Revealing: Where The Wild Things Are

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I've been on an odyssey of self discovery lately.  Some parts of the journey have been beautiful and enlightening, and some have been equal parts messy and terrifying. 

Here's what I'm learning: 

Abandonment is a huge trigger for me. 

It runs so deep you guys. 

Are we all afraid of being left behind? 

Also, I've learned that feeling unseen, unheard, or misunderstood makes me intensely angry, even to the point of rage.  

Rage scares me. 

Rage has always been a place I've avoided because it seems so WHITE HOT and... 

DANGEROUS.

But it can also be transformative. 

That is if you allow yourself to get curious about what's beneath...

Rage (often called fury or frenzy) is a feeling of intense, violent, or growing anger. It is sometimes associated with the fight-or-flight response, and is often activated in response to being in the presence of a threat. The phrase “thrown into a fit of rage” expresses the immediate nature of rage that occurs from extended exposure to a threat. If left unchecked, rage may lead to violence against the threat.

and then later...

Cases in which rage is exhibited may directly be related to cognitive dissonance in relation to an individual’s ability to manage the terror associated with death and dying..

Ahh... cognitive dissonance,  terror of death and dying. There it is.  

Recently we experienced a health scare in my home, and while everyone is ok, and it ended by being the best case scenario for an outcome, it still sent me whirling down a dark and ugly rabbit hole where my monsters live.

I found myself going through this strange cycle as I processed. 

First I was calm and concerned about the person I love.  Then, grateful.

"WHEW, that was a close one!" 

and then, "We have so much to be thankful for.."

A day later, I'm feeling a bit anxious and withdrawn, then I noticed that I was in fight or flight. 

"What the heck? How could we not have seen that coming, and what if it was worse, and..... ?"

Then the rage visited me, like a tsunami, and suddenly the person I love the most , who just narrowly escaped something that could have been horrible, was suddenly the object of my rage. 

Where was it coming from? 

Why was I so angry? 

Monsters.

I remember them well.  They lived in my bedroom at night and started to visit me when my life became confusing and scary. 

I recall that they were linked to all the thoughts I had about myself, the things that were happening to me, and when I considered losing or disappointing the people I loved most in all the world. 

The monsters became the faces of each new fear and before long, there were too many to count. 

After hysterically waking my parents night after night, my fight or flight fully activated, they became exhausted. Their way of finally dealing with it, was to lock their bedroom door.

I'll never forget the night I ran through the dark hallway like a bolt of lightening, only to splat flatly against their unyielding door while scrambling frantically to turn the uncompromising knob. I could hear my dad state firmly from behind the door; 

"ENOUGH! GET TO BED!"

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and then I knew for sure.. 

No one is coming for me. 

No one would save me. 

No one would hear my cries.

This must have gone on for quite some time because I recall developing coping strategies.

For example I had a strict policy for using the loo after dark. I would carefully adhere to this protocol as a prudent matter of safety.  If I had to pee at an ungodly hour, then I had to L-E-A-P from the bed to as close to the bathroom door as possible because then I could simply step on the tile because monsters can't work with tile, they dissolve instantly. My brother told me. 

I shudder to think what would have happened had I not known this critical fact.

IF, and only IF,  I managed to attend to my business without incident, I would then have to make the trek back. Obviously, I would need a running start to L-E-A-P back into the bed and burrow myself under the covers as quickly as possible, and then I would need to squeeze my eyes shut immediately while saying three times:

You can not see me, I am invisible. 
You can not see me, I am invisible.
You can not see me, I am invisible. 

It was a process to be sure.

As time went on, the monsters escalated, and seemed more threatening then ever, and no matter what I would do to try to sleep at night, they would bump and thump and grind their teeth and smack their lips, making terrifying and disgusting sounds. The circles under my eyes resembled the bruises on the bananas I peeled for my morning cereal, and Miss. Borrowski sent a note home to my parents to let them know that I had been falling asleep in class.

My mother tutted at me, and my father scowled as he folded the pink paper, referring to my night terrors as "utter nonsense". 

I became desperate to do something about it and knew that I needed to employ a bold new strategy. I found it quite by accident that night while lying in bed as a deep smoldering shame began to arise while thinking about my parents disappointment in me. 

