Feeling my darkness – longing for light

Vulnerability is the birth place of all we hunger for

joy creativity faith and love

and there is none of this without risking failure

Be open enough to take the risk to fail.

Brene Brown

Ever since beginning this breast cancer journey I have been more and more aware of the degree of pain and suffering of my life, I notice also that a lot of my focus at times is on the pain and suffering.  It seemed from adolescence onward so many difficult experiences transpired, things that isolated me and took me away from others that it was almost as if I was captured by the darkness.  I now see however I wish to reach for light, for joy, for happiness but could it be that not being too familiar with these things at times I get stuck in a darkness rut?

Lately I am also realising that because my own relationship with my mother was not easy (there were already many hurts in place by adolescence) my ability to connect deeply with girlfriends was damaged to a degree.  I found it difficult to reach out and trust.  To open my heart to connection again.  I can see all of this now in hindsight and because of the amount of work I have done in therapy.  There were always reasons for what happened and life was really a healing journey in which pain would be a very powerful teacher.

In early recovery from addiction I was already very interested in astrology and archetypes, those eternal patterns of human psychological process, understanding and symbology, myths and stories which give meaning to the profound passages we humans go through on the soul’s journey.

When I came across Roger Woodger’s book on the Goddess archetypes and read about Persephone who in astrology and mythology is the feminine aspect of the archetype and planet Pluto I became aware of the underworld themes of my own life reflected in her story.  I became aware that I was a Persephone woman myself.

Persephone is a goddess who lived in the underworld, she has a strong connection to the underground psyche, the great unconscious both personal and collective.  She underwent painful profound passages of loss and stripping away which marked her for this kind of knowing of cycles of birth, loss, death and transformation.  Persephone women are no strangers to suffering, the may have gone through abuse which leads them to become addicts.  They may have had to relegate huge parts of themselves to the Underground.  They may not have been fully accepted by family or culture and this may have sent them out on a journey where they had to be alone and in knowing aloneness they came to know their own soul well and through this understanding of human pain and vulnerability they end up developing insight into others too.

As I am writing this it has occurred to me that understanding and acceptance of this life journey, painful as it can be at times enriches us.  I also means we can be more accepting of our need for alone time to reconnect with the self and don’t have to struggle as hard to be liked or be one of the crowd.

As a young person feeling different this was not how I felt.  I longed to belong to the crowd, to be attractive, easy to get along with and popular but now I see that if I had been these things I would not have been totally me.  Also due to my own negative self concept I may have also judged myself to be less liked or loved than circumstances are now revealing to me that I am.  I also misunderstood that standing on the sidelines and observing did not necessarily mean I was disconnected,  in a way I was more connected to insights and impressions.

My recent hospital stay has brought up for me so many aspects of my damaged past.  The scary near death motor crash of 1979, the three months of hospitalisation pinned to a bed where I could not leave and my range of motion was restricted.  The months of isolation from friends and school, my tentative return and then very close to the coming out of hospital my sister’s cerebral bleed which over the next two years fractured our family relationships and in four years led to my father’s death.  My trip over to the other side of the world where more difficult relationships ensued as I struggled to live and connect.  The four painful abandonments by partners who in leaving blamed me, after treating me cruelly.  My loss of belief in myself and descent into addiction and then my painful realisation that I needed to enter recovery.  The attempt to turn my life around over the next 10 years, the ending of my marriage, entry into a narcissistic relationship and two other accidents.  My entry into therapy and struggle to find the right help.  My sister’s suicide attempt, mother’s illness following major surgery, my older sister’s death and my recent diagnosis with breast cancer.  Phew, that is an enormous amount of suffering and difficulty.

As I write all of this down today I am filled with awe in a way that something in me that is strong has survived and lived through all of this and today I am reminded too that in time all of these conditions passed.  I do believe that despite the dark I have known I can still find the light on many  days.  Indeed it seems the reward for being in the dark and passing through painful feelings or allowing them to pass through and transform me I find the light.  And this is one of the functions of Persephone/Pluto.  We are transformed by opening up to vulnerability and pain and allowing ourselves to be transformed by the darkness which can scare others.

Deep in my soul I know that due to my own Pluto Moon in true mythological Plutonian fashion I am the one whose path has led into the burning flames many times and that after time I do come out transformed, even if black at times and covered in soot and dismissed, disregarded and rejected by those who never knew the full extent of my journey.   And in this I am most certainly not alone as there are so many of you out there enduring your own dark passages and living to tell the tale, with learnings to speak of and share.  I read about all of your journeys here.  It truly is a long and winding road.

