I won’t fear love

What happens to someone when they are not allowed to feel what they feel, when they are having an intense reaction to something and that reaction is then judged as ‘mad’ and steps are taken to shut them down and invalidate the person’s reality?   Really the person was deeply outraged and angry about something that was legitimately hurtful and abusive (perhaps having triggered a complex web of other feelings, issues complexes reaching deep down and far back), but their reaction is judged (often by the abuser, but often also others the abuser has co-opted in to validate their own rejected and repressed betrayal, for example).   Those people bring in a psychiatrist and a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder is made, it is recommended the person is placed on something “to calm them down”.

This type of scenario is unwinding in a novel I am reading at present. The themes explored in the novel are cutting to the heart of similar issues in my own family. The central character in this book is called Grace. When the book opens she has been in a relationship with a narcissist where she walked on eggshells for many years always fearing when the next outburst or angry tirade will be expressed.

As her history is explored in the first half of the book it is revealed that she was raised by a mother who was not only emotionally unavailable to Grace for long periods but prone herself to rash outbursts of anger and strange behaviour that were frightening for her daughter. It is not made clear in the novel what happened to the mother that caused her behaviour but eventually she is diagnosed with “bi-polar” disorder.

The shadow imprints of this painful relationship rears its head when Grace hits midlife. Its nature shows why Grace would have been attracted to a narcissist. Her own emotional needs were never met. She learns to bury her needs and soothe or avoid her husband. Eventually the stress of trying to appease her husband’s endless needs leads Grace to hire an assistant who subtly begins to undermine Grace.

Grace’s behaviour starts to change in response to the mixed messages in the environment, (the not at this stage overt deception going on).  She becomes prone to sleeplessness and then bursts of energy which are nothing more than reactions to stress and buried feelings she has not really been able to articulate over years. Her husband starts to question her behaviour and label it erratic (a huge irony here in that his own behaviour has been even more outlandish). He convinces Grace to see a psychiatrist who diagnoses her with a mild form of bi polar disorder. The diagnosis sits badly with Grace, and yet she questions herself. This guy has a degree from a famous university, he has written chapters in the DSM her own mother was bi polar, has she inherited the bi polar curse? Who is she to question anyway?

Grace reluctantly takes the drugs prescribed which make her hungry, lethargic, sleep 12 hours or more a day and even more depressed. She gains weight and her self esteem plummets. When her closest friend find out what has happened she is outraged. She sees no evidence for the diagnosis. Grace struggles on, being undermined at times by both husband and his new assistant.

Then one day she finds them together having sex, as any normal person would do she flies into a rage attacking the woman who in partnership with her husband then arrange to have her taken to a psychiatric facility. At this part in the story I was hyperventilating. It was so similar to my oldest sister’s story, of which the full details have never been clear, only that her own husband had an affair with a women they were both involved with in and through the business my sister started, either before or after my sister had a cerebral haemorraghe in 1980.

A year later her husband took them and their four children away to New Zealand  (the mistress had gone forward a short while before). I believe on Jude’s arrival in New Zealand she may then have had to witness her husband and his mistress together. She had a series of so called “psychotic” breaks and was admitted to an asylum. She was then sent home home to us with a one way ticket. with one suitcase of clothes, she then tried to take her life.

In the novel Grace is luckier than my sister. She has manages to escape from the influence of the psychiatrist who was loading her with a number of different medications which basically numbed her so that she was only a zombie, less than even a shadow of her former self. My sister was never that lucky. When she came home and tried to cry her eyes out she was stopped from going there. Dumbed down with more meds, as with Grace with the numbing came a loss of all her creative ability, her joy, her zest, her sadness all palled under the greyness of a lifeless “blah” induced by the medications she was fed.

Her authentic liveliness and joy was squashed and little help was given, until later years to help her work through the painful mix of feelings. In the end there were only screaming rages with long crying spells, many of which I sat through in the course of her last years, holding her hand.

I am still in the middle of processing all the feelings that have been coming up for me in reading Grace’s story. I am reminded of the difficult journey we have on earth in coming to terms with our feelings, with their impact on others, with the impact of other’s feelings on us and even of our own feelings impact on us, of the long search to find a place where our feelings can be expressed in a way in which it is helpful and we can move forward rather than be paralysed or trapped by them.

I guess in the end it all has a lot to do with fear. There is a wonderful book out there on this subject it is called When Love Meets Fear and is written by David Richo   I read a quote recently from it which I can now not find but said something like this :  many people will be frightened by expression of your lively energy especially if it rocks their boat or confronts them with a part of themselves they would rather not see, your life task is to be and express this lively energy even in the face of others fear of all the tactics and machinations they use to try and undermine your true authentic expression.

I had a big “ah ha” moment when I read that paragraph. How often as a child was I shamed by the Nuns or even my parents when I expressed something they did not want me to express. This also happened to my older sister mentioned above who it said in later life “was just a little too big for her boots”, a bit too open, too lively, too “over the top”, a “naughty” girl. Witness the jaw drop as she speaks an outlandish truth to someone confronting them with something they are ashamed about or trying to hide. It’s just “not nice”! More outraged expressions and pursed lips.

I am not implying that we should have no restraint, no empathy for or sensitivity towards others feelings but we do need to have the courage to express what is true for us even if at times it makes us seem like an inconvenience for others who would rather we shut it up or dumbed it down a bit.

Interesting that just last month the Sun in Libra faced off with/opposed Uranus in Aries. Uranus has been passing through my eighth house of shadow energies over the past few years. My own Mars is conjunct Saturn which lends a fair bit of repression, duty boundness and doing the right thing to Mars lively assertive joy in self expression and movement. I have struggled with bound up/caged Mars energy for most of my life late childhood onwards.   Luckily I haven’t been medicated through any of the lows which were often descents in which feelings had to be negotiated, painful as they were and interspersed with periods of debilitating depression.

Lately  I am getting lots of hints about where repression due to displaced and projected fears occurs for myself and others and I am grateful for a therapist who allows me to express my own genuine feelings without being scared by them or having any controlling reaction. Being able to get my intense feelings out in a place where I can makes sense of them is what has helped me most.  Being able to own the fact I feel scared and acknowledge while holding my own hand and figuring out ways to act despite the fear has also helped.

There is a powerful line in a song I have been listening to lately by Sarah McLaughlin :

 “ If I feel a rage I won’t deny it, I won’t fear love.”

There are people who are going to tell us that our rage makes us madwoman but it doesn’t.  My rage shows me where love and respect for me isn’t being shown and life and love for myself and others asks me to see and own that rage and takes steps to empower a self that in being repressed or denied for too long is now rattling the cage from which I must liberate myself in order to express and fight for what I most need to live, to love, to express, to breathe, to survive and to thrive in my deepest authenticity.

