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.

 

 

Psychological invasion

I had a very disturbing dream last night.  Its a dream that I have had in different forms from time to time, in this dream a man was pushing down on my breast and figuring my nipple in a way which was icky and invasive. I was very distressed as no matter what I did I could not get him to stop, and when I tried to tell other people they ignored me.

When I considered it this morning, I saw that yesterday I had my boundaries invaded.  I was in a deal of distress after the events of Thursday and I had been feeling very vulnerable.  I opened the door to my Mum which is always precarious.  I was also struggling with not feeling up to an appointment which I needed to cancel.  In this case I took action to do what was best for me.

Part of the invasion with my Mum yesterday came out of concern for my emotional state.  When we had spoken on the phone earlier in the day I had been having a bad anxiety attack, her instant response was to panic and to rush into fix it mode, at least that is how I see it.  There is no ability for her to stand a little detached but an immediate rush to want to move in and take the pain away by doing something, or suggesting something, which is really not what is needed.  My experience is that at these kind of times someone’s loving unconditional presence can help, the point was yesterday though that I was very, very tired.  I asked my Mum not to rush over and when I knew the appointment was cancelled I did a very unusual thing, I got back into bed and rested for two hours.

Often when I do this during the day, my body cannot relax.  I end up feeling pushed and pulled in different directions, but yesterday this didn’t happen, I was able to calm down and I actually slept for a time.  But after a few hours there was an agitated rapping at the door and my Mum’s voice calling out anxiously to me.  It had been pouring with rain and she stood at the door with her umbrella.

We sat then and I had the sense of us both in boat on very stormy seas.  There has been so much going on for me this week inwardly that is hard to articulate.  Of course I had the breast cancer scare and then I had the purchase of a new car that my Mother ended up talking me into over several years, which I woke up to see in the garage with a kind of start, feeling as though I had awakened from a dream.  Then yesterday there was the tangled kind of communication in which she tried to make sense of me, and gave me yet more advice about where she thinks it would be better for me to live.

The truth is I am living in a house which she egged me into buying at auction a few years ago, pushing me well above what I really wanted to spend (from money she gave to me as a gift, an early inheritance).  As you can imagine this has not sat very well with me.  Although it is a beautiful soulful house at times I struggle with guilt and with the strange feeling of living in something that I did not entirely choose.

I shared a little about this in a blog yesterday, about how I don’t really feel I have full ownership over my own life, and awareness of how open I am still to the influence of my mother over my thoughts and desires.  I actually cried about it this morning.  I thought of the times I stood on the brink trying to choose for me and was met with misunderstanding.  I think of my sister in law telling me all of those years ago that I needed to get as far away from my mother as I could.  I think of how my own boundaries are not secure and how open I can be to psychological invasion.

Yesterday as my mother was sitting next to me telling me things I have heard many times a voice inside my head was screaming.  “I wish you would leave, I wish you would get the fuck away from me”, while we were sitting I became conscious of the dust on the floor, under the television and of the things laying casually around as they never do in my mother’s home.  I felt an impulse to clean which I clocked with interest, would I have been seeing all these things if my Mum wasn’t with me.  I ended up doing a lot of housework after she left.

It wasn’t an entirely difficult visit though, at times I just sobbed my heart out.  I had so much inside me I could not articulate in words.  And when I felt my Mum hug me a had a powerful vision of all my maternal ancestors in their struggles with life and love.   Considering the visit later it helped me to make sense of the push pull struggle I go through so often with intimacy in my own life.

Today I feel quite a deal of shame when I see that at the age of 53 I have still not separated psychologically from my mother. I know I have made steps.  I know my father’s death complicated our relationship for all those years ago when I tried to make the permanent move overseas, my mother fell and my love and concern for her brought me back, since on his death bed, Dad asked me to take care of her.  When I tried to leave a year later I had a dream in which she was crying and holding onto me and I said these words “You are not my lover”.  I didn’t fully understand the implication of the dream then.  Considering all of this now, I guess there is pain in these kind of realisations, but as Kahil Gibran writes “your pain is the kernel which encloses your understanding.”

This morning when I tried to raise with Mum the subject of our enmeshment, she cried me down.  “I think its a normal thing to be this close to each other”, she said. I thought of my Mum’s lonely childhood, of her longing for siblings and how that longing gets transferred at times onto me and my sister. I thought, “yes, but is there a way to be close and not be invaded, to loose oneself.”  All of this makes sense to me of the struggle we can feel between twin fears of emotional abandonment and emotional engulfment and twin desires for closeness and separation.

With all my Aquarian planets and my Uranus in Leo squaring her Scorpio one’s its par for the course that I seek separation from this engulfment at times.  Often when I am with her I feel tired, if she is tired, and I feel sad if she is sad.  I know as her youngest child I can be a conduit for her emotions.  At times I can also even feel them from a distance.  And sometimes my empathy for my mother and over concern can hold me back from living my own life.

I do know that with the inherent sensitivities I have  I need the time to be with me alone, so I can get in touch with how I really feel and feel the spacious calmness of nothing invading my energy field.

I do love my Mum and sometimes I long for us to be close.  Sometimes we really are.  But I am also beginning to increasingly see how often my Mum doesn’t really see or understand the depth of me, and how often she fills my head with ideas or advice that doesn’t serve me.  I see how she hides from her small, insecure, powerless self in advice giving and philosophising.  If she can be the strong one, the one who we rely on for money or attention, it makes her feel better and most certainly mothers should be there to support.

