Earlier this month I submitted a quick post about being in the middle of change. My therapist refers to it as a liminal state/space. Considering that psychology was my area of study in college, I’m surprised that I’ve never come across this term. Anyhow, in researching it, I came across this interesting piece in a Wikipedia entry. I was pleased to see how it covers not just individual states of liminality, but it mentions how it manifests in social groups and cultures. It’s so related to my previous post on shame and culture.
On February 3rd, I had a session with my therapist and in that session there was a breakthrough. I talked about how a few days prior I was at my ACA workbook group where we touched on “acting vs. reacting”. I totally was able to see how every single decision I’ve made in my life was based on reacting rather than acting. It’s all I knew and was my was of surviving. I was have basically been living by pointing a gun to my own head by forcing and pressuring me to “make a decision now!” and “do something now!”.
I have been the perpetrator in my own personal abusive relationship for my whole life. I learned how to betray myself, criticize myself, and neglect myself by my family and when they were too far to do it on a regular basis, I picked up where they left off.
The week prior I was reacting like crazy when my boss mentioned to me that my co-workers had concerns about my behavior at work. They noticed I was very sleepy at staff meetings, seemed confused at times, and was having trouble walking. I felt so vulnerable and sick at the thought of them talking about me to each other. Then I felt ill at the thought that maybe I wasn’t getting better like I thought I was. Is it really that obvious that I’m not all together well?
Inside I was a ball of reactions. I wanted to quit, I wanted to find another job, I wanted to find out who said these things and give them a tongue lashing and I wanted to cry. I was encouraged by my friends, therapist, and ACA’ers to talk to my boss again regarding her intent for telling me what others were saying and my position on the whole thing. I gave it a few days and when I did talk to my boss, all went well. She was glad that I spoke with er about it instead of letting it fester inside me and was able to clear up the intent of her telling me. “That” a fellow ACA’er said to me “is acting and not reacting.” Oh, so that’s what it looks like.
My breakthrough was that I was slowly able to see that holding a gun to myself was my reacting and that I was finally able to see what it looks like to not pick up the gun and instead act. Instead of reacting I can observe the situation, observe my feelings (use my witness self), learn more about it, not make any plans or force myself to make any decisions based on my reaction. It’s so unlike me that I feel loopy and dizzy just thinking about it.
During this therapy session I also realized that my breakdown (the depression and anxiety) came from holding the gun to my head and not being able to act on it. The part of me that was having the gun put to its head was exhausted and had no choice but to break down. In a sense you could say my ego was putting a gun to the head of my true self and my true self said “enough, I’m not taking part in this anymore”. My authentic/true self was done being a slave and battered partner to my ego. I believe this part of me, my true self, was that small, almost inaudible voice I had that told me hang in there when thoughts of suicide came up.
Although this little voice is slowly becoming stronger and more audible, I tell my therapist that I’m worried about slipping back into old habits of putting a gun to my head. I’m barely learning how to act rather than react and I’m afraid of loosing what little I know. My therapist says it’s possible to reach for the gun again because it’s a habit, but it won;t be the same because I am no longer the same.
When my ego thinks of my authentic self’s voice getting louder, I immediately hear “I need a bigger gun”. Wow, is that ego part of me that threatened? What happened next was interesting because when I heard that I looked to my ego and said “I’m not mad at you. You served me and had good intentions in trying to protect me. But you can rest now.” That’s what it means to embrace your shadow rather than try to cut or deny those dark places inside of you.
A large part of this world is fast paced and based on deadlines. Coming back to myself is a very slow process so it’s strange trying top balance the two. By the end of May I need to decide on my work situation, so although I am barely getting some ground under me regarding putting the gun down, we’ll see just how much my ego fights me come May.