Poem: Domestic Violence

Fear of abandonment, low self worth, wanting the cure to kill loneliness and more. Dependent on anyone to ease the pain, an emotional painkiller that can’t be found, in agony your soul drowns.
Wanting to feel loved, for approval and acceptance, burning with the pain, someone is going to play a horrid game. The water and tides get high you are reaching out for anything to keep you afloat, even if it’s not what and who you’d want. You grab manure if it keeps you afloat, drink polluted water if it keeps you from the thirst, eat the mouldy food if it stops you dying from hunger, emotional needs are just as strong.
Predator smells the fear, the vulnerability and sees the sadness and the un-shed tears. A perfect target they see, to be found, to control at will, manipulating love and needs to justify what they do, you have been caught and once fed, led to the slaughter house to be tortured and eventually killed, psychologically if not physically.
Smiles your way and enters the opened door, seeks out those vulnerabilities to cause extra injuries and more. Holds you hostage without a gun; with manipulation, hatred, and in making you weaker and weaker finds jubilation.
Feeding on your needs, your hunger for belonging in a world unsafe, you are alone in this isolated cave. Abuse starts so gradually and slow, confusion and entrapment, caught in the quick sand of abuse, swallowing you whole, your escape isn’t easy, trapped in a situation so complex and dangerous, sink, rise or die, remain calm and survive.
Learn their every move, to defeat the enemy or else you lose. Everybody judges, you’re in the wrong, bad boys is what you want, you’re crazy, a liar, attention seeking, too sensitive and a whore, you made your bed now lie in it, nobody has compassion or sees your value, the message is break the silence no more you are not worthy or have the right to be safe, you’re the one that made the mistake. You deserve it, you’re bad, you need to be perfect and even then there is wrong in that. Extra lies from more toxic people unable to hear your story and pain, unable to help you set yourself free, they keep you trapped and then ask why didn’t you just leave?
It echo’s the messages of the abuser;” you did this, you asked for this, you deserve it, nobody will believe you, you’re crazy, you stupid bitch….” No win situation is what you’re in.
Everything you do to survive will go against you and scrutinised, you might as well be dead. In loneliness and pain in this dungeon you stay, every day it gets harder to escape, traumatic bonding are the new chains that hold you down, no key is to be found.
Screaming doesn’t help; you’re all alone with the devil in hell. You no longer know who you are, the identity you had is long gone, your worth is dead, and there is nothing left but an empty shell. So hungry you eat and enjoy the crumbs, for they give you relief for a while, at time compliance and submission frees you from further pain, better days and ‘kindness’ make you forget reality for a while, maybe it will end is what you have to keep telling yourself to survive, sacrifices you endlessly make.
But behold a new fear emerges, that of dying all alone, killed by their very hands, like the assassination of your soul, staying will get you dead, a fear that has you being brave like never before, you head straight for that door. No looking back as you run and keep on running, bleeding from within, escaping the horrors that you were locked in.
Alas, you’re free, but this is just the beginning, as reality sinks in, the horrors that now become intense and deep. Building a life and recovery takes time, no longer can you hide behind denial, you are faced with the horrific truth, abuse is traumatic and fatal; you feel burning shame and to blame, nobody understands the complexity, the dynamics at play, they point the finger and the blame.
How more isolated can you feel? Abuse is fatal and it’s real.
Education is needed, awareness the key, without it and action we can’t be free.
© Antonella Zottla
For more information on domestic violence and abuse, check out my eBook – Shattering the myths of abuse: Validating the pain; Changing the culture –https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shattering-Myths-Abuse-Validating-Changing-ebook/dp/B07PSCF9B5

The Nature of Codependency

My analogy of co-dependency which is people pleasing is being like X-Men character Mystique. In the sense not that one takes or can take the physical shape and appearance of another but in the sense that as co-dependents we shift ourselves to accommodate others, we base our identities on mirroring others, on being who they want us to be or we think they want us to be.

We create and live through a false self because we allow others to define us, we shift ourselves for approval. If I’m who someone wants me to be or like them, I don’t risk rejection and abandonment. I can be loved; I will be seen as enough. I can only be seen this way; I can only be heard if I don’t speak my truth but agree with others. I can only be accepted if I’m everything but me.

Codependency is the reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity. The need to be perfect and defined by others. It’s a loss of control and giving away our power. It’s a loss of our authenticity, our potential, our values, our morals, our boundaries… In fact, the absence of boundaries plays a pivotal role and the fear of setting them, this is why co-dependent people later in life are at risk of ending up being taken advantage off and further abused, not because it’s their fault but because others chose to abuse them by exploiting these very vulnerabilities. In addition, co-dependents fear that having boundaries make them bad or selfish because many times as children they were shamed for having their needs or denied their rights.

Gabor Mate said children need two things; authenticity and attachment.

What happens in codependency is that authenticity is sacrificed for attachment.

In the fear of being abandoned by others, the result is that we sacrifice our own needs and self-love and abandon ourselves.

Co-dependent people don’t have a solid sense of who they are, because co-dependency is a natural reaction to trauma that develops in the formative years and childhood and is due to having experienced developmental trauma. Trauma or abuse robs us of our sense of self amongst other things. Many times it wasn’t okay to be ourselves, to be a child with needs and curiosity and test boundaries and be dependent and needing of nurture, the messages we received were; you are not okay as you are, you are too much, you are not enough, you cannot be accepted or loved for being you, you are not valuable, you’re not lovable…these messages can be subtle and don’t even need to be verbally made. When a child fears these things, they feel rejected and fear being abandoned. For a child abandonment is like murder. Co-dependency develops as a survival strategy, because children are dependent on survival by the adults. These patterns don’t just automatically vanish when someone turns of age. Being an adult is more than just about age.

These patterns follow us into adult relationships, many times seeing us end up in abusive relationships. The trauma response that co-dependency falls into is the fawn response.

The ‘please‘ or ‘fawn‘ response is an often overlooked survival mechanism to a traumatic situation, experience or circumstance. As any survival response; like flight, fight or freeze, a please or fawn response is to manage a state of danger or potential danger.

We may have learned that if as children we utilised the fight response and challenged our parents or protested their mistreatment of us, it only led us to being or feeling punished. This robs us of our assertive skills and silences us into subservience and submission. It also does one of the most destructive things ever that others utilise later in life to hurt us and that’s it deletes our ability to say no, to the point the word no loses all existence. This is why it’s hard for co-dependents to say no, to set boundaries and why they fear doing so will occur a negative action or response. Flight really isn’t much of an option since children depend on the adults in their lives and can’t just easily run away and some go into the freeze response where they dissociate from their toxic environment or people around them.

