Why we are alienated from ourselves

I’d have to agree with this:

I have no words to describe my loneliness, my sadness, or my anger.

I have no words to speak my need for exchange, understanding, recognition.

So I criticize, I insult, or I strike.

Or have my fix, abuse alcohol, or get depressed.

Violence, expressed within or without, results from a lack of vocabulary; it is the expression of a frustration that has no words to express it.

And there are good reasons for that; most of us have not acquired a vocabulary for our inner life.  We never learned to describe accurately what we are feeling and what needs we had.  Since childhood, however, we have learned a host of words.  We can talk about history, geography, mathematics, science, or literature; we can describe computer technology or sporting technique and hold forth on the economy or the law.  But the words for life within…when did we learn them?  As we grew up, we became alienated from our feelings and needs in an attempt to listen to those of our mother or father, brothers and sisters, schoolteachers, et al. “Do what mommy says…Do what is expected of you”

~ Thomas D’Ansembourg, Being Genuine: Stop Being Nice, Start Being Real (based on Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication process).

I still have a lot of inner work to do.  As long as I’m not triggered into an emotional upset, I’m peaceful, loving, compassionate (or so I thought, it seems like I really didn’t know what compassion really entails until recently).  But I have a dark side, too, that’s hurt me, my husband, my daughters and at least a couple of my friendships.

I used to complain bitterly, at least inside, about why I would have to be the one who changed.  The reality is, I’m the only one I have control over.

For the longest time I didn’t think it was fair and I was angry.

And then I realized being angry only kept me stuck.  But I wouldn’t even accept that.

There is an interesting conversation in Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks:

“Accept what is.”
“I truly cannot. I am agitated and angry about this.”
“Then accept what is.”
“Accept that I am agitated and angry? Accept that I cannot accept?”
“Yes. Bring acceptance into your non-acceptance. Bring surrender into your nonsurrender.
Then see what happens.”

I had to laugh when I read that.  I realize my nonsurrender hurts me more than anything.  I can’t move on from the things I don’t accept.

What was the pain that anger would hide in my life?

A lot of things, actually:

  1. Complex-PTSD from childhood.  Lots of junk from a dysfunctional family of origin that still haunts me from time to time.
  2. A career change from medical genetics to homemaker to substitute teacher seems easier on paper than it was in reality, especially when you spent your angst-filled teenage and young adult years insisting you were never going to get married and have kids when you saw first-hand how much pain and unhappiness it can generate.
  3. A lack of genuine friendship.  All my old college friends and work friends from my laboratory days have gone their separate ways.  Some I had to let go, because of the tensions created by mid-life (getting hit on by your male friends isn’t as flattering as you might think once you realize it’s not about you, but their flagging self-esteem).
  4. A husband who is recovering himself from binge drinking and the underlying depression and all of the drama that went along with both.
  5. Highly sensitive, emotionally intense and gifted daughters who didn’t come with instruction manuals and who had me and my husband (who both came from dysfunctional families) for parents.
  6. Being broke.   Husband and I used to make 95k together.  Our combined income from 2012 might be 6k.
  7. Mistakes from the past that I regret.  Choices I’d made, thinking that while they wouldn’t solve my original problems, at least I’d feel some momentary relief from them.  And it worked for a short while, until the piper had to be paid.

The funny thing is, I never wanted to be an angry person.  I’d always been a low-key, live-and-let-live kind and actually a very loving kind of person (who also had played my part in the dance of co-dependence – taking on a peacekeeper role a lot).  I just can see the areas of my life where being unable to communicate my needs (for safety, for deep understanding, for compassionate treatment, for the exchange of ideas, and emotional support) lead to a lot of problems in my life.

I know it’s not too late, but I already see the impact of my anger and my husband’s anger on our daughters and that’s a painful thing to me.  But I’m hoping to learn a few things from all my seeking because I still feel angry from time to time.

I can’t find adequate role models or emotional support in real life, but I find a lot through the writings I come across.

