In my clinical experience envy rears its ugly head in everyday life more than it appears in the consulting room. It seems to be the case that expressing this shadowy part of the self is so wrapped in shame and the fear of negative judgement from an outsider witness that its expression is abandoned. In this act of abandonment it leaves material of crucial significance on the outer side of the consulting room door.
So why is envy so shameful, so unable to be expressed and acknowledged? Is it because it is so destructive in terms of the ‘other’, or because of its internal mechanics and the deep, hidden, vulnerable layers within the self which birth envious reactions in the first place? Let’s explore…
Karen was a businesswoman and was married to John. The marital couple were considered as physically attractive, professionally successful and had longevity in their relationship. Neither partner had strayed and fidelity was an established connector; as were their future paced goals. They were what one might call a ‘solid couple’. One evening they attended a business event and were introduced to a single woman, Anna, whom John took an interest in at a socially engaging level. Watching – that which on the surface looked like no more than a pleasant conversation with resonant aspects between her husband and the single female – Karen felt threatened. She was aware of a rising anxiety in her chest. Her head, her logic, held no sway here. This was emotional territory. The stimuli was the threat of loss, the effects bore emotional and physical content, the behavioural reaction was to act to protect against a perceived loss. Karen verbally instructed this third party intruder to sit in a specific seat at the table “Away from the men!” i.e. away from her husband.
Fear is a hallmark of envy. When fear strikes, when threats appear, they require to be mitigated against. In this case the strategy was to ‘remove’ and contain the threat. Once Anna was parcelled off, Karen’s emotions and body calmed as pertained to the perceived threat of Anna. However, the effects of the initial threat transformed into anger towards her husband accompanied by a heaviness in her tummy. With Anna at a distance across the dining table from ‘her man’, and an awareness that expressing this seething and primitive up-swelling of anger would not hold any rational legitimacy if recounted to her husband, Karen was able to sit somewhat pleasantly through dinner with the cohort of friends and colleagues around the large table.
However, once an energetic charge is created it must be released in some form, and in this scenario it was released in an almighty slap across her husband’s face; when after dinner and during the phase of social interaction, music and dancing, he Facebook Friended Anna in recognition of their shared links with Anna’s sister.
So why is this envy? Well, envy has a lot to do with perception and self judgement. It goes along the lines of, if I perceive such a threat in such a context, then I am judging myself to be under threat, and if I am judging myself to be under threat then in some way I have constructed a hierarchical assessment repleat with psychological and emotional content that the ‘other’ is higher, bigger, better, more attractive, and so on, than me. Henceforth, and in order for me to maintain equilibrium, they must be ‘reduced’ via a psychological process of destruction.
Of course there’s more to it than that. For a start there’s a historical component, a rhythmic dimension, in that it may be possible that intervention was determined as necessary because Karen held a perception, a belief system, that lest she not intervene (perhaps as she had felt called to do many times in the past?) then maybe, just maybe, this would be the occasion during which her unfounded fears became founded.
History also rears its head when we look at Karen’s perceptions of her self as this is the self that reacted to and acted upon the incoming stimuli. In this particular case Karen was a woman who felt professionally unfulfilled, a little overweight and therefore not as attractive as she would like. She was a woman who had invested time and energy into her marriage and her children often at the expense of herself and her own needs. With investments, risk becomes present and its attendant fear of loss. This in combination with her negative self judgements, in conjunction with the presentation of Anna – an object ‘believed’ to be higher in the hierarchy and risky on the investment index – brought forth a psychological necessity to “seek and destroy incoming threat”. Destruction of the threat is a core aspect inherent within envy.
I often laugh at the early example I heard during my psychotherapy training: A woman buys a gorgeous pair of shoes and shows them to her friend. Rather than validate the purchase and coo over the design and colour the friend asks rhetorically, “Did you buy them in the sale?” Bam! Seek and Destroy! Passive aggressive derision! The transformation of something which could be perceived as a non-event into a psychological event with a psychological necessity to make oneself whole by using destruction to mitigate the risk of being reduced to ‘less than your friend’ – all via an innocuous in itself pair of shoes. Never ask your friend “Does my bum look big in this?” And, especially not, if you actually look great! Trust me. You have become a threat.
