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 Child in Me

It’s a mystery or a kind of paradox I believe, as I age I am getting closer to the child I was, the part of me that was full of curiosity, openness, wondering and joy, who had a desire to open her arms and embrace life, dance, sing and love.

When I think today of the things I value, they are things of the heart and the soul that this child treasures, and yet my body is aging and it is not that I am in denial of that but in some strange way I often feel lately that my true soul life is only just beginning and I feel so very young.

I love being around young people who were raised with much less restriction around them than I was as someone born in the early 60s. I was thinking today of Wordsworth’s poem Ode to Youth, which talks of how we come from afar and our falling to earth or being born is to a degree about a forgetting of sorts.

Ever looked into the eyes of a young baby and felt the mystery of that little one? Where did he or she come from? If you believe in the life of a soul that may go on and survive a new birth could it be that this child is already bringing things in that it knows and it will meet a world that can meet that, help that knowing to unfold or may deny it?

Or are we just an empty slate to be written on by experience and shaped or twisted by that? I don’t believe that just as I don’t believe the lies of my Catholic upbringing that children are born with original sin.  The sins of the family (omissions and traumas) can be visited upon children, but I don’t believe we are born evil.

Is that feeling of being an alien of some kind, as if from another land, something I was born with or did those feelings grow in a family which for me was devoted to cares and concerns that did not really make me feel connected in anyway?

I remember in youth singing and dancing a lot. One of my favourite songs was by Nancy Sinatra. It was “These Boots Are Made For Walking”. I remember doing a performance of it dancing up and down my Dad’s counter in the grocery store.

When bad things happened later that child in me got buried and learned to hide. I did not have siblings my age and then we moved away from the younger neighbours I was closest to into a big empty house that was in the middle of being built with my Mum and Dad. My only sister still at home was sent to live in Nana’s cosy house. I slept on a stretcher bed in a room with no carpet, only concrete. The builder had gone bust and we went through a very cold winter there.

I remember at the time reading a lot of Mary Poppins and I longed for her to come and rescue me, to take me away to her land of magic and adventure and colour and dance and mischief.

School was full of a lot of repression and seriousness, messages of original sin and long boring masses and benediction services.   We were taught partly by Nuns in my school and I got in trouble for being too bold. I am sure I was not a naughty child, just full of life, a life that could not really live fully in the environment and I am just one of many.

As I got closer to teenage hood I got more doubtful and insecure. I remember that if I made a mistake or broke things, I would feel ashamed and hide. My parents didn’t show much empathy for the way in which I was struggling.

As I grew closer to puberty I was feeling alone and asked to be sent away to boarding school where some of my friends were going. I wasn’t allowed to go. Dad said he would miss me too much. That’s great in a way, but it left me feeling more alone.

A pattern of being alone and separated from the crowd I wanted to belong to followed after my second year out of school following a lot of family trauma I went away to Brisbane and left my first year of teaching studies and a close group of friends.

I  foundered there, getting into drugs and drinking a lot. I knew my studies were being affected so at the end of the year I asked to go back to the Teaching degree I had started the year before in my home town after surviving my accident and witnessing my sister’s stroke and hospitalisation. I wasn’t allowed and I feel I had a gift for teaching.

I was sent to secretarial college which I hated. The drinking and drug taking got worse. I wanted to live out my wild, free side and I was unconsciously frustrated and angry at being trapped in a typing pool all day having to type on manual typewriter in triplicate and make no more than two mistakes a page. (This was before computers were available for those of you reading born after the mid 60’s).

I stuck it out. You just didn’t rebel against your parents in those days. Mine was a silent inner secret rebellion and it went on for about 11 more years until I got into recovery for alcohol addiction at age 31.

I see more clearly now the false self that I developed, I was not aware of it then. I think a lot of depression has to do with a separation from our True Self and that True Self is very much related to our Inner Child, the pure essence of our soul that is a soul seed and needs rich soil and nutriments in which to grow. Our inner child, wounded or wise, makes its presence felt through some kind of symptom.

