Over the past three months, I’ve received multiple invitations to trust life more deeply than I’ve ever done before. I’ve been inside a perfect storm of insecurity, instability and uncertainty. I’ve been asked to face my deepest fears: that the world isn’t safe and that I can’t trust life to take care of me.
And a couple of weeks ago, at a critical moment, my body went into lockdown.
A spasm rippled through my gut. My intestines tried to tie themselves into knots. I tasted the sharp, metallic edges of terror around my tongue. The area behind my heart locked like a steel plate as my mind/body system tried to assume control and push my Soul away.
Intellectually, I can totally do surrender. My mind can convince itself that everything will be ok. I can slide into a space of detachment, where I’m no longer feeling terrified but I’m numb.
I’d been doing it for weeks.
But eventually, my body told a different story.
And this time, I knew I had to actually face the fear.
Because if I went around it again, it would still be there next time.
So I stopped avoiding the fear and made a decision I knew would release the demons.
And here’s what I learned when they came to meet me.
Every time any flavour of survival fear gets triggered, a tiny part of me believes I’m about to die. That part of my mind and psyche was formed before I was even born. And she’s holding on tight to her conviction that we might not survive today.
I’ve been working with this part of me for several years now. The last month revealed a new layer of trauma, with its corresponding coping mechanisms. It’s helping me see the interaction between the different aspects of me – body, mind and heart/Soul – more clearly than I could before… so I thought it might be useful to share.
Some context: while I was resting quietly in the womb, held by my Soul, the car my mother travelled in was hit head-on. A tsunami of terror washed through the womb. Soon afterwards came shock.
The little part formed as I swam in that chemical bath. Her embryonic consciousness believed she’d been betrayed by her own weak, defenceless body and by her Soul. They’d both failed to protect her. So she made a decision, without using words: she’d never let that happen again.
More than 40 years later, she’s still keeping that promise.
At the first sign of danger, she hides inside a space of hyper-vigilant awareness. She locks down our body and pushes our Soul away.
She’s actually constructed a panic room for herself, using the structures of our body for the reinforced steel walls. Whenever fear comes up, she retreats inside her panic room so she won’t have to feel it. Which means my body tenses and hardens and assumes a defensive position to protect her from the attack she’s sure must be coming.
She’s the most vulnerable part of me… and the most terrified. She’s scared of big energy and big emotions. She believes her body is tiny and fragile and open to attack. And she’s decided her mind is the only thing she can trust to keep her safe.
She lives one step away from a terror that feels worse than death. In reality, she’d rather not be here. Life is too frightening.
She’s desperate for the cycle of avoidance to stop, but she doesn’t know how to end it. Her patterns are imprinted in my body and my psyche. She can’t unwind them by herself. She needs my help.
Because here’s the thing: when the little part is in charge, my mind is controlling my experience. The trouble with putting the mind in charge is that it likes to make up stories. And in this case, my mind made up a story of hopelessness.
You see, the little part believes danger is always coming, the world isn’t safe and it’s hopeless to believe otherwise. She’s held hostage by fear and alternates between numbness and despair much of the time.
And then there’s another part of my psyche – let’s call it the inner critic – that has strong opinions about all this. The inner critic despises the little part. Because the inner critic believes the little part is weak and will never get stronger.
So the inner critic often tells the little part – in a voice loud enough for me to hear – that she’s hopeless.
The little part believes it.
Some days, so do I.
And that’s when the real trouble starts. Because when the ego-personality that calls itself Belinda starts believing there’s something wrong with itself, it tries to compensate by being perfect.
And then everything gets very fucked up, very quickly.
I avoid making mistakes and end up paralysed, unable to move forward.
I avoid letting anyone see that I’m scared and end up disconnected from the people I love and who love me.
I avoid actually feeling scared and end up feeling nothing at all.
Perfectionism also feeds my spiritual ego. The prospect of not being spiritually good enough creates desperation. I start chasing mystical experiences and revelations as proof that I’m connected and special.
I write excruciatingly raw blog posts that are supposed to demonstrate my humility but actually reveal thinly-veiled self-loathing.
I beat myself up for all the ways that I’m wrong. Broken. Hopeless.
And the unresolved wound acts like a magnet for energies that don’t have my best interests at heart.
I’d love to heal the wound. Because as desperate as the little part and I both are for release from the reactive conditioned responses, our Soul is equally desperate for us both to come home. Our combined longing creates an ache in the centre of my chest that’s like a black hole collapsing into itself.
But I need to move slowly and carefully. I’m dealing with old and complex trauma. I know these kind of interwoven survival strategies are tricky to unravel. And it’s possible the wounds may never perfectly heal.
I know that different parts of my psyche have their own specific (and contradictory) awareness. It’s possible to work with those parts, one by one, to rewrite their stories and heal their trauma. That kind of work can be very useful.
That kind of work can also turn into an unwinnable game for the mind to play with itself – a never-ending quest for perfection, where there’s always something needing to be fixed.
And I’m finally ready to give up striving for perfection.
So perhaps the best option is to work with the body to help it release the old fears. But I’ve recently understood that our bodies have their own distinct consciousness. They have their own distinct trauma patterns too. And sometimes our bodies lie to us, meaning they react in ways that aren’t actually helpful for our Soul’s evolution.
Trying to figure out the best way forward is crazy-making. So how do I navigate this healing process? How can I show myself the most compassion?
My sense is I need to learn how to live with the terror, rather than seeking to eradicate it.
It needs to unwind in its own time.
And the antidote to fear is trust.
But after half a lifetime of listening to different parts of my psyche tell their stories, how do I even know what’s true?
And if my body lies, where can I turn for guidance?
As I move through life, what can I actually trust?
But even as I ask the question, my Soul places a hand behind my armoured heart. She strokes my frown away. She holds the little part tenderly, telling her to relax.
And She whispers in my ear:
And then She’s here.
No spiritual fireworks.
No explosion of white light.
No big rush of energy.
Just a gentle breath of love.
Into my heart.
Inside every cell of my body.
Wrapped around every thought and story my mind can produce.
When She’s here, I know I’m ok, just as I am.
When She’s here, I trust life.
Because when She’s here, I AM life.
So I’m placing my healing journey in Her hands now. She gets to decide how it unfolds. And I get to enjoy the ride.