1995: “Happiness is a Choice?”

From my journal for Sept 5,1995

Reading the new version of Son-Rise — a friend offered it to me because of their practice of radical acceptance of their autistic son — I find myself very angry at the exposition of their philosophy, the idea that “happiness is a choice,” that nothing is impossible, that all we need to do is change our beliefs (which they see as an easy matter, subject to an intellectual process) — “change the belief and we change the feelings as well as the behavior.”  [Margin: not according to Anna Salter]  While I agree with this last statement, I think their whole philosophy is dangerously one-sided, they have failed to take into account the differing nature of beliefs that have been adopted through different means, at different ages and stages of development, they have no idea of the power of conditioning.  I remember how easily, and with amusement, I was able to drop my belief that Sears & Roebucks was a terrible store, that no one could live in Maine through the winter, and how I continue to struggle with the belief that I am worthless and powerless, how long it has taken me to learn to believe in my own creativity and generosity and how that belief easily crumbles in the face of adversity.  I can see why their “option process” failed to work for survivors of childhood sexual abuse — our belief that we are evil and worthless, that we deserve to be the objects of someone else’s exploitation, is one that we learned through experience, from how we were treated.  It’s not like beliefs we learned later on, about what we can and can’t do, that were learned through an intellectual process and can be disempowered through intellectually understanding.  The idea that “nothing is impossible” is a very painful invalidation of the experience of survivors, if nothing is impossible, we should have been able to prevent our parent from molesting us, we should be able to heal ourselves, we should be able to make everything OK.  All our lives we’ve been trying to do the impossible: make it that it never happened, get our parent to stop drinking, so to be told that nothing is impossible just adds to our pain and guilt, increases our self-hatred and self-invalidation.  What we need most is the revelation and reassurance that some things are impossible, that a two-year-old can’t prevent her father from orally raping her, and that she can’t just make the resultant damage disappear by “changing her beliefs.”

At that time I still thought that I had been a victim of sexual abuse, and had no idea that I had been traumatized.  Interesting that I had dropped my belief that Sears & Roebucks was a terrible store, because Mother had threatened to send me “back to Sears & Roebucks.”  What I still had, alas, was the belief that if I didn’t behave as authority wanted, I would be “sent back” — that is out on the street, unable to take care of myself.  The story about the “two-year-old” was the story of one of the women in Journey Into Courage.

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Early Work with Younger “Parts”

(Written in June 2004)

In a session of the “Wave Work” at Kripalu: there was a confusing struggle with my body’s tendency to cramp up (esp left hand) and kick, shake, jump.  Finally I let it shrivel up into a crippled, spastic child (I could see the starving baby from my collage book) — and it felt, not exactly good, but valid, solid, like this is who I really am.  I stayed with it for a while, feeling huge compassion for that shriveled, spastic, starving baby.

written in January 2006:

Somewhere in here, I had an experience of committing myself to the traumatized baby. I didn’t write it down so I don’t know exactly when it happened.  I was imagining a war zone, wrecked buildings, burning cars, dead bodies, a few people wandering dazedly around, smoke drifting, colors all grey and black except for the fires.  I see a shriveled dark grey baby lying on a garbage can.  I think of picking her up, but I realize the orphanage has been bombed.  There’s nowhere to take her.  If I pick her up I’m stuck with her for the rest of my life.  I spend a moment wondering if I really do want to take on this task.  Then I pick her up.

Written in June 2009:

I’m reading The Shell Seekers, and it brings home to me how barren my life is.  Good healthy loving supportive relationships between mothers & daughters.  Wonderful loving sexual relationships.  People who can cook and garden.  Sadness at the loss of real relationships.  Although I notice that they don’t let themselves cry, it’s seen as admirable not to cry.

I sat in Karen’s office and cried for half an hour with no idea what it was about.  “You don’t need to know,” says Karen.  But I think I have to justify it.
I don’t have to know what it was about.
I don’t have to know what to do about it.
I only have to be there for it, be there with it.  This is the traumatized baby I picked up from the garbage can and she has a right to her grief.

