I hated talking about my feelings. Ugh. Sharing my inner world. It was awful. This is how I felt up till my early thirties or so.
But I would have times of intense depression and desperation and the psychiatric medications I took weren’t enough to completely numb it. There was this idea I had that when you have an emotional or mental problem you “get help”. Like some kind of magical solution happens when you “get help”.
At that time “getting help” meant therapy to me. Going to some kind of expert, a professional. So despite the dread, I would motivate myself to seek out a therapist. This happened a few times over the years. I would go to someone and hate the sessions and then leave feeling worse. After a few sessions I just couldn’t bring myself to go back. When I stopped seeing that person I felt I had failed at “getting help”.
One main reason I felt worse after these sessions was because I had so much repressed pain that would start to surface and I had no idea how to talk about it. I didn’t understand it at all.
But there were other reasons. I felt like a sick patient in those sessions. It was also awkward because I would be blocked and it was hard to talk and the therapist would stare at me waiting for me to say something. The pressure was difficult for me. Sometimes I would share what was happening in my life and would feel I was being psychoanalyzed and would get further labeled or diagnosed. They wanted to pick apart my childhood and my relationship with my parents and that was excruciating to me.
I was intimidated by them. But I could sometimes sense their fear of me too, of my self-destructiveness, of how traumatized I was (even though I didn’t really know it then myself). Other times I would feel the person’s projection on me and I knew their solutions and ideas had nothing to do with me, it was their own unresolved stuff.
But then one day I attended this short workshop on dream symbolism at a local holistic health fair. I was immediately drawn to the woman who led it. I’m going to call her Nan (not her real name). Nan radiated a certain presence. After the workshop I looked up her website and found out she gives therapy sessions in her home in my neighborhood.
I started seeing her once a week and this went on for several months.
I loved it. I loved her. I started to open up. I was coming out of my shell a little. I felt lighter and happier than I had ever felt up to this point.
Interestingly enough she seemed to have no desire to fix me or label me or even try to help me solve my problems. In fact, sometimes I would tell her about the latest health problem I suspected I had and wanted to obsess over it. She would refuse to even discuss it saying “No, we aren’t talking about that”. I would be confused and disappointed at first. Isn’t she supposed to help me figure this out? Doesn’t she see I could be sick, maybe even die? Doesn’t she see something is seriously wrong with me?
Other times I felt relieved and elated with her permission in letting go of guilt and doing what made me happy. But then I would start to blame the other person for guilting me. Again she would say “Nope, not doing that”.
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was forced to let go during those sessions. Nan refused to indulge my fearful obsessive mind and my tendency to swing from blaming myself to blaming someone else.
Sometimes on the way to our session I would feel there was no point to going. I had nothing to talk about and nothing was going on. Those times we would just sit silently together, no pressure or expectation for anything to talk about. Out of nowhere I would start talking about something seemingly random that happened to me recently. And then I realized that yes, something did happen and it bothered me. Nan would listen. She sometimes shared a story. Sometimes just reflect what she noticed in my sharing.
After a few months, she moved away and I instinctively knew it was time for me to move on even though I struggled with losing her. (After this I went on to the work I'm doing now which has given me a depth of knowing that was unimaginable and unattainable for me at that time of seeing Nan)
So why was Nan’s approach to therapy so helpful to me while all the others weren’t? Some therapists I went to had successful careers, books published, and advanced degrees in psychology. Nan didn’t have these things, she was a retired social worker.
It took me years to understand why this woman had such an impact on me.
The two things that stand out to me:
She Respected Me
She Was Present
It seems so simple. But it is profound. Why? Because in order to give these things to me she had to have done it for herself first. That takes focused inner work and wisdom. Can that come just from learning psychology? Can respect and presence come by studying ourselves or another solely through mental concepts and elaborate mental explanations and strategies, no not in my experience is this possible.
I see it as a deep, very honest, and mystical personal exploration inward. It’s facing the unknown, over and over. And over and over. Until it begins to be more of a way of life. In the unknown we inevitably come to layers of fears and pain from the past. Transforming what we come across frees us and we no longer need to project that onto others.
At that time of seeing Nan, I had not yet learned to respect myself. I had not yet learned to be present with myself. She modeled this for me though. I was not a broken human being that she had to fix and put back together, even though sometimes I wanted her to. She taught me without teaching me. She did what was easy and natural for her. Because of this, I was not a burden to her. I was paying her for a service she provided, yet she refused to take on my worries and fears.
