Love After Love

I want to share something today that is not my own writing, but expresses a comforting truth I so needed to hear today and which brought me to tears.  It is taken from an anthology : Poems to Make A Grown Man Cry and the initial paragraphs are written by the English actor Tom Hiddleson, who chose this poem for inclusion in the anthology for the reasons below:

In the madness and mayhem of modern life, where every man seems committed to an endless search for the approval and esteem of his fellows and peers, no matter what the cost this poem reminds me of a basic truth : that we are, as we are, ‘enough’.  Most of us are motivated deep down by a sense of insufficiency, a need to be better, stronger, faster; to work harder; to be more committed, more kind, more self sufficient, more successful.  We are driven by a sense that we are not as we are ‘enough’.

But this short poem by Derek Walcott is like a declaration of unconditional love.  It’s like the embrace of an old friend.  We are each of us whole, perfectly imperfect, enough.  ‘Feast on your life’ feels like permission, as though Walcott is calling time on all the madness, the mayhem, the insecurity, the neuroses, the drama, and with a big, broad, kind smile, he brings us to an awareness of the present moment, calm and peaceful, and to a feeling of gratitude for everything that we have.  I read it to my dearest friends after dinner once, and to my family at Christmas and they started crying.  Which always, unfailingly, make me cry.

Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will great yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the others welcome.

and say, sit here.  Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Don’t run from your weakness

Don’t run from your weakness, you will only give it strength.

This quote touched my heart deeply when I read it in my daily meditation book on the subject Patience With Myself, this morning. It seems that like many people I can be loving and kind to others, but not always as loving and kind with myself, and at the moment, heading towards what I experience as a difficult time of year it is so important that I go gently with myself.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been feeling particularly sensitive and raw over the past few weeks. It has been a painful few years, I lost my sister around Easter, it was not only a sad loss but a blessed liberation for her soul, on one level. Her life was very challenging and difficult, confined as she was by the repercussions of a painful family history and a major trauma of her early thirties that lead through stroke, coma, partial paralysis, psychosis, separation and numerous challenges.

The aftermath of my sister’s breakdown in the early 1980’s as Pluto was passing through Scorpio, splintered and fragmented my extended family and in the aftermath of four painful years of tragic events, I lost my father over the Christmas period in 1984. He was diagnosed with cancer in November and dead by January 8.

It was in the early hours of Christmas morning that he was taken back to hospital following surgery to remove his stomach that went wrong, within just over two weeks he was gone, taken suddenly from us, no time to say a proper goodbye. His heart gave way during a procedure to perform a tracheoctomy, the process of inserting a tube in his throat to enable him to breathe following even further complications.

These painful events are now, of course, well in the past, but there are echoes over Christmas which often highlights the different aspects of our interconnections with those we have loved and lost.

It was four years ago that my last relationship broke up, following a separation over Christmas that evoked too much pain for my partner and brought to light old ghosts of Christmas past. Imprints of old leavings and experiences which replayed and over which we were both powerless due to the full weight of the historic past, were influencing our actions and reactions in ways, which were not obvious then, only became obvious in the light of hindsight and through the pain of processing the aftermath.

I am conscious, over this last week that there is a heavy weight of sadness around, a deep underground spring of watery feeling which threatens to rise up and flood the banks. Last night I received a call from my mother : she wanted me to go to a dinner with her and my brother and sister. It will be the only opportunity we have to gather together before Christmas. I didn’t want to go, I think that is the truth. I had to admit this truth to my mother who was, understandably disappointed. The sadness in her voice made me feel so sad. I told her how sorry I was for disappointing her.

Maybe it’s a sign of growth that I can allow her to have this disappointment and act anyway to take care of myself and do what I feel I need to do for myself. As I reflect on it, others have disappointed me this year too, I had to bear the pain of it and acknowledge it as a necessary part of my healing.

The flood of feeling I feel at Christmas and at most other times, does not meet with recognition in my family. So many times I have acted against my deepest instincts and been driven by the longing to have it affirmed launching myself into yet another painful encounter that leaves me crying in the bathroom alone.   It may not even be that way, but I know there is this pattern, when we get together, I will be the one carrying and expressing all of the feeling, it is just what happens. It’s a dynamic I am powerless over.

