Collapsing Into the Comfort (Fear) of Intimacy
Like a deer in headlights, being photographed feels vulnerable and terrifying.
What won’t look good? What will you see? Will it make you stop loving me?
I spent most of my life feeling this way, being guarded in preparation for a venom-laced insult, or an attack I wasn’t expecting. The energy of fear and the need to protect myself in my younger years became a long-standing message that created an operating system that I didn’t consciously construct. When messages are created in an effort to protect ourselves from something real, they find a spot to sit in the body and keep popping up, even when they no longer serve us.
They have loud voices, those messages.
I’ve always been a shoot from the hip, outspoken woman, but much of it was a mask for the sadness I felt around not being accepted. I would get brassy with my language to hide the hurt. I would laugh off what really made me want to cry. I held back tears and pushed forward aggressive language. Years and years of this behavior trained me to block everything, even the good stuff.
I have learned how to disengage from people who are unkind or energy that’s hurtful. I go back to the mantra, “It’s not mine, it’s yours.” But the bits that hang out in my low belly, in my root and sacral chakras, they created quite a system of protection. But I don’t need to protect myself from love anymore, so I had to move them out.
While on vacation, far away from home, I couldn’t hide from those emotions. I couldn’t burrow into my work or distract myself with errands. Since I’ve given up drinking alcohol, I can’t use that as an escape either. I mention in my podcast, Access + Expand, something that my friend and fellow breathwork healer, Chris, shared with me about intimacy being hard… but what he really said was in response to me asking about operating through intimacy without alcohol. He recognized that the transition can be hard, at first, but it’s not forever. Taking time to honor where I was at, he reminded me that I could choose how my life would be lived, and that the feeling was temporary and part of the process of growth/healing. Gems of words.
Quiet, on an island, I had the opportunity to face myself, and all the discomfort that I carried in my body and brought to my relationships. It wasn’t pretty. I definitely spent a handful of hours rolling in anger and sadness. I stayed in that space because anger feels protective and powerful. Anger has always been a great guard for me. But what was I guarding myself from... love?
Just days before I headed south, I had a deep talk with my friend, Stacie, about intimacy and vulnerability. I mentioned my fear of being soft, of allowing and sitting with kindness, of being able to trust that good things are real. She talked me through what I was feeling, and showed me that guarding wasn’t protecting me, it was dismantling my growth.
When I hit the sandy shore, I arrived open. I let myself be uncomfortable, soft. I hated it at first, and I fought it like a cranky child. But there is something about thick air, Spanish moss, and alligators, that softens my center. I opened when I wanted to slam shut. I stayed when I wanted to run. I kept trusting that the fear was leading me to the place I most needed to go.
I unlocked boxes in my heart. The more I yielded, the more the pain eased. And in the span of seven days, a shift erupted.
It’s okay to be angry. I welcome the expression of anger. Anger is an emotion that comes up, and denying it would be denying an intergral part of the human experience. It’s important, though, to move all the way through it, to release it completely and to rage as needed (in a safe, non-harmful way) until the tears come through.
I am so different now than I was a year ago. It’s amazing how we can become someone old and familiar when we just make space for it. I returned back to me, me without the warnings and the icky messages that I received/believed about myself. The old me, the soft and hopeful child returned, thanks to the practice of breathwork. Tapping in and releasing the old energy that held me back has really just brought me back home.