It really is okay : speak up! Finding meaning in and through expressing trauma.

I felt there was a healing today.  Mum and I went out to lunch and we were able to talk through a lot of the issues surrounding her concerns with how my sister and I will fare when she is no longer here.  Turns out she has decided giving us a big amount of money is not the best thing to do, and I must say I am very relieved about this.

Often the way we react around money isn’t to do with money at all and in my case the money in my family represents the loss of emotional connection and other important values, like time for being able to be together without a lot of stress from business issues and pressures.

I felt very sad for my Mum today.  I began to see that she was trying to help us according to her idea of what may be helpful for us, but it wasn’t really what we needed.  In my own case I would be happier just to have some time to spend together with my family, especially at this time of year when painful reminders of how we lost my Dad when he was still quiet young are all around.

When traumas hit there is absolutely no way you can be prepared.  That is the nature of shock and trauma.  It just comes upon you out of left field.  If like me you have about three very major traumatic events within a short period of time the trauma is compounded.  If then you don’t get any help following the trauma but are sent away or struggle by taking yourself away in a knee jerk fashion, things rebound and get even worse.  Trauma on trauma piles up and compounds.

From the age of 17 to 23 when my Dad died I could list you about 10 major traumas that I went through.  Its fine to say now that is all over and so long ago in the past but the fact is trauma upon trauma compounded in my own life, led to addiction which caused even more trauma and then recovery came but due to the unconscious nature of compounded trauma it was still impacting my life about 20 years later.

Trauma, trauma, trauma, trauma.  What more can I say but now 30 years later I am finally aware of all the traumas (or most of them).  The trauma fragments and splinters are no longer lodged like schrapnel somewhere deep in my body.  16 or more years of therapy has done its  work and many of those deep trauma fragments have worked their way out.  There are still deep scars in the psychic spaces where the schrapnel was lodged, however I know the attempts I have made to express trauma and express trauma imprints even when they have not been well received by others have never the less been essential to my recovery.  The deep pain showed me how essential it was to tend my wounds.  All the rages and anger and dummy spits have been essential, even a lot of the tantrums.  At times they may have rebounded and made me or others ricochet away but their expression has still has been essential to the healing process.

I know that when I do honestly make the attempt to speak up or point things out I may initially get a rebuff.  I can understand that it is upsetting for lots of people, but that doesn’t make it wrong.  My therapist has helped me to see that often people will try to make me feel like I am wrong or bad or selfish for self expressions that seem overly dramatic, but that does not mean I have done anything wrong, it just means others are having a problem receiving it and may not understand the depth of trauma that lies beneath for me.  As long as I am being honest and not really hurting anyone it really is for the best to get it out.

That said, in time many of us raised with wounded instincts and lack of self protective boundaries do learn some of the limitations of trying to share intense memories or experiences in the wrong place and with the wrong people.   We have to keep seeking and try to find those who do understand and that is not always easy for some of us.  We might have many tries and so called ‘fails’ but with each fail if we negotiate it well we do learn something.  There is no way our healing  journey out of trauma can be perfect. We need to go easy on ourselves and also cut others some slack when they fail us in certain ways.

I am breathing a big sigh of relief this afternoon.  Mum and I reached a resolution about the past and we were able to share some grief over my Dad together.  I know how hard both my father and mother worked thinking they were doing the right thing by trying to reach for material success.  I see how in many ways they unconsciously recreated the traumas and loneliness and struggle of their respective childhoods.  I see how much of the pain and loneliness I carried and how as the last one in the line I got impacted far more severely in some ways, but also got a chance to see the wider pattern, at least once I entered recovery and started doing my emotional work as part of emotional sobriety.

I have a strong feeling that many of the tears I have shed over these nearly 23 years of sobriety have not only been personal, but also collective and ancestral.  I hope it doesn’t sound like hubris or arrogance but I really do believe my task has been as a light worker to enter those dark and desolate places, understand the resonances, imprints, echoes and reverberances over time and in feeling them bring them out of darkness into the light.

Just after my marriage ended and I put myself in enforced solitary confinement at the coast house my father and brother built six years before he died, just prior to the time the trauma shit hit the fan for us collectively as a family with my auto accident in 1979 I had a dream. I was on an island alone and over in the distance was the mainland a large strip of inhabited land with lots of houses and lots of lights.

On the mainland I was aware that my family were celebrating (this was true the entire family apart from me had gone north to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday).  I was alone on the island and I entered a field by climbing over a turnstile and entering a gate.  Beyond the gate was a deep black pit.  In my hands I had a silver cup.  I knew my task was to empty the dark sludge out of the deep pit, it seemed like an enormous task.  The dream scene then shifted I was in a taxi about to go on a trip, my cousin was there.  She gave me a silver moon earring.  We cried together,  she said “I know this journey is hard but I am with you in spirit every step of the way,  It is a necessary journey, you need to take it for all of us”.  It was shortly after that I left for the UK and had my second major accident, the one that gave me such bad PTSD I had to return home to Australia after a few months.

