Hello everyone. Whenever I write a new post, I “tune in” to you, my readers, and write from my heart. Sometimes I plan what I am going to write and other times I write something entirely different from what I had planned. At the beginning I used to worry, “how can I top that last post”, but now I just trust in the process and I know that what I write will turn out all right.
It is wonderful to feel such confidence. It is such a contrast to how I used to feel years ago before I gained access to the truth of who I am. It was “self-doubt”–a looming horrible anxious feeling of dread and guilt…or more often a feeling of numbness and compulsions to avoid feelings by keeping busy with tasks that I felt I “should” be doing. I had no access to my truth–I had hidden away my truth to protect myself from the unbearable pain that I experienced as a child.
Through my journaling I discovered a process that helped me to heal more than anything else I tried–it was writing out my pain from my inner child’s point of view. I knew from all of my reading and training in psychology that blocks happen in childhood–and I had been encouraged by two helpful counselors to continue to write out my feelings in order to uncover them (I had been writing poems about my feelings since the age of 14).
Writing from my inner child’s perspective just kind of naturally happened and I found it to be the most powerful healing tool in my own recovery. I discovered “her” voice by writing out “her” pain and then I had no choice but to feel compassion for what “she” went through and over time “she” became clearly “Me”! And as I began trusting in this process of trusting “her” view of what had happened to me I began trusting my self. My inner dialogue then gradually changed from critical to compassionate. I remember that I started feeling emotions that had previously been repressed and could then label them.
I was excited about this process. For example, I’d be at the grocery store and suddenly become aware of a feeling such as shame and say to myself , “this feeling is really familiar but I never knew until now that it is “shame”. Wow this is shame from my childhood coming up.” I realized I was feeling these feelings for the first time since I had hidden them away in childhood. Rather then get caught up in them I was able to observe them and acknowledge them and release them. I would often go right away and write in my journal about the origins of these painful feelings. Repressed memories would often come back to me during these times. It wasn’t always so simple–sometimes I would unconsciously drag my husband into a drama only to discover I was replaying a trauma from childhood so that I could finally voice my feelings of anger, grief, or fear to my envisioned N parent. My knowledge of what was happening luckily allowed me to be aware of the process of healing–I would quickly reassure my husband what was happening so that he could then support the release of my feelings as a supportive witness without feeling blamed in any way. Seeing me recover my feelings in such a way and feel relief helped my husband to understand this healing process as well and he began processing his childhood pain in a similar way (he had a Narcissistic parent too).
I am planning to put together a book in which I include the best of my healing writings directly from my journals that show this process of healing first hand from age 18 to the present. Although it will be very personal I am hoping that it will help others to heal and develop compassion for their inner child and what they went through if they are unable to write out their feelings in such a way that I was able–I consider it a gift that I was able to do this and I am grateful to have such a vivid memoir of my recovery. I believe this gift of writing I have been given is another way that I can help other highly sensitive souls to recover and to help them to feel relief from the inner prison of emotional abuse by a Narcissistic parent. Please let me know if you would be interested in reading such a book.
Recently I wrote the following poem when I “tuned in” to you, my readers and fellow highly sensitive survivors. I was planning to save it for my book but I have decided to share it with you now instead to show an example one of the kinds of writings that will be included. Here it is:
Poem of Hope and Healing for the Highly Sensitive Survivor
By Roxanne E. Smith
March 22, 2011
Pain so deep, I can’t see the light
I know it’s there but it’s not very bright
The sadness is thick, despair all around
I envision a child giving up with no sound
Pain so deep, I hide all my hope
Afraid to come out, I feel like a dope
Worthless and horrible, don’t ever try
The pain is unbearable, can’t even cry
I can’t feel the love, I need it so bad!
So much fear without it, it’s really so sad!’
I am feeling much better just admitting this truth
You have to have love when you’re in your youth!
Without love you can’t heal all the hurts that come by
When bad things do happen we need love when we cry
Someone has to hold us and give us new hope
If there’s no one for comfort than there’s no way to cope
No wonder I hid my talents away
When I would do well then I was their prey
The taunting, the teasing, “Who do you think you are?”
Shame became my deepest scar
But who was this child all hidden in shame
An innocent victim who will never be the same?
