Trauma induces very unpleasant internal emotional states. When an infant experiences an unpleasant emotional state, what does she do? She cries, which ought to bring the parent. The parent then, if he or she is well-regulated herself or himself, will then pick up the infant and go, “Aww,” and hold that baby and rock them, or sing to them in a sing-song kind of way. That will regulate the child’s internal state. Then the infant learns that emotional states that are unpleasant come and go. It’s okay. If I can’t handle it, I can ask for help. For the many of us who didn’t have that kind of holding environment, who didn’t have the parents around that could hold us in our unpleasant states and soothe us and regulate us because they were not regulated themselves, we end up fearing that these difficult emotional states are permanent and ‘I will stay stuck in them’, ‘I will never get out of them.’ Then what do we do?
One of the great things about reaching midlife is the perspective and the clarity we get as time begins to feel more precious and important. I remember reaching a point in my life where I no longer had the energy or the desire to chase after anything anymore. Not only that but it seemed like the strategies I used for most of my adult life – setting goals, creating detailed action plans and working my butt off to make success happen all stopped working.
My manifesting muscles went limp.
This entry is taken from one of the most beautiful film scenes I’ve ever seen. It is between a father and a son. I wonder what the world would be like if there were more experiences like this in the world between parents and children.
It is a conversation between the son and his father after a young man staying with the family over the summer–and with whom the son has been having what he believed to be a clandestine relationship–returns to his home. The son after riding with him to the town with the airport comes back quiet but obviously impacted.
Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.
– Natalie Goldberg
Two New Years ago, I set an intention to write 100 blog posts that year. In retrospect, I see that the goal was ambitious. I do not want what I write to simply be stream of consciousness or quantity unpolished, unreflected upon. Still, there are ways with writing that I hold back that don’t help me.
I wrestle with blogging. There is a perfectionist in me that wants everything to be, well, perfect. That is not simply spelling, grammar, paragraphing. That is the easy part. It is more in striking the right balance between relevant and entertaining, serious and playful, logical and beautiful, pedagogical and vulnerable.
I realize in thinking about this that I am seeing blogging as more about appearance than essence. That is philosophy speak in my world for caring more about how it comes across to you than how it is for me. No wonder I was so struck in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic when she entreats us to create for the sake of creating. She decries that we have been socialized to see creativity as instrumental (Am I talented? Will people like it?) instead of expressive (How is it an expression of myself? How does it make me feel?). Gilbert believes we all have a human need to create and part of us atrophies when we shut that down. She laments that we need to stop thinking about the audience (or lack thereof) and start believing in the benefits for ourselves.
Over and over again I have seen people who, measuring their progress by the old standard, don’t feel like they are making very much headway. And then, just like the sun breaking through the clouds on a winter day, they turn a corner, and their whole relationship to their compulsions and with themselves changes.
The Gift of Our Compulsions