma and its impact on our lives.

I am only a short way into the book and will share about it more later as I learn more.  For today I need to go gently on myself, to have compassion for the traumatised self who sometimes judges herself by standards that relate to the non traumatised.  I didn’t choose this and at times it feels like a curse, but I have to live with it.  As the Sun and Mercury have passed in opposition to my natal Chiron in the seventh house which aspects Mars, Saturn and Moon, while conjunct natal Pluto in my first I am reminded that this is part of my destiny.  Chiron was wounded in the ankle by a poison arrow left lying around by Hercules after he had fought the nine headed Hydra in one of his major labours.  The pain of the loss of my husband drove me on a quest and I got injured as a result.  Chiron never healed his wound but he did become a teacher and healer himself with profound insight into the nature of the wound and how to tend it, lovingly.  I take this insight to heart today as I consider the loving thing to do on one of the really tough days.

Also I am questioning today whether it might be advisable to give the body work a break for a time.  After my accident I went to an astrology consultation with the astrologer Melanie Reinhardt who explores the mythology and psychology of Chiron in the lives and stories of people and places.  She advised me at that time that I would gain most by living a quiet, interior and centred life in which I developed compassion and understanding into the nature of my wound.  Melanie also came close to death following an accident (as I did in an early accident at 17) and she explained to me that such a trauma leaves and imprint few, even many therapists fully understand.  She mentioned that one of the dangers of reliving the trauma over was in being stuck there.  Being stuck is such a big part of PTSD anyway, especially as the freeze or immobility state is one of the response to life threatening trauma.

How to come out of freeze?  Firstly to know when we are in that state, feeling trapped, holding our breath, making poor decisions due to trauma.  Going for a walk, even if we don’t feel like it.  Choosing to engage even if may feel dangerous, loving ourselves even when frozen and feeling compassion, may all be ways.  Writing about it, talking about it, understanding it.  Not as something to be ashamed of that makes us less than but something that even in being painful is a form of education of the soul..

Lessons from Saturn : Along the Road to Empowerment

I am seeking some healing, I am seeking self empowerment I am also seeking self definition. At the same time I am seeking liberation from wounding experiences  of the past that have held me in locked in pain which repeats. I am seeking a way to embrace and understand what I went through as at one time being out of my own power at the time due to my level of awareness at that time.  Pain has been the teacher that has taught me the lessons about all this and raised my level of awareness.

A few weeks ago I was reading a blog which I won’t identify out of respect in which the author has a rant :  “you are not a victim”, urging people to take control of their lives and power.  The problem I had with it is, that we cannot recover from the victim mythology until we understand that at one time we were a victim of others who had an investment in hurting us or keeping us small.

Just prior to reading this I had followed a link to a piece of writing from the Energetic Institute in Western Australia in which the author speaks about the  “New Age” tendency to deny that we are actually victims of other people who hurt us. Implied in a lot of New Age philosophy is the idea that you chose it or brought it on yourself. This idea is debunked in the article I read.  I quote :

Another key form of manipulation is the New Age perversion of the concept of there being no evil and no such thing as a victim. In this contrived reality there is nothing outside you that can be blamed for your circumstance, for that makes you a victim, and victims are powerless. The New Age theme is to take back your power by putting the cause of the problem back inside you in every instance and every case.

This logic to me needs a boundary between the truth of unconscious dynamics that we recreate in our lives which may keep us powerless and victims, and the true evil of outside premeditated intent and action against oneself by another.

Scott Peck and Elsa Ronningstam both warn of this fallacy of removing a perpetrator or abuser from their accountability, and instead taking on the issue as one’s karma or self generated issue. They note this being a limited truth not applicable to all dynamics or situations.They note that Narcissists and “people of the lie” are adept at creating justifications and psychologies that allow the leader to abuse the follower, then to doubly abuse them by telling them to stop being victims and see the deeper dynamic which is of their own darkness, lower self or some other origin.

