Grief-Work: Healing the Shadows of Trauma and Pain

Image result for trauma and painWhen you live with, or are raised by, people who are mean, unreasonable, abusive, and who can’t attune to your needs you learn to cope to survive emotionally, psychically, and even physically. Such coping methods are not rooted in sustainable loving but in protection and defensiveness.
This happens as a child and as adults. As adults, we choose to live with and to couple with those who remind us of our dysfunctional and hurtful past. However painful this reality is, it is comfortable to us. It is familiar, almost familial. Encountering what we never had can be scarier than the same suffering over and over.
This need not be a mistake, if we can see it for what it is: an opportunity to become more conscious of our healing and to liberate ourselves the rest of the way — from painful patterns and an encrusted heart of pain unto the glorious person we sense ourselves to be.
When we grow up with people who hurt us more than love us, we learn to lie, shut down, not give a crap, to condemn people generally. We develop beliefs that all or most people are evil and out to hurt us. The encrustations around our hearts for truer loving become thick and tough to break down.
Especially if we cannot express our feelings or truth to a parent or trusted other, much less the perpetrator, the torment can be severe and make us seem like monsters. Ironically, we become what we despise.
This builds an armoring of falsehood, and the consolidation of pain. We carry this falsehood and learned defensiveness and deceptiveness in to the world with us, into all our relationships — the monster we learned to become as a default to a lack of functional loving.
Or, if we just can’t stomach being a monster, we might become a pleaser, so we never have to show the pain and rage we feel inside. This, unfortunately, is also to be a monster.
But we are not really monsters. And the way to undo ourselves from its grip is to go through the emotions that have been lumped upon our hearts and stuffed into the sinews of our soul. We have to relive and undo the rage, sadness, desperation, isolation, hopelessness, and hatred we collected as a default means to survive in a harsh world.
If we don’t discharge the pain while simultaneously learning how to let in good loving, we end up perpetrating others, despite our best intentions. We end up hurting the world the way we were hurt. And this monster pain can’t be undone by positive thinking, by just focusing on love, by ignoring it, by staying busy, by taking drugs, reframing, or through “awakening” practices that don’t directly address the pain face-to-face, hands-on.
The monsters inside us which we inherited more than chose, that are not truly us, can be dealt with through a comprehensive, cathartic, and entirely liberating process called grief-work, which is to turn towards our many layers of pain and release them. It is to learn the story of what happened to us through the story our bodies carry. It is to weave the threads of best evidence from memories, sensations, feelings, thoughts, images, triggers, and dreams into a cohesive story which resonates deeply as true. It is to let out the rage, sadness, and helplessness so it no longer tortures and steals from us the beauty beneath our pain.
This does not mean that we automatically trust the interpretations we derive from our feelings and thoughts. It does mean that after some time of courageously welcoming and consistently familiarizing ourselves with our most difficult feelings and memories, we get a sense of what happened, especially through what cathartically releases from the felt sense of our bodies. This is the essence of somatic psychotherapeutic work.
So, I present to you the possibility to stop lugging around the overlay, the once-protective facade, of who you are not. It’s not needed any longer, and your current relationships crave who you more deeply and genuinely are. This is possible by going through the pain, by entering it directly. It is not found in New Age belief systems or other means of “awakening” that largely ignore or just pay lip service to our emotional backlogs without entering them.
This is to feel the pain so that we can express and release it, so we no longer carry its weight inside, so it no longer vampires our hearts. Many think we can just ignore it and focus on the good, on the love we already have in hand. While this is valuable, it is grossly incomplete. What is more loving, more holistic, more sustainable, is to increase this love by turning it towards the hurts we carry inside. This way we liberate the rest of ourselves that remain stuck in the patterns of old.
I passed through this process myself and show how to navigate it in the Nourish Practice described below.
I invite you to enter this healing crucible to drop the encrustations around your heart. Become the person you know you are; it is your opportunity now as an adult and as a lover of the world, a world that you might have come to hate as result of the hate dumped onto you.
The past lives in your body and deep mind. Go there to discover it and to free yourself.