Many times over the past few days in hospital the words of that Beatles song have come to me:

Many times I’ve been alone

And many times I’ve cried

Anyway you’ll never know

The many ways I’ve tried

But still they lead me back

To the long winding road

I am still walking the road, even if at the moment following my time in hospital I am resting more.  In some miraculous way in my hour of greatest need people I have felt abandoned by or who did not understand have showed up to support me.  I don’t know if even a year ago I could have opened my heart to allow in this support and love of me in.  I don’t know if I would have felt worthy enough or had healed enough of my own co-dependence.

A few years ago I could not have reached out and expressed my sadness and need at not receiving help, nor given people a chance to know how I was truly feeling.  Its been scary at times to unmask this vulnerability and need and to tell the truth of my story.

I lately often get told by one family member that I am lucky but the truth is I think I have expressed myself more than this person and asked for help.  I have shown that I am vulnerable in a way they have not and it feels a bit invalidating to be told I am lucky when in fact I have taken steps even on the darkest days to reach in some way for the light.

Through blogging, through trips to the park with my dog, through making phone calls to connect with others by life has expanded a little more towards happiness and joy.   By leaving my prison of isolation and pain which at times seemed too large and by taking risks to be truthful and express the dark even though my fear was I would be judged and rejected I have found support and love.

My Leo North Node lesson in any case is all about this.  Its about developing a voice and a will and a power of self expression that is assertive rather than aggressive.  When I started my recent chiropractic treatment which involves breathing and connecting into the navel, heart and throat centres it was my throat centre that was still more blocked than the other two.  I was taught to connect to my gut and tapping it a few times to “speak up”.  My mother’s generation’s pain (1920-1930) was silenced. They could not speak up. They had to endure.  Later generations are turning this around.  Deep inside me there was so much pain it was hard to vocalise or ‘cough up’.

The reward over the last few weeks for opening up my throat and asking and expressing has been love.  I have never felt more surrounded with love and for this I feel so grateful.

At times when I blog I still criticise and judge my own darkness.  When I publish some raw pieces and I don’t get many likes part of me feels I should change my expression, not be so raw.  But I know that this would not be right because I need to be authentic and my value does not rest on anyone else’s opinion.  Learning and living that truth is part of co-dependence recovery.

I feel the journey that we take into the dark is the journey to rescue ourselves.  In the end no one else can do it.  We have to face the fear of the dark and embrace it anyway and we have to be honest, even if our vision is dark and challenges other people. They have a right to their vision, we have a right to ours.  Once we take self responsibility others seem to be more willing to show up.  At least that is my experience.

Opening up and asking has meant having to feel a lot of fear.  One of my deepest fears has been that if I asked for help I would be overpowered.  I now know that was an old fear.  I have the boundaries to say something now if my boundaries are transgressed.

In a moment of synchronicity while writing this I checked my Reader in WordPress and following a shame link came across the Soul Sunday video interviews between Oprah Winfrey and shame researcher Brene Brown.  In one video Brene spoke about our cultures fear of vulnerability and the dark she also spoke about how it is the birthplace of all that we hunger for.  Some of her words headlined this piece I was writing this afternoon.

Today after four or so dark days the light is returning for me.  It feels as though Persephone is coming up for air on one of her upper world visits just in time for the Pisces New Moon tomorrow that falls not very far away from opposition with my natal Pluto in the first house.  So I guess this blog is right on time.  And the day ends with me feeling so much stronger  and lighter than I was this time yesterday, aware of so much more, grateful too for so much.

The need to express

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.

Pete Walker

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.

 

 

Facing Fear

I wrote this post just over a week ago.  It turns out that the diagnosis my sister was awaiting was a positive test for breast cancer.  I am posting this today as I walked through the fear of going with her to receive the results on Tuesday.   I am learning that when I feel fear I must reach for a place to love myself through it and take the steps to move forward, rather than letting it paralyse me or hold me back :

I am reaching a point where I want to embrace my fear and take action and still feel hope and love for myself and everyone even in the midst of this fear so that I don’t spin out totally and loose touch with my safe ground.  I also do not want to allow my fear to paralyse me like it does at times.  I think the further I go on this journey the more insight into myself I obtain.

