Are you brave enough to embrace the messy, surprising, transforming and non-'aesthetically pleasing’ in your painting?
If you are, your creativity - and your everyday living- can reach new, bright, exciting, unexpected places!
We can feel so hung up and trapped by our own fears of process, which necessarily means non-pretty things, jaggedness, discomfort, shocks and confrontations arising… perhaps even despair and lack of self-love and certainly self-judgment when we survey what we are painting or experiencing in our lives. We tend to want to see the ‘happy ending’ always as if this is the ultimate goal and should always be what we are seeing on the canvas/in our lives.
This can hamper our creativity, and definitely our growth, as we stay stuck in fear of the unknown and hiding from the ‘unpretty’. I have felt so frozen in this state and can also relate this to how I look, what I wear, fear of being seen without makeup when I was younger - wearing a mask of make-up as I was so fearful and cautious. It keeps us hidden in patterns that can bind us up so tightly that as the years go by we are suffocating. I have compassion for this as know so well how painful it can be and also how freeing and alive! when little, by little the fears dissolve.
Embracing the energies of open surprise, transformation, feeling fine with what ourselves and others may perceive as ‘unpolished’ or ‘messy’ is so crucial in nurturing our creativity and letting it breathe and express – recognising that when we make a mark it isn’t in order to always paint a pretty picture – it’s not ‘not to’ either…but the important point is in the process where new connections, like synapses in our brain and new muscles in our body can express! When painting arises from a space that bypasses ego and thinking, it has a new, liberating lease of life! If we are caught in our life-long fears of ‘how a painting should be beautiful’ we will never get past this block and all the newness cannot be accessed and released.
Allowing things to remain in process, unfinished, experimental, talking to us and other elements of the painting keeps wonder alive and our ego out of the process. It can be scary when we’re not ‘controlling’ the outcome, but as more of an observer, willing to be open and watch things unfold. Then we can, of course, like or dislike certain things that arise, choose, alter, go with, transform… and we’re doing this after the space for play and experiment has been happening (and still is).
Importantly we can love this space of process and not feel ashamed or embarrassed, or that we cannot show the process of messy marks on the paper. We can learn to listen, look and love them. Having a safe place or group is always good for this, a group where we embrace the same ethic and do not simply ‘like’ someone’s work because it looks beautiful. The beautiful is actually the easiest to share and respond to, whereas the fabulous freedom of process and change can come with so many societal judgements, disapproval and shaming – largely because it is not a ‘gloss’ and it is the lived experience of us all, and most do not want to embrace this ‘messy’ and perhaps judged as ‘ugly’ wonder! of their own lives.
Intuitive and experimental painting is a fabulous, authentic and exciting mirror, one where new sparks of life and infinite possibility are free to ‘be’ – and with this, expressing a truth in ‘A Course in Miracles’ that ... ‘A happy outcome to all things is sure’ (l.292) x
'Consider everything an experiment. There's so much possibility in this approach. If we could always predict how things would turn out, we'd never discover anything new or interesting. We'd never surprise ourselves.' - Corita Kent
This post was inspired by a recent workshop on the wonderful Sister Corita Kent - artist, teacher, social activist and joyous revolutionary!
To find out more about our 'Intuitive Painting Grace & Joy' workshops see the Meetup site x
'I called today, Peter, and you were away.
I look out over Botallack and over Ding
Dong and Levant and over the jasper sea.
Find me a thermal to speak and soar to you from
Over Lanyon Quoit and the circling stones standing
High on the moor over Gurnard’s Head where some
Time three foxglove summers ago, you came.
The days are shortening over Little Parc Owles.
The poet or painter steers his life to maim
Himself somehow for the job. His job is Love
Imagined into words or paint...'
– WS Graham, opening lines of The Thermal Stair (in memory of Peter Lanyon)
I'll be heading back here through the wild winds, thinking of Sydney pretending to be a storm, roaring through the door, Nessie singing... later in February as Artist of the Month throughout March.
... 'Approaching The Gurnard's Head' felting with stitching, inspired by W.S.Graham. Sold.
The whole poem...❤️
I called today, Peter, and you were away.
I look out over Botallack and over Ding
Dong and Levant and over the jasper sea.
Find me a thermal to speak and soar to you from
Over Lanyon Quoit and the circling stones standing
High on the moor over Gurnard’s Head where some
Time three foxglove summers ago, you came.
The days are shortening over Little Parc Owles.
The poet or painter steers his life to maim
Himself somehow for the job. His job is Love
Imagined into words or paint to make
An object that will stand and will not move.
Peter, I called and you were away, speaking
Only through what you made and at your best.
Look, there above Botallack, the buzzard riding
The salt updraught slides off the broken air
And out of sight to quarter a new place.
The Celtic sea, the Methodist sea is there.
You said once in the Engine
House below Morvah
That words make their world
In the same way as the painter’s
Mark surprises him
Into seeing new.
Sit here on the sparstone
In this ruin where
Once the early beam
Engine pounded and broke
The air with industry.
Now the chuck of daws
And the listening sea.
‘Shall we go down’ you said
‘Before the light goes
And stand under the old
Morvah and St Just?’
You said ‘Here is the sea
Made by alfred wallis
Or any poet or painter’s
Eye it encountered.
Or is it better made
By all those vesselled men
Sometime it maintained?
We all make it again.’
Give me your hand, Peter,
To steady me on the word.