Those who love me will validate my feelings, they will see the sense in them, they will not make me bad or wrong for having them. And it is the adult in me who must help me to hold those feelings, to process them, to make sense of them and then express them in ways which help me to become empowered and strong. When I feel a rage I won’t deny it. I won’t fear love.  For in feeling the rage, in allowing it to move me to authentic assertive (rather than aggressive) action  I demonstrate love, power and authenticity for myself, for you, for my sister and for the journey which in, at times, leading us to the darkest depths and deepest night eventually brings light and the dawning of a new day filled with understanding, compassion and hope.

The Hard to Breathe Days

On the hard to breathe days

there is a weight of despair

which covers everything

like a thick blanket weighted down

with lead which presses on your soul

everything lacks meaning

and you are reminded of a deep helplessness

a sense of what it was

to be a small child

ill prepared

for a world peopled with strangers

adults all so busy

deaf and blind to you

how deeply confused you were then

you didn’t really understand anything

about the way the world worked

and yet you were driven

by a childlike hope and longing for love

dashed on the rocks of the harsh reality

of others mixed up agendas

how to find the way

in the midst of all this confusion

stumbling around

too open to what hurt

not wise enough to know what you needed

until you grew enough

to learn lessons from the hurt

its seems as though

its has taken you till a long way along

in midlife to realise

where the heavy weight comes from

how to lessen it

how to choose what heals

from what hurts

for so many years it seemed

you foundered like a helpless fish

washed up on dry land

holding deep inside your cells

the memory and longing for water

your true home

writing and touching base with your soul

is what helps on these difficult days

it is what fills the emptiness you feel

when you have strayed too far from yourself

and life seems a painful mystery

too full of confusion to bear fruit

in the writing

in the being with

in the staying with

and being truthful about

what you really feel

you are returned home

and breathing your own true breath

 becomes once again

possible

The light returned

Today sometime in the afternoon the light returned after a morning of great darkness.  I am aware of the part WordPress plays for me in this process.  Nearly two years ago I was in so much pain following a sinus operation just prior to Christmas.  I faced that day alone and following a google search I found a post on Uranus transiting the eighth house written on the blog space of An Upturned Soul who some of you may know from here.  Through a chain of connection that led from this to other posts, Ursula ended up publishing a poem I wrote about my last narcissistic relationship and she recommended I start blogging.

I was not entirely sure how my writing would be received. I have used writing as a form of therapy since I was very young.  When I felt as though there was no one around to listen or understand my deepest feelings, I could always pour them out onto the blank page.

After my marriage ended in 2004 I retreated to the coast house my Dad built in the years prior to the major car accident I suffered at age 17, in 1979 and while in isolation there I wrote reams and reams of journal entries, reflections on my recovery, stream of consciousness writing with both the inner accuser voice as well as the  voice of a loving archetypal Mother figure who stepped in to comfort me when the times were particularly dark and lonely.  There were days and days on which I saw no one.  At times I could not sleep but still it was an achievement to get out of my pyjamas all day/ I had a lot of trouble breathing and began to suffer strange symptoms.  At times it was hard to eat, just to walk a part of the way down the beach was a Herculean effort.  Another two accidents followed as I made attempts to leave my self imposed isolation behind, I was at war with a lot of the darkness I was being forced to face.  I now know having suffered so many endings and so much loss I was being forced to face grief but I didn’t know how to deal with it and it was hard to feel it alone.

Being given the opportunity to find a voice via WordPress to speak about my journey of trauma and recovery has helped me through the recent dark times following the death of my older sister and the mental illness of my other sister at the same time as I have been working through the grief of painful relationships stretching back across years.  I am aware of the time I have needed to be alone and heal, but I am also so fully aware of how important good connections are in that process.

Earlier today I shared about the really tough day I was having.  At one point I was on the floor in foetal position with spasming pain all through me, the pulling and tearing was the hardest it has ever been and I was struggling to breathe.  When I finally managed to get upright and take a call from my Mum, I cried and cried.  Then I felt a release of the weight on my chest as I followed a like as mentioned before and found links to other sites of people undergoing similar trauma.  A little of this is a repeat of what I wrote about in the earlier blog but my reason for writing this one tonight is to say publically thank you those of who have expressed empathy and support and shared your own struggles.

I feel there is a healing community here on WordPress which can help some of us in the darkest times to express what we are going through and see a return of the light.  Reading the experiences of others who suffer too helps us to know we are not alone.  We all have wisdom to share.

I’ve just come back from a dinner with my Mum and her best friend.  My relationship with my Mum is healing.  For so long she just did not get what I was going through but lately as my other sister has struggled with her own bi polar illness I have felt my Mum trying to compensate for what she could not give us when we were young. Both she and my father worked very hard. They were not bad parents but neither were they emotionally present, their attention was consumed with business and their priorities were not focused on emotions and inner needs.  Neither had much in the way of nurturing themselves.

Add to this the stress we all went through following my older sister’s breakdown and abandonment by her husband and most particularly the pain we went through when my father became really ill with terminal cancer and died very suddenly following complications after an operation to remove the cancer from his internal organs, all deeply Plutonian events, huge underworld experiences banking up which took me into the realm of addiction in an attempt not to feel, not realising this was what was going on.

The pain of father and mother hunger took me towards three heart breaks, as I struggled with feelings I could not really express.  When love came and gave me the opportunity to reach for sobriety and recovery I took it but after a number of years my buried pain opened up and my husband and I did not make it through.

In a circular way I have now returned to the earlier paragraph in which I wrote about finding myself alone and writing in the house by the sea my dead father built.  I know now I needed to really feel the darkness of all I had gone through and writing could take me there but healing and feeling the feelings takes more than this.  Writing comes often after I have made sense of some of the feelings which are not fully conscious as more than curious body pains and sensations.

In the midst of this there was another relationship which was also a repeat of low nurturance themes I have struggled with over many years, in the end the nurturance I needed has had to come from therapy and from recovering people in groups and online here.  I am very grateful for this forum which helps me to know I am not alone.  That so many others suffer in similar ways and that they appreciate the effort to give voice to what is at times very painful and difficult.  I’ve been able to share some of my writings, thoughts, feelings, struggles, insights and poems here which has given me a sense of purpose in some way.  I know there are so many others of us out there attempting to do the same.

I feel a great returning of the light tonight.  I am aware that over the next little while the Sun in Libra will oppose Uranus in Aries while squaring transiting Pluto in Capricorn.  The name I would give to this process (Pluto will soon station to move direct again after 5 months of backward transit) is an unleashing of personal authenticity and emotional freedom through purging and emerging the dark emotions.

At present Pluto is transiting my fifth house of the inner child and self expression. There are so many of us out there who are aware of the importance of the Inner Child within, it seems to me that this part of us holds the authentic key to our spiritual essence.  We need to learn how to love, care for, understand and parent this precious little one in us who holds the light for us, even in reminding us of the darkness we faced in never finding support for him or her while growing up.  Part of the journey is to feel and recover earlier feelings and make links to today in order to understand and parent ourselves as emotional beings who can have emotional awareness centred in love not through rejecting our fear but through understanding and embracing the fearful self in love and compassion.