Today I felt a lot of fear as my sister had to go for a biopsy following a routine mammogram.  The results will not be known until Tuesday but I felt immediately scared and began to spin out a little. I used self talk to calm myself and contain the negativity and fear that was arising.  The other thing was the sadness that came up when I spoke to my sister and the realisation, after I got off the phone,  that all of this is occurring at exactly the same time of year as my father was diagnosed with cancer in 1984.

Those memories are pertinent at this time of year, even though it was so many years ago.  I am powerless really over the outcome of the test for my sister.  I can only be there to love and support.  My sister sounded so strong and positive on the phone.  As we spoke she said she had been in melt down earlier, especially after she had spoken to her sons.  I am reminded of the day my mother called to ask me to come and visit her and Dad and Dad had to give me the news of his own cancer.  How hard that must be for a parent.  How painful it was for both of us but the love that was felt too as I crossed the room to hug my Dad and he dissolved in tears.

Until the outcome of the biopsy is known I can do nothing and worry will rob my day from me and keep me paralysed.  At times like this I always think of the serenity prayer

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

The first step is to figure out if it is something I have any power over to change.  If it is not I can pray for acceptance and serenity and take active steps to put those in my day by engaging in something that brings joy and good energy for me.  If it is something I can change and need to find courage for I can take a deep breath and go forward holding my fear by the hand and acting anyway.

Even if it is a negative result I know I have the resilience to cope.  I was able to be by my other sister’s side in the last days of her life and accept it was time to turn off the life support and let her go.  I could cry and tell her all the things I didn’t get to say to my Dad, as his death was sudden under an emergency procedure and I had been unable to visit him the night before.

Many years ago I could not work through these feelings.  It took until 15 years later for them to come out of the deep freeze and numbing of my addiction.  These days though I miss him, I know I have grieved.  Some days I am still grieving for my sister who has died.  Some days I am grieving for myself and other days for my Mum too.  Grief will not destroy me.  I do not need to fear it.  I need only feel it and know it as part of what it means to love and face the final earthly separation.

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.

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.

I Held Up a Mirror and I saw You

I am going through my drafts as this is the last day of 2015 and posting some incomplete blogs I found there.  This is the first:

This is a bit of a stream of consciousness inspired by a couple of blogs posted on An Upturned Soul’s site over the past week on attraction.  The astrologically minded may be aware that we are in the midst of a retrograde transit of the planet Mercury in the sign ruled by Venus, Libra which deals with aspects of relationship and attractions, the opposing of different qualities which seem opposed but often have shadow associations to each other such as dark/light, extravert/introvert, happy/sad, positive/negative.

My attention was drawn to the fact that at an astrological tutorial I attended on Venus retrograde given by the astrologer Melaine Reinhardt in London in 2002 she called attention to the fact that the symbol for Venus is like a hand mirror.  Venus relates to relationships but also to the idea of relationship as a mirror in which we are reflected or our image is refracted by the projections of the other holding it.

While writing that last line I had a image of a hand mirror with two faces superimposed on each other.  They may have been my face and the face of ex partner with whom I had all kinds of experiences and conflicts and who still haunts me (but not as negatively as he did when we first broke up).

What he saw when he saw me, was at first someone admirable in that I had been in recovery for addiction. That later became a source of conflict and angst while around his drinking buddies who thought getting trashed and hurting oneself was a source of great amusement.  Sorry to seem like a wet blanket but that idea horrified me, having lived the all too painful reality of it first hand and I was honest about my feelings which I was then told were wrong and just a source of difficulty for him as so many of my feelings and thoughts were.

Where am I going with this?  Well I guess its about how quickly that which was initially viewed as positive could become so negative for him and how the image in the mirror over time could morph from one of attraction to one of repulsion, had I changed?  No.  The image projected on me had changed.

Love and hate. Two sides of one coin?  Some people cant see it.  Carl Jung once wrote the opposite of love is not hate it is indifference.  The hatred and antipathy we feel towards something has to come out a feeling of desire to it be a certain way, to be in relationship with it in a particular way which is then frustrated and we have a hard time loving that thing or person once it seems to change and no longer fulfil our need.

I’m thinking about this a bit at the moment as I am writing a little about adequate holding environments in childhood and later in life, those relationships in which it is safe to experience a myriad of reactions and emotions both so called “positive” and “negative”.  It seems how we react to a particularly strong emotion has less to say about that emotion and the other person expressing it as it does about us and vice versa.

For a long time my family would never fail to upset me by reacting to my sadness or anger with fear and revulsion.  I have written many blogs about it over the past two or so years most especially while the planet Saturn was moving through the Pluto ruled sign Scorpio (which has to do with powerful emotions and resentment).  It took me some time to realise how they reacted was less about me that it was about them.  I did not realise that they were actually scared by my emotions, in just the same way their own emotions scared them.

