Getting in touch with my inner child

As I am going deeper and deeper in my therapy I am becoming much more aware of the pain of my inner child and her struggle to bond and connect. A little while ago I was lucky to come across a book called Addiction as An Attachment Disorder,  by the psychotherapist Philip J. Flores.

In this book he explains how when we have difficulty attaching as a child to a parent, difficulty in being mirrored, affirmed and understood, we have difficulty connecting later both in our relationship to ourselves and our emotions and as a result in our relationship to other human beings.

In the vacuum that forms we learn to attach to substances, which seem to fill the void left but don’t actually do so, with the result we are left even more hungry and filled with despair on an emotional level. It is easy to see how overconsumption and addictions result when we are this out of tune and don’t know what the hunger and pain is really about.

When we seek sobriety and remove the addiction we are left with the deep hole that emotional neglect has left.  We also, at first, find it difficult to make sense of and understand complex needs and feelings we never learned to understand and regulate  growing up.

It seems to me that then if we are in 12 step programmes we may come to believe the wrongly that the fault is in us, in a sense it is in that we are reaching for the wrong thing to fill us up now, but on another level we were not responsible for the fact that in being unable to bond with a caregiver, receive validation, comfort, nurturing love and understanding we naturally reached for substances, things and relationships to fill the void that was left and failed to mature.

However we are responsible in sobriety to learn what the wound of emotional neglect, failure to bond and lack of connection to our feelings and to needs and to others is really about.  The true nature of our childhood wound needs to be understood and grieved on a real level, rather than medicated with the wrong things.

Healing involves acknowledging what happened, mourning what we missed, longed for and never really received so that that pain becomes the fuel to recover and make healthier choices.   It also involves a long journey to become aware of ourselves and our feelings and needs as well as those of others.  One legacy of a wounded or damaged inner child is that our capacity to see others as separate may not have developed adequately.

One way we may try to heal  a wound of emotional neglect is that we become the parent or the caring one for our emotionally absent parent in an attempt to bond. When we were young if we were emotionally sensitive we probably felt their deep wound any way. I know this was true for me.

Later in life we may try to heal both wounds through caretaking. The truth is our caretaking cannot heal the original wound in either of us. It is a huge wake up call to realise a long way down the track what we may have sacrificed in our own life in order to do this while not being fully conscious.

This is where I find myself today. I found myself mourning so deeply today after a telephone call to my Mum. I was left with the deepest sadness and pain of my inner child over her insensitivity to my own needs that went so far back and I was also full of sadness for her insensitivity to her own feelings. Despite the fact of the anger and pain she has caused me for my own neglect, I still feel sad for my Mum who seems to have no way of expressing the deep grief she holds and has been carrying for years, to the extent now that her legs are all swollen with fluid and she is on all kinds of medications.

It is being pointed out to me in therapy that her sadness is not mine to carry, but still at times I feel powerless in the redeemer role I set for myself.

Today I really sat with my inner child after this conversation with my Mum. I felt anger and hatred towards her at the same time I felt the deep, deep longing for her love. While sitting with myself and allowing all of this pain to rise up I said to my inner child.

“Little Debs, please tell me about your pain growing up, I really want to hear you and be there for you and to know how it was for you. I want to give you comfort.”

Lots of tears came and my child took me back to the times I was in a world of adults wandering around feeling invisible and longing to have my feelings and true needs noticed instead of ignored. It felt like I wandered so very long and was so very lost and confused for so, so long looking for the path home to me, making connections watching them break when my rage came out then understanding the pain underneath.  Trying to give love to both sisters in their damage, pursuing finally my own addiction recovery only to discover I was deeply co-dependent myself and had so much work to do to grow.

I was also made aware of the many times I ignored my own true needs and feelings.

“Why won’t you listen to me when I tell you what I need?” my inner child cried.

“I have been in so much pain, I need for you to feel the pain, to hold it in order to gain understanding.”

In contemplating this dialogue and through some of the investigation I have been doing into anger and pain lately I am beginning to realise the difference between acting out pain and holding it consciously in love, working through and processing it, without stuffing it.

Often I have acted out my pain and fear in rage. At the time I did not realise that was what I was doing. I did it in my last relationship where I was hurt deeply by similar behaviours of ignoring and neglect and downright insensitivity that mirrored my child hood. But acting out my rage never served any purpose but to show me where my needs were not being met and it often led to me feeling deeply ashamed.  There had been no conscious adult there to hold my child’s rage.  For me the healing only came after the acting out when I could realise this, grieve it and act in a healthier way on what I needed to do for me.

I am conscious lately that there is no where to go in my family to get my true feelings acknowledged. The truth is that only I can do that for myself and the curious thing is that often when I stand firm and true in this way and acknowledge my own feelings they sometimes get validation from my family. I do get my feelings acknowledged in therapy and often on and through blogging, reading blogs and sharing. I thank God for those sweet victories.

