Transformation through our encounters with Narcissism

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The myth of Persephone has a lot to offer us as it is a myth about the transformative power of cycles of creation and destruction.  The myth of Persephone is a myth of spiritual maturation through separation and an encounter with the dark or the underworld.

Persephone is captured from the upperworld and taken into the underworld by the God Pluto who rapes her.  Whilst in the Underworld Persephone eats of the fruit of the pomegranate which binds her to the underground realm of the unconscious, symbolising the power of dark experiences to change us irrevocably. 

The bond with her Mother, is severed through the shattering of her virginal innocence that comes with Pluto’s capture.  The rage of Demeter at the loss of her daughter causes her to set up a pestulance on the earth, which results in the killing of all crops and life forms. the God Zeus appeased Demeter offering a solution from which the cycle of the seasons takes its inception, for half of the year during autumn and winter Persephone will remain in the realm of Pluto or Hades.  For the other half, during the months of spring and autumn she will be allowed to join her mother in the Upper world.

The myth of Persephone is a myth for those of us upon whom a wound has been enacted, for those of us who have lost through suffering and for those of us whose innocent youth has been ruptured by a violent intrusion of the darker face of love and encounter with the harsher facts of life.  Persephone’s rape speaks of a powerful penetration by an underground force…(which) effects a maturing against her will. 

Often life takes us somewhere we don’t want to go.  Perhaps this is not the journey for all of us, but for many of us what we choose often doesn’t end up the way we imagined.  The people we entrust our hearts to, don’t always care for them or treat them kindly and perhaps we too at times hurt others or our journey or way of being interferes with others ideas and plans for their own lives forcing them to another place they would rather not visit.  In many ways when we undergo these kinds of experiences we are undergoing the mythological journey of Persephone and Demeter.

I have been considering this mythology today after being approached by someone who has written a book which involves her story of narcissistic abuse and trauma seeking permission to use a poem I wrote at the height of my own relationship with a narcissist. The book is soon to be published and will be called Rise From the Ashes.  I haven’t read the book but I thought how appropriate the title was with its Plutonian theme of being burned in the ashes of a painful relationship, undergoing a transformative experience which forever changes us and due to this I have felt the urge to write this blog..

As someone who has always been interested in mythological symbolism and most especially as it relates to astrological archetypes we meet and embody on our journey through life, I thought of how the relationship with a narcissist is a lot like the journey of Persephone, which astrologically and mythologically is related to the planetary archetypes of Pluto and Plutonian experiences in psychological astrology.

An innocent naïve young woman when she starts out on her journey, while walking in the field one day with her mother, Persephone stoops to pick a narcissus flower and a huge tear appears in the ground of the earth as Persephone is taken captive by the Underworld God, Pluto or Hades.

This could be a symbolic expression of what happens for those of us who get ‘captured’ by someone’s narcissism.  By relationship our own narcissistic wounds are the magnet, or it could just be our innocent naivete or trust in a world where things are as they seem at first sight, rather than the complicated tangle of confusion and pain that unfolds as we experience our journey with the narcissist who strips us away from all known reference points, calling into question our own reality and sense of self.

Our vulnerability or innocent trust is sensed by the narcissist energetically and we may be more vulnerable to them after we come out of experiences which left us alone and isolated longing for love and connection that at first seems to be offered by the narcissist.  The kind of rape that happens for us is of a psychological nature in that our boundaries are often invaded against our will and conscious awareness and our journey of discovery in the aftermath will involve learning more about healthy psychological boundaries about our own wounds, vulnerabilities and psychological deficits.  It will be an experience of deep pain that leads to a psychological maturing, often undertaken entirely against our will.

I remember when I met my last partner who was a narcissist.  The first things he told me were about his traumatic childhood and of the last love affair with a woman who had psychotic episodes during their relationship.  These stories of his suffering pierced my compassionate side although in time I heard warning bells.

Later it was clear that these episodes had been triggered in some way by him, as an encounter with one of his ex partner (first wife) and her second husband revealed a few years down the track that he spread lies about this ex wife, including that she had hidden lesbian tendencies.  This was revealed as an out and out fabrication by her second husband who I became close to after the narcissist discarded me and left me traumatised and emotionally broken down.

When my ex narcissist sensed my vulnerability early on in the relationship he told me his instinct was to withdraw.  “You are too vulnerable, I could destroy you”, he said to me.  This occurred some hours after I had fallen over and he picked me up and said “I will always take care of you, I’ll never leave you”???

A few years later a therapist reminded me that the capacity to be vulnerable with someone is part of emotional intimacy, but not for a narcissist who fears exposing a vulnerability which due to past intensely painful experiences had to be defended against and masked at any cost.

Like Persephone our early encounters with the narcissist entrap us in their domain. Their early attention and overpowering of us may tap into a wound we carried from childhood in being emotionally unseen and longing for attention.  As the relationship progresses and they begin to devalue us and withdraw, old childhood patterns of deep abandonment trauma and pain may be tapped which reflect the narcissists own deeply unconscious painful emotional abandonment history.

In many ways those of us attracted to these kind of relationships are shadow figures for the narcissist.  We carry the shadow of their wounded vulnerability which is then projected.  Idealised at the outset, later on in the relationship we are demeaned and discarded for the very things that attracted the narcissist in the first place.  This is a call to awaken our own repressed healthy narcissism and strength.

If our ego is not strong (one of the painful legacies of a difficulty childhood) we don’t have a lot of protection or resistance to projections that can be placed on us.  If we were the family scapegoat we may have been used to being dismissed or demeaned for “over-sensitivity” or expressing emotions not allowed in the family home.

The relationship with the narcissist sets us upon a painful journey to understand how we are vulnerable to projection, where we loose our power, where our weaker ego allows us to be undermined or heaped with critical judgements.  It is a painful call to mature and shatters our former innocence and trust.  In many cases it can and does end in massive disorientation and often launches us on a healing quest which takes us into the personal unconscious, our own personal Underworld.

On this journey we are like Persephone dragged away to a place filled with emotional turmoil that no one would consciously choose to visit and yet this experience when fully navigated and integrated leads to transformation, a burning clean in fires of suffering and emotional pain which have important lessons for us.

It seems that at this time, many of us are going on that journey of transformation.  We are learning that our suffering is not only personal but collective. We can share about our experiences with others and find those who resonate deeply with that underworld experience.  Our visit to the Underworld transforms us and we can return with experiences to share which connect us with others and others with us, in a way we could never have hoped to connect with the narcissist.

In time Persephone returns to normal life.  In mythology she still spends part of the year in that Underworld kingdom.  For those of us marked by narcissistic injuries in time we do heal and transform but a little of the fruit we taste through that bitter experience (it is due to eating of the fruit of the Underworld, that Persephone is unable to return to the upper world for some time) remains with us. The pomegranate is a fruit with many seeds, in reflecting on the symbolism of this last night it occurred to me these are the painful seeds which we can transform through paying psychic attention and learning lessons of relationships, boundaries, narcissistic vulnerability and investigating wounds that may have left us vulnerable to psychological invasion.

Through undertaking our own journey we learn too essential lessons of empathy we may not have learned had we not gone through the experience of being demeaned or invalidated by the narcissist.

Owning our power is part of the transformation that takes place through being burned to ashes on a metaphorical level.  We may have lessons to learn about self love with require some kind of painful separation in order that we can work on ourselves.

In contemplating the myth this morning it occurred to me that both Persephone and Demeter are two parts of us in this experience.  Demeter remains above ground and grieves for her daughter while her daughter undergoes capture.  She is the mother part of us that we must develop within ourselves in order to psychologically mature.  It is through feeling our grief that we transform and become stronger.  It is in letting go of outmoded ways of being that we grow and rise from the ashes.

 

Some thoughts on silence and healing

Sometimes silence is golden and often I experience it is also humming with life, energy, vibration and beauty.  Within the silence a lot can be going on at a deeper level, at least that is the way I experience silence when I sit with my body and just direct my attention inwards towards the life energy within it.  It is a pulsing landscape of all kinds of strange and shifting sensations.  At times these sensations are not always comfortable for me.  Having gone through a lot of body trauma in my life I have been left with imprints in the cells which become apparent to me in the silence. It takes patience and courage at times to rest quietly with these painful sensations.

I was listening to a radio programme on chronic pain recently in which a lady was interviewed who had suffered a fairly serious fall from a horse many years ago.  She lived with chronic pain, the kind that makes its presence felt in the silence and at night most especially.  The way to cope with this kind of pain when it became overwhelming for her was to find a form of distraction from it.  There is a value in this.  There is the time we need to escape from the silence and move towards a place of forgetting of the self and deep pain through shifting the focus on self and being with others, shifting the focus from an inner pain that may cause us to spiral down into depression which becomes stronger if we remain isolated and cut off within our pain.

