Emotional wounds also bleed

Abandonment for a child can feel like the threat of a horrid death or death sentence. Abandonment isn’t limited to parents leaving us as babies, it’s also not being heard or seen by caregivers, its caregivers being emotionally absent and emotionally neglectful which results in us being starved of our emotional needs which are just as important as food and shelter and physical things we need growing up. It can be when we are abused as children for any form of abuse is a form of abandonment. It can be the death of a loved one, the absence of a parent or caregiver, divorce. It can be feeling rejected and experiencing rejection.

In fact, rejection hurts just as much as physical pain because the same area of the brain that reacts to physical pain also reacts to emotional pain and particularly with serious and devastating forms of feeling rejected but also ‘minor’ rejections. The level of the pain is not perceived by the event but how it affects and is interpreted by the receiver, what could feel like a ‘minor’ rejection for one person can be devastating for another. All cause pain and injury. This is why being ignored can cause one of the most painful of feelings.

If negative experiences in childhood from caregivers are experienced and then rejection or betrayals continue from friends and relationships in later life, the wound and injuries only become bigger and bigger and the pain harder to control as it gets more overwhelming and paralysing.

This affects trust, trust in ourselves, the world and others. Once trust is shattered it is hard to give, because even if we want to trust and offer this, we don’t have it, especially if so many people have hurt us and even more if by those closest to us that we were meant to trust and be safe with.

When we are bullied or ignored or ostracised by others or don’t ‘fit’ in, this affects our sense of belonging. It may feel like the whole world is rejecting us. Our self-esteem and worth then gets eroded and we can become punitive and critical of ourselves or find it hard to let love in because we have come to see ourselves as unlovable, unworthy and even defective. We may have been compared to others and if so,  we may have come to believe we are not enough. So now we either shut people out or become people pleasers to gain others approval.

If not treated those wounds stay open and get infected, if we have had to stitch them up ourselves, the stitches might not have been tight enough and so when someone injuries us again the wound rips open and gets infected all over again. This can spread to other areas of our lives and endanger them.

It can result in feelings of inferiority complex where you feel threatened by making yourself vulnerable or of feeling inferior to others especially if this is all one may have ever felt or known. It all stems from not being or feeling safe and if we have never felt safe, how can we know how to feel safe even when we are in a safe situation? We must learn new ways that start with connecting to our bodies for our gut instinct is found in our bodies and this is the radar that keeps us safe and alerts us. Trauma and stress is stored in our bodies and emotions are felt in our bodies so connecting to our bodies is key. Mind, body and soul are interconnected not separate.

Many times, life and people seem to hurt us in the same area, weakening us. A stab wound cannot heal if we keep getting stabbed in the same place.

Our responses can seem like over exaggerations to others, we can be perceived as too sensitive or of having odd reactions but an odd reaction is an old reaction. We are simply being triggered but because emotional injuries are invisible to the human eye and especially in a world that does everything to conceal it and ignore it, including ourselves, it goes unnoticed that someone can be profoundly bleeding (emotionally) whilst looking ‘normal’.

Think of a person who has been physically abused, if someone even gets angry as an innocent response or raises a hand even to say hi, these can trigger a survival response and seen as threats, the person who has been hurt in the past, is programmed to detect danger, they will get ready to defend themselves from the anger, they will see the innocent gesture of a raised hand as one that is about to strike them. Emotional injuries work in the same way and people can react to emotional flashbacks, which means when they emotionally feel a feeling related to having been hurt or abused, they react in the same way as if that threat were immediate and real. These responses are as natural as when we burn ourselves and we immediately retrieve our hand away from what is causing us the threat and pain.

In trauma the part of our brain that detects dangers becomes faulty and is overactive, meaning it will go off like a smoke alarm does, when toast is burned or the house on fire. It will not stop to think as thinking can get us killed, it will just act on what is seen as a threat. Emotionally this can also be what may threaten our ego, such as when in a relationship we may become jealous of our partner’s past lovers. even when we are loved.

Dr. Mario Martinez (also a Biocognition,) states that we can be wounded in three ways: Shame, Abandonment, and Betrayal.

He goes on to say, when your wound is shame, you feel fear, pain, and embarrassment. When your wound is abandonment, you feel fear, pain, and isolation.  When you wound is betrayal, you feel fear, pain, and anger. The healing field for Shame is Honour. The healing field for Abandonment is Commitment. The healing field for Betrayal is Loyalty.