Coming to know what my true feelings are is so important, understanding that they were not met in childhood and how suppression of that truth led me to addictions has been a long journey in sobriety for me (It has taken over 20 years).

It seems to me that any encounter I have with my family of two (sister and mother) ends up in hurt for me. It has taken me over four years of different hurts occurring to see this. I am the one who sets myself up for it by hoping it will be better next time. At the same time I am realising that asking for intimate connection with people who are not intimately connected to themselves is not realistic. However, the hurt that comes when I see them doing things together taps the old wound that I am on the outside.

As a child I felt on the outside my sister and mother worked together. At one point this sister was a boss to me, a very tough boss. I am on the outside but it doesn’t need to be a lonely place if I am there for me. Even now they are forming an alliance of two, but today when I shared about all of this with my therapist she said “that must feel really painful seeing them do things together but the point is they aren’t really connecting, they are just doing things together.”   The truth is I feel most deeply connected when I am in touch with my true needs and feelings with or without them.

After being with my inner child to day it seems to be that for so long my inner child had nowhere to go to get her true feelings heard. In my last relationship silencing of my true feelings was essential to being accepted.

It is now so important that I be there for me. That I listen to my inner child’s pain, that I hold her hand and tell her that her feelings matter. It seems clear to me that the only healing that can come for me now is in being my own parent. Understanding how emotional neglect led to here means also being diligent in taking steps to ensure that such emotional neglect no longer continues from within me.

I also need to find a place for this child in me to grow and to connect with others in a healthy way, that does not involve caretaking. I long to connect to others and don’t always know how for today that is all I can express.

The wound in my child throbbed today, I felt the scars both on the inside and being coughed out too.

For today I just have these realisations, new realisations on a path of recovery that goes on. I am feeling so young today. I am aware that I have not fully matured because for years I seem to have been stuck in pattern of looking outside for mothering and fathering. There is pain in that (and some shame too) and awareness of much more work that need to be done to allow myself to grow in new and healthier directions.  And yet I am growing.

Sometimes it is tough work to allow myself to feel this vulnerable but I do know that in allowing the vulnerability to be and to be seen I grow in strength and authenticity.

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.

The loving gaze

I wrote this post earlier in the week.

As a child we need the loving eyes of the mother to connect with, to mirror us. I had a powerful experience in today’s body work session as my therapist was working with my spine.  I was standing upright and she was touching me gently around the heart, one hand on the front and the other behind.

As usually happens, she was reminding me to breathe. At that moment I had trouble breathing and then I was pulled deeply into a past traumatic time/memory  :  I am in the car with my lungs crushed by the steering wheel and my teeth broken, legs cut with car pieces inside them, searing pain although me, struggling to breathe as my lung is pierced by a rip and fluid flows inward, paramedics behind me with a mask trying to put it over my face which I wanted to fight and twist to push off.

My therapist kept her gaze on mine and I felt anxious at connecting to her gaze being so powerfully drawn in by the trauma and in the session, her gaze became for me an anchor to connect me with present time. My tendency is to dissociate back into the trauma which obviously still lives for me on a body level.

As she was looking into my eyes with love and telling me I was safe a huge well of emotion rose up. Trauma takes you into a lonely place where it seems no one else can accompany you. It is about a split or a removal from a place of connectedness and love where you are flooded with pain and no one can help you or reach you. You feel yourself to be so alone.

On the day of my accident all those years ago I was conscious enough to be able to give the paramedics my mother and father’s telephone number. Mum came to the site of the accident and rode with me in the ambulance. I was lucky to be found. At the time I was so caught up in my own experience I had not consciousness of its impact on others.

I have relived this event in another cranio-sacral session many years ago after which I had a bike accident and the pattern was repeated, except this time I was on the other side of the world with no support, only my ex husband and his mother who didn’t want to have to really be bothered with me. It was a dark and lonely time.

Glimpses of light came. The beautiful girl from my Dad’s home down in Holland who came to help me with my shopping and be a companion when I needed it. I don’t know how I would have survived without her.

And yet then again the family I was with were unable to cope and I made the decision to take myself to Glastonbury and an ashram away from the support of my friend.  This is a pattern for me.  Uranus and Pluto in the first house.

There are imprints and echoes for me at this time of year which represents the time I was in hospital in 1979 in the final term of school unable to attend my graduation and of that journey to the underworld over in England later in 2005.

It takes time to integrate the overwhelming nature of trauma. I am still deep in process. I seem to be making progress.

Last week was hard. I had four days where the trauma pulled me in, what pulls me out each time is talking to someone, my best friend, my Mum or the Lifeline counsellor on the days no one else is answering the phone call.

Without love and connection there is nothing to form  a link into the traumatised reality and the fact it scares others, since we are undergoing enormous fear means we can be abandoned again. As a trauma sufferer who has often lashed out I am grateful for those who understand and don’t abandon me. I think of the times I was alone as a child and there was no set of eyes to see me. To hold me in a loving gaze.

