When Love meets Fear

How comfortable is it for you when someone looks deeply into your eyes? This blog which I wrote a few days ago was prompted by a comment received on a recent blog The Loving Gaze from myblackspotblog. I have often felt uncomfortable when being looked at deeply. I can at times feel the shutters of my soul wanting to close, and a similar feeling was expressed in myblackspot’s comment. This got me to thinking and wondering if, when being looked at, old fear, pain or experiences of being seen into and misunderstood are evoked when we are being looked at, and whether also there is a fear of being invaded or invalidated due to that having happened to us in the past.

Or is it something deeper, something to do with a deeply private interior part of us that is not always so comfortable with being seen and needs to keep a place of separation or sanctity where we can just feel free to be, safe from scrutiny?

I am aware of something within me, that I experience a great fear of being shamed, of not getting something right and perhaps then of being rejected. In my last relationship as we began to connect more deeply, or try to, a lot of painful feelings arose for me, feelings that were not that comfortable for my partner and which he could not validate. This echoed old experiences of difficulties with mirroring.

What occurs for the child who is not mirrored or is told to feel differently or that what they feel is wrong is that we begin to adopt a false self or a mask as we begin to hide who we really are, how we truly feel. For the narcissist, as I understand it, the vulnerable self having been in childhood so rejected and exposed to punishment, invalidation and shame goes so deeply into hiding and his or her pain then becomes inaccessible or buried, often it will be projected on others.

The projected self that had to be discarded and judged as too bad, vulnerable, wrong or painful to face then becomes rejected in the other.  The fully blown narcissist is not aware of any painful or difficult aspects of the self, these all belong to others. It’s a very difficult situation to be on the receiving end of and it is one we need to be very aware of as we begin to heal early childhood trauma and experiences of being shamed, abandoned, punished or humiliated in unloving ways for just being a very human self with very human emotions parents may not have been able to deal with.

I am currently reading a book which deals with experiences in childhood that lead to borderline personality disorder. It speaks of the difficulty certain children face at the time they go through the beginning of the separation/ individuation process with mother. The psychological health of the child is dependent very much upon the mother’s ability to deal with frustration, anger, sadness and other responses which are evoked in the child as a response to steps toward connection and separation, dependency and independence.  A healthy mother can tolerate these powerful emotions without humiliating the child.

This process is very difficult for the mother if she never received containment of painful emotions herself as a child and as a result learned to distance and distrust her own painful emotions. The borderline personality disorder that can develop out of such painful interactions with Mum leads to a difficulty with accepting painful emotions in the self.

With such experiences of early wounding we seek to find ways to numb, suppress, cover over or project the painful feelings we are feeling. Since we have never learned how to be with the difficult feelings and found healthy ways to regulate and self soothe we seek this through less effective ways and often learn to keep our painful emotions under wraps, tending then to explode when the pressure builds too much.

In addition if we were looked on harshly when we were suffering or angry, or scared or sad, or even excited or extremely happy we may begin to feel an internalised shame for feeling such feelings which then become bound in shame. Later in life when we encounter these difficult states and even if we ae being looked on with love, this may feel very threatening to our soul.  We may unconsciously feel deep shame and fear or even terror.

I well remember the first time I had to stand up in front of a crowd at an AA meeting and expose my own true self who lived behind the mask of the false self.  I was both frightened  and ashamed.  Luckily I found the strength to be real. I remember how free I felt after enduring this fear and unmasking.

After posting my recent blog I received a comment from telllingheavysecrets saying how important she has found it to her recovery to look upon herself with the love she sought from others. THS expressed how she realised that for most of her life she had been looking everywhere for that loving gaze.

The truth is we cannot fully heal in isolation, especially if we have developed shame and frozen emotions due to an invalidating and traumatising past.  It is going to take some help from healthy individuals who can gaze on us in love, even when we are in painful and difficult states of mind and emotion if we have learned to despise or distrust these ourselves.

I remember a little way along in my relationship with my last partner who had narcissistic injuries expressing empathy for his kindness in some matter and he hit the roof. I had the audacity to imply that he was human and vulnerable in some way. How dare I? At the time the power of his rage scared me. He took himself off into the backyard and started hammering something ferociously. At that point I had really seen into him, and he did not like it. I got an angry roar. It has taken me some healing myself to understand why.