But they should also not invade their children’s territory, they should be able to stand off and also empower their children to be strong and self sufficient in the right areas and imbue them with a sense of their own agency and ability.  They should also honour their “No” and their right to protest.  When these kind of respects for another’s separateness are not shown it disempowers the child.  And for our own psychological health we most certainly need a realistic sense of our own intrinsic power and the awareness of our own and others boundaries.

The importance of validation

Do you have a really good friend who sets your world back to rights when you get a little mixed up, uncertain, filled with confusion?

I am blessed to say that I do. This friend is a lot like me, he never judges me, he shows me understanding, when I am confused and stuck in self judgement as a result of my invalidating past, he sets me straight in the nicest way by valuing, validating and putting out a sane and balanced point of view.

This happened to me today. I was feeling like there was something wrong with me. In a body work session some deeply buried anger and grief at not being supported or loved when I was grieving by a few rigidly defended members in my support group 7 or so years ago came up. I had an outburst about it in the therapy as I was tapping into the feelings in my body work session.

At the time, all those years ago I had stuffed the distress and upset in my body. When I came home I put on loud music and danced around the room in a frenzy and as a result I ended up falling backwards and hitting my shoulder very painfully against a lounge chair arm with a steel casing. This is quite funny as I read it back and it not sound like a very traumatic injury but it really hurt me and it came one year following a major head trauma I suffered overseas, on the first anniversary of my husband making the decision to end my marriage.

I now see how stuck I was at the time, still very bonded to a family with lots of unresolved trauma in both my family and myself. When the second injury occurred I was isolated and living alone in a coastal town without any support or daily contact with anyone but my support group on one day a week. I didn’t have a therapist which I now know is essential to healing and I could not move forward to make a new start. I was too traumatised. The bridge of trust to the outside world and others was broken due to past invalidation and lack of emotional support.

My family suffered from a difficulty in showing empathy, unconditional love and I now see it was a mistake to look to them. I needed to build a sense of support within myself from knowing who I truly was, what I had suffered and the extent to which my grief over past difficulties including the loss of my father had impacted on me. I only realise all of this now though, with the gift of hindsight.

It is only lately that I am able to feel the true pain of the things I carried and struggled with, without self judgement. I didn’t really have a place to go to fully express my aching soul.

I am so grateful to have come across a wonderful blog online here : The Invisible Scar through following a post, reblogged on yet another site by Robert Goldstein yesterday. This blog is related to informing people about the impact of emotional abuse in childhood, abuse which is not as obvious as overt physical abuse but never the less leaves deep scars on the psyche and soul which are invisible.

This invisible wound or scar aches, throbs and burns. In my own case I have felt this wound to self like a piece of schrapnel which is lodged deep within me, which moves around, is sometimes soothed and receeds into the back ground from a time, and then comes to consciousness in pain especially at night when the unconscious makes itself more conscious on a somatic level. I am working with a body work therapist now to understand and help with the total immobilisation I suffer on some days.

I am not sure if in today’s bodywork session my anger was fully validated by the therapist. She looked a little taken a back. My anger wasn’t directed at her it was at the old situation. She said to me “you know it is okay to be angry”. Part of me doesn’t truly believe this to be so. She questioned me as to whether I was in the present or past when I was feeling it. I have always been able to keep a check on my anger in that I won’t lash out at others and am very much aware it is of the past. At times I have projected and transferred it but it doesn’t take me long to get a handle on it. It first began to emerge over seven years ago after Chiron passed over my natal Mars Saturn Moon, I would allow myself to scream and shout or hit something after removing myself to a safe space.  I would also express it in my journal often tearing up the page through about seven layers with the pen after laying down an angry scrawl. Then after many years the grief under the anger began to make itself felt.

I know at times I have scared others and even when I have not hurt them they have tried to make me feel my anger has hurt them and I am bad or wrong for feeling it.  Today I know that feelings just are, emotional invalidation is to judge someone’s feeling as wrong if it challenges you and the to try and manipulate them to change.  I have suffered this at the hands of my family many times.

This kind of invalidation has had to happen several times for me to see it wasn’t my problem, but theirs especially if they tried to demonise me for it.   At the time these reaction made me feel that it was NOT okay to be angry. But I beginning to trust that when I feel angry some kind of boundary has been violated or I have been abused subtly. I now have a good therapist who can help me in this.  As my  awareness has grown, I don’t have to vocalise as much and can take steps to deal with it. When I do I can ask myself how I have been triggered.

My catholic education led me to believe anger was wrong and yet justified anger is what is needed most to protect our spirits from violation. In the temple Jesus showed real anger with the sanctity of the space was violated by the money lenders.

My being, soul and body is my own temple. It’s a temple that has often been invaded, in childhood by having procedures forced on me like painful orthodontic treatment to improve my bucked teeth, a haircut of long hair off I didn’t want or need, through to injuries from parental neglect or lack of care and attention. Once I  got third degree burns to my foot after my Mum placed a boiling hot bucket of water on a step near to where I was drawing which I stepped into. My arm was pulled out of socket by her pulling me back. Once I cut open my wrist and nearly severed the tendons after being locked outside the house. The key to the house had not been put back on the hook and when I came home I was locked out and ended up breaking a window which cut my wrist open. I ran down to the neighbours and they took me to hospital but when the cut happened I felt so scared and alone.

In addition as a child I learned to orient myself around my mother’s needs, it was the only way to get her attention which was focused almost solely on her business and keeping the house and us perfectly clean, tidy and controlled. She was never there after school to care, cherish, nourish and support. I found myself in tears yesterday after seeing the support being offered to someone who was being mentored for singing.

