Reflections on reactivity following a hurt


I wrote this blog a few weeks ago.  Injury has made me much more present to the here and now.  I am undergoing physio to work with the injury and maximise my healing.  And this blog has been slumbering in draft.  Today I release it like a butterfly.

I awoke after a long and fairly peaceful sleep, this morning.  It was filed with powerful dreams and images and my body was twisted around due to the ankle injury I sustained last week, but the twisting and turning that goes on when I try to push myself out of pain stopped, I rested quietly with the breath.  I am conscious that the building pressure of the Mars Pluto conjunction was beginning to loosen.

I had a challenging day yesterday.  I reached out the day before to someone, then had second thoughts then they rejected me or my need because they wanted to handle the situation in a different way. I wasn’t gracious about it.  In fact I was really, really angry and I let them know.  (Always a scary thing for me.)

I did a double take when I realised the Moon was opposite not only Pluto but Mars too.  Maybe this was a time to get powerful insights into my own Moon Mars Saturn conjunction that has a lot of intensity around it, due to the connections with Chiron and Pluto too.

Relationships have always contained a lot of pain and difficulty for me.  As a growing person I did not learn to negotiate feelings in relationship.  I did not see healthy confrontation and conflict modelled in relationships.  I was not mirrorered, due to the way my parents treated me when I was angry and due to the way I saw conflict modelled (or not modelled) in the home.  Outbursts from my Mum never led to any kind of resolution.  There was this pool of seething frustration in the atmosphere I did my best to negotiate warily around, by trying to do the right thing so as not to get in the way of a bullet.  I also probably didn’t learn very effective ways of understanding and controlling my impulses.  After many years of mixed up development I landed in recovery, a binge drinking alcoholic.

Over the years of my recovery I have began to realise that I learned that anger was a powerful and dangerous emotion that was best repressed or kept under wraps.  That method did not work, since anger would erupt.  Anger is intimately related to our self assertive drive to express ourselves effectively in the world.  If our method of self expression becomes blocked in some way we end up with a backlog of repressed energy and the anger banks up.  It took me many years to understand that anger could come out when other emotions, feelings, wants, needs and perceptions were not really understood and being expressed by me. Anger could be the eruptive force that hid a softer side, that softer side was being protected by the full force of anger thrown out, that then had the effect of alienating others, who did not really know how to cope.

It was not possible for me to say.  “Listen I am feeling really scared at the moment and I really need some comfort and reassurance.”  Or “I’ feeling really confused, I don’t really understand how to do that/what you are saying/how you are  feeling/why you are treating me like this/what this all means.”  I would either retreat and stuff it, because that is what I watched my Dad do in response to my Mum, or when that method didn’t work explode in a rage, just as I saw my Mother do.  I grew into an adult, but inside was a child that didn’t have a lot of skills to negotiate the world.

I have talked with another friend around my own age in recovery and we have discussed how its a bit of a generational thing for us born in the 60s, we grew up pretty mixed up around feelings, raised by parents and institutions short on emotional intelligence and surrounded by peers undergoing their own struggles and sometimes acting them out on us.

It is apt that Neptune is currently stationing on my Chiron in the seventh house, as old pain around relationships has been triggered a lot over the past few weeks and as I come to further realisations around Mars issues, since Mars and Chiron aspect each other in my chart.  Good things are coming out of these transits, but injury has accompanied it.   A recent function brought me and my nephew closer together.  We both struggle with the Mars Saturn conjunction and we both struggle with feelings of rage and powerlessness which are tied up with deep feelings of grief.  It felt good to be able to share about it.  A few days later I wrote a blog on Not Magnifying a Hurt.

While writing this I am thinking of what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body.  According to Eckhart some people have a much stronger pain body, it is more easily triggered.  I would equate this with a person who, having had painful experiences in the past can easily find this old pain triggered by a seemingly (to others) un noxious event (someone with a strong Pluto energy.)  I certainly relate to this.

Last year a friend confronted me about my tendency to explode.  Often this kind of explosion is associated with some lack of compassion and sensitivity (not necessarily to me only) but to those who are more vulnerable.  The fighting warrior comes out in me and flies into full protection or defensive mode.   People around start to feel really uncomfortable.  Grief may then come following the said explosion which is cause for more concern from others, frightened, horrified or shocked looks.  In exploring this issue with someone similar to me, he gets my response totally.  Doesn’t really see the need for judgement at all.  Never the less I can come away from such interactions feeling judgement and then feeling a bit peeved at the lack of understanding.  But I am beginning to see this as a bit self centred too, many people struggle with expressing their own anger so mine challenges them.  We are all only human.

Over the years I’ve explored the idea I might be a person with Borderline Personality.  I fit many of the criteria when my addiction was in full flight.  Recovery has helped me to address some of those characteristics.   But on some level I am not sure if that diagnosis totally sticks.  I have also explored the concept of being both Highly Sensitive and Highly empathic.