Maybe someday all this wisdom will truly become my own.

About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Anger, anxiety, Being Genuine, Complex-PTSD, Congruent Living, Eckhart Tolle, Nonviolent communication, NVC, Personal growth, PTSD triggers, Soul wounds, Thomas D'Ansembourg and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Why we are alienated from ourselves

  1. Casey says:

    I’ve got it playing right now. I love his accent!

    R.I.P. R.D.

    Thank you for sharing. 🙂


  2. minismita says:

    Hats off to you………………………it takes great courage to accept one’s life personally, let alone on a public platform. Happy that you have come a long way and shared your pain with us 🙂

  3. Minismita

    Through my writing, I organize and understand my situation and my feelings more clearly. While not exactly a confession, I keep myself accountable by presenting my weaknesses publically, taking care to skip the details at times – it’s not sympathy I’m looking for, but to present a real picture of who I am – which is a work in progress. I also share resources I have found helpful in my journey and I want to present a little bit of context.

    And, I also tend to forget what I’m up against at times. I need the reminders that I’m doing the best I can with the amount and type of challenges I face and with the amount of awareness I possess and in the absence of trust-worthy, real-world support.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    I’m happy I’m making progress too (despite some recent setbacks) !


  4. I love the lucidity of your writing!! This helped me tonight so much. I wasn’t sure when I first made this page whether it would just be a place for me to vent the terrible sadness and depression I’m feeling, but as I’ve been branching out to read posts by others, I find I don’t feel so alone. Thank you, Casey.

    • Casey says:

      Oneperfectrose –

      Thanks for the compliments on my writing. I write mainly for myself, because I want a place to record my insights in one place where they can’t get lost (you’d be surprised how many handwritten journals I misplace), and if they help others who are struggling, then I’m glad.

      No, you are not alone in this. We all carry around pain of some kind, but most of it is hidden to others, as we’d been taught to deny the negative emotions instead of being taught how to safely express the underlying needs the negative emotions signal to us.

      Believe me, I’m 42 years old and I’m just now understanding how to identify and express the underlying needs my anger and depression (when I have it) is signaling.

      Best wishes on your journey to understanding and peace,


  5. minismita says:

    Its hard to believe, but we share so much in common. I too right my journal as a way to reflect myself, what’s going on internally and the ways to improve. Its a healer when I feel trapped and help me bounce back when I am in a downward spiral.

    I too have come across some amazing writers like Paulo, Tolle, Susan Jeffers, etc. The one I enjoy the most is Andrew Matthews, who writes in a lighthearted and fun way. http://www.andrewmatthews.com

    Recently I came across David McGraw, http://www.youtube.com/user/pathwaystopeak1 and it has helped me to reach a balanced state. Do check out some of his videos, you might like 🙂

    I wish we could meet up, well maybe one day, till then loads of luv and blessings. 😀

    • Casey says:

      Minismita –

      I wish we could meet up too, I’ve been appreciating the dialogue.

      I think writing can be a double-edged sword, though, for those of us sensitive types who grapple with the ‘big questions’ in life. Sometimes my thoughts had turned dark and cynical, and traditional journal writing didn’t help much. I realized that sometimes I am better off art journaling, since it slows down my thoughts. Switching gears from left-brain analytical and criticizing internal voice to a right-brained, uplifting voice with a softer focus subdues a lot of negativity and hopelessness.

      Part of my self-care involves activities that increase relaxation, slows down my thought process and increase body-awareness, all of which in turn create a deep sense of peace and happiness (short lived though it is sometimes). Art journaling, meditation and guided meditation, craniosacral therapy and yoga all help me with these things.

      I know an added benefit to these activities also increases my emotional resilience, my adaptability to constantly changing environments (I substitute teach in many different schools many different grades (from preschool to 12th grade) with a wide range of abilities (from special needs to advanced students) and increases my clarity of thought.

      I’ll check out your links. Light-hearted and fun is good after a period of intense intellectual research.