Reading about similar issues on the blog of The Invisible Scar has made me realise where the emptiness, loneliness and sadness of my late childhood and early adolescence came from. I sought relief from it through addictions from my late teens on and caused myself even more damage through picking people who could not support or validate me.

I feel a certain anxiety even writing all of this, a fear of judgement, inner voices telling me I am being narcissistic and self obsessed. Whose voices are these?. That is part of not feeling very strong in my own sense of self.

Those of us recovering from this kind of history know how long it takes, how painful the road and how necessary it is to have those who can validate us along the way. My friend that I mentioned earlier does that for me. There was a period a few years ago when I had to let go of some friends who seemed determined to blame me and shame me. It was a painful lesson but in the end I was better off alone, hard as that was. They had no idea of how trauma had trapped me, how jangled my nervous systems was.

Now I am lucky enough to have my best friend as well as others online and a very good therapist who support the part of me that is truly me and trying to emerge, that unconsciously carries all the body memory of violation and is working hard to integrate these into awareness.

Without them I don’t know if I could have made sense of my twisted world or of the body symptoms I have suffered from repressed feelings. I am beginning to attain clarity into my past by listening to what has been buried in my body. In releasing it, in acknowledging it, I heal.

For this to happen I need first external validation and help in understanding how I can be confused when those threatened or unaware or unconsciously triggered in their own defences seek to invalidate me.

Blogging gives me a voice, a place to share, and reading others blogs helps me to recognise we are all in this together and have much to teach and learn from each other along the journey of healing. Through hearing your story I can heal and I hope by hearing mine you can too. xo

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 Saturn Moon

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Lately I have been reflecting on my Saturn Moon and trying to get a deeper understanding of my defence mechanisms. In reality my moon placement has other contacts, too.  But the Saturn Moon side of me, as I age is throwing up information, particularly at this time of year.

If the Moon in our chart represents the mother she is our earliest experience of containment, nurture and home. But we are born in to a family, too.  In my case the family was already well established, my parents had me late in life, both had Sun Saturn Mercury conjunctions.  So I have been reflecting that perhaps our sense of the Moon contains all the individual members or our home as well, and the emotional sub tone of our relationships with them, too.

When I was born my eldest brother was 17, and my eldest sister 16. In fact in the surrounding neighbourhood there was a fair bit of talking going on. As my sister used to wheel me around in the pram people would throw questioning glances at her, was I her child?

This morning I went to buy some Christmas gifts and got chatting to the sales assistant she has a child of 18 and another child of aged one year.  I told her of my elder sibling being around the same age distance from me. “How was it for you?” She asked. ” It was complicated”, I said, in some ways like being an only child and having a number of people play a parenting role.

I was very young when my eldest sister left home, only 3 and I missed her a lot.  When my brother married and left home I was 7.  We don’t really know each other very well.  I have some difficulties as our lives have followed very different directions and to be honest as upset as I have been, at times in not getting much from him emotionally, lately I feel he has tried to reach out.  I probably hasn’t been easy for him either, with the variations in ages.   However we have things in common.  We both came from a family short on emotional nurture, so lately I am questioning how realistic it is, to have certain expectations of him, expectations that have often led to disappointment. Might it not be a little self centred?

My brother is highly successful but a quiet achiever. He is understated and thoughtful, at least that is what I am learning of him now (probably a lot like my father who was also Virgo with Mercury and Saturn in conjunction there). Both individuals found it difficult to know how to respond emotionally and to express themselves. There were no spontaneous displays of feeling or embraces.

I am beginning to realise it isn’t that my brother is unfeeling and doesn’t care, it is just that he holds his feelings quiet close to his chest and finds it hard to communicate.  Also his life is about work, achievement and business, though in later years I have noticed he has began to change.  My father was very similar (he had Sun Mercury and Saturn conjunct in Virgo which speaks of a serious internal disposition).

This Saturn Moon legacy of mine speaks of a family where duty and hard work came before emotional expression and connection.

In the book Saturn : A New Look At An Old Devil, astrologer Liz Greene expresses it thus:

In the Saturn Moon childhood “there has been rather a lot of emphasis on duty and the appropriate forms of behaviour. Sometimes Saturn Moon contacts are concurrent with a childhood that is difficult because of financial reasons; sometimes there is an abundance of material comfort but little warmth or spontenaeity of emotional expression. The mother is frequently undemonstrative or a disappointment in some way”

in addition

there is “a well defined stamp of emotional close fistedness which infers a long past of learning to control the feelings beginning at an age where feelings, freely expressed, are the only outlet a child possesses for communication. There is often a brooding loneliness about this contact….an aloofness and isolation that is not easily broken.”  

I must be honest. It’s painful to even read those lines, let alone share them in a blog! I am becoming all too aware of my tendency to brood but I do question if all of this brooding is negative or whether it leads to a capacity for introspection and depth that has gifts.

I notice the held back tendency of mine, especially around my beautiful dog Jasper, who is full of bounding enthusiasm. At times I feel he represents for me the child in me, that I try to reign in, in the way I was reigned in by my Mum. (She used to put me in a harness when I was young, like a dog on a lead) and was always unsettle by my (to her) “overly dramatic” nature.

I have been considering these influences lately, especially around Christmas when the tendency I experience to withdraw and isolate is conflicting with deeper longings to be a part of things.   I hope it’s not boring to say again (am I brooding?). My father was diagnosed with cancer and died quickly following an operation around Christmas in 1984.

