Category Archives: Psychology

Trapped in a Big Fat Trap

Very recently, I’ve realized something that I have felt for a very long time. I’m in a trap. A trap that I’ve obviously constructed with great care and precision but haven’t been able to step out of no matter how hard I work on myself. I’ve articulated this through some tune-up therapy sessions with a remarkable psychologist here in Sedona and was able to express how big this is for me. In all of my many lifetimes, the collective experiences, exhaustive nuances of emotion, endless thoughts, and activities have created a near-constant sense of claustrophobia or “stuckness” inside of me. I feel trapped. Alot. And, like any trapped animal, hmmm…well, I fight it. In fact, I often feel like I’m chewing a leg off to get free, but free of what?

So, I’ve been drilling into what this idea of being trapped means and why it seems to be coming to a head in this life now. And, believe you me, it’s coming to a serious head right now. I’ve been looking at what these ideas mean for my lovely body. I’ve been asking myself why I often carry an underlying current of anxiety and unease that is closely tied to feeling stuck. I’ve been asking if I am in fact really stuck or is this such a common refrain with me that I’ve gotten used to it and believe that I am stuck. I’ve also been able to isolate that feeling trapped is a “theme”, in most (if not all) of my lives; this feeling is not new to me at all; it’s very familiar, though it feels like it hasn’t been so sharply outlined until now.

I’ll give you an example of one of my more recent lives where I felt so incredibly trapped, I invented a way out of that life at an early age, because I just couldn’t take the pressure, pain, and confinement anymore. In the mid 1800s, I was in a convent in England. Both of my parents had died. At age 12, I was shipped off to live with the nuns in the countryside. I was unruly, loud, restless (hmmm…sensing another life theme here, too?!), disobedient, and constantly punished by the nuns for being so wild and disruptive. Eventually, the nuns grew so tired of my outbursts and having to scold me all of the time that they sent me to live out in the barn with the goats and other animals, where a mute nun named, Mary took care of me and raised me alongside the goats. Mary and the goats were the highlight of that entire lifetime. Anyway, at age 15, I was “purchased” by an older wealthy man, a total stranger, and he moved me to France where he then proceeded to rape me as soon as the carriage pulled up in front of the house. He impregnated me immediately and at age 16, I died horrifically in childbirth.

This is just one of many examples from my past of being confined, stuck, powerless, and abused. And, lest you think what happens in our past lives does not influence the present-day life, think again. It’s all in there, recorded inside of our souls, and it’s all exerting influence whether you believe in this stuff or not. It comes out. It finds a way.  And, oh, mama, is it ever coming out in my life now. In this particular life, I’ve felt:

  • Trapped in a family of angry, dysfunctional people
  • Trapped by poverty and circumstance
  • Trapped in my jobs
  • Trapped by workaholism
  • Trapped in a body that hasn’t been my ideal (until the last 20 years or so)
  • Trapped in relationship
  • Trapped by my own thoughts, feelings, and need for expression
  • Trapped by my ego
  • Trapped by my desires
  • Trapped in an existence that has long-ceased being fun
  • Trapped by societal rules, regulations, gender definitions, and codifications for behavior
  • Trapped by friendships and other people’s expectations of me
  • Trapped by my rampant anxiety
  • Trapped by religion
  • Trapped by a psychic ability that scares the livin’ crap out of me and which I greatly stifle

On and on and on….

In this life, I’ve felt huge resistance to being in yet another body, being in yet another difficult and painful incarnation. I’ve often felt chained to my psychology, bound by my emotional struggles, glued-in-place by yet another abysmal childhood, and suffocated by my intensity. Many times in this life, I’ve turned my eyes heavenward and pleaded with Source/Creator/All-That-Is to release me from this earthly trap. I’m still here. Healthy as a horse. Yes, even with over 20 lung embolisms (in both lungs) in 2012 and a clot the size of Kansas in my right leg, plus six surgeries in three weeks to treat the effects of the clots, I’m still friggen’ here. Trapped. Always caged. Always bound to the earth plane. Always suffering. And, the worst (best?) part of it: always painfully aware, awake, full-feeling, and unavoidably sober. I cannot escape this. I cannot go back to numbing myself (like in past lives). I cannot take the edges off. I cannot get relief except by walking through the fire and burning in it. And, oh, how I burn.

trap

So, why this realization and revelation now? Why is this such a strong sense in me now? What does it mean for my beautiful, long-suffering body now? What can I do about it? What does this situation need from me to shift it? How do I shift this? As you can see, my questions are copulating like bunnies and making even more questions. Maybe it’s partly due to my age. I’m 49 and rabidly menopausal. So, maybe some of these feelings are just what “women do at this time in their lives”. But, what does it all mean? Dunno yet. However, I can tell you that I have an urgency inside right now that is really strong. And, I feel trapped in my work/life situation.