Seventy-two by sixty,
Italy hangs on the wall.
A woman stands with a drink
In some polite place
And looks at SARACINESCO
And turns to mention space.
That one if she could
Would ride Artistically
The thermals you once rode.
Peter, the phallic boys
Begin to wink their lights.
Godrevy and the Wolf
Are calling Opening Time.
We’ll take the quickest way
The tin singers made.
Climb here where the hand
Will not grasp on air.
And that dark-suited man
Has set the dominoes out
On the Queen’s table.
Peter, we’ll sit and drink
And go in the sea’s roar
To Labrador with wallis
Or rise on Lanyon’s stair.
Uneasy, lovable man, give me your painting
Hand to steady me taking the word-road home.
Lanyon, why is it you’re earlier away?
Remember me wherever you listen from.
Lanyon, dingdong dingdong from carn to carn.
It seems tonight all Closing bells are tolling
Across the Duchy shire wherever I turn.
#wsgraham #poetry #felting
A wonderful new book by my friend Bingz Huang..!
You can also find out more about Bingz and all she offers by visiting her website Bingz Healing Light
My review on Amazon where you can buy the book in paperback or on Kindle.
Painting in response to Bingz's words, from my FB closed intuitive painting group ...
On gentleness and thinking of Bingz’s new book Empower your life with Gentleness.
Bingz writes, ‘To me, just thinking of the word “Gentleness” helps me to soften my default armor.’
This reminds me of a meditation I do where I intentionally soften my face, my eyes, any part of my body ... there’s something in the word/ association that instantly calms, like a warmth, an inner smile, washing, cleansing in light.
Gentleness. Softness … the feelings and senses themselves cannot seem to coexist with the harshness/discord that can be inside us sometimes - and so when we intentionally welcome gentleness we see/feel it is much stronger! :) ... as a soft blanket that envelops the jangling … and gently dissolves it 🌸
And I love this simple technique that Bingz describes - so beautiful to remember if we can, in the moment or even for at the start of each day...
‘Activating your Gentleness Instinct.
Here is a simple two-step technique to activate your body’s Gentleness Instinct:
Step 1) set the intention to allow your instinct to be gentle on yourself.
Step 2) feel how you feel in your body after you have done Step 1.‘
Inspired by a favourite e e cummings poem... I’ve always loved so much how the reader Must participate and bring the poem into meaning x
Break-up, fragmented, restructuring, infinite energy, unfixing, it's in the spaces between the words, letters, sounds, images, where true meaning resides – AL(L)ways!, no ‘one’ meaning, n(ot)ever... explode the grammar system!
...language is always late for the event…
boundless and just… about to l
a p… PPEGORHRASS!!
And a short leap from one revolution, to speak of a far far greater ‘system’ revolution!
‘The poem does not sing itself; it builds itself, three-dimensionally, gradually, subtly, in the consciousness of the experiencer.’ – e e cummings
‘PPEGORHRASS and Moon’ - Needlepunch sketch, A4 on handmade paper 🦗
#ppegorhrass #eecummings #felting #poetry #grasshopper
...and - Grasshopper decoded!
Seeing others genuinely happy, enjoying life, at one, laughing, fills me with such an immense glow and happiness too, it's so inspiring, remembering that this is what Life is. I often feel this too, intense joy, glowing, at peace… at work, at home, sudden moments, days, often not for any 'reason' at all.... until, sometimes, later, feelings of guilt and sadness flood in... ‘Don't you see what’s happening in the world around you? You really need to be Doing something... and why should you be happy? How can your happiness actually help others *, isn't it really quite selfish ...in a world full of troubles, how can you even feel happy?’
This might seem strange to some, but perhaps you experience this too?
Sometimes the world can appear to be Brexit-sized or terrorist-sized, or party-leadership-contest-sized, or UK-sized, or even world-wide-disaster-sized. Our field of vision shrinks to a bucket-size, little or large, of worrying stories fed to us. Here is what we show you, so eat and digest. This is what is important, your necessary focus, the immense wonder and rich diversity of the world! is not newsworthy. Watch this and then tweet/post outrage to the world via social media and the drama can continue to feed and energise itself in a nightmarish merry-go-round vortex.
We can spin in this fear, and question, ‘Am I doing enough?’ and even berate ourselves, ‘Do you not care that there’s a global climate emergency? You need to DO – and be seen to be Doing - something better'. More and more there's a witnessing of these thoughts now, and a letting them pass, but sometimes they stick around and there's a forgetting, and I'm pulled in. Especially when watching the news each night. I try to listen to the radio news instead, it's less immersive, less on a constant repeat, less sensationalist.
As someone who has cared very deeply her whole life, the media, the state of the world, the inhumanity of human behaviour has affected me greatly. I remember feeling so deeply affected by the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, sending pocket money to help, and I’m reminded of this when watching the protests in Hong Kong today and longing for a peaceful outcome. I remember the Soviet coup, and Yeltsin opposed to Gorbachev’s reforms, the injustice and fear for Salman Rushdie over his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’… just a very few early memories, each left me crying for days at a world that could be so divided, corrupt, unloving, intolerant, self-righteous, barbaric…and I felt the waves of this right through me. And who was I to have a birthday present when children were dying of neglect? This ‘truth’ felt intensely strong in me. I would feel guilty, wanting to give everything away… Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, depressed for weeks, months over election results, global catastrophes, terrorism, animal cruelty, a beetle dying on the ground next to me… I really was, and am, a sensitive, child, young person and adult (a wonderful gift! but certainly with its difficulties too). The fragile beauty and preciousness and miracle! of the tiniest creature, to the astounding Earth itself and every animal, plant, human being living on it. I always had a genuine bewilderment at the lack of love shown by so many and the lack of willingness to share, in the knowledge that we are One humanity, custodians of this living breathing Being of a planet, which is not a 'resource' here for us, and to be plundered, but to be cherished and celebrated. And we all happen to be here at the same time in history! - how miraculously fortunate and linked we all are!
