When we share what is emotionally important to us, we learn to connect with others in a meaningful and healing way. This applies to sharing concerns that excite and please us as well as those that frighten or depress us. Perhaps there was no more detrimental consequence of our childhood abandonment than being forced to habitually hide our authentic selves. Many of us come out of childhood believing that what we have to say is as uninteresting to others as it was to our parents.
Authentic sharing can be triggered and sometimes flashes the survivor back to being punished or rejected for being vulnerable.
As deep and meaningful connection with another becomes more available and frequent, the survivor increasingly experiences the shrinking of his abandonment trauma.
How important it is for us to speak the truth about what happened to us. How difficult this can be for so many of us who perhaps were not allowed to know, or had to develop defences of dissociation or repression to deal with childhood trauma.
Dissociation from trauma is very common and is a result of having had no one to really connect to at the time, no one who could be emotionally present. In addition it comes as a result of what happens when our authentic feelings of anger, sadness or fear where shamed and invalidated by those around us. The result of this is that later when we need to feel these feelings we cannot as our expression of feelings are blocked by shame. We may hear voices of the inner or outer critic telling us there is something wrong with us for feeling this way, we are being too sensitive, over dramatic or worse even making it all up.
In his book on Complex PTSD from which the above quote is taken Pete Walker discusses the essential healing work of grieving which involves the feeling the blocked or shamed feelings of anger, sadness and fear that accompanied our traumas.
When legitimate feelings of anger over violations or hurts were blocked we cannot feel our valid sense of outrage, and if we were shamed for being angry or sad those feelings can be walled off. We develop an internalised punishing or critical shaming voice when we feel or even try to express these feelings. This is why in recovery it is important to find those who will help us to confront and overcome this shame, those who will hear us, validate us and encourage us to experience and express our legitimate emotions.
So often what happens instead is that as we begin to recover we actually attract others who may seek to shame us in ways we were shamed in the past. For our own recovery it is necessary to develop enough strength and wisdom to notice when this is happening and to allow ourselves a legitimate feeling of outrage which would prevent this from occurring in order to have good internal and external boundaries.
Self negation is not uncommon for those of us who in childhood were unseen or unheard, left alone in our distress and with painful feelings that were too much to cope with at the time all alone. These feelings then get driven inside us, deep into our bodies.
This week in therapy I have been reliving the distress of my dental trauma which took place over two years in my teens. Last Saturday in the process of trying to contain powerful emotions of anger and distress that were emerging as part of my chiropractic treatment I bit down hard on a piece of plastic with the result that I tore part of the veneer off my bridge. At the age of 17 I lost two of my front teeth as the result of a car accident just a few months after the braces had been removed from my teeth.
Part of the painful orthodontic trauma of the previous two years involved the removal of four teeth, bracing of my teeth and then the wearing of a bridle like head apparatus that strapped around my head and pushed into metal inserts in my teeth pushing my teeth back against my skull. I had to wear it over night (f0r how long I now cannot remember), I just remember the pain and ache of having to wear it and the sense of deep natural outrage that I was not allowed to express.
Yesterday as I was crying over this after coming into therapy quite dissociated and being brought back in touch with myself by my therapist I cried out “I was just like a wild horse that they tried to bridle”, “the feeling I had was that I had to pull my head back in”. Interestingly that week in chiropractic the chiropractor had said that in observing my posture my head was pulled in to my shoulders like a turtle’s head pulled back into a shell (this association has just come to me while blogging).
The therapist and I had both made the connection that the huge smash up only a short while after having my braces removed was some kind of eruption of psychic energy trying to unleash, and the irony of busting the veneer off one tooth this week was not lost on me as in the session on Friday the chiropractor was encouraging me to kick out against being diminished, invalidated while hearing the internal voice “go to your room”.
It felt such a relief yesterday to be able to express all of this in therapy, to be instinctively understood and “got”, to be able to ventilate it and to be returned to a feeling of great tiredness that spoke of facing a fundamental truth I had lost touch with for some time, at least on an authentic bodily level.
I am facing the prospect of surgery in just over one week. There is much fear abut this. Part of me wonders if the breast cancer is a result of my tissues having to absorb so much pain and trauma and if I work in therapy the surgery may not be necessary. I long NOT to have to go through the cutting and yet on some level too I am willing to face it, to move through it despite my fear so I can find the love on the other side. Part of me sees the surgery as yet more abuse. I feel angry that this beautiful wild horse inside me that had to be reigned in could not just have been seen and loved for who and want it was, bucked uneven teeth and all. Why did I have to be beautified, changed?
Another part of me feels my mother did what she thought was best, and yet why couldn’t I just have been loved, bucked teeth and all? Why did I have to go through all of this pain simply just to look more acceptable?
Following the first reconstruction work on my teeth after my accident in 1980 I have had to undergo two further painful bridge reconstructions over the past 30 years. Yesterday I was informed my bridge cannot be repaired in any long term effective way, that the opinion of the dentist is now that I need to have yet another tooth removed and the bridge constructed onto the next tooth which will involve implants which I do not feel strong enough to undergo at this stage. I was really angry with the dentist yesterday (not so much for having to deliver the bad news) but for saying “presentation is SO important”. I want to get a second opinion and a more sensitive fucking dentist!!!
Despite all the pain of this today I feel more relaxed, more at home in my body. The reason is that yesterday in therapy I was able to speak about it and feel the truth of it all through with my therapist. Painful as that was, tired as I felt, to day there is around me a sense of far greater relaxation and peace.
Still my spirit longs to be unbridled. I love setting my dog free without his leash to run and this is why. When I hold him and cuddle him I feel my own pain of that younger self who had to be hurt, who was vulnerable and innocent and subject to so many forces around her over which she was powerless. I grieve for her and yet I know her spirit lives on. The task for the rest of my life is to love her, to nourish her and to make up to her for all that was taken, to give her a place to run free, to dance, to sing and most importantly to express without shame the deep truth of what happened and what really hurt.