In the end the bottom line exists in knowing myself.  In having some kind of idea of the things the irk me and get me fired up, of the things that bug me and trigger me and accepting that.  Of looking at my reactions, questioning myself, sharing with others, reading about anger, finding out about projection and learning to stay in touch with my insides, finding avenues to express my feelings (especially through journaling and blogging).  And reaching out to others who are more likely to be empathetic than judgemental.

For many years I had the idea there was something wrong with me for feeling and reacting the way that I did, and I most certainly did need to learn to grow in understanding of myself.  The truth is my feelings and reactions show me more about my at times unconscious history and sensitivities rather than being a sign of something wrong with me.

I  think if I could have achieved this level of insight and self acceptance sooner, I would have had an easier time of it.  The truth is too, that sometimes it would be better to let go of the irritant that is causing my pain body to ark up or to find ways to self sooth in the face of what grates and grazes on my soul.  Many of my feelings are only magnified by further negative thoughts which act as salt put into a wound that is already smarting.  Instead I need to apply the healing balm of something that soothes and calms the irritated pain body, when faced with tasks that seem massive and overwhelming I can make them more digestable if I bite a little off and chew them piece by piece.

All these tools help to become less reactive, or at best able to deal with and recognise strong reactions when they occur.  This process for me has taken a lot of years.  Looking back now I can see that I had a backlog of desire and need that wasn’t really fulfilled in childhood.  My parents did the best they could.  For me it wasn’t enough and traumas occurring in my late teens and early twenties made growing up and negotiating the challenges of this passage all the more difficult.  Things that happened during this time, and most especially the accident that nearly ended my life at 17 and saw me confined in hospital for three months,  left both wounds and a developmental arrest of sorts that have at times made change challenging.

Lately I am mindful of the Saturn Mars Moon theme that in some way brings me up short, when approaching the brink of change.  Just before I am about to move through to the next  stage some incident happens which brings me back, to the injury at 17, to the arrest, to the circumscribed circumference of a circle that is like a ring pass not fate has ordained for me.  Inwardly I travel far and wide, while being holed up with injury and perhaps the experience which has made it necessary for me to reach out more for help, has been good for me.  My Saturn Moon often tries to tough it out and go it alone.  I am aware that emotionally I need to sustain myself, but connections, too are so very important when we are feeling vulnerable.  Friendships from an unlikely place have been given to me during this past ordeal with my ankle that show me I am not totally alone.  And yet I get frightened by Saturn at times, thinking that planet has some power not only over me but over the entire collective of my family.  I watched my sister struggle with incapacitation following a cerebral bleed and become bed ridden in the last few years of her life.   She also had the Mars Saturn aspect.

I think of the lessons that Saturn may be here to teach me.  To be aware of my tendency to over reach (which is a family trait), to stay grounded and in touch with reality.  To accept the differences between myself and others with good grace.   To put protective and effeive boundaries around my feelings, while respecting the limits of others and to realise that although I am a spirit, matter is the principle through with I must manifest and which I cannot escape as long as my soul is incarnated in this physical body.

And as I look at my swollen ankle and face the fact that the damage sustained to it may not be reparable, I think of Chiron, the wounded healershot in the foot by an arrow that contained poison from the Hydra’s den that Heracles had on its tip from his encounter with the Hydra, that many headed Scorpionic (Plutonian) beast.  The injury I sustained happened after some poisonous family secrets were shared with me following my mother’s 90th in early November.  The profound power of both astrology and mythology to define soulful archetypal truths is strongly with me.  Our family has had a Hydra its heart we have all been affected by the multi generational demon of alcoholism.  Battling that has proved useless, understanding it has been more important and in the end that understanding has probably come from the battles that failed or wounded us. The scars remain, they need tending and healing.

In mythology it is only when Heracles gets down on his knees and raised the Hydra to the light does the awesome beast reveal its jewel.  So in the end some kind of fail, or fall or injury makes possible surrender of a kind, and makes time for the necessary healing.

As the words flow out from me in this blog which, as usual is revealing another face I get out of the way and let it flow, I get closer to some answers or images which rise up and reveal their truths.  And I have felt a particular cleansing and healing over the past couple of days.

I read a beautiful piece of writing this morning by the poet Mark Nepo.  In it he spoke about how life is an ongoing migration of a sort that carries us across shifting oceans to ever new experiences and realisations.  He uses the powerful metaphor of the ocean swell being akin to the process we undergo in living and journeying each day.  At times we are caught up in the belly of a wave, at other times we are cresting.  While in the belly we cant see much and things can get scary, but then another day reveals to us insights we did not have before and so we are riding, for a time, on the wave’s crest.  In closing I will leave you with the following quote which really resonated with me deeply.

The life of the soul on Earth has us bobbing on a raft of flesh, in and out of the view of eternity, and the work of the inner pilgrim is to keep eternity in our heart and mind’s eye when dropped in the belly of our days.

April 30, Our Constant Arrival, The Book of Awakening

The Dark Side of Soul Mates

I was just editing some of my recent posts when another blogger’s post about Soul Mates caught my eye.  Not an hour ago I was re reading over my old journals which were fraught with attempts to make sense of an extremely painful relationship in which I was involved for over four years.  In this relationship there were constant battles with emotional expression. I would say my ex was a narcissist.  Certain emotions were taboo, especially grief.  Just expressing my vulnerability may trigger an attack, and so my feelings would bank up and I began to experience a lot of symptoms of repressed anger.