I feel the solidarity with others as well as the deep sadness and longing for change. As a member of Amnesty International I’ve written letters to prisoners of conscience, a member of Friends of The Earth, the Labour Party, CND, The Green Party, following stories, immersed in wanting to help, lighting candles, writing to newspaper letter pages… nothing felt enough, and as an introvert I usually did this quietly and alone.
Occasionally I joined others – such as guerrilla gardening in London, it was wonderful to be with like-minded others but also felt uncomfortable, the noise so loud at times that it was painful for me, the sheer numbers of others so close. Being kettled in Parliament Square, confronted by police in riot gear, on horses, shields… Again the guilt flooding in, after wanting to cry at the feeling of being so overwhelmed by the energies all around, the volume, some there who didn’t actually feel authentic to me, too. ‘This is nothing Rowena, stop being so selfish, this is for a cause Much bigger than You for god’s sake’. I had my own tyrannical voice playing on a constant loop in my head for many years… (and this continued all the way through to the ending of an abusive marriage, feeling I had no right to complain, it wasn’t that bad (it was), people are far worse off than you and it’s down to you to do and be better… a slight tangent maybe! but very much relevant in terms of relationship dynamics, wanting to help, self-abandonment, feeling depleted….
It is so easy to be caught up in the circumstances of the reported world that are never-ending, a true longing to help others, and also an ignoring of our own nature, preferences and light, which are often buried very deeply within, or even unknown to us. It is a fact that I needed to listen, to look within and help myself first. This feels almost too shocking to say, still…
Over the years, I’ve discovered that for some people, finding and following what brings them joy Is truly a radical act in itself and it's beautiful and contagious ...and to feel no guilt, no shame about it… This is so liberating for me, really, almost daring, defiant, when society and The Establishment seems to need you browbeaten, or at least angry within a limited, controllable space... Joy is such a radical shift in perception, acceptance and outcome. Others might not understand, but 'Being Joyful?!... and expressing this even though there’s so much pain in the world?! How selfish' has flipped completely around for me, as I see how the world needs more of this joy now, perhaps more than ever.
It is so obvious. I see the beauty of this in others who are expressing what they love, and have always felt it within, too, but was too ashamed/shy?/lonely/dared not show it. Yet it is from these local and worldwide spaces of celebration that I've seen communities grow and more and more people awakening and changing together, feeling happier, stronger, clearer... and so often because what truly expresses natural joy is coming from a state of Presence - it is so honest and real.
How beautiful and healthy if we all knew and felt to connect with, and express this joy within, which is always there, irrespective of circumstances and material possessions...or social norms..! Conflict and violence come from fear, lack and non-understanding of who we are. The biggest tyrants are often the smallest boys/girls feeling a huge lack of authentic love - from personal relationships to the global stage, it’s the same dynamic and causes the same toxic outfall and toxic dancing around them from others. The effects radiate and this is just as true with Love as it is with Fear.
Hiding, feeling small, deliberately not sharing my joy will NEVER help anyone else! And the same with you! – in fact it will only actively help continue the painful situation, helping the negativity which feeds on misery and drama and cannot accept others’ joy, as it feels alien and suspicious… it will help perpetrators keep the status quo… (I've seen too that they sense the saddening lack inside them and so cannot bear to see joy in others…). In an abusive marriage I never dared show my joy, it was kept hidden very, very deeply, protected, and afterwards, little by little it just couldn't be suppressed any longer and it was This joyous energy and Life force that set me free, through art, poetry and colour! The power of this natural joy state within IS immense, in all of us! Whether the example is one person, or a nation, country, planet...
Expressing joy is a huge YES to existence, one full of Love and Gratitude, and this is where positive change can begin, not from enmeshment, reaction, negative energy merry-go-rounds, not from the pain and sadness and anger (which can be catalysts for a little while, but then can often become ego-fueled) but from transformation, celebration, growth, newness, building, networks… and this begins with ourselves.
Also, very often, those who are not as vocal, not expressing opinions on social media, those who are not on marches, will be equally as, or perhaps better informed, and equally as dedicated. They may care deeply, they may not even talk about it very much, even to friends, as often words cannot describe the immensity of feelings and complexity of all aspects they see. Sometimes they might be highly, happy sensitive introverts – like me! - whose nature is not to react, protest, make a noise. We need all of these diversities and can celebrate every one of them for the energies they bring. Things are not always loud and on the surface.
We find our own way to express care and love for others. We see too that Life is not only the individual situations themselves which are reported on the news, heartbreaking though they often are, but that it is within, underneath and beyond all of them. A momentum grows that is bigger than all of these and is also empowered by coming through these painful situations. There is so much good in humanity, and so many new networks of positivity and joy that are growing beneath and through the surface of things. I truly believe this, in all I see and feel. New voices emerging, new diversities, younger courageous generations and renewed strength in protecting this beautiful earth, this beautiful Being that sustains us… and, I’ve always felt, a joy in knowing that the Earth is bigger than human ego and Will survive us and renew itself, even if mankind destroys itself.
