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

Understanding and healing the Scapegoat within

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The family scapegoat receives the shadow projections of the family. They are the one that carries and tries to express qualities, needs, reactions and expressions which may not have had a chance to live in the family.  Often if we review the family history we will be able to see a pattern or something the scapegoat is trying to live for the family that could not be expressed, or struggled to be expressed over generations. They may be the carrier of hidden sadness or pain.

There is also collective element to the scapegoat which means certain qualities in any particular culture are accepted and are seen as valuable to express where as others may be demonised. Religious beliefs create the scapegoat by dictating what is “holy” and what is “demonic” and so create splits. The pervasive spread of the Catholic zeitgeist, for example, reveres qualities of self sacrifice, meekness, chastity and in many ways a repression of essential elements of what it means to be a human animal struggling to express oneself in the world as a self who can feel a sense of balanced empowerment and know it is okay to have legtimate wants and needs and life in an organic feeling body.

The scapegoat in the family is particularly created by the narcissistic parent who, as a child, could not live the wholeness of who they were due to parental neglect, abandonment, hostility, stress or other kinds of splits. John Bradshaw in his book on shame, Healing the Shame that Binds You, and other writers have shown how in families affected by toxic shame, the scapegoat is a role that is taken on often, though not only, by the second child.

In fact the issue of shame is central to narcissistic disorders and the creation of the scapegoat. If we are truly able to develop and live, free to express the totality of who we are without shame, the shadow may not be created, thus no need for scapegoats.

Shame is central to narcissism of the unhealthy variety in that the narcissistic individual never believes him or herself to be just a person amongst persons. An inherent feeling of unconscious shame, instead leads them to identify themselves as more highly evolved and deserving of envy, as inherently superior inside. The unconscious sense of deep inferiority created by episodes of shame, humiliation, abandonment or emotional rejections in childhood gets covered over and defended against with unconscious protections and projections.

What the narcissist cannot make a relationship with inside, he projects out. The need for constant mirroring that exists in the form of needing narcissist supply from outside the self results due to the lack or mirroring or flawed and skewed mirroring in childhood. What has been rejected becomes projected.

The narcissist will attract to him or herself those with the missing qualities.   Those of us set up for this kind of attraction from the other side, due to problems with nurturing, validation, mirroring and acceptance in childhood, are attracted to the narcissist like iron filings to a magnet. We have our own narcissistic issues which during the course of the eventual conflicts that develop in the relationship will come to light, often with us being rejected by the narcissist. The pain generated by this rejection forces us, or at the very least, gives us an opportunity to bring to consciousness our own wounds from childhood and understand the deficiencies that we have lived with as well as the struggles we had with our own parents and their repressed shadow qualities. An opportunity comes to find self healing, since we are no longer children, we can recognise that deep inside our inner child of the past still lives and has wounds that need to be understood and tended from within.

Through this process we can begin to identify healthy behaviours and relationships from unhealthy ones and come to understand some of the false beliefs generated by lack of emotional nurturing and attunement in childhood, as well as the hostility of the parent who could not accept expression of our shadow qualities (which often replays as a powerful theme in all of our relationships).

In the course of our journey to self awareness, particularly for those of us who may have taken on a scapegoat function,  healing comes when we can begin to identify the introjects (internalised projections) of negative voices and beliefs that may have embedded within us from parental and cultural/collective conditioning. Parental projections or carrying of their trauma may mean we battle with negative voices, depression, addiction or pervasive suicidal feelings. Through hearing and becoming conscious of these we can gain a sense of detachment in time and find new more positive, loving, affirming voices from within which can help us to grow and heal.

For the scapegoat there is an essential task to be learned. The scapegoat will often be the one in the family that ends up in treatment or with an addiction. They may be the one who blows the whistle and begins to deal with the family skeletons.  Addictive tendencies of other members of the family may be well hidden, but on some level the scapegoat fails. This is a necessary failure for the purpose of coming to know and love the entire self that could not live and find wholeness from within the family. Often family scapegoats when seeking to bring attention to deficiencies in the family will be rejected or ostracised: this parallels what happens in cultures where the scapegoat is sent away into the desert or exile with the sins of the collective on its head. Such an exile may be necessary it may be metaphoric rather than literal.

The scapegoat suffers the pain of never finding true acceptance, of feeling on the outside, exiled in some way. Healing can only come for the scapegoat when they realise the role and function they play in the family and the collective culture. The scapegoat has a supreme value and this is why they are rejected.

The Jungian analyst and teller of fairytales, Clarissa Pinkola Estes addresses this issue of wandering and banishment that internalises in her examination of the Ugly Duckling fairytale. The ugly duckling must go through rejection and a profound search to find a place of belonging and recognise the beauty of the self.

On a personal note, as one of the scapegoats in my own family, I became the identified addict. I was blamed by a mother (who valued my new found sobriety supposedly on one hand while dealing out invalidating backhanders on the other) could never own her part in the creation of this. On one level she was only a player in a far bigger drama working out across generations.

