Loneliness

Yesterday my husband went away for a week. When I got into bed last night I was struck by the space beside me where he usually sleeps.

I might have said I was lonely, but if I had simply decided I was lonely and listened to the stories in my head about who and how much I was missing, I would certainly have felt more lonely.

Instead I explored further, opening deliberately to my experience of his absence – not what I thought or felt about it, but the actual space. As I did I felt a delicious and surprising sense of space and expansion in myself. I felt content.

I remembered a conversation I had with an architect at a wedding last year. He said: “the structure of a building is not what makes it beautiful, but how the structure relates to space.” Likewise, the moment I resisted the impulse to decide my husband’s absence was a bad thing for poor lonely me, but instead brought my experience to the actual space, any sense of separation between my presence and his absence melted into one simple experience of, well, beauty. How could I be lonely then?

People tend to experience loneliness as a consequence of two types of behaviour. Both tendencies reflect the struggle to balance structure and space within themselves and their lives.

The first tendency is to isolate oneself through fear of overwhelm and loss of space and autonomy. We avoid meaningful connection with others so we end up with too much freedom and not enough of the commitments & responsibilities that give us routine and a sense of belonging. We have personal space but at the cost of structure or form.

The other tendency is to give too much – bolting down one’s time in an endless cycle of ‘doings’ which leads to too much structure and not enough freedom or space.

Space becomes the enemy that mustn’t be succumbed to so we offer ourselves further despite our exhaustion and resentment. We end up feeling we have no room to breathe.

Both of these patterns – isolation and overwhelm – are rooted in fear of rejection and, ultimately, loneliness. Our task is to deeply examine these fears and to open instead into an inner and outer spaciousness that includes structure, connection and freedom.

When we say a vista is beautiful, we again mean structure in relation to space – a mountain piercing a cloudless sky, the crest of a wave spiking into shards against a bright sunrise. Music, too, is only beautiful because of how it plays with silence.

I have come to know this dance of structure and space only too well. Last December I lost a chunk of intestine to cancer (thankfully now fully resolved). Four weeks later my beloved dog Martha died. Then at the end of June my mother passed away.

In my acceptance of the absence of a piece of my body and adored pieces of my family, what remains present becomes all the more precious, astonishingly so.

By bringing my presence to the space left by these losses, I become the vast, empty sky and I become the mountain surrounded by the spacious acceptance it needs to simply be itself. I am overjoyed to discover that in this space there is more room in me for love – to love and be loved. I feel more deeply connected with others and with life itself than ever before.

Little by little I intuit the right balance of structure and space in my own life and with that comes a beautiful freedom.

If we are afraid to experience absence, calling it loneliness, how can we be wise?

Waking Up

Waking Up

In my work with clients, I’m passionate about the flow of life energy and how we humans learn to resist this life force in us.

I am endlessly in awe at how the meeting of resisted energy by a clear awareness in an openhearted, present body can wake us up to being here fully and bring us back to life. By reconnecting to the physical ground of our own bodies, we come back to our longing. How can we feel we belong if we are not being our longing?

Right now it could be said that things in the world are looking grim. Maybe we don’t want to feel powerless, frightened, ashamed or enraged. But what if the very pain we think we don’t want to be in is our memory of a forgotten current of wholeness? What if our helplessness and despair are the voltage of the longing that informs us about what is required of us next? What if this long wave of nature has all the wisdom that the short wave of our thinking minds is just not designed to find?

Maybe we can claim defeat, rather than admit it. Maybe a new way of being is claiming defeat over one that is just no longer our best tool. Maybe being defeated is real. Maybe it’s ok. It doesn’t mean we have to collapse, fight or turn away.

Our first bonds

In our early formative years, we are not a ‘self’; our experience is of the bond we have with those looking after us. The wave state of this bond is our felt identity. It’s oxytocin or at least complete dependence.

When bonds break

When very ordinary events cause this bond to break or weaken, the fight/flight/freeze mechanism is Nature’s brilliant way of providing a trip switch to protect the immature human system during its development into adulthood. We suspend our subjective identification with our nature and instead start to identify as a separate object, not realising we have created this identity in our own minds.