It seems easy to write this now that it has become clear after a few years of therapy, but at the time it was hell on earth.  At that time I was not in therapy, though my ex was telling me all the time that I needed to be since I was the one with a lot of problems.  I was ordering every book on Anger and googling Narcissistic Personality Disorder and buying books on that too to try to make sense of it.  At one point my ex told me “Don’t you dare put any of those psychology books in the room where my son, sleeps,”  Suffice to say it was painful to watch that relationship from the sidelines.

This theme of repression of emotional expression has been one of the ongoing themes of my life.  Those of you who are astrologically aware will know what I am saying when I mention I have the Mars Saturn Moon aspect, which is associated with difficulty expressing feelings.  Also people who have it tend to be placed in a position where their wills are thwarted by stronger wills.  In one dream I was shown an image of what happens in this situation.  There was a gun pointed at my own head, held by me.  The dream showed me how to turn it around.  This was the beginning of my repressed anger becoming known.

We often think romantically and idealistically about soul mates.  But as people such as Thomas Moore have noted maybe there is a darker side to this phenomena.  A soul mate may be someone who comes into your life to teach you a lesson that you need to integrate certain qualities that are in your shadow, difficult to express, hidden or disallowed by parental and social conditioning.

In my journal of that time I wrote:

I know that this time I must honour and guide and protect my precious child.  She has been given away too much, suffered alone and swallowed down so many painful feelings for so long.  There has been very little willingness on Mum’s part to look at any of her patterns and there are strong narcissistic and manipulative patterns there under all the lovely Mum qualities.  At present I am doing battle with and separating from those.

I know I need to strengthen, feel more fully into the pain and disappointment and  grief over Mum’s refusal to validate my feelings and be there for me.  But I do have compassion.  How could she tolerate it when her own was so stifled?  “Nice girls” don’t do that.  And a lot of it was the conditioning of the time.

Perhaps there is a chance I can move out of child to X’s strong adult and be an available adult for myself by honouring my inner feelings. The pain of his neglected child is deep but he is not ready to acknowledge it.

And then a I had inserted a quote from a book I was reading by Alice Miller titled, The Truth Will Set You Free.

She gives an example of how our bodies carry the burden.   The high price we pay in health to be barred from knowledge of what we suffered, citing the experience of man from the Communist Party who “attempted to engage in an exchange with his colleagues about the view that violence and the desire for power are learned in childhood, and that the subject of education by the use of force should be integrated into Marxist thinking.  He endured virulent animosity..  did not sacrifice his views.  Developed arthritis in his feet, decided to leave, notified them in writing and in so doing evoked

“massive anxieties bound up with the abandonment he suffered as a child of a religious family with strict Protestant rules of discipline, a child who never had the right to his own opinions without the threat of punishment and emotional abandonment.  To his surprise and joy three hours after giving his notice, the pain in his feet disappeared.  He saw this as proof that he had succeeded in refusing to perpetuate the situation he had been in as a child and in breaking out of a state of dependency that, although affording him the illusion of security in the past had started to stifle him.  The man was astounded at the speed of the bodily response to his action. He knew, though, that this was not a case of “miracle healing” in the usual sense of the term but the logical consequence of his decision to walk out of the prison in which he had been incarcerated.”.

Synchronisitically I had just experienced an inflamed elbow at the visit of my mother and sister and a very strong transiting Mars aspect was taking place with my natal Mars Saturn Moon.  And also in the relationship with my partner I had been experiencing ongoing symptoms.  The body doesn’t lie.

My journal then continued:

Today the Moon is waxing onto Saturn so all of X’s defences are being triggered.  I feel it in his hard, defended hug, in the tyrannical way he bats away emotions.  Funny but T laughingly calls him the tyrant. My heart aches and I long for someone softer and more understanding.  But then part of me thinks “Didn’t I get just the partner I needed in order to grow and learn?”  Isn’t this just a challenge to my soul to become stronger?

It took me a long time to learn to stop looking to someone who could never give me what I needed.  Eventually he ended the relationship and the pain was intense as it triggered all the other abandonments of my life. In the end the only was to stop trying to contact him, get a good therapist and let go. That process took about a year. I had to go cold turkey to save my sanity since I was continuing to repeat and persist in futile attempts that were a replay and bound to end in frustration. It took a lot of work and I now feel free and have clarity.

Certainly the synastry aspects between both our charts were very strong and indicated this would be a very Plutonian relationship, powerfully transformative in either a positive or negative way.

I read somewhere once that the definition of a soul mate is not the one you mesh with but the one you have conflict with that challenges you to grow in your soul and in every other way too.

So though it ended in tears about 6 months later I did find my soul mate in X.

That’s why I think a Soul Mate may have a dark side and if we can accept it, and grow through it and integrate the lesson we can move forward into the light.