      Have you started blogging your thoughts yet? It would be great to read, I bet.

      • minismita says:

        I second your thought. While writing or even proof reading it, I have come across so many different emotions “both negative and positive” in me, that I thought never existed. It has helped in identifying the inner conflict and making peace with it.

        I keep a doodling pad at work, when I am off the tracks or struggling to concentrate, I start doodling and I am in my balanced state again. Apart from that countryside walks, especially near reservoirs or water bodies, calms me down and charge me up like magic. Also, painting has helped me since childhood, playing with colors is so therapeutic.

        I have loads of stuff to talk and write about,
        but scared I would end up offending people 😦 so keeping it low key at the moment,
        maybe in near future.

        But glad to have met you through blogging 🙂

  6. Casey says:

    Minismita –

    Lots of people suffer severely for the same reason – fear of offending somebody – so they withhold a great deal of their feelings, needs and wants. This leads to denying the real self, which leads to great inner pain.

    The reason we hold back what we really feel is because we’ve been taught that revealing our true self (with its often intense and contradictory feelings) leads to loss of love and acceptance. It’s the social law which governs this phenomenon – and the conditioning is handed down from generation to generation.

    We can change this pattern though. Starting off tentatively and cautiously, we can reveal little bits of ourselves and see how it goes. In testing the waters, we can gain confidence in our own thoughts and feelings and our own truths.

    I love exploring color and different mediums (pencil, pen, acrylics and watercolors). It lets my inner child run free and express both silly and serious things.

    Oh, yes, I have not forgotten the power of a countryside walk for it’s medicinal powers.

    There’s been a fairly recent study done on the therapeutic benefits of walking in nature – reduction of stress and anxiety and boosts to immunity. Soon I’ll be writing a post about that.

    Click to access InTech-Nature_therapy_and_preventive_medicine.pdf

    Talk to you soon. Need to do some errands.

    All the best,


  7. ptero9 says:

    Hi Casey,
    Lovely to hear you say how important language is for articulating our deepest selves. Yes, a lack of genuine friendship seems rampant now, maybe it’s been that way throughout history, maybe we’re just driven because feeling connected is primary, like food, water and shelter. Maybe others are the missing pieces of ourselves and we’re looking for them.
    Much respect for your willingness and ability to display vulnerability.
    Peace to you and your family!

  8. Casey says:


    Thank you. I’ll be back later to talk about the “missing pieces” concept, but I wanted to say hello. Been thinking an awful lot about that lately.



  9. Casey says:

    Hi Debra,

    I was going to reply last night but I fell asleep early. I’ve been reading up pretty extensively about psychology, spirituality and philosophy. When I was a child, I pretty much had no need to feel connected to others. I mean, I probably did, underneath, but my family members made it clear I was not welcome. So I became withdrawn into my own world a lot. I connected with books. I connected with nature.

    I’m still this way. I can’t feel connected unless I have an exchange of ideas. When I worked, I had a few colleagues I could get that from. I don’t get a sense of connection when I’m with women who only talk about decorating or the latest sale or any number of trivial matters regarding what typical girls like. I can tolerate it, but it took a LONG time to be able to. Most times what women kibitz about I don’t care about. And I can’t stand the ‘man-bashing’ and the relentless gossiping about others I used to hear.

    In general, people are biologically driven to gather in clusters for safety. Together, we stand a better chance of survival than if we had to go it alone. There’s safety in numbers. However, there are some of us who actually could be okay with not having protection by the herd. Though it’s hard for me to say that for sure for me, because I have my family living in the middle of suburbia. I doubt I’d be able to go off the grid and survive.

    But I’m not surviving very well where I’m at, either. I feel choked by all the shopping malls around here. They’ve paved over much of the open land and I really long to go further away from civilization and can’t afford to. I’m growing pretty despondent of this fact.