She thinks she is nothing but she is so wrong
The truth is she’s beautiful, wise, and so strong
Scoop up that child all broken and battered
Love her and hug her and tell her she matters
She’s awesome and wonderful, they were so wrong
Talented, creative , and smart all along
Sensitive soul you were so beaten down
But you figured it out and now you can leave town
You’re safe now and free–no more bullies outside
Shine your light, spread your wings, don’t believe all the lies
Be kind to yourself when the pain comes back ’round
Love yourself through it, your true self is found
You know the truth and now you can be free
Fear is from “them”–in the past, don’t you see?
Relax into the pain and it will dissipate
Because the pain is from lies and it’s never too late!
To believe in yourself and your talents and dreams
You are good at compassion and so many things
They did not want you to succeed with your gifts
So they made you give up and they threatened with fists
You were small so you gave up but now you are grown
You can heal all the pain and make it now on your own
You can do it!–the words you’ve long waited to hear
Say them to your self! And say NO to the fear!
Give them back all the bad feelings that they gave to you
Imagine this energy going outward from you
Then let in the light and the love from a place
Where angels don’t want you to live in disgrace
You know what love is because you give it so freely
To others who need it when they’re feeling needy
Give to your self all this love all the time!
You will find your true purpose and all will be fine
These lessons are so hard that we learn from our pain
But we discover our strengths again and again
So sensitive souls who survived from abuse
Your gifts are so needed to be put to good use
I know how you feel and I hope you feel better
Because we can overcome it if we do it together!
I hope that this poem has helped you to feel loved
You are!–and I send it to you from above!
I understand and I want to comfort your pain
I hope this is helpful. Love, Roxanne Elaine
Updated March 2016
Hi everyone. Today I want to write about a subject that many of my clients and readers can relate to as Highly Sensitive People. It is something called Learned Helplessness. Learned Helplessness is that feeling of powerlessness that we all feel at times, and for some of us it is more pervasive and all encompassing than for others. There is much hope in talking about it because if you can understand the roots of this feeling, you can understand that it is “learned” behavior and that you can become aware of it when it hits you and ultimately heal from it completely.
I first heard about Learned Helplessness in my introductory psychology class in college. And you probably have heard the story as well–the story of Pavlov’s dog. Pavlov used a dog in an experiment in human behavior to demonstrate the result of conditioning. I can’t recall the exact details except that the dog was given rewards or withheld the rewards and the resulting behavior of the dog was recorded and studied. There were other dog experiments by a psychologist named Seligman in which he shocked sets of dogs to demonstrate learned behavior and conditioning and punishment.
The main thing I remember vividly about the whole thing was that at the end of the Seligman experiments, the dogs were shocked repeatedly both when they completed a task correctly and also when they did not. The poor dogs were so confused that they layed down depressed and GAVE UP and even whined–and this was Learned Helplessness that the dogs were experiencing. I still remember learning about this vividly because I felt SO bad for these dogs–I was empathizing and upset beyond what the average person reading this would expect to be.
At that time in college I did not have the insight or self-awareness yet to realize it was because I resonated so much personally with how the dogs were treated. As a highly sensitive, empathetic person I knew just how those dogs must have felt and I related to them giving up and laying down, hopeless, and helpless, in fear, and self-doubt. Those dogs were experiencing the same damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t no-win situation that those who were bullied consistently (or even neglected or controlled) by a caretaker or narcissistic or controlling parent were subjected to day in and day out as children. Years later I remember talking to a counselor about this, knowing just how a dog in those experiments must have felt and it helped the counselor have a picture of the frustration, fear, desperation, loneliness, despair, hopelessness, and helplessness.
After I voiced this to the counselor, I was able to picture myself as a small child with the same compassion I had for such a dog and finally realized that I deserved so much more. The roots of my anxiety were then exposed–no wonder I felt anxious all the time, no wonder I was a perfectionist and afraid to disappoint anyone, no wonder I didn’t know how to relax, no wonder I had no access to my own dreams and desires and was filled with self-doubts and negative messages in my head. It helped to talk to someone about how I felt what I experienced could compare to the treatment of those dogs–the feeling of not being given consistent love and support and feeling rewarded only if obedient and punished with emotional rejection if not.