"When will mankind come out of this turmoil? When mankind becomes kind man." - Sri H. W. L. Poonja (Papaji)
('kind man' and all gender/nonbinary!)
Not suppressing the joy within IS a political act, we hardly dare do it and it is a brave thing to do, as it means expressing our true humanity and nature, our presence, beyond culture, religion, how we are educated, all conditioning and life situations - and not even for a purpose but because it IS our very nature already and one we share with every other person…and animal, plant…on the planet!
It isn’t about disengaging or not caring, or being flippant, or being ‘pink and fluffy’, it’s about seeing the beauty and grace in ALL things.
It is with self-care and love for ourselves, listening, feeling, becoming aware, not shaming ourselves or others and in creating healthy boundaries. Self-compassion feels like a radical act too sometimes. But surely, it MUST start here and radiate outwards.
From this space, creative, fresh, healthy, strong, meaningful and long-term change can happen and this is how you can reach out to connect with others – in whichever way is right for you. For me it is with love, colour, joy, meditation, art, poetry and celebration.
*Our happiness is the greatest force for good and creative change for all.
To being gentle, radical, joyful and true - in all our myriad ways, towards ourselves and others...
I’ve loved this poem for many years, and it is so relevant here, from Rainer Maria Rilke (1921) x
The Poet Speaks of Praising
Oh speak, poet, what do you do?
But the monstrosities and the murderous days,
how do you endure them, how do you take them?
But the anonymous, the nameless grays,
how, poet, do you still invoke them?
What right have you, in all displays,
in very mask, to be genuine?
And that the stillness and the turbulent sprays
know you like star and storm?
--because I praise.
'The foundation for any action you take - let it arise from presence, rather than from a feeling of fear or anger, because these two are not productive. There is enormous power and true intelligence in presence. This is vital.
... Do as much as you can to help with peace in your heart, because otherwise war and conflict happen.'
- Eckhart Tolle
I remember watching an inspirational programme on Bhutan and its redefinition of GDP! ...
Have you ever felt so much joy you just don't know what to do with it?
Yes!!! :) x
... and this - very happy to have found this post in a blog that I love - this writer resonates so much with me, and often he writes of poems and poets that are very dear to my own heart.
(adding all of these things here really for myself too, to remember)
‘In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, and there will also be singing
About the dark times.’
– Bertolt Brecht, motto to Svendborg Poems, 1939
Singing and joy and expressing our natural state
as well as acknowledging and honouring the sadness, loss, fears...
Reasons to be cheerful...
Happiness... with room for the sadness to come x
'so world is a leaf so a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now '
- e e cummings
I was going to make another Jackdaw sister (for her Sold 8 siblings!) but a different bird appeared... and my female blackbird burbled (a beautiful deep red-brown joyous, contented sound) outside my window as i worked... and as I'd seen three female blackbirds together whilst driving home from Zennor recently... it just had to be her x
And the beautiful, exciting, spiritual, musical, painterful, playful, joyous, gentle e e cummings, whom I've loved, I feel, forever.
To Love, pure Consciousness, Isness...and female blackbirds, within and as and of all of this :)
'if everything happens that can't be done' by e e cummings
if everything happens that can't be done
(and anything's righter
the stupidest teacher will almost guess
(with a run
around we go yes)
there's nothing as something as one
one hasn't a why or because or although
(and buds know better
one's anything old being everything new
(with a what
around we come who)
one's everyanything so
so world is a leaf so a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now
now i love you and you love me
(and books are shuter
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
around we go all)
there's somebody calling who's we
we're anything brighter than even the sun
(we're everything greater
we're everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
alive we're alive)
we're wonderful one times one
Needlepunch sketch, superfine wool, 29 x 20 cm
❤️ 'What if a much of a which of a wind...' x
The hedgerows are returning!
'There lives the dearest freshness deep down things'
....one of my favourite ever lines of poetry ❤️
...and resonant too with Cornish hedgerows :) in all their beauty and lines, colours, shapes, smells, textures and the joy expressed that just 'Is' 🌿❤️
I have a very old copy of poems and writings by Gerard Manley Hopkins and it is treasured... His words leap out beyond the pages, they 'flame out, like shining from shook foil' to me.
God has always meant the same thing as Essential nature, Spirit, Aliveness, Love, Pure Consciousness to me...not an entity or 'object'.
'God is the permanent underlying substratum of all that exists...permanent, unchanging and self-luminous' - Ramana Maharshi ✨
- just as Hopkins' nature and the divine x
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
#felting #poetry #gmhopkins
'What it taught me before, I keep. It’s air
ceaseless wind, water and sand.'
- Pablo Neruda
A beautiful windy walk with a friend today... and a view to Portheras Cove - a special place for me as I lived close by when my son was born and often walked with him here ...and to the Lighthouse and Boat Cove.
- and from the astoundingly beautiful poems 'On The Blue Shore Of Silence' by Pablo Neruda:
I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.
It’s not simply the shells crunched
as if some shivering planet
were giving signs of its gradual death;
no, I reconstruct the day out of a fragment,
the stalactite from the sliver of salt,
and the great god out of a spoonful.