At the moment I am in the midst of watching the HBO series In Treatment which focuses on the life of a psychotherapist, Paul (played by Gabriel Byrne) and his patients.  Paul is treating a couple Jake and Amy who are having problems connecting.  Amy’s  father died in childhood. The shadow of this death is reverberating in Amy’s life and affecting the way Amy is erecting defences by pushing away tenderness from her husband which threatens to awaken the pain over the loss of her Dad.

Amy suffers guilt surrounding her father’s death, she had left him sitting outside on the kerb to go into the shop and get a second ice cream and while she was in the shop her father is hit by a runaway car and dies.  In the  episode I watched last night both Amy and Jake begin to be aware of the ghost of this unconscious influence over their struggle to love, connect and find intimacy.

I have digressed a little here but I did feel an echo when watching this episode of the series last night, of how a death can lead us to withdraw and put up protective defences around closeness.   I am considering this in relation to my behaviour around my brother, the part I play in maintaining a distance from a person on whom I project some of my own fears.

I shared in another blog posted last week, that I had resistance to connecting with my brother at Christmas. He always spends Christmas overseas in America. We usually connect in the few weeks before. I often leave these sessions holding back tears which I don’t feel safe enough to share.  Inside I wonder why he always goes so far away around the anniversary of Dad’s death.

I shared in a post how I struggled with the thought of meeting  on Tuesday night.  Initially I said I would not go, then I changed my mind, only to have an attack that made it impossible to get out of the house.

The following night my brother called to say goodbye, he expressed his disappointment. It has been hard for me to feel my brother’s love. I could not hold back the tears.  I shared some of my grief over Dad, over my own lack of family.  He didn’t say much but he was kind and I was aware of seeing things from his side:  he lost his father too, they were close for many years, working side by side.  He never mentions Dad much, but I am sure he feels the loss too, he doesn’t have many places to share it. His wife is rather critical of feelings and harsh, not a nurturer.

The following morning I spoke to my mother. She told me how disappointed my brother had been that I could not make the dinner. He had come over to see her and for the first time picked up a photograph of my father taken when he was ill from the table. My mother was crying as she told me this.

I shared with my mother that I was beginning to realise that my brother grew up at a time in which Mum and Dad were struggling to build a new life. He lived through the painful and traumatic years which involved time as a very young child living with my parents while Dad was stationed in the Dutch East Indies during the early 1950s during the time that a precarious fight for independence from Dutch colonisation was underway and made conditions dangerous. He shared the early years of their return to Australia where they had no money much.

My father struggled to earn a living, as a returned Dutch serviceman his qualifications as an engineer, which were considerable, were not recognised by the Australian Government. Despite the fact the Dutch East Indies forces played a huge part in the protection of Australia from enemy attack by the Japanese, no recognition in the form of financial support was ever received.

As a young adult my brother worked in the family businesses of which there were three, very long hours. Together he and Dad worked to build an empire. There was a lot of work, work, work, not any time to just play, laugh, goof off and relax. Illness took my father in the mid 1980’s. For over six years, prior to his illness Dad was under both enormous financial and emotional stress, my eldest sister had a breakdown and had been abandoned by her husband, my brother was overextending the company he and my father ran through borrowing money offshore at a time of economic collapse.

One thing that occurred during this time was that my eldest sister, who died this year, became psychotic. During the psychosis she rang my brother and accused him of devil worship. The devil : Money. In truth she had fallen foul of trying to live up the family ethos of overwork with little emotional nurture.

Over the next four years things fell apart for my mother and father.   Following my father’s death my mother lost her mother, my sister who had had a stroke and had lost her husband and four children struggled and Mum struggled to support her.  She then ran into a new relationship out of loneliness and in a flight from grief.  My brother went on from strength to strength, in time amassing a large fortune from his development activities.

For me the loss of my father at 22 led to a time of travel and then a move to a new city where I could be far away from the family and their businesses. I wanted so much more than this, at a time when I did not know what I had really been through growing up in such a family, I also did not truly know the wounds I carried and what my soul was longing for.

Being pushed into a solitary path of travel after my father died, I took to addiction and hid the scars deep inside. I partied and tried to forget, I struggled a lot in relationships to connect and experienced several painful endings before getting sober in 1993 when transiting Chiron passed over my natal Pluto in the first house.

By the late 1999’s my husband and I tried to make an overseas break but the truth is, where ever we go with our particular legacy we still carry it. In the end it asks to be dealt with and so, in time, after two years of therapy and the opening to my deep feelings we returned, and in time that marriage went into the fire.

It has taken me about 14 years to come to more awareness around my Saturn Moon issues, from the time I started therapy to understand my own issues as well as my struggle to individuate in the midst of all of these familial forces understanding and insight has grown. The journey is ongoing. In the absence of therapy, at present, this blog and my journaling takes its place.

This morning I got a greater insight into my brother. I saw how my own disappointment and frustration at him was really something that needed to be accepted and how much of my resentment and anger came out of an ignorant or childlike place. In the end my expectations have been unrealistic, they may also have been a bit self centred and narcissistic.

Maintaining a distance is, perhaps, something I have chosen to get a better perspective and to protect against a sensitivity to hurt, it may also be an attempt of a growing part of myself to achieve separation and growth (and yet, and yet I long so much to connect deeply and share emotional intimacy). There were times a while back I really opened my emotions to my brother and I got stung by him. It was enough to make me clam and up and be fearful of opening my heart again.