Once I understood I was dealing with fear it was easier for me to accept their reactions. This occurred in the process of Saturn squaring my natal Uranus in the first house and I have another blog to write about this which highlights how my expectations of them were unrealistic and I had much to resolve about how emotions, needs, confrontations, emotionally honesty and feelings were dealt with in my family.  Note that Saturn was also at the time square to my natal Chiron in the seventh house which has to do with difficulties in expressing and dealing with conflict.

What I have learned as a result of this is about the importance of protest and its expression in the early childhood years in helping us to develop a better relationship with more primal emotions of frustration, disappointment and anger.  An adequate holding environment enables us to express what may be painful for others to hear without being shut down or judged for being bad which lead to a binding of all too human emotions in shame.  In his book Healing the Shame That Binds You, recovering alcoholic John Bradshaw shows the critical role shame bound emotions play in addiction and how important healing our shame is in healing from addiction.

Often the shame we feel about our emotions isn’t really ours in the first place.  It never was.  On some level we know this but its a truth we hold deep inside that many of us can’t know we know until a long way down the track.   Learning about fear and shame especially when it is projected upon us seems to me a most essential lesson as we go along the path of healing especially for those of us who were raised in low nurturance and low empathetic house holds.

How could parents who could not understand or express their own repressed emotions understand our or help us to express them?  In the end the work is ours and the relationships we meet and the reactions too can teach us a lot about our past, about where we are and are not seen, where we trapped in old patterns that we need to heal and let go of.

Its taking a while for the fog to clear

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In my part of the world we are heading towards the shortest day of the year, and also the coldest time of the year.  Each morning of the week we have been having real pea souper fogs and on one of my early morning awakenings, that time when all kinds of thoughts are flowing through my brain, I got to thinking of how metaphorical this image of deep fog was for my own life and journey.

In the world of recovery from addiction and healing of narcissism and  narcissistic issues, the acronym of FOG on some sites stands for the concepts of Fear Obligation and Guilt which can beleaguer so many of us on this journey of healing from the wounds of  emotional scarring, loss of care and love for self all of which are part of co-dependency.  There is the shame and fear of feeling not good enough which can lead us into some very painful patterns.  In the work of my own recovery from addiction the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have played a huge part.  The Fourth Step speaks of a searching and fearless moral inventory, one in which we get down and honest with the prime drivers that propel us emotionally in order to understand who we are and how we are motivated to take certain actions, to manage difficult feelings.  Feelings which motivate  may not even be conscious for those of us who grew up in dysfunctional families with parents who found it hard to express their own feelings effectively, let alone mirror and help us understand our own.  The legacy of this is that it is can be very hard to identify our feelings, to understand and make sense of them, and yet this is the work that we engage in when we take the 12 step journey.  In this part of the work we begin to explore what may be our primary coping strategies, what are termed so called “defects of character”.  I have never really liked that term but I guess it is one way of trying to describe patterns that trip us up.

As I explored my own inventory it seemed to me that fear and shame played a huge part in what was driving me.  It did not even occur to me that before entering recovery that it was okay to admit to fear, that in admitting to it and accepting it would be the best way through.  Most especially when I was engaged in a relationship with someone not in recovery and with narcissistic tendencies, the mere mention of fear was a huge no no.  Fears were to be banished since they made you an inferior person, they were not embraced and understood or held in the healing attention of awareness.  Luckily in my Al Anon  support group I was to learn about the three A’s which are necessary to deal with every single defect or difficulty.  They are

Awareness

Acceptance

Action

In order to understand a thing and to grow I need to have an awareness of what it actually is that I am dealing with.  For most of my life I have been told exactly the opposite.  Don’t worry about that, I’m sure it won’t be a problem, just act as if its not a problem, ignore it, discount it or dismiss it and it will go away.  Sorry to offend you now but that is not actually for me a recipe for emotional growth and self understanding.  Certainly it is not helpful for me to be possessed and controlled by fear but until I actually have that awareness and can accept what is occurring I am not actually in a position to do anything about it.

Part of growing up in a dysfunctional way is that we are told not to trust the evidence of our own instincts, feelings, intuitions and senses.  Sure enough, at times we can, due to fear, see and imagine things that just aren’t there, but at times those things we see, feel, intuit and sense are right on the money and we need to be affirmed in understanding that we got it right and that we do have the power to seel, feel, intuit and understand in the way that is right for us.