    Are others the missing parts of ourselves? That’s possible. Plato seemed to think so with his idea of “split-aparts”. He presented his views through Aristophanes who essentially said that each human being used to be part of one soul. But that Zeus got jealous over humanity’s pride and spilt us apart and we spend our lives looking for the other half.


    If that’s too much to take in, you can watch the movie The Butcher’s Wife.

    In psychology, the people (or traits in people) we are most attracted to and repulsed by are the traits we either want to develop in ourselves or deny in ourselves.

    But, then again there is this theory, like what Erik Andrulis talks about, that we are all One, and that I am trying to get to know Myself.

    I know it may seem far-fetched, but it’s not any more unusual than what Plato suggested.

    I try to get to know people who won’t let me in, therefore, can’t get to know then at the heart level.

    My husband stopped letting me in. I stopped knowing him at the heart level. It was extremely painful to me.

    It’s getting better, I think, though.

  10. ptero9 says:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply in depth. I too, need to relate through ideas and curiousity and have always been difficult in relationships because I think I expect others to be curious and interested in the exchange and often sense that people are afraid of that and mask it by talking too much, not listening or showing curiosity, or by keeping the relationship at bay with levity and common parlance – trivia, as you say. When that happens, I just shut up, listen and don’t see a need to even respond!
    Aging has helped me to be somewhat more comfortable and after going through several years living and spending a lot of time alone, no intimate relationships, I found enough desire to seek out someone who at least enjoyed spending time in the same way that I do; walking, camping, running, enjoying a night out, playing music. Although that relationship has had many, many bumpy periods, going through a similar period of distancing between us that you spoke of, it is currently pretty darn good.
    Reading, following the thread of ideas that speak to me and have since childhood, and writing to articulate those ideas are my sanity. Writing a blog for others and finding others who share this need/desire has also become an important way for me to relate to others.
    Yes, I have enjoyed pondering Erik’s ideas for a couple of years now and he has influenced my thinking about peace/self/other in new ways. It’s hard for me to feel optimistic about humans, but I certainly don’t want to be the last one on the Peace Train either.

    • Casey says:

      You are welcome.

      Sometimes I long to be by myself. I like being a mother, but I had to learn how to be the kind of mother I wanted to be by reading books, because it’s not what was modeled for me.

      My daughters, thank goodness, had a high need to be attached to and clung to me a lot. I can honestly say that while that was so difficult at times in the early years, it was the best for me and them. They knew what they needed and didn’t let me not give it to them. I studied up a lot about attachment theory and made some conscious choices about how I wanted to care for them.

      I had a lot of bumpy times with my husband, because while we had a lot in common ground in the early years, we developed at different rates throughout our marriage. Seems to me like he’s catching up now, which is most helpful to our family.

      I’m going to be busy in the next couple of weeks as we are going to Kentucky for a world conference on gifted and talented children – not so much about the gifted and talented part, but because they focus on the whole child – the social and emotional needs and challenges and how to encourage creativity in whatever they are doing. And I’m going to be in rooms full of sensitive and articulate folks and I can’t wait to see what that will be like.

      I have a lot of packing and such to do, and I want to get back to reading your blog and commenting, as I know there were some very interesting topics there. I totally know about how writing is a sanity saver. 😉

      • ptero9 says:

        Thanks, I’ll look forward to more conversations, as time allows, of course.
        My sister, who has one wonderful daughter, pretty much did the same thing as you did, read books and developed a very close bond with my niece, but her marriage broke up pretty early on. My niece is a very bright 25 year old, who loves science and is doing graduate work at Duke in Bio-engineering. I am not only very proud of her, but really love her very much. She is so much saner than my sister and I were at her age!
        Best wishes for a great trip and conference Casey!

      • Casey says:

        Glad to hear about your niece, that’s so nice for her. It seems like your sister did a very good thing for her daughter. As far as the break up of her marriage, sometimes you do what you can, but it just doesn’t work out. There were times I didn’t think my husband and I were going to make it, but I think we both have learned a lot in the past few years.

        And yes, I’m sure we’ll talk.

        All the best,


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