Thinking about it today I have a sense that for all of those years the roads were always leading me back home.  The ancestral pattern over the past 4 or so generations has been to migrate away from family to another place or country.  I now know that pattern broke when Chiron passed over my Mars Saturn Moon conjunction 11 years ago in 2005.  I had to return here to put the severed bits together.  In that time my older sister has died, her sons have returned for visits and we have done some grieving.  In that time I have been able to mourn for all the losses and separations that span over 116 years and echoed along the ancestral line to these past three generations.

Mum was telling me today how much my father loved the house at the coast where I lived from 2005 – 2010 the years when my own Dark Night of the Soul really descended.  She was crying as she told me.  Dad said to me “this is our little piece of paradise”.  Sadly in a few years he died and didn’t really get to enjoy it.  Was it any wonder that his ghost called me back there 20 years later?  What was I trying to live and resolve there at that time unconsciously that my father could not?  Was this partly an expression of complicated, unresolved grief? I think so on some level.  But so much happened in those years and in the new relationship which I found there that in the end was dogged by both our emotional losses and wounds.  This relationship could not survive the tearing of our unconscious griefs which in many ways were so similar and ended up pushing us so far apart. I had far deeper work to do and was called upon a journey at the time Chiron returned to its place in my 7th house and that relationship needed to break, breaking my heart open to the deepest, deepest grief.

It seems to me that the healing journey takes us on a circular, spiral journey.  We travel back around to the key imprints and anniversaries in the cycles of the year and each time we pass around we gain a little elevation that enables us to better see the patterns and interconnections that lie beneath and propel us forward.  After many years of travelling over the ground again and again we can gain deeper insights and meaning and are able to make more sense of the wounding losses, pain and trauma patterns that in earlier years entrapped us repeating unconsciously.

Today towards the end of our lunch, Mum said to me.  “I know there has been so much loss, pain and suffering but I truly believe there is a time to rise above it and to enter the present moment, otherwise what is the purpose of all that loss, all that pain?”

I think she is so right.  The loss should show us how precious life and the present moment is.  It should remind us how precious are the ones we love, that there is often not enough time and we realise all too late what is so important.  We realise that we should value those we love and be close to them when we can and be grateful for the gifts that remain.  And we can through the wisdom we gain through loss learn to love, to understand and to heal the very real wounds that cause fissures within which open us on some level to the infinite and timeless nature of love.

I do feel that the lifting my mother spoke of actually comes as the final stage in a journey of mourning abandonment wounds which may take many months or even long years.  Each person’s journey is unique and follows its own trajectory and its pace and process and timing should be honoured and respected.

So if you need to cry, cry.  If you need to rage, rage.  It really is okay.  Just let yourself speak up and shed until the need to speak and shed is done.

 

Some thoughts on Isolation and Connection

I am thinking a lot about isolation lately.  I know I have isolated due to big fears.  I didn’t really even understand the depth of the fear.  When the world begins to feel unsafe you can start to make up stories about life that may not be real.  They may be true  based on past experience but are not truly about today and you don’t know that your thoughts are not just the inner protector on overdrive.  Ideally our inner protector should enable us to connect and take time out if and when things feel difficult or there are some red flags when we find ourselves in company that just doesn’t get us or is emotionally invalidating.  Ideally we shouldn’t just have to isolate to stay safe and cut off all life, as connection is important,  connection of the necessary kind but if we have been abused or traumatised developing a safe inner protector is huge work.  We may have never fully learned self protection and self care.

Thinking more about isolation has also been prompted since I started going back to AA a short while ago  I left meetings behind about 10 years ago.  I had got into therapy and that was an important move for me, but its hard sometimes just to have therapy and no other connections much.  In the meetings isolation comes up as a big theme.  People who are prone to addictions have often had very difficult attachments in early life or at some stage in life. We don’t seem to have developed a healthy inner parent to our inner child and we may have had very challenging or damaging experiences of loss of pain or trauma that drove us to isolate and pick up substances to ease the pain.

In the rooms the connection regarding this may not yet have been made by those in early sobriety but they still talk a lot about feeling different, lonely or set apart.  They talk about unkind thoughts in their heads that try to keep them disconnected from others.  When we can be in a meeting and can honestly share our inside with others, including these tormenting thoughts we find walls start to tumble down.  As we are voicing fears, feelings and pain others have experienced but may have been to scared to reveal to others a flood gate can open.  We can feel that we are not struggling alone, that others can and do understand.  But we need to be careful too, not to blame ourselves when we are really trying to grow, learn and heal.