When I got into recovery feeling myself to be a scapegoat was not conscious but I was strongly affected.  In healing groups with other scapegoats I was able to begin to dis-identify from the projection of badness, especially when displaying self assertion and anger. At times I played the scapegoat role in groups.  It hurt a lot at the time, but eventually I grew in understanding when the pattern would play out  My critical leaning was, that I must not scapegoat myself, though exile was and is necessary for the scapegoat.  Alone time gives us time to  introspect, detach from unhealthy and invalidating relationships and to heal.  My struggle in the family to gain freedom and awareness has gone on over many years. It is taking a long time and many heartbreaking conflicts to realise what pattern was playing as well as the particular parts various family members were playing.

In her analysis of the scapegoat identified individual,Syliva Perrera (who wrote an excellent book on the subject,) makes the point that split off assertion and desire is a huge part of what creates the scapegoat. Many of us who develop addictions as a mean of coping use the substances to numb and anaesthetise our feelings around not being able to express and assert ourselves fully. Addictive relationships function in similar ways, especially when the longing and hunger we feel has complex and deep roots in earlier invalidating relationships. We enter them hoping the broken hearted child will heal. Instead that child meets her own woundedness and is sent on a journey so that she or he can heal. Healing involves finding ways which allow the wholeness of ourselves to express and find acceptance, mirroring and love in relationships, families, collectives and a culture which often do not allow certain feelings a place.

Women too, can take on the role of the scapegoat. We are scapegoated for being too angry (what a ‘bitch’), needy, dramatic or vulnerable.

The playing out of the mass genocide of the Jews during the Second World War was another example of the scapegoat complex playing out collectively, generated by the toxic shame of an individual (Hitler) who was able to mobilise the rage and hurt of many in a nation that had been humiliated. That humiliation and the identification with roles of power and supremacy saw the split off qualities being projected and “killer” energy emerge.  It is interesting to note that Joseph Stalin’s father was a alcoholic and Stalin too was a victim of toxic shame.

The scapegoat is no stranger to murder and killing, their soul is the victim of a psychic murder. We scapegoatees must learn during the course of our healing and enlightenment to find freedom from the killer that can migrate to live inside of us in order that we can live free of the killer voices that block our self expression and inner feelings of love and self worth. The entirely of ourselves has a value and through embracing and becoming more conscious of the ways in which we participate in and perpetrate our own wounding we can heal and grow and make new choices that lead us down happier paths than we experienced in the past. 

We can begin to understand the scapegoater that lives inside, for we are not immune either, at times, to scapegoating others.   The qualities that we may have been rejected for sensitivity, fireyness, vulnerability, messiness, passionate conviction, sensuality and sexuality are unique threads of human self expression which woven together have formed the unique and precious tapestry that make us raw and real, messy and ultimately human, a person amongst people with certain gifts of perception and depth that may have in some way threatened or frightened those who are more defended, less attuned.

Time for some pruning of dead wood

Is anyone else out there feeling sad and a touch world weary at the moment? I’m going through a strong spate of Saturn transits at the moment so its probably to be expected.  

It seems to be an ongoing pattern, perhaps a legacy of my Saturn Moon that I end up suffering disappointments and emotional let downs in relationships.  Things usually start out well and there is a feeling we are on the same page and getting each other and then something happens with frustrated needs and all hell breaks loose.  I must confess that it doesn’t happen with everyone but it does happen with certain people who come to assume a mothering role in my life. 

As a child I spent vast amounts of time on my own.  I was the youngest in a much older family and my eldest two siblings were nearly adults when I was born.  My closest sister was eight years older and frustrated herself a lot of the time due our mother’s emotional distance, it was a business oriented family and neither of our parents had any time to spend with us they were both too busy building their empires.  In the absence of our parents care sometimes my sister would take out her anger and frustrations on me. 

I ended up being very fearful in relationships and then drinking or using substances to hide that fear.  There really wasn’t anyone around most of the time to turn to, to help me make sense of my feelings.  I don’t remember being held or experiencing physical closeness in my life, nor the tenderness and caring that I now know I was longing for as a sensitive child.  And he awareness of this longing I now know I had to repress. 

As an adult I’ve developed all sorts of physical problems due to repressed feelings and as the result of injuries and accidents in childhood and teenage years. It’s taken a lot of work and recovery to even begin to lift the lid on my true needs and feelings.  My personal path led into alcoholism and promiscuity in an attempt to deal indirectly and covertly with the longing for closeness that I had to repress at a certain age due to the painful circumstance of my young life and adolescence. It then led into recovery and healing.

Over the past few days I have been re-reading Alexander Lowen’s book Narcissism Denial of the True Self, as I have experienced yet another major failure with yet another therapist who, not only just hasn’t got it but has acted in a damaging way, trying to load me with interpretations which I know deep down are way off base. 

It has taken a degree of inner strength which I’ve never really had until now to be able to stand up to her and not take the interpretations she has dumped on me.  I’ve become aware that with me she is replaying aspects of her own childhood but in this case, since she is in a position of power, she can use that power to cut off and then judge and dismiss the feelings of anger that have been generated by our conflict which she has told me she is having a hard time facing.

According to her by making the choice to have a break from sessions with her I am “repeating a pattern of cutting myself off from relationships when disappointed and frustrated”  Exactly how many failures is one supposed to cop before setting a boundary and saying enough is enough?  

