What Haunts You?

TheCrowding

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Every now and then a loud groan, a heavy sigh or an exclamation of exasperation will escape my lips. Which is fine as long as I am alone, but when this happens in the company of others… it can be quite awkward.

They might take it personally, and once someone takes something personally, nothing I say will sooth their ruffled feathers.

How do I explain to them that this ejaculation had nothing to do with them or the present moment, that is was just one of the ghosts which haunt me saying Boo! and me replying with an Oh-Not-You!

I used to try to cover my tracks and hide my sudden shame with bluff and bluster which invariably created a social faux-pas mess. I have since learned that in this particular instance, honesty is the best policy.

“My mind just coughed up an old memory and it’s one of those which makes me groan, sigh, ejaculate with despair,” I say with enough sheepishness to act as an apology for the rude interruption, “you know, one of those embarrassing moments where you’re the centre of unwanted attention, or at least that’s how it felt at the time, and you wanted a hole to open up beneath you and swallow you up… kind of like right now.”

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WellOfStair

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Then I will, if need be, relate the embarrassing incident or an embarrassing incident, depending on whether the one I recalled suddenly is one which I want to share or not, and whether it is appropriate to relate to the present company.

The one where I peed (one of those really long pees which creates a giant puddle if not placed in a toilet bowl rather than a short and almost nothing came out one which you could do in public and no one would probably notice unless it stains your pants) in the middle of History (or was it Geography?) class when I was six is my go-to embarrassing incident to share, as it is quite amusing, so people can chuckle at it, at me, (and chuckling relaxes them, chuckling at me gives them a comforting stroke which assures them that whatever I did wasn’t personal) and it is also the stuff of common nightmares (being naked, exposed, embarrassed in public), so most people understand that recalling this would cause a random vocal reaction.

That incident, when I recall it out of the blue, usually elicits a random laugh and a warm feeling (not because of pee being warm), because when that happened those around me, my teacher and the other pupils, were rather lovely about it all and it actually created a bonding moment where I felt loved, which was rather nice as this was an unusual experience for me.

For the most part, if I’m in familiar company, one of my ejaculations doesn’t need explaining. People who know me think I’m weird and weirdos do stuff like that. I’m not weird at all, I’m perfectly normal (Did mommy & daddy neglect to mention that you are a freak? ), but… sometimes allowing misperceptions to occur and to continue to occur is useful.

External misperceptions can haunt us, and can sometimes do so very painfully and scarily. Others not seeing us as we are, or at least as we think we are, can cause us to behave as though we are attempting to exorcise a ghost.

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“A woman stuck in this type of dynamic is frequently struggling with low self-esteem from experiences in her own upbringing. Her husband’s stone-faced response to her emotions throws her into attachment panic, the same as it does for babies whose mothers look at them without expression.

The Crazy Wife wonders if there is anyone listening to her at all when she talks to her husband. She feels alone, yet, since he is physically there, she cannot make sense of why she feels so lonely.

How does Mr. Perfect turn out so perfect? Many times men grow up in an atmosphere that condemns emotional expression. Boys are told not to cry and to suck it up when they feel hurt. Many households are fairly devoid of emotional expression, something that the children don’t realize, and may never realize as adults if they don’t look closely at their upbringing.

Men raised this way often gravitate toward women on the highly emotional end of the spectrum, whom they originally, during dating, find fascinating and intense. These women, for their part, initially find less emotional men to be stable and impressive. They admire their emotionally restrained partners initially for their confidence and ability to handle themselves well in most situations.

Yet, over time, both partners start to feel misunderstood by each other. They become polarized, where the Crazy Wife acts increasingly “crazy” in her attempts to get some sort of a “human” reaction out of her husband, and Mr. Perfect acts increasingly perfect, never sharing any weakness or vulnerability of his own. He becomes even more detached over time, as he grows increasingly scared of how out of control his wife seems.”

Couples You Meet in Counseling: Mr. Perfect and His Crazy Wife by Samantha Rodman, PhD

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However dealing with external misperceptions, our own and those of others, isn’t as deeply haunting as trying to deal with inner misperceptions.

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“I feel compelled to add to the litany of responses in this media wave. Having studied the insidious effects on adult children of narcissistic parents for twenty years, as well as doing clinical treatment, it is obvious to me that the primary missing piece is the ability to parent with empathy. Adult children raised by narcissistic parents receive strong messages that they are valued for what they do, rather than for who they are. They grow up with a “not good enough” message, doubt their own inner voice, and struggle with developing a solid sense of self. These effects have shown up repeatedly in my research related to “engulfing” or “ignoring” narcissistic parenting.