Today I am glad that for me my ability to take in the loving gaze from someone is increasing. What is even more important for me to learn to look on myself with the eyes of compassion when I am in a trauma invoked state. I take on board very deeply the advice of the Buddhist monk Thich Knat Hahn who advises to treat oneself and one’s pain as tenderly as one would a little child.

The loving parent we needed to look on us with love may have been very absent or non existent for us growing up, but that does not mean we cannot find that force of love within our hearts and minds now. It takes courage too, to open up to the love that may want to come our way from others, when past experiences of being rejected or shamed have led us to feel terrified of being truly seen.

In the case of the borderline a torrent of fear may come our way when we try to truly love, as it did with my ex partner but it may not be so obvious that it is fear that we are truly dealing with.   For myself I know that when I am in a fearful state I most need to understand and accept that feeling. I don’t have to like it, but if I can own it there is just a chance that I may be able to no longer be held as deeply captive by that fear. For a second I can choose love for myself and I have found along the way to be true these very important words from the bible. Perfect love casts out fear.

The loving gaze that meets and finds our fear may help the fear to dissolve if we can in tolerating and accepting the fear develop a relationship with what may have in the past been pushed away.  In looking upon ourselves and others in this way just maybe we can allow the love in that at times our fear and shame tries to keep us separate from.

Who becomes the scapegoat?

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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.

Feeling like I dont belong may be the price of belonging to myself.


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For a long time in my life, although I was not aware of it, I was wandering the world hoping for understanding and comfort.  As the youngest I felt very much like an observer and an outsider in my family.  There are huge age gaps between me and my oldest siblings and so in some ways living in my family was like being an only child.

I wrote in an earlier blog about finding a cache of letters written during the year I was four which outline the context of our family life.  What came across were two parents who were very involved in their own life and little involved in mine.  A conversation with my mother midweek revealed little memory, on her behalf of this time, only the observation that I was a “difficult child”.  It wasn’t only me who was difficult, the dog was difficult too.  What I am beginning to see is that we were probably both really bored and so, as lively beings do, we began to get up to mischief.

Its interesting as it has been coming into my mind this week that I need to write some blogs on the family scapegoat.   I am actually intrigued by the concept of the scapegoat and felt so grateful to come across the most wonderful book on the subject by a Jungian analyst Syvlia Bretton Perrera around the time my marriage ended.

The fact was that I became a scapegoat target for my husband’s family and eventually, towards the ending of my marriage when I was trying to bust out of my false self and reclaim my true self, an alignment took place between my husband and my mother who seemed determined to keep me in lock down by scapegoating me further. I wish I could say, that at that time, I was strong enough to break out, but I wasn’t.

If you have spent a life time being told that who you are, isn’t who you are, that what you feel isn’t what you feel, its not so easy to break free.  In my case I needed others around me who actually saw who I was and the person I was struggling to be, that got buried so many years earlier.  I also needed to be part of a group of others who were determined to bust through facades and come clean about the true reality of their deeper selves, all the ways in which they had put on fronts, consciously or unconsciously to hide the secret of who they were.

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If you have spent years locked in an addiction, as I had and then get into recovery the point is this : that the false self has to crack.  As I recovered and reviewed my history it became clear to me that my addiction began to escalate around the time I was forced to follow a career of my father’s choosing, rather than pursue the one was dear to my heart. Along that path part of me went into a deep freeze.

I looked to substances and other outside sources of soothing and comfort that would help me to unfreeze and liberate some of the buried energy I had locked down deep inside.  At my Saturn return the pain of the distance between my true and false selves began to squeeze and cause me a great deal of pain.

Prior to finding recovery and dealing with my addiction I make a conscious effort to make a move away from what was imprisoning me.  Thus began a journey that led me to recovery and along the way as things began to thaw I had to navigate some fairly powerful emotions.  Emotions that most certainly were not acceptable to my spouse or my family.

In her book Perrera makes the point that the scapegoat carries, for the collective of which it is a part, energies that have been placed in the shadow and are so necessary for wholeness.  Rather than accepted these energies are exiled to wilderness, that wilderness may lead the scapegoat to the acting out of addiction.  While engaged in the addiction the scapegoat is expressing the pain of their entrapment and exile.  Once consciously navigated this pain can act as the motivation for spell breaking, for finding ways to explore and release the repressed and trapped energies which so long ago were exiled, but only to the degree that we reach an understanding of the role we have had to take on, of necessity.

