Monthly Archives: October 2013

Blurred Lines of Authentic Expression

 

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I have a client who was biologically born female and changed into a male through hormone replacement and surgery in his early 20s. As he (from now on I will use a female pronoun to refer to the time period before he fully considered himself male, and the pronoun he after that took place) was growing up in a female form, she knew she was different from his peers for the simple reason that she was not attracted to men. She acknowledged her attraction to females in her early teens, was openly gay during high school, and had relationships with females. She continued to feel different, however, feeling she never fit in. She felt rejected at large from society, and even though her family said they accepted her as gay, she never truly felt accepted by them, or good enough. There was a general state of discomfort, of unease, experienced.

There is a lot to this story that is missing with regard to all the various factors that were involved in her decision to become male. For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to fast-forward to current times, a few years after the transformation from female to male took place. When I met Tim  he was seeking services for anxiety. I engaged in a number of different modalities with clients, and after discussing options with Tim, we decided on Living Inquiries, using the ‘anxiety inquiry’ along with the ‘unfindable inquiry’ (www.integrativehealingnow.com/addictions.html).

A lot of Tim’s anxiety was found in self-identification thoughts such as, I’m the one who is a freak, the one who is not good enough, the one who fears rejection, and the one who doesn’t fit in. Such thought patterns and deficiency stories are not unique to Tim— I’ve yet to meet a human on the planet who doesn’t have deficiency stories that they experience from time to time. However, sometimes these stories are very active, and the mind/body then references these stories constantly. These stories start to take a life of their own— as if they really are true— and it can seem to the holder of these thoughts that that they determine our lives and our experiences. The result of this can be anxiety, compulsions, addictions, depression, physical ailment, and so on.

Tim’s deficiency stories from his youth were still quite alive. His current issues were mainly about fitting in, or more accurately, not fitting in. He projected his anger and frustration about this out into the world, onto the various people in his lives— from family members, to people at work to friends/lovers, to large political groups. No matter where he turned, he felt excluded and rejected. And as was stated earlier, Tim had literally changed himself in the biggest way imaginable—his gender. He did this through procedures very painful, in part because he hoped to finally feel accepted, loved, and comfortable in his body. And yet everywhere he turned he was still met with challenging and painful situations that conveyed to him that he was not loved, not accepted, and didn’t fit in.

This is not to say that Tim’s decision to go from female to male was wrong, inappropriate or at all pointless. I want to be very clear about that. There were many factors involved, and I am not suggesting that his decision was made because of deficiency stories. Yet deficiency stories clearly were a significant part of his life. And I couldn’t help think, “what if.” What if we were given the opportunity and support to feel our feelings as we were growing up, going through big life changes such as puberty and adulthood? What if we were safe to question our bodies? Our hormones? Our biological changes and inclinations? What if we got to fully explore our insecurities? What if we got the support to really feel the sensations behind thoughts such as “I don’t fit in!” or “I’m not good enough” or “I feel so alone and unloved.” What if we had support to question the status quo’s expectations of us—all the way from gender related expectations/expression to sexual orientation? (See this awesome chart, which takes a look at these four factors: Gender expression, biological sex, gender identity, and attracted to http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/03/the-genderbread-person-v2-0/ )

I asked a friend of mine to read over this blog post, as she’s experienced a life of gender identification struggles. “The questions around the “what ifs” are deep ones for us all,” she said, “and bring us back to the universalities of identity and how we are raised to view and interpret ourselves and our genders.” Then she shared part of her journey with me.

I started the coming out process in ’97. But I’d been doing research since I left for college in ’93. I didn’t even really know what intersex (then pseudo-hermaphroditism) was. Transsexual was close enough, transgender was some weird thing that was just popping up in forums. We were all still sideshow freaks.

The biggest change for me came when I gave myself permission to be a toddler again and just be myself stumbling through the identity that was stifled since I was 3 or 4 and learned that I was not who I knew I was, was not going to be who I assumed I was going to be, and that I had better change or else. That little preschooler me understood that it wasn’t okay to be herself, so she learned to give everyone what they wanted. I remember spending nights going over the way I talked, the way I walked, how I sat, practicing to get the part right for everyone. But more than anything else, I had given up on allowing myself out of that prison. At 7 I was spending hours at night telling G-d he didn’t exist and begging to die in my sleep. By jr. high, I figured that I had to be insane and was just waiting until I was on my own to do what G-d wouldn’t. I didn’t know about transition, I didn’t know I could insist on living authentically. As far as I knew, I was a unique mistake.

Go, go, higher education to give me some perspective! Even when I knew that I was free of the bonds I had allowed myself to be kept in, I had no idea what to do as a 22 year old toddler. I all of a sudden had to give myself permission to be myself. The chains were gone, but the scars and memory of their constant weight were still felt.

That was/is my journey. Others, in the infinite different situations we develop in, with our unique minds, will need something else. I hope others can reach that point where they feel they are living the most authentic life they can. There’s a lot of stuff people never “should” have had to go through, and a lot of experiences people miss out on. Ultimately, there is no one way to be a man (or woman), and peace has to be made with that, eventually.

