On Death : And Endings

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I have stared death in the face many times.  Then reading those words it occurs to me that really I have faced it and felt it put is dark fingers around me also.  There was the accident when all the life was pushed out of me, I was flung forward, lost consciousness and then just awoke with pain struggling to breathe and part of me was asking to die.  There was the loss of my father that was never fully real as the last time I saw him he was in a kind of coma and then the call came at work one morning to say he was gone, no way to say goodbye.  This time several years ago I did not know that I had only a month or so left to visit my sister before she passed.  I was able to visit with her in the final two days of her life before we as a family had to make the decision to take her off life support and set her free.

In a movie I was watching last night one of the older characters said to a younger man, that true love is about letting people go even if that hurts you, if it is best for them.  After spending time silently with her holding her hand and saying “don’t leave me Jude” to my sister, I then said “but if it is your time to go, you must.”

I am very, very conscious today of these deaths and endings as the final throws of summer retreat and we feel the autumnal change stealing in.  After a week of refreshing rain the formerly dusty dry garden has sprung up and wet leaves are littering my back deck.  I look around the place conscious that around the corner a new place beckons to me as a still available possibility.   A part of me tells me its time to put this place to death and let it go because the lunation that we are now in the final week which began with a Solar Eclipse was in contact with Pluto planet of death, impermanence, change and transformation was opposite my first house of new beginnings and conjunct Chiron in Pisces in my seventh which concerns to me all the broken attachments of my past.  Also, I recently read a post by Leah Whitehorse which showed the Autumn Equinox (Spring really if you are in the Northern Hemisphere as herein Oz everything is reversed)has a strong Pluto energy and she explained that the Equinox Chart shows the energy for the new astrological year. We wont have the New Moon in Aries though for a few days.

I just read a post about the void written by a fellow blogger and it really got me to thinking of Pluto which often rules the void, but then so can Neptune which is more a place where we dissolve all the past attachments and can be very, very frightening to face.  Here we face confusion, realise how little we can really hold onto, how impermanent life is and are perhaps reminded painfully of all the times we were so alone or stared death in the face in some form (that’s more Pluto, though). Its deeply painful territory and its hard for our mind to help us through it.  I am not surprised others are feeling that black hole a lot at present as there is apparently too a galactic point of the deep dark hole that sucks everything in and then transforms it. It would be associated to the Goddess energy of Kali in the Hindu tradition, an energy that is so often exiled from our modern consciousness so based in heroic ego ideals of achievement, success and conquest.

Many of us who struggle with depression have to make friends with this darker side of life and its energy.  We don’t get a lot of help with this.  Instead we are made to feel that we are just ‘not normal’.  But we are marked in a way not to really be able to live in ‘normal life’ so easily, most especially if as youngsters we felt ourselves to be unrecognised.

Now it seems we need to find ways and means to recognise ourselves as adults with a very wise inner child, but sometimes just at the moment we reach out or find we need some help with this process we find the help, support, affirmation or validation just isn’t there.  We find ourselves alone again in the deep dark void with no anchor and no solid ground under our feet and feel our deepest existential human dilemma that others less sensitive, less attuned, less porous are insulated from.

I can only say I don’t live in that deep ,dark, void place any more as much as I used to. But I still visit the realms of questioning and uncertainty and I struggle with what to hold onto and what to let go of.  Do I let go of the known loved thing and risk the pain of loss?  Do I convince myself it wont hurt?  Do I feel that perhaps hurt is a necessary stage of a Plutonian life full of many deaths and many endings?  Do I feel this way because its what I knew in the past and is realising this a sign that from a Plutonian level that old pattern needs to be put to death?

There are no easy answers but all I can say is (and what Pluto has taught me) that things do change form, if we can just hold on and hold through it is my experience that light does return again in the void.  But I also know that others don’t survive it and it takes them out.  I only trust and pray that if that is their decision they find the light on the other side.  For dark only seems to fully erase light for a time  and both opposites oscillate as polarities.  All of life universally is about the oscillation of opposites and polarities and this is the paradox, pain and ambiguity we are asked to embrace often on our human spiritual journey of life and death.