The truth is we are at times victims of people who have an investment in denying and covering up what they have done. They are not capable of the level of introspection and honesty which would enable them to see into their own dark side. We all have a dark side and some of us are willing to face it. Abusers, especially emotional abusers, just are not.

Once we wise up to the truth that we suffered abuse (and emotional abuse can be very subtle to the degree it is denied by the abuser who then manipulates us in many subtle and underhand ways) only then do we have the possibility of making a choice to say “No” categorically and walk away.

This can take courage and strength especially if you have been bonded so tightly to an abuser due to isolation and suffer from trauma bonding.   Trauma bonding leads to us being isolated from other sources of support that would validate us and emotional abusers will invalidate those forms of support which we turn to in order to gain freedom.

This was certainly my experience. When I began to really hit into deep issues in my first therapy my therapy was actively disparaged by both my husband and my mother, both of whom had an investment in not looking into their own souls. I wish at the time this was occurring I had the courage to be stronger, but part of my questioned how people who purported to be loving could be subtly hurting me by denying support and questioning my interpretation of events, leading me to become very confused and to ask the question. “Have I got it wrong?”

I am now aware, as I was not then that there were big issues in our family around lack of honest confrontation and boundaries.  Boundaries could be invaded at any time and if you protested you were ridiculed.  Hurtful behaviour was never challenged. I was not protected and learned to believe that I was powerless.

One parent who was acting abusively was not held accountable by the other parent whose survival strategy was just check out and laugh it off. I was also subjected to abuse by a sister due the fact that my mother was absent at critical times. We came home to an empty house each afternoon and had to fend for ourselves.   It was confusing and lonely childhood. At times certain needs were met, but the message I got was that I just was not worth my parent’s time and attention.

A therapist has recently given this term to what I suffered: “benign neglect.” In the absence of care, support, understanding and comfort I learned to turn to substances. I also learned due to my mother and sister’s behaviour that attachment and connection was unpredictable and at times down right scary. My way of coping was to turn myself inside out, to anticipate that which would please and not anger them and to stuff the anger and the hurt deep inside. If and when I let it out I was led to believe I was a “bad” child and sideline, ostracised or sent to my room.

As recently as 10 years ago my sister said to me when I confronted her on her aggressive behaviour which sparked me to push her and call her a fairly strong name “you were such a selfish,  naughty child, always throwing tantrums.”…. Mmm. Tantrums are often a cry for attention but most especially speak to me of needs for care and boundaries in the process of growing up and negotiating relationships.

At the start of this blog I wrote about seeking self definition. As a writer with a strong interest in astrology I was thinking very strongly today of the planet Saturn. I have Saturn on my Moon and that placement speaks of conditions around me which led me to develop a sense of emotional resilience out of necessity, but it also speaks of defences and prohibitions against feeling the fully conscious, true response to deprivation of emotional needs.  It also speaks of outside forces of repression or limitation being imposed which locked feelings deep inside.

There is this theme of emotional repression and escape into an aggressive stance as a defence, running along my mothers ancestral side which spans critical events of abuse going back four generations.  So on some level it speaks of family karma, not in the sense of something New Age and etheric but as a result of sins of omission going back across generations as a result of the interface of individual and collective forces (Saturn).

Over the next week Saturn in Sagittarius beginning to slow at 4 degrees of Sagittarius prior to turning retrograde on 14 March. This transit sextiles my Mars Saturn Moon and square my Chiron in Pisces in the seventh house opposite Pluto in the first.

For me issues of anger, self definition, assertion, psychological defences and boundaries have been highlighted. I have been unearthing in counselling repressed anger which I could neither express effectively or resolve before.

Over the past 14 years of struggling after aborting an intensive therapy and seeking to separate from maternal, family and ancestral issues by travelling to the UK and starting therapy there (at that time transiting Saturn was in the opposition zone to where it is now) I have suffered from symptoms of spinning and feeling as though I am in the midst of birth process that at times gets stuck. I have felt myself pushing to be born fully against great forces of resistance.

Over the past year or so I have been unearthing intense feelings inside and complex issues have been triggered for female relatives which echo themes of enmeshment, separation and individuation.