Shame can become toxic and it’s a very powerful emotion to heal from. Shame is when we believe we are defective, shame says: I am bad, I am wrong. Many times, toxic shame is given to us just like low self-esteem is, nobody is born with a poor sense of self or shame. Many times, we have been made to feel this way and we can then take these false beliefs to mean they are the truth and they can then become part of us and in turn we can carry the legacy of abuse of rejection by abandoning and betraying ourselves. Especially in abuse we are programmed to betray ourselves we are made to do this.

Many self defence mechanisms develop for our survival, they served us at some point but later in life no longer do and threaten our very being and relationship with self and others or see us on a path of self-destruction and self-sabotage.

In the book: Healing the scars of Emotional abuse by Gregory L. Jantz PH.D. he perfectly articulates the damaging effects of emotional abuse.

“When you view life as unstable, anxiety, tension and fear result. When you are constantly vigilant to the behaviour of others, hypersensitivity and hostility result. When you learn to second-guess yourself, confusion and feelings of disconnection result. When nothing you do ever seems to be right, insecurity, guilt and shame result. When others tell you that you are always wrong, indecision and inaction result. When you stop having the energy to fight it all, apathy and depression result. When you have finally had it, rage results. When you never seem to receive fairness, justice is all you think about. When you have been hurt by those you love, love is viewed as a risk. When living is painful, addictions are acceptable because they numb the pain. When the mind is a jumble of emotional chaos, the body and its systems break down. When your inner turmoil produces outer stress, your current relationships are endangered. When you can’t control your negative emotions, you become the very person you hate. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that emotional abuse isn’t damaging”.

Emotional pain can be the hardest to heal from. It is felt at the core of our being. We must grieve, we must feel that pain, we must allow ourself this grieving process, let the tears out, let the screams of pain out and facing such soul destroying pain can feel like a threat itself; it can feel like going to war.

Trauma shatters us from within, like the shattering of a glass, sometimes we can glue pieces back or like melted gold we can make something else that is beautiful out of the loss. Either way trauma is a loss and we are changed but that doesn’t mean that we cannot create ourselves again, that we lose our worth or that we are destroyed to the point of no return. It requires us to be born again, like birth it can come with complications and it can feel painful even excruciatingly unbearable but the moment we are born again we can be filled with love for our new selves. During our transformation we have to treat ourselves with the same self-care and love as if we were a pregnant woman. We must be patient and love the new being that is growing within us. We can fall in love with the new us that is given life again and we can treat ourselves with the same love, care, devotion as we would a  new-born child because we are just as valuable, just as worthy for existing and because we can never get back what we lost or the life we should have had, but we can start from now and we can emerge from the ashes. Nobody says it’s easy, but it is possible.

Further reading:

Brain treats rejection same way as physical pain https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/brain-treats-rejection-physical-pain-say-scientists-8884507.html

Poem: Trauma

Trauma is a wound,
An injury to the mind, soul, body and heart,
Distributed memories scattered apart.
Fragmentation occurs, like an explosion blowing everything to pieces, not knowing if reality or dreams are the reasons to feelings.
Doubt and confusion occur, feelings of going mad, not knowing where you stand, sometimes nobody there to reach out a hand.
Dissociation follows, stalking the mind, trying to find an escape, surviving the experiences that were too painful, the mind for this rest is grateful.
Overwhelming emotions too much to bare, flashbacks follow as a way of the mind trying itself to repair, yet with it comes great despair.
Nothing is clear at first, it makes no sense, or we are suddenly brought back in the torturous cell.
Trauma is a wound or more, inflected upon many aspects of our being, one of the hardest journey’s of healing.
If the wound is left to bleed, we are in danger of no longer being here, it brings a lot of fear.
If stitched with feeble thread, its vulnerable to be ripped apart, again causing a bleeding heart.
If left open to fester, it will get infected and the hurt will spread, it absorbs dreaded germs, this can happen when our voices and pain are not heard.
When the trauma is minimised or dismissed when failing to notice how deep the wound is, goes amiss.
Coping strategies develop, self medication develops to silence sensations, addictions are born; they like our abusers are our saviours and tormenters, the wound gets even more tender.
Trapped in a labyrinth of suffering and pain, reliving things over and over again.
Shutting off and repressing it all, trying to slam that door.
Trauma is a war that’s why we get post traumatic stress, to come out alive at the other end is more than a success. It is a miracle of the human soul, the commitment to keep up the fight, even when many times we fall apart, when the bleeding continues in every part.
Psychomatic reactions are felt, the memories stored in the body, and to explain the reason there is nobody.
Trauma is a wound on the human spirit, it has an amazing ability to heal, we need to support those who are hurt. They have many layers of pain to be cleansed, like an onion those layers need to be one by one peeled and much support is needed if trauma victims are ever to heal. They are survivors of life, the injury the greatest to be inflicted, their abusers should be convicted.
©Antonella Sofia Zottola

