Right now I’ve placed my professional self in the office chair of my companion, waiting for a new private patient. My stomach is bravely working with biff stroganoff that I bought in a cafeteria right before I came here. I sat down with my iPad and started to read some blogs, which inspired me to start typing myself. I read a lovely little excerpt from a woman’s life, with this question baked in the general text:
If you have never lost yourself, how can you ever find yourself?
It immediately got me, since it so elegantly turns around the meaning of something most people would classify as wrong. I like this small protest against the established, this tendency to surprise and give our brain something new to mull over.
To meet a new human lost in their own nightmare is always something special. It’s knowing we will have to take a journey, sometimes into unpleasant territory. It’s knowing I’ll be there, mostly being a cheerleader and as the one who really tries to see behind masks of fright, sadness or guilt. It’s a discovery, and also feeling someone’s pain with them. It’s feeling my eyes water because once again, someone did what they said they couldn’t: Go into a store when you’re sure you will faint and maybe die, telling you’re best friend what’s really going on
A life consists of different periods, and some of them can be tough. My last 5 months have been hard, and some of my Readers participated on my journey. I have endured every kind of bad weather, and some of you might have felt the drops on Your own skin. I have tried to tie the past, now and the future together, and have been searching for hope after the toughest break-up in my life. What I haven’t written so much about yet, is anger. Mostly I have been afraid, sad and felt lonely, or I’ve regretted mistakes I made in our relationship, but one week ago, I finally got the glimpses of annoyance, frustration and rightful anger.
The evening it happened I was in my bed after another evening thinking about what could have been. I so easily remember the things he told me, how I dreamt about having his children and wearing a beautiful dress for his sake. It was making me feel completely drained, because it could never be and I knew that. Then I also felt the first sparkles of irritation: Why should I go around thinking about everything the relationship meant to me when he hasn`t thought about us at all after we ended it? Why give him so much attention ? I know that if he thought about us, it was just the bad memories, so how could I make myself suffer by thinking about him all the time? There in my bed I felt the need to change this, I needed to feel stronger and more like ME. I felt it was my right to get what I dream of without pain, like it was for him. In my head I have been bowing before his feet, looking down in shame. I said to myself: ENOUGH! And the afraid, little girl, so needy, grew in my minds eye. Suddenly I was a giant, and he was just a small dot down there, that couldn`t hurt me anymore. If I wanted, I could rub the stain that he was, away, and stand taller than ever. I gave myself steel armor and a gold shield. I permitted imprtant people to stand there beside me, placing their arm on my shoulder and promising me that I was more than good enough. I thought that if he couldn’t see my good sides it is his loss, and there and then I didn’t bother how hard he tried to hurt me. I simply didn`t care anymore, and if felt so good.
We need to grow, ground ourself firmly in the earth and act like we deserve the place we inhabit . We are Our own worst enemies, when we choose to believe that rejection means you’re bad. We think the thoughts that can destory us.
The anger was welcome, and I saw it was necessary. I’m still not a 100 % over him, but I can feel how close I am getting. Sometimes I smell the roses on the other side of the fence, as if they grow inside of me. It’s knowing that people can be thorns, but you are the one who pick them up. When an electric shock spreads through you after touching an electrical fence, you knew it could happen. I don’t want to complain, but sometimes it’s okay to feel that life can be hard, and anger can protect you from being treated wrong again.
Sometimes, my life has been like living in the slum. I`ve taken baths in muddy thoughts, surrounded myself with filth and made acquaintance with infectious rats gnawing at what they found.
At times I embraced this way of life, thinking I had no choice. I invited tornado’s into our rooms, destroying the little we had left. Sometimes I didn`t even try to wash myself since normal hygiene took too much energy. At other times, though, I desperately tried to protest and do something about our situation. I tried little things, like tidying inside, walking miles for clean water or rebelled against dirty toilets filled with reminders of how bad it can get. I`ve felt strong, capable and optimistic,
until I felt the draft of air when someone shut my personal door to Narnia . I must admit I even slammed it shut myself, in moment of bitter resentment.