Astrologer Erin Sullivan equates the transit of Saturn over the cusp of the fourth house with an atonement with our unique family fate, a growth in awareness of its impact on us personally and a process of separation from the fate. That certainly feels true for me. Last month I was able to make a connection with descendants from my mother’s side and learn more about the family history.

At times I have felt that the Saturn Moon Mars placement is a heavy cross to bear.  And yet lately I am feeling that even all the really painful and lonely experiences of neglectful or abortive mothering have been some kind of wake up call.  In many ways the females in my family have all be trapped in patterns and themes that played out unconsciously.  Saturn is now demanding consciousness. Astrology gives me the signposts for deep soul processes that have much more do with me than just purely personal issues. What I am working on is in some way linked to deep ancestral issues.

Over the past two weeks conditions of intense pain, illness, accident and suffering in my female relatives (which are occurring as Saturn makes powerful conjunctions and squares to Mars, Sun and Venus in their charts) are challenging me to step back and centre within.  My Neptune squares can unconsciously lead me to play saviour for something that is way beyond my power to control.  In the end I can only save myself.

For now its feeling quite comforting to recognise the necessity to stand alone for a time in order to gain deeper insight into what I can and cannot change. It is an important step for me to allow myself to honour my anger, whilst not acting it out, using it instead to demarcate healthy boundaries around what I can and cannot let in.  The more in touch I am with my anger the greater my capacity to love, once the anger is processed (outside of the family) and released.

Recently there was an incident when I had to confront my Mum lovingly and not back down when subtle tactics were used to try and get me to feel once again like the “naughty, bad one” for speaking up. I had to wear again the sting of rejection from the “circle of trust” and bear that pain whilst going through all the old guilt inducing messages.

Melodie Beatty who has written several books on recovery from codependence calls this “after burn” : a necessary stage in the process of regaining self esteem and healthy boundaries within deeply enmeshed relationships.

It is interesting to bear in mind the current transit of Mars in Aries as it moves toward Uranus the planet of individualisation and emotional freedom whilst squaring and challenging transiting Pluto in Capricorn, the entrenched and deeply ingrained legacy of painful secrets, toxic feelings, hurt, and buried emotions that are intense and difficult : anger, grief, guilt, fear, resistance and resentment.

It seems to me lately (in line with the transit of both Uranus and Mars in my eighth house ruled by Aries) that the entire history of my own hurt and frustration in critical relationships over the past 50 years has been triggered.

Last week the Sun in Pisces transited over Chiron there. I read the following and most certainly experienced it last week :

Sun conjunct Chiron in Pisces –

Sun conjunct Chiron in Pisces – On a sleepy Sunday, turn your attention to yourself. Tend to your wounds, your pain, those old hurts that bubble up sometimes. Love yourself back to life. Forgive yourself for reacting, for rejecting, for telling yourself that you should be better than this. You don’t need to be fixed. You aren’t broken – even if you feel you are. Let go of mistakes. You are fallible. It happens. Let It Go!

Source Lua Astrology Facebook Page.

For me the letting go comes once I have absorbed the lesson fully.

Carl Jung once said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain;” one of these being the potential pain of letting go of attachments to people, places and things that no longer resonate with us. Once we’ve seen the Light, there is no turning back to our former life in the same way. We are now entering into Spring (Fall) Eclipse season. Another good axiom comes to mind, “Let go or be dragged.”

Namaste Starshines

In the midst of undergoing my own painful melt down last week I came across an excellent article on Owning Your Own Power.  I read the following:

Many co-dependents have never learned to be assertive or how to problem-solve. They’re unable to know and assert their wants and needs or make decisions, often even for themselves. They relinquish control over themselves and often defer to others or don’t act at all. Assertiveness is empowering, but requires a foundation of autonomy and self-esteem, both difficult for co-dependents. However, assertiveness can be learned, and doing so builds self-esteem.