While I get that as an adult it is my task to hold and make sense of my feelings,  why then continue to fork out substantial amounts of money to professional only to be invalidated and not have my needs met, or my feelings validated.

Luckily this time I’ve been able stand firm and hold to my own truth and feelings on the matter without caving in.  I’ve cried a lot and I’ve been sitting with myself and allowing myself to feel not only the sadness about this disappointment, but also the sadness of all the times I was so alone in very painful emotional situations where I really needed a close friend or parent to hold my hand and empathise. 

It is no surprise to me that as I write Venus is stationing at 13 degrees Capricorn in sextile to my natal Neptune in the third house, while Capricorn’s ruler Saturn widely conjoins the same placement at the same time squaring my natal Venus… Its surely a time to set some boundaries and practice self care and self sufficiency.  

It leads me to believe that this current experience of disappointment is all part of the path of my growth and learning for now.  Maybe it is also a part of growing up and realising there comes a time when I need to be self supporting and trust myself rather than experience self doubt.  

Saturn influences are strong in my family .  Both my parents have Sun conjunct Saturn.  They were never able to be children but had to grow up really fast during the traumatic circumstance of the depression following the First World War.  The legacy of that and other issues on my mother’s side around separation, death, alcoholism and loss all have replayed in my own and in my female siblings lives.   

The truth is that even though I’ve been very angry and disappointed with my therapist I also have a degree of resignation around what has happened, and as I’ve allowed myself to feel and validate these feelings they have mellowed somewhat.    There’s been a blurring of boundaries around who is actually the therapist here as at one point she was asking me to take care of her feelings of hurt.  Point is, I don’t want to do that while paying her money for a need she isn’t fulfilling.  

And so I’ve chosen to call it quits. I don’t feel I’ve done this in a nasty way but in doing so I do feel that I have honoured my own truth and right to my deep feelings.

Two weeks ago I was working on a very old article on Venus Retrograde for this blog.  And everything I wrote about there has come to pass this week.  My computer connection has been down until today and I had burst pipes under the house that have cost a lot to fix.  I can’t help feeling that there is a metaphorical aspect to that.   The feelings we can’t express in childhood need to find expression in our adult life.  When we are victims of narcissism in our upbringing we learn to repress our feelings.   In recovering we need a place to be able to release them in order to integrate them into consciousness.   In this process it helps to have a witness who can help us contain them.

There is a wonderful chapter in Lowen’s book entitled The Fear of Insanity, where he talks about what happens when the narcissist is flooded by repressed feelings.  The point he makes is that when we don’t have help to befriend our feelings in childhood due to insensitivity or distain of the parents, or due to their own repression we come to equate feelings with being insane or out of control.  It is no accident that in our culture the word “mad” is used to describe those who are supposedly insane but really just trying to deal with overwhelming feelings (especially of anger) that had to be repressed.  In order for us to heal, those feelings have to be brought to light and the prohibition and shame around this removed.

Lowen writes

I strongly believe that if children were allowed to voice their anger at their parents whenever they felt they had a legitimate grievance, we would see far fewer narcissistic personalities. 

He cites the case of a patient that he treated named Barbara.   Barbara  was brought to Lowen while suffering a psychotic break which was really just a flooding of her ego by feelings long repressed feelings.  Lowen helped Barbara by holding her through the outbreak of her feelings and enabling her to discharge them in a place of safety and understanding. In such a way Barbara was eventually restored to sanity.

Was her outbreak of feeling insane?  Maybe in order to become sane it is really necessary to be apparently crazy for a time, at least from society’s point of view. 

Lowen comments

To the uninitiated, watching a person “blow” may be frightening.  But with an experienced therapist, who understands the energy dynamics involved, the seemingly irrational and violent release of feeling can have a positive effect on the patient. 

Barbara was lucky to find Lowen.  What we repress doesn’t go away.  Its buried there in the body awaiting understanding and release.  A good therapist should be able to help us with our expression of feeling, otherwise what is the point of being a therapist in the first place. 

Alice Miller has written in her book Breaking Down The Wall of Silence that only our true feelings will lead us to freedom and liberate us from distortions and lies that we are subject to, especially with therapists.   I wish could include the full quote here but its locked in my old laptop and cant be accessed at this moment

For now I’m at the end of the line with therapy. I’m finding lots of support online with others with whom I feel safe and free to be real. In the end what is important is to trust my gut and have faith in the insights I have felt within my soul. 

And as usual with Saturn transits it’s a good time to take out the symbolic secateurs, for in removing the dead wood we encourage the new growth that is bound to burst forth in time. And with Venus stationing to move forward its a time to act from a place of truth due to my own values and needs.  In the end no one else can tell me what those are  I have to learn for myself, often through a painstaking process of trial and error that leads down some painful and frustrating roads. 

I’m feeling peaceful tonight. Over the past few days of editing this I’ve come to some kind of inward resolution about all of this.  So for what its worth I’m sharing it here.   And would love to hear from anyone else about struggles they may have been experiencing or insights gained over this time in regard to their significant relationships.