Going back to meetings has made me realise there is a great difference between acquaintances and true connections.  I have acquaintances here where I live but we often cant touch base on the deeper things and I don’t always experience the kind of connection I feel with others who go through difficulties and have deeper sensitivities.  This is what I am learning about myself lately.

Since challenging my family recently with some hard truths they don’t call any more.  Its okay if I can focus on the things I love to do and make me feel good. For example I love Carl Jung and so today I spent most of the morning writing a blog on Carl and seeking out some of his quotes on line.  I also find that online I can find those kinds of connections that are deeper and more emotionally nourishing.  Its better in the long run to do this than to loose myself in others who I don’t really connect with.

I also know that a sense of inner isolation ends when I listen to what I want to do and what makes me happy instead of reaching out to others who I don’t seem to have much in common with just for the sake of not being alone.

Considering the part isolation has played in my life and how it relates to fear of rejection (as opposed to just needing solitary time to connect) I think my old fear of rejection may have come up after the meeting on Sunday and I am not sure why.  I am aware that self protection is not a bad thing, I just don’t want to get isolated but then (and you can probably hear the wheel spinning inside my head here) I know that the worst isolation is isolation from the core of myself and what I love.  But I am still a bit lonely here in my so called ‘home’ town.

That said it also seems to me that the path of awareness and consciousness often involves significant time alone.  It seems to me that the highly attuned and sensitive amongst us are often the ones most likely to be scapegoated. We don’t always fit into the mainstream and we may be looked down upon.  For example, where you told in your family you needed not to be SO SENSITIVE?  Were you told you needed to be something else than what you are and your life would be so much better if you would just change?  Where your real hopes, needs, dreams and ideas laughed at sometimes.  I know mine were.

Luckily now I have a therapist who really gets me and who I love.  She never tells me I need to feel, think, do, be different.  She clocks my harsh self criticism and inappropriate self judgement.  She is real, connected, deeply engaged unlike many other therapists I have had.

All in all I have had about 7 therapists in all over the years and apart from the first one who I left after she went on a very long break and things fell apart as she provided no else to step in at a time I was very vulnerable, I didn’t really connect with many of them emotionally.

My current therapist is going away for a month in 10 days or so.  We talked about it yesterday. Part of me feels tired of therapy and feels like I need a break but I know I will also miss her a great deal (I see her twice a week) and the tiredness may be sadness that I will miss her and a bit of anger that she is leaving me to go away.  (While the adult part of me understands and wishes her well.)  There is the deeper memory too of how things blew apart 15 years ago when my last good therapist left me alone for too long.

I know without much other support it will be lonelier for the month that she is gone.  But there are also things that I can do so that I don’t get too isolated.  And in this blog I am at least talking about it.  I now realise there are complex feelings around this break, something I was not aware of and could perhaps not have articulated so clearly before.  I see that while I need and am nourished by alone time, too much of it can sometimes be a trigger for old pain.  And that I do have a choice and can try to reach out, I just have to be aware that I am reaching towards the right places and for the right reasons.

Anyway fellow bloggers and followers do connect up with me if you feel you can or want to.  Your support and encouragement means so much to me and I learn and am nourished so much by what you share in your own blogs here.  I have been so thankful for those of you who have reached out to me in times of deepest sadness.  Thank you.

The creative fire

Ever felt really burnt up by something?  It happens to me a lot.  I just had an image of myself with my hair all aflame and eyes of fire.  In exploring that I also had an image of a phoenix arising out of a bed of flames.

Its a gorgeous process of alchemy how someone’s comments in response to your blog or your comments in response to theirs can fuel creative ideas.  This blog comes out of Amy Rose’s wonderful comment which occurred after I commented on her recent post Judgement which I am sorry I don’t know yet how to link to here.  This blog contains absolutely  STUNNING images of nature on fire with autumn colour.  I highly recommend a visit to her site.

Anyway a short while ago Amy Rose made a comment about how anger is often a fuel for her to create.  I myself have been so deeply conditioned by my repressive Catholic background that anger is “bad”, that at times I forget that authentic justified anger is actually a transformative fire that breaks new ground which leads us home to true authenticity.  It gives us energy to pursue change and create new things, a desire to recognise and celebrate what is beautiful, it also speaks to us in defence of our self and our true values.  Without a living connection to it we become dull and listless, depressed, devitalised and unable to feel the way to our deepest soul.

I was watching an excellent ABC documentary on violence against African  Americans this week and one of the men being interviewed said something like this “I don’t know if it is possible to be a conscious black person in America at this point in history and NOT be angry”.  Towards the end of the programme a gorgeous woman sang a song full of passion of how beautiful it is to be black. I had goosebumps and felt the power in her standing up in self love and self respect.