I believe that the power of love can overcome the power of ignorance and fear.  We should not be afraid to voice the deepest darkest feelings we have, for this is the way that light returns to us and to the world. Tonight I am feeling very much the return of that light.  To those who have reached out to me today.  Thank you, so very much.  Collectively we are undergoing this transformation very much tied up with the outer planets Uranus and Pluto because collectively we are all connected by mutual experience.  For me there is great peace that comes from this awareness which grows in power as we share honestly and reach out.

At the ending… is a new beginning : reflections on bearing with and growing through pain

Ever feel like you have reached the end of a huge journey?  One that seemed to take ages and took you down so many twisted, convoluted, difficult pathways at times you felt like you would never find home or find yourself on solid ground again?

Ever felt like an avalanche had fallen on you very soul, that you were weighted down with the burden of so much painful “stuff” that you could never rise again?   It seems difficult to breathe with all that is pressing down and you are fighting to stay alive but the fighting is at the same time about bearing with the burden of all that is coming down, that must be felt, accepted, surrendered to and through the surrendering, shed?

Ever felt like it would never end in the depths of the darkest night that it was all too painful and hopeless to bear?

And then have you ever woken to find the landscape cleared by the avalanche, your toes touching fresh soil and the view you have is vast, but it was a vastness that came out of a heap of pain finally accepted.

Addicts like to run from pain.  We don’t want to have to face the tough stuff.  Its not only that its that when we were young containers that would help us to contain, soothe and make sense of our painful feelings were absent.  Or we were loaded with the painful unresolved stuff of others who could not bear their own darkness, insecurity and confusion so dumped it into us without us knowing.

We go forward into life longing for an Eden where these inner feelings of confusion and pain will disappear, we may actively seek it through a host of addictions, not even knowing what the pain is about our what we are doing, just acting out the wound unconsciously, until some kind of turning point comes, a rock bottom where we are not able to run and hide any longer but must start to face up to the part we have played in perpetrating our own pain, due to our unconsciousness and launch on a path to recognising how we got set up to play the game in the first place.

Certain deep revelations have been being integrated by me over the past weeks.  Its no mistake that Saturn has been stationing to move forward over the past few weeks. For me it will soon pass out of the third house for the final time, crossing the IC of the chart which has to do with birth, psychic foundations and the inward basis of security that we need to find in order to begin a time of building towards a form of self expression which honours the unique fate and karma of our past, without being trapped in it by a victim consciousness.

At the moment Saturn is transiting in waxing square to my natal Uranus in the first soon it will repeat the waning square aspect to Chiron in the seventh and the waxing square to natal Pluto in my first.  It seems on the weekend I entered a very dark space of understanding the full impact of all the Uranian shocks, separations and dramatic tearing apart events that I experienced from the time of Uranus moving towards the waxing square with its natal position (the degrees of where Saturn is now transiting, it is giving me a deeper insight into my dharma/karma as one born with Uranus in the first.

I am never going to have been a person with a normal kind of history.  I will have an inherent tendency to be a bit of a loner (most especially with Pluto in the first two).  Part of my identity will be tied up with being a shock force in others lives at times and I wont find it easy to fit in or just go with the normal flow of things.  I will often feel separate or apart.  Its not just about my history, I am now beginning to see, this position is tied up with needed to be a revolutionary in some small way, most especially I hope it will and does involved being a revolutionary to my past conditioning, understanding it, gaining intuitive insight and being reborn on some level.  At the ending is the new beginning.  Shattering happens for a purpose.

Ever noticed when you are on the brink of change that things begin to break?  I remember when my marriage was ending my partner threw a glass across the room and it shattered into fragments.  This was my Uranus opposition to natal Uranus and the Furies were being unleashed as I was taking some time out for me.  He didn’t like it and was justifiably mad.  If I chose not to make the break for a time the Furies would probably have been unleashed inside me.  Its not easy to change.  You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs, so the saying goes.

In the end the Furies were sent back to me when my partner walked out, 11 years ago tomorrow.  We were married 11 years in all so perhaps there is now an end to the grief that was felt in that ending, an ending whose pain evoked the pain of so many other endings, so many losses never fully grieved.

There is a wonderful book by the Jungian therapist, Murray Stein that I read many years ago called In Midlife.  In that book Murray talks of the midlife passage being a time when we bury the corpse of ourselves, of the conditioned self, of all the losses large and small that have made up the first half (hopefully) of our lives, all the wrong turnings that led to pain, all the sadness of not living as our true selves (if over years we only lived out of the false self).

In this prolonged journey that may take many years we are undergoing a psychic death rebirth experience that we can choose or not choose to consciously participate in.  While it is happening this dark night may just consume us totally.  We may find ourselves crippled by a terrible depression and yet hiding in the shadows of that dark place are so many things we need to feel and release and grieve.  The experience of that grief will be the necessary cost of our new life emerging, a sacrifice of old hopes, dreams and ideals.  Much of this is not fully conscious when it is happening, only made obvious once we are to some degree on our way out of the dark woods, Dante spoke of.

I guess this is what I am feeling today, this sense of emerging from the dark wood.  I am aware the transiting Sun is just following Mercury out of the 12th house of my chart today.  Mars is about half a sign behind it, still buried deep in the middle of the 12th house (but soon to be leaving the sign Cancer of deep memory and feelings).  Today I am feeling the warmth of some of the Sun’s rays emerging over the horizon. There is a dim light at this stage and it is not as dark and cold as it was.  I am getting insights into so much.

I had a huge outburst a few weeks ago with my family.  I unleashed the Furies on them over a lot of stuff I had been internalising (in true Mars Saturn Moon in the 6th fashion) over many years.  At the time the Furies were mirrored back to me in a sense of outrage and yet the relationship survived the unleashing of it.   Getting it out of my system has helped me.  The two people involved have Saturn square to my Moon, Mars, Sun, Venus and Mercury and smack bang on my natal Neptune.  Where I want to go deep, there I hit a wall.  It is a necessary wall.  It is a wall that will help me to mature,  it is a wall that will make my unruly idealistic self righteous Uranus in the first come to grips with some painful realities that don’t live up to my Promethian ideal.

Last week I re read the book The Scapegoat Complex by Sylvia Bretton Perrera and saw my journey on many pages.  I came across the following that seemed to sum up where I am at the moment:

She …(began) to sacrifice her demand for a perfect mirroring from her therapist and her family as she began to sacrifice the demand for a lost paradise state and to accept the true burden that was her life.

The burden in my case is the burden of a childhood in which insufficient mirroring and bonding was given to help me deal with painful feelings and develop a healthy relationship with them, my body, my true feelings and self, with my insides.  This burden led me to addiction and to much damage the full pain of which had to be felt, the true anger of which borne with and transformed, integrated over time.  In her book Perrera associates the Scapegoated Individual as the one who is marked out as the shit eater.  In myth there is a figure who takes the shadow stuff of the family, into its mouth, all the poisons and transforms them.  This she has seen is often the role of someone in the family who has to carry the burden of rejected qualities and feelings.