My life coaching experiences and studies have taught me the following in regards to those highly sensitive people with a narcissistic parent: The Scapegoat child of a N parent can very much relate to this constant punishment and criticism. But the Golden Child (GC) can relate as well because they are often the obedient one who needs desperately some kind of loving approval and, out of fear, becomes what the parent or wants for them to become. Outwardly to others it may appear as if the GC has it all–the love, attention and admiration of the Narcissistic parent. But inside there is so much emptiness and pain, an absence of the knowledge of self and true feelings–feelings that had to be hidden away because they were too painful to bear. The false self is developed and honed in, the GC knows exactly how their N parent feels even before they do. The GC develops a radar that helps them to survive the lack of love and support–and they develop an illusion that they are the ones at fault if, even with their best efforts, they fail to win the acceptance of the N parent. They blame themselves and have very low self-esteem, crushed by criticism, holding relationships at arms length so no one will get too close and cause them further pain.
The roots of co-dependence are also linked to this learned helplessness–victims of such abuse telling themselves that there must be something wrong with them and that they are deeply flawed and it usually goes in one of two ways–either they decide they need to find another person to love them and take care of them and then they will be happy (co-dependence) or they become a porcupine not letting anyone one else near, lashing out at anyone who suspects that they just might have some insecurities underneath their outwardly successful yet workaholic exterior shell. People who suffer from panic attacks and even agoraphobia often have learned helplessness from childhood as a root cause as well.
“What can a person do?” you may be asking if you relate to what I am describing. Plenty! Just being aware and believing that this happened to you as a child is the first step. Just as you have compassion for the dogs in the experiments, you need to develop this same compassion for yourself and make a decision to stop being so hard on yourself. Make a decision to be kind to yourself every time you are feeling bad–it is almost always childhood pain coming up to tell you the truth of what really happened to you. Become aware that the negative messages in your head were put there by someone else and that you did not deserve them. Change them to positive messages. Write in a journal all the things you were good at as a child and never given credit for. Writing out the truth is powerful and go back and read it often to remind yourself.
It takes time so be patient with yourself. Taking baby steps in the direction of healing is wise because there is pain to work through and release but you can do it! You have many gifts and talents that have never been acknowledged yet and only you can bring them out from their repressed state of Learned Helplessness.
Whether you were the scapegoat in your family or the obedient golden child, you can heal from the trauma of Learned Helplessness. Often people who experience post traumatic stress from an abusive childhood fall into this state of learned helplessness when their wounds are triggered. It can feel like an inability to function, a numbness–but sometimes the feelings along with that are a mix of rage and despair.
If you have lashed out at loved ones with an intensity beyond what is appropriate then you probably were a victim of a person that controlled you in an abusive way far far too much with no remorse. If you were extremely sensitive (extremely emotionally gifted 🙂 ), just a mean look from his/her eyes could cause a traumatic reaction in you as a child and the fear may have felt like a spear through your heart. The rage and despair you feel is understandable and appropriate but needs to be directed, voiced, and released at the person that did this too you in a journal, letter that won’t be sent, and/or perhaps even read outloud with a safe witness friend, counselor, or coach present (never to them or to their face) . You will find a sense of relief each time you release some of this truth and the light inside of you will become brighter and brighter and you will feel lighter and lighter. You will begin to experience the essence of your true self and the vitality you deserve. This is the process of healing. Don’t hold onto the anger and resentment that comes up but release it completely each time, visualizing the negative emotions going up to heaven or into the earth,whichever appeals most, to be healed by love and light–Imagine love and light coming to you as well to replace these negative emotions each time to center yourself again to a peaceful state.
Why did you experience learned helplessness while your siblings did not? Perhaps you had the gift of high sensitivity and along with that the knowledge and expectation of a higher level of love. And when you did not receive this love that you innately knew existed, you had no choice but to blame yourself because…it made no sense to you. Your siblings possibly just got mad at your parents and rebelled–they may have had no higher vision of a loving existence so it didn’t feel as traumatic to them.
So you see, the cure and the answer to all of your self-doubt and learned helplessness is LOVE. Love yourself as you deserved to be loved and give yourself the love that you so easily give to others because that is your gift. Compassion and love for yourself will help you overcome all of the many symptoms of Learned Helplessness just as consistent love and affection and kindness would help Seligman’s abused dogs to learn to trust people and trust themselves again. I hope my words have been helpful to you.