It is something my recently deceased sister used to give me, in the absence of my Mum’s care she was there, until she married and went overseas. In later life in the care home she would often gaze on me with love. She too was traumatised, she was stuck, it’s a family pattern.

I am not entirely sure where this blog has gone. I just came home from the dog park where I have not been able to connect with the group I usually connect to. They are caught up in an easy banter and joking that on some days I just cannot participate in.

I need to just play with my dog and have some simple time together where we are not frozen in place by conversation but are free to move about the park. I am aware today how important movement is for me.

The longing for the loving gaze from the wrong quartes is not as strong now I have the therapeutic support. Being seen, held and understood makes it easier to do this for myself.

For now I want to write about the experience as it so important that those living within a traumatised reality are understood and attempts made to connect with them.

You do not know what even a kindly smile can do for a person who may not have seen or been able to connect with anyone else all day. In the end its love that heals, its non judgemental awareness and presence which makes trauma bearable for us.  Even if you cannot understand, even it scares you, please try.  And if you cannot, please try to be kind.  Do not devastate us more with your misunderstanding, fear and judgement.

Feeling my heart : Reflections on Venus

Certain sadnesses will always be with me, that is my thought for today.

In our modern way, so ignorant of the true nature of feelings and a heart centred way of being we sometimes talk a lot about resolution and closure. I think these are a myth at times. In some cases we resolve feelings and issues that were painful or sad but those deeply painful sad things that happen to us and because of us we are powerless over and can’t change, those experiences or loves that really, truly and deeply hurt or scarred us remain and we will revisit them from time to time the sadness will rise up like a flood on some days and drown the landscape of our souls for a period.

It is like that for me today. I had a resistance today towards seeing my counsellor, I am beginning to realise that great as it is to talk through issues for a time in order to gain understanding and insight, at times I just need to be able to feel my way into my heart, dancing helps me, writing sometimes, most especially listening to music.

I was feeling deeply centred in my heart today as I did a whirling dervish Sufi dance around my house in the sunlight this morning to my favourite song about longing and heartache.  I felt my heart alive in my chest buzzing with all the feelings, sad as it was, it was also kind of delicious.

There were no ideas in my head, I was having a fully lived body experience that was so real and it time these feelings passed, as they do.

In the midst of this I was then led to an insight, it was about feelings and the heart.  I wondered if it is the shutting off from our hearts and taking refuge in our heads that leads us into so much difficulty on this planet at times.

Ideas are surely wonderful things, nothing would probably have been created if it did not start out as an idea in someone’s head. And ideas can really turn me on and interest me, engaging my full attention.  Nevertheless the true, fleshy, delightful experience of being alive is for me filled with sensation and is about feelings : how we express and relate to them.

It is interesting to me as I write that this is really the domain of Venus (thinking and feeling with the heart). I was reading a blog recently where someone was speaking about Venus being the indicator of someone’s relationship style. My understanding is a bit different. I believe Venus has to do with how our very body and instincts and feelings were handled in childhood, the mirror we met and in which we tried to see our true reflection.

Ever noticed that the symbol for Venus is actually like that of a hand mirror? Our Venus position and aspects may indicate if we were we touched with hands and hearts of understanding, empathy and love? Or did we met minds that felt our expression to be too much, something to be defended against? Did we get a chance to feel our feelings with someone who could help us to make sense of them, or did we instead find someone who found our feelings, confusing themselves, to be something of an inconvenience?

And when we looked at those people, did our sensitive all seeing eye confront them with something they did not want to look at?   Did we scare them with how we were or with what we saw? Did it evoke something for them they had to bury so very long ago?

It is interesting I started writing this blog feeling still deep sadness for the ending of my marriage, 11 years ago today. I felt for the innocent heart of my partner who met and fell in love with me. I felt for my own innocent, confused and hungering heart, as it was when I met him just over 22 years ago. I felt for the loveliness of the journey we went on for some years, but also for the pain that came when I started to explore my past and my own heart wounds, something that caused him pain and which confronted him with some of his own.

I felt most especially today that on some level I broke his heart when I went down a different path to the one he wanted to travel. And in the midst of my own heartbreak emerging I had a great heartbreak to undergo in having to let him go and the next relationship too, when it appeared I was not the happy person they were both seeking.

A lot of sadness, a lot of pain, a lot of grief and a lot of guilt on my own part too, sadly. In both those relationships I could not be mirrored, empathised with, nor be deeply understood, accepted and loved and my own self preoccupation was probably difficult for them to understand. I don’t feel I was selfish, but sometimes when we need to heal it seems that way.

It can be a lonely journey and others tell us we are wrong, bad, hurtful and selfish, but to truly live with some kind of peace I feel if we weren’t given that gift of knowing ourselves truly and being truly know we must go on the journey to find who we are truly, what we really feel, so that we can well and truly be capable of loving and being someone who can love and be loved.