One of the complex and thorny problems of having suffered and failed to develop a healthy narcissism in childhood relates to our tendency to identify with the victim role and with suffering as a lifestyle.  Our inverted healthy narcissism fallen into the shadows acts as a magnet to attract us to overt narcissists who cannot honor us, as we cannot honor ourselves.  The pain of this sets us on a journey to heal.  Suffering is the price of our release.

Learning new ways to be with and contain intense and painful feelings and understand the message they have for us, brings an end to unnecessary suffering.  Letting go of the victim/scapegoat role, frees those of us who have suffered under it for a new life, one in which we love even our most vulnerable feeling self without apology or shame and in and through loving it mature, learning to make less impossible, unrealistic demands.  In the ending of that old pattern, lies our new beginning.  We can let pain go and recognise it as our necessary teacher.

Its a fine line this, feeling our pain to contain, transform and release it without  being trapped by it, weighed under buried or drowned.  Maybe for a time we do drown but if we can keep with it we will surface again.  Pain will leave its scars on us, through these we will become human, humble, both small and large, but not in a grandiose but rather a majestic way.  One that lets us be a light and recognise ourselves as part of a greater light, one we can share and spread and use to warm our souls and the souls of others following behind on the same path out of the dark night, into the light.

Who becomes the scapegoat?

Scapegoat.jpg

Another post that I wrote just over a year ago that never made it out of drafts:

The phenomena of the scapegoat and scapegoating fascinates me deeply.  Many years ago I was intrigued to come upon a book The Scapegoat Complex by Sylvia Bretton Perrera.

At the time I had been recovering from addiction and was learning that addictions are often an avenue the family scapegoat or scapegoat identified individual uses to cope with the relentless inner self criticism and pain of disconnection from and love of the True Self, that dogs those of us who were not able to fully express and develop the wholeness of our living being and emotions in a damaged family.

The family described in Perrera’s book is one that very much identifies with external collective mores of perfection, appearances and collective ideals, it is not one that allows for the reality and expression of deeper emotions such as sadness and anger.  This type of family demands of its members that they repress some of their psychic reality in order to belong and receive acceptance.  It is not okay to express intense emotions of anger or pain but other ways of being are highly validated, ones that do not threaten the parent with their own repressed feelings (the shadow).

There are those of us who are more likely to develop addictions due to the fact we have a higher level of sensitivity to the inner world and to intense emotions.  In the scapegoating family these emotions are ones the parents had to repress and which confront them with their own repressed shadow. The scapegoat individual is one who sees beneath the surface to the repressed feelings of the parent and by a form of participation mystique (exquisite sensitivity and attunement) begins to express them or act them out.  They may become the identified patient or “sick” one, really they are the one that has the most potential for wholeness.

The parent defends against the realisation of deeper truths and is confronted by the emotional honesty and attunement, or vulnerability of the child.  The child is punished by an accuser within the parent which is then internalised (taken within the self).  This is called an introject.   The parent denies the reality of the child which is invalidated.  This leads to the child beginning to doubt the self and its perceptions.

The psychologist R D Laing was one of the first to realise that such parenting can lead to schizophrenic conditions, a hearing of inner voices.  The further work of Robert Firestone has shown how the internalised critic with its destructive voice operates to wall the sufferer off from happiness, connection, intimacy and love.

Many years on the parent may be long gone from the scene but the accusing voice remains. The remorseless critic who invalidated the psychic reality of the True Self of the person and led the person to live as a False Self.  One cannot live within the psychic entrapment of the False Self for long without beginning to experience depression.  If one has been taught not to know and asserts one’s own true needs and feelings due to neglect or downright repression on behalf of the parent a feeling of lowered energy and vitality will occur.

In addiction when abused and criticised the self feels an outrage that may not be permitted expression, which is then internalised as further feelings of despair, powerlessness and depression.  In depression such as this is the longing for the True Self, the way to which is barred by the accusing voices.

Addictions can be a way we reach to self soothe.  Unfortunately addiction also numbs and masks the pain and arrests our emotional and psychological development.  Abuse is traumatising and trauma tends to make us want to escape.  Eventually if we want to heal we must learn to face and feel what we have been running from.  We cannot do this without love and support and validation.

In order to heal we need to learn about how the True Self within us has been invalidated.  What messages have we received that are not true, the lead us to hate ourselves, doubt ourselves, neglect ourselves, punish ourselves.

I have shared elsewhere that after my marriage ended after 11 years of sobriety and I went into a voluntary retreat due to abandoning my first attempt at therapy I began to hear the voice of the accuser talking to me.  I did a piece of writing called Destruction 11:11 in which the voice told me of its hatred, and that it wanted me dead.  It was an important piece of writing as it woke me up to many realisations about myself.  Reading Sylvia Bretton Perrera’s book at this time helped me to understand further.

Lately I have tried to address some issue with my abusers around lack of sensitivity, invasion of boundaries and invalidation.  It was a learning as I was yet again demonised for my anger which was seen to be wrong and attempts were made to shut me down by a number of means, emotional blackmail was used.  This encounter has firmed up my understanding that expression of self assertion and differentness in our family is not valued.  One is expected to toe the line and is rewarded for making sacrifices.  When one asserts any hurt attempts are made to deflect attention from the hurt.  In invalidating the anger the self is invalidated.

Usually I would buckle back under after one of these incidents.  Thank God for good therapy.  Understanding the impact of the scapegoat psychology and issues of shaming and repression has helped me to heal.  I am sharing about it here in hopes it can help others.

An Inner Alchemy

Moon Voodoo

Following on from the post I wrote yesterday and having read a comment made by Ursula I am prompted to write this blog.

Yesterday, partly as a response to reading Therese Borchard’s blog : Dear Friend, This Is Depression, and partly as an instinctive response to sadness bubbling up from deep inside, I wrote a blog that mentioned my own death thoughts and the feelings I struggle with in a family and culture where it has been hard to find acceptance of deeper, darker feelings.

The Jungian therapist, James Hillman, has spoken about what he sees as our culture’s manic defence against depression. It helped me to understand this many years ago when I began to face my own grief swallowed down following years of addiction.

A lot of people just don’t want to be faced with the idea of death, of loss, of endings, with things that confront them with their powerlessness (even if only for a time).  Maybe they have endured these and found the pain a little too hard to face.

I can also understand that in facing death, depression, illness and loss some people make a commitment to enter more fully into life, others can wallow around in the muck and get some kind of negative pleasure from it.   And it can be very difficult to judge, especially when you meet someone who is defended against deep feeling, they may judge you for wallowing when in fact you are just deep in process and it may be a process that does not suit their timing. At other times we may be faced with a martyr energy that is deriving some kind of negative pleasure from the dark.

Sadness can have a gravitational pull.  Maybe those of us with a strong Saturn Pluto energy are more subject to this pull.  Having the door shut on you, because you are too angry or sad for someone hurts a lot.  Often we just need acceptance and validation for our feelings. Often its a reality that we just cannot hope for it from certain people.