In envious destruction there are two sides to the story, two players, the suddenly vulnerable destructor and the passively or explicitly attacked destructee. In this case, Anna was one of the victims of said destruction. When she was instructed to “Sit there away from the men!” her mind became preoccupied with self-judgment. She ran through the scenario in her mind and questioned what she did wrong, had she been overly friendly, had she overstepped some social boundaries and so on. Her vulnerabilities of attending the function alone peaked. Her self assuredness depleted and she consciously became hypervigilant about averting her gaze away from the couple. She struggled to engage in everyday conversation with the cohort of strangers around the table and physically noted anxiety in her body.
The time over dinner transmuted much of the tension and her emotions gradually morphed into self assertive mild indignancy and anger. Acting on this newly arrived space of self assuredness, and in the mix embracing resentment in action, she happily engaged in a few minutes of cursory social banter post the meal with John. During which time they found a commonality which they concretised by becoming Facebook Friends. At the point of the slap to John’s face she left the event feeling humiliated and rejected, and sad and angry that an identity had been projected towards her which bore no truth in reality.
Another victim in this scenario was John. He was shamed by the physical wound but fearing the wrath of his wife, and empathically acknowledging her plight, he held back from any expressions of distaste and made light of it. The abandoned shame of his wife had clearly been ‘split off’ and carried by her spouse. He ‘shut down’ and allowed himself in that moment to become something he inherently was not. Weak and ineffectual. A mirror to his wife’s sense of disempowerment when faced with the perceived risk of Anna. The ramifications of this would naturally play themselves out over time in the dynamics of this couples relationship.
Envy does not only destroy, it’s not only an aggressive survival mechanism. It turns reality into fantasy, it creates worlds that previously did not exist, it shifts identities, creates incongruence and incoherence within the self, and via projection lies and twists the truth within the ‘objects’ and the object relationships in our lives. Victims of envy must fly a banner emblazoned with the words “I am not that which you would have me believe I am”. Whilst the vulnerable perpetrators must acknowledge those shadowy and insecure parts within themselves which have been triggered in order to understand themselves more fully. Recognition of envious thoughts can thwart envious actions and such awareness can also catalyse development of those parts of the self which are open to doubt and deprecation, and negative self judgement.
By Paula Fenn (Transitional Space)
How I became involved with Regression Therapy
Having practiced as a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist for many years, and having the naive belief that I had witnessed most of the presenting problems of the human condition in my consulting room over those years, in one particular week in 2012 I was in for a shock. Two clients undergoing traditional psychotherapy had spontaneous past life memories emerge during their sessions. In retrospect this emergence of memories and physical sensations played out in an atypical way with a sense of a shift in identity, time and space, thoughts and feelings, and a flood of information including wearing different clothes.
At no point did I consider these presentations to be deluded, manufactured or hallucinatory. These were psychologically robust and intelligent women with no history of pathology. At the time I guided them intuitively through these experiences to the best of my ability, but I felt naked in terms of an appropriate skillset. Within days I registered to attend a training course in Past Life Therapy with an organisation called Still Waters Holistic Training and two months after completing that training I started training with the Past Life Regression Academy. You might say that this was a “Baptism of fire”. A necessity to engage in a profound personal and professional journey into the depths of consciousness.
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is commonly known as depth psychotherapy. It embraces the generation of awareness in the client of their unconscious motivations, behaviours and survival mechanisms and makes necessary associations between their way of being in the now and their current life histories. Essentially how they are experientially and relationally shaped into who they are and why. Specific therapeutic techniques such as working with the transference and countertransference dynamics, naming and exploring defence mechanisms and their aetiology, analysing dreams (“The royal road to the unconscious” as Freud would say) and using the skills of direct and implicit intuitive interpretation, not only bring awareness but also healing.
