“Bearing witness to the truth is rarely easy, especially when we’re alone in the wilderness. But as Maya Angelou tells us, “The price is high. The reward is great.” Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown
I’m getting ready to conduct a visit today then head back home to San Diego! Told ya- 24 hours! On my way to OKC yesterday, I sat next to an older gentleman. From the moment I stepped foot on the plane, he insisted on “taking care of everything” for me. Now for anyone that is close to me, they know that I often have issues accepting anything that I view as help, especially from men. I would try to explain the core wounding that led to this belief/my behavior, but I’ll save that for another day.
For some reason, I didn’t put up a fight nor try to use my typical, “I got it.” Instead, I sat down while he took care of it. Perhaps it was because I was sleepy. Anyway as the flight progressed I marveled at the small acts of kindness that he performed throughout the flight for me (I have a Venus in Capricorn in the 6th house – small little details are what life is about – fight me on it…I dare ya :P). He insisted that I receive my drink first and placed water and the napkin on my tray table prior to getting his drink. When it was time for snacks, not only did he let me “go first”, but he requested two snacks for himself. He then turned to me and said, “My wife loves these.” I chuckled. As soon as we landed, he got my luggage and like magic – life just flowed. Though these were small, tiny, little acts of kindness, they made me feel cared for and less alone. By a complete stranger. Thank you, sir.
Last month (August 19), I made a decision that was difficult for me. At the same time that I left a job behind to transition into a new one, I also decided that it was time to move away from a human connection in my life. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means, but I was losing sleep, my peace of mind, as well as respect for myself. I was starting to slip into unhealthy behaviors again and I understood that it was time to go. This connection, though relatively short lived, taught me a great deal about myself in the context of how I relate to others. After all that is what Libra (their sign) embodies and what they’re here to teach about by simply being.
Since letting go, I’ve certainly felt lighter, more at peace, more joyful, and more connected to myself. This connection emphasized how lonely I was and helped me dig into some deep core wounds – ones that were nearly hidden.
While reading Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, I came cross an acronym – BRAVING – an acronym that Dr. Brown shares to help us navigate the territory of self-trust. A process I’m currently undertaking.
B – Did I respect my own boundaries? Was I clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay?
R – Was I reliable? Did I do what I said I was going to do ?
A – Did I hold myself accountable?
V – Did I respect the vault and share appropriately? (Vault defined as: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.)
I – Did I act from my integrity? (Integrity defined as: You choose courage over comfort. You chose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you chose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.)
N – Did I ask for what I needed? Was I non-judgmental about needing help?
G – Was I generous toward myself?
In her book, Dr. Brown also shares the concept of conflict transformation rather than conflict resolution. The aim of conflict transformation is to truly attempt to the understand the other(s) rather than “proving a point/being right”. It’s not about attempting to win, it’s about attempting to understand – and that can certainly be difficult when there is shame, unhealthy coping mechanisms, codependency, and lack of true communication involved.
For my particular situation, it’s not as simple as saying, “Oh, he was just a fuckboy and he took advantage of me.” That statement is a gross misrepresentation and oversimplification of the truth. It’s also dehumanizing and certainly makes it easier for me to hate or think badly of him. He’s not a bad human being. I’m not a bad human being. We’re just two chemicals that bonded and resulted in a toxic concoction. This individual, was someone that I trauma bonded with – we both have similar backgrounds and as a result had some “built-in” rapport. While it was someone easeful to be in this person’s presence, it was also terrifying and scary – because around him, I acted in the same ways I did in past traumas. My normally highly expressive self was unable to express herself. My regular ability to communicate and uphold my boundaries seemed to disappear. And my ability to mention a single one of my needs, was virtually non-existent.
The entire experience was angering – how was it possible that after years of therapy and self-development, the presence of someone from my childhood would lead me to revert to patterns and behaviors that I thought I had healed? Ah. As Gabby Bernstein says, “When you think you’ve fully surrendered, surrender a little more.” I was angry at myself, first and foremost. I wanted so badly to control this situation to have an outcome of my liking that this anger ended up growing into anger and resentment towards him. That’s not to say that he’s a perfect angel that did no wrong and treated me like a princess – no. However, I want to make it clear that I can only accurately speak of this situation from my perspective. There’s no value in me spewing accusations or further dehumanizing someone. Instead, I’m trying to understand. I’m trying to understand the full extent of this major trigger so that I can fully process and release trauma, while also rebuilding self-trust.
Why not include him in the process? While it may seem unfair to cut someone off and not give them a “chance to explain themselves” or a “chance to talk it out”, there are moments in life when it’s vital. Due to me reverting to old habits – particularly the habit of holding something within until the moment of explosive, nuclear action – I was in a space that I could no longer hold on without further hurting him or myself . I take full responsibility for “getting to a boiling point” – he never ridiculed me expressing myself. Rather contrary, he’s a good listener. I also felt that he was inconsistent (time-wise). When people don’t show up in my life with consistency – I automatically feel distrustful. Somewhere deep down, there was a little voice that was convinced me that if I was true to myself in his presence, I would experience, pain, embarrassment, rejection, neglect, possible abuse, and ultimately abandonment. While I had zero evidence of this, I was convinced that this is how it was going to all play out – as it always does. So here I am, processing.
Here are some of the major lessons that came about from this experience:
- While I intellectually understand that men have emotions, I don’t believe it. I haven’t seen many examples of it in my life. I’ve started to see it more – hence why I shared the story of the older gentleman on my flight at the beginning of this post.
- Anyone that reminds me of my father in any way, shape, or form, I instantly demonize. Even if there’s no actual proof/evidence/valid comparison. There’s still a lot of understanding that I have to do in regards to this trigger.
- At the root core of this all lies one issue – well two issues that are inextricably linked: shame and vulnerability. I carry a lot of shame from childhood and previous connections gone wrong and as a result it’s ridiculously difficult for me to be vulnerable – especially with men.
- I am not responsible for other people. I don’t need to mother, heal, coddle, hold more space than I can handle for anyone. They’re not going to die without me – we’re all hard-wired to survive. I’m not a savior nor Jesus nor the ultimate cure. We’re all responsible for our own shit. We should be here to witness each other’s growth and help with the processing, if we can (if!).
- Control is an illusion. Planning is a great and useful tool. Short bursts of control for purposes such as eating less sugar or holding your breath underwater may be useful, but it’s not something that’s sustainable in the long-term. We can express and communicate our desires while understanding that people outside of us are all free agents with their own traumas, experiences, and perceptions of reality. This requires a fundamental re-wiring in my part.
- Life is not a power struggle. As soon as you’re trying to “prove” something, you’re giving your power away. True power is about standing in your authenticity, upholding your boundaries, while making enough space for that which is not I. We’re all linked to one another.
- Forgiveness is a must – whether you’re willing to communicate with a person/entity or not. The forgiveness process is something that we must all embark on for our liberation. Forgiveness does not excuse bad behaviors. It sets us free. It helps us understand our part in the process and how we can act differently moving forward. Forgiveness must include you.
- Fight or flight. Some people fight, I flight. Standing up for what you believe, in an open and “flashy” manner sounds terrifying. It’s just easier to flee – to run away. How can I learn to face the giants in my life without resorting to survival mechanisms?
- Gratitude. Had it not been for this connection, when would I have been gifted with an open opportunity to truly look at myself in honesty and ask, “Are you going to face this or are you going to flee?
Anyway, this is as much sharing as I can muster without a vulnerability hangover or without violating the “vault” rule. I deeply respect privacy and understand that are are certain details not meant to be shared. Thank you for reading.