Like my friend above, my hope (and my entire healing practice’s focus and purpose) is also that people can live their lives in the most authentic ways possible. In many ways, Tim is being invited back to toddlerhood as we journey together, to explore the stories of his youth. We do this as we explore his deficiency stories, not in a way to necessarily understand or explain or give credence to his journey from female to male, but as a way to see through the various identities he’s created over the course of his life as he was experiencing difficulties growing up. This is not a cognitive approach, but a fully somatic and embodied experience, where he gets to *feel* all the identities/stories he’s created in his mind that are linked to his body’s experience of anxiety and anger and other emotions. In viscerally experiencing the stories of “I don’t fit in” or “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unlovable”, the stories lose “truth”, his experiences of anxiety decrease, and his experiences of satisfaction out in the world and with himself increase. I believe Tim’s story is quite possibly everyone’s story, just change the content a little, and the deficiency stories are found. And I believe living authentically is possible for every one of us.

www.integrativehealing.com

Don’t Make Sense: How to Inquire Into Emotions

When taken to the mind, lots of things don’t make sense.

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Recently, a friend asked me: How do I inquire into a feeling? I had suggested this as a Facebook post, that when a feeling comes up, you shouldn’t take it at its word, at first appearance; instead you should inquire into it further. And then my friend asked: How? So I am providing my answer to that question.

If you have ever done inquiry, you will have found that in and of itself, emotions are raw energy. Emotions are neither good or bad, but sensations. And a sensation is neutral, in that it’s not saying anything. It doesn’t have an opinion.

What seems to happen is that our meaning-making brain takes note of the energy and wants to immediately attach meaning onto it. The whys of this are varied, but in short it can be reduced to a desperate way to find some control. This happens innocently, and starts from an early age. In the Living Inquiries work we call this “the velcro effect.”

I noticed this play out with my 10 year old recently. There are a few bits of information I could share about her current state of affairs that might give shape to the situation, but I think that would actually be defeating my point because it’s not necessarily about the why’s and how’s and other information— it’s often about the energy underneath. And for a 10 year old, who doesn’t want to inquire into the particular thoughts arising, going straight into the energy can be the kindest route.

I listened to her as she shared what she wanted to share. Then I invited her to feel, because in the larger scheme of things she was experiencing lots of energy and emotion and instead of allowing herself to just sit with the energy, she was taking it to her brain, and her brain was fervently trying to make sense of this rather intense energy!

She came to sit on my lap and shared some more things from her mind. After she told me she was feeling sad, I asked her if she could give herself permission to feel her sadness with out her mind trying to make sense of things. She snuggled in and cried for a while. As I held her, I thought of how profound that invitation was: to give ourselves permission to not make sense! When I feel into that invitation, the energy almost instantaneously drops down out of the mind and into the body. The shift is palatable. Spacious.

I continued holding her, and the shift within her was indeed palatable. When she was done the words had faded, and the desire to understand and make sense of things was gone. The emotion of sadness had also dissipated. It isn’t always this easy- for some kids and adults, It’s very challenging to feel sensations/energy as they are in their raw state. In other words (no pun intended), thoughts and images continue to be “velcro’ed” to the energy. In such cases it takes a willingness to slow down to inquire more thoroughly.

Emotions want to be felt. When we give them permission to be felt, without judging them or demanding that they make sense, we give ourselves a tremendous gift. Give it a try. Or get support to assist you.

When your identity is a caregiver, you make yourself another person’s god

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When your identity is a caregiver, you make yourself another person’s god.

I went to my grandmother’s funeral a couple weeks ago. If you ever want to feel at home while embodying your full experience of being, go to a funeral, because just about every expression of being is allowed there. Expressions and movements that might normally get one locked up—or at the very least have a very long string of negatives connotations attached to them—-are widely received. This was my experience anyway. I felt right at home, as I am committed to allowing any and all emotion to move through my “creature” these days. As such, being my usual uninhibited feel-my-feelings-self amongst family members was immensely liberating.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I would have curtailed my emotions. I would have been a “good” daughter, there to support my parents and my aunt in their grieving process. I was raised to be a caregiver, you see. And in my family lineage, we caregivers compartmentalize our own feelings, so that we can take care of others. As a caregiver, you believe you know what other people need, and so you stifle your own emotions and your own needs, so that you can take care of others—- you basically pretend to be God by pretending to know what others need and how you should be for them.

This is, of course, a very convenient way to pretend to have control, and contains within it multiples of excuses to stay in the head, rather than fully connect with the felt-experience of the body. It can allow one to covertly move through the world in fear, but in the guise of love, because in our society what isn’t more “loving” then self- sacrifice and taking care of others? Caregiving is one of the safest identities on the planet, hiding behind “love”, and it’s also probably one of the most debilitating.

I hadn’t realized how much of my caregiving upbringing I had seen through until the other day. I was talking to my mom about her mom dying and the funeral, and she told me that she hasn’t been able to fully process it yet, which is normal, I’m told. But it was what she said next that caught my attention: “I had to hold it together for everyone else”, she said. I immediately recalled how often I’d said those words: “I have to hold it together for everyone else.” I’d pretend to believe this “for the sake of” my daughter, my husband, my brother, my parents, my friends…… I took myself so seriously–I so believed I was another person’s god– that I conveniently believed that stuffing my own feelings down was the right thing to do, because it was my “job” to protect/care/love/etc for others. It was my job to “be strong.”

Caregiving is almost always a self-appointed job, so it self-perpetuated regardless of the external circumstances, reality or actual “need.”

I felt much compassion for my mom after she said those words— words she believed with every cell in her being. She loves her job as caregiver. She loves being the strong one, taking care of me, taking care of my brother, and hundreds of other people in her life. I’m not interested in stripping her of her identities, but I sure am grateful that my identity of caregiver is gradually being stripped away. A nice side effect: not being tied to this identity feels light and free, not attached to outcome or people’s responses to me. And oddly enough, it allows me to really love myself, and to love others with more integrity, sincerity and without expectation of being cared for in return.

http://integrativehealingnow.com