The trapped thoughts/feelings are stemming from confining myself psychically, mentally, and physically. I’ve worked myself into a stupor for 30 years. I’m talking about 80+-hour weeks for 30 straight years. I’ve let life speed past me while I sat at a keyboard tapping out words for corporations and making them gobs of money while allowing myself to remain chained to their success instead of my own. I’ve not rested or relaxed or sat still. I’ve take only one formal vacation in my life (in 2010) where I left the country, but what did I do for most of the vacation? I worked in my hotel room. Work is my addiction, my distraction, my drug. Choosing “paying work” keeps me from doing my deeper self-work. It has distracted me from living in the deepest depths where I want (and don’t want) to be. It has kept me from drilling down on my “sensitivity”, my psychic ability.

Sure, I’ve gotten a crap-load of stuff done. I’m not a total slug. I have more energy than most and I have made tremendous strides on myself despite my work addiction. I’ve come a very long way, but right now, I’m feeling so, so stuck because of these commitments that I’ve made and “must see through”. Seriously, a very large part of me wants to move to a huge mountain, live in a tiny cabin, chop wood, grow vegetables, ride my Harley, work only when absolutely necessary, write my books, meditate, do yoga, and breathe. That’s it. I want to check out. I want to feel the earth, listen to the earth, be fully awake on the earth, and rest for my last 27-odd years here.

So, this week, I processed these thoughts/feelings with my awesome psychologist and he gently reminded me that “being trapped” is a thought that I am attaching to; it’s a “story” that I am identifying as reality, but it is not reality. I’ve been believing my thoughts about being trapped. So, the thoughts are the trap. Isn’t that interesting? But, the reality is: I am not trapped. I am free. I can walk away. I can change my circumstances. I can come and go. I can move. I can fly anywhere in the world, if I really want to, and I can do anything I want. What’s important is the feeling attached to the thought of being trapped. It’s what’s below the stories that I tell myself that is most important to trace and then understand. What’s the feeling? What’s below it? What’s causing the pain? Pause…pause…pause…

Sitting with it, I learned this: I feel HUGE fear and pain below the story of “being trapped”. Fear of taking true responsibility for myself, of standing up for myself, and speaking my truth. Why? Okay…go deeper…deeper…yep…right there…got it. When I stood up for myself in childhood, my mom physically and emotionally abused me. She routinely tried to destroy me over the twelve years that I lived with her and she tried in multiple ways. Other people in the past have done similar stuff to me, too. Feeling trapped is tied to this core of fear, pain, and mistrust. People sometimes hurt me when I stand up and tell them what I think, when I reveal my tender underbelly, when I get vulnerable. People have maligned and shamed my expression. People sometimes use my words against me later. People often judge and criticize me for my feelings. I’ve been hugely damaged when getting real and trusting others.

And, as an aside, like many people do, I’ve “shielded” with my body. I’ve used my body to keep people at bay, keep the world away from me, to keep people out of my tender core. My body has dutifully guarded my innards by being larger and denser. She’s been my “protector”. She’s been my insulator all of these years, my padding against the weapons people have waved at me and used on me. How I love my body for protecting me and doing exactly what I needed from her and couldn’t even openly articulate. I have the best body on this planet. I know it. She’s the best one.

Anyway, on the outside, I know that I want to stand up for myself because it means greater clarity and greater expansion as a consciousness, but when I do stand up for myself, I get stomped. So, inside is a huge feeling of being unable to stand up (trapped) to clear the way for my expansion because that comes with huge pain, familiar pain, unwanted pain. There. That’s it. This is all a natural reaction to past experiences and damage. I can identify with the thoughts that are a lie or I can go deeper and unearth what’s below the thoughts, which is the truth. The feelings are the truth. My feelings are here for a very good reason; they make perfect sense. The feelings never lie.The feelings are the path through the darkness.

Now, my real work comes. What to do with all of this? How to “act” in integrity and clarity around this revelation? How to invite understanding and communication with myself and others on this. How to heal this? I’m going to continue looking at it and going below the surface of the thoughts. For now, that is enough. When I can, I’m going to speak my truth to others and regardless of their reactions, I’m going to know that it’s enough for me to have spoken my truth. They do not have to accept me or my expression. They do not have to validate me. I do. I’m opening the trap and stepping from it. I’m walking into the unknown, into the soft air, into the arms of the mountain. I’m freeing myself.

Advertisements

Step Away from the Body!

Sometimes…you just have to get away. Peel out of there like a shot. Bail. Abandon ship.

There are moments when it’s nearly impossible to be in the body, to stay with the body. I’ve found that this usually occurs in times of intense feeling, trauma, anxiety, or fatigue. If you’re anything like me, your feelings are massive, earth-shaking, and, well, bigger than the universe. Feelings are messy, deranged, reckless, momentous, and impossible to contain. Our feelings are so big that we’re often afraid of them and sometimes so raw that it feels like they’ll choke us (or at least, do tissue damage). Damn emotions. 😉

Whenever something gets too close, hurts too much, or feels too big or confusing, I bail on my body. This is called disassociation; it’s pretty common in people who have been abused. I do it subconsciously, of course, and it happens so fast that I can’t stop it. Most of us disassociate to some degree. When you daydream, that’s disassociation. When you drum, you enter a disassociated state. When we trance while listening to music, deeply relax, or even when some of us do yoga, that’s a type of disassociation. But, some of us disassociate dozens of times per day (or more) to avoid feelings. Some of us live more “out” than “in”. I lived more out of my body than in my body for decades.

