Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vigilance in the Face of Fear

"Since it is easy to start doubting ourselves when we encounter our darkness and demons, it is important to understand that a wholesome logic operates here: The brighter love's radiance, the darker the shadows we encounter..." John Welwood

I have been belly sick near constantly since my trigger experience last Tuesday. My fear is still manifesting physiologically. It's not so painful anymore, but I feel nervous (topsy-turvy belly), as if something is about to go very wrong. Having this physical sensation every moment of the day makes it difficult to stop thinking about my fear.

If this is the brightest love I have known, then it stands to reason that I would be facing the darkest shadows within; that this could even be the greatest struggle I've known since fighting for my sanity. But I can't seem to accept that it is o.k. for this experience to be so intense for me. I am experiencing incredible judgment and self-criticism for the emotional roller-coaster I am on. I am worried that I am feeling too much and spending too much time thinking about what I am feeling. I am still resisting the difficult feelings when they arise, damning myself for them rather than holding myself compassionately. I am still afraid to share them, especially with Knight since I don't want our precious time together to be dominated by my struggle.

Some moments I feel as though I am very literally fighting for my life. And I am - I am fighting for the life that I desire - a life full of love shared in some way with Knight. Other moments I feel like I am blowing everything out of proportion and that I should be moving through my process much faster. What if it takes months for me to overcome these feelings? What if I have a trigger experience every time he has a date?

Since last Tuesday I have been sitting with my own terror. I don't believe it's an exaggeration to say that I have been terrified -- terrified that I'm crazy, terrified that I'll lose Knight because I can't do poly, terrified that this ache in my belly will never go away. Several times a day it literally takes minute-by-minute vigilance to keep the fear from overwhelming me.

Yesterday I read this...

"I had to exert almost a physical effort when I felt the fear arise. Even in daily life, when we get into negative thinking, we have to direct our mind to something else, but sometimes just thinking alone doesn’t get you out of it. Sometimes you need to look at something written down or listen to something directly through your ears. When you’re crippled by fear, you can’t even make yourself think of anything else, because your feelings are so intense. Directing yourself out of your own thoughts is one of the most difficult things to do, even in regular moments of our lives.

When I was going through that much pain, I tried everything to help my mind break free of my fear. I wrote uplifting words on my palm and literally had to force my eyes to stare at it. If you can simply think positively and have it help you get rid of your fear, that’s great - then fear hasn’t found a way to destroy you. But if you can’t, then at least you can say, “I’m going to read this passage that comforts me,” or “I’m going to look at some uplifting words,” and you put your mind there. You keep digging into the words, trying to understand what they mean. If you find your mind taking you away again, then read the words aloud, so your ears and brain can hear something positive on a more physical level.

...You have to indulge all your senses - ears, eyes, touch - to things outside of your feelings and fight with those weapons...It’s up to us to say, “How do I get over it? What tools work for me?” You have to choose how you do it, and only you can choose to mean the words you say."
Immaculée Ilibagiza in Fear.less

I was struck deeply by this passage. There is so much resonance in my experiences and insights this last week, especially around trigger experiences.

This is why I am reading and writing so much. I am literally trying to rewire the neural pathways in my brain from fear to love. I read to inspire myself to think and feel different, to remind myself how I wish to experience life and to find insights into my experience. I write about how I desire to be living with faith, love and authenticity in hopes that the words will become my experience. This is why I am writing a letter to myself for when I am triggered (and have asked Knight to write me a note of what he wishes for me to remember when I am in the dark). Sometimes the only way to direct my thoughts away from the fear and darkness is to focus on something that tells me different.

I have to keep reminding myself that the fear isn't real, no matter how real it feels in my body and mind.

I fear that Knight will abandon me, yet my experience is that he stands by me no matter what--no matter how emotional I get, no matter how I've hurt him, no matter that he's shared his heart and body with another. He's still here. He still desires me. He still holds me when I cry. He still loves every single part of me.

I fear that I will become invisible if he has attraction and feelings for someone else, yet he shows and tells me how visible I am every day through texts or phone calls or time spent together.

I fear that I am crazy, yet despite my emotional roller-coaster I am still functioning and thriving. I am doing my best at my self-care practices. I am working every day. I am caring for my children. I am being a friend when needed. I am having good social time when I can. I am still capable of moments of joy and beauty. While this is big, it has not swallowed me, which means I am in control of myself and my life.

And the Universe keeps bringing me guidance and support on this journey...

"It’s what I most want and what I most fear. It’s what feels most true for me and causes me to doubt myself more than anything else. It lands me in places that show me my most profound strength and drops me into spaces of depraved insecurity. Faith is what’s needed. In the process. In myself. In the truth." Ronna Detrik

"We are not our stories." Mahala Mazerov

"I am responsible for keeping my inner world healthy and whole." Hiro Boga


Dave Berman said...

I posted the following as a comment to another author's recent item at Manifest Positivity. The context for it then was totally different but it is equally relevant here.

"If you are stuck in a mood you don't want or fixated on unwelcome thoughts, it is helpful to play with sensory input - stick your feet in cold ocean water or take a hot bath; go jogging or put on some music that always makes you dance; try on clothes with different textures or roll around in a pile of leaves; look at beautiful art or old photos of people you love; masturbate!

If you focus on feeling things that you choose to feel, your feelings will be much more of your choosing."

I would add that the post I'm now commenting on shows something I hadn't quite noticed about you before, April. You've described a co-dependency between your feelings and thoughts (which certainly we all have to varying degrees). What makes this so noticeable today is that you describe all your effort at cultivating better feelings in terms of what you direct yourself to think about. Hence the suggestions above.

FWIW, I seem to be experiencing the opposite, thinking that I'm more detached from my feelings than I'd like to be, particularly excitement. I like that I'm way more mellow than I used to be and want to continue improving my ability to calibrate my expressions of enthusiasm. Let's talk soon...

Dave Berman said...

In my previous comment, the quote I included was incomplete and omitted the best part, a meme that summarizes the suggestion: "If you want to feel something different, feel something different."