The little person inside the child is not emotionally tuned into, and the narcissistic parent cannot parent with empathy and understanding. Therefore, the child is not known well to the parent or themselves. The child spends a lifetime trying to gain the love, acceptance and approval of the parent and is not encouraged to find out who they are and what they are about, including their own innate talents, desires, creative visions and wishes. Adult children raised by narcissistic parents lose themselves while trying to gain love from parents who don’t have the capacity to give unconditional love and empathy. Their actions and behaviors are judged on how it reflects on the parent, and is all about the parent, rather than the child.

The entitlement issue in our youth is a problem. But, I believe it is caused from lack of attention to the emotional needs of the child and truly knowing how the child feels as well as validating and acknowledging those feelings.”

Tiger Mom and Narcissism: “My kid the soccer player” – who is that for? by Karyl McBride, Ph.D. in The Legacy of Distorted Love

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Because inner misperceptions shape our world and can make it a harrowing haunted house in which we live. The shadows of those beliefs, views, visions, lurk on every corner whether it is well-lit or not.

For instance, if like me you are haunted by the ghost of never-being-good-enough (as in the above excerpt and which is a rather common ghost, but being common doesn’t make matters better at all, in fact it often makes things worse), those chains will rattle at the slightest thing you say or do. A drop shadow highlighting your words with darkness. A chill tautening your muscles when you move. A claw grasping your heart and squeezing it. Self-expression becomes a gauntlet which you can’t run because you are paralysed by fear. A big fat ball of fear which gobbles you up…. kind of like that hole we sometimes wish would open up beneath us when we’ve said or done something that has caused us to feel ashamed of being alive.

Some of the ghosts which haunt us do not belong to us alone, they have been inherited perhaps even passed down like an heirloom from generation to generation with no end in sight.

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12th house - the astrology place

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A wound which never heals. Or a wound seeking to be healed which is why it keeps getting passed along from person to person like a hot potato or an unopened parcel in a sinister child’s game which is not just played by children.

On and on it goes, where it stops nobody knows.

It is so much easier to spot the ghosts which haunt others. To see what is wrong with them, what their problem is. And it is so much harder to look at ourselves and what haunts us, what is wrong with us, what our problem is. And even trickier to make the connection between what we identify in others and what is within us. Is what we see in others a ghost of what we refuse to see in ourselves.

The most common reason why we can easily spot what’s up with someone else is because it exists within us. This is the flip side, the inner workings of that much vaunted trait known as Empathy.

People often find empathising difficult when they have nothing in common with another person. It is a challenge to feel what someone else is feeling, to see what they are seeing, if you don’t feel it and see it yourself, have never felt it or seen it yourself. And if you view this other person as someone bad in some way, then you will resist ever feeling or seeing as they do. Your empathy does not extend that far and becomes a lack of empathy.

A lack of empathy can exist even in those who are very empathic too. In fact those that are very empathic need to learn when to switch it off for everyone’s sake. Your lack of boundaries may be invading the boundaries of others, and it hurts them as much as it hurts you.

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Empathy boundaries

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Some of what happens with empathy is sympathetic ventriloquism. We project what we feel and see into others, whether they feel or see it or not, and we feel, see and talk for them… they have become a puppet for us, perhaps as the only way for us to express what we feel, see and want to say but can’t do it through ourselves so we do it through them.

When we put our words, feelings and selves into the mouths of others, their words may reflect the ghosts which haunt us. We hear criticism, complaints, and gaslighting, where there is none… except for what we are doing to ourselves through another. Yet we blame the other, it’s them doing this to us. The evil, the monster, the demon, the villain, lies and lies outside, on the outside of us within someone else. We are all good and they are all bad. And we fight this outside and keep our inner ghosts safe, never to be seen, felt or heard for what they truly are. Which is exactly what that which haunts us likes. That way it will forever be within us and we will be its willing prisoner of fear.

As long as we are kept busy fighting the monsters which live outside of us, the monsters which live inside of us will be safe from the gaze of our eyes. Our eyes always kept averted, diverted. Don’t face the fear inside, face it on the outside and turn it into a quest to fight what is on the inside on the outside of others (just don’t look within them or you might realise that they are not who you thought they were and that you have been misperceiving them due to inner misperceptions within you).

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mental illness by Susie CambellIllustration by Susie Cambell via 21 Comics That Capture The Frustrations Of Depression

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Perhaps I should explain where all of this is coming from before you take it personally and I will have to distract you with a humorous anecdote about myself so that you can laugh at me and find comfort in that.

I was exploring the 12th house in astrology and, as astrology always does, when I use it the way that I use it, I found myself facing that which haunts me inside. The hidden enemies which lead me to believe that the real enemies lie outside of me when in actual fact they lie inside of me. That’s what I was doing, and this post came out of that… I am always talking to myself in my posts, even when I use ‘you’.

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BeyondTheDoor

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So… What haunts you? What does your haunted inner house look like and who inhabits it? Is it empty? Is it crowded? Is it silent or noisy? How many of its rooms have you explored and how many ghosts have you taken the time to get to know… until they fade away, able to rest in peace at last?