It’s a very complex process and I can’t hope to name all of the critical components of a traditional depth approach here, but there is something very significant about the therapeutic relationship which develops and how it is used transformationally to repair, name and make meaning of a life as lived and yet to unfold. There is a particular kind of ‘magic’ in the healing which arises from psychotherapeutic engagement, but this is amplified exponentially when one brings consideration to Regression Therapy.
The magic of Regression Therapy
What is the incredible ‘magic’ of Regression Therapy and what exactly do I mean by using this term? One of the most eminent scientists of our time who specialises in consciousness studies is Dean Radin of the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He says the following: “Real Magic falls into three categories: mental influence of the physical world, perception of events distant in space or time, and interactions with non-physical entities” (2018, p.1). I find this is a useful way of constellating a variety of aspects of Regression Therapy. It holds it within a scientific protocol which has at is core a foundational need to explore consciousness from a non-materialist perspective and beyond the brain, it names the ability of consciousness to be engaged with locally, non-locally and outwith linear time and space, and addresses how ‘intending towards’ a particular aspect of consciousness can cause dramatic changes and ripples in the Self and others we energetically intersect with.
In Regression Therapy we traditionally set an intention for a session and this mental act of the will allows a flow of energy towards a purpose. Particular physiological, emotional and cognitive responses are triggered by effectively directing conscious intention towards a goal. Specific ‘doors’ are opened and memories and experiences will arise out of the depths of the psyche to be ‘known’, ‘worked through’ and ultimately healed. All levels of healing can occur to include psychological, emotional and physical, whilst meaning and understanding is significantly deepened and this contributes to neurological rewiring.
This ‘work’ is of course all done in a different realm of space and time, its not ‘from now’ but its ‘here now’ and can be met and transformed and generate non-local and non-linear ripples upon the personal and shared past, present and future. Additionally, to attend to Radin’s “Real Magic”, during altered state we not only engage with a non-physical prior Self/identity/character but we also interact with beings from other dimensions and realms of consciousness; including for example guides, elders, or earthbound spirits. How incredible is the work of Regression Therapy!?
One of the major ways in which Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Regression Therapy differ involves the use of altered states i.e. trance in the client. Facilitating the client to enter trance opens up the capacity for them to leave the concerns of the ego behind, to access an alternative vibrational layer beyond the everyday, and to sink down into or reach up towards deeper and/or higher realms of personal and collective consciousness.
My work with trauma
In recent years my therapeutic work has become dominantly focused on trauma and my client base are those who have either Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – associated with singular events such as a crime, sexual intrusion, or an accident – or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) – associated with cumulative and enduring traumatic experiences over time to include child sexual abuse, neglect and emotional deprivation.
I strongly agree with leading trauma therapist and academic Babette Rothschild when she says that “The most severe consequences of trauma result from dissociation” (2000, p.13). Mainly because these split-off unprocessed ‘memories’ become encoded throughout the system at psycho-emotional and psycho-physiological levels and are therefore capable of being triggered by everyday events and sensations. So, effectively the trauma never ends, as it is constantly present and primed for re-activation. Without accessing the dissociated physical, emotional and cognitive memories the trauma imprint endures and never leaves the system.
This is where the use of hypnotic regression bridges can be used to huge benefit. By inducing the client into a light altered state whilst there is an intensity of energy and intention around healing the prevailing problem, and directing them towards the realm of experience which is most active (body, emotion or mind) we can tap into what Christopher Bollas terms, “The unthought known” (1987). By deepening the awareness of the most active area and obtaining the information held there we can then bridge towards the other dissociated and imprinted components. Therefore, body to emotion and mind, emotion to body and mind, and mind to body and emotion. No stone is left unturned and the split-off memories are retrieved and appropriately processed. The imprint is transformed and no longer impinges on the survivor’s life.