Many co-dependents were parentified in childhood. Parentification is also linked to childhood trauma and often made invisible just like the child may feel. It occurs when the roles are reversed between a child and a parent, where the child has to step up as the caretaker, mediator, or protector of the family. It is a form of mental abuse and boundary violation.  Again, we see that a codependent has grown up in a dysfunctional family setting where lack of boundaries were to be found. 

This sense of becoming a carer was damaging yet made the child feel they were needed and had a purpose and that if they gave of themselves, they could finally be accepted and loved.

‘Love’ very often came with conditions of worth. Conditions of worth were coined by Carl Rogers, the founder of the Person-Centred approach which is a way of being not doing. Rogers said that conditions of worth are what we develop when we take on board other people’s values and ideas about how we should be. When we are children, we learn what pleases those around us (parents, relatives…) and what gains us approval. This is what sets the stage later to people pleasing and why I mentioned at the start of the article why we become like chameleons or Mystique in X-men.

We also learn what gains us disapproval, for some this can be as simple as making mistakes and the reason why perfectionism is also linked to co-dependency and the child becoming the ‘perfect’ child who is always obedient and polite. Co-dependents are extremely loyal to those that are toxic and can allow mistreatment without seeing it as this because of their past history and conditioning.

It is a need for any child to feel wanted, enough, loved, seen, heard, accepted and to feel they belong and nurtured and it is as much of a requirement as food, shelter, water…Because as children we rely on these for survival we end up doing what is needed to get them (please).

What can add to not feeling enough or unwanted and linked with conditions of worth in later life is also society and how in order to feel like we belong, we are expected and told to be a certain way or act a certain way.

Boys and men don’t cry. Girls and women are not ladylike if they do certain things, gender stereotypes are good at this, advertisements that label certain aspects as flaws in order to make business and work on our self-esteem or create and generate this lack of low self-esteem. Women need to look a certain way to be attractive to men, men need to be macho and have a six pack, success is seen as wealth…This can open the original wound and create added layers making one never feel accepted, wanted, loved or enough as they are or it can create codependency from adolescents and adulthood only. The danger of placing value on these things and believing these conditioned lies, is that if we don’t have these things (if we are not ‘perfect’) then our worth can feel challenged.

 Pete walker defines trauma-based co-dependency as:

‘a syndrome of self-abandonment and self-abnegation’.

He also explains the implicit code of the fawn type is that it is:

  • To listen rather than talk
  • To agree than to dissent
  • To offer care than to ask for help
  • To elicit the other than to express self
  • To leave choices to the other rather than express preferences.

It is only with learning how to apply and carry out boundaries, when we find our voice, are able to offer ourselves our own love and acceptance can we break free of co-dependency and start to become our authentic selves and learn who we truly are or set free the person we always were but that was prisoned.

The truth behind suicide and the suicidal mind

Edwin. S. Shneidman states:

“In almost every case, suicide is caused by pain, a certain kind of pain – psychological pain, which I call psychache. Furthermore, this psychache stems from thwarted or distorted psychological needs’ (The Suicidal Mind, 1996, p.4)

Suicidal death is an escape from overwhelming pain.

The question we should be asking is “Where does it hurt? And “How can I help you?”

Shneidman also looks at some common truths and factors about suicide. These are:

  • The common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution to end the pain.
  • The common goal of suicide is cessation of consciousness. Dissociating from the painful reality.
  • The common stimulus in suicide is psychological pain. Pain is at the core of suicide.
  • The common stressor in suicide is frustrated psychological needs. These cause the pain and push the person into suicide.
  • The common emotion in suicide is hopelessness-helplessness. It feels like there is nothing the person can do (except end their pain via death) and nobody that can help them (with the pain they feel).
  • The common cognitive state in suicide is ambivalence. This is the tug war between life and death. Not wanting to live, not wanting to die but wanting to end the pain and death feeling like the only solution. Suicidal people feel forced into this, it is not a want but stemming from the need to end the pain. When the need becomes greater than the want, suicide wins. This is the result of great distress and great desperation.
  • The common perceptual state in suicide is constriction. Black or white thinking. All or nothing.

Shneidman states:

“Suicide is not best understood as a psychosis, a neurosis, or a character disorder. It is a transient psychological constriction, involving our emotions and intellect”. “There was nothing else to do.’ “The only way out was death’. “The only thing I could do was this’.

  • The common action in suicide is escape or egression.
  • The common interpersonal act in suicide is communication of intention
  • The common pattern in suicide is consistent with life-long styles of coping. Individuals who have lost their lives to suicide, have been fighting for far longer than we realise, it’s an accumulation of unprocessed life events that can trigger the final act. Those more prone to automatically use the flee survival response are made vulnerable.

What doesn’t help people who are suffering is the myths that surround suicide that need to be eliminated and based on lack of empathy and total ignorance.

Suicidal people are not selfish, cowards, weak or attention seeking, not only are they in great psychological pain, but did you know that the part involved with empathy is shut down? When overwhelmed our nervous system shuts down and parts of our brain become inactive. In that moment, suicidal people are not thinking, this ability is disabled, they are trying to end their pain.

Also children and adolescents commit suicide, do we think of them as weak, cowards…or do we see them as dsyregulated individuals in great distress unable to regulate and soothe selves?

Suicidal idealisation and suicide itself is common and normal, we need a relational approach to this not a pathological approach. We need to stop pathologising human experiences. We need to stop shaming people who open up to us and label them attention seeking, let’s substitute attention seeking with connection seeking. Suicide can escalate when individuals are made to feel unsupported and isolated.

If someone brings our attention to the fact they are hurting, we ask where are you hurting? We don’t say people are seeking attention when they have had an accident and are injured, the doctor or paramedic may ask, can you tell me where it hurts? Can you show me where you are hurting? and assistance will immediately be given. We also don’t leave an individual who is bleeding profoundly to bleed alone so why do we emotionally? why is the waiting list and support for people in distress so long, requiring them to have to wait years even for assistance? Why are children being dismissed because they are told they are not suicidal enough for help?

Myths not only are callous, judgmental and inaccurate but also contribute in making others feel further unsupported, misunderstood, stigmatised, punished, isolated and alone, increasing the pain and risk. This is the root of the problem and this rises suicidal feelings and the risks of suicide.

