I’m in two minds – changing perspectives on life, trauma and relationship

I started this blog over two weeks ago, when Mercury was retrograde but in true Mercury retrograde fashion it never got birthed.  While I was writing it,  it also morphed into something very different.  And now that Mercury is moving forward again I am posting it.

Well the Sun has passed out of the bi polar sign Gemini, but its ruler Mercury is travelling backwards through the latter degrees of that sign, and with my own Mercury natally, also retrograde I have been considering how my mood, perspective, attitude and feelings shift and change in response to changing conditions on different days and can polarise between dark and light.

That is interesting as we have just had the solstice and in the southern hemisphere the days are shorter and there is less light.  In my daily orientation I am also becoming more aware of the impact my own choices, conscious and unconscious, around how I spend my time are having.  I am also becoming more mindful of how my attitude in response to external factors impacts on my mood and emotions.  Hopefully its not all too controlled, however it is very much Mercurial this current experience I am having.

Maybe its due to having my Mercury placed out there in the house of opposition and relationship, the seventh, that I tend, when considering things, issues, events, experiences, people and my relationship to view them from a number of different angles, not always initially, but certainly over time. I tend to mull these things over and move them around like a prism to catch light and reflect it across a number of different shades of the spectrum.   This tendency is being called out of me during the challenging circumstances of the past few years.  But sometimes I wonder too, if I don’t just have a tendency to over think things.

Perhaps the significant placement of my North Node in the fiery sign of Leo and fiery first house of Aries is calling me to think more of myself and to act more spontaneously.

I moved back to my home town about three years ago following the end of an intense and volatile relationship in which my ways of thinking were continually challenged. At the time I met my partner I was still in a lot of emotional pain due to past events and the ending of my marriage.  He too had his own pain but also a very fixed black and white view about “the way things should be”.  He spoke a lot about “being on the same page”.  The trouble was that page was dictated a lot by past hurts and wounds of his Chiron Moon, that should never, at least to his way of thinking, have occurred.  Primarily the abandonment by his mother.

The sad fact was that my ex partners mother left what was an extremely abusive marriage.  Her leaving was an act of courage and bravery.  She endured a breakdown and was hospitalised for a time.  It was an extremely painful situation for my ex who was very, very young at the time.    The anger towards his mother and also towards his female older siblings simmered deeply throughout our relationship and often burst out, or was projected onto me or my sisters.  We had met as as Neptune was passing over his Saturn showing that our meeting was to some degree on course as a time of challenged vulnerability of his defences.

One of our earliest conflicts centred around this issue of vulnerability.  Having made a connection, my partner was anxious to pursue it, the problem being, at least to his mind, that I was in his words “too vulnerable”. Knowing what I know now this would be a red flag.  Knowing what I know now I would also call into question the idea that we can be “too” much of anything.

Those of you out there who have been accused of being “too sensitive” will know what I mean.  That evaluation or judgement naturally comes from someone who has their own idea and agenda of how much of a certain quality is deemed to be okay or not okay.

Sadly my self esteem during this relationship was in some level in my boots, or at least, this man who seemed to possess so much golden light, energy and assertiveness was presenting me with trapped or at the very least under expressed qualities of my own that I needed to develop a more complete relationship with.

I did not really realise until a long way out of this relationship that what I was really longing for, and had been longing for all of my life was deep understanding and empathy.   The problem was in this relationship I was seeking it from the wrong source, an external one and from someone who had a deep investment in looking at life in a different way.

This is not to say that I was right and he was wrong or vice versa.  Just that this conflict between us ended up creating more pain and frustration for both of us.

In fact, as I look back now, I see the point of many things this person would say to me while at the same time seeing that, at a time when my emotional pain and grief was actually seeking some kind of resolution, being involved in just such a relationship was going to prove more damaging.  The understanding I was longing for from him was just not possible and the path of pain out would be the price of finding a new way to heal.

I came out of this relationship questioning things deeply. Also deeply sad about the fact that a second relationship had failed, even though now, with the benefit of a number of years growth I see that both endings were inevitable and led me to a more deeply contented place within wherein I am more aware of myself and more in charge of my own life.

