In Meeting this morning, someone read a poem by Mirabai about beauty. I think about how the ability to perceive and enjoy beauty depends on brain chemistry. I was very glad to find that out, because I thought I was refusing to feel good things rather than unable to feel them. Appreciation can be done on will, but not enjoyment. It’s possible to look at something and know that it is beautiful, but not have the felt sense. Most of my life I suffered from severe depression rooted in PTSD. So when people recommend “going out and smelling the flowers,” I feel very sad and very angry. Unfortunately, instead of remembering that my ability to enjoy was damaged by someone else’s action, I get angry at myself for not being able to do it, not being able to “cheer up,” not being able to “get out of a bad mood.” That is what my mother called it, implying that it was my choice.
Luckily, the universe recently helped me by sending me two messages: one from Lama Rod Owens: “Healing is knowing our woundedness; it is developing an intimacy with the ways in which we suffer. Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort.” And one from John Welwood: “This begins with letting yourself have your experience. Genuine self-acceptance is not possible as long as you are resisting, avoiding, judging, or trying to manipulate and control what you experience. Whenever you judge the experience you’re having, you’re not letting yourself be as you are.”
So now I am trying to be friendly toward this self who is confused, tense, uncomfortable, wanting to get away, can’t seem to think… and it’s very difficult. My therapist suggested on Friday that what I was calling “denial” was actually dissociation. Dissociation is a protective mechanism of the nervous system to keep you from feeling something that’s too much for you. So it’s not a choice. But at some point you begin to suspect that you are not telling yourself the truth, and that’s where you have a choice. I think of the stories I read in AA’s Big Book, of how people finally realized that alcohol was the problem. It’s so hard because every cell in your body is pulling you away from that knowledge. Don’t I wish I could have a drink, or do a puzzle, or lose myself in a murder mystery. Unfortunately, those don’t work any more, I continue to feel the discomfort.
I’m thinking that this is harder than feeling the really awful feelings that I have felt in the past as part of my healing. The intense pain was easier because it involved intense pain in the body, and usually I felt the worst ones when I was with my therapist or at least on the phone. What’s so hard about this is the feelings keep slipping away. Even the words slip away. Nothing to do but sit down next to it and stay there.
I realize that everything has suddenly gotten worse because Kendal Retirement Community has gone on lockdown because two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. They still don’t have enough information to know exactly what’s happened, have to trace contacts, do more tests. They said the test they are using is very accurate, but it takes time to get the results. So a lot is unknown. All very triggering.