The truth is that sometimes others can be a source of comfort. at times others can be a source of pain.  I was always a bit dubious about the distraction method, before I came to suffer from chronic pain myself.  I thought it might be for people who were not too comfortable inside their own skin, who found it too painful to face aloneness and the deep truths that such aloneness can bring. Part of me still believes that in order to know ourselves it is important to be able to spend time alone and that in this alone time silence can be nourishing, another part of me knows that a huge part of the joy of living is about being in relationship and that my own wound in relationship sometimes led me to seek isolation and silence too much, but I still feel it was a necessary retreat.  Time alone helps me reconnect with myself.  Its all about balance.

Being human and vulnerable means that we need others and perhaps one of the most necessary balances in life is that of time spent being with self and time spent being with others.  Some of us are more introverted, we are nourished by time alone,  others of us are more extroverted, nourished by contact and activity,  sometimes we are on different levels of this bi polar spectrum.  The balance between time alone and time in connection is important and this balance can be problematic or precarious for those of us who may have experienced damage in relationships when we were growing up.

Time alone or in silence in that later circumstance becomes a refuge from pain (though it must be pointed out, such a refuge may have been necessary for self protection) but it may even become what one therapist, Neville Symington calls, the narcissistic solution, if we are more intent on denying our trauma and remaining trapped in a dead end solution.

I’ve been questioning myself and my own life most deeply over the past few days while reading Neville Symington’s book Narcissism : A New Theory, most especially my own retreat into introversion and silence around the time I began to enter my own psychological recovery from addiction.  Facing my own need to check out through substances meant facing pain of the past I had tried to bury.  It led to the ending of one and then two relationships.

I have questioned lately how narcissistic was my own need to retreat, but then I remember that in the second relationship I was dealing with someone who was averse to really looking inside to their own painful history and so looked askance upon my need to do so and one of the hallmark symptoms of narcissism is a complex aversion to looking within the self to take responsibility.  We both had narcissistic issues, that much is apparent to me now.

Over the past few months I had some battles with family members over issues from the past.  Venus planet of love and relationships turned retrograde around the time I had a huge confrontation with two family members.  What I learned from this encounter was how much of my own feelings I learned to bury and how much difficulty I have caused by not being truthful and willing to face conflicts and hurt feelings head on by facing them in a mature way.  I cant really blame myself for this, for like many people I was conditioned to be a people pleaser and not really emotionally aware or intelligent until fairly recently.  Carrying around a hurting inner child forced into silence has not been comfortable for me or my body.  Taking responsibility for helping her to express herself more maturely is part of my healing.

Today I read the following quote in the book mentioned earlier :

Narcissism protects me from feeling a child. even from being a child, but no part of my history is ever cancelled out.  It is all within me, my foetal stage, my infancy, my childhood, my adolescence, my early adulthood…..Narcissism is the quick fix.  I believe I am an adult; I believe I am mature….In the narcissistic situation, all that is unpleasant to my self image, I can ditch…. I can get rid of my infantile self by pushing it somewhere – into my body, into another part of my mind, or into others…( I retreat into)… a cover.

In healing the comfort of the cover has to be sacrificed and the encounter with the true child within has to be made, which means, according to Symington that we embrace the creativity and sense of self at the heart of our situation which may have been too painful to face.  We learn to take responsibility on some level for the act of our own expression and becoming as authentic individual and human being, rather than just seeking to gain others approval or replicate their ideas.  We own our scars and wounds and don’t push them away or project past pain,  through feeling them make sense of them in a new way and explore their lessons and gifts.

Comfortable within the silence of ourselves (often filled with memories and voices) we find not a place of burial and deadness but a place of aliveness full of creative possibility and becoming, of unfolding.  When we hear within the silence as a response to this creativity the remorseless voice of our inner critic, saboteur or assassin we listen but we speak up to and answer it back with our own true word of love, love for self, love for humanity and love for life and others which urges us not to allow this voice to put to death what needs to be born, expressed and lived.

Today I spent day at home.  I had a time with the silence and this blog is the outcome.  I forgot an appointment and was then disappointed at myself.  I had a bit of a PTSD spiral down into a battle with my body after a morning of sitting quietly with myself and my dog Jasper while doing mindfulness meditation, just being with the sensations in silence.  At times I heard the voice of my inner critic trying to lay my entire journey and life hopelessness and waste. I express some of this here to blow my cover.  I then read more of Symington’s book and found myself and my journey within its pages.

I think of silence as I write this, expressing within the silence some of my intimations and thoughts.  I watch evening unfold as dusk grows the darkness outside my window here after a day of interiority and rain.   I feel both the sadness of being alone and the nourishing quality of alone time too, knowing something essential has grown out of those times spent coming to know myself in silence.

Untwisting the twisted legacy of narcissistic injury.

When our needs and true self or beingness are not met, mirrored, affirmed and integrated into our conscious awareness (ego) one of the consequences is that we begin to feel confused, empty, disoriented and twisted inside.

When we have had a narcissistic parent who was never valued and nurtured themselves we learn to connect to a false, unreal image of who we really are.  We find false ways of being in the world in order to navigate the minefield of living with a parent who does not allow us to have our own needs and requires us to reflect them perfectly.  Often this parent projects their rejected or repressed shadow qualities onto us which are despised.  This can lead us to be very confused.  We begin to feel bad for having real needs and feelings and then question the validity of what is being projected and distorted by our parent.

The devastation of this lack of mirroring or attunement is not conscious but we feel it deeply in the soul and it sets us up for patterns of abuse in later relationships. Growing up with a narcissistic parent we feel all the time the deep sting and confusion of having displaced feelings projected onto us, due to the confusion we can wander in a fog for years as there can develop a deep schism.

We often find ourselves recycling in patterns of pain and confusion of new relationships all of which are serving the need of our soul to be led to pain in order that we can know the truth.

Often a narcissistic parent only wants to identify with the positive golden qualities of superiority, happiness, success, power and control. They often reject feelings that made them feel powerless such as uncertainty, human need, vulnerability, longing, mess and the daily chaos of ordinary experience.

The true nature of the evolving human experience is not about perfection but about process. The narcissist is attached to a mask that covers over these kind of qualities. Performance and the projection of a certain image becomes all important. One must look good, be in control, hide sadness and hurt, look “nice”.

Nice is one of my mother’s favourite words. When a genuine conflict is going on where someone is trying to address real pain and issues, my mother negates it, for such a struggle is not “nice”. Niceness becomes a stultifying prison of entrapment in which we become glued and enmeshed.

To be real and express real feelings that separate us from the narcissist, is to incur the disapproval and sometimes wrath of the narcissist. Not being nice is being angry about real hurts and injuries to the self, having a self, wanting, needing and hurting as a result of coming in contact with the deep, vulnerable, real self that wants, needs, loves, hates, desires, has passion and burns in order to come into a deeper relationship with the core.

Religions become narcissistic and many perpetuate this kind of narcissism when they teach us to reject the shadow of longing and need and especially to reject our anger in response to violation. Anger is seen as not spiritual.

Repressed anger is a devastating curse. It can and does lead to all kinds of somatised feelings and pain that is the hidden message of the self, disguised now as symptoms which seem to lack meaning. Spirituality and religions can lead us to reject the primal self, in fact this occurred in the evolution of religions during our movement into the current patriarchal ego centred age. This was a necessary step but cut us off from the primal depths of sexuality and need.

The battle to integrate these repressed shadow qualities is now going on in our religions. The deeper truth is that the true response of violation to and negation of one’s self is lashing out and rage in the first stages which gives us the power to stand for the self and mark ourselves as separate in some way, a necessary stage to develop a functioning ego for ourselves without which we become vulnerable to abuse and cannot function.

One of the very painful things in healing narcissistic injury is that the  breakdown of a false self needs to occur as we recover from this kind of abuse as the false construction must ultimately fall apart. Coming to terms with all the so called “shitty” feelings is essential as shit is the fertiliser of the self. It is the result of a process of assimilation and digestion of our experiences. Metaphorically it is needed for us to grow the flower of true self.

In fact the metaphor of flowers and plants trying to grow is a profound metaphor for what may occur as we grow up narcissistically wounded. We may have to twist ourselves out of natural shape in an effort to grow towards a light that is not a true reflector and those twists and turns will mark out the journey we have travelled and show the struggle we undertook to come to navigate the dicey terrain of self and other.

At the end of my last narcissistic relationship in which my own narcissistic wounds came to the surface my ex accused me of being “screwy”. It hurt, but on some level it was true.  I twisted myself out of shape to become something and someone else to try and find approval.

This was not a result of being defective, wrong or bad, but a consequence of a certain upbringing and survival responses that led me to become co dependent. Finding a way to untwist from years of self negation involved, for me, a descent into pain over quite a number of years.

My twisting is a result of my responses to my conditioning and struggle to live and express in a culture and family where there was a lot of denial and in which it was difficult to fully know and identify my true feelings and needs.  It was the result of my spirit seeking the light.

Twisting was also due to seeking the love I did not get in a round about way, by becoming the deeply empathetic one who would caretake and hold the feelings and tend the needs of others, I wished they could meet for me.  It was a confused way of seeking love but also of trying to compensate for a collective legacy of pain carried across many generations. But it was not pathological only, since the pain I have felt of generations is real, just beyond the capacity of one ordinary human being to bear.