I think this grief must be from a very non-verbal place.  I think it’s coming up now because I have healed enough so that the baby feels safe having her feelings.  I have to remind myself to keep her safe, to allow her to grieve (even though I don’t know where it’s coming from — I can guess at how barren and stony was her infancy) to allow her to grieve and to soften around her and hold her in her grief.  There, there, dear, you have a right to grieve.  You deserved to be cherished, loved, comforted, supported and guided, have your real self be seen and mirrored back to you.  What you got was a mother whose narcissistic wounds did not allow her to love, or even see another person accurately.  You were expected to love her, make everything OK for her, and she projected her self-hate on to you and treated you like you were someone you weren’t at all.  You never developed a real sense of your strengths and weaknesses, you grew up believing that you were unlovable and that you had disappointed your parents.  You’ve spent your life trying to prove that you deserve to live.

What’s truly astonishing about these three entries is I’m describing Inner Family Systems work, I’m aware of a baby part of me.  It will be years before I start working formally with this technique.

The first two writings were posted in July 2010, parts of a longer post.  Possibly the “Wave Work” helped me begin to get the idea of an inner baby.

The third writing, from June 2009, was part of a longer post.  I just went back to read all of that longer post and found an astounding piece of writing where I commit myself to this work, writing in January 2006:

I had seen that the heart was shielded because it needed to heal, and then the heart needed to connect with the baby, not turn outward again.  Then it came to me — the baby is in the heart!  That’s why the heart is all grey like the baby was.  That was very exciting — it’s not the grey of stuckness, degeneration and death, it’s the grey of a frozen traumatized baby.  Even writing it down I can feel the shift — from being angry at myself for waking scared again to compassion for the terrified frozen baby, and willingness to stay with it as long as it takes.
And if it takes the rest of my life, I’m willing to do that.  It’s amazing that I care so much about this baby, who is me, as though the baby were the earth, or all the babies traumatized by war, and not Jenny who I’ve never thought was worth that much focus and effort.  But the baby doesn’t seem like “me”, more like the task I’ve been given and I’m willing to take it on.  My work to heal this traumatized fragment of the universe is meaningful.  And I think one thing that’s helped this shift is Sharon Salzberg quoting the Buddha as saying there’s no one more worthy of your love in the whole universe than yourself.

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1995: Moving Along the Bottom

From my journal for November 14, 1995

[I had a dream about Andy Lindsay who worked at the yacht club, had a boat called “Pelagius — for the originator of some heresy.”  I looked it up: “Pelagianism: The theological doctrine propounded by Pelagius, a British or Irish monk, and condemned as heresy by the Roman Catholic Church in AD 416. Included in its tenets were denial of original sin and affirmation of man’s ability to be righteous by the exercise of free will.”]

I have been trying to find words for what has been happening to me this last week.  There have been changes inside — but I don’t know what they mean.  I don’t feel like I’m on my way back “up” but that I’m moving along the bottom.  Just having some sense of movement brings hope.  I also have the sense that some hard layer has broken, like ice breaking up in the spring.  There are jagged pieces, but they are moving very slowly, and whatever is underneath has not had time or space to reveal itself.

November 15

  something I read recently: that quote from the Bible about the last days “two men shall be standing in a field and one shall be taken” and a child terrorized by it and thinking that she was the one who would be left behind.  That made me angry and I thought how God doesn’t do that, god is infinitely merciful, infinitely forgiving.  And then it occurred to me, as I was driving down toward the causeway at Moore Lake, that god forgives us even when we mean to do it, even when we aren’t doing our best, even when we make the perverse choice instead of the healthy one.  If we make a stupid mistake — no, let me claim this — If I make a stupid mistake, god forgives me, and if I make the same stupid mistake again, god forgives me again …and again …and again.  Jesus came and died on the cross to teach us this.  Those whiny excuses that we keep offering, that I keep offering: “it was the best I could do,” “I couldn’t help it,” “I didn’t mean to” — those are excuses offered to a judgmental parent to try to get them to lay off.  As though you could be forgiven if you had tried your best but not if you hadn’t.  Actually, I’m seeing now, you can be forgiven for not trying your best, over and over again.  How astonishing! and even though I don’t quite believe in god, the knowledge of forgiveness is, at least at this moment, real and palpable.  Is this the rain coming down on the dark cold barren marsh in the November twilight, the tide rising?  Is this what is welling up around the broken fragments of that layer of ice that’s been lying at the bottom of my psyche all this time?

