Those of us who have reserved ourselves to lives of consciousness, presence, emotional intelligence and open love of humanity; I’m sure we can all agree it is a humbling experience. It is a long, arduous, and uphill battle to reach this place within your self, and even more so remain consistently in it’s sometimes painfully harsh and revealing light.
It is extremely rare that we are able to share a set of same experiences with another. Parallels are frequent, and paths even cross or join for periods of time. However, our personal journeys are all just that – personal. We share them completely with no one.
However, my hope is that in writing about our experiences on the way, and reading about the experiences of others, we can walk together in tandem for a time. While we travel our destined paths and learn how to become who we truly are, that we can share a moment of communion or two.
I hope to inspire someone who is on this journey – someone who may be stuck in a place of confusion – to find a new perspective. I hope to touch a soul who has been (or has yet to be) in situations like I have, and to feel them with me when they read.
So friends, read on! Perhaps you will discover something helpful or soothing, and perhaps even a kindred spirit in the words that follow.
In my many lessons in growth and change, I have had to almost completely deconstruct myself emotionally and rebuild multiple times. I picked up some very unhealthy patterns in my childhood and young adulthood that I had to first recognize as unhealthy, and then work very hard to break.
The unconditional love and dedication of my mother, and therapy are genuinely the two greatest external saviours in my life. Had my mother not recognized my self-destructive behaviours when she did, and force me into counselling, I can’t say that I’m sure I would have made it.
My first venture into real emotional change was when I was 15. I had developed a problem with drinking. I was angry and unpleasant most of the time. I was not coping well at all with the many issues stemming from my non-existent relationship with my father.
I wasn’t just drinking at parties any more (which almost every kid does in high school). I was coming home for lunch and having a few beers. I was filling tumblers full of whatever was in the liquor cabinet and pounding it back before dinner with my parents. I was drunk often, and my mother knew it was happening. She was very well aware of the signs. Her father was also an alcoholic, and she wasn’t about to let that continue into my adult life.
I am thankful for her presence of mind and love for me every single day.
So off to addiction counselling I went, and I was paired with Toby. She was petite, well dressed, and had a short, funky mop of thick brown hair. She was smart, and very quick to call me on my bullshit.
Immediately, on my angry surface, I did not like her. She was far too cool looking to have any REAL insight into my issues. I was convinced that she had such a different life than I did; probably from a rich family, never had to struggle, a father that actually loved her… Etc. Secretly, below the anger, I craved her approval and really wanted her to like me.
This was my first lesson into seeing past my judgement of appearances. Toby made it very clear early on that we only dealt in reality in our sessions.
She was very tolerant of my belligerence at first. She bore my snide remarks about her being clueless and not being able to understand anything I was going through with grace. She smirked slightly at my jabs at her “easy life”. She immediately let me focus all of my negative energy on her…
…and then, slowly, she forced me look at it from the outside. She showed me what ugly and terrible things I was letting my anger do to me.
She asked me hard questions that I had no answers to. She asked me why I had decided before asking her anything about herself that she had an easy life. She asked me why I hated her so much, even though I knew she was there for the express purpose of helping me. She asked me if I drank because I was so unsure about everything that I couldn’t cope with anything. She asked me if I hated my father for not seeming to love me.
She asked me if I really hated him, or her, or if I hated myself.
I remember that conversation as clear as day. I looked into her eyes and saw her pity for me. I saw that, and what was so much more than pity; it was acknowledgement, kindness, and acceptance. She was offering me the first place I ever felt safe being honest – not just with another person, but with myself.
Then tears came – suddenly and almost violently. I can’t remember ever falling apart in that way since. Heart-wrenching sobs wracked my body from head to toe. Tears streamed down my face and dripped from the end of my nose, my chin, and my earlobes. In my weakness, my body slid from the chair. I crumpled to my knees on the floor of her office, and hung my head in complete submission to the emotion of the moment.
She sat down next to me on the floor, and handed me tissues out of the box in her lap as I cried. She did not speak. She did not hug me. She just let me feel it alone, because she knew it was what I needed.
I needed to fall apart completely, so I could rebuild myself. She knew I needed to start all over again.
The sadness that owned me in that moment was the first honest emotion I had ever felt. It was awful and frightening. I was so concerned that Toby would laugh at me, or tell me I was totally crazy. She didn’t.
When the tears began to subside, and my sobbing was reduced to the silent gasps for breath that typically follow, she asked me if she could hug me. I said yes. She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed softly. She thanked me for sharing that moment with her. And then, she said something to me that I have carried with me and used every single day since then.
She said, “You will never have to be that angry girl again, if you don’t want to. You can always choose to feel the real emotions underneath. Please let me help you learn how.”
Sometimes we have to fall apart – more than once – to be allowed the opportunity to put ourselves back together in a different way.
The key to moving past those scary emotions that are often hiding underneath anger, like fear or sadness, is that we are honest with ourselves about their existence. We are consciously striving to feel all the pain that goes with them. We allow ourselves to hurt, and then to heal.