For many years I thought that as the youngest it was my duty to fix our family trauma and bring awareness to it. The awareness did need to come but most importantly for myself in order to find freedom while retaining compassion for the entire mess, while still having boundaries to not feel as responsible for something that in the end was not just personal but collective.

No one will know how many rivers of tears in witnessing that collective journey and the suffering were shed, but were the raft that carried me to healing.

The healing path out of narcissistic injury involves coming to know the full human self in all its dark and light aspects, coming to know where and how we got twisted and conditioned to reach outside the self for what was really within us all along.

It is about repeating the same old painful patterns just long enough and using the pain as a path to self awareness and healing. Our deeply painful unconscious journey to become conscious is a labyrinthine pathway that leads us through the dark night of the soul. In this process the pain of the unreal being stripped away is felt and we burn in order to burn clean.

The toxic relationship is really a gift. It offers us the pain that can bring us to consciousness and love. In healing we learn that the love, affirmation and approval we seek must eventually come from within. In order to get there though, we need the affirmation of others or at least to understand  when negation of our whole self occurs this has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the other person’s splits and projections (although on some level we do attract that in order to understand our own splits and projections too).

In Eleanor Roosevelt’s words “no one can make us feel inferior without our consent”, when we become aware of the dynamics of projected inferiority.

As we heal we learn, unlike the narcissist that we do not need to dispel the darkness entirely but to use it and find the light hidden deep within it.  We can and do have the power to emerge, express and shine as we are, our twists become a complex lattice tapestry of beauty that make us who we are.

Reflections on longing and need

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I’ve been reflecting a lot on longing and loneliness lately which may be right on schedule with the strong Scorpio influences around over the past little while. When these two feelings come to mind these days I am much closer to understanding the roots of the hidden emotional hunger I carried into my adolescence and young adult life. It seems to me that it has been a long journey to make friends with the realisation that a lot of what I longed and hungered for from both parents was absent.  It has taken even longer to realise, after replaying that theme in major relationships, that reconnecting with these longings and needs and finding new ways to fulfil them is so important for my emotional happiness and the onus now rests with me.

As the youngest child in a family of much older siblings, having powerful experiences of those who related to me taken away by circumstances and death, I arrived in adolescence with a hidden well of loneliness and emotional hunger hidden deep inside. It is not unusual for, like other children raised in homes where the parent’s needs come first, where there is illness and death or where we experience considerable frustration, negation and/or denial of just plain ignoring of our needs and feelings by caregivers, from an early age I learned that it was better not to want or need too much.

As a child I was easily able to entertain myself and enter my own imaginary world.  As I grew older, being left alone a lot, I just got up to lots of mischief, especially in the absence of parental presence and nurture.  This was a pattern of being alone was inherited from both parents.  Due to the emotional void of empty feeling surrounding me my inner emotional hunger grew, though I was not aware of it. These days I am most comfortable spending the majority of my time alone and I don’t always find it easy to open up and connect.  However I know that this is not because I don’t want to, and long to, it is that I never developed the skill as a child. I learnt to deny what was too painful to admit I needed. In adolescence I used alcohol and drugs for false confidence but they stopped working for me and caused me to get involved in some disastrous situations.  They also did not help me form real, genuine relationships.  Deep wounds ended up getting replayed.

Due to the power of my past I was drawn to connect with those who were not emotionally present, re triggering a old painful patterns from long.  It was also hard for me to expose the dependent self. . Getting into recovery at age 31 made me look at a lot of this and recently I have been re-reading an excellent book on intimacy and most importantly the affect of a trouble or emotionally invalidating or absent childhood on our beliefs in relationships.  When I do come close to people often there is an inner voice that tells me it won’t last or something will go wrong.  This voice isn’t really about today, its about what happened in the past.  Its also about being invalidated and meeting a lack of support and empathy and repeating that pattern.  Apparently this is not unusual either for someone with a Pluto and Saturn theme around my moon or emotions. Pluto bring the knowledge from an early age that good things end and Saturn brings a natural self sufficiency as well as defences and fear around abandonment or rejection.

The truth is for a long time I longed and needed connection perhaps due to the absence of such in my growing up years.  That longing I feel was split off for years, then it came back with a vengeance and now that I am more deeply aware of it I am finding ways to address the issue so it does not have to exert such a powerfully subconscious pull.

Last week I listened to an excellent broadcast on Blog Spot Radio by Kathlyn Rudlin, author of the book Ghost Mothers.  The broadcast is an interview and in it Kathlyn deals with the issue of the emotionally absent or narcissistic mother, most especially the consequences of being raised by a mother who, being so preoccupied with her own needs and unaware of ours, lacks the ability to truly see her child, mirror and meet their feelings and show empathy for them.  Such a background leads to real deficiencies for us.

Those of us raised by such mothers have a hard time being able to differentiate, relate to, know and value our deepest needs and feelings. In later life we get set up for relationships in which we perhaps orient ourselves around others and their needs in a false attempt to find the love that we may not be fully consciously aware we are hungering for. We may also become the kind of partners who, in not being able to be present for ourselves are not able to be present for anyone else either.

Growing up with this sort of unconscious hunger many of us begin to look to substances such as alcohol, drugs, shopping or sugar in an effort either to numb the longing deep inside.  In this way we find a surrogate substance that echoes in a ghostly way the true deep buried need for emotional comfort or excitement. We may attract narcissistic partners to us and in repeating the pattern begin to suffer an emotional breakdown of some point which serve the purpose of bringing up our wounds so we can develop awareness and heal.  Such books as Kathlyn Rudlin’s are an outgrowth of such experiences which help others to recognise similar patterns.

Part of our adaption in being raised by a narcissistic, self involved or emotionally repressed parent is to develop a mask or false self which covers over how we feel inside. This mask self is not real, it is an adapted self. When we lose touch with who we really are deep inside and the feelings we have (that may exist in layers around past difficult experiences which accumulate in the absence of awareness) it is a painful experience. Depression is not uncommon and we probably have a deep well of profound feelings which are all mixed up, anger, frustration, confusion and longing, just to name a few.

If we come from an emotionally repressive place then the repression which existed in our early years often leads us to turn against ourselves. The false, adapted self takes covers over the real, true self that is buried deep inside. In this situation we develop a fairly complex shadow stuffed with all kinds of feelings which we are not even aware we are not permitting ourselves to feel.

Yesterday I was reading an excellent short article by Nathaniel Branden : Taking Back the Disowned Self.  In this article, which appears in the book Meeting the Shadow, Branden explains how we disconnect from our own emotional experience and meaning making ability around feelings in emotionally repressed and religiously based families. Over the course of development true feelings of children raised in these kind of families get disowned. The child is literally no longer feeling those feelings consciously.

When we are young there is no differentiation or separation between feelings and the body, emotions are a psycho somatic experience. As yet we do not have a language around them. The ability to differentiate what we are feeling rests on the care givers ability to contain and mirror the feeling, reflecting it back to us and enabling us to find words around it. In emotionally repressive families, and most especially narcissistic ones this does not happen or it happens in a distorted way. Feelings are not mirrored, they are often not even allowed or acknowledged, they may be mis-translated and morp into something else.

When children cease to acknowledge and recognise feelings (most especially ones that are undesirable to the parent),Braden explains, feelings are deflected from awareness. Body tension occurs on the physical level, a kind of muscular response which causes numbing and partial anaesthesia. It is a process that does not take place by conscious design but at an entirely unconscious level. In numbing oneself in this way the child learns to deny and hide her true feelings, judgements and evaluation. She pushes away her true experience and then learns to disown parts of her personality.  Branden explains:

For the majority of children, the early years of life contain many painful and frightening experiences. Perhaps a child has parents who never responded to his need to be touched, held or caressed, or who constantly scream at him or at each other, or who deliberately invoke fear and guilt in him as means of exercising control; or who swing between over solicitude and callous remoteness or who subject him to the and mockery or who are neglectful and indifferent or who continually criticise and rebuke him; or who overwhelm him with bewildering and contradictory injunctions; or who present him with expectations and demands that take no cognizance of his knowledge, needs or interests; or who subject him to physical violence, or who consistently discourage his efforts at spontenaeity or self assertiveness.

It is also my belief that the neglect we suffer may not even have to be this overt, we may be raised by a parent who just does not see into us and so lacks the ability to relate to us at all. This is the kind of ghost mother that Rudlin talks about in her book and interview quoted before.

The end result for those of us who endure these experiences in a condition of inner barricading or blockage of our emotional truth and needs. And even though we have learned to defend against pain, we also learn to defend against pleasurable feelings too. Such feelings often threaten to overwhelm us when we have had to develop defences against the pain of longing for life, expression and love that were consistently denied, rejected or frustrated. The degree of repression that people encounter in childhood, of course varies. I would state that there is also a generational element to emotional repression and from decade to decade certain emotions become acceptable and non acceptable. However most of us suffer to some degree from emotional repression, due the unfolding of collective evolution and history. Most of our parents had no alternative but to repress due to emotional unavailability or other stresses in their own parents’ life.

