Notes on the Journey

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Releasing the Wound

I'm in the process of reading "Confessions of a Spiritual Thrillseeker" by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.  I just read about her experience of being tested in a self-defense class by being attacked by three different men and having to defend herself.  I cried as I read it and I cry again as I write this.

Many women live with an inherent physical fear of men.  Many of us have been attacked and raped in the past, and the scars of those experiences don't go quietly.  Our tendency is to the typical denial of the pain left by these physical invasions.  "I'm fine."  "I just need to forget and move on."  Yada, yada, yada.  This is what we're told by the world, and this is what we try to tell ourselves.  And, this is where the numbness comes in.  As we numb ourselves to the pain we don't know how to deal with, we also numb ourselves to all our other feelings.  It's not possible to compartmentalize and numb pain, without also numbing everything else as well.

At one part of Oriah's story, she talks about how she realizes she'd rather die than fight her attacker.  She wants to go to sleep instead of fight.  Her collapse is so total, her need to escape so complete, that it brings on unconsciousness.  Her teacher yells at her to bring her back into presence and she manages to rouse herself and fight, but the effort is extreme.  When I read this I realize that this retreat, this desire to escape, is operative in me.  Sleep is my escape.  And, I often wish I could die.  I've never tried to commit suicide, but the death wish is there.

The value of Oriah's learning of self-defense and the experience of being tested, brought all of her past experiences of violence, rape, and attack to the surface and allowed it to move through.  At the end of the testing, she was cleansed and renewed and empowered.  She no longer wanted to sleep, and she was no longer afraid to walk forward in the world.  She was no longer afraid of men, and could finally open to them without the overlay of fear and mistrust.  She knew she could defend herself, and this gave her a new sense of freedom.

I've not taken a self-defense class, but I'm thinking I might.  Recently, a man broke into my home while I was there.  Thankfully, I didn't have to physically defend myself, but when I confronted him, I didn't collapse, I got angry and went after him.  That's a good thing to know about myself.  I stayed awake.  I roused myself.  In the past, I have not been so present or so forceful.  I have collapsed.  And, I realize that in the collapse is not only the escape, but the effort at survival.  If I let them have their way, they will take what they want and leave, and hopefully leave me alive.  Yes, this might be a method for survival, but the wounds it leaves are deep.  And, once disempowered at this level, it's not an easy road to recovery.

I have a lot to recover from.  I don't look forward to opening it up and allowing it to move through.  But, I know that's what must be done in order to regain my freedom and to empower myself again.  I must look at the things I've been running from in order to wake up.  I must release those emotions in order to really feel again.  The healing is in the awareness and the release.  I must walk into it and not away from it.  It's time to dance with those demons.

Two different friends recently emailed me a poem by Maya Angelou called "Still I Rise."  I posted a link to a video of Maya herself speaking it on my Facebook page because I love it so much  And, I will include it here in written form.  This is what we do, over and over, we rise.  There are many kinds of slavery...but, the important thing is that we find freedom, and we rise.  This poem speaks to the slave in all of us.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

1 comment:

  1. Trudy, I am so honoured that my story offered something to you. I want to add one bit- something I have learned since this training and testing. When we are threatened with serious harm there are four instinctual responses: fight, flight, freeze (in the hope of going undetected) and collapsse. Collapse happens when a small animal finds itself in the jaws of a large predator. The prey's heart rate and respiration become almost indiscernable, which often makes the predator pause in confusion and loosen its grip (large predators don't generally eat what they have not killed- and so hesitate if it appears their prey is already dead.) We are like other mammals- but we also often retain trauma and in doing so make instinctual responses (like collapse) in situations where they are not adaptive. This is usually based on learned helplessness (from actual early trauma and/or conditioning to see ourselves as powerless.) I believe that my "collapse" response to being attacked came from very early long term chronic abuse in my childhood. Having brought that to consciousness for healing, I am able now to make other (more life-preserving) responses- but it's been a long journey. All the best with your healing- clearly you are a woman of courage and heart. Blessings, oriah