The shadow

A dark shadow hoovered above me, at first I thought it was my shadow, it kept following me everywhere, and then it occurred  to me that a shadow disappears in the dark but even in the dark I could still make out its presence. It would take me down, it grew stronger in time and always pinned me down. It grew and became more powerful and nobody ever knew what I had to do to make it through every day, with this shadow hoovering over me all day. They were oblivious and ignorant, too blind to see, I became a skilled actor wearing a smile as my prop, playing the so called normal human who never could be touched by pain and sorrow. This isolation allowed the shadow to engulf me, I was dependent on it, it became my companion, my misery. It was getting harder for me to make it leave.

One day it spoke to me, told me that it was called depression, it also went by names as having the blues, the black dog…it said that its aim was to break me down, to make me feel in despair, that for friendship with me it didn’t care. It threatened me that the world would not understand, that it would ostracise me and label me crazy, lazy, a freak and weak.

That my suicidal despair would be classified as attention seeking, selfish, off my rocket and mad. That it had me where it wanted and if I told, others would see me as this, I would lose my dignity and their respect, they wouldn’t see the human suffering that I felt. That nobody cared and I’d be punished that death was better than being humiliated.

I started to see that society didn’t see my shadow but it engaged in victim blaming. It made me feel more despair, it wounded me with its stigma and preconceptions, it made me worse with its lack of empathy and understanding.

Then one day I grew angry, who was society and others to judge and inflict more pain? To feed the shadow and reassure and strengthen its stay?

I started to speak out and fight and challenge all this with all my might.

I grew stronger when I learned to ditch the fear, it was time that I got over being scared of the dark, the dark this world leaves others in and realised that empathy and compassion can drive out the dark, that when now sunnier days are out the shadow might still be there, but it doesn’t cause harm no more, defeating depression happens when we learn to reach out to those in pain, and never make them feel alone again. We all want to be saved, stigmatising us will bring no change.

© Antonella Zottola

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

Revolution

Walking dead infected by the deadly virus of patriarchy, oppression, slavery, exploitation, prisoners of societal control, conditioning and expectations, decaying in this controlled system begging for liberation. Rats in a cage, society the experimental lab, turning the world mad. In this cage we age, losing track of the days. Stuck in useless education, jobs that exploit us throughout the nation. Manipulated into the system, threatened with the power others have, the hierarchy  of capitalism and corruption, leaders with no conscious or emotions. Domination, where selfish greed and sociopathic tendencies are cause of celebration. Manipulated puppets on a string, our egos stroked is what we need, victims of the mental games, living one big useless game. Busy lifestyles no room to live, slaves to the system is for what we live. Misogyny keeping women second best, violence on them it sheds, hatred spreading and the world is consumed by the deadly plague spreading. Infecting humanity with its deadly poison, infecting minds that are going through corrosion. Terrorism, wars, crimes of hate, waking up to life when it’s too late.
Bleeding souls, empty souls, infected souls, screaming souls, to this disease we sell our souls.
Watching life pass us by, too late, we are not ready to say goodbye. Lives stolen one way or another, people betraying themselves, stolen lives, the disease either steals your soul or makes you kill your body or identity, society is the host that invades it with it’s destructive notions, it makes people feel inadequate and incomplete, creating struggles to accept who we are within. Taking away choices it tries, vulnerabilities rise, time is taken from our lives in many ways it claims our souls before we die.
Homes that can’t be brought, poverty and even with jobs being broke. A desolate world, starving its people of food, love, water, self acceptance, freedom and justice. Living for others and not ourselves, ruled by oppression this world isn’t fair. In our sweat we soak, in our blood we sit, robots to society unable to function or sleep. Survival every day, on us society preys.
We need a revolution, to find our voices and take power back, humanity is what society lacks. We need to challenge what it lacks, know that what we are taught are lessons that have lacked. We need to break the shackles to set us free, to reclaim back our life, a revolution is what we need in life. Standing together we are strong, we can mend the wrongs.
Fighting for our souls, let’s be the antidote to the disease, no longer the walking dead, with brains that rot, lets take back the life that society wants to be forgot. Let’s rebel against the system for better change, let’s be the change ourselves, for the revolution starts within, change starts with us, revolutionise our ways we must.
The battle starts within, to combat the attacks of this virus all around, let’s unite all around. Let’s break free from this oppressive society and live in freedom and peace and humanity.
Let’s spread our wings and fly, no longer absorbing all the lies. Manipulated to do another’s will, when will this power be killed? When will we control our fate? Let’s not hesitate to act before it’s too late. We only get one life; to be controlled is not a life. For our human rights let us now stand.