We see in films the kind act of putting an animal in pain out of its misery and suicidal people feel like they are doing the same for themselves as well as a kind act to those they love in the way of removing the burden they feel they are. They don’t want their loved ones to see them in pain and have to experience that pain every day and feel that death would give them freedom from this. They know that their death would also cause pain, but they don’t see this as worse of a pain than to see a loved one dead inside and in pain whilst alive. It is excruciatingly painful and difficult for someone to end their life, and an indication of how bad that psycheache is. Nobody likes pain, think of what we do, when we have a toothache, we reach for medication to help alleviate the pain, when we are in severe psychological pain such as deep injuries and needing surgery we are given anaesthetic to take away the pain, imagine living with this pain with no anaesthetic day after day. For a suicidal person living can feel like being burned alive each day.

Not every suicidal person wants to end life, it’s not that they don’t want to live but they fear living or life more than death. For others they may feel trapped in limbo where they fear living and they feel dying just as equally. These individuals may find themselves experiencing suicidal ideation but not making plans. This is a torment in its own right. Suicide is trying to find a solution to a problem, it is the trauma response of flight mode. Attempts are ways to self soothe when one is emotionally dysregulated and overwhelmed by so much emotional and psychological pain within. One doesn’t need to suffer from a mental illness, even if mental illness is a high risk and many lose their lives to a mental illness far too many times, this is why we must have the support we need to help those in need but the support for mental health as always been scarce and the world has long not be trauma informed.

What also doesn’t help is that we live in a world that causes systematic trauma alone through oppression and exploitation such as racism, capitalism, misogyny…and one that doesn’t meet human needs. A world where emotions are frowned upon and vulnerability which is courage seen as weakness, victim blaming is engrained in our culture and all these things woven into the fabric of our society alone is enough to make any strong, healthy or mentally healthy person, emotionally bleed.

Not all people that are suicidal are necessarily depressed because many times what is pathologically labelled as a disease is in effect an emotional reaction and therefore rather a dis-ease (as Peter Levine states) and also if we look at the word depression it means to press down, push down and this is what we are asked to do with our feelings and emotions. Many times, what we feel is dismissed with phrases such as: “just think positive”, “It could be worse”, “things happen for a reason” …making one feel alone and misunderstood and their pain further silenced. We further create more distress to an already distressed individual through hospitalisation where they can be forced by police into an ambulance, sedated and treated like dangerous violent criminals. In past, mental illness treatments were barbaric and abusive to the point they would make you suicidal.

When our survival is threatened and pain overwhelming the real aim is to end the pain, it’s to find a solution. Suicide isn’t primarily in my view about self destruction although the act itself has this element, but rather it is a form of self protection. It’s a reaction to a threat so great, the threat of never being the same, the threat caused by overwhelming fear for our life or our reputation, the overwhelming of shame. It can be a different threat to different people as all of us are individuals with individual circumstances. I believe it’s the threat that leads to what distressed individuals come to see as the only solution. It is not intentional and rational, it is determined by various social and biological forces. Like us humans it is complex and needs to be given the attention it deserves and victims and survivors of suicide or attempted suicide(s), need to be given the dignity and justice they deserve.

If something so heavy is falling on us and it threatens to crush us, chances are without support we cannot free ourselves and the weight of something we cannot possible hold alone will come crashing and potentially kill us. Something has happened or happens that has metaphorically ended a person’s life before suicide ends it physically as in kills the body. Many times, we fail to see that the person who we have lost to the world, was trying to survive, wanted to survive and intended to survive and had been strong for so long and yet we fail to see this is the case in a lot of suicides. We just label them cowards just like soldiers in wars who developed PTSD and could no longer bring themselves to function or fight. We cannot judge anyone or ourselves even by the same standards when we are faced with a threat or when we are in great distress. When are needs are not met and we are starved and deprived of these needs or need to survive.

An example is, if we are safe and regulated and have security and resources and say we are thirsty, we will drink something that is drinkable, if we were in a desert for days and the threat of death by dehydration was looking us in the eye, in despair we would drink poison just to quench the thirst, this would lead to death but our intention was not death, it was to ease the discomfort, to find a solution even if it came with repercussions. Our choices, our behaviours, our actions, our thoughts, all change when faced with things.

So we can’t judge and compare, victims of suicide with someone who feels safe and in a calm state because of this. Another example is seen even in animals, scorpion suicide was long featured in Iberian folklore, but George Bryron’s 1813 poem: The Giaour, brought attention to it. When ringed with fire and faced with no means of escape, the scorpion was said to end the threat by thrusting its sting into its own back which would see it dying. A bee will sacrifice their life to string to protect itself from threat. Suicide is an act to protect self from the threat of overwhelming emotional and mental pain.

We can also consider the IFS (internal Family system) modality, which is an approach that doesn’t pathologise rather normalises aspects within ourselves and looks into them with a lens of compassion and curiosity not judgement. It is of the belief that our mind is made up of sub-personalities, this is why we can experience conflicting emotions, because there is more to us than just one part. We are made up of many parts. That is why many suicidal individuals may have a part of them that wants to live and a part of them that wants to die with the latter taking over.

IFS claims that these parts are divided into exiles (parts of us that are wounded, vulnerable, traumatised), protectors (these are pro-active and try to protect the exile parts from becoming wounded again and experiencing emotional flooding which overwhelms us), and finally the firefighters (these parts are reactive and try to end the pain, these are the parts that can have us feel suicidal or act on suicide). So what we see, is that suicide is an act of self protection, an attempt to protect self from pain and like a firefighter the goal is to put out the fire (pain), everything else isn’t important and will get destroyed, just like suicide ends the pain but destroys the body in order to do this which results in a life lost.

I have aimed to argue and present my argument that suicide has absolutely nothing to do with a character deficit and as Aphrodite Matsakis states when talking of trauma:

“At some point in your life you have probably cut your finger with a knife. If the blade was dull, you may have suffered only a little nick. If the blade was sharp, you may have bled all over. If the blade was very sharp and the force behind it was great enough, you might even have lost part of your finger. The extent of your injury depended more on the sharpness of the blade and the power behind it than on the toughness of your skin. Given enough force, even extremely tough skin would not protect you from the knife, and anyone else in the same situation would also be injured, even if they had the toughest skin in the world. The same holds true on a psychological level. There are events in life that would almost make anyone ‘bleed all over’.

What I mean by trauma is anything that affects our ability to function, what happens inside us. Even the things like losing a job, a breakup/divorce, the loss of security, loneliness…

In addition, we need to change our language around suicide. Don’t say: They committed suicide, they had a failed attempt, they are attention seeking. Alternatives and the truth are, they died by suicide, they were in psychological pain, they are asking for support and help. People don’t commit suicide, they are driven to suicide. Let’s end the stigma and stop hurting those that are already hurt and in pain by words, myths and ignorance.