This afternoon I have been reading and writing a blog on gut feelings and gut instinct that I wont be able to post for some time.  But the gist of it is that when we repress our emotional truth because others dissuade us from it, we suffer profound feelings of emptiness.  Finding out way back to our authentic self depends upon our ability to enter and understand the roots of this emptiness so that it can become fullness.  We may need to find a belly of fire at times in order to re-find our true purpose and meaning

Getting angry about something can enliven me and fill me up with the knowing of what it was inside me that got buried or transgressed against.  In the midst of feeling my anger a voice will speak about something important that it is so essential for my soul to know.

I spent a lot of time getting shamed for anger when I was growing up.  Even now with my certain members of my family if I try to express anger I get a slap of some kind.  I’m learning to recognise when it comes and speak up for myself but I am 53 now and being able to feel comfortable doing this without experiencing some form of backlash has taken YEARS.  Anyway better late than never, I say.

It is a lovely insight of Amy’s that this fire can be turned towards a creative purpose.  It gives us the energy to speak and fight for that which has value for us.  I’m sure I’ve explored this topic before but it just felt right today. With a New Moon later today in a Fire sign it seems timely to be speaking of things fiery like vision, meaning purpose… all very Sagittarian things very dear to my heart today.

I think back to one of my earlier poems :  Close to the Fire which was cry from myself to recognise myself and celebrate myself.  Through doing this I am also able to better recognise and celebrate others in all of their emotions.  I don’t have to fear their anger or argue with them about it. Feelings are responses of a self to something, how we both respond is not always the same,  respect for you and respect for me means I need to honour this difference.

I won’t fear love

What happens to someone when they are not allowed to feel what they feel, when they are having an intense reaction to something and that reaction is then judged as ‘mad’ and steps are taken to shut them down and invalidate the person’s reality?   Really the person was deeply outraged and angry about something that was legitimately hurtful and abusive (perhaps having triggered a complex web of other feelings, issues complexes reaching deep down and far back), but their reaction is judged (often by the abuser, but often also others the abuser has co-opted in to validate their own rejected and repressed betrayal, for example).   Those people bring in a psychiatrist and a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder is made, it is recommended the person is placed on something “to calm them down”.

This type of scenario is unwinding in a novel I am reading at present. The themes explored in the novel are cutting to the heart of similar issues in my own family. The central character in this book is called Grace. When the book opens she has been in a relationship with a narcissist where she walked on eggshells for many years always fearing when the next outburst or angry tirade will be expressed.

As her history is explored in the first half of the book it is revealed that she was raised by a mother who was not only emotionally unavailable to Grace for long periods but prone herself to rash outbursts of anger and strange behaviour that were frightening for her daughter. It is not made clear in the novel what happened to the mother that caused her behaviour but eventually she is diagnosed with “bi-polar” disorder.

The shadow imprints of this painful relationship rears its head when Grace hits midlife. Its nature shows why Grace would have been attracted to a narcissist. Her own emotional needs were never met. She learns to bury her needs and soothe or avoid her husband. Eventually the stress of trying to appease her husband’s endless needs leads Grace to hire an assistant who subtly begins to undermine Grace.

Grace’s behaviour starts to change in response to the mixed messages in the environment, (the not at this stage overt deception going on).  She becomes prone to sleeplessness and then bursts of energy which are nothing more than reactions to stress and buried feelings she has not really been able to articulate over years. Her husband starts to question her behaviour and label it erratic (a huge irony here in that his own behaviour has been even more outlandish). He convinces Grace to see a psychiatrist who diagnoses her with a mild form of bi polar disorder. The diagnosis sits badly with Grace, and yet she questions herself. This guy has a degree from a famous university, he has written chapters in the DSM her own mother was bi polar, has she inherited the bi polar curse? Who is she to question anyway?

Grace reluctantly takes the drugs prescribed which make her hungry, lethargic, sleep 12 hours or more a day and even more depressed. She gains weight and her self esteem plummets. When her closest friend find out what has happened she is outraged. She sees no evidence for the diagnosis. Grace struggles on, being undermined at times by both husband and his new assistant.

Then one day she finds them together having sex, as any normal person would do she flies into a rage attacking the woman who in partnership with her husband then arrange to have her taken to a psychiatric facility. At this part in the story I was hyperventilating. It was so similar to my oldest sister’s story, of which the full details have never been clear, only that her own husband had an affair with a women they were both involved with in and through the business my sister started, either before or after my sister had a cerebral haemorraghe in 1980.