As I reflect these words relate to both a strong Saturn and Mars force within transformed in their power to protect, empower and helps us express our True Self. Saturn transits to personal planets and transpersonal drive certain critical lessons home. Self definition, self assertion – it’s a difficult journey for some of us. Its a matter of trust.

In my own case I lost trust in myself as I was not validated.  It has been a long road to understand how neglect and lack of validation kept me in prison for many years, literally tied in knots.  For me, freedom has only come through being able to own and honour the anger I have felt, difficult as it has been for people around me.  Anger is a response to hurt and invalidation, when that hurt is deliberate and when others have an investment in not honouring us or in passing on or projecting old unconscious hurt within themselves.

Anger gives me the energy to set boundaries, to confront, rather than deny what hurt.  Clean anger resolves itself.  It lets go once the lesson is absorbed and helps me to be protected from and recognise invalidation when it occurs.   I now know that my ability to have the power to be strong and achieve a happy life rests on my ability to trust in my feelings and use them to gain wisdom of what is needed by me to do at that time.  This for me these are some of  the critical lessons of a healthy Saturn and Mars.

Reflections on Shame

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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.

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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.

What is so wrong about sadnesss?

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I am having a very slow, deep, sad time at the moment and still things are not totally dark.  There is so much light around, but its just that I am so aware of this weary, deep rooted sadness, like finding myself at the end of a long journey that seemed to take me in the very wrong direction and caused so much anguish along the way as I flailed this way and that, trying to find a way through the world, while feeling deep within the intimation or pull of something far, far deeper that could not be fully expressed or communicated.  But maybe in some way all is not lost or sad as this blog of mine which I started at the end of last year is helping me to find some avenue of expression, a way to be naked and transparent about what I am feeling really, with no inner censor there to put the stops on that.  (Not that I don’t get that still on some level.  Just reading back the second sentence my inner critic said that it was too long and ran on.  Never the less I’m going to leave it as it is 🙂 ).

I have felt that the true expression of who I am and what is in my soul, is just not okay for certain people in my life. I’m not one who is going to control the way you express yourself. I see that as your right to live as the person you want to be and feel yourself to be.  Maybe that’s why it troubles me like hell when I see other people doing it and have it done to me, over and over and over again.  And yet at some deeper level I know I cant even argue with that, that is, with certain individual’s way of expressing against me because the reality is this : that way of being is part of who they are.  On some level it has nothing to do with me anyway.  It is beyond my control. If it bugs me to the point of hurting me. these perceptions help me to let go and move away from what hurts.  I still need to honour my feelings, otherwise depression results..

In one way I am still in a learning process around feelings and other people’s reaction to them.  I’m still learning about my feelings and finding ways to feel okay about having and expressing them.  Sometimes too, I realise I don’t really know what my feelings are about, they just start to burst out of me.  That’s the way it is with feelings they are of another realm to thought.  Instinctive, body centred.  It is only much later after some time has passed that I am more aware of where my feelings come from and what triggered them. I am also aware that with the level of loss and trauma I have had there are layers and layers of feeling and sometimes feelings and reactions, such as lashing out in anger, hide other deeper feelings of powerlessness and grief.  While sometimes lashing out is a cry of my soul to be free from bondage and misunderstanding,

These reflections are all prompted by some time away in the city I moved to following my father’s death.  I moved from a smaller town to the closest big city after returning from two years overseas in Europe when I was in my mid twenties.  My father had died in 1985 and it was in 1987 I returned to my home town to find I wanted something more than the life on offer there,  My mother had remarried very quickly, in a bid to escape the depth of her own grief, there was no place for me with her and her new husband.  And so I made the decision to move to the city.  I now know I was carrying a lot of inner struggle and was well on my way to becoming a binge drinker and alcoholic.

This city was the place I endured a lot of things and in time I was married and found recovery there.  I began to start the journey of self discovery.  Time led me over to Europe again and then back to the coast of our country to the family home the was at the centre of six years of trauma and loss following my accident.  When my husband and I moved back to the coast things were tough finding work.  I was still stuck in trauma and  could not really face moving back to the city. My marriage ended as a result.