© Antonella Zottola

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.

Further reading of interest:

Abuse victims are not codependent: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/abuse-victims-are-not-codependent-theyre-trauma-bonded_b_581cfc1de4b0334571e09b49?ncid=engmodushpmg00000006

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.

Society; an issue in male depression and suicide

Depression is the illness of those that have been strong for too long.

For many years, men, in particular, have been more likely to go through with their suicide attempts. It is only now that the world is holding a light to the darkness that men have lived in, with the numerous suicides of male celebrities and the media willing to expose story-lines that challenge the realities of this subject and illness that has claimed the lives of numerous men.

Depression itself has been long misunderstood, leading to little help and support available and further damage done to sufferers.

Much medication, whilst helpful, has extremely severe side effects that can contribute to the suicidal state one feels in, and lead to the zombification of emotions. This can increase the despair for some.

Whilst there is absolutely no shame in taking them and some are helped, they tackle the symptom but do not heal and get to the core of the psychological pain and the cause. This is why a treatment of medication and therapy is ideal along with a change of diet, as diet can affect our moods and it has been scientifically proven that diet can play an integrative role; we only need to see that certain vitamins such as B vitamins can make a difference in symptoms such as tiredness and fatigue.

The next damaging thing at play is gender stereotypes and in particular, toxic masculinity, the way we tell boys and men not to cry, we kill their natural emotional being, we don’t allow them to be sensitive and this can be seen by the damaging and abusive comment of ‘man up’. We expect them never to be or feel vulnerable, we imply that if they cannot protect themselves and be strong at all times that they are then weak and lesser of a man is the negative message we give them.

We don’t allow men to be men, to be humans with all that is part of the human experience which is to feel, to have emotions, be able to freely express and talk about them. In general as a society, we have a stigma on being open about our emotions. Men are being made victims by society before being made victims of depression.

An example is when others can be quick to attack those that do so on social media and unfriend them even, comments like ‘this isn’t a place to talk about your problems’ or ‘don’t wash your dirty laundry in public’. So when people reach out, they feel shut down and alone and rejected. Men are taught to bottle up their feelings and that’s what they do until the pain is too much and they can’t see any other way out or lose hope that the world or anyone will ever understand their hell.

As a society, when people want to reach out to us, we silence or dismiss them with things such as: ‘don’t be so pessimistic’, ‘others have it far worse’, ‘don’t be a drama queen’, ‘it will be okay’… because we are uncomfortable sitting with pain, so these comments may seem helpful but are not. Comparing our pain to those that have it worse, invalidates the sufferer’s pain and means that we will never acknowledge it or give it justice because someone will always have it worse.

Pain cannot and should never be measured, nor should anyone attempt this or tell us how we should feel or what we are feeling.

Further isolation and despair is caused by those who suffer from depression because we give out the message that we don’t like hanging around those who appear ‘negative’, and this is how depressed people can feel and this can lead to them isolating themselves and feeling lonelier. This can silence them and prevent them from reaching out and fearing judgement if they do.

Then we have the stigma of suicide. Many professionals’, even counsellors, find this subject hard and unable to work with it. It is important to be able to handle such a difficult subject with clients if we are to help them. Suicide for many years has carried a stigma, victims who died this way didn’t even get a proper burial. Families of someone who has passed away in this manner find it hard to reveal the cause of death as they want to protect the dignity of their loved ones who are harshly and wrongly labelled and judged as being cowards selfish; how could they do this to their families? All become victims apart from the victim who was killed by the disease of depression, just like cancer and other illnesses kill people. One would not have acted on this if depression had not killed them with pain, a pain that they want to kill rather than themselves. Therefore, many will find it hard to admit and open up about their suicidal state, the shame of this and the shame that men ‘need’ to be so-called ‘strong’.

Depressed men like any other sufferer, have been strong for so long, this is the truth. To be human means to be vulnerable, to be human means to feel. Most of the time depression and distress and issues occur because we are being denied that right to be free, to be our authentic selves and because we live in a society that isn’t meeting our needs. We are always in competition, always expected to work insane and unnatural hours in employment, we are more disconnected than ever.