The emotional moments when I could see freedom shining behind that threshold, I often met with my personal Slumdog God of Guilt. He was a stern-looking fellow, who liked to point out the obvious:”I did not deserve that freedom. Could I not see that?” He told me to stay in the slum and to not dream of a better life. How could I continue over the threshold when many poor would be left behind? How could I leave when others were dying, starving and dirty? Shouldn`t I stay there to protect them? I discussed this thoroughly with my friend Shame, who worshipped got Guilt as much as me.
Sometimes, coincidences happen. I was walking through my muddy environment in feverish hunger. My inner GPS broke down, and let me to unknown territory. When my head cleared enough to register my surroundings, I discovered the most beautiful lake I´ve ever seen. Sitting solemnly on a rock, was a calm and serene man. He turned his head and looked at me with the most talkative eyes I´ve ever said. He stretched out his hand while telling me his name: The God of Compassion. The meeting changed my life. He started to follow me everywhere, no matter what I thought about it. He came into my tent, sat down with me and our bugs, put clean sheets on my soiled bed, and gave me warm cups of energy. He told me that thinking about my needs, was also thinking about others. That by turning the energy-switch from 0 to 10 too fast, my ability to help went up in flames. He also said that by punishing myself, by hating and feeling bad for all I did not do, I only made it worse.
The little girl in the slum, God Guilt and my friend Worry were sceptic to the constant presence of him everywhere we went. Our whole lives we were told that Worry and Hard work was the only way to cope. They worshipped Shame and Guilt, and would probably have built a statue of pride for them if they would have time between the constant tasks of worrying about the state of our food ration, our deadly diseases or what we could do to prevent it from killing us kill us. God Guilt always reminded us of the work left, and when the little princess tried to sit down after scrubbing our plates and souls, God Guilt and Shame came with their whips.
God Compassion kept arriving at the little princess`s tent. He let his caramel-flavored words drizzle over
them and promised that nothing would happen if we started to relax more, or think about ourselves. His deep, soothing voice said we were not egoists, and slowly, we started to listen. His words were so sweet, like mint chocolate in our mouths. We could not resist.
To our surprise, this did not lead to punishment. By having less time for God Worry, who some still followed in thick and thin, I saw that the others must have misunderstood what God Worry meant. Maybe the transmission of God´s signal get`s warbled in the slum?
Years later, when I fought my way out of the slum by doing what felt right (no matter if my still present friends Shame and Guilt told me I must think more of others), I met more people who also knew about God Compassion, and were worshipping him instead of Worry, Shame and Doubt. This did not lead to destruction or bad things for others around them. It seemed that the more they followed G. Compassion`s way of life, the more they did for others AND for themselves.