Challenges for Regression Therapy
I teach on the theme of trauma at conferences and to counselling agencies and I have made it my mission to bring awareness of the transformational power of Regression Therapy to the therapeutic mainstream. This is not without its setbacks as traditional psychotherapists rebel against the speed of healing possible as well as the ‘truth’ of the physical, emotional and cognitive memories which are accessed when one integrates techniques from Regression Therapy into psychotherapeutic work. Terms have been thrown at me such as a “hallucination of wellness” on the part of the client to explain the speed of recovery, and a “creation of hallucinated realities” to offer an explanation for the rapid retrieval of decades old dissociated memories. Traditional psychotherapy is very challenged by new approaches and they use a whole range of defence mechanisms to deny, repress and avoid acceptance of the efficacy of a regression-based paradigm.
However, it is not only the realm of traditional “talking cure psychologies” who present a problem in terms of the acceptance of Regression Therapy. The biggest challenge is ultimately the field of materialist science. Hard science has no way to accommodate some of the concepts which underly Regression Therapy, or other associated realms of consciousness exploration such as parapsychology, near death experiences or mediumship. However, with the evolution of science, the application of quantum ‘thinking’ around non-locality and entanglement, the widening acceptance of consciousness existing ‘beyond the brain’, and the various groups of academics collaborating to challenge the prevailing ‘blocking’ paradigms, there are increasingly rational ways supported by the ‘new sciences’ to explain the rapid developmental shifts and dramatic experiences of clients who have undertaken Regression Therapy.
Involvement with Research
I currently have a number of personal research and writing projects ‘on the table’ including one on the experiences of traumatic suffering particularly associated with survivors of high-profile cases (such as Fred and Rosemary West and the Moors Murderers). I have also been invited by the Society for Psychical Research to write a paper on my work with deceased human spirits which dovetails well with the research and book project I am undertaking on Spirit Release Therapy. However, these things take time due to pressure on resources and my dominant focus on client work.
As Chair of the EARTh Research Committee I actively engage with and support a wide range of research projects. I am also a Consulting Editor for the International Journal of Regression Therapy (IJRT). The EARTh Research Committee have experienced a number of recent successes including David Graham’s completed report on the EARTh Client Survey entitled “Does Regression Therapy Make a Difference?”. This report contains a wealth of data associated with the ‘magic’ of Regression Therapy including the immediate and ongoing transformation of symptoms. We also had the “Report on The Special Interest Survey” published in the recent edition of the IJRT. This report evidences the wide range of skills and expertise across a global cohort of Regression Therapists.
We have also supported a number of exciting research projects which have recently started. These include a project managed by Tulin Etyemez Schimberg which seeks to examine the efficacy of Regression Therapy upon healing Myomas (uterine fibroid tumours) and a project on the efficacy of Regression Therapy in relation to Generalised Anxiety Disorder conducted by Ririi and Gungan Trivedi. In recent days Brazilian based doctor, neurologist and psychologist Sergio Baumel has launched a very wide-ranging research project in collaboration with EARTh which seeks to measure, through the use of a comprehensive research questionnaire, a variety of interesting components pertaining to the efficacy of Regression Therapy. The questionnaire is available to complete here (www.socepsi.com/regression). I would encourage you to personally engage with this survey and also share it with your clients for them to complete.
Collaboration and support between individual researchers and organisations is critical and this mutuality benefits everyone in terms of the sharing of advice, knowledge and expertise. It also allows researchers to brainstorm ideas, bring inspiration and acknowledge potential pitfalls. As Chair of the EARTh Research Committee I hope to continue the positive collegial relationship which has been formed with Janna Aidar and the Spiritual Regression Therapy Association as we move forwards with similar aims for the profession and wider field of Regression Therapy.
The Future of Regression Therapy
My perception is that we will see a significant growth within, an expansion of awareness about, and an increasing acceptance of, Regression Therapy over the next decade. The field has a wellspring of highly trained, educated and enthusiastic Global talent which is expressing itself in the hands-on work of Regression Therapy, an enacted passion towards research and publication in order to shine a light on the incredible transformative effects possible as a result of undertaking Regression Therapy, and a heightened degree of motivation to collaborate with colleagues in other fields of practice with an aim to encourage reflection on new ways of working to enact healing for their clients.