What it taught me before, I keep. It’s air
ceaseless wind, water and sand.
It seems a small thing for a young man,
to have come here to live with his own fire;
nevertheless, the pulse that rose
and fell in its abyss,
the crackling of the blue cold,
the gradual wearing away of the star,
the soft unfolding of the wave
squandering snow with its foam,
the quiet power out there, sure
as a stone shrine in the depths,
replaced my world in which were growing
stubborn sorrow, gathering oblivion,
and my life changed suddenly:
as I became part of its pure movement.
This felting, Sold, was inspired by windy walk to Portheras Cove a while ago ...music and awareness...
Felting - using merino, Shetland, Exmoor, tussah silks, wool nepps, bamboo fibre, stitching (36 x 32 cms)
#neruda #poetry #felting #cornwall
'When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.' ❤️
'I got saved by poetry. And I got saved by the beauty of the world.'
... Her muses were owls and butterflies, frogs and geese, the changes of the seasons, the sun and the stars... a deep sense of being in the world as a spiritual experience....
Thank you Mary Oliver, I cherish your beautiful, inspiring poetry 🌿
'Canada Geese, Marazion marshes' inspired by a walk with my son and the poem 'Wild Geese' -
'You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.'
'On Being' Studios - Mary Oliver reads her poems
Gerryco23 - Wordpress blog on Mary - Mary Oliver, 1935-2019: 'one wild and precious life'
After many years something shifts, as the self-love and self-care become real. With dedicated inner work and shifting of traumas, way beyond thinking patterns, you can emerge again and truly feel different, as your reality has changed!. You can forgive yourself and others, releasing fears that have gripped for so many years, blessing others and genuinely wishing them well, which absolutely sets you free - whether you choose to see them again in your life or not.
Perhaps, subconsciously you have been hoping for accountability from someone for their behaviour, and this has kept you hooked in, but you need to know this simply will never happen. Narcissists, those with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) for example, just do not do this, they will never take responsibility or apologise for any of the hurtful behaviour, the lies, manipulation, tantrums, cruelty, gaslighting, ignoring of boundaries or any other dumping of their own pain (that they are not dealing with) onto you. If you’ve broached this with them in the past, and how hurt you’ve been, they will usually turn on you, deny it, get defensive or angry, play the victim or storm off.
So you need to switch the focus and to self-parent, to give yourself the love and forgiveness that you need so that your health - and life - are not dependent upon what anyone else does or doesn’t do.
It can take decades to reach this point of understanding and if you have young children it is especially wonderful when you do, in order to stay healthy and well for them - your own health and self-care naturally having such a great effect on theirs. The repeating of patterns often stems from childhood, through generations, and if it can stop with you, that’s a huge and significant achievement! You remain unconscious in this destructive dynamic until one day you have to wake up, often for emotional, or physical survival and this point of waking up at last, might be due to a relationship or a marriage which is founded on the same childhood patterns you are still re-enacting 20, 30, 40, 50 years later.
The patterns often originate in relationships with parents, for example, with a mother who displays typical characteristics of NPD, and who for years may be suffocating, controlling, full of entitlement, rages, unpredictable tantrums and explosions to the point where a child, say a daughter, can be so fearful of her that she hides in her room and prays that she will stay away and leave her alone, her body shaking. Instead, the mother might storm in and shout directly at the child, causing her to want to disappear, to take the beautiful cats and run away. Even with this, as a kind, caring and sensitive child, she will want her mother to be happy, will want to help her feel better, and the daughter internalises the upset and believes it must be all her fault.
In crumbs of moments the mother might be ok and then the daughter will be so relieved, yet will worry about each word she speaks, not wanting to inflame her, and will come to realise that she has no control over this, it's all too confusing and unpredictable. She feels she must be ‘bad’ inside and a bad daughter and becomes hyper-vigilant, sensing the mother’s moods, the constant fearful dramas, and taking on so much of her mother’s pain and rage as well as feeling responsible for her well-being. Living in a house with a whirlwind of hurt and complete emotional confusion affects children deeply and as adults they often naturally perpetuate these patterns by meeting partners who are very similar, again and again and the familiar dynamics continue to play out.
Once, around 12 years old, in a deeply mocking tone, I remember my own mother shouting up the stairs, ‘Who do you think you Are? Ensconced in your room like a Queen... you think you’re too good for the likes of us’. She often told me what I thought, rather than asking – if I told her I really didn’t, and that it was the opposite, she would insist ‘YES you Do’. There were endless comments like this. I learned to stop replying to these insults as she wouldn’t listen or believe me… that in truth I was scared of her, so unhappy and that I didn’t feel good enough to be around anyone at all, I could blank myself out away from her, immerse myself in books (beloved sanctuaries), be nothing, quiet and at peace. I just didn’t know how to ‘be’ around her. It was as though it was my responsibility to make her happy, and I’d failed, whilst also feeling very deeply that things were wrong, they felt so cruel and twisted. I often had intense tummy pains too, directly related to this as was constantly anxious, and the guilt and shame were huge, believing that it must be all my fault. I struggled with friendships as a child, had little self-esteem and was fearful of most social situations and interactions. These behaviour patterns continued with boyfriends and a marriage, all so similar. The experiences become a part of you and inform so many future choices and if you’re a sensitive child, they can affect you so much more.