Time and again I`ve tried to show others the truth of God Compassion, but some are always too busy to listen. They have to work, think about what might go wrong, even after everything is better and they have more of what they need. They insist on telling you what`s really important: “My car made this funny sound, so what if it breaks down tomorrow?“. Panic often fill their eyes, fogging out the beauty in plain view. When I was younger, I felt like that, too, but my God of Compassion let me rest. With his soft smile and words he told me: “Everything will be okay. If you just enjoy things now, I`m sure you`ll be able to do whatever you must when the time comes”
Today, I feel like the luckiest person on earth. I feel like a princess, even if I grew up in the slum. And do you know what the best thing is? I`ve met so many fellow slum dogs at my journey. They were also princesses, kings or little queens, but didn`t always realize it, either. All of them were kind, warm and wonderful if you let them show it, no matter how dirty they were before
In the Background: Life in a Delhi Slum (thirdeyemom.com)
What is Faith without Action? (now1040.com)
The sound of broken glass
That feeling, everyone writes on twitter and instagram. It`s one word describing the essence of the unspeakable, the undescribed feelings and moods that live in their own right, without any nametags pulling them down. I got one of them right now. The clock is 07.01 in the morning, and I have been awake for a hour. I streched and curled a bit before I counted to three and flung myself out in the cold winter air. I was more tired that usual, but knew that would be history one proper breakfast later. I went upstairs, now with some semblence of clothes wrapping me, and opened the door. My little Amadeus didn`t come home yesterday, so I crossed my fingers and hoped he would start mewing in annoyance and happiness both. He wasn`t there
I left the door half-open and the lights on, even the blanket and food I put out yesterday, stayed where it was. Disappointed I turned my attention to other tasks, like putting the kettle on and checking my phone for messages. The kettle was easy enough, and usually the checking-part is too, but apparently not when tiredness still hasn`t said vaporized. I have gone through that moment several times in my mind already, so it should be pretty clear as I describe it: I lift my lovely white Iphone, so new and innocent, and am just about to grab it properly, when something goes wrong. It starts sliding out of my hand and I follow its path down to the floor while thinking «oh no» simultanusly as I try to catch it mid-air. My normal table-tennis reflexes were turned off by mr. tiredness, so I could just watch with horror as it slowly fell and fell, until it fell no more but just lied there, still. I secretly crossed my mental fingers one more time as I reached down to check for damage, hoping that like before, it did not break when it touched the floor. I had a bad feeling though, and was rewarded with my guts being right one more time: Small cracks over half its face, scarred forever.
Thats when I got «that feeling», that you only get when something valuable breaks. The intensity of it, was modulated by my fix-it thoughts, but it still lingered inside of me. Its not the first time something in my closest vicinity breaks, and even if I normally handle it with: «Well, life goes on», those episodes keep piling up, building an prison over my feeling of happiness. I know: «Dont cry over spilt milk» and I don`t, but its allowed to have this feeling, just for a little bit, before you let go and focus on what still’s there.
People are afraid of it all. Tiny little creatures crawling on the floor, rooms where space is limited, certain thoughts and triggers evoking them, and not least: Humans. How they smile while holding a dagger behind their back, how you curl yourself up for protections from their harsh words, and how you think about jumping over the edge both in happiness and sorrow.
Pain has always been an anguish for me. When I felt it, I felt it intensely , no matter if it was physical or psychological. I tried all the strategies that I had then, to strangle it: Soothing, thinking, hiding, words that promised another and better life, mechanisms of short-term survival that did their job there and then. It worked, until new Pain knocked on my door.
New days always bring with it something else, whether its pain or joy. Its full of unknown events that always surprise you, its full of twists that`s impossible to predict, and it`s also full of strong emotions, also good ones. They are the champions presenting another reason to free your nerves from their cages, so that they can touch every aspect of it with its tiny, fast fingers.
Today also hide secrets, known only to the special few: The knowledge collected from your personal narrative. Some of the best and the worst, and lot of in-betweens. It’s the kiss you had from that special one, making you dizzy and happy to be alive, it’s the first time you stumbled, but got picked up again by a stranger, gentle and caring. It’s the tears brimming over from disappointment and loss, but thanking you for their release. This pendulum swings back and forth, like a lot of things in life. Its homeostasis, not of temperature or drug-tolerance, but of feelings. It’s the principle of balance that keeps tugging us back in a new direction, never static. Almost like the universe itself. Sometimes the pulling is stronger, and the movement leads to others moving, too. It’s the boomerang coming back, with something new on its surface from where it travelled. The air we breath in is never the same as before, it changes but does it job perfectly, all the same. We humans are even more magnificent. After change, we mostly learn and are even better adapted for emotions yet to arrive. Because they will resurface and try to pull you under water, make you cry for help and struggle with panic. But remember: You won`t drown if you remember to swim the right way, and be calm while you do it.