In my own experience is its miraculous and amazing to watch darker feelings transform when they are bathed in the calm light of acceptance.  This is the practice of mindfulness but sometimes mindfulness practiced alone does not heal as much as the calm and open acceptance of someone who is willing to just be with us and sit with us in our darkness, sadness and depression until it transforms.

I used to find it very interesting when I would visit my sister in the care home and when she was crying or raging a lot of the staff would look for something to put down her throat.  I would just rub her back or hold her hand.  There were really no words to say that met her in the place she needed to be met.  Often if you used words with her in this situation she would just go silent or scream even louder.  She was screaming in anguish at not being met, at not finding presence.

I’m remembering this now as I face the first Christmas without her.  I must be honest, many of those visits were very painful, often I left crying but following the shedding of my tears a lightness would come.  I guess each time I met my sister there I entered a little into death, it was a brief visitation that then made appreciation of life and light so much more precious.  And I understood her dark feelings a lot more after two relationships ended and that pain triggered earlier pain.

Today when I listened to a song that reminds me so much of her and the burden of pain she carried I felt the conflicting pull of sadness of death/past and life/present vying with my soul. I know both have their place are maybe hidden in each other.

For me, I am grateful for those who are willing to allow a place for the dark, for deep feelings of sadness, who give me permission through their calm acceptance of what is, rather than a rigid, manic defensiveness, rejection or leave taking.  I will and have survived being left alone with pain, but it is comfort to receive, understanding, affirmation, support.

The other day I came across a beautiful piece of writing from Henri Nouwen.  Henri was no stranger to breakdown, depression and suffering so he wrote this from his own experience.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our own powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Sometimes we need to die and go through periods of facing death in order that we can, through this deep alchemical process shed the skin that has grown too tight, or transform the dark matter of suffering into something new.  This is a process that can take years and whose schedule is not really under our conscious control, though we are able to assist it by surrendering.  In her blog the other day Therese used the metaphor of depression as a firing process whereby clay was transformed into porcelain. That was a powerful alchemical image that spoke to me.

With strong Saturn I relate to the nigredo which is the dark depression that is one phase along a spiritual path through which suffering is transformed into gold.  Its fucking hard and painful, we do not enter it willingly, in a way it is a tearing away of all that was comfortable, stable, predictable and known.  We are being subjected to forces acting on us that we must endure while we hold still.  We need trust, which is hard when we have been betrayed but I guess even trust isn’t essential.

We do the best we can even when it feels like the very worst.  Sometimes we just have to wait, not knowing, not hoping even, until the darkness becomes light and the stillness, the dancing.  Then and only then is our dark black star transformed into one of burnished light or tarnished gold.

Broken Winged Angel

images (20)On Tuesday I explored an old journal.  In it I found the following poem which I have re-edited.  I also came across some writing about grief and its impact on the sufferer and those around them taken from a book by Virginia Ironside called “You’ll Get Over It.” 

This poem is for my sister who died earlier this year, for the impact of what she suffered on those of us who loved her and for those who are suffering grief and depression due to invisible heartbreak or loss:

Broken winged angel

I saw your reflection

On the breast of a robin

Grown cold now

Surprised on our return

She took flight

Captured here

By a framed ceiling

She flew too high

Struggling to be free

Death

Brought her down

At nightfall we return

I carry her lifeless body

To the garden to bury it

Silent and empty

Her spirit has flown

Vacating its earthly shell

Today you tell me

My heart is empty

I feel vacant

Nothing to say

I can not connect

When an empty shell

Is all that is left

Vacant eyes

Stare through an open window

Enfolded wings

Wrapped tightly around

An imprisoned soul

Trapped in a straightjacket

The drugs they gave you

Erased and dismissed

The reality of your deep suffering

Grown mute

A hollowed out shell

Is all that remains

My most vivid memory

Of your darkest hour

There is nothing left

Only empty space

Where a beating heart once lived

You empty out all my sorrow

I traded my true identity

So that I would remain here

A victim trapped

Trying to atone

With non existence 

For the pain of your existence

The penance for

A painful aborted life

The hands of the clock

Revolved in slow motion

Over those wilderness years

Everything was erased

I entered the void of grief

And how my body ached

Over those long years

A voice deep within

Tells me it wasn’t for nothing

But there are no words

That can express

What I saw there

I don’t belong in your world

Let me rest quietly

Free of your demands

For me to be another way

Let me free to soar

Across darkened skies

With white wings

Tasting the flavour of the breeze

There is only this moment of flight

Over distant shores

Which I cover with a shadow

That in time

Will disappear and leave no trace

Yonder I flew

To the land of our ancestors

Carried only by the promise of God

Into a destiny

That will prove

A disappointment to its promise

And leave me questioning and questing

After so many years

Long years hence

The early morning claimed you

The ancestors

Called your spirit home

The weight of your damaged body

Too heavy any more

For the soul to bear

The broken winged angel

Has found her home now

On my bedside table

Overlooked by an angel of light

With both wings in tact

Tenderly holding a lamb

Was I just the witness

To a crime

To one else could bear to name

Witnessing it nearly broke me

For a time look everything

Hollowed me out

For a new beginning

What  broke you

Was the silence

Too much silence

They turned a blind eye

Your grief was heavy

Who else could bear it

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This morning I read these words

Fear may make some people stay away from a bereaved person, fear of emotion but also fear of anger and rage, or worse, fear of longing, the utter craven helplessness of a bereaved person.

The absolute abandonment happens twice:  First with the loss; second with the impact of that loss or losses on the person that drives people away.  Thus is sorrow driven deep within into a place of inexplicable expression, symptom, illness, cancer or the death mute catatonia of profound depression that has no words but can only be recognised by those who have understood that darkness through resonance.  We must not quit from trying to find a way, to not turn our backs on those whose grief has lost its words and longs so mutely for our understanding,  love, tenderness and containment perhaps expressed less in words and more in the comforting touch of a hand or a soft look of empathetic mirroring.

 

Reflections on the Scorpio Experience

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I have a very strong connection to Scorpio and the ruling energies of this planet are two fold.  If you follow the older, traditional rulership, it is Mars.  If you follow the more modern designated rulership, it is Pluto, planet of the underworld, unconscious, depth and intensity, regeneration, destruction, rebirth and transformation. 

Dealing with Scorpio and Plutonian energies requires a trip to the dark side.  I sometimes equate it with acavernous pit, with depression, with decay, gestation, decomposition, and the unseen alchemical processes by which different substances are transformed or change from one form to another after being forced to undergo an experience that can sear our soul’s deeply and is most definitely not of our choosing.  Issues of power and powerlessness are tied up with these experiences, especially in close personal relationships where an exchange of energy is taking place between people.

Pluto and Scorpio rule some fairly difficult experiences.  As part of the process a descent to the bottom of some fairly gruelling and harrowing emotions is necessary for us to emerge and evolve.  Reactions to the experience, either of loss or betrayal, rape, violation or sundering, all Plutonian experiences can leave us with a legacy of anger, rage and resentment that can fester like a toxin.  When covered over and denied the wound can turn gangrenous, alternatively these can all be the raw material of our growth and transformation.  We need the healing balm to be applied and often we have to wrestle with some dark forces and forms of experience in order to come out the other side or re-emerge, stronger, battle scared, wiser having developed a deeper far less superficial response to the situation.