Hello to all of you sensitive souls. I hope you are enjoying this beautiful week of Indian Summer we are having. The news says that most of the U.S. is experiencing gorgeous mild temperatures and colorful changing leaves right now. It is definitely my favorite time of the year and it feels like such a gift from above now that I can relax and take it in and be in the moment and fully appreciate it. As many of you who follow my blog already know, it wasn’t always this way for me. I used to be numb to my feelings, keeping too busy to feel, compelled to be a people-pleaser and a perfectionist, and full of self-doubt and anxiety.
There are many facets to my journey to finding my voice as a person, many of which I describe on my blog so that I might inspire other highly sensitive people (HSPs) to believe in their dreams. Writing out my feelings in a journal has been one of these many facets that contributed to my awakening to my true spirit which was hiding inside. I have been writing poetry in a journal since the age of 14, but it wasn’t until about 2002 that I set out to to try to do Julia Cameron’s morning pages (3 pages of free writing every day) which turned out to be extremely therapeutic “inner grief work” that took place over a period of 5 years. It was during this period that I wrote about the feeling that I was “growing a backbone” and this felt very miraculous indeed. I knew I was finding my voice finally and it had been hidden away in fear for so long. I was writing songs and poetry and it never really occurred to me to seriously share them with others until one day when an extra special one poured out of me. When I wrote this poem, it dawned on me that I had been transformed and now, finally, I could reach out and help others–something I had always wanted to do but I always felt I had to figure myself out first. I had a new found sense of self and there was no going back. I am very happy to be sharing it with you today.
After I wrote this poem, I got the idea to write a book sharing many of my poems and my growth along the way to finding my voice and that this poem would be the final one in the book–a finale of sorts. However, since then I have written even more special poems and songs so I have decided to go ahead and share a shortened version of it here in my blog. (I haven’t written my book yet but I plan to start it in the near future.) This very special poem is entitled, “Joy, Our Birthright, Waiting There”. I want to explain that I wrote this with my children in mind– when I say “and I was never there for you the way I thought I was, it’s true”. What this means is when I went through growth and gradually had more access to my true self, then I couldn’t help but feel regret about the past when I had been doing my best but I was not able to be my strong confident true self yet. When I expressed this regret to my children expecting them to agree and feel relief and tell me it had been hard for them, they both instead said they always felt I was always emotionally available to them and it meant a lot to them that I always apologized to them whenever I made emotional mistakes and they felt fully validated at each step along the way in their upbringing. For this I feel extremely grateful because nothing has ever been more important to me than my children feeling good about themselves and their unique gifts and breaking the cycle of dysfunction that my husband and I experienced as children. Still…I can’t help but wish I knew then what I know now….
So here it is:
Joy, Our Birthright, Waiting There
By Roxanne Smith
Feb 21, 2007
Telling someone helped me heal
All the pain inside was real
No wonder I had been so tired
My whole heart had been so mired
So much grief to lead the way
Let it out, so much to say
I was never there for you
The way I thought I was, it’s true
Because I was empty – none to give
Alive but I just now learned to live
Soulful is the proper word
I have “me” – it sounds absurd
Let your painful feelings out
You can’t be whole and live without
Expression of unfairness do
Your soul will help you live anew
And learn compassion for your self
Don’t put feelings on a shelf
Any doubt is harmful thought
The truth is–look how far you got!
Negativity and blocks
To true self and joyful shocks
Being blamed can stunt our growth
Fear of feelings: anger, both
Also fearing joy and bliss
Pain comes up and we all miss
The connection to our rightful heir
Joy, our birthright, waiting there!
Love is what we all deserve
Joy it feels when then observed
Share it then and it comes back
Filling up the past we lacked
Helping others heal their wounds
Nothing like it – glowing moons
Stars are twinkling, warming sun
Nature loves us one by one
Let the love come down on you
It is there don’t block the view
Doubts of self will keep it blocked
You must trust your soul’l be rocked!