The overhead projector is making its electric sound from above my head, spitting out black letters on a white board. The theme is affect integration in psychotherapy, the Ph.D. Project of my colleague, Nils. He’s moving to Oslo very soon, leaving us others behind in the small place where I now have worked for two years. It’s Tuesday morning, and we always have some presentation then. Last Tuesday I was in the spotlight, talking about trauma and the treatment of it.
Psychology, like other sciences, have a lot of jargon that sometimes need explaining. On of these expression is what I will write about now, which also is what Nils I talking about. Integration. It’s really not an especially pretty word, it gives associations to the sounds produced when you drag some item over a blackboard. It’s not like the pretty Italian words, rolling around in the mouth and room like it belongs there, caressing the target. But it’s not always the pretty things that matter the most, sometimes the glitter and glamour is just that, with no depth or meaning. Integration is so much more than that, when you scratch the surface its real beauty comes alive.
Two threads are not necessarily pretty themselves. One white, and one black on are just that, naked in their aloneness, longing for a partner. It’s first when they get twined together, the whiteness surrounding the dark places, that it comes alive. Think about the yin and yang. What would it be if not the other color stood by it? What would the magic scene of schindlers list, where the redness screams for attention in an otherwise colorless movie, be without the grayness? This is, as I see it, an example of integration, where the whole is more and better than its parts. It’s like making good food, the ingredient in themselves doesn’t make the mouth water, it’s the combination that gives extra flavor and meaning.
With a lot of real life problems, this also applies. It’s the people comfortable in their own skin, accepting their natural tendencies and integrating it with society, that feel complete. If a puzzle is not put together in the way it’s meant, the result won’t be right. Fitting the wrong piece into the puzzle, doesn’t work. For a human this could be inhibiting natural tendencies like joy and sadness, because the integration of preferences and logic, doesn’t combine. It’s like trying to shape someone into what you want them to be, but no matter what, the picture will not be anything else than what it was supposed to be. If forced long enough, the person will try to keep the picture together, using superglue on those pieces that doesn’t slide together naturally. It’s some integration, but not the one meant to be.
In my work I see this every day: People want to feel joy, but shame stops it from surfacing, boys want to laugh and talk, but the thoughts of somebody disliking them, abort the tendency of fun in its first trimester. It’s even more noticeable after trauma, when a lot of different roles develop that make them follow a script, often without vigor or satisfaction. It’s memories kept away, true selves locked in closed boxes and lives never lived. It always pains me to watch this in reality: The wonderful woman, who carries Everyone else’s weight in addition to her own, the man in a destructive relationship who thinks he doesn’t have the right to be happy, or the child quenching her own happiness because she doesn’t dare to laugh in a house full of gloom. The feelings, needs and tendencies, doesn’t fit into the picture someone’s trying to make, and therefore they are hidden, forgotten or forced into the wrong part, since it has to go somewhere. This is the point when the integrated system break down, where fast solutions have to be executed to compensate for the losses and keeping the organism functioning in some way. It’s when the flower shreds some petals to keep from being blown over by harsh weather, and like the bee delivering the deadly sting to protect its queen. Who of us hasn’t experienced being defensive, destruction the very same things we really longed for?
Hopefully it’s never too late. Even when a completed picture has scratches and left-overs from glue for the sake of getting everything right for the second time, the picture can still be pretty and important. Isn’t it a fact that it’s the worn and torn pics on a scrapbook page we fall for. The old photos that tell a history of a life lived? I believe in integration. In putting pieces where they belong, even when they weren’t right the first time. I think that each time we let somebody just be, whoever they are, we are helping them patch up the wrongs, and even adding the little extra that self-confident people spread without knowing it. We are all small saviors, plucking harmony and tolerance and watering others with it.
- Your Map of Reality Was Written in the Womb: Falls from Grace, Chapter One – Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and the Phenomenon of Re-Experience (apocalypseknow.wordpress.com)