I guess this two mindedness that I referred to at the beginning of this blog is all about attitude and perspective  It seems to me the further I travel and unravel along this journey of life the more I am aware that there are so many different ways of thinking about and relating both to my inner self and to my outer world.  And so much of my contentedness depends in any day on the perspective or attitude I take towards things and the understandings and insights I gain, not only by thinking about things but through the experience of enduring them, making mistakes and learning lessons. In the light of this..

I had a challenging and upsetting  experience on the weekend. Its interesting as a few days before I wrote a blog about fear, about how important it has been for me to develop a relationship with and understand my fears.  One of the places of refuge and connection in my, at times very solitary life, is the dog park which is located in a beautiful little section of pine forest close to lake and gardens a short way from my home.  On most days my beautiful spaniel Jasper and I go there to socialise and play.  I had a really tough week last week.  I was in a lot of bodily pain, the weather was bitterly cold and foggy, it was heading towards the darkest time of year and we had some real peasouper fogs, there wasn’t much sun and I was finding it really hard to get moving.

Then on Saturday a lot of grief bubbled up, I was not aware of this deep underground river that may have struggling to burst forth.  I had a lump on my head, not from any injury but from a backlog of repressed feelings. I recently lost my sister and the deep sadness was really emerging on Saturday, weekends often are reminders that I am alone with not  whole heap of support.  It was late by the time we got to the park and the usual group of my friends weren’t there.  Little Jasper bounded in enthusiastically and full of fun as usual.  Within less than a few minutes a huge black dog barrelled out of nowhere and began to attack Jasper.  The owners were a long way off sitting on a bench.  Instinctively I grabbed the dogs collar from behind and lifted him off, shouting at the same time, which I guess was my fear response in over drive. The dogs owner, a young woman, rushed up.  “Let go of my dog” she said.

Luckily another man had arrived at the park just as Jasper and I arrived too.  “That dog is really too aggressive to be on the small dog side” he said,  “It needs to be on a lead”.  The woman looked at us arrogantly, with no apology, put her dog on the lead and marched off.  My gut was in spasm, my heart was racing.  The woman seemed really angry, acting as though I had been the one at fault.  Soon after she left the park. Things calmed down, Jasper was a little nervous in his movements for a while but he soon regained his equilibrium.

We spent an hour at the park and then headed towards the car.  Out of nowhere a young man came up beside the car and motioned for me to wind down the window.  “I want to know ask you a question” he said, aggressively and with a bullish look.  “Did you kicked my dog?”  I was confused and stunned.  He was not present at the park earlier so I did not make the connection to woman whose dog had been involved in the attack that had happened earlier.  “What do you mean?”  I asked.  “I would never kick an animal”.  “Are you sure?” he said eyeballing me threateningly.  “I am positive”.  I responded, feeling somewhat distabilised.  “Are you sure” he repeated,” that’s my girlfriend over there” he said, motioning towards a parked car “and she told me you kicked my dog.”

Somewhere inside part of me realised, I was frustrated, disturbed and sick to the stomach, there was nothing further I could do or say, yet still I appealed to him, trying to get some true understanding or empathy over what had actually passed, why wasn’t he believing me/  The truth of which he seemed oblivious, his dog savaged my dog, the most loving, sociable and gentle dog you could know, I reacted to protect my dog without hitting or hurting his dog, only holding him up by the collar.  This guy was a bully, plain and simple.

“I don’t think its fair that you are disbelieving me.  This is abuse.”  I said.   “Fuck off”.  Looking at me with a nasty look he said  “You better watch out, I have your registration number”.  I rolled up the window and drove away, a sickening feeling of grief, pain, fear and anguish churning away in my stomach.  But in my head were the thoughts.  Don’t let this guy get to you.  He is trying to make you scared.  It isn’t right that you now allow him to instil in you fear, panic and hurt.  Its okay to feel sad and scared, that’s natural.  Shed those tears for sure but don’t let his hurt lodge inside you and make you sick,  Don’t let the hurt you could generate over the unfairness of this add to the pain of behaviour and ideas that aren’t really real and don’t reflect the true reality.  You don’t go around abusing animals. You were just exposed to some pain and nastiness that needs to be let go.

I don’t know if you will understand but this event occurring as it did was like the coalescence of a host of issues I have dealt with in my life.  Being vulnerable to attack.  Getting in trouble for defending myself against such attacks from those who have cared very little for my feelings and being demonised for reacting.  Being the target of scapegoating and being unable to fight back due to my hands being tied in a number of different ways.  Living with the pain of hurts lodged deep inside due to the fact they could not be expressed or even validated and believed.

And in the end, needing to make sense of it all and let it go. I didn’t even run to anyone for any help on Saturday.  My past pattern may have been to call someone to talk out the trauma but I didn’t even do that.  In my mind I knew that my response to what happened was going to be the most important thing.  I didn’t need others validation of it because inside my self I knew the truth of what had happened and that I needed to make my own peace with it.

Dear old Japser rebounded from the trauma.  I had saved him from being hurt.

In the early hours of the morning, waking as I do with my usual disrupted sleep it occurred me that is experience had echoed the experience of having the car come in on me savagely, impacting my chest, breaking my bones, smashing my lung and tearing my flesh apart following its impact with a telegraph pole.  In that situation I was powerless.  In some way this experience with Jasper called up that imprint.

Peter Levine in his work on trauma tells us that the worst traumas occur when we cannot mobilise to get out of the situation.  In such a situation we stay stuck or paralysed in the death reflex response.  So was it for me following two accidents, but most especially the one in which I was trapped in the car.  This incident with Jasper was important for me, because I was able to act to protect the one I loved.  Not just stand by and watch it happen.

I must be honest and say how upsetting it was to me to be actually blamed for taking an action to protect.  But how often does it happen to those of us who develop PTSD responses to abuse or trauma? Traumas, and there have been at least eight major ones, starting with that accident at age 17 have shattered the continuity pattern of my life in many ways.  But enduring and having to live with traumatic imprints has also led me to understandings of things that may have not come without those traumatic events.  Most especially living with, attempting to heal from and make my peace with trauma  has taught me that where and when I can,  I must take action to mobilise in the face of trauma and abuse and not let the imprints of that abuse lodge too deeply within me.

I think for many years this may have been what my ex partner was trying to say to me.  I could not get it because I was still too frozen in pain and trauma.  And yet that is not totally true either for as Peter Levine writes, when we have suffered a trauma in which forward action is blocked or thwarted we can, for many years, remain in developmental arrest.  What is needed to free ourselves is to be able to experience the freeze state of paralysis in which we have faced off death and unpack that experience, getting over time to the point where we no longer remain trapped and frozen, but able to mobilise out of it, seeking a countering experience of vitality and aliveness which is the antidote to that death like paralysis.

The path out of that failed relationship led to suffering but in some way that suffering was the priced of a new found freedom much of which rests on my own understandings and perspectives which are themselves the result of the journey through the path of trauma.  Its not the path I would have chosen but its the one I have lived and now write about.

Understanding Abandoment Trauma and its relationship to depression

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It is difficult to accept and even understand that we have suffered abandonment trauma.  That trauma and the reality of our emotional abandonment in childhood and even in the current day can be masked by addictions and negative inner voices.  The work of healing requires the unearthing of the reality of our felt experience which is often expressed somatically in ways which are difficult to understand, at least that has been my experience.  Add to this the fact that recovery is made harder still by the harsh or dismissive inner voices which themselves are a symptom and indicator of the lack of understanding and empathy our younger self was shown in childhood by the parent and which many of us are shown by a society that lacks insight and depth.