The walking on eggshells lasted all the life at home I can remember, with countless painful incidents and then became especially hard when my brother left for University, with more drama to unfold. There’s often a quieter, co-dependent spouse in these situations – (often due to parents repeating the patterns they experienced from their own childhood, with their parents) and when growing up my father was mostly emotionally absent and even though ‘there’ was never ‘there’.
I can forgive my mother now for all of her bad behaviour and controlling presence throughout my life - the many situations from my own childhood, the painful and confusing inclusion of me in a new relationship whilst leaving my father, hurtful accusations around circumstances with my grandfather, and also hours after my son was born, turning up at the hospital uninvited, possessive and threatening – an upsetting and unwelcome shock, having no idea she knew and not wanting her to know, alone with my baby son in an open ward with other new mums and having to tell her to leave and at last she did. I forgive her also, for turning up just before Christmas this year, uninvited, unexpected at my home, my safe, warm space that I have with my now 13 year-old son, in doing so letting me know that she knows where I live and that perhaps she’ll turn up another time when she wants to. I comfort and take care of myself now and these triggers pass more quickly and turn into gifts to clear even more trauma and be firm in future boundaries if necessary. These situations teach us to love and care for ourselves even more, strengthening us in situations where we may have felt vulnerable in the past.
It can take a long time to truly know that forgiveness is largely about setting yourself free, from the pain, hurt and resentment, it’s not about the other person/situation/past event. Healing occurs in spiraling stages and when a certain level is reached, the letting go happens, with unconditional love, such a release, for all of those involved; the cage doors open, you step out, fresh air circulates, there is space inside for newness and light, and it’s beautiful - it sounds cliched, but it’s true.
I feel perhaps these people rely on the fact that you do not feel brave enough to speak out, and it took me years… or they angrily deny everything you say, turning it around and thinking nothing of lying and blaming and projecting onto you, saying perhaps that you are ill, cruel or ungrateful, as they are merely being a loving, kind mother… and in their fantasy – they are, so it is not a lie to them. I’ve found this behaviour has always made me incredibly shaky and have been unable to speak out in case I’m not believed. I’ve experienced this also with my son’s father and my ex-husband. Now, more and more I know that it doesn’t matter so much whether others believe me, these experiences deeply affected me and I can now heal, grow stronger and feel better, irrespective of others’ validation. There are also great gifts and lessons that come from these experiences which I am grateful to my parents and ex-partners for.
We can also forgive ourselves for longing for others to understand, knowing now that unless you have experienced Narcissistic abuse, you will not know what it is like. Even within families, siblings, who have very different sensibilities are treated very differently, yet subtly so too, and effects on the child differ greatly. As in any relationship/marriage, we all experience upsets, heartaches and break-ups, and I’ve had a couple of ‘normal’ relationships and their happinesses and upsets! but relationships with Narcissists are very, very different and I’d urge you to look up some of the resources on this in other articles if you want to know more about Narcissism.
The beauty is we can reparent ourselves now, the younger us and the older us and can give unconditional love. We can forgive all of the hurts of the past and let them go, and I truly feel, after 40 years, the fear has only just dissolved. We can also know that we cannot change the situation regarding others, nor should we be trying to, and it’s wrong, and futile, to try to change others. Other people are responsible for how they choose to behave and interact, for what is right for them in their own lives, and we can respect that now, knowing the absolute truth that it is impossible to make someone happy, just as our happiness is never anyone else’s responsibility!
What we can do now, that we couldn’t as a child, is be true to our values and own way of living, to what matters to us. We can state our own boundaries, and what we will and will not allow or accept in our life. We can honour ourselves now and if this is not acceptable to our parents or anyone else, then that can be so, without fear or guilt. The social conditioning surrounding family ties is so strong that there’s an intense taboo with this, and it can take many years to let go of this ‘longing for things to be different’ and to assert ourselves, and be happy, beyond our ‘role’ of ‘daughter’ or ‘son’ or whomever. It’s also the truth that it takes a great deal for a daughter to feel she cannot see her mother for over 10 years, as the damage has been continually so distressing up to that point. A lot of hurt has had to happen to cause a loving daughter to break ties in this way and say ‘Enough’.
Now, in my own life I no longer accept disrespectful, manipulative, hurtful behaviour or non-reciprocal relationships. When I set a boundary and it’s repeatedly dismissed, then the relationship can fall away. My mother’s banging on my front door in the road and shouting, 10 years ago, ‘I don’t need an appointment to see my own daughter!’, after I’d stated that if we were going to meet it had to be somewhere neutral, contributed to the No Contact ever since. Actually, Yes you do need an ‘appointment’ as you call it. We did not have the type of relationship where I appreciated you just turning up. You were not welcome in that way. How you deal with this is up to you. Either you respect my sincere and reasonable wishes or you do not and the consequences either way will happen. I see now how strong I was all those years ago.
A narcissist cannot tolerate an equal relationship, there has to be power and control involved in some way, without compromise, which they see as ‘weak’, in fact they see compromise as the other person manipulating them. I learnt that also with a Narcissistic husband.