I feel deeply connected to my mother’s sadness and longing for us all to be together at a time of year that is so deeply painful for her, associated as it is with the loss of my father. I broke down in tears myself, as our conversation was ending.

To be honest I really struggled when I got off the phone.  I could then get very hard on myself and tell myself what I should be doing. But the truth is, that part of me wants the comfort of space and distance from the pain of it, so that I can be with the pain of it in a way that is ultimately more healing for me, this will bring me happiness, rather than more pain.

Maybe I am putting up defences. Maybe this time, with the changes we have all gone through during the year there will be a softening and a sharing of feeling. Maybe by saying “No” and not going, not participating I am putting a block on something. These are the kind of revolving thoughts I endure as I wrestle with the issue.

My inner voice today bid me reach out to someone to share the feelings, someone safe who would just listen and with whom I was free to express myself fully. I then opened my daily reader and read the reading that I opened with at the outset of this blog.

Today I am conscious that I need to be with the inner child in me who at times gets overwhelmed. I need to take her by the hand and give her support and let her know it is okay to feel sad, to have lots of unfulfilled longings, to center within and listen deeply to those, showing her the way to go. I need her to know that whatever happens I will not abandon her.

Tian Dayton’s reading helped me, today to understand this. She wrote

Today I will give myself the same kind of comfort I would extend to a hurt child, knowing the comfort will help me have the strength to forgive and move on. I will hold the child within me and give her love and encouragement. The simple act of holding, of letting the child within me lean into me, sob, hurts, adore and need without shutting it down will be enough.

It is not even that I feel the need to indulge deep feelings of pain but moreso that I need to acknowledge they exist. At the moment I feel fragile and tender. There is a sense of something new, vulnerable and small that is trying to emerge and birth its power.

I was conscious this morning as thundery showers encircled my home that Uranus is stationing to move forward soon. At 12 degrees of Aries in my eight house there is banking up of energy for forward movement and growth that is rumbling around. I feel it echoing deep within my body, along the energetic channels hitting my natal Neptune at 13 Scorpio in the third, sextiling all my Aquarian planets in the seventh house and trining my North Node and Leo ascendant upon which Jupiter is stationing too.

It is an energy that is calling me towards authenticity. It is an energy that is not easy to express in words, but at its heart I feel it whispering to me of the longing I have to be conscious, honest and free. To live as I am, as the child within me intended me to be.

Christ once said, it is through the child that we find our way to the kingdom of heaven. To me that kingdom represents authentic honest self hood that recognises its interconnection at a very deep level with every living thing. This morning I felt that interconnection as the thunder around me echoed deeply the thundering rumble of energy moving within me.

To live in this moment for me I guess means acknowledging what it is, even with all of its pain and difficulty, finding deep within that the answers for that moment which show me in the next instant the way to move forward.  There is no formula just the unfolding of consciousness and expression in this moment that contains within it all that is necessary and essential to our growth.  In feeling and being with my pain and weakness I find the way to move forward with the strength and courage I earned through being vulnerable.

Vulnerability, once accepted gives me permission to be human, to struggle, to be weak and scared at times.  It gives me the ability to acknowledge what is rather than deny it or remain locked in a painful struggle.  Acceptance then allows a release of energy that was previously buried and trapped.

As it struggles to emerge into the light, the new shoot is tender and weak.  It will take time to strengthen and it is okay just for this time to surround it with protection and care from the wild winds that blow.  Like that tender shoot I am a soul in process, struggling to emerge, to be free, of that weight of the past, of pain that traps me when it remains unexpressed, unacknowledged, unreleased.  Healing asks of me this liberation, this release.

