Friday, August 04, 2006

Heal thyself

It's early afternoon, and the clouds are coming in over the foothills. The old cat is asleep on the bed, and the fan on my dresser blows the warm air around. From my desk, I can see over the tops of trees, houses, to the hills and the mountains beyond them. Every now and then, I hear the birds fighting over the feeder in the backyard on the other side of the house: wrens, sparrows, finches, starlings, dusty brown and grey and black with only the smallest bits of color, red, yellow, purple when the wings turn, and two doves.

A few weeks ago, I felt anger on behalf of someone who was dealing with a lot of pain. She was angry, and hurt, and strong beyond belief. She said she felt that she was putting negative energy out into the universe, and I said, no, you deserve to be angry, anger gives you the strength to tell the people who are hurting you to fuck off. And that's true, but it's been weighing on me ever since, because it isn't the whole truth, and I feel as though I did her an injustice, saying just that, saying just, "Go ahead and be pissed off."

One thing about blogging that has been a real privilege has been getting to know, on whatever level, so many amazing people in so many stages of their lives. There is so much strength and wisdom floating around out here. So many people willing to extend a kind word or just let each other know that they aren't alone. And I think that's what friends are, whether or not you've ever met face-to-face. It's damned hard cracking open the old hardened wounded places, and letting light in, and yet everywhere I look, someone is doing that hard work.

There's a theory that when you're processing something difficult, you go through a series of emotions, in a certain order: anger, sadness, fear, guilt, understanding (or acceptance). You have to go through all those emotions to get to the last one, this theory goes, but it's so easy to get stuck in one--or stuck avoiding one--that you can't get through and out the other side. (One therapy that works intensively with processing these emotions is EMDR therapy, which I went through several years ago, and which I would whole-heartedly recommend looking into it if you are struggling with past trauma.)

For a long time, I was stuck with anger. Specifically, I squashed all the anger I felt down, directed in inward. It still isn't my brightest light, dealing with anger, which is maybe why I have a child who has anger issues? Kismet is a riot.

So when I went to see Dr. Zen again when my marriage was ending, we did this particular meditation in which you imagine yourself going down a path, and at the end of the path you find a cage. In my cage was a woman. She looked like me, more or less, except that she was filthy and furious and covered in blood and surrounded by bones and really wanted nothing more than to rip my throat out. So then, you're supposed to ask whatever's in the cage what it wants. Which, as I said, turned out to be my demise. Why? I asked. And the bitch said, "Because you put me in this cage."

Who doesn't love a little therapy, I ask you?

So. It turns out that whatever's in the cage is the part of you that you've been running away from. It did not take too long to figure out that the lovely Bitch in my cage was all the anger I had, but was afraid to let out. The point of this therapy is that eventually you open the cage, and eventually I did, and can I just tell you how angry I was in that part of my life? And damn, but it felt great. I loved being angry. That Bitch walked around with me in my head. She didn't want to kill me anymore, she loved me for letting her out. But eventually Dr. Zen said, "You know, anger is necessary and has its place, but at some point, you have to let it go."

And that's what I really wanted to say. After you sit with it for a while, you have to let it go. You can't let it go until you make friends with it, but then you can't hold on too tight to it or it will suffocate you.

So here's the funny thing, is that as I went farther along that path, farther into those woods, and opened my arms to the other ones who live there, and the longer I left the Bitch out of the cage--letting her know in no uncertain terms that she was always welcome, that I'd never lock her up again, but that she didn't get to run things, either--the more she changed. And I know this sounds all sorts of weird, that I had this actual person in my head for a while, but the brain is a weird organ, what do you want? So anyway, she changed. She quit being so angry, so ready to attack anyone who hurt me. She quit being such a Bitch, I guess, and she started being more a voice of reason. She started pointing out things that might not be in my best interest; she was less reactionary, and more of a guide. She became gentler, and kinder, and eventually she walked back into the woods and I haven't seen her since. But I know she's still there, and I listen when I hear her voice. She's pretty smart, and she has my best interests at heart.