I have the natal Venus Neptune square and that definitely comes across in this blog (Venus in Aquarius in the seventh house squares Neptune in Scorpio in the third house). Transiting Venus has just stationed retrograde at 00 Virgo in opposition to my natal Chiron at 4 Pisces and will soon move back over my natal Uranus in the first house (very much a go it alone, adventurer, pioneer of the self placement). Over the next few weeks it will move backwards to 15 degrees of Leo just inside the last degree of my 12th house and it will square during this time my natal Neptune in Scorpio in the 3rd house as it opposes South Node, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and the Sun all square to that natal Neptune.

I have had a good look at all of this stuff for quite a few years now. I have been working through the issues, invalidation abuse, a sense of loss, absence of a strong inner masculine and feminine principle that was nurturing and understanding and supportive of myself. Much loss and confusion too.

In the end I have had to face and struggle what in AA are called my “defects of character”, really just inner resources not developed very skilfully and with wounds there to heal.

I feel all of this deeply in my heart today as I feel old grief and heartache, as the price of my suffering on this journey to healing. Becoming whole.  But in the writing out of it in the dancing I feel a deep sense of rightness and beauty here amongst the wreckage at times of my truly human self.

Kissing the broken places

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I tend to write a lot about feelings. I tend to read a lot about them too, probably a legacy of a childhood where what I felt wasn’t really mirrored and I did not have the tools or support to make sense of feelings.

My recovery from co-dependency and addiction has taught me that in order to be a whole human being, awake and alive in the moment it is so important for me to understand what my feelings and emotions are.  I see emotions as energy in motion and they are the energy that propels my spirit forward into life and expression, while at the same time being a guide into my inner truth and reality, giving me instinctive information about the environment and my current inward state.

Guidance often comes to me when I need it from a source, some others call that source a Higher Power or the Higher Self.  I call it intuition and Mercury is currently opposite my natal Uranus in the first which some say rules intuitive insight.  Yesterday as I was facing a major conflict that needed to be discussed with someone I was urged by my intuitive voice to read page 137 in a book called Addiction as an Attachment Disorder by Philip J. Flores.

The particular page was on attachment styles, specifically those outlined by psychologist Mary Ainsworth, expanding on the work of John Bowlby.  It outlined the four major types of attachment and spoke about the importance of protest as the child expresses his feelings to relation to the comings and goings and actions of the parent.  I won’t outline the four styles in depth here, but the point made was that securely attached children were not necessarily the ones taken up in to mother’s arms most frequently and for the longest period.  Rather they were the children who had mothers who were able to respond to their cues to be picked up or put down as the child needed, that is they had mother’s who were more in tune with their unspoken needs.

Consistently unresponsive mothers were more likely to ignore the child’s distress and often intruded on the child when they were playing happily.  They were less attuned to the child’s emotional states and unspoken needs.  These mothers had ambivalently insecure children.

Lack of warmth and brusqueness or gruffness was the characteristic of Insecure and avoidant mothers who then raised avoidant-insecure children.

In the disorganised responsive and insecure disorganised group, explored by Ainsworth such mothers were those who were suffering great distress and had a high incidence of abuse in their history.  These mothers were unable to be consistent and so their children suffered a similar disruption to attachment.

Quoting psychologist J. Holmes, Flores writes:

Parental attunement on one hand and the ability to accept protest without retaliation or excessive anxiety on the other hand form the basis for secure attachment. … through parental attunement, the child must be able to feel she has “created” the object, that the world is her oyster.  This is the basis of healthy narcissism and self esteem.  Second, the child needs to be able to feel that her parents can survive her rage, and so be able after an angry outburst, to say.  “Hello… I destroyed you.” … these primary attachment and separation experiences provide a nucleus for the development of the capacities for intimacy and autonomy, respectively.”

A few pages back, Philip Flores narrates the story of Paul, an addict in recovery who through early experiences of difficulty with attachment became disconnected from his deeper feelings and as a result became sexually compulsive.  Flores mentions while discussing Paul’s case a paper by John Bowlby entitled “On Knowing What You Are Not Supposed to Know, and Feeling What You Are Not Supposed to Feel.”. Here I felt was the intuitive guidance for me with what I was struggling with, in learning to respect and honour my own feelings not being attuned to by the person which whom I had experience conflict.

Flores writes:  “Paul compounded his dilemma by trying to keep his own feelings and knowledge secret even from himself.”  He became sexually compulsive acting out old repressed feelings in this way rather than deal with them directly.

Contemplating all this this afternoon I was drawn to page 213 in the Language of Letting Go, where  Melody Beattie writes:

Since I’ve been a child, I’ve been in a antagonistic relationship with an important emotional part of myself: my feelings.  I have consistently tried either to ignore, repress, or force my feelings away.

I’ve denied I was angry, when in fact I was furious.  I have told myself there must be something wrong with me for feeling angry, when anger was a reasonable and logical response to the situation

I have told myself these things did not hurt, when they hurt very much.  I have told myself stories such as “That person didn’t mean to hurt me”…”He or she doesn’t know any better”… I”I need to be more understanidng.”  The problem was that I had already been too understanding of the other person and not understanding and compassionate enough with myself.