It really has only been following my older sister’s funeral that I feel my brother has shown me much in the way of respect.   When I gave a eulogy for her, I spoke to the heart of what I saw as my sister’s struggle, probably with a depth that my brother was not capable of. I know he felt it.

On Wednesday I let my pain out. I bore with the struggle that was taking place. The longing to connect (so often thwarted and ending in misunderstanding and rejection) and the desire to protect and keep myself whole, safe, intact and emotionally real was bringing about a deep inner struggle which in true Saturn Moon fashion manifested psychosomatically.

This morning as I spoke to my Mum I felt into the heart of her suffering and loss, as well as that of my brother. I thought about how the loss that occurred happened for all of us and affected us all in different ways. I felt some of the pain and sting receding and compassion and insight dawning.

As I write this blog over the days of Uranus station direct in my 8th house, I reflect on the legacy of my Saturn Moon which has Pluto thrown into the mix. I think of the very dark places I went when my buried emotional hunger and need, the longing of the small child to be held and to connect deeply went astray over long years. I think of the hopes I had in five relationships that turned to ashes and dust, returning me to new pain which contained echoes of old. I see that, hard as it has been at times, in some way I found the capacity to bear it.

Perhaps I may always feel a little imprisoned in my ability to connect, trust, reach out and bond emotionally due to my history. I notice when the desire to do so comes, simultaneously an inner voice sends up all the doubts and reservations. I feel the Dweller on the Threshold, at times barring my way from connection and movement forward towards connection, happiness, lightness, joy and hope.

At times I feel like a deeply introspective watcher whose way is barred, the exile who only witnesses others receive these kind of gifts. I acknowledge the reality of that, and just for now I breathe through it. I know I am not the only one to feel this way.   In so many ways I am blessed because there is love around me and there are other sunnier influences in my chart too.  Sometimes love doesn’t come in a form we recognise or fully understand and yet, it is there.

Even in my very painful past relationship there were moments when we connected. In the end the way into each other’s hearts was lost and the barricades came down, from the other side .  One of my ex partners even said I had shown him more capacity for love than anyone he had med, but he was not in a place to receive it.  My last partner  decided to project a lot of his own shadow onto me, he was not ready to engage with the pain and deeper work that was needed to bring us through to connection. I had to make the journey alone, was sent back to myself for the fifth time.

In her writing about Saturn Moon Liz Greene expresses the view that for the Saturn Moon person the way to love and peace comes through the giving up of the longing for the security and warmth of familial love and leads us towards a certain kind of independence, perhaps not asked of others without this kind of contact.

She writes

Saturn’s gift of independence usually follows on the heels of failure or disappointment because only failure appears to be sufficient to cause a person to question himself or develop the necessary wisdom and strength. The security of family ties is an illusory one, and it is often very dangerous to assume that one has the right, because of blood ties, to command emotional support from others. …. As (the Saturn Moon person) builds his own inner stability and taps the resources of his creative and intuitive side, he generally finds that he does not have to demand the affection of others. This is offered to him freely, because he has something to offer – a whole person.

I take comfort from those words on some level and feel them to be deeply true. A lot of growth has taken place in this direction during the past 14 years as Saturn as travelled around my chart and is now close to squaring natal Pluto in the first house which speaks deeply of the importance of my struggle for differentiation and individuation.

It seems to me that Saturn then, offers us through the hard experiences a way forward that can be lonely and tough but on some level has great gifts nevertheless.

As I face Christmas in my own orbit with little Jasper by my side, I feel grateful for this astrological knowledge, which in some way gives me the ability to make gold from what could be seen as darkness.   This knowledge gives me a way to find the light hidden in the shadow of the darkness of Saturn’s influence which falls across my heart at times like a ghost, a dark angel or spectre.

Inside my little house I will turn my energy back towards comfort, centring and emotional nurture.  I will distil the wisdom of Liz Greene’s words and  fall back on my own gifts whilst also reaching out to family with a more complete understanding of the very real necessity and reason for their limitations, asking nothing of them and finding a way to give love.

Last night I had dinner with my Mum and sister and towards the end of the night we which lifted the lid off some painful issues.  Mum and I were able to share our grief and speak  and be listened to with love and respect.  We both cried, I opened my heart.  Mum wrapped her arms around me and told me how much she loves me, how much she sees me struggling with my self esteem, how much she longs for my happiness. It was a precious moment. I shared with her that I feel quite deficient at times emotionally with this Saturn Moon legacy, at times I don’t see my true heart clearly.  But I do know it is a heart full of love, that is what gives me he capacity to be with sadness and pain.

Maybe one of the legacies of my Saturn Moon tends toward the negative, which makes me sad. (Reading that back I see it still contains a judgement for Saturn Moon sees into the dark heart of truth, maybe it just doesn’t need to make a permanent residence there).

I don’t only have the Saturn Moon I have a lovely Sun Mercury Venus Jupiter too and a warm ascendant and North Node in Leo.   I feel how much these parts of me want to love and embrace life, I am just not always that sure how to go about it. I seem to have deep fears. Maybe the acknowledgement of all of these is important.

Maybe Saturn is, at present, asking me to give it a voice to show my weakness to expose my deeper vulnerability at a time when I am sure others are feeling vulnerable too. To put it out there. And for today that is what I will do. To find out how others struggle and feel similar too.

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.

The Dark Side of Soul Mates

I was just editing some of my recent posts when another blogger’s post about Soul Mates caught my eye.  Not an hour ago I was re reading over my old journals which were fraught with attempts to make sense of an extremely painful relationship in which I was involved for over four years.  In this relationship there were constant battles with emotional expression. I would say my ex was a narcissist.  Certain emotions were taboo, especially grief.  Just expressing my vulnerability may trigger an attack, and so my feelings would bank up and I began to experience a lot of symptoms of repressed anger.