I find this so interesting! First, the issue of forgiveness is a huge one for me, because Mother never forgave me for anything. Then my sense that I am traveling along the bottom of the depression? my psyche? the land of death where Persephone travels through the winter? It’s only a couple of years before I come out of depression and end the noise phobia. It looks like my intuition is much better than I ever realized. I always thought I didn’t have any intuition.

I also mention the “dark cold barren marsh” which was an effort to describe how I felt about ten days ago.

November 5: During the massage, I just tried to let myself stay in touch with my sadness, and when it was over I lay there feeling like a bleak landscape: a salt marsh, in the November rain, at twilight, a bleak grim place of black mud and dark sand and sharp grasses and dead brambles, with windy channels of water.  The odd thing was that it felt OK to be this landscape, and in fact I love the salt marshes, love their bleak emptiness, even under the November twilight, even under the cold rain.  And my sense was that the rain was needed, felt good, and that the tide was rising, slowly but inexorably, in the water channels.

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1995: Symptoms of Trauma

At this point in 1995 I had no idea I was dealing with PTSD. From my journal for November 10:

Second cup of tea. … and nothing to say.  I feel cold.  There’s the ache in my stomach and heart that feels old and dead, the “what’s the use” feeling.  I suspect that I’m dealing with a complex tangle of rage and grief which is why neither feeling comes clear in a form I can discharge by myself.  I have wondered if the grief I unloaded with Robin wasn’t grief about being so depressed — that’s why I felt better for a day, but because it didn’t address the underlying cause, I’m still feeling bummed out.  I can see that suffering the symptoms of chemical depression — being unable to make decisions, etc. — leaves me unable to go on with my life in a way that I feel good about, so of course I feel a lot of anger at myself about that, and a lot of grief for my poor lost wounded life.  Well at least this confirms my decision to see Dr. Stoll and explore medical help.

Robin was a body worker I had been seeing.

Yesterday in the work with Karen I tried to cry, and vocalize, and pound on things, but mostly what happened was I kept arriving at the place of grey frozen hopelessness.  Karen said “hopelessness is a concept, not a feeling.”  But I don’t think it, I feel it.  And what I feel is numbness and lack of energy.  I said I felt like I had been up all night, crying all night, and I didn’t feel the relief of a good cry, instead I felt exhausted, and didn’t know what to do next, and didn’t have any energy to do it with if I could think of something.  I sat there staring blankly at the pillow too tired to do anything, too uncomfortable to lie down.  Finally Karen suggested that I had frozen some part of myself because it was too painful to feel those feelings.  She kept saying that it was unfair that my mother had left me alone so much when I was a baby, but this didn’t bring any answering spark.  She thought perhaps the anger about such treatment was one of the things I had to numb.  She also said that I had spent a good bit of my life running away from this sense of numbed hopelessness.  I felt comforted by the idea that the numbness was something I had done to wall off some part of myself that actually might be of value to me: the part that gets angry about injustice and is colorful and passionate.  And I see that trying to run away from the numbness, or jack myself up out of it, are not the same as sitting with it and allowing it to thaw so I can recover that part of myself.  I find it interesting (sarcastic inflection) that having decided to spend the hanging out with the numbed part of myself, I promptly get quite sick.