I didn’t succeed in my attempts to control emotions.  Emotional control has been a survival behaviour for me.  I can thank that behaviour for helping me get through many years and situations where I didn’t have any better options.  But I have learned a healthier behaviour – accepting my feelings.

We are meant to feel.  Part of our dysfunction is trying to deny or change that.  Part of our recovery means learning to go with the flow of what we’re feeling and what our feelings are trying to tell us.

We are responsible for our behaviours but we do not have to control our feelings.  We can let them happen.  We can learn to embrace, enjoy and experience – feel – the emotions as part of ourselves.

I will give power and freedom to the emotional part of myself.

**************

The meeting I had to have yesterday was with a person who had caused me a great deal of upset several weeks ago and then tried to turn the tables and blame me. This person is a therapist. Last Monday she had rung to make an apology last and ask if we could meet to discuss what had happened between us.   I suffered a lot of anxiety for the entire day leading up to our meeting, a lot of which I now know came from the backlog of feelings around our conflict I had to hold inside for a number of weeks.

For much of the scheduled half hour that we met I must say I cried, while expressing to her my truth and deep feelings and the sadness in my soul at what she had done.  It all just flowed out of me and it was difficult to stop the movement of energy that was releasing.  There was not really a lot she could say, except that she felt upset I was sad.   It wasn’t only that I had been hurt, though it was a great weariness I felt yesterday for all the broken attachments, deaths, lack of attunement, misunderstandings, loss of connection and the inability to heal any of it experienced over many years as well as for the lack of recognition or apology to date. Deeper down I guess there was also grief for the loss of the hope of healing in a relationship which two years had proved incapable of being repaired and sustaining a deep and true intimacy, due to another person’s very deep wounds. As I write I am conscious this is real transiting Saturn in Scorpio conjunct my natal Neptune territory!

Today I realise the tears I shed were not only for all the disappointment of what had occurred between us since the end of January, but for so many other losses and deep disappointments, that for so long I have to deny and had buried deep in my body.  It was a lifetime of banked up protest and feeling, I guess, that I was uncovering yesterday. It left me quiet spent and tired.  But today I feel grateful for the opportunity to express it.

Mercury has been stationing on my natal Chiron for the past week or so…  I’ve been under the influence of my Chiron return in the seventh house of relationships for over four years now.  My Chiron in the seventh opposes Uranus in the first and Pluto there too and Chiron semi-sextiles my Mars/Moon/Saturn conjunction, emotional connection and understanding has been a fraught and sensitive sore spot for most of my life.    So I do believe all of this in on schedule and an inward alchemy of a sort is occurring deep in my soul.

Today has been a day of peace at home with my puppy after all the tearing and anxiety of yesterday, pre confrontation.  In a short while Jasper and I will head out to the park to play and be in the healing power of nature, a place where I can experience lightness, joy and peace. These are the balms that do my soul a power of good.

In the tears shed yesterday something very deep was uncovered and released.  It felt good to be able to surrender to that experience and not to have to keep in place the defences I felt against the pain this incident had caused.     I’m not entirely sure why this personal blog was headed out by the quotes and information on attachment styles by Flores, but there is an association that I am sure someone will understand….

In the absence of protest and attunement we get driven into a lonely void where there is no place to know what we know and feel what we feel.  At 5 am this morning I awoke with so much from the past, especially my last relationship in which we were both hurt deeply going around in my head. In the midst of this the following thought came into my mind:

“We are powerless over what we are unconscious of and until we become conscious of it we are prisoners who do not know that we are in prison.”

Consciousness into our deeper selves and our past experiences may come in an avalanche, like it did for me yesterday.   Or it may come more slowly.  But once it comes and is released there is a sense of an entirely new freedom and possibility opening out, one that never existed before.  There is also a  feeling of coming home despite or, perhaps more aptly, because of the pain, sadness, longing, loneliness and despair we have had the courage to face, feel, admit, accept and release.

Recently I came across the following quote:

Therapy is not about healing what is broken but about kissing the broken places.  I would change the word therapy to healing.

Today those words resonate with me deeply. Life might not always go according to plan or fully meet our hopes, expectations or ideals but in the end sense can be made of it and healing can come if we are prepared to kiss the broken places.

The Inverted Mirror

After spending this evening reading several posts from children of narcissists I’ve been really considering what self blame is about.  As a child I learned to be very scared and to hide anything that went wrong from my parents, its taken me a long time to realise it just wasn’t safe to do so…

Much has been coming to light as my therapy is deepening about traumas that happened to my body.. at one point I was swung around so hard that my arm was torn out of its socket..on another I suffered third degree burns to my foot due to one of my mothers manic cleaning frenzies on a caravanning holiday…on another I ended up with a fishhook lodged through the webbing joining my big and second toe that Dad had left lying tangled in the sea grass matting at our coast house.  All in all it was hard to relax and just be, as we were constantly on edge trying to live up to impossible standards of perfection.