It seems easy to write this now that it has become clear after a few years of therapy, but at the time it was hell on earth.  At that time I was not in therapy, though my ex was telling me all the time that I needed to be since I was the one with a lot of problems.  I was ordering every book on Anger and googling Narcissistic Personality Disorder and buying books on that too to try to make sense of it.  At one point my ex told me “Don’t you dare put any of those psychology books in the room where my son, sleeps,”  Suffice to say it was painful to watch that relationship from the sidelines.

This theme of repression of emotional expression has been one of the ongoing themes of my life.  Those of you who are astrologically aware will know what I am saying when I mention I have the Mars Saturn Moon aspect, which is associated with difficulty expressing feelings.  Also people who have it tend to be placed in a position where their wills are thwarted by stronger wills.  In one dream I was shown an image of what happens in this situation.  There was a gun pointed at my own head, held by me.  The dream showed me how to turn it around.  This was the beginning of my repressed anger becoming known.

We often think romantically and idealistically about soul mates.  But as people such as Thomas Moore have noted maybe there is a darker side to this phenomena.  A soul mate may be someone who comes into your life to teach you a lesson that you need to integrate certain qualities that are in your shadow, difficult to express, hidden or disallowed by parental and social conditioning.

In my journal of that time I wrote:

I know that this time I must honour and guide and protect my precious child.  She has been given away too much, suffered alone and swallowed down so many painful feelings for so long.  There has been very little willingness on Mum’s part to look at any of her patterns and there are strong narcissistic and manipulative patterns there under all the lovely Mum qualities.  At present I am doing battle with and separating from those.

I know I need to strengthen, feel more fully into the pain and disappointment and  grief over Mum’s refusal to validate my feelings and be there for me.  But I do have compassion.  How could she tolerate it when her own was so stifled?  “Nice girls” don’t do that.  And a lot of it was the conditioning of the time.

Perhaps there is a chance I can move out of child to X’s strong adult and be an available adult for myself by honouring my inner feelings. The pain of his neglected child is deep but he is not ready to acknowledge it.

And then a I had inserted a quote from a book I was reading by Alice Miller titled, The Truth Will Set You Free.

She gives an example of how our bodies carry the burden.   The high price we pay in health to be barred from knowledge of what we suffered, citing the experience of man from the Communist Party who “attempted to engage in an exchange with his colleagues about the view that violence and the desire for power are learned in childhood, and that the subject of education by the use of force should be integrated into Marxist thinking.  He endured virulent animosity..  did not sacrifice his views.  Developed arthritis in his feet, decided to leave, notified them in writing and in so doing evoked

“massive anxieties bound up with the abandonment he suffered as a child of a religious family with strict Protestant rules of discipline, a child who never had the right to his own opinions without the threat of punishment and emotional abandonment.  To his surprise and joy three hours after giving his notice, the pain in his feet disappeared.  He saw this as proof that he had succeeded in refusing to perpetuate the situation he had been in as a child and in breaking out of a state of dependency that, although affording him the illusion of security in the past had started to stifle him.  The man was astounded at the speed of the bodily response to his action. He knew, though, that this was not a case of “miracle healing” in the usual sense of the term but the logical consequence of his decision to walk out of the prison in which he had been incarcerated.”.

Synchronisitically I had just experienced an inflamed elbow at the visit of my mother and sister and a very strong transiting Mars aspect was taking place with my natal Mars Saturn Moon.  And also in the relationship with my partner I had been experiencing ongoing symptoms.  The body doesn’t lie.

My journal then continued:

Today the Moon is waxing onto Saturn so all of X’s defences are being triggered.  I feel it in his hard, defended hug, in the tyrannical way he bats away emotions.  Funny but T laughingly calls him the tyrant. My heart aches and I long for someone softer and more understanding.  But then part of me thinks “Didn’t I get just the partner I needed in order to grow and learn?”  Isn’t this just a challenge to my soul to become stronger?

It took me a long time to learn to stop looking to someone who could never give me what I needed.  Eventually he ended the relationship and the pain was intense as it triggered all the other abandonments of my life. In the end the only was to stop trying to contact him, get a good therapist and let go. That process took about a year. I had to go cold turkey to save my sanity since I was continuing to repeat and persist in futile attempts that were a replay and bound to end in frustration. It took a lot of work and I now feel free and have clarity.

Certainly the synastry aspects between both our charts were very strong and indicated this would be a very Plutonian relationship, powerfully transformative in either a positive or negative way.

I read somewhere once that the definition of a soul mate is not the one you mesh with but the one you have conflict with that challenges you to grow in your soul and in every other way too.

So though it ended in tears about 6 months later I did find my soul mate in X.

That’s why I think a Soul Mate may have a dark side and if we can accept it, and grow through it and integrate the lesson we can move forward into the light.

Chrysalis…emergence from the pain of the lost (true) self

Chrysanthemum

Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood. Is it possible to free ourselves altogether from illusions?  History demonstrates that they sneak in everywhere, that every life is full of them – perhaps because the truth is so essential that its loss exacts a heavy toll, in the form of grave illness.  In order to become whole we must try, in a long process, to discover our own personal truth, a truth that may cause pain before giving us a new sphere of freedom.  If we choose instead to content ourselves with intellectual ‘wisdom‘, we will remain in the sphere of illusion and self deception. 