And so on returning last week there were many memories and complex emotions kicking around inside me.  I felt a sense of aliveness and promise being back there, a realisation that the tough times there were all for the purpose of me growing as a person.  But the depths of feelings were more complex.  Perhaps I was feeling sad because back in 2003 I could not find the courage to return there and so a phase of life ended and was closed.  Moving back to the city would have saved my marriage.  And yet there was something deep within me I was trying to honour by remaining on the coast and journeying inward, a journey my husband could not support.

Sometimes I have questioned:  did that choice really carry me to a place of greater life and love?  Or was it a resistance to moving forward on some level.  As I question this I realise resistance speaks of something important that was going on and even my self doubt and questioning is a reflection of much earlier invalidation.  In the end I wish to be a person who embraces the wholeness of life and doesn’t just slice it into manageable pieces and so loose something in that translation. But might this be part of my problem?  Is it a problem?  Or is it just part of what makes me, me?  So many questions.   And yet it is what it is. It became what it now is due to the choices I made.  All of which now make me, me with the feelings I have.

As happens when I start to write I travel down a path with many twists and turns and what prompted the starting of this piece was the experience I had of a river of sadness opening up for me, on the last night in that city. I was with my family, which is never really very easy.  This was trip my sister had arranged to give my mother some light relief from a year of pain. The loss of my sister, my other sister’s hospitalisation and recovery and my mother’s own health issues.  So as you can imagine they were not very impressed when on the last night I met them in the bar and a flood of sadness poured out.

“What’s wrong” my mother said.  “I thought we were here to have a happy time.”  (implication : you are now spoiling it by your sadness.)  Inside I’m thinking I FUCKING HATE THAT QUESTION.  FOR GOD’S SAKE I AM FEELING SAD,  I DONT HAVE WORDS FOR ALL THE SADNESS, ITS JUST SADNESS.  I COULD TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE SADNESS BUT I DONT KNOW IF THAT WOULD HELP AND TO SEE SADNESS AS WRONG AND BAD, WELL I JUST FEEL EVEN SADDER ABOUT THAT. WOULD IT KILL YOU TO EMBRACE ME AND JUST GIVE ME A HUG.  (I was able to say these things to my Mum a few days later in a calm manner, but it took some reflecting and sorting out to do so.)

Needless to say a ten minute agony ensued as an argument took place over whether they even wanted me at dinner if I was feeling so sad.  And ended with me seeking a hiding place in the convention room in floods of tears and very close to packing up all of my bags and heading home on the late night bus.  Instead I endured the morning of upset stares, starchy responses from my sister and sidelining from everyone else.  I felt so alone when I got home and very depressed.  I am still working my way through this depression and I am in and out of it. Less in it when I share with more empathetically attuned people and my support group.

Over the weekend, one of my very wise friends explained to me that she finds people get very threatened and confronted by people who show raw emotions, especially sadness and grief.  (though I do feel this applies to anger as well, so much we equate anger with insanity ie. you’re “mad”)  They hate it as it makes them feel inadequate, powerless and that things are out of control  Rather than acknowledge that they feel that way, they start to get really angry and hostile. ” It has got very little to do with you really”, my friend said “and I know this might seem difficult but, in the end, its not personal”.

I think I can be okay with that if it means that is okay for me to have my sadness and to feel deeply about things. Where it bites me and enrages me is when my family try and turn it around to make me feel there is something wrong with me for feeling as I do and emphasising how painful it is for them, when really my feelings had bugger all to do with them, before they started personalising them.  And yet I realise that I also need to accept the reality, that getting upset about this and reaching the conclusion that I am wrong or bad in some way leads me to a very painful, dark, lonely, hurting place.  This is the land of no empathy turned back in on itself.  This is a place I now realise and I have lived for years especially when their mistreatment, misunderstanding, lack of empathy and hard line responses led me into panic and a resulting serious accident the PTSD symptoms of which have troubled me over nine long years and caused the bust up of many friendships.