A year later her husband took them and their four children away to New Zealand  (the mistress had gone forward a short while before). I believe on Jude’s arrival in New Zealand she may then have had to witness her husband and his mistress together. She had a series of so called “psychotic” breaks and was admitted to an asylum. She was then sent home home to us with a one way ticket. with one suitcase of clothes, she then tried to take her life.

In the novel Grace is luckier than my sister. She has manages to escape from the influence of the psychiatrist who was loading her with a number of different medications which basically numbed her so that she was only a zombie, less than even a shadow of her former self. My sister was never that lucky. When she came home and tried to cry her eyes out she was stopped from going there. Dumbed down with more meds, as with Grace with the numbing came a loss of all her creative ability, her joy, her zest, her sadness all palled under the greyness of a lifeless “blah” induced by the medications she was fed.

Her authentic liveliness and joy was squashed and little help was given, until later years to help her work through the painful mix of feelings. In the end there were only screaming rages with long crying spells, many of which I sat through in the course of her last years, holding her hand.

I am still in the middle of processing all the feelings that have been coming up for me in reading Grace’s story. I am reminded of the difficult journey we have on earth in coming to terms with our feelings, with their impact on others, with the impact of other’s feelings on us and even of our own feelings impact on us, of the long search to find a place where our feelings can be expressed in a way in which it is helpful and we can move forward rather than be paralysed or trapped by them.

I guess in the end it all has a lot to do with fear. There is a wonderful book out there on this subject it is called When Love Meets Fear and is written by David Richo   I read a quote recently from it which I can now not find but said something like this :  many people will be frightened by expression of your lively energy especially if it rocks their boat or confronts them with a part of themselves they would rather not see, your life task is to be and express this lively energy even in the face of others fear of all the tactics and machinations they use to try and undermine your true authentic expression.

I had a big “ah ha” moment when I read that paragraph. How often as a child was I shamed by the Nuns or even my parents when I expressed something they did not want me to express. This also happened to my older sister mentioned above who it said in later life “was just a little too big for her boots”, a bit too open, too lively, too “over the top”, a “naughty” girl. Witness the jaw drop as she speaks an outlandish truth to someone confronting them with something they are ashamed about or trying to hide. It’s just “not nice”! More outraged expressions and pursed lips.

I am not implying that we should have no restraint, no empathy for or sensitivity towards others feelings but we do need to have the courage to express what is true for us even if at times it makes us seem like an inconvenience for others who would rather we shut it up or dumbed it down a bit.

Interesting that just last month the Sun in Libra faced off with/opposed Uranus in Aries. Uranus has been passing through my eighth house of shadow energies over the past few years. My own Mars is conjunct Saturn which lends a fair bit of repression, duty boundness and doing the right thing to Mars lively assertive joy in self expression and movement. I have struggled with bound up/caged Mars energy for most of my life late childhood onwards.   Luckily I haven’t been medicated through any of the lows which were often descents in which feelings had to be negotiated, painful as they were and interspersed with periods of debilitating depression.

Lately  I am getting lots of hints about where repression due to displaced and projected fears occurs for myself and others and I am grateful for a therapist who allows me to express my own genuine feelings without being scared by them or having any controlling reaction. Being able to get my intense feelings out in a place where I can makes sense of them is what has helped me most.  Being able to own the fact I feel scared and acknowledge while holding my own hand and figuring out ways to act despite the fear has also helped.

There is a powerful line in a song I have been listening to lately by Sarah McLaughlin :

 “ If I feel a rage I won’t deny it, I won’t fear love.”

There are people who are going to tell us that our rage makes us madwoman but it doesn’t.  My rage shows me where love and respect for me isn’t being shown and life and love for myself and others asks me to see and own that rage and takes steps to empower a self that in being repressed or denied for too long is now rattling the cage from which I must liberate myself in order to express and fight for what I most need to live, to love, to express, to breathe, to survive and to thrive in my deepest authenticity.

Those who love me will validate my feelings, they will see the sense in them, they will not make me bad or wrong for having them. And it is the adult in me who must help me to hold those feelings, to process them, to make sense of them and then express them in ways which help me to become empowered and strong. When I feel a rage I won’t deny it. I won’t fear love.  For in feeling the rage, in allowing it to move me to authentic assertive (rather than aggressive) action  I demonstrate love, power and authenticity for myself, for you, for my sister and for the journey which in, at times, leading us to the darkest depths and deepest night eventually brings light and the dawning of a new day filled with understanding, compassion and hope.

The importance of validation

Do you have a really good friend who sets your world back to rights when you get a little mixed up, uncertain, filled with confusion?

I am blessed to say that I do. This friend is a lot like me, he never judges me, he shows me understanding, when I am confused and stuck in self judgement as a result of my invalidating past, he sets me straight in the nicest way by valuing, validating and putting out a sane and balanced point of view.