Becoming stronger and more aware means that so many beautiful openings become possible. For many years I feared exploring my own passions, being creative and expressive, using my own voice… and that this developed into creating an art business was astounding! - I never thought I’d ever be able to do this. Creating a website and having a FB business page was full of so many fears at the start, mainly as I knew that my mother would be ‘right there’ always. I nearly didn’t start at all because of this but I am so happy and grateful that I found the strength to do it anyway, much of this new confidence being down to a course taken via The Happy Sensitive. At last I didn’t hide what I love any more, through fear. I’d kept this light and love so close and protected as a child, not wanting her to ‘steal’ or ‘claim’ things that were so close and dear to me… and this light had felt so tiny and almost seemed to disappear at times.... It is still hard and upsetting sometimes today, and I know she 'shares’ every post I write to her own page; I’ve been told this, but instinctively knew it anyway. Perhaps this has been a good thing, as a constant reminder that I CAN carry on irrespective of what she is or isn’t doing, and that might sound like nothing or ‘silly’ to some but it’s a HUGE achievement and liberation to me.
The fact that I feel free now also means I can share articles such as this one and not fear the wrath, or the victimisation stories or, ‘what a cruel daughter I have, but I love her anyway’ - type comments. Such comments have no truth and now they have no power over me either; what is said really doesn’t matter to me anymore. The fear is gone and I wish her well; when the fear goes, love and gratitude are present – not necessarily for reuniting in person but as a general love that exists for all.
I can also forgive myself for all the destructive relationships I’ve had all my life, repeating the patterns of trying to appease angry people, emotionally absent people, trying to ‘make it right, make them truly love me’ this time. All the Narcissistic rages and violence, my son’s alcoholic father, the cruelty and controlling in my marriage. All unconsciously re-enacting patterns that were so familiar to me, stuck in a painful, blind dynamic of trying to give love into a black hole, to people who, so tragically, hated themselves at heart and so couldn’t really love another anyway, despite my trying to get them to see how wonderful they were really…oh my gosh, that naivety makes me shudder now at the physical and emotional danger I put myself in sometimes, with an ex-husband who used to get so angry he ‘could put a knife through someone’s face…don’t you GET IT ROWENA??!!’ he’d shout at me.
I think of Maya Angelou and her words, ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them – the First time’. And when the mask of charm slips, as it will with a Narcissist – run. And feel utterly relieved (you won’t at first) if they discard you suddenly for new Narcissistic supply when they know you’ve seen through their mask at last. In fact, learn to recognise the charm for what it is at the outset – manipulation, they want something you have, which is often your light, goodness and joy…or the kudos if (unlike me!) you’re rich, have material things or a reputation… they like to bask in this and claim it as their own.
I’ve felt a call to write this, partly as an honouring of my own journey and also in the hopes that even if one person comes across it and something written resonates with them, then I hope it helps. I hope the tone comes across in the way I’ve felt it when writing, not of ‘blaming’ anyone, not of making anyone ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but in an honest account of experiences that have affected and shaped me, woken me up and helped me to shift into such a new, healthy understanding.
I know, from my own work and learning in this area that many of these patterns are the same for many people, of all ages, and there are beautiful resources out there and so much love, understanding and support that can truly help you break free from repeating these awful and, it’s not extreme to say, sometimes life-threatening relationships and dynamics. This is such an important achievement for parenting our own children and breaking the generational patterns too x
It’s in the nature of these relationships to get worse, and you will be complicit in repeating the behaviours again and again until you HAVE to wake up … and this often takes decades - it took me until my early forties and a string of upset, violence, self-abandonment, fear and devastation and I know of others much older, it’s never too late - and you might feel you are a worthless shell of a person right now, getting an emotional, psychological and often a physical beating… but this CAN and WILL – and MUST! – CHANGE.
…and only YOU can do it – with loving support.
How triggers can be your greatest allies….
In the shock of a sudden unexpected situation, you can feel a pulling into unconsciousness, that is, into a forgetting that you are not your emotions, not your mind, not any part of the scenario you are experiencing.
This can relate to any situation, or a certain thing someone says or does, and is usually one that resonates with a fear, trauma or emotional pain or wound suffered in the past, a fear that hasn’t been truly met, acknowledged and released...even though you might have thought it had been! The trigger brings back to life the old accumulated emotion.
This happened for me this Christmas.
Initially the pain can take over, flooding the body in an immediate reaction, heart pounding. You might feel desperately hurt, angry and fearful and so instantly reach out to a friend, a family member, as you identify yourself through the filter of the ‘story’ of what has happened, when the emotional pain verbalises into thoughts about it and creates a frightened drama. Sometimes telling others whilst still in reactive mode might not be the best thing as it perpetuates the drama...and a good friend might even tell you this, or listen, be kind, reminding you of your strength, but not engage with details. In this way, you also see more clearly and can disengage more quickly.
The beautiful thing is, if you can accept what is happening in the moment, be present with it, acknowledge the intense pain in the body, the emotions, the thoughts, be with all of this… you create space around it all, remaining as the witness, not identifying with it as who you are. You do not have to ‘do’ anything, only see if you can allow those feelings to be there, after all they are already there! So if you can acknowledge them and be present with them as they are, you can see what happens, without adding extra layers, such as feeling unhappy about the feelings etc. As Eckhart Tolle enquires, ‘If you don’t mind being unhappy, what happens to the unhappiness?’ You see that it starts to dissolve when there is an inner acceptance of the present moment. The turmoil cannot tolerate the light of Presence.