My description of numbness and frozenness I can now recognize as symptoms of trauma: when you can’t fight or flee, freeze is the default. Standard forms of psychotherapy are not designed to heal trauma. Not until I start doing Somatic Experiencing will I begin to address these symptoms.

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“Attainment too is Emptiness…”

Written in writing group on Monday, September 4
The title comes from a Buddhist chant to the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

and nothing to say…  nothing to say…  The world is empty.  I’m the only one left on the planet.  That was the most awful feeling, to feel so alone. Was that before I knew I was traumatized?  I remember describing it as lying in the street, at night, unable to move, and there was a steam roller coming toward me, but the driver couldn’t see me, or hear me, and there is no one on the sidewalks to help me…     Trying to describe the fear before I knew it was how I felt as a baby left alone.  I knew that doom was coming down on me, and crying didn’t bring help, and I was too young to move…    It wasn’t until I read Waking the Tiger, and he describes the process that results in trauma, and says that a baby can be traumatized by being left alone in a cold room.  Now when I’m alone too much, I don’t get scared, but I do get confused and apathetic.

Waking the Tiger is the book where Peter Levine describes Somatic Experiencing, his method for healing trauma. Somatic Experiencing is a category in this blog, you can click in it and find all the posts that describe my experiences.

“Show us the path that you know so well, together we’ll set forth, on the ancient way of honor to follow you into the north…”     I think of Chief Joseph, trying to get to Canada and being stopped and his tribe put on a reservation in Montana.  I think of the Turks driving the Armenians into the desert in 1915, the Armenian Genocide.  The Turks said they were inspired by the Americans driving the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears

“Show us the path that you know so well…” is a song by Magpie. It’s about wolves and how they guide us toward honorable action. The words “to follow you into the north” resonate for me with a situation where you no longer can live with people who only care about money and power, so you travel north, knowing you are going toward your death, but it’s the only honorable action you can see.

I remember Mother saying she’d send me back to Sears & Roebucks.  I thought I didn’t take it seriously, but I remember when Daddy came back with a new car, I made up a story about how our old car found a family that loved it.  When I got here to Kendal, and they said I wouldn’t have to leave if I ran out of money, I felt safe for the very first time.

I had no idea how that threat to send me away if I didn’t behave the way she wanted has remained in my subconscious.  I do remember when I told her we were building Neskaya, she said “If you run out of money, don’t come to me.”

I think of how hard it is for me to get rid of things, because I don’t want to throw them away, I want to find them a good home.  I always felt “thrown away” in my family of origin, though I didn’t know it until I looked at my stories about how things they didn’t want found a new home.

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1995: Looking for Value in my Life

From my journal for October 27, 1995

I’m bored with reading, I feel too tired to write …  Sometimes I hate my life.  (“I need to learn to love my poor wounded life because it needs love”)  How can I love a life that is so difficult and has so few rewards?  I’m able to love Eleanor, even though there are a lot of difficulties and few rewards — except that there is the big reward of the love itself.  Because I love her, it’s hard to see her having such a bad time, but also because I love her I don’t need her to get better, or to see that what help I can give is effective, or to be thanked (though I am glad to know that I do make a difference in her life).  The rewards of the relationship are in the relationship itself, in sitting around the kitchen discussing the meaning of life, the question of healing, the latest batch of I Chings.  Is there any way I can translate this to my own life?  Is there any self-validating reward in my relationship to myself?  I guess that’s one of the things that writing in here does — at least when I’m not too discouraged or too tired to write.  There aren’t any “rewards” in terms of excitement or satisfaction, or “feeling good” — now I’m trying to think of times when I “felt good” — at the end of a Journey performance when people are applauding?  During those magical times at circle dance when we all seem to bond and go deeper?  I know there are times in my writing when I feel like I capture something or express something that connects with my “real life” and then I feel excitement and satisfaction and some kind of rush of positive energy that’s what I mean by “feeling good.”  And sometimes on rereading my writing I can reconnect with that, but not always.  Trying to think of the most recent time that I’ve had those feelings, would say back in August, at Circle Dance Camp, when I taught New Moon Bride, and then at Maine Folk Dance Camp being with Maki and hearing the Russian music.  And there was some rush of positive energy when they told me that “New Moon Bride” was the most popular dance — but it was quickly undercut by the talk of more profound spiritual experiences.  Now is that where I do the thing Karen pointed out in therapy, of trivializing and sabotaging my very real achievements?    Still, to have crafted an enjoyable dance that has become part of the Circle Dance Canon is a respectable achievement, worth acknowledging and celebrating.

My friend Eleanor has trouble making decisions and often casts a number of I Chings to find out what to do.

“New Moon Bride” is a dance I choreographed to a piece of music by a Finnish group called Varttina.

I said something last night to Sybil about how my life looked like a worthless desert, and she said that she saw me as giving a lot to the world. I asked her to be specific, and she said that through the teaching of circle dance, I have created (or at least enabled the growth of) a community of people, a real community that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. I see that I tend to not see it, because I imagine that it was already there, because as a “community” this group of friends is not as tightly knit or actively engaged in exchange and support as I would want. But I can also see that doing a sacred activity together, and participating in the rituals that I’ve designed, would deepen and extend and enrich the bonds of friendship. So I have to accept that Sybil’s right, and that makes me very excited about the possibility of Neskaya fostering something even deeper and stronger. I can see that “just teaching circle dance” is not nothing, it’s a very important community function, perhaps the most important, because what’s the good of keeping the wheels of economy going and society turning if there’s no spiritual connection?

I’m so glad I wrote these things down. I can read them now and see the truth that I couldn’t hold on to at the time. Neskaya does not yet exist, but the roof is on, the walls complete. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it will be open in a year.

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1995: The Trauma of “Don’t think you’re so great”

In this passage I see that I am essentially a creative person, but I’ve never been able to actualize more than a small percentage of what I was capable of. The reason is because of my mother constantly telling me “Don’t think you’re so great.” I had no idea how damaging that was, but I can see it here in my response to the little four-year-old running around, showing off her skirt. I was only able to do it at the Woman’s Way Retreat because I felt safe, and I wasn’t me, I was acting the part of a child. I also see how afraid I was of doing anything that might cause mother to “go away.” But that was how I was traumatized as a baby, mother going away and leaving me alone.

From my journal for October 16, 1995

I’ve been imagining an art project that I might work on.  I’ve thought about covering the cardboard dodecahedron with collage — with a whole “carpet” of cut & pasted images and bits of color.  I would need to reinforce the structure and I’m not sure how to do that.  … [lots of ideas for similar projects] …  so that’s a lot of possible cardboard-and-collage projects.

But I never did any of them.

The important thing about the session with Karen is that I was forced to see the way in which I am unable to receive my accomplishments.  I trivialize them or go numb.  When Karen asked if I could celebrate what I had done in Shenandoah, I burst into tears and said “No.”  I have no sense of my contribution as being something valuable enough to celebrate.    Karen pointed out how I trivialized Shenandoah — well it’s just a bit of community theater, not very meaningful.  Then I had to acknowledge that it’s about a man who is anti-war because he really cares about his children, and Karen reminded me of how important community art is for the healing of the planet, for the future.  Karen also reminded me of the four-year-old who ran around at Woman’s Way “Look at my skirt!  Look at my skirt!” and asked if I couldn’t find that energy inside me.  But I can’t, I feel like that was someone else, like she’s dead.  Karen began to speak for her, and it made me very uncomfortable and scared.  I told her to stop and called her a show-off and said she was bad, but she wouldn’t stop and I was desperate to shut her up and said “Something terrible will happen if you go on like that.”  I don’t have a clear catastrophic expectation, I don’t hear a voice in my head, I just feel a chill, a thickening tension, a draining away of all value, inspiration, exuberant energy.  I think that what I’m afraid of, what I in fact experienced that was so devastating, was the withdrawal of love, and that scared me so badly that I shut down anything that I thought might have caused Mother to “go away.”  And I know for sure mother wouldn’t have been able to tolerate me feeling good about something creative that I’d done.

This passage shows how my mother shut me down, and how I learned to shut myself down, in the fear of something horrible happening if I dared express exuberance.

Woman’s Way was a week-long retreat working on psychological issues with a number of different modalities. At one point we were told to choose a partner, and then one of you would be the child and the other a mother for a time, and then you would switch roles.  As a child, I imagined I was four years old, and I put on a gold lamé skirt that was among the many costumes available. The woman playing mother was very supportive. But now, away from that supportive atmosphere, I could only try to shut down that energy.

I had an image of that exuberant four-year-old, in her gold lamé skirt, at a vast distance from me, down at the end of a long dark tunnel, and I wonder about doing something in cardboard and collage — “The attempted murder of Tinkerbelle” or something.

Needless to say I never expressed this image in art.

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1995: Biological Foundation for Mood Disorders

I wish I had named the book and the author.  I find it fascinating that it took so long for me to find out that I was dealing with trauma, that my reaction to the noise of the planes was a symptom of the changes in the brain that trauma causes. Part of the reason I didn’t believe that I had been traumatized was that, though my parents were alcoholic, they weren’t violent. I didn’t understand that trauma happened, not because of the violence of the traumatizing event, it has at least as much to do with the capacity of the brain and nervous system to absorb and integrate the experience. Because the brain and nervous system don’t mature until the baby is three years old, a baby’s brain and nervous system are unable to process events that would not be overwhelming to even a teenager.  Such as being left alone. Because a baby is helpless, if it’s left alone, it will die if no one comes to provide warmth and food. The moment the reptilian brainstem concludes that the baby will die, and goes into fight-or-flight, we are dealing with trauma. A baby can neither fight nor flee, so the default is freeze.

From my journal for October 3, 1995

I’ve been reading a book about new discoveries of a biological foundation for mood disorders, panic disorders, even bulimia — actually I’ve also learned more about the manic side of the cycle and see that the tired/wired state is in fact a manic state even though there’s no euphoria.  Somehow I had always thought that the manic state would feel good, and it doesn’t.  Perhaps it did once, when I was younger, and cosmic visions and inspiration seemed like a gift from the universe and a justification for my life.  Now I see that the visions are ungrounded, I’m unable to give them expression in a way that I find satisfying.  Yes, I see why uncontrolled brilliant talking was one manifestation of mania in the young men of Byron’s time — and I see that it’s just talk, just the dissipation of energy in words, something I’ve worked very hard not to do when my re-emergence out of the candida depression meant that I had more manic episodes.  I went through a brief one last week, and noticed the buoyant feeling but didn’t like being so ungrounded.

I also wonder whether my reaction to the airplanes does not have a physiological basis.  In a way, it’s so physical in its effects.  I can’t breathe, can barely walk, and my brain won’t function.  And it ends relatively quickly after I get away from them.  The book describes enormously complex biochemical interactions and the connection between malfunction of neurotransmitters in the brain and all kinds of disorders.  She makes a very good case for the use of medication to help with a lot of these.  It’s also very clear that nothing is either all physical or all psychological — a trap that is easy to fall into with too little knowledge.  She suggests that childhood trauma may play a role in this, we simply don’t know to what extent trauma can affect the physical/chemical structure of the brain.  Obviously there’s a lot of interplay between a physiological predisposition and a triggering event.  The book has certainly made me think again about trying to find a doctor who knows something about the complexities and could guide me in trying to find something that would help my reaction to the airplanes.  At the moment I feel very angry at the idea of taking a medication that would just dull my response to intolerable conditions in the world — this is too much like my parents’ use of alcohol to deny conflict, and like my own denial of the enormous damage done to me.    And I also think that my fear that if the pain caused by the planes was removed that I would then go on in blissful complacence and fail to fight against injustice and pollution — this is ridiculous. …

I did, actually, find someone who was able to help me with the noise of the planes. When I was first here at Kendal I noticed a lot of noises.  Mowers especially bother me, though not to the extent that the planes did. Other noises bothered me until I knew what they were at which point they tended to disappear. I love that I described that fear that I “would go on in blissful complacence” and then realized that it was ridiculous, there was no way I would stop fighting for things I believe are good.

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1995: “Truth” and “Self”

This is was written during the time when I was having a bad time with the noise of small planes, especially the ones that towed gliders up from the Franconia Airport. I wrote this after a particularly bad day. I’m posting this because it shows how I use my journal to explore important issues in my life.

From my journal for September 30, 1995

The truth is that when the planes come that often, I lose all my skills for effective living, I become emotionally paralyzed, unable to make the simplest decision, even one to get away from the noise that’s driving me out of my mind — literally!  I feel driven out of my mind as I’m driven out of my house.  Well, it won’t be forever.  Winter’s coming, the cold weather will stop them.

It’s very painful to be blasted out of my mind.  I see that’s what I identify with, my thinking self, and when conditions make it impossible to think I feel painfully lost, abandoned, at the mercy of hostile and disruptive forces.  It makes me think of the therapy session when I said I was afraid if I relaxed and gave in that “I wouldn’t be able to fight.”  That surprised me when I said it, but it also let me know how constant was the sense of attack, I saw that I was always “fighting” all through my childhood.  What was I fighting? not a clear danger on the physical level, not a physical fight, but a fight to maintain my “self” and my values against a barrage of emotional sabotage and invalidation.  And I see that my “self” is not what’s important to me, I’m not concerned with the image I present to the world, or even with maintaining some consistency of personality.  What I am concerned with, what I most fear to lose, is what I value, and I’m afraid that if my “self” dissolves, as it did yesterday, what I value will dissolve too.  As though I constructed and maintained what I value through the use of my consciousness and if my consciousness is disrupted then the things I value collapse back into the void and disappear forever unless I can laboriously build them up again.  My goodness!  Is that what I believe?  Obviously I feel that the things that I value have no existence apart from me, that I am “letting them down” if I’m not alert every moment to fight for them and maintain them.

I say “things that I value” and what are they, and the one that stands out is “Truth” and all the rest are connected to it: honesty in relationship, authenticity of artistic expression.  There’s also beauty, and I’m not sure if/how beauty is connected to truth.  But I see that it’s not just “truth” that I value and will fight to maintain, but the truth of truth, which I why I was never content to accept received truth from the experts and authorities but was always searching for what I could accept as truth.  And that search has led me to see that there is no objective, monolithic truth, there are only an enormous number of relative truths all contained within a much larger truth.  (That is to say, that the truth that there are relative truths is itself a larger truth, a larger container, that holds paradox and mystery as well as “established facts.”)  So I see that what I value is what I “can accept as truth.”  This means that it’s my truth that I value and will fight for.  And my “self” is the instrument whereby I detect truth, and this “truth” is not an object, but a path through the shifting realities.  This is why my “self” is so valuable to me, and why it needs to be kept in condition, honed sharp as a razor, tuned up to concert pitch.  I’m as dependent on my “truthsense” as any pilot depends on his instruments when he is flying blind.  And just as that pilot’s survival depends on the existence and accuracy of his instruments, so my “survival” depends on my “truthsense,” not in a physical sense, but in the reality that only my awareness of truth, that is my awareness of my next step, makes it possible for me to go on living.  But unlike the pilot whose loss of instruments may result in a crash, I’m more like the sailor in irons, I have only to wait and the wind will rise again, the sky will clear, and I’ll have something to help give me a sense of direction.

Reading this, I find it too intellectual, I think it’s too easy for me to get caught up in thoughts, in verbal expression, and lose the sense of experience. In the present, I’m still concerned about Truth, but I acknowledge that all that I really know is true is what I see with my own eyes, or hear from someone who saw it, and whom I trust. And even then, I can see incorrectly! Back to the Book of Job, and God saying “My universe is beyond the comprehension of the human brain.”

I’m intrigued by my description of being like the sailor in irons — which means the boat is caught facing into the wind, and so can’t use the wind to move. I also thought it meant when there was no wind at all, which is how I’m using it here. I say that the sailor only has to wait and conditions will change. But unlike the sailor in irons, I have no faith in changing conditions. My belief that I have only myself to change things comes from childhood when if I asked for help, my parents would make me wrong for asking. I believe that there’s no older, wiser being that I can count on.

By the way, the word “truthsense” comes from a science fiction novel, Dune, by Frank Herbert.

Reading this over, yet again, I am struck by a sentence in the second paragraph: “Obviously I feel that the things that I value have no existence apart from me, that I am “letting them down” if I’m not alert every moment to fight for them and maintain them.” I do question whether I really believe that, but don’t go any farther to examine it. Ah! An earlier sentence says “a fight to maintain my “self” and my values against a barrage of emotional sabotage and invalidation.” The only thing I don’t say clearly is that that barrage comes from my parents. I have to defend my values against constant invalidation by Mom & Dad.

I see that I have no faith at all in external conditions changing in a way that will help me out.  When I’m lost and without direction or motivation, I can’t believe that anything will change that except my own efforts, and so I’m unable to wait patiently but begin to thrash around, trying to change what can’t be changed.  This doesn’t mean that my own efforts aren’t important, but that I can’t do it all by myself.  And even in the case of the airplanes, there are some powerful forces fighting on my side, darkness and winter can be counted on.  And I can count on my “self” to come back once it’s clear that the noise has stopped for the day.

It’s now clear that my “self” is much more complex than I think in 1995. Work with the “parts” has shown me how complex my “self” is.

Posted in Journal, Trauma, Writing | Comments Off on 1995: “Truth” and “Self”

Reclaiming my Creativity

On Tuesday, August 22, I had an extraordinary session with Erica. I told her I was having trouble doing adult type things, especially if they involved dealing with bureaucracy, and at first I was scared that I was getting senile. Then I thought maybe I was blended with a young part. She helped me get in touch with the part. It turned out to be a pre-verbal baby. Reminded me of the one I rescued from a crack in a rock.  Erica said “Ask if there’s something she’d like to reclaim about herself?” All I could get was a felt sense which I translated as “something about not being forgiven for being creative,” and something about “making a mess.” (An unforgivable sin in the house where I grew up.) I told her making a mess is a feature of being creative. I can feel in my body her excitement, relaxation, and curiosity. It’s actually OK to be creative! It’s so interesting that this all happened after I read, typed up, and posted the piece from September 1995 about feeling a hostile force stopping my creativity. Of course that woke up the part who then wanted to be heard and healed.

Went back to find the passage about the time I was working with Debbie Alicen and she said I was creative:

From my journal for January 6, 1989

I said I realized that I had this image of myself as shabby and cowardly that grows out of or belongs to my relationship with Mom & I realized it’s just not true.  I’m not shabby, I’m courageous in refusing to go along with what she wants, hanging up when she’s drunk, etc.  I’m not cowardly, I’m sensible in not trying to confront her about her drinking.  So Debbie said “now we know what you’re not, tell me what you are.”  I said “Honest… intelligent… hardworking…”  As I was groping she looked at me quizzically and said “You’re leaving something important out.”  I had no idea.  She said “It should be first.  You’re CREATIVE.”  I said “What evidence do you have?”  She said “You wrote a book!  Your journals, your drawings… “  I cried.  I said “creative” means making trouble, making messes, they said “Don’t think you’re so great” they stomped on me when I tried to express myself.  I said I feel like I’m doing about 1% of what I could do

Yes, about 1%. But I did do some really creative things. Imagine what I might have done with support and encouragement.

Posted in Healing, Present Day | Comments Off on Reclaiming my Creativity