Some reflections on trauma and difficulty with relaxing

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I am in a very contemplative space this morning.  I came to a kind of full stop yesterday.  I had a realisation that I have been over running due to the fear and stress of my Mum not being well.  It brought up a lot of painful feelings and memories, although I was not fully aware of that until today.  The past few days as I shared I was in quiet a dark place with suicidal feelings again.  So much of my past has been running around in my mind.  I end up  beating myself up for where I am and how I am not ‘further along’.   There may be an element in how I haven’t helped myself and made bad choices but a lot of it was and is driven by fear and trauma and it takes some time to see the role fear actually plays in trauma, although it should be blatantly obvious I guess.  Also in this dark negative place I don’t see how far I have come and how much better I am managing most days.

Anyway I woke up this morning with my body relaxed but when consciousness dawned I was in post traumatic shock/spin for a long while how this works is I will feel the stretching settling calm of deep rest and then feel a jerk or a jolt that goes through my system , then I feel as if I am trying to push free from a pile of junk settled in my tissues.  While all this was occurring an acronym for F.E.A.R came to me (please excuse the swearing) Fucking Entirely Avoiding Reality.  I know it’s harsh, but if I don’t have a handle on what I am scared of fear can tend to run my life and avoiding what I am scared of instead of facing it is not always the best option.

I then logged on to WordPress to find a post about how fear cannot exist in a relaxed body.  In the article the writer was saying how important it is for trauma sufferers to consciously work on relaxing the body.  We actually DO need to avoid revisiting traumatising stressful situations at certain times if we want to achieve the calm that is so non existent in a traumatised body.  In the end its a fine line though as we cannot run from trauma without it following us.

While reading I was thinking about how in trauma we take flight from the body.  I am constantly aware of this tendency in me.  In trauma the body becomes a very painful place to be, it contains memories, it reminds us that we could be affected and touched by hurtful things,  we may feel deeply ashamed of it due to shame dumped in us or absorbed by the culture.  We may feel deeply ashamed of the feelings our body presents ourselves with.  To heal trauma we have to begin to re-inhabit the body but the problem comes when we have to face painful trauma imprints and echoes in the body/mind.  Its a fine line because if we re enter the trauma we are often re traumatised, filled with the original fear and tense our body and have difficulty relaxing.  The antidote according to the article I was reading is to take our body and self to a safe place where we no longer have to live with the painful memoires of re-enacted trauma over and over and over again.  We need too to reach for self soothing, calming realities and experiences.

Yesterday I was aware that I was going into the painful trauma place again.  Anger came up (rage in fact) I threw things around the room and actually ended up putting crack in one of the doors of my television cabinet (I only noticed this last night as in the midst of the heat of anger yesterday I just didn’t see it!).   I then started to write a post on self harm which I ended up not posting as part of my observer self was going into all the darkness, anger and pain.  Don’t get me wrong I know we need to talk about these painful issues but what I am sensing for me is that I am beginning to recognise that what I need for my own healing most these days is to put myself in place of calm, relaxation, peace and safety not as a denial of reality but as a choice of what I need for self care.

I see that I often don’t let my body relax.  I will be a little tired at night and instead of taking myself off to bed I will have a cup of tea and something sweet.  Really I should be listening to my body and letting it relax.  Part of why I do this may be that I live alone, in some way when living alone at the time of going to bed I am most aware that I am alone and aware that at night going to sleep is one of the times my trauma reactivates and yet I could consciously embrace that aloneness and find within it a place of calm, comfort and safety instead of reaching outside or resisting it.

Today I have been wondering how many of my painful body symptoms actually come from resistance.  I may not be at the time consciously aware that I am resisting some pain, truth or reality or forcing myself towards something I don’t really need when I actually need something else entirely and maybe that awareness only comes in time.

The other realisation is that for so much of my life I feel I have had to hold everything together alone and that makes it also difficult at times for me to relax and just let my body be and feel the calm of simply being.   My fear of emotional closeness can make me pull back at just the time I may need to stay or reach forward.  These are all the things I am seeing about myself today.   And yet sometimes I need to pull back when stressful things that others are going through start to affect my own peace of mind in negative ways.

Just as I started to write this my sister called.  She was giving me an update on how my Mum is as I had a day off yesterday from seeing Mum.  I was so tired, I really could not face the hospital.   While we were talking tears were running down my face.  I was reminded of some deficiencies in me in terms of things from the emotional neglect of my childhood, definitely not my fault but still cause for deep sadness.  My sister is really there for my Mum.  She has been through a lot herself.  I am glad for this for at the moment I just cannot be.  I will go to the hospital in a few days, when I have had time to relax but for now I am aware that I need the peace and calm of a place where I can acknowledge the need  my body has for time to stop, relax and let go.