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Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the limbic system, the brain's emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. It is the hormone responsible for us all being here today. You see this little gem is released during childbirth, making our mothers forget about all of the excruciating pain they endured expelling us from their bodies and making them want to still love and spend time with us. New research from the University of California suggests that it has a similarly civilising effect on human males, making them more affectionate and better at forming relationships and social bonding. And it dramatically increased the libido and sexual performance of test subjects. When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Connections are fostered when people take the time to appreciate and acknowledge one another. A hug is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation and acknowledgement of another person. The world is a busy, hustle-bustle place and we're constantly rushing to the next task. By slowing down and taking a moment to offer sincere hugs throughout the day, we're benefiting ourselves, others, and cultivating better patience within ourselves.
Affection also has a direct response on the reduction of stress which prevents many diseases. The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says it has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.
Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body's production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.
Almost 70 percent of communication is nonverbal. The interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture and hugging is an excellent method of expressing yourself nonverbally to another human being or animal. Not only can they feel the love and care in your embrace, but they can actually be receptive enough to pay it forward to others based on your initiative alone.
Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. The tactile sense is all-important in infants. A baby recognizes its parents initially by touch. From the time we're born our family's touch shows us that we're loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self love.
Everything everyone does involves protecting and triggering dopamine flow. Low dopamine levels play a role in the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson's as well as mood disorders such as depression. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it's also responsible for motivation! Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target. The presence of a certain kinds of dopamine receptors are also associated with sensation-seeking.
Reaching out and hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels and the released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure and negate pain and sadness and decrease the chances of getting heart problems, helps fight excess weight and prolongs life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Hugging for an extended time lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.
Hugs balance out the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system - parasympathetic.


Letting Go of Attachment to People—the Buddhist Way.

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.” ~ Lao Tzu

According to Buddhism, all our struggles stem from attachment.

I chuckled the first time I heard this. How is it possible that all my problems are because of attachment? As I scrutinized my life, I realized it was true. My arguments with others emanated from attachment to my opinions. My anger was because of attachment to particular results that didn’t manifest the way I expected. The sadness I experienced when I lost objects was also a result of attachment. And most importantly, agonizing over the loss of people in my life was because of attachment.
Now, we might think that attachment is limited to material things, but this isn’t true—it’s also extended to people. And by far, this is the most dangerous form of attachment. It’s hazardous because human beings are quite unpredictable, and they’re susceptible to change more than anything else in life. The reason is because we are conditioned by nature, and conditions change pretty often.
The most important thing to understand is that attachment doesn’t happen overnight. It starts to take place after spending a good amount of time with someone (it could be a family member, a coworker, a friend, or a lover). We don’t really get attached to the person, but to the experience we have with them. We get attached to the range of emotions that this particular person stirs up in us—good or bad.
Consequently, our mind identifies an emotion as either pleasurable or pleasant, and we crave it more often. Then, when attachment develops, we fear losing the person. In other words, we fear losing the emotions that they make us feel. We especially get attached to people who make us happy, because we are prone to believe that we need an outside factor to complete our sense of happiness.
The palpable solution is to break our attachment. The concept of detachment terrifies us at times, but the truth is that it’s not as frightening as it sounds. When we detach from something (or someone), we don’t entirely let go. It’s just that we start relating to things and people differently—in a much healthier way.
Detachment is essential because, let’s be honest, no one is happy being dependent on anyone or anything. Even if we claim that we’re happy with our attachment, there will come a time when circumstances will prove us wrong. Dependence on others feels good only when the causes and conditions are in our favor. But when conditions change (as when people leave or stop being available) then we realize that attachment to others causes us misery.
When we detach from someone, we stop expecting so much from them. Also, our happiness becomes authentic. Instead of looking outside ourselves to complete our happiness, we understand that we are already complete and can achieve full happiness on our own. Any happiness coming from the outside is merely an addition to our already existent happiness—but it’s not dependent on the absence or presence of the object or person.
Let’s not forget that that the person to whom we are attached becomes happier as well, because they’re no longer pressured to fit into the image we have of them, or what we expect of them. They start giving as much as they can, not what we expect them to give. In this way, we can experience true love for people, which is quite different than the attachment kind of love.
In order to let go of attachment to others, Buddhists advise us to start looking within, so we can love ourselves. The fact is, we always seek in others what is missing within ourselves. It doesn’t mean, for instance, that if we start loving ourselves, we stop wanting others to love us.
On the contrary, we still want to be loved, but we also appreciate the nature of love that’s being given to us. We accept whatever we are receiving, instead of trying to manipulate it. Also, we take into account that this love we are receiving now might not last for as long as we might hope. But instead of fighting to keep it, we understand its ephemeral nature and simply enjoy its current presence.
Not understanding impermanence is another major problem that’s standing in the way of our attachment. According to Buddhism, if we truly contemplate the impermanence of things, we’d be aware enough to not be attached to anything in life—object or person.
If I know that this table is going to break tomorrow, I wouldn’t still cling to it. I’d enjoy whatever time I have left with it, instead of wasting energy trying to keep it. Understanding the impermanence of all phenomena in life helps us to stop fighting transience.
Another way to detach from others is to understand that attachment comes from the mind. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Know that you are not your mind.”  We are so much bigger and deeper.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Deviant Art