Was she perfect? No. Could she help me understand what was driving my obsessiveness and my guilt and blame? Could she help me see the truth behind my dependence on medications? No. That wasn’t her purpose for me though. That came later when I started working with Mada and the Dalian Method. That’s when I started to uncover in myself the respect and presence that I continue to deepen and grow.
I don’t blame those other therapists for not being able to help me. How could they? They were suffering deeply themselves. In some ways they were also a reflection of myself.
I know now that Love is not what we think it is.
I write this in gratitude to all who have guided me towards the next step, regardless of their level of awareness. Most of all to my teacher, Mada.
Dating is totally different for me since doing inner work. It has gone from painful drama to Adventure!
A story to illustrate this.
Several years ago I met a man online. At first it was just a few friendly messages. The conversations quickly became more frequent and we seemed to have a lot in common. I found him easy to talk to. We started chatting on video too (we live in different states).
In our conversations I would have these moments thinking “wow, he says all the right things!”. I felt such a strong connection and trust with him. And this is all happening in the space of 3 weeks or so. I felt like I could really be myself and not worry about anything.
I don’t remember most of the details of our conversations except this one thing he told me: “No matter what, I never stop being someone’s friend. I never cut someone out of my life.” This gave me such a feeling of safety.
So my mind was saying yes to this man. But my body was apparently saying something else entirely. I just wasn’t really listening to my body at first. During one video chat he looked at me curiously and asked me if I was cold. I looked down and I was wearing a sweater with two jackets over it (pretty hilarious actually, it was summer). We were talking about sex during that conversation and as we talked I kept getting up to grab more clothes to wear.
I wasn’t cold. I was uncomfortable.
But I dismissed my discomfort as my own woundedness because I was working through a lot of trauma during that time. I told myself “Keep an open mind. It’s good to discuss these things openly”.
I happened to have a retreat trip planned in California a few hours from where he lived coming up and I was considering adding extra days to my trip so I can visit him. But it was all happening really fast and I started to have mixed feelings. The mixed feelings were the conflict of what was coming from what my mind wanted and what my body & intuition were saying.
So I decided to dedicate some time to focus and go inward and go deeper into my intuition. When I let go of my mind and I did this I got very clear very fast: It didn’t feel right to visit him on my trip. Not only that, it didn’t feel right to even pursue a relationship with this man.
I decided to trust this and act on this. Even though I didn’t really know why, I mean he still seemed like a great guy to me.
I emailed him to let him know that I would like to just remain friends. I explained it so he would know I wasn’t angry or had a problem about anything. I also figured if it’s meant to be more than friendship then it can happen with time. I also understood that it might trigger some insecurity in him but that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal for such an emotionally mature man as him.
He replied and expressed shock at my sudden change of heart. But he said he understood and honored my decision.
Then the next day he blocked me from all social media and completely disconnected from me.
Now I was the one shocked. But just at first. I was also actually so glad to see how right my intuition was!
I realized most of the conversations coming from him were lies. He was telling me what I wanted to hear.
I wasn’t angry though. I saw why it worked on me. He made me feel special. He made me feel understood. He made me feel safe. He made me feel important and significant.
He gave me what I was starving for and unconsciously looking outside of myself for. He showed me where my insecurities were.
Experiences like this have helped me transform those starving parts of myself. Each experience, whether positive or negative, brings me a step closer to being whole within myself. I’m also much more self-aware. I can feel when a situation or person makes me feel “special” or “important”. If something feels good, great I enjoy it. But I’m much more alert to the difference of feeling good that is coming from my ego-mind (self-importance) and those of my body (it feels more organic and less like a story of my identity getting fed).
Am I completely done with insecurity, with any attachment to being special or important? No. But I am celebrating the distance I have traveled to this place of being on an adventure. Does the adventure mean no pain? No. But the pain, when it does happen, is VERY useful.
Before doing this inner work there was so much anxiety and pain in dating and relationships. I was at times living out a longing and fantasy and there was no genuine intimacy. It was total bullshit actually (sorry to any exes reading this).
Then I would feel betrayed if I felt the person wasn’t genuine. But I wasn’t even genuine with myself. There was no possibility in those situations for any sincere intimacy.