Having chewed over this experience over the past four day I realise that how may family respond to me is not something I can argue against,  And what I have realised too, is that personal  feelings, just are.  I cant expect that just because someone says they love me they understand how I feel totally.  That probably isn’t even their job.  It is, however healing and causes me less sadness to be around more empathetic, emotionally aware people.  My feelings aren’t bad or wrong.  They are just feelings and when I can accept them and allow them to be, they usually pass through and don’t get all mixed up and complicated, as happened in this experience with my family.  (An astrological note might be appropriate here, both my sister and Mum’s Saturn in Scorpio sit on my natal Neptune and square my Moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus and the North Node in Leo and my sister has Mars square the Sun and Venus and my Chiron is squared by her Mars and is conjunct her Sun/Venus.  I must represent a part of her that she rejects in her quest for onwards and upwards.   Says it all really 🙂  Her Mars cuts into me like a knife.  But that’s not personal either, just affects me that way )

Why do we make feelings so wrong and demonise people who express them?  I think so much more freedom could come for us, and especially me, if I can just accept that I feel a certain way.  And what happened on that night shows me why, in my family, I learned not to feel what I felt and know what I know.

My family and particularly this bi polar sister like to portray a certain image to the world.  My mother makes a point of being especially well turned out. She also comes from a generation that might not only have taught her to hide her real feelings, but gave her no place to express them.  Her father died of war injuries her mother was left alone with a small child.  My mother learned to cope by being strong and looking as good as she could  On some level as an empath and her youngest I feel I connect to some of those buried feelings.

The sadness I felt at the end of our stay away, does not negate the happiness.  We did have some enjoyable time in the trip, but as usual, there was no place for sadness.  And the sadder thing is, the sadness that needed to be felt could have passed much quickly if permission was given for it to flow, instead it got banked up again and I had another restless few nights of twisting and turning and little sleep.  When tears flowed the hurting passed but when they got banked up, I was in pain again.  This makes me angry because I have fucking suffered due to going to the wrong places in trying to have feelings acknowledged.  That pattern now can end as I have realised the lesson which has repeated over and over to drive its point home.

I do feel that the feelings issue is problematic in our culture.  The Jungian psychoanalyst,  Robert Johnson talks about our feeling wounded culture.  How much better it might be if we were allowed avenues of sadness. given a place to feel what we need to feel. I am going to become a warrior for this, because I feel so passionate about it.   My true feelings lead me home to me.

The walls we build around us to keep sadness out

also keeps out the joy.

John Rohr

I was touched on Monday night to watch a performance of the Veronicas, an Australian sister duo.  When asked about the song they sung one of the sisters said it was about sadness.  “There is something beautiful in sadness”, she said.

Wow I thought.  Thank You.  What is the problem we have with being sad?  Isn’t it just another feeling?  It wont kill us.  I’m not talking about being morose, negative and down beat all the time, although I am sure there are reasons for being this way too.  I just have a problem with those who have a problem with sadness.  Cause as I see it the doorway to happiness often opens once we have fully walked the avenues of sadness we feel.  That’s just my experience.

We would not know light without the dark and deep and there is always, I have felt, in fully felt sadness a bright light at the end of the tunnel.  Feeling sad is just one part of the experience of being human on this planet.  It can be a path that leads us home, to authenticity, to spirit, to life, to love and even to joy.

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Frustrations, delays: Mars retrograde

Mars attacks and comes to a night sky near you this month, and the folks at the Virtual Telescope Project and Slooh are bringing it to you live and in color. Unlike most planets, “Mars viewing season” comes around only once about every two years. And while Mars is shining bright in the sky right now, the “official” event of Mars being closest to Earth happens next week on April 8th, when the Red Planet reaches opposition and shines at magnitude -1.5 in the constellation Virgo.

http://www.universetoday.com

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Is anyone else out there feeling the full force of their Mars issues currently coming to a head?