This happened to me today. I was feeling like there was something wrong with me. In a body work session some deeply buried anger and grief at not being supported or loved when I was grieving by a few rigidly defended members in my support group 7 or so years ago came up. I had an outburst about it in the therapy as I was tapping into the feelings in my body work session.

At the time, all those years ago I had stuffed the distress and upset in my body. When I came home I put on loud music and danced around the room in a frenzy and as a result I ended up falling backwards and hitting my shoulder very painfully against a lounge chair arm with a steel casing. This is quite funny as I read it back and it not sound like a very traumatic injury but it really hurt me and it came one year following a major head trauma I suffered overseas, on the first anniversary of my husband making the decision to end my marriage.

I now see how stuck I was at the time, still very bonded to a family with lots of unresolved trauma in both my family and myself. When the second injury occurred I was isolated and living alone in a coastal town without any support or daily contact with anyone but my support group on one day a week. I didn’t have a therapist which I now know is essential to healing and I could not move forward to make a new start. I was too traumatised. The bridge of trust to the outside world and others was broken due to past invalidation and lack of emotional support.

My family suffered from a difficulty in showing empathy, unconditional love and I now see it was a mistake to look to them. I needed to build a sense of support within myself from knowing who I truly was, what I had suffered and the extent to which my grief over past difficulties including the loss of my father had impacted on me. I only realise all of this now though, with the gift of hindsight.

It is only lately that I am able to feel the true pain of the things I carried and struggled with, without self judgement. I didn’t really have a place to go to fully express my aching soul.

I am so grateful to have come across a wonderful blog online here : The Invisible Scar through following a post, reblogged on yet another site by Robert Goldstein yesterday. This blog is related to informing people about the impact of emotional abuse in childhood, abuse which is not as obvious as overt physical abuse but never the less leaves deep scars on the psyche and soul which are invisible.

This invisible wound or scar aches, throbs and burns. In my own case I have felt this wound to self like a piece of schrapnel which is lodged deep within me, which moves around, is sometimes soothed and receeds into the back ground from a time, and then comes to consciousness in pain especially at night when the unconscious makes itself more conscious on a somatic level. I am working with a body work therapist now to understand and help with the total immobilisation I suffer on some days.

I am not sure if in today’s bodywork session my anger was fully validated by the therapist. She looked a little taken a back. My anger wasn’t directed at her it was at the old situation. She said to me “you know it is okay to be angry”. Part of me doesn’t truly believe this to be so. She questioned me as to whether I was in the present or past when I was feeling it. I have always been able to keep a check on my anger in that I won’t lash out at others and am very much aware it is of the past. At times I have projected and transferred it but it doesn’t take me long to get a handle on it. It first began to emerge over seven years ago after Chiron passed over my natal Mars Saturn Moon, I would allow myself to scream and shout or hit something after removing myself to a safe space.  I would also express it in my journal often tearing up the page through about seven layers with the pen after laying down an angry scrawl. Then after many years the grief under the anger began to make itself felt.

I know at times I have scared others and even when I have not hurt them they have tried to make me feel my anger has hurt them and I am bad or wrong for feeling it.  Today I know that feelings just are, emotional invalidation is to judge someone’s feeling as wrong if it challenges you and the to try and manipulate them to change.  I have suffered this at the hands of my family many times.

This kind of invalidation has had to happen several times for me to see it wasn’t my problem, but theirs especially if they tried to demonise me for it.   At the time these reaction made me feel that it was NOT okay to be angry. But I beginning to trust that when I feel angry some kind of boundary has been violated or I have been abused subtly. I now have a good therapist who can help me in this.  As my  awareness has grown, I don’t have to vocalise as much and can take steps to deal with it. When I do I can ask myself how I have been triggered.

My catholic education led me to believe anger was wrong and yet justified anger is what is needed most to protect our spirits from violation. In the temple Jesus showed real anger with the sanctity of the space was violated by the money lenders.

My being, soul and body is my own temple. It’s a temple that has often been invaded, in childhood by having procedures forced on me like painful orthodontic treatment to improve my bucked teeth, a haircut of long hair off I didn’t want or need, through to injuries from parental neglect or lack of care and attention. Once I  got third degree burns to my foot after my Mum placed a boiling hot bucket of water on a step near to where I was drawing which I stepped into. My arm was pulled out of socket by her pulling me back. Once I cut open my wrist and nearly severed the tendons after being locked outside the house. The key to the house had not been put back on the hook and when I came home I was locked out and ended up breaking a window which cut my wrist open. I ran down to the neighbours and they took me to hospital but when the cut happened I felt so scared and alone.