Our minds create this short circuit by splitting into perceiver and perception. As we do, we too become a perception in our minds, which makes us a ‘thing’, an object. Where was the concept of self before this first shock of separateness? If our self as an ‘it’ comes from nowhere, surely there is a way back from being an object to being a subjective experience of wholeness once more. And what if this is not a movement back, what if this is the way forward? Isn’t this splitting and reuniting at a higher level how everything grows? Think of the DNA strand – joining as a wave, splitting into observer and particle, reintegrating into a wave state and so on.

We limit our end of the energetic circuit that proved itself shocking by bracing, collapsing, contracting or disconnecting. This muscular action of fight, flight and freeze that becomes habituated and the concept of a self keep each other in place. We wouldn’t believe the story about ourselves if we didn’t feel separate and we feel separate because we are in these unconscious muscular habits designed to limit our identification with the circuit of life itself. We may have strong feelings, but if our needs are not validated we stop seeing our feelings simply as needs – as information to guide our choices.  We start falling into familiar roles in predictable dramas that become the life we recognise and come to expect. We start living in a movie we have produced and directed ourselves.

Too much form versus not enough.

If we collapse or disconnect, we are likely to experience ourselves as powerless, because we are giving up our form. We might feel fearful or ashamed. We might blame ourselves for being weak and blame others for being dominant. This often indicates a resistance to the feeling of anger.

If we rigidify or densify, we are likely to experience others as frustrating and unsatisfying. We might have an inflated sense of our own power and might feel angry with others for being weak in relation to us. This often indicates a lack of tolerance for our own sense of weakness or feelings of powerlessness.

As in any closed system (which is what a short circuit is), any lack of form will be compensated for somewhere else in the system by too much form. Even though everyone has an overall balance, some people identify with the part of them that is over-formed, while others will identify as under-formed. This comes down to many factors relating to inheritance, cultural influence and conditioning.

Some people have a story about being superior, others inferior, but both stories indicate a separation from our identification with our nature and therefore Nature. We only fear being perceived as nobody because we are being No Body.

The sense of insufficiency (even if you’re superior, you’re separate) is true. We have actually become insufficient, in terms of no longer identifying with the ‘wave’ or bond or circuit of love. We just haven’t become inferior. All nature grows by transcending its current state then, when the new, more evolved state is stable, the previous state is re-included.

This temporary short circuit isn’t much fun. We project the movie we made up and fight the people we’ve cast in the leading roles. Then we try and find someone who will love our unloveable selves. Good luck with trusting THAT person.

So all this is obviously superb organic engineering, because if we remembered that we’d created, shaped and hated this movie all on our own, we wouldn’t believe it.

Then we’d have to face being broken and unloveable.
Exactly. Bring your average human a drama any day.

So we can wake up, instead

So the ‘a-ha!’ kind of waking up is the obviously easy way to see through this evolutionary feature. But what if you can’t just wake up like The Power of Now guy?

What if however long you sit on your cushion, you still see yourself as someone unloveable who should be working on feeling more grateful?

And what if you do wake up, but you still do weird things? What if the top-down approach of seeing through the movie is only half the journey?

What if there is a whole bodily shindig going on that needs re-wiring, alongside this revelation that you never were unloveable, just temporarily offline for essential engineering works or a new release? And a SERIOUS upgrade at that…

This is where therapy comes in. Your experience is always here. You’ve only gotta listen. You’re feeling what you’re feeling because you’re feeling it. If you weren’t feeling it, you wouldn’t be feeling it.

A therapist listening shows you how to listen to what you’ve been most ignoring.

It can also be hard to receive feedback from family and friends so impartial and non-judgemental honesty from a therapist can really help. The job of a therapist is to provide a safe space for you to build this conscious adult form that is completely fearless when it comes to experience. Where on the Richter scale is the seismic activity a seismograph is not designed to register?

It’s all a completely normal, evolutionarily appropriate short circuit that got us to here.

Now we know all that stuff we think about ourselves is just a thought we made up, we can slowly start to wake up, stretching and yawning back into conscious embodiment as the power of our unfiltered experience comes back on.

And, yes, at first it can be a bit uncomfortable.

You start to notice that – eek – there’s someone alive in here.

Well thankfully, this Someone is doing every conceivable thing to get your attention. Opening your eyes is one thing, but you also have to open your heart and trust your gut.

You can start to trust your body and your experience and see that this emotional energy you’ve been resisting is your very being.