Our socialized ideas of romance are fantasies that come from our unfulfilled needs and longings. To stay in this is to ride the roller coaster ride of pain and heartbreak. It’s actually insane, if you really see if for what it is. So much drama, and we actually create the whole thing ourselves much of the time.
But coming out of this game has been liberating. Instead of feeling resentful and blame towards anyone I’m glad to have the experience because each person teaches me so much about myself.
Instead of shutting down my trust and becoming bitter or fearful from these learning experiences, I grow MORE trusting. MORE trusting of myself. MORE trusting of whatever life brings me. I don’t need to carry the hurt memories. I don’t need to guard against or worry about other people and their intentions.
I also don’t get too offended when someone lies to me. It’s not personal. It’s their own issue and not for me to figure out. My only responsibility is to see through my own delusions.
I don’t trust because people are trustworthy.
I trust because I am trustworthy.
Common thoughts that can stop you from helping yourself:
last but not least:
I've buried it and there's no point digging it back up and going through pain.
But do you know what else gets buried?
Your Sparkling Aliveness
When we bury the 'bad stuff’ we bury the good stuff with it.
Over the years I've had healers and intuitives approach me to inform me that I'm way too open and that I need boundaries. I’ve been advised to put a protective bubble around myself. I’ve been told to carry certain stones or crystals with me.
I sensed some truth in what they told me. I didn't have boundaries. I wasn’t sure what it even meant to have boundaries. But something about their approach didn't feel quite right. So I didn't take their advice.
But there were moments I was so tempted! Times I was so overwhelmed that I felt suicidal: “How can I ever live like this!?”. I’m grateful the suicidal thoughts and feelings were usually brief and most days weren’t quite THAT hard.
But it was challenging as I navigated daily overwhelm and confusion. I would shut down or erupt in anger as a desperate way to create space. As I’ve done inner work on myself I felt my sensitivity grow stronger and would at times have so much animosity towards it. More sensitivity? Are you kidding me? F*ck off with this empathic crap!
These situations though, ultimately became opportunities for me to transform past wounds and self-limitations.
For example, a few times I felt traumatized by a person’s aggressive and violent sexual desires being projected onto me (not just regular sexual desire). Sorry to be graphic here, but it felt like I was being raped. (energetically). It was awful. But I had to face the fact that, yes although they did have an unconscious sexual aggressiveness in them, there was a lesson in that for me. It brought up deeper layers of my own past sexual trauma that I needed to heal.
Now I am more centered and don't feel as affected by another’s sexual desire. I also don't need to hold back or shrink who I am or my energy out of fear of what it triggers in another.
And if someone is crossing a boundary with me now, if required, I can unleash a primal protective fire so enormous it can shake the entire block and singe your eyebrows off. This isn’t a reactive anger (like I had before), but a natural and healthy instinct.
It doesn't matter how big the person is or how intimidating they behave, I have access to power inside me that doesn't depend on my size or physical strength. I no longer fall easily for intellectual game-playing or passive-aggressive bullying either.
Although getting to this place has taken time, I'm glad the approaches I took part in were about self-awareness, and healing, rather than fuelling, any fear and mistrust. I'm glad I didn't have to shut down my openness to the world and people. That would have been sad. It's part of my joy to be so trusting. To share myself so freely and openly.
I now experience my sensitivity more as the gift it is, and navigate the world with this vibrant inner compass. This gives me a sense of self-reliance and independence.
Many situations I used to drown in I can now confidently swim through.
The feeling of it being a curse had nothing to do with the true essence of being sensitive and empathic, which is actually beautiful and just part of being human. Being a ‘curse’ was a projection of my own unresolved issues. The ‘curse’ moments pushed me to uncover my strength and to use it.
I can't tell you how good it feels to not need to protect my heart or myself. To not need to see myself as so separate from others. To not have to hide and live in fear. I can be free in my innocence and explore and play on this planet. I can use my gifts and power with integrity, all the while still being dedicated to my inner work and the lessons I’m learning.
*Trauma can open us to potent insight and abilities. But we don’t have to stay traumatized or to suffer to have these gifts and abilities. (I'll try to write another piece about why we get attached to pain, I want to give it it's proper nuance).
If you live in Kansas City check out my events to support you to heal your past, release limitations, and connect to your inner compass.
Leela Haris ~ Expanding Consciousness