Let’s get educated and spread the love! Let’s remember those that have made attempts and survived along with those who have lost a loved one and those that have lost their lives to psycheache.

Reference: Edwin. S. Shneidman, The Suicidal Mind (1996

Copywrite: Antonella Zottola

This article is copywrite protected and no content may be reproduced or used for any purpose without the permission of the author.

 

Why Christmas may be a dangerous time for victims of domestic violence

Christmas is a time that can intensify the loneliness that one may feel or has been battling with. Add to this that abusers use a tactic called isolation, which is a means to isolate the victim so that the victim becomes dependent on the abuser who is the only person they may have. The abuser tries to isolate the victim from friends and family so that these relationships can be lost, and the victim is left vulnerable and the power and control of the abuser tightens. If this support system is lost, the victim may feel more compelled to return to the abuser. Financial difficulties may also come into play. Christmas can highlight the shame of not having a loving relationship in one’s life, or company and someone to share the magic with.

Abusers are opportunists, and what better time to seize an opportunity than at Christmas when loneliness can be a killer and emotions may be overwhelming for those who feel alone, unloved, unwanted, abandoned and rejected, or who may have no family and friends? This is why abusers may try to, and many times do, entice a victim to return to them around this time. When an abuser returns it’s not because they wish to change, not because they miss the victim, not because they love the victim, not because they are interested in a romantic relationship, but because they want that power and control, and to prove they have this to the victim; to demonstrate that they can always be accepted back, that the victim needs them: “I have power over you”. They are missing having what they see as a privilege, using the victim as a supply, that they see the privilege to treat someone badly and see how the victim has traumatically bonded to them.

Abusers are masters of manipulation and know exactly what they do. It is very tempting for the victim to return, to soothe the pain of loneliness, to have to be in denial because the truth is scary. The pull of the chains of traumatic bonding is very powerful.

The no contact rule the victim has put in place can be hard to do, as the toxicity of an abusive relationship can feel like an addiction; you know it’s bad, dangerous even, but you need a fix to believe the reality is different, to numb the pain even temporarily; the addiction from the positive rewards the abuser uses and then again abuses. All these are tactics that are not separate but part of the game. Knowing that the victim will crave those “happier” days, moments and experiences, believing it means that there is a better side to the abuser, that this means they can be changed and that love will lead to this change. It’s a dangerous myth and lie sold to victims by the abuser who promises to change, by messages given by society, especially to females.

It can be so tempting to go back, but an abuser becomes more dangerous after a break-up and sometimes wishes to return to gain revenge upon what they see as an act of defiance from the victim. How dare they think they can leave? That they are better than me? How dare they demand respect or see through the games, deceit, lies and techniques? The victim must be taught a lesson so they don’t step out of place again. This can be what an abuser may be feeling and thinking, and highlights the danger of returning.

The more a victim stays or the more they return the tighter the grip, the harder it gets, the more dangerous it can become and the consequences can and have been fatal.

Please make sure that you have a strong support system in place around times that can make you more vulnerable. Please stay strong knowing you deserve so much more; please know that the pain of loneliness can be a killer but being with an abuser who is an empty human being can make you, in the end, feel more alone than you ever felt before. Please know that you are not alone. Please pour that energy and love unto yourself, give yourself the love that you feel you need to get from others. Please be safe, know that it’s not your fault for feeling the way you do, for feeling that temptation, know that someone understands but, if you can, please don’t return – one can’t find happiness in the same place that has destroyed them and made them unhappy.

We all want a happy ending but many times it can and has resulted in a tragic ending, and if an abuser ever were to change, the only person who can make this happen is themselves, because they and they alone choose to, but you cannot place yourself in danger waiting for this, and even then you deserve to be free from abuse and have your time and space to heal.

Merry Christmas to all victims who have gotten out, who may be trying to, who have and may feel compelled to return and all those that may be reminded of the trauma experienced around this time. You are not alone.

For more information on domestic violence and abuse, check out my eBook – Shattering the myths of abuse: Validating the pain; Changing the culture –https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shattering-Myths-Abuse-Validating-Changing-ebook/dp/B07PSCF9B5

 

The Hurt and Pain behind Christmas

While Christmas is seen as a jubilant occasion that embodies the theme of family, friends and happiness, the reality is that many are plagued by deep sadness, loneliness and even despair. Christmas can bring with it painful memories and make people feel more isolated and alone.

Let’s imagine some realities; the elderly that may be forgotten or with no family, the victim of domestic abuse who may be tempted to go back to abuse because it feels better than the pain of loneliness, the child whose parents cannot afford much, the homeless on the street, the one’s who may have lost a loved one or experienced trauma around this time, those who have no family or who have removed themselves from toxic ‘family’. The one’s forever struggling of which Christmas may feel like just a day like any other.

Many of these painful feelings can make people suicidal even around this time, especially when the pressures to be and appear happy are placed upon them, when they are seen as Scrouge’s and ruining it for everyone else if they are not.

This pressure can often lead some to smile, and so a smile can been seen but the inner torment often remains hidden.

Christmas highlights what is lacking in people’s life and magnifies it, bringing feelings of shame, inferiority, a sense of failure and then feeling like one is bad if they are not in the mood to celebrate, feel happy or like the very season that seems the most painful as there is no escape from this theme. These happy images are painful reminders that can be torturous to those who have no contacts or family, suffer from mental illness, are being abused and whose life is not the epitome of joy. Where tears are to be found instead of laughter, where the tinsel may not sparkle, where there may be nobody to pull a cracker with, where loneliness and pain engulfs them even when surrounded by others.

Many clients may indeed feel like this and need counselling and support at a time which can be seen as the most painful as it forces so many happy images and so many images of family, security and happiness that remind others of all they may have lost or all they don’t have. It can also remind them of all that can make them feel guilty for not being happy, shame at all that they might lack in life at that moment and loneliness at the reminder of not having the happy family or close ones to share it with.

If family members are depressed, or things happen at Christmas, the association made will not be positive. Many hurts can be thrown in peoples faces and many expectations and pressures placed on this sense of being happy whilst the truth is for many that they could be hurting inside.

It’s important to realise how sensitive and painful this season and time can be for many others out there that may need support, understanding and validation. Let’s not forget   that Christmas isn’t always a happy day for everyone and that’s okay.

Let someone know you care, not only at Christmas but during the rest of the calendar year. Be understanding and accept that Christmas isn’t the best time of year for all out there.

Children of Narcisstic Parents

Growing up with a narcissistic parent is not only traumatic in nature, but also debilitating and detrimental.

As a child growing up with a parent like this, one is loved on conditions – that is, as long as the child meets the parent’s needs, continues to adore and idolise the parent, and act as an extension of the parent and not their self, then all is good. Many other times, the child who rebels by having their own identity and refusing to be controlled is verbally abused and mistreated in other ways. Narcissistic parents view their own children as a threat and as competition. They react in extreme ways to being criticised, and this can lead them to even severely punish their children either verbally, physically, or psychologically. The parent feels that, as a parent, they are entitled to control you, and also believe that they can never do wrong or be wrong. So, not only do they never hold themselves accountable, but they also may never offer an apology, or a genuine one, at least. They tend to deny accusations and even shift the blame and guilt onto you.

This leads to children not feeling valued, and when they do feel valued it is not because of who they are but rather because of what they do. This can lead to the child feeling used, for they are seen more like an accessory to the parent rather than seen as a human being. Considering this, the child can come to adopt the false belief that they are unlovable or unworthy, because if someone close to us (such as a parent who is meant to love, value and protect us) proves incapable of doing so, then who will? This can then lead to trust issues with the child, and in later adult life not knowing who to trust, but also not trusting themselves.

The child will often feel invisible, not seen or heard, because the parent will dismiss, invalidate and ignore the child’s emotions and feelings and, in many cases, all will go back to the parent and how this makes them feel. The parent will get angry at being criticised rather than take it as an opportunity to look within themselves and change any hurtful or unhealthy behaviour. It will be all about them and nobody else; narcissistic parents lack empathy and cannot attune to their children’s emotional needs. They are very self-centred and selfish. They will use guilt trips and gaslighting to turn the attention away from having to hold themselves accountable, and so the child’s feelings and reality are not acknowledged. This will then contribute to the child experiencing self-doubt and not being able to trust their own judgement and feelings – therefore the child often suffers from crippling self-doubt, wondering what it is that they have done to deserve such treatment.

As Jonice Webb stated, ‘a parent without empathy is like a surgeon operating with dull tools in poor lighting. The results are likely to produce scarring’.

The parent can, at times, have a child whose role is the scapegoat, and another whose role is seen as the golden child. Very often, the narcissistic parent will play their children off against the other. In fact, it is not uncommon for difficulties and conflicts to arise between siblings. In order to survive, one must be on mother or father’s good side and avoid being on their bad side, which can see siblings take the mother or father’s side and even join in the verbal abuse and gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a psychological tactic based on manipulation, where someone makes you feel crazy or causes you to doubt your own reality of events and sanity.

The child that most reflects the narcissistic parent will take the role of the golden child, and the child who doesn’t resemble the parent is seen as a disappointment and becomes the scapegoat; the one who is their own individual. This is because the narcissistic parent likes to play favourites.

Many times, the parent will manipulate the situation, and in doing so always retains the focus or spotlight on themselves and avoids being held accountable. The parent needs to feel and be in control at all times.

The parent often cares about others approval and not losing face at the expense of their own child’s needs and welfare; they tend to be self-absorbed and only value their children according to how well they reflect their own achievements as a parent. The child grows up believing that they don’t matter; they can become a people pleaser and put others needs above their own, find it hard to self care for themselves, and rely on external factors rather than internal to determine their worth and value.

The child can grow up never feeling good enough, feeling that what they do is either always wrong or not good enough, and feeling lonely, as for most of their life they have been due to being emotionally abandoned. They can find it hard to express themselves because they have never had a mirror to reflect back what they felt; they may have difficulties knowing or determining who they truly are because they have never been allowed autonomy, but controlled and conditioned to become an extension of the parent.

The parent often is always critical, damaging the child’s self-esteem which they can carry into adulthood, and perfection can result. Often, children of narcissistic parents tend to become overachievers because they feel loved or valued only through conditions of worth and when they are able to make their parents ‘look good’. This makes a child feel used and manipulated.

Since narcissistic parents are often superficial in nature, image is incredibly important. Looks will, therefore, be important for them so much that children could be taught that their looks and appearance is more important than who they are or how they feel. When this occurs, image can be viewed as more important than authenticity, individuality, and diversity, since the myths of the ideal beauty standard in society are both unrealistic and limited, again limiting self-discovery, self-love, and the ability to develop one’s own sense of self and worth.

As a child or adult, the individual may seek the love, approval, and attention of their parent in vain, through achievements, looks or other ways, hoping that things will change, seeking that acceptance, and believing their parent will change. Children of narcissistic parents can spend many years carrying this hope – after all, children never give up on wanting these things from their parent. Hope for any human is the last to die.

Some children can only survive by identifying with their narcissistic parent, and they become like them or develop some of the same traits. Others will break free but may still struggle with the necessary abilities to separate their ‘selves’ and individuality from their parent’s identity. The child has had to be the extension of their parent, has had to be controlled, has been given their identity instead of allowed to explore it, that understandably confusion and difficulties in this area naturally can arise. Many times, it is when children are teenagers that they go through the stage of self-identity and want independence, and the narcissistic parent is threatened by their child’s independence.

When the child is small, parentification may result, which is when the child is there for the parent but nobody is there to for them. This is, therefore, when the parent uses their child as an emotional crutch to cater to their own emotional needs. This can lead to children feeling emotionally empty and lacking in nurturance, which is what children need, and, on occasion, this can stunt emotional development and deprive the child of having a healthy role model in life for behaviours, boundaries, and healthy emotional connections.

The narcissistic parent will want their child to be the best, most wealthy, successful, and beautiful, but should the child outshine them at anything, the parent can then become resentful and jealous, and may resort to putting down their child through techniques of shame and humiliation.

The child may receive credit only when it suits the parent, and on other occasions receive none, and this can result in children not giving themselves the deserved credit they need. Whilst most children can grow up to become overachievers, they can also develop patterns of self-sabotage, or develop both of these traits but in different areas.

It is not uncommon for children to form or develop psychological distresses such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorders later in life. Other issues include co-dependency, weak boundaries and difficulties saying ‘no’, chronic feelings of guilt and shame, self-loathing, poor self-image, weak sense of self, trust issues, addictions, poor relationships, self-hatred, perfectionism, people pleasing, low self-esteem, emptiness, unidentified feelings of unhappiness, and an inability to express emotions, to name a few.

Feelings of guilt can be very strong, even in the healing process, as in addition to having to be made to feel guilty by the parent and others, additional cultural messages reinforce that children should obey their parents, that family is everything, and that children should never abandon or leave their parents especially when they are old, adds pressure.

Taking this on board for the child of a narcissistic parent, the guilt trip is felt not only by the manipulative parent, but society as well. However, it does not make anyone a bad daughter or son to distance themselves from a toxic family member, or to remove them completely from their life. Nobody is obligated to make room for people who cause you pain or make you feel small. It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change, but if a person disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and continues to treat you in a harmful way, they need to go.

Parents don’t own us – we belong to ourselves. It is healthy and good role modelling to place boundaries that protect us, and to not accept unhealthy and damaging behaviours in our life; it is not up to us to change the other person, but up to them to change their hurtful ways – we can only control how much we allow them to do this by staying and how we react. We deserve to be treated with respect and to be safe. We cannot heal by staying in the same environment that caused us emotional and psychological harm. The best way is either to limit contact, have strictly controlled interactions, such as on the phone, where if someone crosses the line you can just put the phone down or, if necessary, remove them completely.

To accept that a parent did not love, value, protect, cherish or accept us is one of the most painful things one will do; it will take time and it’s a process. Often, one can find themselves flickering from denial, which is their child part who still needs to hang on to a sense of hope to survive, and the adult part who recognises that this was never acceptable and is identifying the damage done.

To heal the inner child wounds, one must re-parent themselves and give that inner child the love, value, and nurturance that it lacks and needs, the loving words it needs to hear and to be accepted by self unconditionally. If left unresolved, these wounds will continue to affect our life, our adult choices, and our behaviours.

For further reading to help you understand it is not your fault, please read this excellent article published by CPSD foundation.org and written by Shirley Davis.

https://cptsdfoundation.org/2020/06/22/the-neuroscience-of-narcissism-and-narcissistic-abuse/

The Truth Behind DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder)

All mental illnesses are surrounded by a lack of understanding as to what causes them and a lot of stigma and myths. One form of complex psychological condition which is often incredibly misrepresented and misunderstood yet draws much fascination is DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), formerly known as and recognised by the term Multiple Personality Disorder.

The misrepresentation of this is often seen with the ignorant and negative and rather insulting portrayal of it by the media who uses it more often than not in horror films. It rarely depicts a true and accurate representation and rarely places individuals who suffer from it in a positive light, but rather a dark light where they tend to be the ones that commit the crimes in horror stories.

This invalidates the pain and experience of survivors and that feeling of being invalidated hurts in a way that cannot be erased. These negative labels and representations are not only inaccurate but painful to see and hurtful to sufferers.

The real truth and real horror lies within what happened to those who suffer from this. It is not a sign of madness, badness or criminality. It is a perfectly normal reaction to abnormal events; it’s a creative way of survival, of surviving horrors done to those who suffer from it. These horrors commence in early childhood when the individual was young, often experiencing repetitive and extreme abuse and unable to cope, too overwhelmed by indescribable and incomprehensible traumas and who developed DID as a means of survival.

The definition of dissociation is the disruption of the normal integrative processes of consciousness, perception, memory, and identity that define selfhood.

This copying mechanism tends to then become reinforced and conditioned and part of a normal way of being in order to keep surviving. It is a highly creative way where the child learns to adapt to the horrors it cannot escape. The child cannot escape the trauma physically so they find a creative way that allows them to “get away” by doing so mentally, emotionally, psychologically (through their heads).

What the child is trying to achieve is an extremely effective defence against severe physical and emotional pain, or the anxious anticipation that follows that pain. This process is thereby created by the child so that the child’s thoughts, feelings, memories and perceptions of the traumatic experiences can be separated off psychologically, allowing them to function as if the trauma had not occurred. Blocking the painful trauma allows survival of unspeakable mistreatment to escape and in doing so also allowing the escape from powerful emotions such as pain and fear/terror.

The result is a split in parts of self and fragmented memories. Each protector created by the splitting process becomes a different identify in itself yet all form part of the same person. In fact we all play different roles in life and act differently in each context. We may act differently with parents than we do alone with friends and act differently at work than at home even if our parts of self (unlike DID sufferers) are integrated.

We all dissociate at some level. In a mild form of dissociation where we may lose touch with conscious awareness of our immediate surroundings; examples include getting lost in a film or book, or when we forget where we placed our keys, or when we may have had a traumatic experience. As we can see dissociating is normal. DID is dissociating at a higher level and is therefore an extreme example and form of dissociating. The person with DID experiences memory loss that is too great to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.

As we have seen, DID is a consequence of extreme abuse in early childhood. The genesis of DID therefore occurred due to the most typically extreme, repeated forms of neglect, physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse. Children that have been witnesses or subjected to different traumas such as war, torture, accidents, natural disasters, medical trauma, terrorism, sexual exploitation and abuse in other ways, such as but not limited to human trafficking, or sadistic ritual abuse have also developed DID.

90% of cases are believed to be linked with a history of abuse. The child doesn’t have the capacity to deal with such trauma and therefore the mind finds a way to cope and survive this, resulting in DID.

Many people can have more than two protectors – the average can go up to 14-15 and some can have up to 40. Each protector represents an event where abuse took place and each protector is given a job or purpose, such as the protector, the fighter, the child, the parent. Each one has different personality aspects and can be of any gender or age, regardless the gender of the person or their actual age.

The person experiencing DID isn’t always aware of the splitting process. The protector that manifests may be aware of another’s existence, but not vice versa. The protectors may be triggered by stressors. The various protectors may refuse each other, conflict with one another, be hostile to one another or not want to acknowledge the others existence. Depersonalisation can occur, which is defined as a state in which one’s thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself. It is important to keep in mind that although these alternate personality states may appear to be very different, they are all manifestations of a single person. The condition involves identity fragmentation rather than a creation of separate personalities. Hence why the name Multiple Personality Disorder was changed in 1994, to a more accurate reflection of the condition and now referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Some individuals with DID may experience amnesia in the form of what is known as “dissociative fugues” which is a case where the person with DID travels and does not remember doing so.

People with dissociative disorders may experience any of the following: depression, sleeping disorders, addictions, panic attacks and anxiety, mood swings, phobias, PTSD, suicidal ideation, self harm, psychotic symptoms and eating disorders, along with physical ailments such as headaches, time loss, amnesia, spacing out and out of body experiences.

Unlike the media portrays, many people that suffer from DID are not evil or criminals – they have been victims of indescribable cruelty. They are good and normal people that deserve our understanding, respect and who are inspirational in their courage and strength.

