A guest post by Theo Kitchener, originally written as an open letter to friends and family.
So I recently went to Innate Wisdom Connection’s three week Deep Changer retreat, and holy shit it was life changing.
I came out feeling really comfortable with my emotions, in a way that, even though I’d been trying earlier, I just couldn’t. Much of the theory was the same as what I’d been practicing before. But one of the major things that had been missing, was the sense of community creating safe space for feeling things. I really needed that, in order to really feel comfortable to drop into that emotional space.
It was a huge process, to have found a taste of what emotionally safe space in community feels like, to have done a huge amount of healing and processing, and then to come back out…
…to the real world, where I had to deal with everything that was going on. I really want to keep doing that in a completely new way…but everything about society and my previous relationships was encouraging me to go back to my old ways. Which I know don’t work for me – I know because they never did work very well, and I’ve now seen these new ways work amazingly well.
It’s tricky though, because for instance, I wasn’t allowed to scream where I was living, because of my housemate’s fear of upsetting the neighbours. And you’re not really allowed to scream in public, and yet I’ve discovered that screaming at appropriate times, is just so useful! I don’t want to go back to not screaming. I really don’t. I’ve since moved in with some new friends from the retreat where I can scream and it feels much better.
Since leaving the retreat, particularly in the first couple of weeks, I noticed that I was having a lot of resistance come up around not really wanting to hang out with my friends and family very much. Basically because it didn’t feel like the completely safe emotional space I’d gotten used to being in. Although I’ve always talked about my emotions with my friends and family a lot, the processing we’ve always done, was always very thinking based. And it turns out that just doesn’t work for me. Processing things at a feeling level now works far better for me, and a lot of the thinking based stuff just feels annoying.
So I would like to share some things that I learned at the retreat about ways I’d like to be supported. It currently feels like a really different way of being to what’s normal, although many of you already get/do a lot of this already. I’m so in love with it, as a model for human relating and supporting healing. I’m also definitely not saying that unless you can do all this, that I’m going to stop hanging out with you or anything like that, just wanted to share that this stuff could be nice for me, and is where I’m currently at 🙂
Ok, here goes.
- It’s ok for me to feel my feelings, not just talk about them. In fact I really really need to, and while I often prefer to do that alone, sometimes it’s nice to do that around close people. So please don’t say “it’s ok”, “there there”, “don’t worry about it”, “maybe you just need to have a glass of wine”, or anything of the sort. Asking me a question will also bring my thinking self back to the fore and interfere with the feeling process. I can stop if you don’t feel comfortable with my feelings at any given point, but if you could be ok with it sometimes, that would be lovely.
- Expressing my feelings with sound and movement, really helps me to fully feel things. When I do that, I often end up learning from whatever my subconscious is trying to get across through the emotion, and I usually end up feeling better quite quickly. Expressing it could involve screaming, making other weird noises, bashing a baseball bat against a pile of cushions, shaking, moving in strange ways, or who knows.
- Please don’t try to tell me what you think is going on for me, or give me advice anymore (unless I actually ask for it). I know now, that if I stick to the processes I’ve learnt, I’ll know what I need to do. I have trust in this process, and so thinking based processing (whether I do it to myself, or you do it to me), just feels like it gets in the way. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk about emotional stuff at all anymore – debriefing and venting is still great for instance, it’s just that I want to talk about it quite differently.
- I am no longer interested in “trying to change” anything about me. I accept myself the way I am, and I know that any attempt to change anything through willpower will only fail, and lead to more self-judgement. The only thing I’ve seen lead to real change, is deep feeling of things that helps me create new beliefs, where it becomes possible to do things a different way. That’s what happens on the mat in the IWC workshops, and I’ve developed a process for doing it on my own too.
- Also please don’t try to fix things for me. If it seems like I’m in a big hole, maybe that’s where I need to be for a bit. I’ll get out of it at some point when I’m ready. If you try to rescue me, by helping in whatever way you can, it’ll only make my hole more bearable, and keep me there longer. Perhaps even encouraging me to feel safe to sink in even deeper. This might mean that if I’m complaining about something, the best thing would just be to empathise and say something like “that really sucks”, and perhaps leave it at that. Even if that feels awkward and unhelpful, it gives me space to just vent and really feel things, which is actually all I need.
- If I’ve been rescuing you, I may want to stop that as well. Please don’t think this means I don’t care about you, it just means I respect your ability to take care of yourself, as well as your ability to cope with being in your hole. Even if it’s unpleasant or horrible. It’s also because, I want to honour myself and my own needs – by putting all of my energy for this kind of thing, towards taking care of myself. So I can live as much as possible, to my own potential.
- I may talk about feeling triggered. Perhaps some emotion has come up for me in the present moment, which I recognise is mostly about something from my past. I believe everyone has trauma about all kinds of small things, and sometimes big things. Getting triggered isn’t just something that happens to survivors of sexual assault, it happens to all of us, all the time. Recognising this, means that I know that most of it isn’t actually about the person who triggered me.
- I feel very accepting of myself and all of my issues now. Even the most hurtful things I’ve done. There is so much in the way that I was socialised and traumatised in small ways in childhood, and there were always so many complicating factors. I couldn’t have done anything differently, given who I am, and everything that’s happened to me. I also feel a lot less judgemental towards everyone else. No matter what they’ve done, there’s a reason. We’re all just humans struggling in this world.
- The understanding about triggers being most of what’s upsetting in conflict, in combination with a lack of judgement around whatever part was actually someone’s fault, makes resolving conflict a helluva lot easier. So I may raise things, that in the past, just wouldn’t have felt worth raising, since it turns out conflict is amazingly easily resolvable!
- I want to spend as much time in nature as possible cos it feels really peaceful and healing. So wherever we would’ve hung out before, can we please hang out in nature instead? 🙂
I can’t explain how much of a positive difference this work has made to my life already, and being able to integrate these ways of being into my existing community and life, feels really important to me. Let me know any thoughts or let’s talk about it more next time we see each other.
Thanks for reading,
If you’re interested, Theo Kitchener is starting an online course at www.liberatinglogic.com