For the past eight years following a major head trauma after very painful incidents with my emotionally neglectful family and following the end of a marriage where I committed the cardinal sin of seeking therapy to heal my trauma, I have suffered post traumatic stress which wakes me in the middle of the night. I experience this spinning vortex and a twisting where my left arm spins out, just as it would when being pulled out of its socket. In the past six months I have realised I have been re-experiencing on a deep level this trauma from so many years ago.

I believe the body bears the burdens of our unresolved traumas..  In our family we were not to admit that we had pain.. On three occasions my mother broke or tore ligaments in her ankle and on each occasion my father told her that nothing was wrong.. Not only that if you were in pain or suffered an injury you may even be laughed at.. Is it any wonder that from the age of 14 I began to use alcohol to increase my denial of pain and sought refuge in substances such as dope and other drugs since no one around me could hear my pain and so my loneliness (which was the sign of a terrible schism between me and my real self and deeply hidden feelings) just grew?….. In fact it seems that for so many years I have been on a journey to have the truth of my pain and feelings acknowledged.

I remember at age 31 when I finally admitted to my mother that I had joined AA to help deal with my alcohol addiction.  She just looked at me and said  “Well you know I do admire you, but you always were a late developer and of course you are the only one in this family with any problems”.   WTF   two of my sister’s have tried to take their lives……

What happens to us when all the mirrors around us are not only broken but instead invert out image to the wrong way up?  Maybe that’s a good analogy for how it feels to be a child of parents who don’t see you or get you and cannot mirror your deep feelings.   You do come to believe that you are just a little or a lot crazy and also that you are a strange person in an alien land. There was something I used to hear a lot in AA meetings. You know I just feel like an alien, like I don’t belong on this planet. Where is the recovery group for children who have never been seen or mirrored?… Oh but hang on its their fault.. I guess I was just born an alcoholic?

One of my mother’s favourite comments is “well everyone is different”, yes that is true on one level but what about our common humanity and our shared feelings? Where do they go when we can’t express them, or when we are told they are wrong or that no one else feels that way?

One thing I know for sure they don’t go away.. and the longing for them to be seen never ends…even if it has to be buried and masquerade as so called “mental illness”. Our history, or true feelings, our longings and deep desires and buried instincts, they continue to twist and turn within us, just as we had to twist each and every way looking for the light that has been denied to  us over so many years.

Its a terribly long journey to find the light, its a massive undertaking to move from self blame and confusion, towards a true recognition of the nature of our suffering and the distortions we have been subjected to. We don’t get there without affirmation and sharing our stories and experiences certainly helps.

So I am very grateful to this medium because through it we find a venue to express what is in our heart and to read other people’s experiences.. in the long run we are not so different, we are human and partake of the human condition being born to parents who being limited themselves caused damage to us that it is our legacy to understand and heal. In the end what is missing may never be truly replaced or compensated for, but our suffering can bring awareness and with that awareness healing, a deepening capacity to be present to all of our feelings and growth in wisdom and self love which by extension we can share with others.

Chrysalis…emergence from the pain of the lost (true) self

Chrysanthemum

Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood. Is it possible to free ourselves altogether from illusions?  History demonstrates that they sneak in everywhere, that every life is full of them – perhaps because the truth is so essential that its loss exacts a heavy toll, in the form of grave illness.  In order to become whole we must try, in a long process, to discover our own personal truth, a truth that may cause pain before giving us a new sphere of freedom.  If we choose instead to content ourselves with intellectual ‘wisdom‘, we will remain in the sphere of illusion and self deception. 

The Drama of Being a Child

Alice Miller

My name is Deborah..  For many years I was lost,  the bridge between myself and others was shattered by events in my history and in my family, but even before those events I wandered with a sense of deep aloneness in my soul, restless and seeking.  From an early age it seemed I watched from the sidelines and saw further and deeper into things, but there was no place of affirmation and so very early on I began to use a journal to write and find an avenue of expression for my soul.

At the same time I experienced much confusion due to the neglect and emotional abandonment of my parents.  These wounds were all invisible and would take a long time to bring to light, since I was provided for physically, however the emotional connection was absent and as my family of much older siblings began to break apart I suffered a deep sense of growing disconnection and dissociation, which I have come to understand through therapy and inner work on my emotional recovery are core symptoms of Complex PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At the age of 17  I suffered a massive motor vehicle trauma.  My left femur was shattered, my ulnar bone and ribs were broken leading to a punctured lung and I was trapped in a crushed car while rescue workers and paramedics worked to free me.   It was a painful and frightening experience, that left deep imprints on my soul.  I was placed in skeletal traction after being operated on and spent the final semester of my schooling in hospital.

Six months following this my eldest sister lay down on the floor after weeks of headaches and a blood vessel burst in her brain, she entered a coma and hovered there for some time. Following this other painful events followed.  Our family began to shatter which led to more broken attachments.