Understanding and healing the Scapegoat within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In her analysis of the scapegoat identified individual,Syliva Perrera (who wrote an excellent book on the subject,) makes the point that split off assertion and desire is a huge part of what creates the scapegoat. Many of us who develop addictions as a mean of coping use the substances to numb and anaesthetise our feelings around not being able to express and assert ourselves fully. Addictive relationships function in similar ways, especially when the longing and hunger we feel has complex and deep roots in earlier invalidating relationships. We enter them hoping the broken hearted child will heal. Instead that child meets her own woundedness and is sent on a journey so that she or he can heal. Healing involves finding ways which allow the wholeness of ourselves to express and find acceptance, mirroring and love in relationships, families, collectives and a culture which often do not allow certain feelings a place.

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

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

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

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

You cannot heal something you cannot accept.

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Life can pitch us some very raw deals.  When we have been hurt or are hurting it can seem to be a cruel suggestion that we need to accept something we don’t like or that hurts us.  And yet accepting something does not mean that we say something that happened is okay.  Most of the time it is not okay.  But the main point I have found is that until I can accept something I cannot find freedom from it nor fully extract the necessary lessons.

I have just been reading a comment on a reply I left on the blog of Let Me Reach, devoted to the healing of people coming out of a relationship with a Narcissist.  I was sharing how difficult a journey it was to find freedom from all the nasty things my ex narcissistic partner would say to me. Mostly what riled him was my ability to be and express my vulnerability.   I was just doing a google search on the relationship between narcissisism and bi polar disorder. The distinction made was that the narcissistic personalities very early in life had to erect a powerful psychological defence against any feelings of vulnerability.  In order to survive they had to deny that vulnerability and pretend to be a person who was strong and impermeable to vulnerability which they came to equate with weakness.  They then use a process of projective identification to locate that vulnerability out there in another person who they, in putting down shame and discard in just the same way they shame and discard their true (hidden) selves for being vulnerable and human.    I don’t think narcissistic personalities are alone in this, for our modern society tends to have many narcissistic tendencies, teaching us to deny our vulnerability and equate it with weakness, while at the same time shaming people who fall short of certain ideal images.   But the truth is that our vulnerability is a very powerful asset which teaches us that we are human, imperfect and that we have limits.

It took me many years of struggle to understand this of my ex partner.  Even one year out of the relationship I was still trying to convince him I was worthwhile.  The sad thing was that he was not the person I needed to convince, it was, instead myself who needed to believe positive things about myself while learning to develop self compassion for any mistakes, which were, in fact, learning experiences.

In the 12 step group of which I am a part we have a saying : we work on achieving progress rather than perfection.   I was not aware for so many years that I was often a very subtle perfectionist.  I was raised in a home where I was conditioned to have high standards, to hide when I felt inadequate.  I never learned how to say, I don’t know, or can you please help me, I actually don’t understand how to do that.  Such attitudes were in my case a breeding ground for addiction, subtle escapism and hiding.   I now realise that making mistakes is actually all a part of learning.  The way to heal my difficulties is not to deny that they exist, but to front up and face them.  In the words of my 12 step group we practice to heal in this way via.  Awareness, Acceptance and Action.  Awareness means I shine a spot light on the dark places.  That in the place of hiding and silence I learn to speak about and open up to what is happening.

I just came across the following quote on the Psyche Central Website

In the end we are all hurt by silence, as you cannot heal what you cannot acknowledge.

Awareness and acceptance are related to acknowledging what it is that exists, even if it is a painful harsh truth.  In my case I may have had to revert back to denial or disbelief many times on the journey of healing in that last relationship, in order to learn to face the truth and let go.  It took a lot of pain and heartache and tears but in time I reached that place.  I learned in that process to come home to me.  Getting my puppy Jasper also helped for me to transfer my affections to a being that knew a lot more about unconditional love.  My ex partner would scoff at the ideal of unconditional love, equating it was an impossible concept.  I guess he had no experience of it.

In the end I would wish for anyone coming out such a co-dependent relationship to find that freedom for searching for an impossible dream, that of love from someone who was not, in the end, capable of it.  But in the end it takes what it takes for us to finally find freedom and no one else can take that journey but us.  And until we finally accept the painful reality we cannot truly let go of what is hurting us.

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