In repressing the truth of our experience as children we lose touch with the light and dark feelings, both of which are essential to our human development and experience. Add to this the fact that the need to protect and defend against the true knowledge of our repression, to maintain defences against this knowledge operates at a deeply subconscious level and we find ourselves in later life in a considerable bind. Consistently thrown into situations which evoke or stir up our repressed needs, we find ourselves challenged, not only by others, but by our own internalised emotional defences against the expression, most particularly of so called difficult emotions (anger, fear, guilt, excitement, sadness, joy).

/In his article Branden gives an example of his work with a psychiatrist who attended one of his lectures. This man claimed to have had “an exceptionally happy childhood”.   His parents had been “marvellously responsive” he said.  . Branden had him lie down on the floor imagining he was in a hospital bed and that his life was about to end in a moments time. He asked the psychiatrist to imagine his mother there, to imagine himself looking deep into his mother’s eyes and with so much unsaid between them, for him to feel the presence of all that was unsaid and then to find the words to speak that which was so important for him to express.

When the man spoke it was in a much younger voice

“When I spoke to you,” he said to his imagined mother “Why didn’t you ever listen?”.

Branden did not wish to expose the man further and so he cut short the exercise and was met with a sheepish look of astonishment from the psychiatrist.

Branden goes on to explain that undertaking such an exercise with both parents is a very good way for those of who have suffered difficulties with frustrated need and longing to get in touch with what we may have buried or hidden from awareness. It is a way of giving our inner child a voice. The psychiatrist who attended Branden’s lecture was not in fact lying when he spoke earlier of his childhood. He had just repressed the truth.

“The consequence for him as an adult”, Branden writes “was not only emotional impairment but also a thinking impairment” since his judgements were distorted and so impeded his work, most especially with his patients. I would say this would be fairly common for a number of psychiatrists.

Branden goes on to speak of another emotionally repressed client who found great difficulty expressing his anger towards an abusive and narcissistic parent, along with his anger, this man was also blocked in his capacity to feel sadness and pain for the child he was. When the defences of his client began to break open further along in therapy he cried “I’m afraid of him, I’m afraid of what he’ll do to me! He’ll kill me.” These are not uncommon regressed feelings that can dominate us unconsciously and I can and do relate. The killing energy may not be present even as a physical thing. It may be a certain look that our parent turns upon us when we try to express certain truths which threaten them and hit against their own defences.

In her seminars on emotional defences published in the book Barriers and Boundaries the English astrologer and psychotherapist Liz Greene addresses the issue of repression and defences using the birth charts of the famous together with seminar attendees. Defences she claim serve a powerful function and can be difficult to become conscious of for the very reasons mentioned above. Using various charts and asking the relevant people questions she manages to show how certain psychological traits, needs, impulses and energies can and do get split off or alienated from conscious awareness often due to the fact that a certain elements of the psyche and personality do not fit well with others. Some clash internally, while others clash with externals in the environment, most notably the parents energies, defences and temperamental biases.

Poor temperamental fit does occur often and then we find ourselves experiencing difficulties expressing certain traits : emotional hunger and need (Moon), self expression and assertiveness (Mars), emotional intensity and depth (Pluto). With my own Saturn Mars Moon and Chiron Moon Pluto issues I could relate to some of the examples shared.

My own chart is full of air and very low on water and earth. My mother’s chart is very strong on water and fire and the air in her chart is non existant.   As parent and child we were a very poor fit. Her capacity to relate to, validate and mirror me was strongly impaired. Following my sister’s death a cache of letters my mother had written to my much older sister following her marriage and move to another country revealed to me the way in which not only did she just not “get” me but also her dismissal and disparagement of who I was and how I expressed myself as a person.

When I was drawn to astrology in later life I made a wonderful friend and “astro-buddy” with her own painful childhood. We shared so much and reflected on each other’s experiences personally, intimately, psychologically and astrologically. She was deeply intuitive and one day she said to me “Deborah it is like you are this Stradivarias violin and you are playing a tune to someone (your mother) who is musically illiterate. She just doesn’t get it and she doesn’t appreciate it.” This comment and insight really helped me.  I have struggle over years with my mother, feeling that we often speak two different languages.

Recently I was watching a dating show and one of the contestants was talking about how she realised that the person she was being matched with was not suited to her. “He just didn’t’ get me”, she said. “For a relationship to work I need to be with someone who ‘gets’ me.”.

Wow, I thought. Good on you. How I wish I had that degree of insight in my early twenties. Obviously this woman had parents who were able to mirror her and help her to understand who she really was. In her mid twenties she had a strong enough self esteem and enough self knowledge to recognise, challenge and walk away from what was not suitable.

Being able to separate in this way often is not encouraged in certain families and with certain parents. In my own case a strong Neptunian element means that expression and acceptance of difference was not easily experienced. It has taken a much longer journey for me, at nearly twice that age and lots of pain to begin to recognise that what others have tried to point out is “wrong” with me, is actually a sign of who I am and can only be disowned at great personal cost. For I do believe that it is true that to split off and reject fundamental elements of our personality and self expression is to suffer a loss of energy and a resulting depression. It sets us up to be co-dependent and vulnerable to narcissistic relationships.

Alice Miller addresses just this issue in her wonderful book The Drama of Being a Child. She writes

The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality – the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings. It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings are not only happy, beautiful, or good but can reflect the entire range of human experience, including envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair and grief… Our access to the true self is possible only when we no longer have to be afraid of the intense emotional world of childhood. Once we have experienced and become familiar with this world, it is no longer strange and threatening. We no longer need to keep it hidden behind the prison walls of illusion. We know now who and what caused our pain, and it is exactly this knowledge that give us freedom at last from old pain.

To have this and know this means that walking away from the narcissist no longer feels like the worst pain in the world but like a liberation from the depths of a horrible hidden truth that no longer needs to keep us in prison. We need to ‘get’ it, so we can ‘get’ ourselves free from the bind of the compulsion to repeat traumatising patterns in relationship.

Alice Miller quotes in her book just mentioned the experience of Pia, a woman who after a long experience of depression was finally able to find freedom by experiencing a long suppressed rage towards the father who had mistreated her.

The world has not changed. There is so much evil and meanness all around me, and I see it even more clearly than before. Nevertheless, for the first time I find life really worth living. Perhaps it is because for the first time, I have the feeling that I am really living my own life.

Painful as it might be I do believe we reclaim our lives when we can finally acknowledge and own our true needs and reactions to pain and invalidation in the past.  As adults we are no longer the helpless child, armed with knowledge and insight into our true selves we are in a strong position to find happiness and freedom from what hurts us.  We can own the power to walk away and love ourselves through the pain.

Earlier today I was listening to a  song by Sarah McLachlan which was the soundtrack to the final end of my relationship with the last narcissist.  in it she sings the words “hold on to your self this is gonna hurt like hell”.  Admitting to and owning the truth of the pain I was in and finding out I could find no validation or comfort from my mother but just more of the same was a wake up call.  The healing of the hurt was in the feeling of the wound. In the end there was no way around it .    Only through allowing it to burn me clean, with rage and tears could I become free and that has been a process that has been underway for just under five years now.  I am finally sleeping through most nights.  A lot of tears were shed listening to that song this afternoon.  I had not been strong enough to listen to it for some time.  That I was able to do so, means I have a much stronger container now in my body enabling me to express and experience emotional truth.  For what it is worth that for me is a priceless gift beyond measure.  It gives me back me.

Understanding and healing the Scapegoat within

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The family scapegoat receives the shadow projections of the family. They are the one that carries and tries to express qualities, needs, reactions and expressions which may not have had a chance to live in the family.  Often if we review the family history we will be able to see a pattern or something the scapegoat is trying to live for the family that could not be expressed, or struggled to be expressed over generations. They may be the carrier of hidden sadness or pain.

There is also collective element to the scapegoat which means certain qualities in any particular culture are accepted and are seen as valuable to express where as others may be demonised. Religious beliefs create the scapegoat by dictating what is “holy” and what is “demonic” and so create splits. The pervasive spread of the Catholic zeitgeist, for example, reveres qualities of self sacrifice, meekness, chastity and in many ways a repression of essential elements of what it means to be a human animal struggling to express oneself in the word as a self who can feel a sense of balanced empowerment and know it is okay to have legtimate wants and needs and life in an organic feeling body.

The scapegoat in the family is particularly created by the narcissistic parent who, as a child, could not live the wholeness of who they were due to parental neglect, abandonment, hostility, stress or other kinds of splits. John Bradshaw in his book on shame, Healing the Shame that Binds You, and and other writers have shown how in families affected by toxic shame, the scapegoat is a role that is taken on often, though not only, by the second child.

In fact the issue of shame is central to narcissistic disorders and the creation of the scapegoat. If we are truly able to develop and live, free to express the totality of who we are without shame, the shadow may not be created, thus no need for scapegoats.