I have been in recovery for just over 21 years now and maybe that is why now I am feeling much closer to the little child in me. I have read somewhere that there is a difference between the wounded child (for those of us traumatised from hidden or overt emotional abuse and lack of mirroring and affirmation) and the wonder child (the authentic real soulful essence of our self).

There is a lovely book by Charles Whitfield on Healing the Inner Child and it depicts  an illustration of little child buried deep down inside us before we first start recovering and understanding what happened to us as little ones. I wish I was more technically savvy and I could find a way to copy it here (maybe one day).

I know that my Inner Child isn’t sad all of the time, as I can sometimes be (though a little less these days), she isn’t grieving all the time for lost opportunities.  Adult me feels very sad sometimes for the wasted years where I lost touch with my inner child’s strength, magic, hope and promise and that it has taken me nearly 53 years to find her back.

My Inner Child has deep feelings and she isn’t scared of them as my false, adapted self is sometimes.  She absorbed a lot of false beliefs along the way and healing her has meant confronting these in myself and in others.  It has meant learning to trust the messages she give to me, often through a body that is hurting or suffering.

I understand too that a large part of her repression has to do with the time when I was born on a collective level, the early 1960’s where self expression was not always encouraged.  As one of the generation born with Uranus the planet of liberation in Leo the sign of narcissism (healthy) our task as we evolve is to liberate this energy in positive ways.  The Leo energy is strong for me as my ascendant is placed there and so is my North Node and the Sun has just passed over the placement.  With my South Node in Aquarius I can get too trapped in thoughts and out of touch with feelings which help me connect to my authentic Inner Child.

A few years ago after the painful break up of my last relationship I got myself a dog. I sadly lost contact with the little dog I loved that belonged to my ex partner and my inner child grieved for the loss, along with the pain of the shattering of the illusion that my ex partner could ever love the real me. I know I took wounds into that relationship that needed a lot of healing. I was longing to be love and be loved for who I was.  Sally, my ex partner’s dog, gave me so much love and I never got to say a proper goodbye.

Today I finally grieved deeply the realisation in therapy that my ex partner just could not love me for me, and that, I assumed, made me unlovable and he told me I was. “No one else would want you”. I’ve read in several places this is a common narcissistic tactic they use to devalue you and destroy your self belief  In this relationship here were all kinds of rules about which aspects of me could express. Due to past abuse I accepted them but my body rebelled all the time with symptoms.

Last week I dreamed about my ex partner behind me pulling my hair and then pleasuring himself while I suffered and longed to escape. But I stayed (sadly for my Inner Child) until I was discarded and it has taken four long years to undo the damage.

Just under 3 years ago, as part of my healing, I got my little dog Jasper after a few years of looking longingly at pets on the net and in pet store windows and with owners. I had to over come a prohibition even for this as I had a battle with my Dad when young over getting a dog after being told I could not go to boarding school. “You won’t take care of it”, he said.

Eventually he relented but the dog was a wanderer and she had a bad accident and eventually we had to give her away to a dog breeder who lived on the land. It was as if the curse of my Dads’ words had come true.

It took a lot to overcome these messages and allow myself to adopt my dog Jasper and he connects me daily to the part of me that is so pure, happy, joyous and free. I feel that way when I watch him run off lead over the grass towards the beach at our local lake, chasing birds and swans and kangaroos to his heart’s content. I trust that he will come back to me and he does even when he goes missing for (what seems like ages), just when I think this time will be different and I will finally have lost him, he appears, wagging. When I look into his eyes I see the honest soulfulness of the child.

Well this is just a little bit of a blog about this Inner Child part of me that I feel so close to. Time for dinner now. To all you lovely Inner Kids out there, come share with me if you want your own experience of how your Inner Child got lost (if he or she did), how you found him or her back and how it is for those of you who never lost touch at all. I would love to hear your stories.

A big hug from my Inner Child to yours. XoXoXs