It IS the way to freedom, NOT the enemy, as you may have thought.

Then you realise that believing you’re unloveable just seems a bit old-fashioned.

An Instinct to Return

An Instinct to Return

I am often very moved by clients’ telling of their journeys with all the associated joy and pain. I am also often amazed by the unerring direction these journeys take to return us to where we started and bring us back to our beautiful broken hearts which we then realize have only been broken open.

The following is one such moving example. Names have been changed and permissions given.

Clara was nine when four-year-old Michael came to live with her family. Her brother Stephen was six. Clara and Stephen welcomed Michael and set about adoring him, beckoned by the beacon of his hunger like sailors heading for fire on a beach.

They were old enough to know that he’d come from somewhere troubled but not old enough to know he wasn’t robust.

One Sunday afternoon as they played on the stairs, Stephen held Michael tight from behind.
“I’ve got you. I’ve got you. Clara, I’ve got him.”
Clara rushed into the kitchen and grabbed an implement.

It was something she described as a cross between a knife and a potato peeler, maybe one of those things you core and peel apples with.

She ran back to the stairs, flushed with blood-crazed joy.
“Now you’re in for it!” she cried, raising her arm high as if to stab,
“Now you’re really in for it!”

Michael crumpled, folding himself into his terror like a building detonated from the inside, skin meeting skin as the core implodes.

His fear went far beyond any territory charted by these innocent pirates.
They rushed to his broken, sobbing body and tried to fit the boy back into it, stroking, coaxing and calling his name through the rubble.

Slowly he saw through the dust and snot of his panic, steering first his eyes and then his face towards their care, then his hands and finally his whole body as he allowed himself to be held and rebuilt.

Three heroic musketeers, rocked, plundered and reunited by love.

But in Clara’s horrified mind, she could only see the girl with the weapon in her hand.
Without even knowing, she too cored the vestibule of her self. She papered over the the hollow of her derelict heart. Like a benign, inoffensive shopfront advertising everyday things that people buy without even knowing to want them.

Michael went to school with Stephen and got into trouble. Stephen clambered into trouble with him, loving fists raised to defend Michael.

Clara and Stephen’s mother decided Michael’s trouble was too much trouble, so he went to another family and another school. She decided it would be too painful for Stephen and Clara to say good-bye, so one day they came home to find Michael gone.

But Michael wasn’t gone. Michael lived in Clara’s heart like a tree that bears fruit every forty years.

I met Clara forty years later. Of course it was not immediately obvious, but eventually she unearthed the truth of her own terror of being free. In that freedom what if she might relax and reveal this murderous impulse hidden among the apple peelers and toilet brushes?

Stricken with the guilt that had gored her heart like a smart bomb, she saw she had learned to hang back. A wallflower she said: a mediator, a frustrated but brilliant artist. She realised she was scared of growing or even of just being, since the relaxed truth of innocence had proved itself untrustworthy.

She had welcomed a baby herself, the most perfect little girl and had found blood-crazed joy again. She sang that little one into being; she stroked and coaxed and called her name until it was time to hold her in her arms. But at the very last minute, the little one turned back, skin meeting skin as the core implodes.

Clara crumpled, folding herself into her derelict emptiness like a building detonated from the inside.
Her loss went far beyond any territory charted by this innocent pirate.

There was no-one to rush to her broken, sobbing body to try and fit the woman back into it. To stroke, coax and call her name through the rubble.

So slowly she built herself again from the inside out. She learned to steer her heart through the dust and snot of her panic towards an instinct to return she didn’t know she had.

She rebuilt her form around the vitality of this love for Michael and her baby and calibrated herself to return and return until instinct and love were one.

She remembered the blood-crazed joy of fearlessly conducting this rush of life in its ceaseless coming and going. In bringing her heart to her loss, she found the love she’d been so afraid of. She felt her love for Michael and knew her innocence anew.

The power of her heartfelt care illuminated her being and informed her choices and she came back to life. She blossomed.

One heroic musketeer, rocked, plundered and reunited by love.

 

 

Ten reasons why your anger is good for you

Ten Reasons Why Your Anger is Good For You.

