The Things That Hurt Us Most Aren’t Always Seen

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Few of us are eaten by tigers or stomped to death by fast moving rhinos these days. The things that kill off the modern humans are the things of our environment that move through us in secret biologically or energetically. On a biological level we have a plethora of virus’s and chemicals, bacteria, and parasites. Energetically we are attacked by derision, devaluation, disrespect, and every other voice that tells us we will never be enough. The energetic tole on the body results in threat load symptoms like stress, headache, weight gain or loss, fatigue, erratic emotions, hair loss, and insomnia. We are energetic beings and our threat load is so high that many of us are on the verge of breakdowns. 

Another form of energetic tole on the body is trauma. I’m going to focus on trauma today because it is what I am specializing in because It’s what I understand. Trauma hits the mind and body like a sledge hammer. Every time the mind is triggered into a memory the body is forced to relive that memory as if it were really happening in that moment. It relives rapes, beatings, car accidents, deaths, battles. Whatever has traumatized the unhealed individual repeatedly traumatizes the body. Remember the time you burned your hand? Can you feel the pain memory of that burn? Remember the time you cut your finger? Can you feel the pain memory in your finger?

Now imagine you’re a trauma survivor and you are having a flashback and your anxiety is at it’s max level and suddenly you can’t breath. Your chest has closed up, your throat is closing up, you’re in full panic and you can’t move because even your legs have locked up on you. This is a freeze response to trauma. Many trauma survivors have a freeze response to trauma and to assault. Many can’t even scream for help or move a hand to protect themselves. The freeze response is no joke. If you are a trauma survivor I encourage you to seek out a qualified trauma therapist and work with your body using Dr. Kristen Neff’s Soften, Sooth technique. I’ll go over it but you can find it on her website and in her book, The Self Compassion Handbook. This little book changed my life. 

Another physical response to trauma is very much like freezing but takes place along side fear driven anxiety and it is called armoring. Armoring stiffens the muscles and joints to the point where a person feels unable to draw a full breath, bend, flex, or move without pain. It’s like being the Tin Man minus the oilcan. People experiencing armoring will carry it with them day and night, sometimes for years. They should not rely on pain killers and muscle relaxers alone to help restore mobility. The cure for armoring is therapy, emotional release, the Soften and Sooth technique, and total and complete self love and radical acceptance that this is what happened and this is where you are with it right now. Some of us have survived sexual assault, physical assault and psychological assault so severe that to hear the stories is to become incredulous in the extreme. After all, how the hell can things like this happen? They’re too hideous to be believed. To often the victims are discredited and left alone with their bewildering pain. So if you are a trauma survivor please do not share your story with an unqualified person or power through armoring or you might deepen the trauma or tear a muscle. Treat yourself with loving kindness and the right therapy and the right people and your body will again regain the elasticity it once had.

Soften and Sooth is simply reading your body, finding the painful places. Focus on one place at a time. Place your hands on the pain and massage gently while you tell your body it’s ok, you’re safe. I’m here. This is a protected place. You are protected. If the place in your body that was exhibiting anxiety/tension/pain begins opening up it might start telling you the story of the trauma it holds and what happened. If you can, just be with the pain and accept it as real, integrate the story as real and then rest with the knowledge that a little part of yourself that was hidden has been revealed. This is healing. This is what healing looks like. If it’s too much, write down what you saw and go do self care until you are ready to talk about what you remembered with your therapist. And please only talk about what happened with people who understand trauma. The average person can not deal with your pain on any level. Please be careful with your story. It was buried to begin with because either you or someone else wasn’t ready to hear it.

You’re stronger than you know. You have survived so much and you’re still on your feet. Everyday that you are on the world is a good day. So much love, E.  

The Golden Child and the Black Sheep, Two Sad Family Dynamics

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I was five when I realized I was the most mature person living in my home. My mother threw temper tantrums and my father was a perpetual five year old, and my sister needed protecting. I felt a deep responsibility to create peace and stability where my baby sister could thrive outside the violence I had never come to see as normal. My belief, or personal delusion, was that I had the power to create balance and love in my family. This delusion made me the black sheep and began my long battle with reality, mental illness, and depression.

Delusion is a powerful force. It comes to all types of psychological conditions in all kinds of forms. You can be delusional about your job, your marriage, your home town, your parents, your religion, and your government. You can believe what is not true because it’s safer and easier and less traumatic than facing reality. In a family riddled with dysfunction it is common to find a black sheep or a golden child or sometimes both. These titles come from the delusion that one child is better or less worthy, than the other.

A golden child has a high degree of merit in beauty, talent, athleticism, that the dysfunctional parent (usually a narcissist) lives through them and gains a sense of superiority through that child. The black sheep is the child the parent dose’t identify with because the black sheep is so different they seem alien. This child is bright, emotional, insightful, creative, and comfortable expressing their emotions. The black sheep will also slip easily into depression and anxiety as their needs go unmet. All aspects of the black sheep upset the mentally ill parent who sees them as a threat and an embarrassment. The black sheep is a threat because they see through the family delusions of normal, happy, and well adjusted while also being a constant embarrassment because they ask all the wrong questions, don’t play the pretty and perfect game, are way too authentic with everyone and reach out for clarity when they feel misunderstood.