While Mars transits in retrograde motion, an event that only occurs once every two years, we get a chance to come to awareness about the way our Mars energy functions in our lives, that is awareness around how we express and assert ourselves, how well we understand and act on our needs, how we deal with conflict and challenges and how we act in the face of not getting what we want (the last bit possibly highlighted in even greater depth at the moment as transiting Mars backtracks into a square with transiting Pluto, the planet of transformation and letting go, )

Awareness around Mars issues may occur as blockages, frustrations or delays, while Mars is retrograde, forcing us to introspection and the sense of frustration and delay may be even stronger for people like me who have challenging Mars aspect to deal with (Mars conjunct Saturn).  I certainly experienced a lot of frustrations and blocks on my energy over the past two days as the Sun came to oppose Mars since Mars retrograde amps up the awareness of how our own Mars functions or is blocked.

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The critical time when Mars retrograde issues come most strongly into focus is around the time that the Sun opposes Mars, part way through the retrograde cycle.  That opposition occurred a few days ago on 8th of April and I have just noticed that at this time Mars draws closer to the earth and is more visible metaphorically expressing our own increased awareness around Mars issues.

We are currently in the waxing quarter moon phase of the astrological cycle leading towards the full moon which will mark the first full moon or lunar eclipse in an eclipse cycle in the signs Aries (ruled by Mars) and Libra (ruled by its polar opposite Venus).  Eclipses occur when New and Full Moons occur around the South and North Nodes respectively.  They occur twice within a year, approximately six months apart and tend to be times of dramatic endings and new beginnings, times also when critical issues surrounding the signs come to the fore and demand some kind of change or growth in awareness.

The fact that Mars and Venus rule Aries and Libra respectively, that the Nodes are passing through these signs and that Mars is currently retrograde and heading towards opposition with the Sun shows that issues surrounding our own personal identity and use of power, agency and action as well as our need for independence and self sufficiency and self agency will be challenged and balanced by competing Venus/Libra needs: respect for and an awareness of others and their needs, the important part that relationships play in our lives, how and why and which what kind of dynamics are we engaging with others for co-operative purpose and how can we balance these two, at times challenging concerns.  Issues around projection of emotions in relationship will also come to the fore.

When placed in the sign of Libra as Mars is now, Mars the planet of action and dynamism is said to be in its fall, that is its assertive energy is dampened down somewhat by the needs of relationship. This might be a time when it is not as easy to be selfish or to go for exactly what we want as there may be circumstances in which a crucial relationship is demanding our time and energy, or at least some form of compromise.  Not only that but I have noticed during the past few days, accidents and delays occurring to others with whom I am in relationship, impacting upon and affecting my own ability to take action and move forward.

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Yesterday a plumber was due to arrive to repair the second of two major water leaks and was delayed by two accidents, when he arrived the necessary tools were not available as they were in the van of his partner who was on holiday.   After he left, unable to correct the problem I went to the car to take Jasper to the park and my battery was flat.  I must be honest here and say my own Mars in Saturn has never dealt very well with delays and frustrations.  I tend to assume the worst at times and can amp up the charge around minor events working myself into a kind of frenzy (Pluto inconjuncts these two in my chart), this probably comes from times in the past, especially when young, when my need to take action was thwarted, crucial Saturn Mars issues and with the Moon also thrown into the mix emotional volatility can be the result.

It was a curious Mars retrograde phenomena that I noted yesterday, the challenges and delays only started to upset me for a time, after a few moments I was able to use positive self talk to calm my worries and anxieties down and divert my attention into other happier tasks.   I noticed all the negative self taik.. a flat battery was now a reason I needed to sell my car.. completely unnecessary but something my mother would often say.  Using the advantage of Mars retrograde (inward turned attention to critical issues surrounding action and movement) I see could see the negative self talk for what it was, not calm and peaceful wisdom centred in truth but a dose of negativity bred out of frustration and fear.