In addition as a child I learned to orient myself around my mother’s needs, it was the only way to get her attention which was focused almost solely on her business and keeping the house and us perfectly clean, tidy and controlled. She was never there after school to care, cherish, nourish and support. I found myself in tears yesterday after seeing the support being offered to someone who was being mentored for singing.

Reading about similar issues on the blog of The Invisible Scar has made me realise where the emptiness, loneliness and sadness of my late childhood and early adolescence came from. I sought relief from it through addictions from my late teens on and caused myself even more damage through picking people who could not support or validate me.

I feel a certain anxiety even writing all of this, a fear of judgement, inner voices telling me I am being narcissistic and self obsessed. Whose voices are these?. That is part of not feeling very strong in my own sense of self.

Those of us recovering from this kind of history know how long it takes, how painful the road and how necessary it is to have those who can validate us along the way. My friend that I mentioned earlier does that for me. There was a period a few years ago when I had to let go of some friends who seemed determined to blame me and shame me. It was a painful lesson but in the end I was better off alone, hard as that was. They had no idea of how trauma had trapped me, how jangled my nervous systems was.

Now I am lucky enough to have my best friend as well as others online and a very good therapist who support the part of me that is truly me and trying to emerge, that unconsciously carries all the body memory of violation and is working hard to integrate these into awareness.

Without them I don’t know if I could have made sense of my twisted world or of the body symptoms I have suffered from repressed feelings. I am beginning to attain clarity into my past by listening to what has been buried in my body. In releasing it, in acknowledging it, I heal.

For this to happen I need first external validation and help in understanding how I can be confused when those threatened or unaware or unconsciously triggered in their own defences seek to invalidate me.

Blogging gives me a voice, a place to share, and reading others blogs helps me to recognise we are all in this together and have much to teach and learn from each other along the journey of healing. Through hearing your story I can heal and I hope by hearing mine you can too. xo

Reflections on reactivity following a hurt

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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

Lessons in Life from the 12th House

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Even though I have been a great believer in astrology for well over 20 years, I can still get blown away by how spookily accurate things seems when I read about particular transits that I am undergoing.  What I read often resonates so deeply and is spot on and to the point.

I am also very interested in the dance that takes place between the three inner personal planets, Sun, Mercury and Venus. They cross forwards and backwards over each other.  At times of the cycle the Sun is shining out ahead, as it currently is in the middle degrees of Leo with Mercury picking up speed following its retrograde transit close behind.  Just about to cross the ascendant in my own chart.  And then at the moment, Venus is lagging behind in the sign of Cancer, just moving into my 12th house from the 11th, which has been a particular time of growing friendships with people in my close personal environment.

Today I read the following about the 12th house transits of both Mercury and Venus in Robert Hand’s Planets in Transit.

If necessary confront someone and don’t be afraid of that.  If you keep the situation out in the open it is less likely to work against you.

As planets transit the 12th house subconscious patterns from childhood and maybe even from the deeper ancestral past can rear their heads or be brought to the surface.  These transits are the time to have a good hard look at subconscious reaction patterns, fears, limitations and buried feelings.  I have certainly been experiencing this over the past month or so.

As I shared in an earlier blog, there were some really painful things that occurred in childhood which have been a lingering source of resentment for me which I really needed to address with certain family members.  In this case, even before reading Robert Hand’s words I chose to speak up, not only with family members but also with another person who seemed determined not to hear what I had to say.   In the end I felt better for saying what I felt and sticking up for my own needs and expressing my feelings calmly, rather than simmering in angry repressed silence.

This balanced, confident self assertion and expression is not something that has ever come easy for me.  I have a strong Neptunian influence in my chart (especially around my introverted retrograde Mercury in the seventh house) and this has made me, as a natural empath a bit of a psychic sponge for energies in the environment to be projected onto me and then absorbed.  It has given me a fragile and low self esteem and made me into someone who has been scared to ask for what I want and need.  I’ve been more content to just fall into the background and lacked social skills, which in earlier years, prior to recovery, led me to seek my confidence via artificial means, most commonly alcohol and/or drugs.  The strong Neptunian influence around my Sun and Venus too, has made me a sitting target for a narcissistic relationships.

It has taken me some years to come out from under the heavy burden of this pattern and I must say, difficult as the transit of Saturn over my natal Neptune has been I have been grateful for this reality wake up call.  I’m not absorbing half of the shit I used to and am feeling much clearer and stronger as a result.

Writing on Venus transiting the 12th house Robert Hand has this to say.

unresolved problems in relationship come to the surface.  Your forebearance and grace in handling these intensities as they arise will eventually work to your advantage.