Paradoxically, the very fuel for the positive energies that can result is something that may be viewed as negative but through the process has been transformed into something that is a source of great nourishment and personal power.  One that is deeply organic since it has been born out of deeply real substance.  In the process we gain insight, a way of seeing what could not have been revealed if we did not endure the necessary travail.  This is expressed in the alchemical image of gross, dark matter and substance being transformed by different processes into a highly burnished gold.

I have seen mentioned in another blog these kind of experiences described as the Phoenix process.  This provides a powerful image of the Scorpionic or Plutonian experience, in which the fire that the bird burns up inside is generated by deeply inward psychological processes in reaction to trauma, loss, betrayal or endings of some kind.  Under a Plutonian rulership or transit the soul often experiences a severing or cutting away from attachments that which no longer serve the soul in its forward evolution and growth.  With Pluto and Scorpio we experience events to do with powerlessness, loss of control, or alternatively the seeking of control as a result of feeling powerless, especially as a child. 

There can be the inward decision of the soul to no longer allow a suffering of the kind that was effected by having experienced its own deep vulnerability and helplessness, thus the generation of narcissistic disturbances which put the soul in a position of power by denying and projecting the vulnerable difficult parts that never gain acceptance in the eyes of the parents.    A strong Pluto signature in our chart may represent an attraction to these kind of people and experiences. 

In myth the God Pluto wears a helmet which renders him invisible to the naked eye.  In re-editing this I had an idea of how much this might actually relate to therapists, those who take on a healing role, and in moving into a position of power hide or conceal their own pain and vulnerabilities.  Of course, having undergone such experiences one would also naturally be drawn to help others undergoing something similar.   I also feel this is a powerful metaphor for the psyche when it has undergone experiences of which it has not been able to obtain conscious awareness until later in life, when situations we attract reawaken what is hurting us but has, as yet, not come fully to consciousness.  The difficult experiences that we undergo in the Plutonian process occur for the purpose of taking us down to face parts of ourselves that may have been rejected or buried in earlier life or that we have lost connection to.  Implied is the fact that there is a strong emotional context to these since water and fire as elements, to me speak of living e – motions, energies in motion in the soull

In her powerful retelling and exploration of these Scorpionic and Plutonian themes, Descent to the Goddess,  the Jungian astrologer, Sylvia Bretton Perrera explores a lot of the issues which people undergo in the Scorpio or Plutonian experiences. The legend that Sylvia relates is taken from an ancient Babylonian tale of sister Erishkegal and Innana.  Like many myths and tales, this one contains resonances and metaphors for profound psychological processes that we can undergo as humans.  The telling of this tale certainly helped me to understand some of the complex inner processes I was undergoing as someone with a strong connection to Pluto.  It speaks about finding a way to travel down to visit the parts of our self that are in pain, sitting with them mirroring them enabling the pain to work its way through our system so that toxins are eliminated and in the process we heal, transform, gain insight, slough off old parts of the self and birth new ones. 

On a personal note my mother is a triple sign Scorpio, with the Sun, Mercury and Saturn there in a fairly close conjunction which sits smack bang on top of my natal Neptune.  It has not always been easy for me to see her, to connect with her and, to be honest, growing up with her was like being on constant alert for whatever was going to explode out.  She carried a lot of expressed and repressed anger which as children we could be on the receiving end of.  It is an interesting developmental fact but the lack of something really needed by the child sets up a gravitational pull towards that which was lost or longed for, but perhaps, could not become conscious.   What the parent longed for and did not get replays in the life of the child if consciousness has not come for the parent and then the child is left carrying a specific developmental burden or field of charge that attracts certain relationships and personalities like iron filings to a magnet.

I guess that my relationship with my mother, the hurt and anguish that it generated, for me are all part of the Scorpio experience, and surround issues which I have written about on this blog. 

For what is worth these are some of the associations and thoughts I have had on the Scorpio Experience.  I would be interested to hear some of yours.

Further travels with pain and trauma : bringing light into the dark

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I just spent some hours writing the following blog.  As I read it back it struck me I am just really struggling with loss and feelings.  The inner censor is making some comments. But after a few corrections to typos I putting it out there anyway.  🙂

Last week was really painful and tough. I wish I knew the reason why, then I could make the change to make it better and to feel more of the strength and positivity in the good feelings which are there on many days.  But sometimes, there is a tide that is pulling me back into the darkness and pain especially surrounding the burden of my family history.  With one sister recently passed away and the other struggling with depression, I too, struggle in maintaining a sense of separation from other people’s pain and feelings.  Most  especially I struggle to maintain a sense of happiness and hope for a better future in the face of that darkness.  And I do know that on any day there are a number of choices I can make in placing my energy and time in nurturing, rather than depleting directions.

I have been very aware of being there to support my mother in the face of the difficulties surrounding both siblings.  In the wake of my sister’s death there are the tasks that follow the ending of a life, administrative things to do with death certificates that need to be witnessed  and the issue of the collection and handling of my sister’s ashes.   In this task there is only my mother and me present   None of my sister’s children live close.  Separated from her by the circumstance of her own trauma and their father’s struggle to survive and cope all fours sons live quiet far away.  It was great to have them with us in the time leading up to and just following her death, but now with these other issues to deal with,  it is  quiet a lonely task.  I am grateful in one way to be able to front up ad be there but at other times I am conscious of a deep emptiness that stretches back in our family, so much separation and emotional absence, over many generations which I am trying in some small way to redress.

At times the entire task seems too big and I feel like I am drowning or, at least, struggling to live and breathe and maintain a sense of self and boundaries within it..  I am trying to remember to breathe, move, not to clamp down, not to struggle so much and yet there is so much banked up feeling.

My body suffers a lot on some days.   Its a struggle to get moving and I have body spasms and twists, especially at night.  There is a suck in, push and pull out  out dynamic that happens.  Over the past three years there have been at least seven different hospitalisations of three family members and I have been the one in the middle going backwards and forwards, trying to be supporting, living on my nerves, trying at the same time to support my own life and care of my home and dog, is it any wonder, at the moment that I am feeling so exhausted and longing for some one to care for me.  Oh the joy of Saturn transits!!!   Transiting Saturn is moving back towards natal Neptune and will be squaring Sun, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and the South and North Nodes over the next four months.

I continue to put my hand up for tasks that are often not my responsibility due to the fact others cant, or wont front up.   It my first instinctive response, one that comes naturally to me.  Only after I have volunteered do I realise that I have overcommitted myself and energy not allowing enough time for my own tasks that need attention and yet, if I don’t give love in this situation the emptiness will go on with no light in the darkness at all.