With this truth I’m trying to tell
Creative soul fear-blocked is hell
Heaven is a word away
Love is here please let it stay
You deserve its welcome home
Inside you it does belong
Love yourself I’m trying to say
God is trying – just light the way
Ask him to comfort your soul
Believe! And he will rock and roll!
I’m not kidding this I know
I let out grief and felt a glow
A light inside I did believe
I’m OK. I feel. I grieve.
Compulsions all have fear beneath
God has no “shoulds” or “work hard” teeth
Be yourself and kindness do
Serve to help others heal anew
Help them see that love transcends
We can all relax and mend
“Relax and enjoy your life
and everything will be alright!”
This phrase came in a dream so real
I hope this poem will help you heal
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hi everyone. The day after I started writing on this blog for the very first time you might be able to guess what happened–I woke up in the morning with the dreaded feeling of Guilt like a black cloud hanging over my head. In the past I might have felt guilty and spiraled into negativity but thank goodness I knew what to do. I observed this feeling instead of falling into it. I was actually grateful for my new awareness of knowing and being able to label this feeling as Guilt. (I used to just feel numb or a generalized anxiety in the morning–it was a familiar and comfortable state–it was how I survived as a child.) I said to myself, okay this makes sense to feel this feeling today after the success of my first blog. This is Childhood Pain Coming Up to Heal Because Things Are Going Well. This powerful phrase has helped my husband and I so many times. I learned about this from John Gray–in one of the last chapters in his Venus and Mars book. This was one tiny section which I feel was so important he could’ve written a whole book on it for the impact it made on my husband and I.
I realized I had internalized shame that showed up after I had successes that made me feel good about myself. I believe ultimately as a small child that I believed “there is something wrong with me. I am guilty–it is all my fault.” To survive I had to repress all the anger and fear at having been blamed unfairly. I was a highly sensitive child. I desperately needed love and approval. So I settled for conditional love–I became an obedient and anxious shell of a person.
So I had expressed my true authentic self by writing my truth and my inner child was expecting to be punished and blamed and felt guilty. What I have learned is that the strong part of me which now knows the truth is able to comfort the wounded child in me that still feels fear and insecurity and blamed and guilty. See, as a child we make decisions and believe them so thoroughly it’s very hard to change the neural pathways in our brains that are so deeply set. The negative thoughts are so automatic–that’s how we survived. But we can change those pathways in our brains by becoming aware that the negative things we are saying to ourselves are from a wounded child’s perspective! As highly sensitive people, we know how to nurture and love and comfort other people through their self-doubt and fear–so by taking that wounded child inside of you and comforting yourself you can change your inner child’s beliefs about yourself and the pathways of negative spiraling thoughts. Realizing that I had to be the one to love myself and that noone was going to do it for me was a big revelation and turning point for me. Learning to comfort myself with positive affirmations and taking it easy when these big overwhelming feelings come up is now something that comes much easier.
So do I still feel guilty about my speaking out and writing on this blog? In a way the guilt is still there but it is small and completely manageable. And the part of me that is strong, wise, and knows the truth is keeping it in check–telling the wounded child in me that it is going to be okay and I am doing the right thing by speaking my truth. Do I have days when I still succumb to the child part in me and spiral negatively and beat myself up in despair? No, not any longer but I used to and it was a gradual process to get me where I am now. It used to happen mostly in the mornings and sometimes I couldn’t stop it right away. But then, there usually came a time of awareness a short time later, on the same day, when I realized this was a brand new layer of unbearable pain from my childhood that came up to heal because things were going well. My inner child felt safe enough to show it to me and say hey this really bad injustice happened to me and I needed to let it out finally. These are days when I put everything else aside–my list of things to do can wait until tomorrow. I allow myself to grieve for the childhood I never had and deserved. I comfort myself with my favorite things and am nice to myself like I deserved to be treated as a child-legitimate needs that went unmet until now are being healed–by me. I am a nurturing, supportive, comforting mom to myself. I can do it! And so can you. Ultimately this process is what a good empathic coach or inner child counselor is for. They are someone you can trust with the pain of your inner child to help you figure out the truth of what really happened and help you grieve. Then, when you can comfort yourself through the worst of the feelings that come up, then you know you no longer need the coach. You can take care of and love yourself through anything!
Thank you for reading! I hope my words have been helpful to you.