It is important to highlight the the goal of therapy is not to eliminate a person’s protectors, but to embrace them and incorporate them into the person’s sense of oneness. There are ways that people can do the healing without being re-traumatised, in fact doing so in certain cases can prove damaging and dangerous. We need to go at the clients pace and respect this and respect that trauma can be healed without the need for details of the events. Other therapies that help are creative forms and cognitive treatment.

DID is a creative tool that the mind creates to survive; it is a normal response and reaction to abnormal events. Better understanding and representations are needed to help those with this condition and recognising the normality of this considering the events that led to it, we see how extraordinary the mind is, how it helps us survive and how extraordinary these people are who deserve our love and respect and for their condition to be portrayed accurately, and for this to be seen not as a defect but as the manifestation to trauma. Let us not ask what’s wrong with people who have mental illnesses but rather what happened. Many of these conditions are the result of human pain, not human deficits or madness. Let us give justice to this pain.

Food and Mental Health

Many people don’t pay much attention to their dietary lifestyles or find it hard to accept that diet can make a difference in regards to our psychological well-being.

The truth is that it certainly can. There are foods that contain vitamins and minerals that can help prevent, reduce and manage mental illnesses, they do this by contributing to the maintenance of optimal neurological functions and maintain balance of neuro-chemicals in our brains. Food can help fight off inflammation of the brain.

It is possible that sometimes when we suffer from poor mental health what may be contributing to it can be a deficiency in these minerals and vitamins and so it is important to have an holistic approach to our psychological sessions as counsellors that bares this aspect in mind and to also get clients to consider this information alongside their therapeutic healing.

Doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors are not taught about the importance of nutrition and the links that can be made to overall health. So it is important that we are enlightened by this knowledge and share it with our clients to help them further into healing.

A healthy diet in general is part of well being and should be encouraged regardless, this is avoiding sugar (cutting down), eating fresh food and whole foods that remain in their natural state and not processed so avoiding processed foods and junk food. Eating more fruits and vegetables and preferably eating a plant based diet alongside reducing amounts of fizzy drinks, coffee and alcohol. One doesn’t need meat to obtain protein in their diet and meat can also be processed leading to poor health, in addition ethical issues are attached to eating meat. Wholegrain products are also healthier than white alternatives to rice, pasta and bread, so substitute white with brown.

Dairy products also contribute to inflammation especially in terms of skin disorders and even mental health (casein the  protein in milk being the offender) and therefore should be avoided where possible. Many alternatives to milk (oat, almond, rice, coconut, cashew, hazelnut milk) are to be found and much calcium is obtained in vegetables such as: broccoli, potatoes, onions, aubergines.

Scientists have also linked gut health to mental health so a staple of a healthy diet can be beneficial to overall well being. Poor gut health has been linked to memory disorders such as: dementia and Alzhiemer’s disease.

Another food to avoid in relation to poor gut and mental health is gluten. Gluten is not a natural substance and our bodies struggle to digest it. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and spelt. Mental illnesses associated with it include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, ADHD, autism and eating disorders.

So what vitamins and minerals have studies shown to help mental health?

Let’s look at some of these:

  • Vitamin B’s

A lack of B vitamins not only leads to fatigue but deficiency of these vitamins especially B12 and folic have been linked to depression. Some studies claim that folic acid may reduce depression when taken in conjunction with vitamin B12. Deficiency in folic acid is also believed to lead to anxiety. This is because the role of B vitamins is producing brain chemicals that can affect our mood and brain function. Therefore, it’s important to consider that something such as a deficiency many be causing or contributing to this mental illness and that by regulating the body and brain with the necessary needed vitamins can help reduce depressive symptoms brought on by B vitamin deficiency alongside psychological counselling. Niacin (B3) and Thiamin (B1) can also alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia and alcohol abuse.

  • Magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, managanese

Studies have shown that deficiencies in these minerals can lead to anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders. These minerals all aid in the function of neurotransmitters. They can be found in dark, leafy greens such as spinach.

Magnesium has long been known for its calming properties on the nervous system and according to studies can help alleviate panic attacks, anxiety, depression and anger. So if you suffer from panic attacks, depression or anger and anxiety, you may have a magnesium deficiency. Foods that contain magnesium are avocados, vegetables (and green leafy vegetables), bananas, nuts and seeds.

Copper overload can result in emotional meltdowns, frequent anger, anxiety, depression. It is very easy for copper overload to result. Its role is in assisting the immune system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system. Copper deficiency can lead to anger problems, mood disorders and ADHD. Foods that contain cooper are: lentils, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, chickpeas.

Iron is essential for normal neurological function. Deficiency can present itself as anxiety, depression, irritability, and even poor concentration. In the research article published by BMC Psychiatry, the researchers, concluded that “Iron deficiency increased the risk of psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and developmental disorders.” Foods that contain iron are: artichokes, spinich, broccoli, beans, lentils, dried fruit.

Zinc deficiencies can play a role in depression, it also plays a role in brain functions such as in the functions of neurons and therefore can help with things such as neuroplasticity moods. Foods that contain zinc are: whole grains, beans, nuts.

Managanese aids in brain development and functions, and is essential for human survival. A deficiency can lead to impaired memory, mood changes and mental illness such as anxiety. Like with any minerals too much can also be harmful and lead to side effects, these include symptoms resembling Parkinson’s disease, such as shaking (tremors). Foods that contain managanese are: cabbage, spinach, potatoes, beans, seeds, nuts, vegetables (such as asparagus).

  • Omega 3

Studies in adults suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. You don’t need to eat fish to obtain omega 3, it can come from other sources such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed.

As we have seen a good diet and food can make a contribution towards our mental well being so it should never be dismissed or ignored.

Not all people respond to anti-depressents and medication and these can come with side effects. A natural way through diet and psychological counselling therapy are important for overall mental health but a healthy diet is important for general physical health and refers to all of us not just those who suffer from a mental illness, as a healthy diet can help prevent numerous aliments and contribute to a healthier and longer life. For people where medication is necessary, a change in diet can still make a difference.

Important notes to consider is that these deficiencies cannot always be measured by blood or urine samples by doctors, as some such as Zinc deficiency would not show up. Also it is recommended that if you try supplements it is important that you consult a health care provider before starting any kind of supplement regimen. A general overall healthy diet will provide us with the sufficient and necessary vitamin and minerals, however supplements can be needed at times, this is okay as long as one doesn’t rely solely on them and that they compliment rather than substitute a healthy diet.