When triggers happen they are opportunities to look inwards, be self-loving and compassionate. You can find out what these emotions and pains are expressing when you listen without judgement and be your own unconditionally loving parent. In this way you hear them, give recognition and kindness and then you can lovingly release them, seeing the light of awareness and consciousness flooding and washing into the space that has opened within.
A few days before Christmas, in unconsciousness, I panicked, reacting to a surprise and unwelcome situation, and I contacted a friend and another person, heart pounding... but then, after sitting alone calmly and listening in, I realised quite quickly what was happening. In this instance for me it was about boundaries being ignored, disrespected, emotional and physical, an unexpected trigger reawakening intense past hurts that still hadn’t been healed and released, even after many years of No Contact. This was an opportunity to release even more around this pain. (It is a practice also that stops ‘feeding’ energy to the other person, which is what they want and need, if they are a Narcissist, whether positive or negative ‘drama’, they thrive on it.)
When you can remain in and as presence, the fears are met with love and silence and the emotions dissolve, and you stop reliving the past again and again. When inner peace becomes your priority in unsettling situations, peace becomes your reality, so within, so without as Melanie Tonia Evans teaches in her Quantum healing practices. It’s just so true! You know deeply too that trauma energy is not who you are…you might feel intense reaction, anguish, agony, even that you are going to die…yet this is illusion, even though it might rage as so ‘real’ at the time that we mistake ourselves as being it.
A great way to stop identifying with any pain is also not to state, for instance, ‘I am unhappy’ but that ‘unhappiness is here with me’. The difference is the space that opens up between you and it - the space of truth! And such relief and release is felt immediately. All passes, it is not You.
When I was 18 I stayed in a beautiful community that celebrated the light within – a light I had always known and felt since a child. The community embraced all religions and spiritual paths, expressing that which is within and beyond all human-made constructed approaches in understanding. Silent sitting and stepping back, inwardly, onto ‘the observer platform’ was a wonderful early meditation, seeing the space between our essential nature (shared by all of us) and our human mind/body/emotions… years later I realised how familiar this was with Advaita Buddhism and the pointings of Mooji, Eckhart Tolle and many Eastern approaches. Ultimately there is a dissolving of the ego ‘I’ into this essential nature, that it already is! And the experiential knowing that we do not ‘have’ a life, we Are life itself!!
This oneness, so beautiful and true can be felt to be disrupted in our everyday lives, as we live as ‘Rowena’ or any other person, as a surface, ego reality (ego as the idea we have of who we are, the ‘mask’ of the Being). Of course, our true nature can never be ‘disrupted’ and experiences such as mine this Christmas can have such a ‘Whoosh!’ painful effect …and, wonderfully, we can learn from them and remember again that in truth we are not this, they help to wake us up, put things into perspective and remember again.
We still need self-compassion and kindness when we forget in our everyday lives, as we often do! and to put into place measures and boundaries that protect us and help us to live our authentic truth.
So here’s to triggers that may appear to be deeply upsetting shocks on the surface, but are actually angels in disguise! as opportunities to reveal our true nature in ever more clarity.
If I hadn't encountered these and all that unfolded, I would never have been able to express my joy and create, felt or paint, share my work or flourish and thrive!
*In the process of adding... these are the first ones...*
Over the last few years I've read so many books and articles that have helped me immeasurably, in opening up to awareness and understanding of my own experience on the topics of Narcissism and being Highly Sensitive and an Empath. These have in turn led me to mutually supportive communities and individuals who have been inspirational in the most beautiful ways, and also, ultimately and fundamentally, to an experiential understanding 'beyond' the book reading. xx
These resources can lead us to other 'resources'... ones that will become 'pointers' towards an awareness that is far deeper than 'gathering information' or of cognitive awareness/understanding; an awareness that lies beyond any labels we may have for ourselves - labels which may be true on the level of how we function in the world, as individual personalities with particular character traits, such as HSP and Introvert, yet these labels are not the Truth of who we essentially are, beyond our 'form' identity. We can forget this when we are so enmeshed in everyday life, or in situations that may be traumatic, and so at these times, gaining an understanding of how we live and function in the world can be helpful and lead us to others who experience similar, which is a beautiful support, as here we can acknowledge our humanness and individuality, and experience self-compassion and healing ...
... and then we can go beyond these aspects of who we are, on the surface, and the ideas we have of ourselves into the greater truth and recognition... with so many thanks, in my case, to nature, poetry, art, Rumi, Buddhism, Mooji, Eckhart Tolle ...and many experiences from a young age which gave me glimpses of this true awareness of who we really are, of our essential consciousness...
Here's a collection of some resources, partly for my own reference but mainly for any others who come across them and find them of interest and perhaps helpful...
If you come across this page and would like to suggest any other books/resources on these topics that you've found helpful, or would like to make any related comments, please do, in the comments below, or email me :)
These categories do intermingle...
Narcissism and healing
HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)
'Empower your life with Gentleness' by Bingz Huang is a wonderful, practical guide on self-compassion and kindness, for HSPs, Empaths and everyone!
Introverts! - Susan Cain
Beautiful TED talk!! xx
'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that can't stop talking'
Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön
Advaita teacher/'pointer' - Mooji
Also many wonderful online videos!
Eckhart Tolle - and many online videos!
More... on living and celebrating every day
Louise Hay, Robert Holden, Marianne Williamson, Eileen Caddy, Wayne Dyer...
Daring and Rising! - Brené Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert
Other resources include: