I may have written about this before as it is an issue that pops up frequently for me.
How can I be angry when I’ve been programmed to believe my anger is wrong and shameful and should be hidden? I feel so guilty for my anger, I feel utterly responsible. Overly responsible.
Experiencing Anger as a Child and Teen.
My parents couldn’t cope with my sister and I being angry when we were kids. It was a surefire way of getting shouted at and potentially sent to our rooms, or left in whatever outdoor place we were currently visiting. Fear of abandonment definitely is a block to me expressing my anger healthily and experiencing it as a normal human emotion that it is safe to feel.
We were brought up in a strict Christian environment, both at home and school, and anger was seen as ingratitude and unholy. So this is what became programmed into my trusting childhood psyche. As a child you don’t question, you believe whatever is fed to your mind by adults.
We were never supported or shown how to deal with such a strong emotion, and my own adult experience of anger has been that of a raging toddler in a few isolated incidents. My anger can be intensely fire-y and scares me.
We were always made to apologize even if we had been justified in our anger. This was a pattern that occurred all through childhood and my teenage years.
I wasn’t an angry teenager at all, but I think that’s because I learnt to hide it, and generally expressed it by going to my room and silently balling my eyes out. I felt so ashamed and worthless and the anger became directed at myself and developed into a deep hatred of myself and my (perceived) lack of control over my emotions.
My Present Anger & Binge Eating Recovery
Right this second I feel anger for something the sweetest, gentlest, most kind and caring person has done. It would seem a somewhat small thing to others, but to me it is a big deal and I have to remember to support myself in that.
I’m scared of hurting this person’s feelings and of being abandoned by them.
I have a right to be angry.
It is safe to own my anger and really feel it.
There is nothing wrong or sinister about my anger, it is safe and I am in control of it.
Learning to allow myself to feel unpleasant feelings is something I’m working on and has been a key aspect of my counselling for binge eating.
Instead of stuffing these emotions down with food, I’m writing about them.
In fact my mind hasn’t even turned to food this morning in order to stuff the emotions down, which is a huge improvement for me.
I feel a small sense of achievement for that.
Doreen Virtue: Emotional Expression Through Creativity
Doreen Virtue is an author and spiritual teacher/healer who I truly admire and believe in. She writes about God, but more specifically about angels who she teaches are God’s messengers and helpers. They accept and love us unconditionally and are very much wish to help us, but can only do so if we ask.
She is somebody who has really helped to change my view of God as an all powerful, fearful judge of right and wrong, to one of an unconditionally loving God, who showers us with blessings and wants us to be happy and fulfilled.
She talks in her The Courage to Be Creative of how experience of our emotions and their expression is natural and healthy. In fact she dedicates a whole chapter to The Courage to Feel Your Feelings. She talks about how suppressing these feelings can cause us to be creatively blocked and how creativity “offers us a healthy and lasting outlet for understanding, expressing, and healing emotional pain.”
So here I am doing just that.
For somebody I admire as a spiritual teacher to talk about feeling and expressing emotion, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is quite freeing for me. Taught the opposite at an early age, I’m starting to believe that I am completely loved and loveable for the person I am, as a human being, anger included. We all are.
My mind feels almost as slow as my body today, but I still managed to get some interesting reading done: Highly Intuitive People by Heidi Sawyer, which I feel I really relate to.
I think those of us who are highly intuitive-sensitive types are probably more prone to bipolar disorder symptoms. (Please see my guest post for Mental Health Talk: Bipolar Disorder and High Sensitivity for more on this topic).
The chapter “Cope With Others and Their Power Struggles” has some interesting thoughts about how we use our energy.
Sawyer talks about us having an aura, the energetic carrier of all that we are as a human soul- our Jiva (sanskrit word for the immortal essence of a living thing).
As our true essence, Jiva can be weak or strong depending on how much we are in connection to our true selves/our own identity. It builds confidence and self-esteem.