Following the flat battery incident I was told by the mechanic to drive the car for 40 minutes and as a result had a beautiful drive out towards the nature reserve on the outskirts of where I live in Canberra and explored some amazing county that I hadn’t seen in over 20 years.  If I had not had the flat battery, Jasper and I would not have had that lovely drive.  We got to the park late and had a very long conversation with a good friend and the rest of my day, though delayed went calmly and well,

Yet again this morning the plumber has been delayed by another accident and Jasper and I have been hamstrung at home unable to leave the house for our normal exercise..this blog is happening due to the fact we are both stuck unable to leave.  The plumber has just shown me a corroded piece of pipe with a hole not much bigger than two needle heads in diameter which was the source of my third significant leak since buying this older property.  At the outset of owning no 8 Carmichael Street, there was not much I knew about plumbing.  but over the course of the past two years I am becoming much more aware of how to deal with problems and the right action that needs to be taken in order to set them right.

I am not sure of the astrological associations to plumbing but am sure there is a Scorpio/Pluto flavour to it.   It is one of my idiosynchraises that I look to these kind of events to see what they might be pointing to on a metaphorical level.   The pipes conduct the water that flows below the property, in the course of all of this problem with the plumbing I’ve become well versed at turning if off a the mains.  I wonder could the flow of water represent to me the flow of my emotions, that at times, though Its not easy for me, it does become necessary to hold back the flow and divert my energy into something less frustrating and challenging, rather than get caught up in a negative downward spiral that doesn’t led anywhere good..

As I was sweeping the leaves in the back garden this morning I was thinking about my own birth, how even then when I was urging to push forward into life,  my Mother held back from going to the hospital until she had bottled the very last of her plum jam. February is the month for plums and I now have my own plum tree in the back yard… funny how life brings you full circle.   I am aware of my own difficulty at times with moving forward in life, embracing major change and acting spontaneously when the need arises without holding myself back with loads of self doubt.  Who knows?  It could be a good quality not to rush into things, but not such a good quality for those I have been in relationship with to have held back from opening my heart wholely and expressing my true feelings.  Come to think of it there is a held back quality in my entire family.   Not an easy legacy this Mars Saturn Moon of mine.

The plumber has now fixed the fourth problem, the float valve in the second toilet, in the midst of blogging we were having a conversation about old properties and maintenance.  I guess having never owned a beautiful old home before I was not aware of the amount of maintenance involved.  Maybe there will come a time when most of the problems are sorted and then they wont become the reason that I need to move on.  Who know?  (again)… Coming to awareness around what is not working or moving forward (Mars Retrograde) maybe the point of this current transit in the first place.  The critical point is how do we make sense of the difficulties and challenges when we find in the midst of them occurring.  Do we use them as a reason to punish and whip ourselves or do we see them as learnings which help us to put thing right, opportunities to grown in patience, resilience, trust, hope and belief in the inherent goodness of life despite adversity, challenge, delay and frustration?  For myself I just know I am feeling very much calmer taking this more positive approach.

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Some days have now passed and the plumbing problems have again receded into the background and I have noted too that this arising and passing away theme is very strong for me at present.  Was there a sense at times with my own Mars Saturn Moon that I got very stuck and bogged down in certain painful emotions,  Lately I’ve been working with mindfulness to become aware of and feel them through, using the out breath to deepen into letting go, for the deeper the letting go on the outbreath, the more air I am able to take in on the inbreath.  I was not entirely conscious of how often I was actually holding my breath, and clamping down.   It seems maybe part of the current Mars signature with the Uranian and Plutonian emphasis around it all that letting go, opening up and coming to awareness are major themes at present.

And I’d be interested to hear.  How are you experiencing the current Mars retrograde and the Sun Mars opposition in your own life.

For me this current Mars retrograde has made me more willing to open and show patience and self compassion when I am in the midst of frustrations, offering myself the love, support and understanding while weathering the storms, accepting that the universal timing may often be on different schedule to my own and realising that in the midst of difficult times, where I place my attention has a huge influence on how I am feeling. While I don’t have to run from the sad or heavy stuff, I don’t have allow it to take up all the air time and the more I accept it and can be with it, the easier it is to pass through.