Today I am still in my pyjamas at 2 pm.  We are moving into winter and had a lovely fall of rain last night and throughout the morning it could have been a peaceful morning but  marring the day I had a major cuffufle with my mother this morning.     I wasn’t really aware that the lingering resentment around her own emotional absence over earlier years which lies dormant (and I thought I had dealt with) was about to rear its ugly head  today.  We ended up having one of our painful tussles and I said somethings which hurt her and were probably best left unsaid.  The conversation left us both in tears and with my insides feeling like they had been scoured out with a huge wad of steel wool.

“Maybe its best if we don’t have as much to do with each other for a while” she said. This is her default setting for not dealing with conflict and issues which cut a bit too close to the bone.   I know she is struggling with a lot of painful feelings herself and most of the time I try to go gently on her. But  today I guess I was just feeling angry, sore and raw and a trifle put upon having spent the day yesterday nurturing my sister, driving her back and forward from hospital on a weekend where she is totally institutionalised and sees no one much.  My mother’s comment really hurt.  In the process of grieving my sister’s loss I have very few places to go to share the sadness, as usual it was all about my Mum’s wounded ego.    Earlier she had tried pulling out the guilt card.  “I don’t have much longer left on this earth”.  I called her on it.  This is another one of her tactics for trying to  making me feel bad for addressing painful feelings which she would really rather deny.  “For God’s sake isn’t it time you put it to rest?”.  Most of the time I do and I wish I remembered this one fact :  its not possible to deal with these feelings with my Mum and deep down I am angry at having tried to deal with a challenging situation which has endured over so many bloody years.

We two and do at times  get into some terrible tangles.  They say oil and water don’t mix but sometimes air and water have a lot of trouble too.  Sometimes it really sucks having a parent whose Sun Mercury Saturn hits all of your personal planets, especially the Moon and Venus,  planets of closeness and relationship.  These interconnections can be cutting at times and its not always easy to get a deeper connection and understanding.   And maybe its not even her job  Maybe that responsibility is mine now.  It  was her responsibility at one point and she failed pretty miserably at it and that has left a painful legacy for all three of her daughters, something I am not even going to try and point out.  She couldn’t give what she never got from her own mother in the first place and she has tried, over the past years to make some kind of amends.  After our terminated call I was left questioning myself a lot.  Did I place too much of a burden of expectation upon a parent who is now struggling herself?   Not an easy feeling.

I was lucky enough following my upsetting phone call with my mum to call a very kind and gentle friend. ! Maybe these feelings you are having towards your Mum you can put in a letter”, she said.  “And if you would like to read it to me I would be happy to listen”. This friend has the same name as my sister Judy.  I could always go to Jude with Mum issues and she would understand.  Now I no longer have that older sister to go to who understands but maybe my Higher Power did provide someone else.  I was very grateful for her attempt try to understand where I was coming from and show empathy.

I must say its a huge relief just to be on my own today.  To be in the quiet and peace of home without any obligations or responsibilities pulling on me.  Jasper is sleeping quietly and doesn’t seem to perturbed by having missed his usual morning play in the park.  In a moment I think I will light the fire and read a book.

I’m praying this week will be a little easier than last.  I wonder if its the pain body that has been giving me trouble last week. This is a term Eckhardt Tolle uses to describe the entity that can live inside of us and rear up from time to time.  My own pain body is pretty large.  I have had three major physical traumas, the last two following the painful separation that attended the ending of my marriage.  Its taken me some time to be able to feel deeply into the pain body and the traumatic footprint left by physical and emotional trauma that is more active at night….To find ways to be with it while breathing in the pain instead of reacting to it.  Its taken some years but bearing with this process I have found is beginning to bear fruit.  When I can be with the pain without magnifying the pain the pain does lessen and dissolve and usually if I just concentrate on the breath or a lovely song in my head, I manage to fall asleep.

No one will ever know how hard some day are for me with my Post Traumatic Stress.  Its not something you can see and its not always there.  At times pain that is submerged, emerges as tides of consciousness recede as I attempt to let go and slip away into sleep.  On some days my body contorts a lot in a way that I have seen in images of shell shock victims following war.  I read somewhere in book on Buddhism that traumas cause a twisted “tsa” or energy.  At times I feel that twisting is trying to find a way to unravel.  It is not ever present, it comes and goes.

I’m making an effort to try and find words for my experience because at times its lonely.  In the end its my responsibility to deal with it.  There really isn’t anyone else.  I have tried a lot of therapy and was once told by the astrologer Melanie Reinhardt that my kind of trauma is often not helped my most therapists.  Instead I try to find ways of dealing with it alone having gone through repeated let downs and frustrations with therapists.   Maybe this is my Saturn Moon Mars legacy.   In the end it is what I must carry because I can’t check out with any kind of pain relief due to my sobriety.  In any case this kind of legacy is beyond pain relief of the pharmaceutical kind.

Instead I look to life  I look to the breathe.  I cuddle little Jasper and feel the healing of his soft tummy lying close to my sore tummy  And I continue to commit to seeking the light and to remembering that although the darkness does exist there are still tools available to build a fire, to bring light, warmth, energy and healing to the dark places.

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Better to Light a Candle, than to Curse the Darkness

Understanding Abandoment Trauma and its relationship to depression

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It is difficult to accept and even understand that we have suffered abandonment trauma.  That trauma and the reality of our emotional abandonment in childhood and even in the current day can be masked by addictions and negative inner voices.  The work of healing requires the unearthing of the reality of our felt experience which is often expressed somatically in ways which are difficult to understand, at least that has been my experience.  Add to this the fact that recovery is made harder still by the harsh or dismissive inner voices which themselves are a symptom and indicator of the lack of understanding and empathy our younger self was shown in childhood by the parent and which many of us are shown by a society that lacks insight and depth.

This has certainly been the case in my own life. Now that I am in the process of recovering and undergoing my own therapy which is helping me to make sense of the painful body symptoms I have experienced for the past 10 years I feel the imperative need to write about what is occurring.  I have always been aware that there was a harshly punitive voice inside me, a remorseless inner critic which has made life painful and difficult and also attracted to me partners who can be critical.  Yesterday in my blog on my sisters death I referred to Syvlia Bretton Perreras book The Scapegoat Complex.  In this book she speaks of an inner character or complex with she names the accuser.  This accuser voice is composed of the voices of parent, teachers, carers and others in childhood which caused us to split of from our deepest needs and feelings which could not be attuned to by the parent or had to be harshly dismissed.

It has been explained to me today by my therapist that in the face of childhood neglect the complex needs and hungers which we have to deny in the face of parental nonresponsiveness or a lack of nurture, attunement and empathy accumulate around them a host of painful feelings, grief, helplessness, anger and rage, a sense of powerlessness and so on.  Feeling and freeing these trapped feeling which often drop to a somatic level is necessary in order to find freedom, to make sense of our feelings, to understand the truth of what happened to us in childhood and to break the power of the accusing and at times demonic voice that arises out of the pain of the abandonment, leading us to further depression and self abandonment, vulnerability to relationships with narcissists and so on.