Big realisations are happening for me.  Sagittarius sun/New Moon for me perhaps is giving me a vision of things that were not clear before now and bestowing deeper meaning after facing the pain of being in such a dark place yesterday.  The Sun is squaring my first house Pluto which can be a key significator of a traumatic childhood and of someone who early on is confronted with the darkness of loss, betrayal, trauma and suffering

So, recovery goes on.  We dive down deep at times and then re-emerge seeing more parts of the puzzle, more of our part in things, more of what is needed for us to grow and heal just for today.  We get the gift of vision, insight or wisdom often only after the long night passes in which we underwent the painful Plutonian ordeal by fire.

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.

 

Reflections on loss : Journeys with Pluto

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Some days are sunshine and some days are full of rain, the sky is overcast and grey and due to the weather being this way you are drawn in and being drawn in you are reminded of the things that went by and that you lost, the secret searing heartache.  This isn’t a place that is really comfortable to live in and I most certainly don’t live in it all the time.  But it is a place that I re-visit from time to time and in visiting dive deeply down into swimming my way through a pool of tears.  When spent the tears clear, just as the rain and clouds pass on revealing again the Sun’s warm and shining face bestowing light in the dark.  The light of this re-emerging Sun brings me back into the present which has times of peace and a calmer happiness, all the more so for having shed the tears, and yet, still in the shadows old grief lurks.  Does it ever really go away?

Its a hard truth to swallow that you were not loved for the person that you were and that someone you loved found someone new to love who suited him better with qualities that it was not possible for you to express.  In the relationship you tried to give love but in the end it wasn’t enough, the love you gave and it didn’t take him very long to find someone new and move on.   I’ve just been having a conversation about this with a friend who knew us both and he said that neither of us did anything wrong, it just didn’t work out, that I needed to remember the good times that I had and not dwell too much on the pain.  “I’m trying”, I said while crying.  Why is it so hard just to meet people where they are?  After all I am in my own process and I live in the pain so much less than before, but some days old ghosts are with me and it is the anniversary of our first month together.

Its over three years now since the breakup and its a relief not to live with the depth of pain that was there before, the wound that ached and bled for quite a number of years.   Now a scar remains but it still amps up and throbs from time to time.  I have finally accepted that it is over and things I did played a part.  Even then I was grieving and that grief prevented new love from growing, that is the painful truth.

It wasn’t until my marriage ended that I came to know that grief was not just a feeling, it was a full on body process.  It has its tearing aspect, there is also a swelling inside like the ocean raising up, threatening to obliterate the landscape.  There is the early morning awakening to a dark night and empty bed, the yawning silence and emptiness of a cold room in the house by the ocean where no one visits.  Why I chose to remain there, so alone following the end was a mystery on one level but if I explore the truth now, that was the place I sought authenticity and refuge when grief was not allowed expression in all the other places I tried.   Where else could I go when there was no where else to go but inward and alone.  The ending of the next relationship brought me to this beautiful home I have, and a less isolated place.  But the depths of aloneness I have known have been very deep.

In the process of grieving you carry the silent pain onward and find ways in the new life that you are building to step beyond the pain and reach for new experiences.  That is when you know the lifting is taking place, when the pain is not with you every day and you have brighter moments.  With time grief no longer consumes every waking moment and in time you learn ways to find comfort within the loneliness and with others who see you and hear you.  The grey days seem harder but on one level they offer some comfort too, on the grey days you have permission to seek solace in the quiet sanctuary of your own home and explore the worlds of others navigating their own dark nights and silent pains, finding a way to shine a light into the darkness.  In time brighter days dawn follow the clearing out of the dark, wet, grey ones and the ending and passing away of what no longer worked or had reached its use by date.

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I’m sensing that today the Moon is very close to Pluto.  We are having one of those dark days.   I remember the astrologer LIz Greene saying of Plutonians that they live with the realisation of the inherent fragility and impermanence of life.  Having gone through encounters where what they have loved is stripped away or ends they live forever with understanding of how temporary it all is and how painful it can be.  It is a truth they need to give expression to in some way, but one that when expressed may not sit so comfortably with others.   Its a particular painful legacy that they must find a way to incorporate into their lives and come to terms with in order to find peace.