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina


7 Ways that Women Who Were Unloved as Children Struggle in Their Adult Lives

The way in which we are nurtured and raised as a child can have a significant impact on how we handle life as an adult. Our childhood experiences help to shape our understanding of the world, and how we are expected to act and react to it. It is the job of our parents to teach us, guide us and set a positive example.
Authors and experts on childhood development Judith R. Schore and Alan N. Schore wrote, “Attachment experiences shape the early organization of the right brain, the neurobiological core of the human unconsciousness.” It is this part of our brain that is responsible for processing through, as well as storing memories that work both to shape how we view emotional events as well as the feelings that they evoke.
For a child whose upbringing was one of love, trust, and reliability, these memories help to teach them the value of caring for those around them. They foster feelings of loyalty, protection, and compassion, shaping us into adults that exhibit a high level of both mental and emotional health. Taking the lessons that they learned throughout childhood and the example that it set, they allow it to shape the way that they view the world around them.
On the other hand, children who are raised without this example, feeling unloved, criticized or judged, create a different understanding of their family, and as such a different grasp of the ways of the world.  Essentially, they see the world through a different, altered lens. In their book ‘A General Theory of Love,’ Thomas Lewis and his co-authors explain this impact, saying “The mental machinery does not evaluate; it cannot detect whether the larger world runs in accordance with the scheme it has drawn from the emotional microcosm of a family.”

This experience of growing up feeling unloved causes these individuals to struggle in these 7 ways:

1. They accept surface level affection in place of true love.

A child has a deep seeded desire to be loved and appreciated. They look to their parents for feelings of caring, compassion, and affection. If a child grows up missing this vital piece of the puzzle they will find themselves as adults attempting to fill the void in their life. Rather than understanding the value of real love in their lives, they settle for surface level affection entering into toxic relationships with no regard for what else might actually be available to them.
2. They constantly feel guilty in life.
Often in these toxic homes, parents make comments to their children that insinuate that they should be grateful to have a roof over their head and food on their plate. They grow up feeling like they are a burden on their parents, and develop feelings of guilt anytime they think about their needs in life. This translates into their adult life. For example, they may feel guilty that their partner does something nice for them because they believe that they don’t deserve it.
3. They view the world around them as inherently unsafe.
As a child, your feelings of safety and security come from your parents creating that environment in the family home. Doing so allows children to realize that there are people and situations that they can trust, and they begin to develop the ability to differentiate between those that are and those that aren’t ‘safe.’ Without this feeling of safety, a child grows into an adult who believes that everything is unsafe and no one is worthy of their trust.
4. They have difficulty understanding boundaries.
When a child is denied the love and affection that they crave they will often look for it elsewhere as they grow up and are in contact with other adults in life. They begin to overcompensate as adults, believing that an abundance of love, attention, and affection is the key to demonstrating the love that they were lacking as a child. While it is well-intentioned, they struggle to understand that even their partner will need space from time to time.
5. They constantly question whether the people in their life really love them. 
Growing up in a home that lacks love and compassion, these individuals grow up accepting that a toxic, distant relationship like the one that they have with their parents is normal. When they find themselves in a relationship as an adult that breaks that pattern, they can’t help but question whether it is actually real, or if they are just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
6. They struggle to ‘let anyone in.’
Children learn the foundation of relationship development through watching the adults in their life. They witness how their parents react with one another, as well as how they interact with others outside of the family unit as early as infants. Eventually, as they grow older, they start to mirror this activity learning first hand. When a child is missing this example of a positive relationship and doesn’t experience the feeling of connection first hand, they grow up distancing themselves from everyone in their life.
7. They often feel excluded in social settings due to their low self-esteem.
When children grow up constantly being scrutinized, judged and criticized they begin to learn that nothing that they do will ever be ‘good enough.’ This carries over into their adult lives, leaving them feeling as though everyone is judging them at all times. They often fail to take part in group settings for fear of being rejected, however, in doing so they feel excluded from the activities the group is taking part in. There may not even be any basis for these feelings, the group may not have said anything negative or have any negative views, but the feelings are so deeply rooted that they are unable to see past them.