Several years later my father was diagnosed with cancer and died within six weeks.   By the age of 23 I was certainly suffering from as then undiagnosed and untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and attempting to medicate that with alcohol. And life was due to spiral even more out of control over the next 8 years as all the complex emotions surrounding these experiences and from my lonely childhood were more deeply buried in my body.

Immediately following my father’s death my partner of the time decided it was all to hard to cope with and met someone else.  In truth I now see he had never really loved me.  Throughout the entire relationship he would refer to his ex girlfriend who was the love of his life.  Our relationship was not real, it was based on illusion, he was a dope addict and we were both using drugs addictively for some time.  Our entire relationship was based around getting high.  At the age of 23 I was in a fog and suffering from psychic blindness.  In that relationship I had my first two terminations of pregnancy.  Emotionally unnurtured and immature I knew on some level I would not be able to give a child what it most needed.

Our plans to meet overseas and travel were cancelled in a 4 am phone call.  The deep psychic suffering I was in and the grief, all of which I could not feel or share with my family I drowned down with alcohol.  One month following my father’s death, pushed away by my mother, scared and confused I travelled alone to England, and worked and travelled through Europe.

Intimate relationships were fraught with difficulty all during those years.  I had weak boundaries to non existent boundaries, was highly sensitive and receptive emotionally and energetically and had next to no emotional insight into myself.  Due to my history with my parents and siblings, I had the pattern of attracting partners who would abandon me and were emotionally illiterate (suffering what I now know is as Alexithymia – a difficulty naming and processing emotions), shut down or absent as I was to my inner self.  In truth, I too found it impossible to sustain emotional intimacy.  During that entire time I was cast out on so many occasions by people who did not understand the deep inner pain my addiction hid.

Bizzarely fate brought me into contact with my ex in Greece during that time and due to my lack of self care and boundaries I allowed him to use me for sex further and then abandon me when he found someone more together emotionally than I was.  Sad as it is to say.  I really believed on some level I did deserve this kind of treatment.  I should have had a sense of outrage for myself.  But due to the pain of my past I had not learned about psychic boundaries.  Because I was not respected, I learned not to respect myself and so promiscuity, tied with alcohol all became part of the picture.  I was an open target for predators, due to the pain of my past and the lack of value that was shown towards my deepest feelings and needs and towards the sanctity of my body in childhood.

The list of invasions to my psychic and physical boundaries I could list here.  Having my personal journals read and then being mocked or diminished for the feelings, having my arm pulled out of my socket by being swung around, being tickled past the point of distress and pain and having my cries to stop unacknowledged, having my foot burned due to my mother leaving a bucket of boiling water under it in one of her cleaning frenzies on a caravanning holiday.  Having a fishhook stuck in my big toe that was left on the floor.  Being told you really are a clumsy child, just too sensitive, such a drama queen.   These are just some of what is abuse but took me years to recognise as abuse.

I will not go further into the details of the next painful 9 years suffice to say that at 31 I turned up at an AA meeting and finally found the key and modicum of self respect and care for myself to put down substances.  And so my journey to recover and heal myself began.  It took 10 more years and the ending of my marriage to discover my co-dependency, which lay at the core of my addiction.  To begin the recovery of what Charles Whitfield and others have called the real or True Self, from within the prison of the false self, well that would take 20 years and is still ongoing.  It has been a massive work which led me to breakdown and the dark night of the soul about which I am writing here.

I now see that all these experiences forced me inward to develop the most important relationship, the one with myself.  However nurturing empathetic relationships with others who understood were very important.  The problem was, due to my history I was not likely to attract these.

I have learned, the nature of our relationships is always a product of the nature of the relationship we have with ourselves and that relationship is so strongly influenced by the one we have with our parents and by the nature and quality most early significant attachments. Also if we do not learn to develop a relationship with our deepest feelings and needs and learn to act on behalf of them we end up with a deep problem which can and does lead to illness.  For me the feelings that I could not express began to be experienced somatically.  At the age of 31 I sought help for my addiction through Alcoholics Anonymous, a great river of sadness that I had been holding began to break open but new problems came with developing the power to express and feel my own truth.

In my quest for healing and in order to attempt to build a bridge with my then husband’s family we moved over to the UK from Australia.  I moved  away from those rooms of AA because it felt that on some level I was questioning things that just did not gel.  It seemed I was being blamed for being an addict and being told it was a life sentence when really the addiction was an avenue I took due to my difficulty with honoring and expressing feelings.  That I had developed this difficulty was not my fault, it was a result of my history. It was in the UK that I embarked on my second attempt at therapy.  An attempt which sadly was aborted due to fear and the deep psychic calling I felt to return to my father’s house by the sea which was the place the represented to me the smash up of those Plutonian years 1978-1986 and offered me a place of rest and healing that I needed.