Shame is central to narcissism of the unhealthy variety in that the narcissistic individual never believes him or herself to be just a person amongst persons, an inherent feeling of unconscious shame, instead leads them to identify themselves as more highly evolved and deserving of envy, as inherently superior inside. The unconscious sense of deep inferiority created by episodes of shame, humiliation, abandonment or emotional rejections in childhood gets covered over and defended against with unconscious protections and projections.

What the narcissist cannot make a relationship with inside, he projects out. The need for constant mirroring that exists in the form of needing narcissist supply from outside the self results due to the lack or mirroring or flawed and skewed mirroring in childhood. What has been rejected becomes projected.

The narcissist will attract to him or herself those with the missing qualities.   Those of us set up for this kind of attraction from the other side, due to problems with nurturing, validation, mirroring and acceptance in childhood, are attracted to the narcissist like iron filings to a magnet. We have our own narcissistic issues which during the course of the eventual conflicts that develop in the relationship will come to light, often with us being rejected by the narcissist. The pain generated by this rejection forces us, or at the very least, gives us an opportunity to bring to consciousness our own wounds from childhood and understand the deficiencies that we have lived with. An opportunity comes to find self healing, since we are no longer children, we can recognise that deep inside our inner child of the past still lives and has wounds that need to be understood and tended from within.

Through this process we can begin to identify healthy behaviours and relationships from unhealthy ones and come to understand some of the false beliefs generated by lack of emotional nurturing and attunement in childhood, as well as the hostility of the parent who could not accept expression of our shadow qualities (which often replays as a powerful theme in all of our relationships).

In the course of our journey to self awareness, particularly for those of us who may have taken on a scapegoat function,  healing comes when we can begin to identify the introjects (internalised projections) of negative voices and beliefs that may have embedded within us from parental and cultural/collective conditioning. Parental projections or carrying of their trauma may mean we battle with negative voices, depression, addiction or pervasive suicidal feelings. Through hearing and becoming conscious of these we can gain a sense of detachment in time and find new more positive, loving, affirming voices from within which can help us to grow and heal.

For the scapegoat there is an essential task to be learned. The scapegoat will often be the one in the family that ends up in treatment or with an addiction. They may be the one who blows the whistle and begins to deal with the family skeletons.  Addictive tendencies of other members of the family may be well hidden, but on some level the scapegoat fails. This is a necessary failure for the purpose of coming to know and love the entire self that could not live and find wholeness from within the family. Often family scapegoats when seeking to bring attention to deficiencies in the family will be rejected or ostracised: this parallels what happens in cultures where the scapegoat is sent away into the desert or exile with the sins of the collective on its head. Such an exile may be necessary it may be metaphoric rather than literal.

The scapegoat suffers the pain of never finding true acceptance, of feeling on the outside, exiled in some way. Healing can only come for the scapegoat when they realise the role and function they play in the family and the collective culture. The scapegoat has a supreme value and this is why they are rejected.

The Jungian analyst and teller of fairytales, Clarissa Pinkola Estes addresses this issue of wandering and banishment that internalises in her examination of the Ugly Duckling fairytale. The ugly duckling must go through rejection and a profound search to find a place of belonging and recognise the beauty of the self.

On a personal note, as one of the scapegoats in my own family, I became the identified addict. I was blamed by a mother (who valued my new found sobriety supposedly on one hand while dealing out invalidating backhanders on the other) could never own her part in the creation of this. On one level she was only a player in a far bigger drama working out across generations.

When I got into recovery feeling myself to be a scapegoat was not conscious but I was strongly affected.  In healing groups with other scapegoats I was able to begin to dis-identify from the projection of badness, especially when displaying self assertion and anger. At times I played the scapegoat role in groups.  It hurt a lot at the time, but eventually I grew in understanding when the pattern would play out  My critical leaning was, that I must not scapegoat myself, though exile was and is necessary for the scapegoat.  Alone time gives us time to  introspect, detach from unhealthy and invalidating relationships and to heal.  My struggle in the family to gain freedom and awareness has gone on over many years. It is taking a long time and many heartbreaking conflicts to realise what pattern was playing as well as the particular parts various family members were playing.

In her analysis of the scapegoat identified individual,Syliva Perrera makes the point that split off assertion and desire is a huge part of what creates the scapegoat. Many of us who develop addictions as a mean of coping use the substances to numb and anaesthetise our feelings around not being able to express and assert ourselves fully. Addictive relationships function in similar ways, especially when the longing and hunger we feel has complex and deep roots in earlier invalidating relationships. We enter them hoping the broken hearted child will heal. Instead that child meets her own woundedness and is sent on a journey so that she or he can heal.

Healing involves finding ways which allow the wholeness of ourselves to express and find acceptance, mirroring and love in relationships, families, collectives and a culture which often do not allow certain feelings a place.

Women too, can take on the role of the scapegoat. We are scapegoated for being too angry (what a ‘bitch’), needy, dramatic or vulnerable.

The playing out of the mass genocide of the Jews during the Second World War was another example of the scapegoat complex playing out collectively, generated by the toxic shame of an individual (Hitler) who was able to mobilise the rage and hurt of many in a nation that had been humiliated. That humiliation and the identification with roles of power and supremacy saw the split off qualities being projected and “killer” energy emerge.  It is interesting to note that Joseph Stalin’s father was a alcoholic and Stalin too was a victim of toxic shame.

The scapegoat is no stranger to murder and killing, their soul is the victim of a psychic murder. We scapegoatees must learn during the course of our healing and enlightenment to find freedom from the killer that can migrate to live inside of us in order that we can live free of the killer voices that block our self expression and inner feelings of love and self worth. The entirely of ourselves has a value and through embracing and becoming more conscious of the ways in which we participate in and perpetrate our own wounding we can heal and grow and make new choices that lead us down happier paths than we experienced in the past. 

We can begin to understand the scapegoater that lives inside, for we are not immune either, at times, to scapegoating others.   The qualities that we may have been rejected for sensitivity, fireyness, vulnerability, messiness, passionate conviction, sensuality and sexuality are unique threads of human self expression which woven together have formed the unique and precious tapestry that make us raw and real, messy and ultimately human, a person amongst people with certain gifts of perception and depth that may have in some way threatened or frightened those who are more defended, less attuned.

The Magic of Self Empowerment

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It never ceases to amaze me, but even years after coming out of a relationship with a narcissist I can still have times when the pull of that connection and all that happened during the time it lasted comes back to me. At these times I lose the sense that the narcissist was a narcissist and I think, perhaps it was me that got it wrong, and after all that is what I was conditioned to believe by them.  I have just noticed a post on Kim Saeed’s site that caused me to think of an issue I often encountered with the narcissist.  That is, he would tell me how difficult it was to love someone like me, a person with so many issues and irritating habits.

http://letmereach.com/2014/09/21/to-the-woman-whos-made-to-feel-like-shes-difficult-to-love/

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend about depression, grief and sadness, but particularly about something I believe, that in our modern culture we often don’t differentiate all that well between the three.   I have been no stranger to sadness, have had to carry my fair share and I also thing that some people are more temperamentally inclined to see into the so called “darker” side of human experience. Often early experiences predispose them to this.  These kind of experiences lead us to distrust.  If we have been subject to invalidation, hurt and humiliation, especially in our earliest source relationships it is likely we might attract this again and be very wary or hyper-vigilant to such mistreatment.  These traumatic experiences incline us to carry a reservoir of pain and sadness or suspicion that is an apt response to what happened to us.

In this case in later life we can tend to believe that this is what we will encounter in the world, and in some situations we will, but not in all. Its about learning what we attract, what is valid, what is healing, what is hurtful, what needs to be taken on board and what needs to be ignored or let go.  If we have been the subject, especially of covert aggression or emotional abuse it is essential that we can see it and name it for what it is.

Often the people who have “sinned” against us as covert aggressors have a desire for us not to see what they are doing, they are quick to deny it, denigrate us, call our perceptions into question, turn the tables on us or make a joke of us and our “over sensitivity”. Understanding how covert aggression can be directed at us is most important for us, in order to escape from the crazy making labyrinth of tangled meaning and projected blame which is a cover for their own lack of empathy that these people weave for us, and from which it can be so difficult to extricate ourselves.

“Sometimes the abuse narcissists inflict on their relationship partners can be quite subtle, especially at first.  For example, because in their own eyes they can do no wrong, when something bad happens, it’s always their partner’s fault.  As a result, the partner can become the target not only the object of blame but also the target of the narcissist’s ridicule, disdain, maltreatment. Gaslighting and even sadistic torment.  Most folks who, for some reason, found themselves drawn to a narcissist early on begin really feeling regret at this point in the relationship. But this kind of abusive behavior often happens so subtly and incrementally that it takes a whole lot of being subjected to it before the victim finally sees the light.