Whilst depression is mental and biological, to me personally, I feel that depression is a natural reaction to having been emotionally strong for so long and that at the core, it is an emotional disorder before anything else.

Changing our beliefs, challenging damaging gender stereotypes and conditioning, creating a healthier and supportive environment and world – one where connection is encouraged and greater awareness, knowledge and education on mental illnesses exists, alongside recognising the importance of a healthy diet in our lives can do so much. We are killing all that is needed instead of killing what is driving so many men to their premature graves.

Saving our humanity contributes to saving lives.

Children of emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed, or controlling caregivers

Growing up with an emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed or controlling caregiver is not only traumatic in nature, but also debilitating and detrimental.

As a child growing up with a parent/caregiver like this, one is loved on conditions – that is, as long as the child meets the parent’s/caregiver’s needs, continues to adore and idolise the parent/caregiver, and act as an extension of the parent/caregiver 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 parent’s/caregive’rs 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. `In the event an apology is made, many times it is just used as another form of manipulation, words but no action or they don’t follow it up with how they will make the changes and plan too, they don’t fully comprehend what they are actually apologising for and even in case they may say this, they may later down the line prove that sadly it meant nothing.

Emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed or controlling caregivers can be charming, they can even express kindness and be helpful but again this is in their best interest and the child is important to them only in terms that they don’t want to lose their supply, not necessarily because they love you. They can have a distorted view of what love is, possibly due to their own childhood wounds but understanding this and having empathy does not take away the hurt caused to you and it doesn’t mean you should ever tolerate mistreatment or have to forgive the person.

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 being able to trust themselves. This can cause fears of intimacy and create problems in forming relationships with others in adulthood.

The child will often feel invisible, not seen or heard, because the caregiver 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 caregiver 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; emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed or controlling caregivers 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/caregiver 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/caregiver 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. An example: the parent/caregiver claiming that the child has had a loving and great childhood and that no damage was ever caused. They can make you feel guilty as a form of manipulation, with statements such as: after all I have done for you!  Your brother or sister never complains about their childhood, I don’t want to hear it, it’s making me ill and I can’t deal with this now. They then may tend to remove themselves from the situation, they may suddenly understand boundaries and hurt but only in relation to themselves.

In some families and dynamics the child that most reflects the narcissistic parent/caregiver 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/caregiver likes to play favourites.

Many times, the caregiver will manipulate the situation, and in doing so always retains the focus or spotlight on themselves and avoids being held accountable. This tactic is manipulative and termed: projection. The caregiver needs to feel and be in control at all times.

The caregiver 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. Fawn is a trauma response and at the core of this is people-pleasing. This is how we have had to adapt to our trauma and maintain those attachments.

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 are there for running on empty emotionally and starved of connection. 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 caregiver. Enmeshment can feel like closeness but it is not emotional intimacy. Enmeshement also blurs the boundaries, where do I start and end and where does another start and end? Self-identity is emerged, not separate. It can be hard to differentiate who we are and who we have had to be and become in order to survive.

The emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed or controlling caregiver can at times always be critical, damaging the child’s self-esteem which they can carry into adulthood, and perfection can result. Often, children of emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed or controlling caregivers tend to become overachievers because they feel loved or valued only through conditions of worth and when they are able to make their caregivers ‘look good’. This makes a child feel used and manipulated.

Since some emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed or controlling caregivers can be 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 emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed or controlling caregivers 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 caregivers, 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 emotionally immature, insensitive, self-absorbed or controlling caregiver 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.

Please note: I am not a medical profession or psychiatrist or psychologist. I am a therapist with my own experience and years of healing and self-learning from acclaimed academic books and resources, written by professionals in these fields, from survivors worked with and who have shared their stories.

Further reading and resources:

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/

https://www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com/your-recovery-and-healing/

https://www.lisaaromano.com

Narcissistic Abuse Support- https://narcissistabusesupport.com/resources/

https://www.melanietoniaevans.com/

https://fairytaleshadows.com

https://esteemology.com/category/narcissists/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYotx7-zHSpnE1-CpXpHF6Q

https://www.eggshelltherapy.com/parentification/

Books:

  • Will I ever be good enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride, Ph.D.
  • You’re not Crazy – It’s your mother: Understanding and healing for daughters of narcissistic mothers – Danu Morrigan
  • Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents – How to heal from distant, rejecting, or self involved parents by Lindsay. C. Gibson
  • Daughter Detox – Recovering from an unloving mother and reclaiming your life – Peggy Streep