The Truth about Loss and Grief

Grief and loss are universal traumas, affecting most living things to some extent. However, for humans – who think that things need to be fixed, and for whom hope is the last to die – having to accept that there is no hope (that our loved ones won’t return, that grief and loss can’t be fixed but rather need to be felt and heard and the pain allowed) can inevitably be one of the hardest things, and we can feel so overwhelmed by the experience.

There is never a right or wrong way to grieve or to react; some people break down, crying and being inconsolable; some remain composed, and then they may crumble with time or with a trigger of another death reopening wounds and unresolved grief. Some people feel numb and worry, or feel guilty that they should be expressing more ‘pain’ if they cared…however, their reaction isn’t a reflection of how much they loved or cared – it’s an expression of how they are trying to cope. We are all individuals and we all react – we all cope, and we all express ourselves and feel things in different ways. It is normal and okay to be you.

Loss and grief isn’t just about losing a loved one – it’s about loss in general.

This can be grieving the loss of one’s childhood; loss of identity or sense of self; a loss of security and trust in the world or people; loss of self-love or esteem; a loss of a limb; loss of youth, health, divorce and separations…heart breaks and break ups are a form of loss because we may never see that person again. or have them part of our life. Even when a loved one dies, we may be losing what it means to live life differently – the loss of who we might have been with that person, the loss of a shared life if we lose the love of our life. A loss, not just of our baby, but the chance of being a parent to our baby.

Animals are also part of our lives and who we love – they too are equally important and matter just as much. The unconditional love of a pet animal is precious.

If we have lost a loved one through suicide, we are left with a sense of abandonment and rejection, and it can come with feelings of guilt or blame that we should have noticed, done more, could have stopped it. This complicates grieving, just like when sudden death occurs – one can never be truly ready, and bereavement is difficult.

At times, death can be of comfort if we knew that the person was in so much pain and living was painful and unpleasant. If someone who has hurt us dies, we may feel relief and a sense of freedom that this person is no longer alive to hurt us or threaten us.

Psychologist Susan David writes that our cultural dialogue is fundamentally avoidant. This can be seen by the unhelpful comments others might offer: “At least they lived to be old”; time will heal”…people are uncomfortable with pain, and some may distance themselves from the person, suffering leaving them in greater pain and isolation. Our support network is so vital in getting through grief.

Author Megan Davis points out in her book: It’s okay not to be okay. We live in a culture that does not understand grief – take this into consideration. No wonder it can all feel so frightening and overwhelming. She states that unhelpful comments are really telling us to stop feeling so bad, therefore silencing our pain and our grief and not giving us the space and support needed.

She continues to say: “Grief is not a problem to be solved. It isn’t ‘wrong’, and it can’t be ‘fixed’. It isn’t an illness to be cured”.

Do not feel pressured into “healing” or “moving on” – do not pressure yourself. Give yourself the love and compassion that you need. Empathy drives connection; it is important to receive this and not sympathy.

Empathy and sympathy differ.

  • Empathy is walking in another’s shoes, entering their world from their frame of reference; it’s feeling with them, understanding their emotions and thoughts and meaning to things. It drives connection.
  • Sympathy is feeling sorry for the plight of another. It is a feeling of discomfort from the distress of others; it’s disconnection, seeing things from our own frame of reference. It can often feel patronising, and generates pity towards another. While pity makes a victim of the sufferer, empathy empowers them: “I have sense of your world – you are not alone, and we will go through this together”.

Sympathy can also be a feeling of care and concern for someone close, wanting to see them happier or better off, but lacks that real understanding and connection. It’s more to do with that uncomfortable feeling we are getting rather than it being about the other person and able to sit with them in their pain and suffering.

Grief and loss can generate many emotions: anger, sadness, numbness, hurt…and lead to things such as feeling anxious, depressed, difficulty sleeping or sleeping to much, PTSD, nightmares, lack of appetite, low energy, avoidance behaviours that can lead to addictions or isolation. Self-care and kindness to self are so important.

Twitter user Lauren Herschel‏ took to the social media platform back in 2017 to share how her doctor explained grief. This is known as the ‘ball in the box’ analogy.

I will use her drawings to explain it. The ball is grief which is stuck in a box with a pain button.

In the beginning the ball is massive because the grief is all consuming and massive. The ball cannot move without touching that pain button repeatedly. This is why we feel we can’t control grief and why the pain is so intense and just there all the time, It can at times seem unrelenting.

Gradually over time, our outside world which is the box will get bigger and the ball will get smaller in the box. This means it will hit the pain button with less frequency and so things will always hurt but we are not consumed by pain and grief no more. We are able to function in life. On days when we least expect it, the ball will randomly hit the box, because pain based on love, will never go away as love remains, but it get easier to manage.

Another analogy similar to this is the ball in the jar analogy.

This starts with a jar (the size staying the same) and three balls: one large, one medium-sized and lastly one small. If we are to begin to place the larger ball into the jar it would require a lot of strain and difficulty to get it in. This is initially how grief feels, because if grief is the ball and the jar is your world, you can see how the grief fills everything. There is no room (air) to breathe, no space to move around. Every thought, every action reminds us of who has sadly died. If we place the medium ball in the jar, it has room to move about a bit, we may perceive that after some time, our pain will no longer fill every bit of space in our life. If we then continue and repeat the same action, by placing the small ball in the jar, we may believe that like the jar, the grief will get smaller and diminish. At this stage, we are not so consumed by grief and it takes a small part of our lives.

This is a myth. If we are to take two extra jars, one large and the other larger and take the larger ball and squeeze it slowly into the least of the three jars, it would barely fit. If we place it in the next largest jar it has room to move around. That represents the grief more accurately if we see our grief as being represented by the ball. The ball itself doesn’t get bigger or smaller but remains the same. The jar represents our world, our goal is to make the world around us bigger because our grief doesn’t shrink and it’s the love we carry for our loved ones. By our world getting larger, we can work around the grief not eliminate it. In order not to be consumed by grief we need to make that world around us bigger not keep it the same.

There is no specific time for grief or loss – it is always with us. We just get better at managing our pain, and the world around us gets bigger so that we are no longer all-consumed by that sense of loss. People who have physically died live on in our hearts, and it’s when we stop remembering them or push memories away that they die fully.

As Megan Devine states:

“It’s okay not to be okay”.

Resources: https://www.distractify.com/p/doctors-ball-in-box-analog

https://community.macmillan.org.uk/cancer_experiences/bereaved_spouse/f/bereaved_spouse-forum/64421/ball-in-a-jar—an-article-on-grief

Book: Megan Devine : It’s okay not to be okay.