Source :   http://www.manipulative-people.com article : Narcissism-and-relational-abuse-both-active-and-passive

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Certainly in my relationship with the narcissist, one big issue that caused problem was the sadness and grief I carried over my father’s death, the ending of my marriage, 16 years of alcoholism in which I surrendered myself and a host of hurtful incidents where I found myself to be alone and discarded.  Showing any serious emotion would invite a tirade of abuse about how it affected the narcissist. Lacking emotional depth my narcissistic partner was not comfortable with displays of sadness and grief and most especially wanted me to be over the pain so that his life could run more smoothly. The law would be laid down over how I needed to change, so as to make him feel more at peace. I can certainly understand that it was distressing and yet the implications was that my grief and pain was damaging to him, just as my period pain was, after all it left him “so alone”.

At this stage in my life I was still in core trauma and still working to develop awareness.  Finding a way to heal involved taking flight from nearly all toxic relationships and I ended up wounded by traumatic injuries which were my body’s way of expressing the violence that was done to me in earlier years. It is only recently in reading Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery that I have come to understand this.  Judith writes that when people who have been emotionally or physically abused come into therapy they carry the violence of their perpetrators as a third entity in the healing relationship.  I have certainly experienced this  The hurt and anger that could never  be felt, as it was denied by our abusers has to be felt, understood, expressed and released.  Only in this way can we find relief from our symptoms.  The difficult thing is that when such anger and rage comes out it can force others away from us , re-traumatising us further.

At the end of my relationship with the narcissist he told me “I deserved a commendation for sticking with you so long.” Ouch!!!! And Urrggghh?  How even to reply to that? I think silence was the best response, but not one I was capable of at the times.  I could not yet see nonsense as nonsense. I did not yet love myself enough to let it go.

The more powerful point was this : Did I believe it to be true? Finding a way out of believing it to be true has taken quite a number of years and still on some days, when I am feeling emotionally fragile and when the world has turned against me again for being in pain or feeling suicidal I can slip back into thinking it was, indeed all my fault. But was it my fault that I carried this emotional history and the bodily impact of it?

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The most telling thing for me now and the thing which now determines the kinds of people I stay close to is this. How comfortable are they in allowing me to express the truth of what I feel inside, even when it is dark our uncomfortable for them.

Last Monday at my support group there was a movement to silence people sharing information of their abusive pasts that was “too confronting” for other members. One person there who this applied to was quick to say she would not be coming back, if that was to be the case. I’ve seen so many people walk away from this group due to this issue before. The point is, what if they have nowhere else to go to speak about what happened to them?

Several of us spoke to this issue at the meeting on Monday. The truth is I don’t believe that such things are depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings and murderous rage are illnesses or dis-eases. I believe they are valid responses to a traumatised and traumatising past, especially an emotionally invalidating or abusing one.

I was part of an AA recovery for six years from the age of 31. But over time I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of alcoholism as a disease. Reading more and undergoing my own recovery over years has shown me that it is in fact, a response to traumas or attachment problems conscious or unconscious. It is a way of self medicating pain that is too much too bear as well. That is not to say it works. But the greater issue is do we see it as a cause or a symptom of something else?

In my own case I do believe in recovering that empowerment has been the most important thing. Empowerment to know that what I have endured is true, that it has caused wounds but also a strength, that becomes available to me once I can identify those wounds and move toward awareness and healing. That strength can only be found to the degree that I am empowered to know the full truth of what I have experienced. In the finding of channels to express this truth where it will be validated I find my empowerment. Without this sense of empowerment I may remain a victim forever trapped in a limited idea of myself as an “alcoholic” when in fact I have not drunk in many years.

In the relationship that I started this blog talking about, in time my partner left as he was more comfortable and in tune with people who drank. I never foist my non drinking on anyone else. In fact my ex husband drank throughout the 11 years of our marriage. He didn’t have a problem with it and I never interfered with nor commented on his drinking. In the case of my ex narcissist partner, in the end what he valued in me, ie my abstinence from drugs and alcohol for him became a reason why I was flawed. Perhaps I was a bit at fault on those times when he did drink and was scared to reveal it to me as he feared my reaction, something I found it difficult to understand. I don’t think I would ever judge someone for drinking but perhaps having seen the damage it can do and the way it spins people off course from deeper emotional truths I lost tolerance for it at times. God knows I’m far from perfect. Life has just forced me to make certain choices for my own emotional health.

Since I’ve been thinking a lot about empowerment lately, I had a little inward smile andn ah ha!! moment when I checked the ephemeris the other night and saw that Pluto the planet of transformation, empowerment and healing is due to move forward in a few days.   My interest in empowerment is a result of having felt so disempowered for years and looking to people, places and things that, at times stole my power. Rather I gave it away to those channels, not knowing better.  Finding my power again has been about finding and connection to the deeper emotions and reactions I had to bury in order to be considered “nice” and amenable in my mixed up schooling, parenting and relationships.

Something I do know the darker Plutonian emotions such as shame, guilt, fear, anger, grief and sadness all have had so much to teach me about what it is to be human. At times I feel so sad that these are the very emotions denigrated by our society. It seems these days that if you have depression there is not a recognition of the powerful cocktail of mixed emotions that this can contain. Surely there is much gold there within the dark of pain and suffering that can be mined for meaning once we become aware of the deep causes that lead us to become disempowered and stuck in a victim or post traumatic freeze.  When animals are traumatised they come out fighting and shaking.  As Peter Levine has shown this is how they throw off the trauma.  So it is with us.  Contacting our disabused power might not look “pretty” but it is essential to physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing. And is this not, the deeper way we begin to come in contact with our souls and become embodied as vital spirits alive and present on planet earth?

The poet John Keats said that we should call this world the vale of soul making. In that way would we come to know the purpose of the world. Certainly this isn’t a common view but it is one that attracts me. These days I feel drawn to soulful people, the ones who are willing to allow the pain time to percolate in order to transform into something richer.

This is the main reason I broke contact with my last therapist. The implication was that things needed to be fixed…. Maybe she took it as a reflection on her competence that this should occur. But where was the notion that it might take some time, some support, some containment, some holding. I thought that was what cranio sacral therapy was for. Obviously I was mistaken.   Another dis-appointment, or reality check, rather. However as I have contained the experience over this past week I have come to a sense of peace about it.  The most important thing for me is to understand and act on my own genuine feelings and truth.  This is not to say validation is not necessary, especially when we have been confused by abusers and disempowered.  I have been lucky to have friends who have validated me.

What I guess I am trying to say in this blog is this: believe in yourself, trust your emotional reality, even when people try to get you to distrust it or tell you it is wrong.  Look for and surround yourself with those people who encourage you to express your truth.

In my last blog I shared an interpretation of co-dependency by John Lee where he said that co dependents repeatedly betray their values. This has stayed with me. I have natal Venus square to natal Neptune and this to me seems one description of what could happen under that kind of aspect. I look back to all the times I betrayed my own values. Now with Saturn’s passage maybe that is ending. Suffering has given me pause and has been the rich fertiliser that has given birth to insight. For this I am grateful, in and through this, I have found peace.

I’m beginning to feel a sense of lightness and joy that has been absent for so many years.  Lately I have been  dancing around my living room a lot, feeling the joy that comes from unrestricted, expressive movement, just as I did as a child before I became bound up and confined emotionally.  On some level I am busting out of the prison that has kept me caged up for so many years.

Who knows?  What the narcissist said about me, had nothing to do with me, but paradoxically it may even have been a projection of my own inner critical voice attracted by me so I could undergo this journey, this healing and this learning.  What ever it was on some level I am grateful for that relationship. I know it was not an accident or a sign of something wrong and it appeared in my life when Saturn moved into my first house, awakening all my Saturn, Moon, Mars, Chiron, Pluto issues for healing.  It was a sign of something to learn from and grow through. Seeing it in this light as Pluto slows to move forward in my 5th house of personal power brings me a comfort and peace that feels warm to me.  I feel the inner fire and enfold myself within it.  Often lately I hear the words.  Tend the inner fire, stay close to your centre.  It is here I feel joy, it is here I feel and find my inner peace.

How controlling people and narcissists seek to define us

One of the lovely things about the blog world is that in reading someone’s comments you get inspiration for a post.

There was a conversation on anupturnedsoul over the past week written by someone whose partner would not accept her as she was.  I could really identify, it can be painful and highly frustrating to be around people who just don’t get us, or actively block or invalidate us.  To these people, parts of us may be valid and acceptable, but other parts they would like to erase.  This can lead to a form of abuse of which it may be hard to become conscious.

Certainly we are all entitled to our opinion, however people also have the right to express themselves and their truth and feelings in the way they need to.  When it comes to controlling people and narcissists, freedom of self expression can be actively discouraged or we can find ourselves subjected to judgements that make little sense.

I was involved in a relationship with a narcissist, who was extremely controlling, for nearly four years. It was a very painful experience but one that has ended up teaching me a lot. I had known something had not been right about the way my mother treated me when growing up. I did not however realise, until the relationship with my narcissistic partner had triggered my wounds how much my reality had been invalidated by my mother.