I recently came across the writing of Ann Hood who lost her daughter suddenly at the age of 5.  Ann wrote a book called Comfort from which I have taken the following quote.   It is her own eloquent attempt to articulate the experience of her devastating loss:

“Grief is not linear. People kept telling me that once this happened or that passed, everything would be better. Some people gave me one year to grieve. They saw grief as a straight line, with a beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. One day you are acting almost like a normal person. You maybe even manage to take a shower. Your clothes match. You think the autumn leaves look pretty, or enjoy the sound of snow crunching under your feet. Then a song, a glimpse of something, or maybe even nothing sends you back into the hole of grief. It is not one step forward, two steps back. It is a jumble. It is hours that are all right, and weeks that aren’t. Or it is good days and bad days. Or it is the weight of sadness making you look different to others and nothing helps.”

“I have read that when someone loses an arm or leg, for months afterward they still feel pain in their missing limb. A phantom limb, it is called, as if the outline or shadow of that limb is still there. That is what my arms became. Phantom limbs, aching for Grace. At night I would wake up in pain, my arms actually hurting with longing for her. It is hard to imagine that emptiness can cause pain, but my empty arms ached.”

“Some statistics say that fifty percent of couples who lose a child get divorced. Some statistics are even higher. It is easy to understand why. When your life is ripped apart, all the rules no longer apply. There is no order anymore: in your family, in your life, in the world. …The life I had struggled so hard to create didn’t exist anymore.”

“In the gumbo of spirituality, of church and religion and God and beliefs and faith, it is hard to separate one from the other. It has been three years since Grace died. My husband has turned fifty since then. He is a handsome man, but sorrow has taken some of the twinkle from his eyes. He is a man who believes in the power of church and religion. He wants a simple thing: for his wife and his son to stand beside him and lift their voices in a song of gratitude for what we have and for having had Grace at all. I try to give him this. It isn’t easy, but I am trying.”

“(he) recited the Twenty-third Psalm…The psalm tells us we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Not around it or over it or beside it. Through it. Time passes and I am still not through it. Grief isn’t something you get over. You live with it. You go on with it lodged in you. Sometimes I feel like I have swallowed a pile of stones. Grief makes me heavy. It makes me slow. Even on days when I laugh a lot, or dance, or finish a project, or meet a deadline, or celebrate, or make love, it is there. Lodged deep inside of me. Time has passed and I am living a life again, back in the world.”

“I have been there. At the brink of losing my mind. Unable to sleep for more than an hour or two. Unable to think of anything except what happened: how it happened, how it could have happened, why it happened. I ask my friends over and over how I could have stopped it, changed it, seen it coming.”

“I cannot say how I got from there to here. I cannot even say where ‘here’ is. But do not be fooled. I am not fooled. Even though I am here, I know that the smallest thing—a song, a sound, a smell—can send me back there. I do not live here. I only visit. Even as I stand here, charming, confident, smiling, I glimpse that other place. I stand always perched at the edge. I live in fear of the times when, without warning, I life one foot, step from here, and go there, again.”

Those of us who have loved and had what we loved taken away, remain forever changed by that experience of loss.  The loss is a reminder of other losses too for the losses in one life may be too numerous to mention, in my own life that has been the case, so each new ending has within it the buried or hidden memory, no matter how distance of earlier endings and losses.  To expect that we would not be changed would be a failure to accept and love ourselves through the experience, even though it can be impossible for others to do so too.

I will end this post with the following quote from Legacy of the Heart by Wayne Muller.

When we are able to honestly name our fear, our sadness, and confusion and when we can meet ourselves as we are, with acceptance, and compassion – then we cultivate the possibility of an authentic loving kindness to ourselves.  Self acceptance is not possible if we cannot speak truthfully about ourselves.

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The Plutonian individual is the one who has had a glimpse into the heart of loss and suffering, who sees and bears witness to darker truths.  Though others may shun them, they must find the courage to never be deterred and speak deeply from the authentic truth of their emotional experience in a world, which at times, would rather painful emotions did not exist.  Their call is to be a light in the darkness for others who are walking there too, who share a similar same experience, so that together in some small way they can find comfort and help others know they do not suffer alone.

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