Building Jiva increases our emotional strength and healing capacity- surely a strong tool in coping with bipolar disorder or mental dis-ease of any kind.
We can strengthen Jiva by releasing negativity and anything else that drains us energetically. We can do the things we truly love, which light us up and connect us with who we truly are.
By strengthening our Jiva, we have a stronger sense of self, of our own identity, and need less the approval of others. We are less likely to take on others’ cares and worries on an energetic level to please them or make them ‘feel better’. We are also less likely to be rocked by criticism and disapproval in general. We approve of ourselves and that’s all we need.
The Need to Please Others- Narcissistic Families
Many of us may feel we have to please others (see People-Pleasing), and pressure ourselves into adjusting our behaviour to feel we are approved of by whoever we are with.
This is how we’ve been taught to behave throughout our childhood, often within a narcissistic family. We learn to walk on eggshells and keep the peace- this became our identity, a strong part of which was to ignore and neglect our own needs. Survival of the family- which is inherently damaged through various traumas- becomes priority, even over being true to ourselves and our own identity.
Our Jiva has become weak through our developmental stages. We let people walk all over us, give too much energy to others, make others more important than ourselves- this is how we have learnt to survive. It is not our fault.
Creating a Happy Life
But we can change things. We can have a happier life where we feel in control of what is happening to us, of how our life pans out. We’ve been taught that we aren’t worthy of a happy life. But we are!
We can create our own life! We don’t need the approval of others’, it is safe for us now to be our true selves.
We lived in a family system where the only means of survival was to submit our identities to become what our parents’ wanted us to be. We could not have emotions or needs- because they were too inconvenient to our parents, or caused significant anxiety. We could be emotional caretakers and counsellors, best friends, even to some extent surrogate spouses. We gave up our energy, our true selves. We did it to survive. (Because as a small child, it really is about survival- who will take care of your needs if you are abandoned by your family?)
We don’t need to do this anymore.
The Terror of Being Our True Selves
You’d think it would be easy to overcome this- once we realise it is safe to live the life we want to create. But I’ve found many challenges already- mainly fears of stepping away from the safety of the identity I was given.
To me it feels terrifying to identify and take care of my needs- it goes against everything I was taught, everything that is my current identity, everything that has helped me to survive a narcissistic family system. It sounds silly, but I still feel extremely anxious if I sit down and draw- “I’m being too selfish”, “I should be spending my time helping other people”, “it’s a childish pastime”.
Releasing these beliefs that have kept me alive within my family is terrifying! We still have that belief deeply ingrained that we must be that which we’ve been moulded into, in order to survive.
But it’s worth it!
When we can do the things in life that light us up- for me drawing, writing, painting, walking in nature, taking care of myself nutritionally, being with my loved ones and my dog- we strengthen our jiva. We are doing things that make us happy!
Strong Jiva will keep us energised. We will not feel the need to give others our time and energy. We will not be manipulated by others. We can identify our own needs and put ourselves first. Our health will improve.
In relation to bipolar disorder.
So part of me wonders if my current downward swing into very low energy is because I’ve been giving too much energy to others, denying myself who I truly am, and denying my emotions. I haven’t been taking care of my needs. I think this is very likely the case and perhaps is the pattern of bipolar disorder as a set of symptoms?
We find our creativity, our true self, become highly energised by this- perhaps to a hypomanic/manic state. We enter a frenzy of creativity/spirituality/ideas, but deny anything that may be anxiety-provoking. We keep busy-busy-busy to push any fears that arise as far away as possible. The upward spiral continues. But this is exhausting and the inevitable energy slump hits hard. We then experience all the emotions we were denying- guilt, shame, fear, and become deeply depressed. We have betrayed our ‘false self’ which kept us alive. This feels devastating at a soul level.
It’s just a theory- but it makes some sense to me at the moment, and I think it could be a part of helping me to understand how I can improve things for myself.