This afternoon I have spent some time with my bi polar sister.  I have found dealing with her illness at times very scary, but what I have realised is that now I have a greater awareness around her cyclic pattern I am better able to weather the storms and understand the energetic pattern which is so clearly portrayed in her birthchart.  In a few months the Sun will move closer to her firey Mars which clashes with the water influence which leads her to become more introverted and subdued as we head towards winter in this part of the world.   At the moment her energy is in the ascendency.  I can go along for the ride when she is feeling well and perhaps have a greater degree of detachment around the down times. And I can choose to sidestep things when it all gets too much.  I guess too, I am no longer demanding that my sister be other than she is and I am more realistic now about who that someone is.  Certain of her defences seem to have fallen away.  As I have been enduring the Saturn transit to my natal Neptune in the third, she has been undergoing her second Saturn return, with echoes of my mothers Saturn return resonating too, since she is undergoing her third Saturn return, together with Saturn transits of Sun conjunct Mercury.

There is a deeply introverted withheld energy within my mother which made it difficult as a child to connect with her.  This current transit of Saturn has made me much more aware of the inter aspects between our two charts that have led both to difficulties and to healing.  As I have been sharing before, in later times I have begun to see her less personally and demand less of her as a parent.

Yesterday I read the following quote in a wonderful book by Tian Dayton entitled

The Adult Children of Alcoholics Trauma Syndrome : The Impact of Childhood Pain on Adult Relationships.

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As children we are faced with the task of integrating conflicting sides of the parents they love.  For the child of addiction (or other trauma), this inner picture looks more like Picasso in his Cubist period than a Renoir.  Children of Alcoholics (or Grandchildren, in my mother’s case) and Adult Children of Alcoholics are faced with incorporating a drunk, out of the control and perhaps abusive (or narcissistic) parent into there internalized working model.  …

Children of fairly regulated parents have the job of facing up to their parent’s faults, perhaps their tempers, or their shyness, weaknesses, or lack of success in the world.  These children have to somehow incorporate these deficits into the image of the parents they have internalised throughout their childhood…. the parents who seemed to have enchanted powers in a good night kiss, who made the best tasting food in the entire world , who lifted then up into the air and into a heaven of two filled with blue sky, love and warm caressing breezes.

Children need to make peace with their childhood wishes and their need to see their parents as all powerful and perfect, and move into a  more mature psychological state in which they can love their parents as they are warts and all.  There is a profound freedom in realising that a parent isn’t perfect, because we simultaneously incorporate the knowledge that we, too can lead a relatively happy life even without being perfect ourselves.

And just maybe this deep dive into some of the hidden subconscious patterns which I absorbed in the course of my own childhood, while understanding their resonances in terms of the history both of my parents carried with the legacy of the Sun Saturn Mercury has made the differentiation easier.  I can accept that which has impacted and been absorbed into my own psyche and the psyches of my sibliings, while at the same time gaining some distance and detachment from these patterns. I am coming to know, now the happiness Tian is speaking of in this excerpt.

Earlier today I read today’s daily meditation taken from Tian’s lovely reader : One Foot In Front of Another : Daily Affirmations for Recovery.

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Lesson and Life

I recognise that today I am in charge of my own learning.  Life is constantly offering up circumstances that are useful to in my personal growth, that I can use as my teacher.  It is up to me whether I learn from life, or live unconsciously.  When I live unconsciously, I do the same thing over and over expecting a different result; I repeat behaviours even when they obviously don’t work, exhausting myself and learning very little.  Or I learn.  I step back in my mind and ask myself what I need to see that I am not seeing, what I need to learn that I am not learning.  I extract the wisdom that is hidden behind circumstances, and I grow in awareness and expand my capacity for living.  The deepest and most appropriate things I need to learn in life are generally right in front of me.  Life is my guru if I can use it as such.  It is rich with subtle learning if I look for it.  The real achievement for me today is to learn to be in my own skin, to see truth in all that surrounds me, to know that placing value and judgement is pointless and illusory – all of life is valuable.

I see beyond what is apparent

The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are

many dark places.  But still there is much that is fair.

And though in all lands, love is now mingled with

grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater

J.J.R. Tolkien

Let it Rain

rain-storm

Let it rain

Let it thunder

Scream the house down

Rather this

Than the deadening silence

Of your stone cold glare

And the pain buried down

Under frozen anger

Gorgon’s head

We are not made of stone

Our hearts wither and die

In such a frozen place

When you gaze on us

Like this

Open up the shutters

Reveal your hidden face

With the rain

Things will loosen

And this freeze

Will unthaw and flow

And even if a torrent

Floods the landscape

Hidden debris will rise to the surface

And life will be moving

Forward again

Death is this stare

Stillness

Arrest

Inertia

Paralysis

But life is flow and movement

Rain

Storm

Fire

Flood

Pain

Love

So let it rain

And let this storm

Bring down the house