Hi, Lovely Human and all of my amazing friends and contacts,
There is a lot that is challenging, disturbing and frightening right now in the world around us.
For some of us this shakes us up and makes everything worse.
For others, the overt violence and pain in the news matches the threat and distress we were feeling in our bodies all along, and sometimes matches – or at least parallels – the actual threat that we or people we care about live with all the time. That might exaggerate our distress or it might paradoxically make us a little more comfortable.
I hope that you are navigating well and that you and your family members are healthy and safe.
I know I find myself asking these questions in relation to the Russian invasion into Ukraine and to the poverty, racism and inequity that shows up in so many ways in our US culture.
“Am I doing enough?”
“Am I making a difference?”
“What do I need?”
“Is it ok to be focusing on what I need when there is so much need all around me?”
These questions interact with the nagging questions, thoughts and feelings that my developmental trauma history planted in me:
“I know there’s something I’m supposed to be doing that I’m not doing.”
“Who am I failing today?”
“It’s just all too much.”
“But I have to push on and keep performing the best I can.”
“Am I an utter failure or just a mediocre failure?”
“Am I allowed to feel good or have hope when I am clearly not living up to my intentions?”
My own trauma shadows dance with the shadows from current events and everything seems muddled and confused. Do I even know who am I and the basics of what I am meant to be doing in this life?
For me, this adds up to another reminder to do self-practices, like the “I am who also” practice:
I invite you to visit my blog or my Instagram feed (links below) and pick out a self-practice or two and just try them. There has not been much activity for the past several months but there’s a lot there from earlier.
Shortly after my last newsletter went out in December, I contracted Covid for the second time. I am more or less recovered from that infection but I am still persistently and unreasonably tired. I’m doing my best to balance activity and rest and I’m pursuing various avenues of diagnosis and treatment for the fatigue.
I woke up a couple of mornings ago with an insight about anger that unfolded from my dreaming. The message I took from the dream was this: “My anger needs to be balanced and in the right place.”
Like many people who experienced developmental trauma, I have a habit of suppressing my anger, of not even allowing myself to know that I am angry.
Angry, annoyed, irritated, impatient, frustrated. I block myself from having those feelings.
And this folds into my relationship with demands. My body-mind system believes that everybody is placing demands on me all the time. I feel the pressure of expectations from others that I know are either exaggerated or not even there at all. But I still feel the pressure and it tends to live just under the surface, so I don’t know why but I know I feel stressed and ill-at-ease.
With all of those unreasonable demands on me, of course I feel angry!
Obviously I don’t want to be angry at the people I care about, support, and work with. Plus I’m aware that these demands that I’m feeling are not actually real.
If you click on this button it will take you to a recording of the little song I sing to myself to help my body remember this:
What to do with this? The people in my life in general are generous, patient, forgiving, flexible and supportive. They are not perfect but they are pretty great. But I feel like everyone is making demands on me. And I know that I feel angry about those demands and that I hide that anger from myself because I don’t want to be a terrible awful bad angry person.
I used to believe that I just didn’t have anger. “I’m a superior enlightened being with no anger, only love and generosity.” That’s how committed I was to hiding these feelings.
I need to give myself permission to feel anger, even if its basis is bogus, so I don’t have to keep suppressing those feelings and thus suppressing my life force.
Because there are deeper stories that are legit.
There are plenty of totally valid reasons for me to feel anger: violations, insults and abandonments that happened when I was young and helpless. Ultimately I want to connect with that deeper anger in a safe way. Making space for the anger that is closer to the surface and not reality-based (without actively buying into the content of the anger) is a healthy step toward making space for the deeper anger that is reality-based.
Which brings us back to those demands.
That is the cycle that I have to break. You may have the same cycle or a different flavor of cycle.
And just to point out that this is not a one-time process, where I find the false belief and cycle of thoughts and behaviors, I break it down and now I am free of that pattern. It doesn’t work like that.
Again using myself as an example, I remember about 15 years ago that whenever I would sit down in a group meeting or yoga class, I felt like I was being watched and judged for where I sat, who I sat next to, how much I did or did not conform to the activities that were going on in the class or group. I felt constantly on the spot.
It’s not like that at all anymore. These days I’m fairly comfortable in groups. I have permission to be who I am and to be different from other people.
So I’ve come a long way in terms of the level of demand that I feel. The pattern is still there, and I’m cycling through it at a deeper level now.
I wrote the bulk of this newsletter a week ago, and I want to share with you a practice I’ve been doing during the intervening week to work with my own anger.
I’ve been gently inviting myself to scan my bodymind for hints of anger, and then to ask the anger what it has to say.
When I hear some words, I write them down on an index card.
The once or a few times throughout the day, I pick a card, read the message (silently or out loud), and invite myself to feel what that feels like in my body-mind-energy system and self.
I’m not trying to dive deep, I’m not trying to find some sort of profound and transformational healing moment here. Note that I’m not diminishing the value of those life-changing healing moments. I have experienced that sort of amazing shift sometimes in past work I’ve done in groups and with facilitators. But that’s not what this is.
With this practice, I’m seeking to gently soften the protective barrier between me and feeling anger. I touch the anger a little bit, I let it run through my body, and I get on with my day.
My body discovers that it’s possible to feel anger without any punishment or backlash.
Gradually that should allow my fierce unconscious defense against feeling my anger to become smaller and to eventually crumble away.
If this feels interesting to you, I invite you to try it out for yourself. The most important ingredients are curiosity, kindness, patience, and forgiveness.
Much love to you through this chaotic and demanding time.
Love to your love, love to your fear, love to your anger, love to your hope.