Broken in a pile on your bedroom floor is a state I know well. I recently read a story by Julie Peters in the Elephant Journal. It’s a great piece about a little known Hindu Goddess whose name is Akhilandeshvari. I used to fall apart in pieces all the time and found it scary and tried desperately to put myself back together again. One day it occurred to me that falling into pieces creates an opportunity to put myself back together differently. I liked the idea and it made me feel better about falling apart. “My pieces swung in wide orbits without a center” is how I described it in my journal. It wasn’t until I was working with Somatic Experiencing that I had a revelation. When I went to pieces, they fell on a floor. Until that moment, I hadn’t been aware of a “floor.” The “floor” was a container I had built doing Somatic Experiencing work. I realized that now there was a floor, I didn’t have to worry about any pieces falling into outer darkness.
Once, working with an art therapist, I made a number of pieces that I was intending to use in a collage. At one point I said “I’m not a collage, I’m a constellation.” My therapist laughed and suggested I use the pieces as a mobile instead. What a great idea! I used wire and thread to combine the pieces. When I hung it in my stairwell, the pieces swung entertainingly. Much better image/metaphor for a life.
I find it very interesting that Akhilandeshvari gets herself up off the floor with the help of a crocodile. The crocodile is a reptile and the reptilian brainstem holds the instincts of flee-fight-freeze. The reptilian brainstem must be activated in order for the nervous system and the body to “digest” the pieces of an indigestible trauma. Those of us who have been trained in the belief that our cognitive brains are running the show and that we must never be out of control find it very hard to allow the body/brainstem to do what it needs to heal from trauma.
Julie Peters translates Akhilanda as “Never Not Broken,” and describes her ride up from the floor: “in pieces, warrior-style, on the back of a crocodile. Yee ha.” I echo “Yee Ha!” and know that riding down the river, in pieces, carried by the reptilian brainstem, is how I heal from trauma.