I was tired of this. I was being a stupid baby! I was dumb for letting this keep me up at night and an idiot for letting everyone see how scared I was. 

This was going to stop. 

I sat up with gritted teeth and hissed my ferociousness to the monsters who lurked in the darkness of my room. 

"SHAME ON YOU FOR BEING SO MEAN!"

"PICK ON SOMEONE YOUR OWN SIZE!!" 

"YOU ARE AN UGLY BUNCH OF BULLIES AND YOU DON"T SCARE ME ANYMORE!!" 

I knew then, that I needed to show them that I meant it, so from then on, I walked deliberately to the bathroom completely disregarding the rules of engagement they had forced me to create. 

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I snarled at them over my shoulder: 

"I DARE YOU TO TRY IT!"

My heart would beat it's loud whooshing in my ears while I feigned boredom at them so as not to arouse suspicion. 

Never let them see you sweat. 

This anger tactic seemed far more effective in controlling my monsters, and eventually I would fall asleep believing that I had created a fortress of powerful explosive energy around myself. 

The Wisdom here
is that YOU have to be more ferocious
than the MONSTERS themselves,
to make them stop. 

Fast forward, and after my fit of rage the other day, it occurred to me that all these years later, I've been employing the same strategy.  

When I feel betrayed, invalidated, locked out, terrified, ... I lean into rage as a way of coping with my deep fear of being abandoned, left alone, or feeling inadequate. 

In some ways, the health event provoked the perfect storm of opportunity to go deeper into My Revelation Project, to see my reaction more clearly.

Anger and rage has become the mask I wear for the situations that terrify me or threaten my feelings of safety.  Unconsciously,  I've been baring my teeth to the darkness, to keep the monsters away. Except that I'm not a child anymore,  and these rituals of self preservation no longer serve, they only keep me from the truth of what's really happening: there are things I can't control, and this is scary.

These days, my monsters, while still hidden in the shadows, seem less threatening overall. That is, until I'm triggered by some deep, unconscious fear that's still rooted in my past.  The confusion comes from having to reach back through all those layers to reveal the true source of my upset.

It's surprising to me that there in the center of all of the swirling confusion, rage, & chaos is a very frightened and vulnerable little girl, standing barefoot, in a cotton nightgown, right where I left her.

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We don't realize the moments we toss our own selves out of the garden of belonging to ourselves, but we do it.  Usually based on an experience that brings us shame, or a sense of powerlessness.  We begin to loath ourselves for not being strong, brave, smart, worthy or lovable enough. We think we are deserving of our alone-ness. 

No one is coming for me. 

No one will save me. 

No one will hear my cries. 

Everyone gives lip service to this concept of "The Wounded Child", and I get it, but it's hard for me to see my own, and how entrenched she is in some of my less then stellar adult behavior.  

In this moment, however, I can see her so clearly:

She's lonely, confused and going through some big things. She's keeping secrets and and she's just not capable of putting language around what's happening. She's lost her sense of security and belonging, and she's utterly terrified. She's abandoning her true self for a mask that will hide the inadequate pieces of herself so that she can endure. 

As I sit here, I can taste the salt of my tears as I realize how separate I've needed to be from her pain in order to survive to this point.  I can see her standing there alone, so small, so innocent. 

From this vantage point, as an adult woman, I think of my own daughter at that age and so easily my instincts kick into gear ( it's so much easier to rescue everyone but ourselves!) 

Suddenly I'm running toward her as fast as my legs will carry me. 

"WAIT,  You are not alone... I'M HERE!"

My life seems like a hologram in these moments.  This is vaguely familiar, over the years, collecting the parts of myself I've left behind, betrayed, or disowned along the way. I've learned that these parts of our disembodied selves never stop calling out to us to bring them home. I just don't think I've known this version of my child-self, the one who uses rage to keep anyone from seeing her fear.

I allow a vision to surface:

My strong, courageous, kick-ass, grown-up woman-self is here now, and I can see that she's cradling the small scared version of my child-self in her arms.  As I pull her to me, I whisper the words she's been needing to hear from me all these years, and as I do, I release her from her prison of shame and isolation:

I SEE YOU.

I HEAR YOU. 

I LOVE YOU. 

Then I tell her that she's not alone anymore.