This has certainly been the case in my own life. Now that I am in the process of recovering and undergoing my own therapy which is helping me to make sense of the painful body symptoms I have experienced for the past 10 years I feel the imperative need to write about what is occurring.  I have always been aware that there was a harshly punitive voice inside me, a remorseless inner critic which has made life painful and difficult and also attracted to me partners who can be critical.  Yesterday in my blog on my sisters death I referred to Syvlia Bretton Perreras book The Scapegoat Complex.  In this book she speaks of an inner character or complex with she names the accuser.  This accuser voice is composed of the voices of parent, teachers, carers and others in childhood which caused us to split of from our deepest needs and feelings which could not be attuned to by the parent or had to be harshly dismissed.

It has been explained to me today by my therapist that in the face of childhood neglect the complex needs and hungers which we have to deny in the face of parental nonresponsiveness or a lack of nurture, attunement and empathy accumulate around them a host of painful feelings, grief, helplessness, anger and rage, a sense of powerlessness and so on.  Feeling and freeing these trapped feeling which often drop to a somatic level is necessary in order to find freedom, to make sense of our feelings, to understand the truth of what happened to us in childhood and to break the power of the accusing and at times demonic voice that arises out of the pain of the abandonment, leading us to further depression and self abandonment, vulnerability to relationships with narcissists and so on.

I just came across the following on the website : http://www.pete-walker.com in undertaking a google search on managing abandonment trauma. I had deeply painful session today where I experienced the abandonment pain deep in my heart and gut, following on a week from the funeral of my eldest sister, Judith. There are so many layers of grief, anger and sadness around my relationship with her which although close, was at times deeply traumatising and non supportive especially where validation of feelings was concerned.

What Pete Wakler writes helped me to understand my own struggle

http://www.pete-walker.com/managingAbandonDepression.htm

Chronic emotional abandonment is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. It naturally makes her feel and appear deadened and depressed. Functional parents respond to a child’s depression with concern and comfort; abandoning parents respond to it with anger, disgust and further abandonment, which in turn create the fear, shame and despair that become characteristic of the abandonment depression. A child who is never comforted when she is depressed has no model for developing a self-comforting response to her own depression. Without a nurturing connection with a caretaker, she may flounder for long periods of time in a depression that can devolve into The Failure to Thrive Syndrome.

In my experience failure to thrive is not an all-or-none phenomenon, but rather a continuum that begins with excessive depression and ends in the most severe cases with death. Many PTSD survivors “thrived” very poorly, and perhaps at times lingered near the end of the continuum where they were close to death, if not physically, then psychologically.

When a child is consistently abandoned, her developing superego eventually assumes totalitarian control of her psyche and carcinogenically morphs into a toxic Inner Critic. She is then driven to desperately seek connection and acceptance through the numerous processes of perfectionism and endangerment described in my article “Shrinking The Inner Critic in Complex PTSD” (see link for this article: Shrinking the Inner Critic).

Her inner critic also typically becomes emotional perfectionistic, as it imitates her parent’s contempt of her emotional pain about abandonment. The child learns to judge her dysphoric feelings as the cause of her abandonment. Over time her affects are repressed, but not without contaminating her thinking processes. Unfelt fear, shame and depression are transmuted into thoughts and images so frightening, humiliating and despairing that they instantly trigger escapist 4F acting out.

Eventually even the mildest hint of fear or depression, no matter how functional or appropriate, is automatically deemed as danger-ridden and overwhelming as the original abandonment. The capacity to self-nurturingly weather any experience of depression, no matter how mild, remains unrealized. The original experience of parental abandonment devolves into self-abandonment. The ability to stay supportively present to all of one’s own inner experience gradually disappear.

Post Traumatic Stress is actually a result of this type of emotional abandonment, but once someone displays these PTSD symptoms rest assured that the majority of people, ignorant of the true cause of the rage, fear and shame displayed will further abandon the sufferer and thus the depth of his or her trauma is deepened.  At least until he or she can understand why these symptoms exist and that they are a necessary expression of and legitimate response to the pain suffered rather than a source of further shame or fear,  Such understanding and insight is hardly possible in the face of lack of empathy,

Here is an example of the layered processes of an emotional flashback. A complex PTSD sufferer wakes up feeling depressed. Because childhood experience has conditioned her to believe that she is unworthy and unacceptable in this state, she quickly becomes anxious and ashamed. This in turn activates her Inner Critic to goad her with perfectionistic and endangering messages.