For the longest time, I didn’t know that I was employing this type of coping mechanism. I didn’t even know what it was until I went through therapy. Analysis revealed to me that when the sh*t goes down, I leave my body effortlessly and instantly. My spirit vacates. Again, for years, I did this without realizing it. And, it was a real process to identify my penchant for disassociation.

stars_unsplash

Unsplash art is free and fabulous; check ’em; http://www.unsplash.com

I was in my second year of high school and going crazy. Years of living with abusive parents (four of them between both sides of the fam) and siblings (two of them between both sides), plus gobs of other physical and emotional trauma, had literally brought me to the edge of sanity. I was a complete and utter wreck. I was anorexic/bulimic and torridly addicted to cigarettes (1.5 packs) and caffeine (1200 milligrams) per day. I ate one meal per week. My life was imploding all of the time, but, hey, I looked competent. I acted brave. I was thin and beautiful. People thought I was well.

At the end of my Sophomore year in HS, I was trying to move out of my dad’s insane household and struggling to pay for food, school supplies, clothes, and the bare essentials. I was working under-the table at a video store and putting in as many hours as I could get, in addition to going to school. So, there was intense pressure in my life, intense pain, and heaps of childhood damage that I was doing my best to hold down and avoid. It was a truly awful time. And, being in high school, with all of its pressures and torment, was the last thing I needed or wanted. But, of course, I went to school every day, because if I hadn’t, my dad, (read: bad-ass cop/investigator), would find me and drag me back into the hell from which I had escaped. He warned me that he would. I knew he would. So I toed the line, stayed in school, did my time.

“Doing my time” included a stint of living in my car, which was preferable to actually going back and living with the damn-family. Yep, it was pretty bad. But, my ego had me convinced that I was fine. What other 16-year-old lives on their own? I didn’t need any help. I just needed to stay away from my crazy family and work harder, that was all. This was the stuff my ego was routinely telling me and since I was rarely ever in my body, it was easy to believe my ego, easy to believe that I had things under control.

In talking with an older friend of mine one day (who was a regular at the video store where I worked), I let some of the “crazy” out. I admitted that my childhood had been pretty abysmal and I was often so depressed that I had trouble getting out of bed. He suggested that I call a therapist with whom he had worked and gotten some help.  At first, I balked because “everyone has families like mine, right?” He assured me that no, what I suffered through was actually far worse than what many people go through; it had damaged me; I clearly needed help. His words burned me. They did. I felt them pinging somewhere deep inside of my body as he spoke them, and I knew he was right.

I called the shrink soon after, made an appointment, and in the consult with the doctor, I begged her to help me. I offered to pay her $10 per week for our sessions, because it was all I had. I ended up going to her for three years. And, despite the fact that my therapist tried really hard to turn me into a Christian (a story for another post), the therapeutic process actually saved my life. In my sessions, I finally caught up with the damage that had been done to me. I saw and re-experienced, in garish detail, the abuse, the trauma, the heartbreak, the devastation, the agony. I crawled through the dark woods of myself over and over and got lost inside of those woods many times and sometimes for days on end.

I learned about disassociation and how I had used it exclusively to avoid my feelings. I learned when I do it, how to catch myself doing it, and how to stay in my body (or at least, how to return to it faster and catch some of the feelings that I was trying to avoid). And, while therapy made me feel like sh*t, often, it also began to work in subtle ways, ways that I couldn’t articulate until much later. I learned how to descend into the body and hold the feelings that I was running away from. This work was harrowing, painful, awful, and at the same time, illuminating and beautiful. Analysis helped me so much. I loved and hated it. But, I did the work. I kept going.

Truthfully, even now, it’s a daily struggle to stay present and descend into the depths of my body versus pop out and retreat to my mind or somewhere “out there”. Sometimes, it’s such a chore to dig in on my feelings, trace them to the thoughts I was thinking, ask questions, wait for the answers, and not run away from my emotions. Sometimes, I just can’t do it. I have to leave. And, I’ll be honest, I like bailing. I like being “out there”. It’s safer. There are fewer feelings “out there”. But, I’ve learned that it’s not always helpful to bail.

While disassociation is a coping mechanism that serves a purpose, is necessary, and even arguably “natural” for human beings, when we do it too much, it can keep us from healing our inner wounds and fully living. It also cements a less-than-healthy relationship to the body because you’re not fully feeling the body or living in the nuances of experience from the body. You know what I mean. We all struggle with body image issues. We all reject our bodies sometimes. I had to learn how to dig in versus bail out and I had to learn how to  walk into my wounds. When I did that regularly, when I did the work, huge transformation happened for me.

So, tell me about your experience. Do you disassociate? How does that feel for you? What is your journey with it? Have you come up with some ways to manage your departures? Tell me about it in your comments. Let’s talk.