Its interesting to me that as a child I was expressive, strong, outspoken and emotional.  By the time I was an adolescent I had turned into someone who was awkward, insecure, shy and uncertain.   It is obvious to me now that I became that way as my true self was never mirrored by the collective of which I was a part.

The exception to that was my eldest sister.  A scapegoat herself, she saw me, she got me, but unfortunately she had a cerebral bleed when I was 18.  Perhaps the powerful underground message that I absorbed from this tragedy was that it was dangerous to be strong, to be independent, to be expressive and to try to break free.  Indeed my sister moved away from home when I was only 3.  She returned when I was 17 and things rapidly fell apart.  The consequences of her trauma causing rifts in a family which was set to undergo it own transformative splintering.

In the end my sister suffered exile to a home, where most members of my family had little contact with her.  I was lucky enough to witness the entire collapse, her attempt to take her life and then diagnosis and drugging that followed and kept her trapped in that role.  I am sorry to say that I was “lucky” enough, but I was having this conversation yesterday with a close friend, who is himself the youngest in a large family about the gifts of being the younger.  We get to witness and learn a lot.  In my case, being an outsider came with gifts.  And I made the choice not to have children and have them carry my own pain before I could process it and become conscious of it.

At times in different groups I have been aware that I have taken on a scapegoat role, being exiled or thrown out of the group, due to the fact I was suffering emotionally.  As an active addict I was an easy target for others scapegoat projections.  What was so important for me during the course of my recovery was to break my own identification with both scapegoat and victim.  I have just been re-reading Eckhardt Tolle’s power of now and in it he makes the following comment:

There is a great deal of unconscious ego investment in pain and suffering.

I had a bit of an ah-ha moment when I read that comment.  My exile is only painful to me when I identify being part of the group as a cherished ideal.  In truth, though at times it can be lonely, not feeling apart of things brings a far greater freedom.  Its amazing how the unconscious process we undergo also brings insights at certain moments, from deep within when we have been elaborating on certain truths.

Last night I had powerful dream that the group of which I have been a part for some years, told me that I was no longer welcome there. “You are just too outspoken” they said.  I walked away feeling there was nothing I could do, that I most certainly did not belong, that who I was in my deepest self had been rejected and that I was now on my own.

On waking I was aware of a very powerful underground grief and a dull headache.  Over the day it has passed.  I am not totally sure what to make of this dream but it was no surprise when I looked into the ephemeris to see that the Sun had passed into 00 degress Leo today and that I was undergoing my annual solar opposition to Mars Saturn Moon in Aquarius.

Yesterday following a conversation with one of the leaders of this group I had a knot of pain in my stomach telling me that what had occured during our conversation was all about invalidation.  I had been aware of this before and not honoured my true feelings.

Deep in the twelfth house the Sun is transiting.  Energy has been low, but I am feeling the rumblings of that slumbering Lion.  Currently Venus and Mercury are behind the Sun and we are heading in a few days towards the dark of the Moon prior to the annual Leo New Moon.

Maybe the Lion roars too loudly at times, but what if its trapped cries have been imprisoned for ages.  The thorn in its paw hurts and it may be taking some time for it to heal.  Still I am glad of the Leo/Lion energy and find a great primal beauty in it.  It appears to me such an antidote to the loaded Aquarian energies of my own chart.  With my Sun’s ruler Uranus in the sign of the Lion and in the first house opposing the seventh, was I ever really going to feel like I belonged in the group?

In a conversation with my Mum last week she said “You never wanted to do what everyone else wanted to do”.  What I do remember is that at times there were very painful things going on, I just energetically did not want to be a part of.  It occurs to me that over later years I pretended that I did and even came to believe there was something wrong with me for feeling this way.

Apparently this is not an unusual situation for empaths.  Sadly in the past, the price of being outcast just seemed too expensive to pay.  I am beginning to realise now that maybe at times, its better to be able to be alone in that and be real, rather than pretend and loose my self, my way and my authentic voice and feelings.  If others like it or lump it is that really my business?  As I continue on this ongoing journey that is my life I pray for the strength and courage to be true to me. And to find the power and strength in times of aloneness.

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