The critic clamors: “No wonder no one likes you. Get your lazy, worthless ass going or you’ll end up as a wretched bag lady on the street”!

Retraumatized by her own inner voice, she then launches into her most habitual flight, fight, freeze or fawn (4F)  behaviours. . She lashes out at the nearest person as she becomes irritable, controlling and pushy (Fight/ Narcissistic) – or she launches into busy productivity driven by negative, perfectionistic and catastrophic thinking (Flight/Obsessive-Compulsive)- or she flips on the TV and becomes dissociated, spaced out and sleepy (Freeze/ Dissociative)- or she focuses immediately on solving someone’s else’s problem and becomes servile, self-abnegating and ingratiating (Fawn/Co-dependent).

Unfortunately this dynamic also commonly operates in reverse, creating perpetual motion cycles of internal trauma as 4F acting out also gives the critic endless material for self-hating criticism, which in turn amps up fear and shame and finally compounds the abandonment depression with a non-stop experience of self-abandonment.  Especially noteworthy here is how the inner critic can interact with fear and shame in a particular vicious and escalating cycle.

Furthermore the entrenched cultural and social responses to fear and shame contribute to many of us being blocked from recovery.  Walker continues:


We live in a culture that judges fear as despicable, and depression as an unpatriotic violation of the “pursuit of happiness”. Taboos about depression even emanate from the psychological establishment, where some schools strip it of its status as a legitimate emotion – dismissing it simplistically as mere negative thinking, or as a dysfunctional state that results from the repression of less taboo emotions like sadness and anger.

I believe we must learn to distinguish depressed thinking – which can be eliminated – from depressed feelings – which must sometimes be felt. Occasional feelings of enervation and anhedonia are normal and existential – part of the admission price to life.

Moreover, depression is sometimes an invaluable harbinger of the need to slow down, to drop interiorly into a place that at least allows us to restore and recharge, and at best unfolds into our deepest intuitiveness.

One recurring gift that typically comes cloaked in depression is an invitation to grow that necessitates relinquishing a formerly treasured job or relationship that has now become obsolete or moribund. Overreaction to depression essentially reinforces learned toxic shame. It reinforces the individual’s notion that, when depressed, he is unworthy, defective and unlovable. Sadly this typically drives him deeper into abandonment-exacerbating isolation.

Deep level recovery from childhood trauma requires a normalization of depression, a renunciation of the habit of reflexively reacting to it. Central to this is the development of a capacity to stay in one’s body, to stay fully present to all internal experience, to stay acceptingly open to one’s emotional, visceral and somatic experiences without 4F acting out.

Renouncing this kind of self-abandonment is a journey that often feels frustratingly Sisyphean. It is a labor of self-love and a self-nurturing process of the highest order, but it can feel like an ordeal replete with unspectacular redundancy – with countless, menial experiences of noticing, naming and dis-identifying from the unhelpful internal overreactions that depression triggers in us.

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It seems to me after having witnessed my own painful journey as well as those of two siblings, such a shame that there is sometimes such a lack of understanding, insight, awareness and empathy to the deep level of childhood abandonment issues which replay across generations.  Such concerns are especially prominent in my mind presently as Saturn in Scorpio retrogrades back in my own chart towards natal Neptune and over significant points in the charts of so many of my family members.  We are struggling with the loss of a sibling and daughter whose abandonment issues and unresolved grief led to a lung condition.  I struggle with similar symptoms while another sister has been removed to hospital, which is a source of even deeper angst, mirroring as it does so many elements of my eldest sister’s journey.  Saturn is place in Scorpio in both my Mother and my surviving sisters’ charts.  Opening up to deep feelings doesn’t come easily to either. And it has at times been a very hard journey to have two significant relatives Saturn smack bang on my own natal Neptune.  It leads me often into the deep and painful territory of powerlessness over the things I cannot change.  The choices of other people.  But I will pursue my own recovery and continue to reach out and communicate about it

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

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

The Drama of Being a Child

Alice Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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