I just came across the following on the website : http://www.pete-walker.com in undertaking a google search on managing abandonment trauma. I had deeply painful session today where I experienced the abandonment pain deep in my heart and gut, following on a week from the funeral of my eldest sister, Judith. There are so many layers of grief, anger and sadness around my relationship with her which although close, was at times deeply traumatising and non supportive especially where validation of feelings was concerned.

What Pete Wakler writes helped me to understand my own struggle

http://www.pete-walker.com/managingAbandonDepression.htm

Chronic emotional abandonment is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. It naturally makes her feel and appear deadened and depressed. Functional parents respond to a child’s depression with concern and comfort; abandoning parents respond to it with anger, disgust and further abandonment, which in turn create the fear, shame and despair that become characteristic of the abandonment depression. A child who is never comforted when she is depressed has no model for developing a self-comforting response to her own depression. Without a nurturing connection with a caretaker, she may flounder for long periods of time in a depression that can devolve into The Failure to Thrive Syndrome.

In my experience failure to thrive is not an all-or-none phenomenon, but rather a continuum that begins with excessive depression and ends in the most severe cases with death. Many PTSD survivors “thrived” very poorly, and perhaps at times lingered near the end of the continuum where they were close to death, if not physically, then psychologically.

When a child is consistently abandoned, her developing superego eventually assumes totalitarian control of her psyche and carcinogenically morphs into a toxic Inner Critic. She is then driven to desperately seek connection and acceptance through the numerous processes of perfectionism and endangerment described in my article “Shrinking The Inner Critic in Complex PTSD” (see link for this article: Shrinking the Inner Critic).

Her inner critic also typically becomes emotional perfectionistic, as it imitates her parent’s contempt of her emotional pain about abandonment. The child learns to judge her dysphoric feelings as the cause of her abandonment. Over time her affects are repressed, but not without contaminating her thinking processes. Unfelt fear, shame and depression are transmuted into thoughts and images so frightening, humiliating and despairing that they instantly trigger escapist 4F acting out.

Eventually even the mildest hint of fear or depression, no matter how functional or appropriate, is automatically deemed as danger-ridden and overwhelming as the original abandonment. The capacity to self-nurturingly weather any experience of depression, no matter how mild, remains unrealized. The original experience of parental abandonment devolves into self-abandonment. The ability to stay supportively present to all of one’s own inner experience gradually disappear.

Post Traumatic Stress is actually a result of this type of emotional abandonment, but once someone displays these PTSD symptoms rest assured that the majority of people, ignorant of the true cause of the rage, fear and shame displayed will further abandon the sufferer and thus the depth of his or her trauma is deepened.  At least until he or she can understand why these symptoms exist and that they are a necessary expression of and legitimate response to the pain suffered rather than a source of further shame or fear,  Such understanding and insight is hardly possible in the face of lack of empathy,

Here is an example of the layered processes of an emotional flashback. A complex PTSD sufferer wakes up feeling depressed. Because childhood experience has conditioned her to believe that she is unworthy and unacceptable in this state, she quickly becomes anxious and ashamed. This in turn activates her Inner Critic to goad her with perfectionistic and endangering messages.

The critic clamors: “No wonder no one likes you. Get your lazy, worthless ass going or you’ll end up as a wretched bag lady on the street”!

Retraumatized by her own inner voice, she then launches into her most habitual flight, fight, freeze or fawn (4F)  behaviours. . She lashes out at the nearest person as she becomes irritable, controlling and pushy (Fight/ Narcissistic) – or she launches into busy productivity driven by negative, perfectionistic and catastrophic thinking (Flight/Obsessive-Compulsive)- or she flips on the TV and becomes dissociated, spaced out and sleepy (Freeze/ Dissociative)- or she focuses immediately on solving someone’s else’s problem and becomes servile, self-abnegating and ingratiating (Fawn/Co-dependent).

Unfortunately this dynamic also commonly operates in reverse, creating perpetual motion cycles of internal trauma as 4F acting out also gives the critic endless material for self-hating criticism, which in turn amps up fear and shame and finally compounds the abandonment depression with a non-stop experience of self-abandonment.  Especially noteworthy here is how the inner critic can interact with fear and shame in a particular vicious and escalating cycle.

Furthermore the entrenched cultural and social responses to fear and shame contribute to many of us being blocked from recovery.  Walker continues:


We live in a culture that judges fear as despicable, and depression as an unpatriotic violation of the “pursuit of happiness”. Taboos about depression even emanate from the psychological establishment, where some schools strip it of its status as a legitimate emotion – dismissing it simplistically as mere negative thinking, or as a dysfunctional state that results from the repression of less taboo emotions like sadness and anger.

I believe we must learn to distinguish depressed thinking – which can be eliminated – from depressed feelings – which must sometimes be felt. Occasional feelings of enervation and anhedonia are normal and existential – part of the admission price to life.

Moreover, depression is sometimes an invaluable harbinger of the need to slow down, to drop interiorly into a place that at least allows us to restore and recharge, and at best unfolds into our deepest intuitiveness.

One recurring gift that typically comes cloaked in depression is an invitation to grow that necessitates relinquishing a formerly treasured job or relationship that has now become obsolete or moribund. Overreaction to depression essentially reinforces learned toxic shame. It reinforces the individual’s notion that, when depressed, he is unworthy, defective and unlovable. Sadly this typically drives him deeper into abandonment-exacerbating isolation.

Deep level recovery from childhood trauma requires a normalization of depression, a renunciation of the habit of reflexively reacting to it. Central to this is the development of a capacity to stay in one’s body, to stay fully present to all internal experience, to stay acceptingly open to one’s emotional, visceral and somatic experiences without 4F acting out.

Renouncing this kind of self-abandonment is a journey that often feels frustratingly Sisyphean. It is a labor of self-love and a self-nurturing process of the highest order, but it can feel like an ordeal replete with unspectacular redundancy – with countless, menial experiences of noticing, naming and dis-identifying from the unhelpful internal overreactions that depression triggers in us.

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It seems to me after having witnessed my own painful journey as well as those of two siblings, such a shame that there is sometimes such a lack of understanding, insight, awareness and empathy to the deep level of childhood abandonment issues which replay across generations.  Such concerns are especially prominent in my mind presently as Saturn in Scorpio retrogrades back in my own chart towards natal Neptune and over significant points in the charts of so many of my family members.  We are struggling with the loss of a sibling and daughter whose abandonment issues and unresolved grief led to a lung condition.  I struggle with similar symptoms while another sister has been removed to hospital, which is a source of even deeper angst, mirroring as it does so many elements of my eldest sister’s journey.  Saturn is place in Scorpio in both my Mother and my surviving sisters’ charts.  Opening up to deep feelings doesn’t come easily to either. And it has at times been a very hard journey to have two significant relatives Saturn smack bang on my own natal Neptune.  It leads me often into the deep and painful territory of powerlessness over the things I cannot change.  The choices of other people.  But I will pursue my own recovery and continue to reach out and communicate about it