If you’d asked me how I felt when I was in my early 20s I would’ve likely made it up.
I was so disoriented that I was frozen and afraid to express myself. It wasn’t easy or natural for me to talk openly or freely about how I felt and share my feelings.
There were so many jumbled feelings of shame, pain and anxiety that felt like confusion and led to me being dissociated from my emotions and feelings.
I remember my shiatsu teacher nudging me when she was giving me shiatsu telling me not to drift off and to stay present. It was my habit to space out and drift off. I fell asleep in the first few yoga classes I attended, especially at the end where we would lie in Savasana or meditate. I once blacked out while sitting straight up in meditation and come to not knowing where I’d gone, still sitting straight up.
I thought I was good at relaxing, but what I was very good at was numbing out.
When we feel we cannot tolerate what is happening in our lives and are overwhelmed by a situation or experience, sometimes we become agitated, anxious or hyper-aroused and sometimes we shut down and check out.
I checked out.
This is another face of fear which is subtle, hidden. It hid from me for a long time.
It is a fear that feels sluggish and heavy. It is a fear that masks itself with tiredness at the thought of feeling our emotions or expressing them and being vulnerable.
It creates a divide between us and others.
When we check out we’re also avoiding intimacy and connection.
We cannot engage with others fully in relationships if we do not share our emotions and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
We won’t trust others and be able to accept their emotions.
We run away when conversations get difficult. We avoid confrontation and talking about important issues in our relationships in case we create conflict, are judged or rejected. This can lead to us suppressing our feelings and thoughts, creating tension and stress within ourselves or with others.
We seek companionship but can’t sustain long-term relationships. We don’t feel like anybody gets us. We feel unfulfilled and sense that something is missing in our lives.
In some ways, we feel safe because we’re insulated from being hurt but this insulation also prevents us from experiencing real connection and satisfaction in our relationships.
It took many years of self-work before I was able to stop dissociating and stay present in my body and identify my emotions. I had to regularly check in and ask what I felt and where I felt it. Years of therapy, yoga, meditation, zen shiatsu, coaching and healing sessions.
Because of the painful life experiences that I’d had, I’d unconsciously chosen to dissociate and numb myself.
This was my way to manage my fears and anxiety. I was unable and unsuccessful in coping healthily with what was painful or difficult in my life so I froze to feel more in control and steady myself at the time and just get through each day, to survive.
But it became a long-term coping mechanism and the way that I operated in the world.
In some ways, this made it easier for me to open my mind and consciousness to spiritual practices like meditation, fasting and plant medicine ceremonies. I had less resistance than others to altered states of consciousness, but after almost a decade when I knew I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be in my life and having spent many years, hours and thousands of dollars on my spiritual search, I felt a calling to go deeper into presence.
It was another decade between that calling and my experience of feeling more deeply present in myself.
It was a dedicated practice of looking, reflecting and embodiment.
It was not until I began to be more fully present that I was able to encounter my life and others in a meaningful way.
Then I began to help others learn how to unfreeze and connect with their bodies, feelings and hearts so that they can live fuller more fulfilling lives.
Finding my way from disorientation and dissociation to presence and connection with others and my life allows me to help others to do the same.
I can do this because I trained and I lived it.
When someone comes to me for help and tells me that they feel out of sync and disconnected from their lives or they don’t know how they feel, I tell them that they can reconnect and find themselves again and I will show them how, step by step.
I will be with them while they start to unwind and feel their bodies and emotions. I can guide them, as others guided me, so they can start to embody their lives and check back in.
And the privilege of doing this work makes me feel content, alive and joyful.
It’s freeing to connect with and become aware of yourself more deeply. Knowing what you feel means you’re not at the mercy of suppressed or unconscious emotions and reactions. It helps you be more intentional and in control of your life and relationships.
It allows you to live your life more consciously so that you can create the full life and meaningful future you desire.