When we combine this with the efforts of organisations such as the Scientific and Medical Network, the Galileo Commission and the Institute of Noetic Sciences to bring well considered academic and scientific knowledge to the field of consciousness studies (in order to informedly challenge the out-dated materialistic paradigms which have thwarted free thinking around the existence of non-material and non-local phenomenon) it is likely that we will bear witness to the growth of Regression Therapy moving in parallel with this associated increased awareness and acceptance.
In a recent webinar conducted by Hans Ten Dam (2020) he stated, “The great engines of personal and soul development are experience, awareness and reflection”. When we consider this in terms of expansion of the heart and soul of Regression Therapy there is a great engine of truth seeking to be known and met within and without the field in alignment with the grand shift in consciousness we are currently experiencing.
Bollas, C. (1987). The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. London: Free Association Books.
Fenn, P. (2020). Research Report on the EARTh Special Interest Survey. The International Journal of Regression Therapy, Vol. XXVII, Issue 31, Fall 2020. https://www.academia.edu/44326644/Research_Report_on_the_EARTh_Special_Interest_Survey_IJRT
Graham, D. (2020). Does Regression Therapy Make a Difference? https://www.earth-association.org/download-center/then click on: Does Regression Therapy Make a Difference.
Radin, D. (2018). Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe”. USA: Harmony Books.
Rothschild, B. (2000). The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment. New York: W.W Norton & Co.
Ten Dam, H. (2020, August 18). The Ripples of Regression Therapy [Webinar]. EARTh Annual Convention.
We all know one. Those armoured Cockroach Narcissists that can survive anything. It is said that cockroaches are some of the most adaptable creatures on earth. They are in-vulnerable survivors. But at what, and who’s cost?
One of my patients, whom I shall call Lucy, reported that she was “Drowning in work”. Despite trying to communicate with her boss that what was being demanded of her was not appropriately balanced with the resources available to her, she was informed that she was “Not performing to an adequate standard”. This invalidation fuelled Lucy’s anxiety and she started to work longer hours and have panic attacks that resulted in her needing to take medical leave. Lured back to work after two weeks with a threat of losing her job she was then marched into the bosses’ office and told “If you don’t do well, I don’t do well! You are making me look bad and I can no longer allow that to happen”. When Lucy opened up in an attempt to talk about the panic in her body as a result of the inappropriate demands she was told “Panic! Don’ t you think I am in a panic too? That’ s irrelevant, the work comes first!”
Lucy was ‘let go’ not long after and for years, rather than be able to see that none of this was her fault, she carried a mantle of shame and low self-worth which stopped her even trying to get another job. You see, Lucy was branded with an imprint that many narcissists embellish on their victims:
You Are Not Good Enough! If You Don’t Make Me Look Good You Are Worthless!
The costs and burdens of being ‘used up’ by narcissists, in their entitled need for never ending supply, are carried by the common or garden everyday creatures called Human Beings. It’s the humanness in us that makes us vulnerable. We feel, we have compassion, we can empathise and we have a natural instinct to support and protect others. We see this mechanism of care operational throughout the animal kingdom.
Gabor Mate says it is a disservice to call someone a rat as rats are very empathic creatures and will support their kin, often to their own detriment. Paradoxically the narcissist will “rat out” their fellow man and expose them to undeserved punishment. All with the aim of their own embellishment and fuelling of omnipotence. An expert in severe criminal acts says that financial backgrounds and social class births a fine-line distinction between a future serial killer and a narcissist. The working class pathological male does not have the same opportunities to climb the societal ladder and become a narcissistic leader. The serial killer arrogantly takes out his rage on those weaker than him via murderous acts. What’s so different between him and the Cockroach Narcissist leader who wields his destructive aggression outwards on to thousands and calls it a corporate reorganisation? And yet, with a hardened shell, he himself will survive the redundancy programme — again — and will feel yet another sense of narcissistic inflation whilst marvelling at his own brilliance.
The murderous narcissist can be identified throughout all realms of leadership — politics, financial markets, the movie industry. He will take what he needs — power, fear, adoration, money, sex — to fuel his narcissistic supply, and often associated sadomasochistic tendencies, and then dispense with the shell of the used up country, organisation or person.
