How to Welcome the Unwelcome
These past several weeks have been hellish for me, on and off. I’ve been riddled with depression, self-doubt, and anxiety about starting this new venture.
At first I didn’t really know why. The surface level stories were compelling: fallings out with several important women in my life (mentors and lovers) played a big part. But the deeper issues that were being raised were much more than that. Much older and more intractable.
Some this territory is terrifying for me, and there are lots of ways I could have avoided exploring it, as we all do many times in our lives. As I started taking a real closer look, one of the first things I uncovered was the need to have a sense of integrity with what I’m offering here. There is an urge to demonstrate first for myself that the “alternative” methods for addressing emotional distress that I promote truly are effective and healing!
The journey through this round of depression and paranoia included many of the usual things you hear about making a difference: Attention to maintaining diet, exercise, social engagements, and avoiding things that make it worse, like drinking and spending entire days playing video games (okay, I didn’t completely attend to those last two).
In my experience, any wellness or personal change undertaking operates on at least three distinct levels that support each other like the way a bridge is built. With a large bridge, you have 1) the substructure, which the foundation, 2) the bridge itself, and 3) the super-structure, those wires and lattices that distribute weight to major columns).
In this case the sub-structure was attending to diet and regular exercise so that my body could physically be available to change. The super-structure was not doing too many things that would make the situation worse, this lets the weight of the process rest on my strengths and integrity, rather than distributing willy-nilly, contorting and warping the process. The bridge itself in this case has been the wonderful Core Transformation method of personal change that I have been learning.
Core Transformation is a simple system that gently inquires into the deeper and deeper needs of parts of myself that I’d like to change. For instance, in one session I picked a part that looks back on past actions and goes over them countless times wishing I had done them perfectly. When I asked, I found out that this part wants to know how to not make mistakes in the future, and through that, it wants to experience clear insight about what to do next. Through acting out of clear insight, it wants warm attention from others, so it can get a feeling of safety, followed by bliss, and a sort of gushy contentment, and finally a sense of absolute “wholeness”.
By drilling down through these layers of needs, I started with a really annoying tendency toward retrospective perfectionism, and ended up experiencing a state of incredibly pleasurable grace that I called “wholeness.”
I have heard intellectually for many years that the hurt and marginalized parts of ourselves have something incredibly important and unignorable to offer us. I knew that I should try to welcome and respect them, but really didn’t know how. Core Transformation has turned out to be a surprisingly effective and reliable tool for doing so. After a few sessions with my friend Duff and another 5-10 on my own, my depression has lifted. I am beginning to feel as alive as I did before it started, with a sense of internal “acceleration” toward feeling even better.
With a solid substructure and superstructure in place, I was able to make quick and smooth process across my bridge toward further integration using this technique. In the past, I have tried equally powerful techniques with less dramatic results. A core reason why my recent experience led to powerful results is that the structure was there. For years, my body and heart used to be wobbly and in constant pain from smoking&drug use, stressful relationships, and a lively habit of obsessing over my issues, making them worse and worse in my head.
Change work has helped me even at my most lost and self-destructive, and is always worth doing when I have the intention for it. And, I see the most dramatic and stabilizing shifts when I am thoroughly setup for welcoming, when there is enough space in my body, mind, and heart to accommodate the bigness of the problem and the even bigger-ness of the transformative healing process.
The story above is an interesting example of one sort of help I offer to people, but this isn’t mean to be a sales article. I want to declare, transparently, that I am somebody who has experienced very extreme states and practices on a daily basis how to best support and protect my emotional well-being. I am not a kind of guru, expert, or professional who looks down on the people I work with, or acts like I already have it all figured out.
The primary credentials and expertise I call upon is my own lived experience of dealing with problematic emotions, behaviors, and relationships.
When I work with people, I am in the trenches with them. When you experience your existential victories, I’m right there with you and get to enjoy a resonant healing in myself. When you are overwhelmed by the unwelcome, or the unwelcoming, I’m sitting right there, inviting all the hurt parts to the table, and asking them what they need.
When considering social justice transformation, I see the same process happening all the time. Oppressed peoples speak up out of the deep frustration of not having their needs met, just like marginalized parts of ourselves. The more powerful and privileged parts of society must spend time welcoming and supporting minorities. Ideally, they become willing to change systems to meet everybody’s needs and cease patterns that are making things worse.
If a structure exists supporting dialogue through trainings, and preventing things from getting worse through a cultural awareness of privilege and majority supremacy, then real community healing can occur.
In this way, the personal connects on a core level with the political. I hope that in the dialogue here perhaps we can explore a shared language that encompasses welcoming and healing both within us and without.