Bipolar Disorder and Highly Sensitive People– Guest post on Mental Health Talk.
Watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time yesterday, I felt a profound connection to the idea of the dark and light side of the Force, and how something seemingly fictional, relates so well to us as human beings, particularly going through the extremes of Bipolar Disorder or spiritual awakening symptoms. (Bipolar Disorder as Spiritual Awakening)
The opposing symptoms of depression and mania could be likened to the dark and light sides of the Force. But also, as humans beings in general, I believe we all have the capacity for light and darkness.
The inner struggle of Kylo Ren between these light and dark side of himself is evident in his scene with his father, Han Solo, on the bridge. He wrestles with his own will and decision to embrace the dark side, and his inner light which he is reminded of by his father, and perhaps his own need for love.
Personal Experience *Trigger Warning*
I sometimes feel that my own spiritual journey (which has indeed been a journey with symptoms labelled collectively as Bipolar Disorder) has led me to experience a similar inner battle.
I have flown to the heights of euphoria, felt completely at one with the world, believed I could achieve anything, felt surrounded by God’s love, angels and the most beautiful Divine creatures and beings.
The devastation caused by my dark side can only be described as the most destructive tidal wave imaginable surging through my life.
I’ve felt surrounded by demons, by beings preying on my soul, manipulating and terrifying me for their own amusement. Psychosis one might question? It felt very very real to me and my own belief is that I should trust my experiences, feelings and intuition- this was real.
Self-destruction felt inevitable. Implosion of my soul, annihilation felt like the only possible outcome. To wrestle with the desire to take your own life is no mean feat. You are at the depths of human darkness with seemingly no way out, ready to commit murder of the self. To describe the devastation, the terror, the utter hopelessness is nigh on impossible to those who have not experienced it.
I called out for help amidst the soul-chaos and I was calling to the Light. I chose the Light and the Divine answered my call. I am so blessed. We are all so blessed. All we have to do is choose, and call out for help. Help finds us when we open our hearts to the Light.
I believe some humans are born into this life to experience extremes of emotion for their own spiritual growth and for that of the planet. I believe that all the good we create, the love we experience here is present in heaven. I believe any darkness created here in our lifetime is cancelled out by the supreme unconditional love of the Divine.
The Force Everyday
I also believe a battle between our light and dark sides exists in the everyday, in the mundane.
When we choose to believe a negative statement that automatically runs through our minds, we are choosing to believe in the dark side for example.
Upbringing may have left us believing that we are not good enough. The statement “I’m not good enough” may automatically play through our minds over and over. The darkness takes hold when we choose to believe this. We end up constantly playing out “I’m not good enough” in our lives, as some small failure or other, because our ego needs to know it is correct- it feels safer.
But we can turn to the light by recognizing when we are thinking or playing out “I’m not good enough” and choosing more self-supporting and loving thoughts about ourselves. We can create “I am good enough” and play this out in our lives to create a more joyful and fulfilling life.
In the case of my own particular challenge, binge-eating, I could give into the darkness to prove that I am correct when I tell myself “I have no self-control”, and give into the cravings to binge eat and ignore my emotional needs.
I could reassure myself that I am an incredibly strong person, as demonstrated in my own fight against self-destruction. I could acknowledge my emotional needs and meet them, not with food, but with my own love and light. I could tell myself that I have the capacity for self-control and that I have the power to make a more self-loving decision. I can accept any pain that is bubbling up inside me and have compassion for myself by doing something self-nurturing, possibly comforting to my inner child, like colouring, watching Harry Potter, or singing. These are just my own personal coping mechanisms. (For more ideas see 10 Ideas to Distract Depression: Don’t Feed the Monster.)
Everyday in life we can choose between the light and the dark- whether it be through an epic battle as seen in spiritual awakening experienced as Bipolar Disorder symptoms or otherwise, or through more subtle interactions.