When what they do is so obviously blatant, why do these Cockroach Narcissists survive? Why are they given the opportunity to move onto the next target of their malignant desire? And not only that but often to rise up in rank from CFO to CEO, Trader to Portfolio Manager, Politician to Warlord, Businessman to … Roles where more control and a wider influence allows for the infliction of stronger ripples of distress and pain.
It is said that controlling and eliminating a cockroach infestation is exceptionally difficult. They are resilient and they breed rapidly. Their mechanisms honed for survival keep them alive, keep them flourishing. University of Melbourne evolutionary biologist Mark
Elgar explained that the Mythbusters test which sought to examine the ‘cockroach survival theory’ (they survived longer than humans once exposed to extreme radioactive material but still all died) was not fully accurate. Namely, because the Mythbusters team made their assessment of survival based upon how many days they continued to live after radioactive exposure. What was missing was their ability to produce viable eggs, and hence survival of the species!
There is a psychological term called ‘identification with the aggressor’ which emotionally and physically neglected and abused children may unconsciously recruit in and develop through adulthood. This mechanism keeps the child psychologically safe and able to survive the most difficult of circumstances. They introject, or take into their character structure ‘perpetrator parts’, the negative attributes of their abuser.
They become their abuser in order to survive them.
To do otherwise can lead to other psychological mechanisms being used which are more self- destructive, more self-immobilising, and less about destroying others. Thankfully most of us will ‘own’ our vulnerabilities and not dissociate from them. We will continue to think and feel despite the pain it causes, and we will develop alternative relationships which assist us to transition away from our perpetrators and voice our dissent. These new relationships help us to become more than we believed ourselves to be in those abandoning and abusive childhood situations.
We can acknowledge that the emotional neglect, the dismissiveness, the verbal shaming and the physical wounding inflicted upon us from our perpetrators was more about them and less about us.
How that hurts? A deep chasmic well of hurt. To know that those who were supposed to love us just didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t.
It is a delicate act, in the clinical space of adult psychotherapy, to open up that awareness that toxic self-aggrandised parents, bosses and other leaders who devalued you and manipulated your need to connect to someone or something you perceived as “safe”, needed for “protection”, or even “loved”, cared more about themselves and their own agendas than about you. That they could not even access or think about, let alone acknowledge, the pain their needs and their behaviours, would cause you.
A patient, whom I will name John, reported a number of failed sexual relationships. He sought psychotherapy in order to change his ways, to improve, so that in the future he would be able to meet the needs of the “Incredible women he dated”. Historically he had been repeatedly ‘dumped’ and blamed himself for not being good enough. It became clear that throughout his childhood John had been a consummate performer for his mother, Stella. He was a skilled swimmer and debate champion and on a weekly basis mother and son would travel to competitions and stay overnight. Apparently John’s father was never invited.
His mother would smile through pursed lips when she told John how much of her life she was dedicating to him and his competitions, but how she wants the best for him so “Will do whatever it takes”. When John hit 16 he developed other interests and felt the burden of the weekend trips to “Win the gold”. Part of him thought his mother would be pleased if he no longer needed her to travel. But another part of him knew that she would be deeply disappointed in him and may even get angry – “In her own way”.
There were a lot of layered complexities to this case which John and I had to work through, but eventually John was able to see that his successes filled a vacuum in his mother’s life. When he “Got the gold” she would adore him, in John’s words “Pour herself out over him”. But on trips back home with “The silver” she would be sullen and silent. John eventually realised that his adult relationships with women paralleled the maternal relationship. He picked women who outwardly admired him but when he failed to keep the narcissistic supply going they no longer wanted him. John had to let himself re-shape his awareness of himself and his relationships. He was able to put into context why he felt abandoned by his mother over recent years, and felt a twist of pain inside when she was too busy for him to visit as she was ‘helping’ his nephew with his scholarship exams for a prestigious school. John experienced deep hurt as a result of his realisation that he was being used as an object in cold harsh ways and was punished when he failed to inflate his mother’s and partner’s needs. He journeyed through his own vulnerabilities and could step into his mother’s shoes and understand the aetiology of her mechanisms which in turn eradicated her power over him.