In truth I needed to be alone with my soul.  So in 2001 feeling great sadness and ambivalence we returned, I aborted therapy and eventually my marriage of 11 years fell apart.  There as Neptune began its slow passage over all of my personal planets I entered the dark night.  Three years later fate bought to me the last painful relationship which was the final attempt to be heard by someone else and the most essential learning of my life.  That until I could love for, care and nurture me, no one else was going to do it.

I have learned that the most important need of the child is to be mirrored and affirmed for her true self.  To have his or her feelings and needs reflected back and made sense of.  This was not possible for my parents, due to their own issues.  I was taught early on to deny pain, that injuries should not hurt and there were many injuries, especially physical ones that have only come to awareness in later years.  At times I was laughed at when I was injured, sent to my room when I tried to express anger, or had my boundaries invaded in ways which, as a young child I was not aware of.

So much of what we experience in childhood remains inside us, not as a memory, especially the earliest experience, but as a deep psychic and sensory energy or vibration that is just felt.  Before we develop and fully formed ego, and that depends on the ability of our parents to adequately mirror us, we are just immersed in a sea of sensations.  Assaults on our person are stored in the body.  The work of Peter Levine into trauma shows that imprints of traumas stay in the body as a psychic imprint and then later try to work their way out.

I think it was Freud who gave the name repitiition compulsion to this process.  Alice Miller talks about it in many of her books, but most especially The Drama of Being a Child, from which I have quoted at the beginning of this article.

For me the path of grief and loss due to the loss of relationship with myself  led into the dark night of addiction and then to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and then out again in a quest for a deeper understanding than I could find there.  I was not a defective character, my soul was in mourning for the loss of myself and I never learned to separate who I was from others because I was so sensitive and receptive. I had never been taught the skills to care for, nourish and protect myself.  I had an open heart and also a hunger to receive the love that it was hard for my parents to show me.

When the traumas of my early adolescence hit, I had no resources to deal with them and so I began to turn to alcohol to numb my feelings: a practice that was encouraged by my father and elder sister, who sought a drinking buddy.    In the absence of support in the face of these traumas, also I learned to deny them and bury the pain inside… But what was buried had to emerge and it took many years of recovery for that process to begin to unfold and unravel, a process that is still ongoing today as I learn how to nurture myself and care for my spirit in nourishing ways.

Broken attachments underlie addictions.  Broken or insecure and inconsistent attachments leave us traumatised and alone and very confused and insecure when relating.  They lead us to isolate or seek other avenues to alleviate the distress.  When the bridge inward to our heart and feelings, to our deepest core nature is blocked, we suffer and this suffering takes the form of an unconscious longing and grief.  Charles Whitfield, John Bradshaw and Alice Miller write that it is only through developing the capacity to do our grief work, to mourn for what was lost that we recover and find our way home to our true self.  It is only in understanding our history and its impact that we come home.  For, from out of the depths of aloneness and through the recognition of our deepest suffering we pay the coin to the ferryman which will take us across the dark ocean to the distant beautiful shore of sunlight, grace and love which is our true home.

For a long time I wandered, seeking the way back to my heart and my home.  In the Divine Comedy Dante writes.

In the middle of my life I found myself in a deep dark wood.

That is where I found myself in midlife.   There was fog all around. It has been a long, long,  journey to find a path through that tangled wood, to understand the nature of and mend my fractures, a journey with many twists and turns which led at times to the re-traumatisation of unconscious injuries which rose up in order to make more clear the nature of the initial trauma.  It has been a journey that has taken me  through deep ravines of pain and suffering and periods of extreme isolation and aloneness within which I was trying to develop a new relationship with myself.  Such a journey is not uncommon in midlife, when the deep needs and scars of the soul can rise up and ask of us a finding of a new way to express and free our trapped spirits.

Slowly I am finding my way home to myself.  When I feel the truth inside my body I am home.  When I feel the tears flow.  When I can feel great joy and revel in my darling puppy’s excitement and play without censoring.  When I can laugh and sing and dance and feel the vast awesomeness of a dappled sunset I know I am coming alive and finally emerging from my chrysalis and the dark night experience of my soul to be fully awake and alive on this amazing planet which is earth.

My journey through the dark has led me to deep aloneness and through my ability to remain in that to a deeper feeling of connection with the earth and the collective of which I am a part.  Some degree of aloneness I do feel is essential to birth ourselves as individuals.  Paradoxically the more deep my capacity for solitude the more deep my capacity for intimacy is.  I need periods of rest and quiet contemplation to feel my connection with my feelings and with life.  For me without that ability to be with and see into me (intimacy) I am lost to myself and to others.  With it and through it I am connected to humanity and to life.

To begin to learn that I had a right to live my own life and be me, well that is the biggest lesson of all.  Sometimes in order to grow I may have to leave behind that which no longer serves me.  This isn’t selfishness.  It is a sign of self respect.  And the deeper truth is that is it in learning to love and care for ourselves that we learn to love and care for others.