 1. Your anger is not wrong

The feeling of anger, jealousy or frustration cannot be wrong – it’s an experience you’re having in your body. Your behaviour may be problematic, but it’s important to not judge the experience, however much you might want your behaviour to be different. Some people project their anger outwards and explode, whereas others hold their anger inwards and seethe. Others disconnect from their anger altogether, but if this is you, there will be a sign. You may do things that you don’t really feel good about doing, even though you may try and fool yourself into thinking that these things feel good. Anything you do regularly to excess is usually a giveaway.

2. Your anger represents a need

We are born fully connected to our instinctive selves. We scream when we need something, trusting that someone will come and meet our need. In the process of the need being met, we learn to trust our own experience of having needs, of experiencing our energetic self. If our needs are not met when we are young, we will have not yet have developed sufficient awareness to understand that other people’s behaviour towards us is not personal. Of course, the impact is felt personally, but the lack or inappropriateness of the other person’s response is not about us, however much we might be told it is. It is of course usually not malicious on their part and the need not being met is not the problem. Our movement away from our experience of the need is the problem. Even if we are not told it is our fault, we may assume, understandably, that there is something lacking in us, instinctively. That there is something lacking in our inborn life force that presents itself as that need.

3. You have not had the opportunity to learn to naturally shift focus from your instinctive self

In order to grow into successful adults, we need to learn to do many things. We have to learn these from outside – how to play nicely with and listen to others, and defer our own needs, how to communicate, how to learn, and so on. To do this successfully, we need to focus less on our instinctive selves, which want to scream, grab, fight and demand, and more on developing appropriate social behaviours. When earlier needs are met, this is a natural instinctive progression.

4. Your experiences led you to develop a false idea of who you are

When our early, personal needs for reassurance and autonomy are not met, we do not make our entrée amongst others as easily. Society can be a brutal place, where survival depends on inclusion. Usually, a sense of longing is an attractor for belonging. If we have already experienced our longing as misplaced, we cannot trust this feeling. This then further deepens our sense of not being ok. We trust our longing even less. We stop trusting in and identifying with our passionate, perfect, instinctive selves. Even worse, we have now created an entirely fictitious idea of who we are, and a role that fits it.

5. Your life forced you to keep moving

We cannot focus on this sense of loss of our essential selves. Life has more urgent considerations. We need to continue to grow, to learn, to make friends, to develop skills, hobbies and interests. So we push these decisions we made about our worth in our early lives to the background and then we forget altogether about what is lacking in us and we pretend all is well.

6. Know that the judgements you made about yourself remain

In time, the loss of our instinctive self becomes problematic. Maybe we struggle to find or keep love, maybe we cannot achieve success, or perhaps we cannot take care of our resources. These pointers are similar to the signals of exploding, imploding and disconnecting. They are perfect, timely reminders of this lost connection to our entirely trustworthy instinctive passionate self.

7. Know that the very thing that you most don’t want to feel is what will save you

Luckily, for each of us, this lost personal passion is woven into the very fabric of our forgetting. When we are triggered into an explosive rage, or we hide to the point where we feel empty and lifeless, or we are filled with resentment but just keep giving, we are forced to notice that something’s wrong. We can then direct our attention to the experience of  rage, fear or depression and learn to consciously reconnect with this energy, given time and support.

8. Know that you can do this

You can find a new perspective, within, with a new kind of awareness. This awareness, as talked about in meditation and in Gestalt therapy, is the perspective of the space within which all phenomena arise, so it is outside the realm of good or bad, right or wrong. Consider learning how to meditate, to find this perspective within which you cannot get being you wrong. You may need to do yoga, dance or Tai Chi to really get a sense of being your body. Therapy can help you explore this rising energy of feeling that life will ultimately demand that we face. When you can connect this energy (that we call ‘feeling’ but which is really your original instinctive life force) to the energy of your awareness itself, within this human form and without the somatic distortions of fight, flight or freeze, then you can truly come home and be who you really are, your truest self.

9. Know that this is who you really are

This reconnected you is you at your most profoundly and personally powerful. You do not need to shout, placate or hide.  You just need to listen to this now whole sense organ of life. Then you will know who to be, because your being informs you, step by invisible, certain step. You will find yourself, right here as this sense organ that is hosting the reunion between presence – the energy of your existence – and absence – the energy of your awareness.

10. Welcome home

Being home won’t always be easy, but it’s real.