The hard backed narcissist will never enter that pain. They defend and react against it with a lack of fellow-feeling, an inability to feel into the pain of the other because they have never entered their own pain. They project this unconscious chasmic hurt outwards, they take on the mantle of power from their own manipulators and pass it on implicitly/passively in underhanded ways and explicitly/directly in their self-serving words and actions. The narcissistic adult damages and perpetuates damage. Like the indomitable cockroach he has durability and will survive. Just as he was parented with emotional abandonment, he will inform you that his hands are tied, that it is your fault he is treating you this way, and that ultimately he is only doing it for your own good.
Where do you throw your crap, or are you good at taking it?
The bin is a useful metaphor to discuss where unwanted debris goes. It’s a receptacle, a container for that which is unwanted, that which is discarded. A bin receives. Once used it’s full of waste which in turn must also be discarded, emptied out. The cycle repeats. Over and over, filling, emptying, re-filling.
People use others as bins into which they evacuate material they wish to get rid of, avoid or deny. Things they don’t want to look at or sort through. Bins to receive rage, shame, discrimination and historical traumas. In fact a myriad of psycho-emotional and experiential garbage they don’t want to look at or process for themselves.
Unfortunately this occurs a lot in our most intimate of relationships – our securely-insecure bases – whereby for many couples it has become a well-carved groove in the relationship and has taken on a dysfunctional normality.
“Take this!” says spouse abusing Tom who chastises his wife Sue for putting on weight when he returns home from yet another self-worth reducing, shaming day at work. “You know Tom, we have spoken about this before. I need you to speed up on processing those invoices” says the father-identified Team Lead.
For Tom to attend to and work through this real-time shame inducing experience at the office he has to go somewhat deeper than the exchange about processing the invoices. He has to go to his experiences with his alcoholic father. How dad would tell him as a seven year old boy to “Man up”, to “Stop being a cry-baby little wimp” as Tom swept up the broken china for his mum. Tom had no container for his hurt and anger in his childhood. An acting-out father and an avoidant mother combination can never provide the appropriate holding environment for a young child.
Disavowing the bigger issue and evacuating his ‘smallness’ into his wife is a well-played record in Tom and Sue’s marital relationship.
Over time, Sue becomes a bin. Hopes squashed. Takes the crap. Acknowledges this familiar territory, “If I just let him get that out then we will have a quiet night”. The paradox of safety. Tells herself he doesn’t really mean it. Sue implicitly knows this terrain. Sitting for hours at the small kitchen table as a child whilst her depressive mother evacuated her emotional woes into the young vessel, unable to hold it all and spilling over with nowhere to put it. Now a flooded and anxious adult all Sue wants is a quiet life. It’s all too much for her, always has been.
That which is unprocessed will always seek to be responded to…
The world is full of Toms’ and Sues’. We set ourselves up. We reproduce where we have been. Re-enact our historical broken family systems in our relationships and our work-related choices. We use our bodies to keep the memories alive despite how disturbing or terrifying they are. Tom slumped in at the chest as he’s told as an adult that he’s not good enough, keeping in the unexpressed rage towards his father, projecting this out towards his wife.
Sue living in overwhelm, hyperalert, hypervigilant. Twisting her hair between her fingers, aware that at any time she will be recruited in to be a vessel for those that can’t or won’t take responsibility for their own emotions, where they’ve been, or even where they are going. But ain’t she doing that too? Wheres the line where we seek or expect autonomous decisions?
Where we have been is where we will keep going…
Where we have been is where we will all keep going if we don’t do something about it. Being told that we are using someone as a bin for that which we can’t deal with ourselves will never bring necessary change. Yes, awareness of what we are doing now is critical. But alongside this we need to understand the who, why, where, when and what of our past traumas. Not only at a cognitive level but also at an emotional and embodied level.