Its not uncommon for those who attract a narcissist to have unresolved issues, if we didn’t then perhaps we may not have attracted them in the first place. For me, my emotional needs had never been met, there was a history of emotional abandonment and subtle emotional abuse which was hard to pin point at the time. When I met my ex partner I had been going through and extremely lonely and painful time in my life and the pain, frustration and loneliness only increased in the relationship. My ex had absolutely no interest in hearing about, let alone my needs. At all times his own took precedence. I now know this was a lesson for me. Someone with more of a self would not have accepted a situation in which their emotions were mocked or disparaged, nor a relationship where they were only fed crumbs. I had some waking up to do.

The confusion and pain that I was suffering led me to books on narcissism as well as information on the web about emotional abuse and invalidation abuse. I needed help to try to make some kind of sense of the painful and difficult experiences I was going through.

During this time I was lucky to come upon a book entitled Controlling People by a woman called Patricia Evans.  Some of you may be familiar with her as she has written several books on verbal abuse.   

This book is an amazing insight into the mind of the narcissist or controlling person and I would highly recommend it.  My interest in it has been re-sparked due to a recent conflict which involved issues of self definition and expression.

The following quote spoke to me when I read it.

If someone defines you, even in subtle ways, they are pretending to know the unknowable.  There is a quality of fantasy to their words and sometimes to their actions.  Even so, they are usually unaware of the fact that they are playing “let’s pretend.”  They fool themselves and sometimes others into thinking that what they are saying is true or that what they are doing is right.

When people “make up” your reality — as if they were you — they are trying to control you, even when they don’t realize it.

When people attempt to control you they begin by pretending.  When they define you they are acting in a senseless way.  They are pretending.  When people act as if you do not exist or are not a real person with a reality of your own…they are pretending.  In this subtle and often unconscious way, they are attempting to exert control over you — your space, time, resources, or even your life.

We know that they are pretending because in actual fact, no one can tell you what you want, believe, should do, or why you have done what you have done.  No one can know your inner reality, your intentions, your motives, what you think, believe, feel, dislike, what you know, how do what you do or who you are.  If someone does pretend to know your inner reality: “You’re trying to start a fight,” they have it backwards.  People can only know themselves.  It doesn’t work the other way around.

Since only you can define yourself, your self definition is yours.  It isn’t necessarily that you prove or explain it.  It is, after all, your own.

Despite the evidence, it is difficult for many people to realise that the person who defines them is not being rational.  They feel inclined to defend themselves as if the person defining them were rational.  But by trying to defend themselves against someone’s definitions, they are acknowledging those definitions as valid, that they make sense, when they are, in fact, complete nonsense.”

I’m sure anyone reading this who has been a victim of narcissistic abuse will be familiar with this struggle.  For myself I was told by people in the know, not to become embroiled or entangled in the narcissists definitions or accusations of me.  The problem was that due to self doubt and low self esteem and lack of validation in childhood, I did not have a strong enough self to do this.

A relationship with a narcissist can decimate us.  It can and often does lead us to a complete emotional breakdown.  The sad thing is the narcissist is not rational, what they say has no basis in truth and stems from their own deeply unconscious fears, some of which Patricia sheds light on in this book.

A large part of reclaiming ourselves, lies in reclaiming our own reality, as well as our right to be and express ourselves and our truth fully.  In truth we present a threat to the narcissist or controlling person and what most threatens them is our individuality, our expression of separateness.   It is to this which we must hold on, at any price, for once we loose it, or allow the narcissist or controlling person to undermine it we are at risk of soul murder,  Inwardly we will suffer the price of anxiety or depression, until we break free and have the courage to become self defining. 

In my own case it took nearly one year of therapy to try to silence the voices of admonishment which the narcissist had planted in my head.  They would join in with all the other attacking voices at times that existed in me from my childhood.  Over the past year a more loving inner voice has taken their place.

Last year I was able to stand up to my mother and refuse to take on one of her definitions of me.  She had taken an opportunity to point out to me how much better my sister was and the ways in which I fell short as a human being.  It was hurtful but as I examined it and worked it through I saw that what she was doing was an attempt to define me in comparison to an ideal that had no basis in reality and, at the same time, showed no empathy or awareness for what I was going through.  In the end it was just her definition. 

Many of you may not understand what a huge achievement this was for me.  Today I have a choice as to what I listen to and take on board.  I am growing stronger and more self reliant.

I’m not really into advising others as to how they should live, but one thing I will say.  Be an individual, don’t allow other’s to define you.  Listen to your heart and gut when you can.  There is a quiet voice within that is affirming and loving, as you open you ears to it, so you will be able to recognise those in life who speak from this place.  Those who truly see you and love you, leave you feeling lighter and stronger.  Not sucked dry,invalidated and weakened.   Your particular life energy is a precious gift, it is your personal power.  Never allow anyone to steal it from you.  

Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster

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Re reading a great book by Alexander Lowen on narcissism I’ve been really thinking deeply about the problems our society seems to have with feelings… He makes the point which I mentioned in my last blog that a huge part of narcissism is the fear around the expression of feelings and the equation of deep feeling with insanity or madness.   I’ve seen two of my sister’s diagnosed as bi-polar in response to situations of deep stress where they were trying to live up to an image or ideal that was out of line with what their bodies and souls could contain or manage, as a result their emotions swung out of control..  But as I watched I didn’t really see two people who were insane, just two souls struggling to break free of an insane situations… with deep issues around repression, perfection and control……

One of my favourite writers who shows a great deal of insight into the healing process of recovery is a lady called Tian Dayton. She had an alcoholic father and learned a lot from this relationship.  She is a therapist herself and has written some wonderful books, including Trauma and Addiction, Emotional Sobriety and Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving on.  One of the meditations in that last book is titled Accepting Mood Swings.  I love it so much I am including it in this post.

Today I will not be down on myself if I seem to swing in my moods through my recovery process.  Mood swings have been scary to me, so I use them as a way to judge (or misjudge) my health.  I force myself to be in a stable good mood and then I feel I’m okay.  As I re-experience old, repressed feelings, it is possible that I will feel deeply disoriented, angry, rageful or depressed and then two hours later almost high.  This is not just because I can’t control my moods – I am opening myself to all that is going on within me – I am no longer denying parts of myself so that I will fit into a designated constellation of rules.  I am allowing what is happening within me to happen.

I understand that my moods might swing in this life changing process.

As Goethe wrote.

Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.

How often don’t we trust ourselves.  How often are we told we are bad or that there is something wrong with having feelings.  I’ll never forget following the end of my marriage.  I was in such deep grief as the loss of my husband and our life together triggered so much past pain over earlier losses that I had repressed for so many years due to my use of substances.  At the time I was staying with my mother for a time and one morning my older brother made one of his visits. As soon as he entered the house I heard him ask Mum.  “Where is she?”. I felt the fear in his voice.

I came out of the bedroom and the minute he hugged me the flood gates just opened up. I felt his body stiffen and pull away. “Come on”, he said, “pull yourself together”.   So much is incapsulated in that moment about my struggle and his in our family.  A family where it has been so hard to express feelings.

I wonder how things might have been different for both of us and for my sister’s too if we could have collapsed into that grief and pain and allowed the flood to take us home to reality.  It was not to be and I watched my second oldest sister struggle with two hospitalisations including shock therapy and a suicide attempt in the absence of therapy or any form of emotional recovery.  My eldest sister is bedridden now, her deep pain locked in a body which now needs ongoing care, subject to the constant drugging that is part of a care home environment.

For myself I feel blessed that even though I’ve had a struggle with emotional expression, over the past 10 years due to my involvement in an ongoing recovery programme, the tears I’ve needed to shed have been able to fall, adn the anger I’ve needed to feel, I’ve been able to express.  I’ve been given a hard time about it but I’ve had the courage not to let attempts to shame me, strangle my self expression.  It hasn’t been easy and its been lonely at times as it has meant the end of two relationships.  But I do know that I am blessed to believe that there is nothing wrong with feeling sad or angry. I don’t have to label this mix of feelings depression, or settle for a diagnosis. I can feel the reality of my situation and express it.

I’ve been able to ride the emotional rollercoaster throughout the many ups and downs and now I don’t judge others who are riding it either, because to the extent that I have allowed these ups and downs, when I give myself permission to feel my feelings, eventually they pass and level out.

John Stuart Mill writes:

There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realised until personal experience has brought it home.

Our experience is ours and we need the courage to feel it and express it, to open our hearts to it fully, not to shut down and pretend it doesn’t exist.  Because this is what makes us truly human and in the absence of such feeling and experience we become deadened on some level and perhaps narcissistic or vulnerable to narcissists.

Deadening of our feelings may, however, be a legacy of a childhood where feeling becomes intolerable due to the rage or abuse of a parent or their insensitivity to our feelings.

Lowen writes that our human emotional life is more intense than that of animals.

“We are capable of a greater love and a fuller hate, a higher joyfulness and a deeper sadness, a stronger fear and a more intense anger.  And human beings can also ‘control’ their feelings through their egos.  We can limit the degree of feeling, and we can act as if we had feeling.  But there is a problem in doing this.  Emotions are total bodily responses.  For that reason, one cannot supress or deny fear, for instance, without at the same time suppressing the feeling of anger”, he writes on page 63.