May the Force be with you (the light side obviously).
“Woah! Did that really happen?!”
Sometimes the pain of what I’ve been through emotionally seems completely unreal- like, did I make it all up? Was that a nightmare?
I can remember how I felt and what was going through my mind, but it feels detached somehow. Almost like it was a different ‘me’ experiencing it.
When I’m feeling better, I tend not to look back too much at what I’ve been through. But I saw a TV programme with someone talking about their mental health experiences and it came flooding back.
In the darkest depressions I just couldn’t see any point in living. Life felt so empty and despairing and only full of pain. My belief in a loving God was challenged to the max. I felt dark spirits around me. I felt evil around me. I felt like I was at the point of letting the evil overpower me. I felt like I was dying. I absolutely hated myself. I rejected and abandoned myself.
Images of hurting myself, and strong impulses to do so, filled my mind. I’d wake up scratching myself and pulling at my hair in the middle of the night.
At the time I remember feeling 100% positive that I was completely to blame for what was happening to me, and that this was all I was worthy of. I didn’t see it as depression, I saw it as a weakness in me, and something I was going to be punished for.
It is only now I’m feeling better that I see how much darkness I had survived, and that I was ill. Sometimes I really do have to remind myself that this is an illness, and there is a biological basis to it. I don’t necessarily believe it to be 100% biological. I think environmental events/traumas all play their role, and some of us are just more sensitive to these things than others.
Sometimes I can’t even believe I survived it all!!
Right now, I’m so grateful that I’m feeling more myself at the moment!! I’m not going to dwell on these past times, but I will remember to rejoice in my strength- right from the Lord!!
Visit the new sister site of Emotional Wellness, The Light Sanctuary– a website dedicated to spirituality.
Spirituality and working with energy have helped me so much to manage my Bipolar symptoms and high sensitivity that I wanted to dedicate a completely new blog to the topic.
Since I posted on Saturday I have been meditating to ground myself. Only a few minutes every few hours. It’s worked so far!! I feel more at peace with myself, though am still working with a few things.
I’ve used food for comfort since I was a kid. A dip back into pretty bad depression over the last 6 months has led to an increase in my food antics and a fast 16 pound weight gain. My knees have definitely noticed! My BMI is nearly 39, which is not good.
I think I’m at my limit now, where I say “Right, that’s enough now. No more.” There is no more denying the effects of what I’ve been doing, and the fact that it’s making me feel worse, not better.
Jacket potato & baked beans
Eggs & salad.
Even a salad sandwich and some soup.
I know I can do this. It’s just a case of re-programming my brain! Lol!
I don’t want to eat in secret, feeling so guilty and ashamed. I need to replace the buzz of shopping for binge food and guzzling it with something more loving and nurturing to myself.
I need to remember my dreams are important, so use these as a replacement! If I want to draw, I will draw. If I want to sing, I will sing. If I want to write a silly story, I’ll write a silly story!! I will resist the urge to tell myself there is no point in doing any of this, and remind myself that theses things are important- they are part of BEING who I am. I believe that we are all expressions of God’s spirit- being who we truly are (from the highest perspective of unconditional love) is what we are here for!
I’d like to reconnect to the childlike joy I used to feel when drawing and making up little stories, and dancing and singing. Joy brings light to the world!
Slow, but healing.
It’s definitely a slow day today too. Slow thinking, slow walking.
A very interesting observation was made by the psychiatrist Dr Russell Razzaque, author of Breaking Down is Waking Up. He took up mindfulness meditation for his own personal development and whilst on a retreat noticed something curious. During mindfulness exercises the participants were aiming to slow their thinking and their walking, to observe themselves. He connected this with what happens in depression- our thoughts and movements slow down. Could it be that our minds and bodies are actually healing us through depression? I definitely like to think so!!
So with that in mind, I will trust that I am on the right track, and to listen and act on my intuition, rather than dismissing it as airy fairy.