Monday, September 22, 2014

This is a biggie...

Warning: This blogpost is a huge breakthrough. Possibly explaining many of the blogposts that came before it!

In working with the Sage Shrink, I mentioned some physical reactions that I have (such as pulling up in to myself or literally curling up and making myself appear physically smaller) when I’m feeling threatened (read: when someone verbally attacks me or I feel I may be unworthy).  When this happens, I can physically feel it in my chest - like a weight that settles in below my sternum, above my heart.  I’ve said for years that I feel my feelings very intensly, but what I was trying to say is that I feel them very physically. The Sage Shrink informed me that this is called a ‘trauma response’.

She went on to explain (I’m paraphrasing, so don’t take this as the proverbial psychology bible) that a trauma response is basically an adaptive, protective reaction that I created as a child to help shield me from what was happening (read: verbally attacks).  Essentially, I physically shrink up (close my arms over my chest or pull my knees) and internally I shrink up too (telling myself I'm not good enough, not a good person, not worthy etc.) Because when someone is attacking you, if you are submissive, it usually stops the attack. So as a young child, I developed a protective response to shrink up and try to get the attack to stop.  In this case, that response is shame.

As a result, anytime it is triggered, this feeling sets in to my chest. The Sage Shrink referred to it as a 'wet blanket' because it is a protective covering but it feels like gloom. When I have that feeling, the whole shame spiral starts. It literally takes over, frontal lobe shuts down, etc because it is protecting me. And while it may have helped when I was little, I no longer need the protection but I never learned to disassociated the ‘trauma response’ and resulting shame from the situation at hand.

So many times I’ve told my friends that “I really feel my feelings” and they said “Yeah, me too, everyone does” - it turns out not to be the case.  This is less of an emotion as it is a e response that was creatively developed as a way to protect myself, which manifests itself as shame.

This is so huge in my life for a few reasons:
1) I spent my life fighting this ‘feeling’, this weight in my chest. Although Pema and every other sage says sit with uncomfortable feelings, let it flow through you, let it go - this isn’t a real - as compared to dating anxiety which I highly recommend sitting through - it doesn’t just go away because I want it to - it leaves once the trigger is gone and the response let's up.

I've HATED this feeling all of my life. I used to call it my monster inside. I thought the shame and the stories were part of me - that I was unworthy because I felt bad inside. But it's not a monster!  It's a shield! I made it to protect myself. So now I can (almost) embrace it and make it warm around the edges because I know it is there to protect me, not some awful part of me that I can't get rid of.

2)  I used to think that the creative, engaged, passionate part of me was 30% of me and that this awful monster part was the other 70%. But since the awful monster part is really just a protective reaction, that means that true me, my true nature - is just that creative, engaged, passionate part. There is no monster here!  I’m not broken inside.

My life makes soooo much more sense now.  I don't know why it was never caught except that I never mentioned the physical side of it until now and that's when she started stringing it together.

And guess how you address it? Mindfulness! And compassion!  I'm sure it will be some work to learn to recognize the triggers and response and not let it take over, but that will be a lot easier than living with it and thinking I'm unworthy person 70% of the time.

I feel free!!  And you know what the overarching feeling is of finding out who you really are? It is like falling in love. The more I learn about myself, the more I love it.  I just needed this block identified as not me. For 35 years I thought it was part of my true nature, if I felt unworthy inside then I must be unworthy. And here is was just a shield, not the true me.

I am so excited to find out what comes next. To see what I can do when I don’t have this weight on me anymore.

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