Lowen explains that the narcissistic individual can express anger but it is sadness that the narcissist has problems expressing.  In the absence of feeling sadness the narcissist will express anger instead and, he claims, there is no healing of the narcissistic character without the person being able to express and experience their sadness, for the anger is a defence against feeling it.   Anger takes the place of sadness for the narcissist as it leaves the narcissist feeling less vulnerable. It is this vulnerability which is so difficult for the narcissist to experience without fear, due to a childhood in which it was not possible for the narcissist to experience his vulnerability without humiliation or shame. John Bradshaw in his book Healing The Shame That Binds You has addressed this issues showing how in narcissistic families feelings such as anger and sadness become bound in shame.

It is interesting as the experience I had with my last partner who had narcissistic traits was that he would become angry when I was sad.  The sadness was an imposition on his freedom and threatening to his ego defences and thus too challenging for him.

My own experience with the emotional rollercoaster has shown that often that while anger is necessary to come in touch with our self and essential when figuring how and when we need to set a boundary, there are times when sadness underlies anger.  The sadness is over all the longing and need that had to be repressed in a family where it could not find expression.  Having the courage to feel this sadness, leads the way home to the true self, for the true self is located in the body and in the true and deep feelings, that for so long had to be repressed in order to please the parent who found such feelings intolerable, or had to split them off herself.

That is why in order to heal we need to remove the prohibition against expression of our true feelings.  If this means riding the emotional rollercoaster for a time so be  it, for the other option could be a deadness to what is real and without access to what is real, there is no way we will find our way home to the true self, to love, to joy, to wholeness and to peace which are the gifts of our healing quest.

Time for some pruning of dead wood

Is anyone else out there feeling sad and a touch world weary at the moment? I’m going through a strong spate of Saturn transits at the moment so its probably to be expected.  

It seems to be an ongoing pattern, perhaps a legacy of my Saturn Moon that I end up suffering disappointments and emotional let downs in relationships.  Things usually start out well and there is a feeling we are on the same page and getting each other and then something happens with frustrated needs and all hell breaks loose.  I must confess that it doesn’t happen with everyone but it does happen with certain people who come to assume a mothering role in my life. 

As a child I spent vast amounts of time on my own.  I was the youngest in a much older family and my eldest two siblings were nearly adults when I was born.  My closest sister was eight years older and frustrated herself a lot of the time due our mother’s emotional distance, it was a business oriented family and neither of our parents had any time to spend with us they were both too busy building their empires.  In the absence of our parents care sometimes my sister would take out her anger and frustrations on me. 

I ended up being very fearful in relationships and then drinking or using substances to hide that fear.  There really wasn’t anyone around most of the time to turn to, to help me make sense of my feelings.  I don’t remember being held or experiencing physical closeness in my life, nor the tenderness and caring that I now know I was longing for as a sensitive child.  And he awareness of this longing I now know I had to repress. 

As an adult I’ve developed all sorts of physical problems due to repressed feelings and as the result of injuries and accidents in childhood and teenage years. It’s taken a lot of work and recovery to even begin to lift the lid on my true needs and feelings.  My personal path led into alcoholism and promiscuity in an attempt to deal indirectly and covertly with the longing for closeness that I had to repress at a certain age due to the painful circumstance of my young life and adolescence. It then led into recovery and healing.

Over the past few days I have been re-reading Alexander Lowen’s book Narcissism Denial of the True Self, as I have experienced yet another major failure with yet another therapist who, not only just hasn’t got it but has acted in a damaging way, trying to load me with interpretations which I know deep down are way off base. 

It has taken a degree of inner strength which I’ve never really had until now to be able to stand up to her and not take the interpretations she has dumped on me.  I’ve become aware that with me she is replaying aspects of her own childhood but in this case, since she is in a position of power, she can use that power to cut off and then judge and dismiss the feelings of anger that have been generated by our conflict which she has told me she is having a hard time facing.

According to her by making the choice to have a break from sessions with her I am “repeating a pattern of cutting myself off from relationships when disappointed and frustrated”  Exactly how many failures is one supposed to cop before setting a boundary and saying enough is enough?  

While I get that as an adult it is my task to hold and make sense of my feelings,  why then continue to fork out substantial amounts of money to professional only to be invalidated and not have my needs met, or my feelings validated.

Luckily this time I’ve been able stand firm and hold to my own truth and feelings on the matter without caving in.  I’ve cried a lot and I’ve been sitting with myself and allowing myself to feel not only the sadness about this disappointment, but also the sadness of all the times I was so alone in very painful emotional situations where I really needed a close friend or parent to hold my hand and empathise. 

It is no surprise to me that as I write Venus is stationing at 13 degrees Capricorn in sextile to my natal Neptune in the third house, while Capricorn’s ruler Saturn widely conjoins the same placement at the same time squaring my natal Venus… Its surely a time to set some boundaries and practice self care and self sufficiency.  

It leads me to believe that this current experience of disappointment is all part of the path of my growth and learning for now.  Maybe it is also a part of growing up and realising there comes a time when I need to be self supporting and trust myself rather than experience self doubt.  

Saturn influences are strong in my family .  Both my parents have Sun conjunct Saturn.  They were never able to be children but had to grow up really fast during the traumatic circumstance of the depression following the First World War.  The legacy of that and other issues on my mother’s side around separation, death, alcoholism and loss all have replayed in my own and in my female siblings lives.   

The truth is that even though I’ve been very angry and disappointed with my therapist I also have a degree of resignation around what has happened, and as I’ve allowed myself to feel and validate these feelings they have mellowed somewhat.    There’s been a blurring of boundaries around who is actually the therapist here as at one point she was asking me to take care of her feelings of hurt.  Point is, I don’t want to do that while paying her money for a need she isn’t fulfilling.  

And so I’ve chosen to call it quits. I don’t feel I’ve done this in a nasty way but in doing so I do feel that I have honoured my own truth and right to my deep feelings.

Two weeks ago I was working on a very old article on Venus Retrograde for this blog.  And everything I wrote about there has come to pass this week.  My computer connection has been down until today and I had burst pipes under the house that have cost a lot to fix.  I can’t help feeling that there is a metaphorical aspect to that.   The feelings we can’t express in childhood need to find expression in our adult life.  When we are victims of narcissism in our upbringing we learn to repress our feelings.   In recovering we need a place to be able to release them in order to integrate them into consciousness.   In this process it helps to have a witness who can help us contain them.

There is a wonderful chapter in Lowen’s book entitled The Fear of Insanity, where he talks about what happens when the narcissist is flooded by repressed feelings.  The point he makes is that when we don’t have help to befriend our feelings in childhood due to insensitivity or distain of the parents, or due to their own repression we come to equate feelings with being insane or out of control.  It is no accident that in our culture the word “mad” is used to describe those who are supposedly insane but really just trying to deal with overwhelming feelings (especially of anger) that had to be repressed.  In order for us to heal, those feelings have to be brought to light and the prohibition and shame around this removed.

Lowen writes

I strongly believe that if children were allowed to voice their anger at their parents whenever they felt they had a legitimate grievance, we would see far fewer narcissistic personalities. 

He cites the case of a patient that he treated named Barbara.   Barbara  was brought to Lowen while suffering a psychotic break which was really just a flooding of her ego by feelings long repressed feelings.  Lowen helped Barbara by holding her through the outbreak of her feelings and enabling her to discharge them in a place of safety and understanding. In such a way Barbara was eventually restored to sanity.

Was her outbreak of feeling insane?  Maybe in order to become sane it is really necessary to be apparently crazy for a time, at least from society’s point of view. 

Lowen comments

To the uninitiated, watching a person “blow” may be frightening.  But with an experienced therapist, who understands the energy dynamics involved, the seemingly irrational and violent release of feeling can have a positive effect on the patient. 

Barbara was lucky to find Lowen.  What we repress doesn’t go away.  Its buried there in the body awaiting understanding and release.  A good therapist should be able to help us with our expression of feeling, otherwise what is the point of being a therapist in the first place. 

Alice Miller has written in her book Breaking Down The Wall of Silence that only our true feelings will lead us to freedom and liberate us from distortions and lies that we are subject to, especially with therapists.   I wish could include the full quote here but its locked in my old laptop and cant be accessed at this moment

For now I’m at the end of the line with therapy. I’m finding lots of support online with others with whom I feel safe and free to be real. In the end what is important is to trust my gut and have faith in the insights I have felt within my soul. 

And as usual with Saturn transits it’s a good time to take out the symbolic secateurs, for in removing the dead wood we encourage the new growth that is bound to burst forth in time. And with Venus stationing to move forward its a time to act from a place of truth due to my own values and needs.  In the end no one else can tell me what those are  I have to learn for myself, often through a painstaking process of trial and error that leads down some painful and frustrating roads. 

I’m feeling peaceful tonight. Over the past few days of editing this I’ve come to some kind of inward resolution about all of this.  So for what its worth I’m sharing it here.   And would love to hear from anyone else about struggles they may have been experiencing or insights gained over this time in regard to their significant relationships. 

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.