(trigger warning) Part of being made to feel so small through adolescence is that when you are forced to let silence shape you, fear takes up so much of that space. Speaking vulnerably about things that are not concrete or are new to me activates a part of my nervous system that has been conditioned to feel fear and danger, my body and voice are often halfway out the door in the first minute. It’s taken years to get to a point where I feel capable and equipped to turn my attention to this and find different on-going ways to re-shape this part of me. Disavowing and internalizing my own experience and feelings at the command of my abuser for over a decade nurtured an often disappearing person. This left me especially vulnerable to further harm as an adult. It’s important to state that it’s our society that helped shape, support and protect a person who could do this kind of harm and particularly to a child (there is little that is unique in this experience). The same society that has helped create and support conditions where access to healing is its own kind of privilege. If for not having access to resources over the years I don’t know that I could have reached the same place I am today. When I speak and my voice shakes now, the fear goes all the way back to kid-amanda. At 31, many of the communication pieces have been untangled and I’ve experienced a kind of self-assurance and confidence that is new to me. However, it always seems like the game where new /old pieces appear only once the ones in front of you have been seen and heard. I suspect this will always be the case but with less frequency over time. This new piece has emerged like a large rock cutting through fog, a small flat rock surfacing to the top of the swamp, a green yellow glow rising to the top.
The aim is to be able to step into fear, vs fear stepping into me. Recently I went to a workshop led by artist and psychotherapist Julia Gladstone. It explored group-as-a-whole dynamics, “Group-as-a-whole theory posits that when individuals form a group, the resulting union becomes an entity in its own right with a sum greater than its parts”. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was curious by the prompt and trust the facilitator. “Whatever it is, it will be good for me and those around me”. Being in workshop felt like holding my nervous system in my hands, practicing willingness and consent in feeling fear and in feeling it not alone. Coalescing in the background was the possibility that this was about re-learning fear, not as fear equals bad but fear equals fear. That fear is OK and like any emotion, an informational tool.
Being present in a space means witnessing others arrive to a moment and witnessing a moment arrive to others, myself included. In this particular space, we framed observations as our stories, the person speaking being the source of the story. For me, bolstering the idea of authorship and that we are allowed to have stories. Stories are ways we as beings can affirm ones self, overlap, connect and belong. Thinking about the group dynamic in this context lead me to consider echolocation. Echolocation is the location of objects by reflected sound, a guiding tool. I thought about how humans use sound and story to locate one another, locate/reflect community and a sense of belonging. This then made me think about the inherent trust there is in moving through the world this way, trusting in the reflected sounds, stories, narrative. I considered how moving through the world this way might be more challenging/complicated for someone whos ability to trust themselves and others has been impacted, broken. How can someone trust others if they cannot trust themselves? It’s an understatement to say that we need trust in our self and in others to have a rich and shared quality of life. In addition we must be able navigate betrayal of trust and a re-building of it when it is broken, because it is human to make mistakes. There is no sustainability in trust that is precarious. When you have learned that the door is either all the way open or all the way closed, doing the opposite and trying to find the inbetween can be severely triggering. I don’t ever blame anyone for avoiding doing so.
In workshop, I witnessed layers peel back slowly as we moved through exercises, sat with feelings. Willingness building trust, I sensed it growing in the room and how it changed the energy. The source of this story is about this experience as a whole but also a particular nonlinear moment in this space. By this point a shared discomfort felt like it had bubbled to the top and now hung heavy in the air and in our bodies. This shift changed the environment, whatever sounds from the outside world had been reverberating into the room had stopped and the sun light felt as though it had been yanked out, convinced that I could see a faint imprint of where it had been just moments prior. I sat there in our circle, feeling uncomfortably torn between fear, the desire to share and be seen, and the anxiety of missing the opportunity (an emotional landscape someone else in the circle had so perfectly previously described). Sitting in this feeling I felt increasingly untethered, foggy. Someone in the group arrived to their moment, and then to my surprise delivered me to mine. In hindsight, within this workshop all of my previous moments lead/delivered me to this present moment, where a stranger looked to me with curiosity in how to continue through this shift we felt congealed in. I felt surprised, then affirmed, seen. My voice shook as I spoke and I felt a shadowed urgency to get everything out..in time for I don't know what. My body felt fear and panic but my mind was with me in this present moment, I was both speaking from and challenging the kid-amanda place. I felt a swelling embarrassment sneaking in for how much I was visibly and audibly struggling. However, being in a space with others who were willingly stepping into fear created a palpable vulnerability and courage. Words fell out of my mouth, trying to stretch over the cracks so as not to fall in, I spoke about echolocation in this context and about our amazing capacity to create and cultivate trust out of thin air. How it felt to witness trust moving through the room with us and how fast it could move shifting us from place to place - and how having faith in That: the speed of trust: Movement, could allow/deliver us out of this feeling we felt convincingly stuck in. My nervous system was on high alert so it’s hard to remember exactly what happened after that, but I believe we did collectively move through that feeling and for me, come to a place of closure, reflection and release. I thought, as though I was watching my younger self from the sidelines: I! am! Practicing! Trust! and Fear! and it’s! OK!
My faith in Movement comes from my lived experience and experience in therapy the last seven years. Feeling like living proof that someone like me - a child who knew so much about feeling hurt and scared became a hurt and scared adult - can find healing and safety. Movement and integration feel hand in hand, integration allows for movement and movement allows for integration. I’ve come to believe healing is all about movement, even when it is about stillness. It all feels so matter of fact now, but for a long time I had no idea I could be anything other than what I was - I was sadly manipulated into believing this for a long time but it should not be understated that trauma hinders ones ability to imagine. Desperation levels reality, I found myself willing to risk it all (what felt like risking my own safety, health, family - what years of being blamed for my own harm will do) out of fear of what would happen to my self if I didn’t. The years that followed felt like so many things that words feel inadequate, it felt like imploding my life and family, like being trapped under/pushing around a simultaneously sharp and dense boulder, like constant re-traumatization. It felt this way over and over and over until eventually It didn’t, it feels this way far less now, and for years I wondered when it would. Throughout those years navigating this, I struggled in the career path I had chosen and as a result often felt dispensable and like a failure. In hindsight I now know that freelancing is a relentless career and has a history of problematic behaviors towards the people who help make it all possible. It leaves me with admiration for those who work within it and advocate for themselves and their teams in spite of. Eventually I found metrics of success that felt more aligned with my developed values. And eventually I found my center more and more and the boulder slowly lifted off and in its place there i was, a me who had been waiting for years to emerge. The beautiful thing is that my faith in Movement is really just faith in me.