The black sheep gets most of the punishment which they turn into defiance and depression while the golden child is objectified, trotted out at family events and public events like a prized pony and general decorated with good clothes and better care and yet still not loved unconditionally because as long as they are making the parent proud they are safe but if they fail in glorifying the parent by not being the best, the prettiest, the most sensational being in the room then love is withdrawn and their pedestal is kicked over and they lose their place in the family. Wether they are the black sheep or the golden child, each child is living in a perpetual hell. 

It’s hell because the children are living on a tight-rope of conditional love that gets smacked with a hammer each time the mentally ill parent shifts moods. A mood shift can be dependent on something as small as the weather or how pretty or ugly that parent feels that day. The children in this family must learn to read their parent like a book to know if they are safe or in danger, if people pleasing, or avoidance is the best tactic to choose. Should they clean the house or leave and go outside. 

Both the golden child and the black sheep experience these shifts in conditional love from day to day. One tells them they have the right to live and feel secure and the other says they were never wanted or liked to begin with. The children in these family dynamics only have each other for comfort, and seeing this the narcissistic parent will create sibling rivalry in order to separate the children from one another and make them primarily attached to the narcissist. “All roads lead to mom,” was a saying I used to remind myself with. I knew that all secrets, all dreams, all hopes somehow made their way to her to be used as tools of punishment when she chose to wield the garnered information collected by other family members who felt it their family duty to report on one another. 

The delusions that last longest after the family as crumbled and the children have grown and left    are the delusions held by the damaged children which perpetuate through their families if they don’t get help. As the black sheep my delusions or core beliefs about myself state that I’m unlovable, unworthy, easy to abandon, and can’t trust anyone but myself. A golden child’s core delusions or core beliefs about themselves state that pretty makes perfect, the right clothes make you safe, nothing less than perfect makes you lovable, and your only value is how others perceive you so you better get out there and shine. There are a myriad other negative core beliefs that go with these syndrome and I’m telling you now that if you experienced conditional love from a narcissistic parent you will need help with healing from a highly qualified trauma specialist. Growing up in these levels of hell are no joke and you don’t want to pass your trauma onto your children. 

End the cycle now. Seek help. Healing is possible. I love you. Find peace to know peace. You can do this.

The Sanctuary of a Story: Part 15 of Rain on a Cloudless Day

green world

Everything is safe in a story. Stories have beginnings and middles and ends. If the storyteller is kind then the story ends well. Though not all stories end the way we want, a good story, a story worth the telling should leave you with something that makes you think, makes you feel, and makes you see the world in a slightly different way. The very best stories leave you awake, aware, nourished; feeling fully connected and alive. I know stories, I live in stories, I hide in stories when the world becomes too shrill, sharp and blinding.

I sit on the edge of the world. As far away from humanity as I can hope to go, while my shaking fingers twist thin willow switches into ornate braids. Today I am an ancient girl, a timeless nomad, making what I need from the bounty of a vast green country. The air is cold, fresh, and pure. I taste the wind, feeling it as it wriggles in the folds of my gown; its rough spun wool smelling of grasses and smoke and earth. I am a part of the earth. The earth is a part of me. Together we make beautiful things.

The bracelets I weave are a gift. They calm my nerves, help me to breath, and fill me with a silence that restores my peace. I take a smooth black rock from my pocket and place it in the middle of my braid, twisting the thin willow switch in circling patterns around it. When the stone is secured and centered I tie off the ends. This braclet is for my mother. I lay the strip of willow and black stone on the ground with the other two I have made.

Girls walk towards me. They whisper in low tones, their bright modern colors destroying my illusory peace. I’m forced to sit up, to smile, to act…normal.
“What are you doing?”
“Making willow bracelets.”
“Can we see them?”
“Yes,” I look down on the bracelets that lay on the grass where I sit.
“They’re beautiful. Can I have one?” The girl is kind. She’s always been kind. Her name is a memory I can’t catch. I lift up a bracelet with a pink stone and help her tie it around her wrist.
“Why don’t you come play with us?” Her expression is curious, not judging. I would like to play with her but just being forced to speak to her has constricted my breathing, sending my stomach into knots. I need to be alone, in silence…free.

“Thanks but I like being here.” The kind girl smiles softly, her right hand sliding over the pink stone bracelet like a gesture of understanding. I watch them walk away, whispering and wondering why I sit alone. I try again to remember what it was to be timeless, to be alone in rough spun fabric I made myself, to be unindebted to a world without center, but the time has gone. With the ring of the bell I am forced to gather my things and head back to class.

Kids run with soccer balls, girls laugh, skip and play. I walk with my head down, trying not to see all the colors, feel all the noise. My mind grasps at a vanishing blue sky, an endless, enfolding expanse. Wispy clouds call to me through aluminum edged windows as block walls separate me from my true self, my green self, my free self. The story I embodied retreats, is saved for later, buried deep. Yet its memory lends me calm in the riot of noise that only stills when the teacher calls the class to silence.