I am coming to understand that for the Obligation and Guilt aspects of Fog to work we need, especially for the narcissists purposes, to be possessed by fear.  To be manipulated we also to have a disordered or back to front understanding of our own rights and responsibilities, at least when it comes to our relationships with others.

At the moment I have a sister suffering with depression.  As I see it at base her depression is a symptom of her disempowerment or her deep disconnection from her own sense of value and needs.  It is  also symptom of her disordered relationship to her own feelings and sense of responsibility, to her personal power.  My own fears for her often cloud this clearer vision, I sense it in my gut, but am powerless over it too.   When our collective family fears coalesce and solutions are force out of fear I find myself easily co-opted into the caretaking or rescuing role by these fears.  Then I suffer from  deeply unconscious feelings of anger and frustration that have no other avenue but through my own twisted body.  Fear Obligation and Guilt keep me stuck in trying to make better something that is outside of my own hands, my sister’s well being and happiness.   But Fear Oblligation and Guilt have kept me stuck in a fog for some time.

I was so thankful today to be referred to the following link by Ursula of Unupturned Soul today:  http://www.angriesout.com/grow20.htm.  It is an extremely detailed article on the roles we play in the family and most especially the triangulaged roles of Perpetrator, Rescuer and Victim.  In my own case I would say I most identify with the last two roles.  For those of you who are astrologically minded I have a very strong natal Neptune which is configured with the personal planets of relationship, communication, self expression and need, Venus, Mercury, Sun and Moon.  Tie that in with the nodal axis and the planet Jupiter which magnifies it to an extreme and I am set up for both of these patterns, but most especially the rescuer

I am having to watch my tendency to get into this rescuer pattern in my family at the moment.  In our particular family the roles of victim and rescuer seem to alternate depending on how much running from feelings is being done at any one time.  We are all set up for it by fear of loss, since we have all suffered a huge amount of loss over the years.

I must confess it is with the victim role, too that I have had to do a lot of work over the past few years.  Victim keeps me in a disempowered place where it is not possible to find solutions, in which personal unhappiness is passed off onto others, making then responsible for what they are not.  Its taken me some years to get it.  When the fog clears and the Sun starts to shine out the key truth it illumines is that I am responsible for taking the actions which lead to my own personal happiness.  In short others can support and love me, but ultimately they have little power or control over my own happiness or unhappiness, unless I give that to them.  And the truth is the longer I stay stuck in FOG the less likely am I to find and embrace my own happiness.

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Guess what?  The sun is now shining out on the day here in Canberra, Australia.  The sky has turned from foggy grey to the clearest blue.  A few wispy clouds are about being pushed by the breeze and as I sit in what was a cold room there is now light and heat, energy and warmth that was not here before.  I am no longer needing to cuddle little Jasper to keep warm.

It never ceases to amaze me lately how the weather seems to mirror inner conditions and circumstances.  Is this coming out of the Sun a reminder for me of the strength and energy that comes when I take action to dispel the forces of FOG in my own life?  I seem to think so.  I have a strong Saturn so shame and guilt have been huge motivating factors in my life, all the more so in all the years they were so unconscious.   At I see it this fear shame guilt dynamic is not just personal but deeply a result of our collective conditioning too.  Don’t such forces underlie what is an deeply narcissistic culture?  The only freedom I find from them is in having the awareness and acceptance around their role in my life.

Acceptance does not mean I need to love a thing but only with it can I take action to change what I can, and only with that awareness and acceptance will action will be likely since so much energy is no longer being put into denial of what is.  Understanding the forces of guilt and shame as well as other aspects of FOG, being around others who are writing about it and dealing with it too. That is where I find my healing.

The following quote comes from the above link and it really spoke to me:

Start with yourself to accept that you are a person with strong feelings that were born of trauma and injustice that call out now for transformation.

I don’t have any control over the incidents that led me to develop a powerful load of shame and guilt, but I do feel that a powerful shift for transformation is being triggered as transiting Chiron stations to turn retrograde in opposition to natal Pluto.  Pluto in the first house gives me the desire to transform the dark corners of my soul and dig deep to excavate my own identity outside of roles and relationships.  Pluto too, brings a fire to pierce the fog of Neptune illusion and bring clarity and light.   I am drawing great warmth from lighting fires as we head towards the depths of winter here in the Southern Hemisphere.

Armed with that understanding I’m off to enjoy some sunshine. 🙂