The Drama of Being a Child

Alice Miller

My name is Deborah..  For many years I was lost,  the bridge between myself and others was shattered by events in my history and in my family, but even before those events I wandered with a sense of deep aloneness in my soul, restless and seeking.  From an early age it seemed I watched from the sidelines and saw further and deeper into things, but there was no place of affirmation and so very early on I began to use a journal to write and find an avenue of expression for my soul.

At the same time I experienced much confusion due to the neglect and emotional abandonment of my parents.  These wounds were all invisible and would take a long time to bring to light, since I was provided for physically, however the emotional connection was absent and as my family of much older siblings began to break apart I suffered a deep sense of growing disconnection and dissociation, which I have come to understand through therapy and inner work on my emotional recovery are core symptoms of Complex PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At the age of 17  I suffered a massive motor vehicle trauma.  My left femur was shattered, my ulnar bone and ribs were broken leading to a punctured lung and I was trapped in a crushed car while rescue workers and paramedics worked to free me.   It was a painful and frightening experience, that left deep imprints on my soul.  I was placed in skeletal traction after being operated on and spent the final semester of my schooling in hospital.

Six months following this my eldest sister lay down on the floor after weeks of headaches and a blood vessel burst in her brain, she entered a coma and hovered there for some time. Following this other painful events followed.  Our family began to shatter which led to more broken attachments.

Several years later my father was diagnosed with cancer and died within six weeks.   By the age of 23 I was certainly suffering from as then undiagnosed and untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and attempting to medicate that with alcohol. And life was due to spiral even more out of control over the next 8 years as all the complex emotions surrounding these experiences and from my lonely childhood were more deeply buried in my body.

Immediately following my father’s death my partner of the time decided it was all to hard to cope with and met someone else.  In truth I now see he had never really loved me.  Throughout the entire relationship he would refer to his ex girlfriend who was the love of his life.  Our relationship was not real, it was based on illusion, he was a dope addict and we were both using drugs addictively for some time.  Our entire relationship was based around getting high.  At the age of 23 I was in a fog and suffering from psychic blindness.  In that relationship I had my first two terminations of pregnancy.  Emotionally unnurtured and immature I knew on some level I would not be able to give a child what it most needed.

Our plans to meet overseas and travel were cancelled in a 4 am phone call.  The deep psychic suffering I was in and the grief, all of which I could not feel or share with my family I drowned down with alcohol.  One month following my father’s death, pushed away by my mother, scared and confused I travelled alone to England, and worked and travelled through Europe.

Intimate relationships were fraught with difficulty all during those years.  I had weak boundaries to non existent boundaries, was highly sensitive and receptive emotionally and energetically and had next to no emotional insight into myself.  Due to my history with my parents and siblings, I had the pattern of attracting partners who would abandon me and were emotionally illiterate (suffering what I now know is as Alexithymia – a difficulty naming and processing emotions), shut down or absent as I was to my inner self.  In truth, I too found it impossible to sustain emotional intimacy.  During that entire time I was cast out on so many occasions by people who did not understand the deep inner pain my addiction hid.

Bizzarely fate brought me into contact with my ex in Greece during that time and due to my lack of self care and boundaries I allowed him to use me for sex further and then abandon me when he found someone more together emotionally than I was.  Sad as it is to say.  I really believed on some level I did deserve this kind of treatment.  I should have had a sense of outrage for myself.  But due to the pain of my past I had not learned about psychic boundaries.  Because I was not respected, I learned not to respect myself and so promiscuity, tied with alcohol all became part of the picture.  I was an open target for predators, due to the pain of my past and the lack of value that was shown towards my deepest feelings and needs and towards the sanctity of my body in childhood.

The list of invasions to my psychic and physical boundaries I could list here.  Having my personal journals read and then being mocked or diminished for the feelings, having my arm pulled out of my socket by being swung around, being tickled past the point of distress and pain and having my cries to stop unacknowledged, having my foot burned due to my mother leaving a bucket of boiling water under it in one of her cleaning frenzies on a caravanning holiday.  Having a fishhook stuck in my big toe that was left on the floor.  Being told you really are a clumsy child, just too sensitive, such a drama queen.   These are just some of what is abuse but took me years to recognise as abuse.

I will not go further into the details of the next painful 9 years suffice to say that at 31 I turned up at an AA meeting and finally found the key and modicum of self respect and care for myself to put down substances.  And so my journey to recover and heal myself began.  It took 10 more years and the ending of my marriage to discover my co-dependency, which lay at the core of my addiction.  To begin the recovery of what Charles Whitfield and others have called the real or True Self, from within the prison of the false self, well that would take 20 years and is still ongoing.  It has been a massive work which led me to breakdown and the dark night of the soul about which I am writing here.

I now see that all these experiences forced me inward to develop the most important relationship, the one with myself.  However nurturing empathetic relationships with others who understood were very important.  The problem was, due to my history I was not likely to attract these.

I have learned, the nature of our relationships is always a product of the nature of the relationship we have with ourselves and that relationship is so strongly influenced by the one we have with our parents and by the nature and quality most early significant attachments. Also if we do not learn to develop a relationship with our deepest feelings and needs and learn to act on behalf of them we end up with a deep problem which can and does lead to illness.  For me the feelings that I could not express began to be experienced somatically.  At the age of 31 I sought help for my addiction through Alcoholics Anonymous, a great river of sadness that I had been holding began to break open but new problems came with developing the power to express and feel my own truth.

