My current practice: Sharing my process and feelings while I still feel vulnerable.
I avoid conflict. I take complete responsibility for processing my own emotions. I value my alone time enormously. I don’t like to ask for help. I need to know how I feel before I can share it with anyone else.
The total sum of these qualities means that, when any kind of trigger or bubble of fear/anxiety/strong emotion arises, I retreat. I go within myself to fully process the feeling and return to a place where I feel safe and grounded before I even bring my inner turmoil to anyone’s attention, which can be anywhere from 2 minutes to days after the fact.
I don’t think that I am unique in my behavior. Humans make foolish decisions when we’re afraid, and we don’t like to make ourselves more vulnerable while we already feel compromised. For most people, however, I imagine that this takes the form of stuffing down their feelings and never looking at them until they explode. For me, it means that I go quiet until I have thought through it all and can express myself clearly.
I exhibit this behavior pretty much exclusively in relationship. I didn’t realize that this was the case until the last guy I dated expressed some frustration that I wasn’t sharing my feelings in the moment. When I reflected on this with a medicine sister, she replied with astonishment that I am one of the best she knows at doing this in the context of healing work. Immediacy, perfect clarity and ease of expression come to me effortlessly when working with clients and anyone else in my life, but as soon as I have to practice this with a partner, fear wins.
I decided that I would like to cultivate that skill of immediacy and vulnerability in my relationship dynamics. It feels important to practice this valuable tool, even though it scares the crap out of me.
And so, I lovingly devote myself to sharing my crippling fears, my debilitating anxieties, my bursts of terror and my spirals of shame while I am feeling them at the time. I am currently exploring a new relationship with a wonderful man who has very compassionately witnessed my moments of fierce emotion, listened to my feelings and held me in a state of ease and grace as I fumble my way back to equanimity.
I am definitely improving at this skill. The presence and peace with which I am met in these tumultuous moments have allowed me to bring these dark, twisting anxieties to the light to discover that perhaps they are less unlovable than I imagined. I certainly process these feelings much more quickly than I used to, but I suppose that makes sense. Trying to hold your own safe container while simultaneously addressing whatever emotional imp needs soothing in the moment takes some significant energetic juggling.
I love doing the things that scare me. I experienced one moment in particular last week that literally rendered me speechless out of sheer emotion: terror, shame, grief, trauma and despair all coursing through my chest in equal measure. And even though it felt like the most gut-wrenching thing in the world, I collected my breath and forced myself to speak it aloud. I noticed with some detached fascination as I did so that words could hold so much power and potential for healing. Witnessing myself in my terror and pushing through what feels like some form of death, then discovering that I still draw breath on the other side of the experience, is an intoxicating super power. Maybe this is what danger junkies feel when they risk life and limb. Maybe I’m a danger junkie of the heart and soul.
Examining those beliefs that we all have—the ones that shriek “No one would love me if they knew!” fascinates me beyond measure.
What terrors and anxieties hold you fast in their grip? What fears do you clutch so tightly to your chest that they rot away at your heart?
Are you ready to speak them aloud so you can begin to loosen their hold on you?
From one Danger Junkie of the Soul to another, I’ve got you. Let’s do this.