Client James, presented with a series of failed relationships. He “Has it all”, drove an expensive car, asked rhetorically “I look well for my age don’t I?” He sat directly opposite me with legs so wide astride it was almost athletic. He would physically ‘check me out’ then tell me as he visually addressed my dark hair “No. I’ve always gone for blondes”. Did he even know he said that out loud? After a number of initial self-aggrandising sessions he accessed his first emotion. “I don’t know what I want and it hurts”.
Right now, during the session, yet another discarded partner was being sent to the bin. Was at the airport about to fly thousands of miles away after James told her to leave. He told me he “Had his eye on someone else” so that will help him get over the breakup.
Over time we discovered that his collection and elimination of beautiful young women was associated with his mother. A crucial point of recall and processing was when he accessed a deeply painful memory of standing up in his baby’s cot, aged around 15 months, crying as he watched his mother leaving the family home through the bedroom window. He had no idea where she was going or why nobody was attending to his beseeching tears.
What he also ‘remembered’ was the pain in his gut as he cried himself to sleep. The one he experiences every time he goes to bed alone after throwing away yet another ‘love object’.
Life is alive with the past…
Our lives, our minds, emotions, bodies and relational patterns are alive with the past. To put a complex situation very simply, James dumped the women in his life before they dumped him. Poured his pain into his partners. As a consequence he was always yearning for the next one. Set himself up to pine, to need, to want, to hurt in a repetition compulsion which re-enacted the deep pain of the child in the cot. Discovered that the vertical bars around his baby bed symbolised the imprisoning nature of feeling completely disempowered and unable to act to save himself from the pain of abandonment.
One day James never showed up for his session. He emailed me to say he was busy with work right now “Sorry” but he will get back in touch. He took a barrel load of awareness with him but a whole heap of undigested tummy ache.
We’ve all got ‘stuff’ to get rid of…
Don’t throw yourself away into a life that repeats itself. When you don’t reflect on your angry outbursts, your punishing statements, your projection of your own low self-worth onto others you are remaining in bondage to your past. Your thoughts, emotions, behaviors and even your body is not only reacting to now, what happened today and what you did with it, but is continuing to be associated with the past.
What do I need to get rid of? What’s made me a better person through the life lessons I’ve experienced? Can I take on responsibility to ‘change the record’ of my life as lived? Why am I implicitly continuing to carry the “sorry asses” of my dysfunctional parents and imprinting the dynamic with them onto and into my relationships and my work choices? If you want to be ‘You’, consider doing the inner work to dump ‘Them’. At least at a psychical level.
Excavate. Don’t dump yourself. Find yourself…
Sure, who wants to get their hands dirty rifling through soiled waste? But when you look through those active and activating remnants, those wounded parts and hurtful embedded memories it’s like panning for gold. Holding each fragment up to the light assessing its worth, its inherent wisdom, how it birthed you, made you, you generate an understanding of who, why, where, when and what? You locate yourself and from that point of awareness can set about re-cycling, re-framing and re-building.
This workshop entitled ‘Grief and Loss In Clinical Practice: Adolescents’ was conducted for a Private Counselling Agency in Cardiff in April 2018. The workshop embraced the themes of grief and mourning, concepts of grief and the goals of grief counselling, the completion of mourning and how we get there alongside consideration of the variety of losses which can be experienced (including tangible, assumptive, developmental and deprivation). Normal and complicated grief responses, mediators of mourning and key clinical approaches to working with grief were explained. All of this thinking around grief was folded into thinking about the particular needs, presentations and developmental stages of adolescents.
Training/Agenda items include:
- Grief and mourning.
- Concepts of grief and the goals of grief counselling.
- The completion of mourning and how we get there?
- Types of losses: Tangible, Assumptive world/future paced, Developmental, Deprivation, Loss of childhood.
- Difficulties particular to adolescence.
- Normal grief reactions re: Thoughts/cognitions, Feelings/emotions, Behaviours.
- Mediators of mourning.
- Counselling principles and procedures.
- The vicarious effects of working with grief and loss.
- Case study examples.