In my quest for healing and in order to attempt to build a bridge with my then husband’s family we moved over to the UK from Australia.  I moved  away from those rooms of AA because it felt that on some level I was questioning things that just did not gel.  It seemed I was being blamed for being an addict and being told it was a life sentence when really the addiction was an avenue I took due to my difficulty with honoring and expressing feelings.  That I had developed this difficulty was not my fault, it was a result of my history. It was in the UK that I embarked on my second attempt at therapy.  An attempt which sadly was aborted due to fear and the deep psychic calling I felt to return to my father’s house by the sea which was the place the represented to me the smash up of those Plutonian years 1978-1986 and offered me a place of rest and healing that I needed.

In truth I needed to be alone with my soul.  So in 2001 feeling great sadness and ambivalence we returned, I aborted therapy and eventually my marriage of 11 years fell apart.  There as Neptune began its slow passage over all of my personal planets I entered the dark night.  Three years later fate bought to me the last painful relationship which was the final attempt to be heard by someone else and the most essential learning of my life.  That until I could love for, care and nurture me, no one else was going to do it.

I have learned that the most important need of the child is to be mirrored and affirmed for her true self.  To have his or her feelings and needs reflected back and made sense of.  This was not possible for my parents, due to their own issues.  I was taught early on to deny pain, that injuries should not hurt and there were many injuries, especially physical ones that have only come to awareness in later years.  At times I was laughed at when I was injured, sent to my room when I tried to express anger, or had my boundaries invaded in ways which, as a young child I was not aware of.

So much of what we experience in childhood remains inside us, not as a memory, especially the earliest experience, but as a deep psychic and sensory energy or vibration that is just felt.  Before we develop and fully formed ego, and that depends on the ability of our parents to adequately mirror us, we are just immersed in a sea of sensations.  Assaults on our person are stored in the body.  The work of Peter Levine into trauma shows that imprints of traumas stay in the body as a psychic imprint and then later try to work their way out.

I think it was Freud who gave the name repitiition compulsion to this process.  Alice Miller talks about it in many of her books, but most especially The Drama of Being a Child, from which I have quoted at the beginning of this article.

For me the path of grief and loss due to the loss of relationship with myself  led into the dark night of addiction and then to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and then out again in a quest for a deeper understanding than I could find there.  I was not a defective character, my soul was in mourning for the loss of myself and I never learned to separate who I was from others because I was so sensitive and receptive. I had never been taught the skills to care for, nourish and protect myself.  I had an open heart and also a hunger to receive the love that it was hard for my parents to show me.

When the traumas of my early adolescence hit, I had no resources to deal with them and so I began to turn to alcohol to numb my feelings: a practice that was encouraged by my father and elder sister, who sought a drinking buddy.    In the absence of support in the face of these traumas, also I learned to deny them and bury the pain inside… But what was buried had to emerge and it took many years of recovery for that process to begin to unfold and unravel, a process that is still ongoing today as I learn how to nurture myself and care for my spirit in nourishing ways.

Broken attachments underlie addictions.  Broken or insecure and inconsistent attachments leave us traumatised and alone and very confused and insecure when relating.  They lead us to isolate or seek other avenues to alleviate the distress.  When the bridge inward to our heart and feelings, to our deepest core nature is blocked, we suffer and this suffering takes the form of an unconscious longing and grief.  Charles Whitfield, John Bradshaw and Alice Miller write that it is only through developing the capacity to do our grief work, to mourn for what was lost that we recover and find our way home to our true self.  It is only in understanding our history and its impact that we come home.  For, from out of the depths of aloneness and through the recognition of our deepest suffering we pay the coin to the ferryman which will take us across the dark ocean to the distant beautiful shore of sunlight, grace and love which is our true home.

For a long time I wandered, seeking the way back to my heart and my home.  In the Divine Comedy Dante writes.

In the middle of my life I found myself in a deep dark wood.

That is where I found myself in midlife.   There was fog all around. It has been a long, long,  journey to find a path through that tangled wood, to understand the nature of and mend my fractures, a journey with many twists and turns which led at times to the re-traumatisation of unconscious injuries which rose up in order to make more clear the nature of the initial trauma.  It has been a journey that has taken me  through deep ravines of pain and suffering and periods of extreme isolation and aloneness within which I was trying to develop a new relationship with myself.  Such a journey is not uncommon in midlife, when the deep needs and scars of the soul can rise up and ask of us a finding of a new way to express and free our trapped spirits.

Slowly I am finding my way home to myself.  When I feel the truth inside my body I am home.  When I feel the tears flow.  When I can feel great joy and revel in my darling puppy’s excitement and play without censoring.  When I can laugh and sing and dance and feel the vast awesomeness of a dappled sunset I know I am coming alive and finally emerging from my chrysalis and the dark night experience of my soul to be fully awake and alive on this amazing planet which is earth.

My journey through the dark has led me to deep aloneness and through my ability to remain in that to a deeper feeling of connection with the earth and the collective of which I am a part.  Some degree of aloneness I do feel is essential to birth ourselves as individuals.  Paradoxically the more deep my capacity for solitude the more deep my capacity for intimacy is.  I need periods of rest and quiet contemplation to feel my connection with my feelings and with life.  For me without that ability to be with and see into me (intimacy) I am lost to myself and to others.  With it and through it I am connected to humanity and to life.

To begin to learn that I had a right to live my own life and be me, well that is the biggest lesson of all.  Sometimes in order to grow I may have to leave behind that which no longer serves me.  This isn’t selfishness.  It is a sign of self respect.  And the deeper truth is that is it in learning to love and care for ourselves that we learn to love and care for others.