We were a bit blocked in the session. Janet was having trouble opening up and connecting with her feelings. “Do I feel like a safe person to you right now?” I asked her. She paused and looked at me for a moment. “Well yes you do… but there’s something else going on.” We waited as she tuned into herself to find the obstacle to going deeper. “It’s just not safe to trust people” she said.
“But right here and right now do I feel safe to you?” She blinked as if to clear away another image and focus her eyes on me in the here and now. “I know you are. But I’m on guard, my body’s tense just at the thought of trusting. A barrier goes up in me that blocks what’s happening now. I feel constricted and tight and almost nauseous at the idea of trusting. It’s like I have a story and I can’t let go – like people can’t be trusted and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”
We both laughed at the adamant tone in her voice. A part of her was proud to be resisting. I asked her “Is there another part of you in there, Janet – a part that feels something different right now?” “Of course!” she exclaimed. “I want to feel that I can trust and be supported and feel like I’m not alone.”
I asked Janet to describe what she felt in her body as she connected with that feeling, and in contrast to the constriction she felt a minute before, she felt her chest open and her spine straighten, and she had an impulse in her arms and hands as though to reach forward. “Which of those two feelings do you want more of?” I asked her. Janet was very clear. “I want more of the feeling of moving forward and reaching and opening.”
But then just as she said that she suddenly felt her shoulders tighten and her legs brace and her hands began to fidget. “This is hard” she said. “It just feels like the wrong thing to do, like I’m gonna get hurt.” Janet’s story was trying to take over the show.
I invited her to stay with the physical discomfort of the vulnerability of this moment, and she breathed and slowed herself a bit. She brought precise attention to the muscles that were tight and let her body know she was right there, feeling all of it. Her warm, interested and nonjudgemental presence was the evidence her body needed that it was safe. Although it is vulnerable, opening up with me is not danger. Nothing about this moment of trust is an actual threat to life and limb. Nothing in this vulnerable human experience of connecting requires the body to be physically on alert in order to fight or flee. Her body began to release its grip and she could feel her heart and chest open again.
We stayed with the feeling in her body for a while longer. Janet was surprised at the power of the energy flowing through her as she stayed with what she was experiencing in the moment, rather than “sticking with” her story.
We all have stories, and lots of them are very useful to us, as they help us make sense of our world. But sometimes our stories are out of date. And always our stories are more removed from the reality of the present moment than is our experience. In fact, when we rely on stories to guide and inform us we are living from our history and our imagination rather than truly living now. We end up living a few steps back from our life, shielded from the discomfort of vulnerability but also untouched by the truth of our lived lives.
If we live from stories about ourselves rather than experiencing ourselves in the moment, we miss out on our real lives, and our real power. And even more, we cannot grow.
It is not comfortable to enter into the lived breathed felt experience of the moment. The vulnerability feels like constriction and tension and agitation and we have the urge to avoid those feelings.
But if we make the choice to approach ourselves there, to understand the body’s discomfort as an invitation to come home with warm interest and nonjudgement, we will find those exact moments are doorways into our growth.
Are you willing to let go of the story about your life and enter in to the living moment? To feel yourself as you are touched by this life? To co-create your life and become all you are meant to be?
You are so worth it.
Photo Credit: D.Beder Photography