I had a world-expanding experience with a friend of mine.
He takes acting classes, and one night after a party, I found myself having a great chat with him after everyone else had left.
He asked if I wanted to try one of the exercises. Obviously I did!
We sat across the table from each other and stared into each other’s eyes. He told me to relax into my body. I was incredibly nervous, and I could feel the tension in the smirk on my face (that I could not get rid of, despite trying), and my tense shoulders.
Have you ever sat across the table from someone and just stared into their eyes?
It’s an incredibly vulnerable moment.
And I hate being vulnerable, and I told him as much.
“I can tell. Why do you hate being vulnerable?” He asked.
I could feel the tears welling in my eyes as I answered him from a place of utter truth.
“When I was a child, I feel like every moment that I felt vulnerable was thrown back in my face or used against me. My mother really hurt me.”
There was a long pause, and I began to tremble as the tears rolled down my cheeks.
“I’m broken. My mother broke me. I experienced severe psychological childhood trauma.”
I admitted this to my friend, and he wept with me. I think he experienced something similar with his mother, and he might be the only other person (besides my sister) who could truly empathize with me. I loved him so much in that moment. When I tried to look away, he encouraged me to stay focused on him.
I suppose I would have kept going. I probably would have told him everything, admitted all the darkest parts of myself to him, but he ended the exercise by asking if he could give me a hug.
I have never had an experience like this in my life, and it was incredibly cathartic. Not just for my aching heart, but my body as well. I felt a tension that I’ve been holding in my shoulders (probably for years), ease a little. I was more relaxed than had been before we started the exercise.
I clutched my friend, and he held me tight, and told me how well I had done, and that I must have been really ready to let this go because it came so fast and easy.
Later he admitted that he ended the exercise because he was afraid that I would have kept going, and he wasn’t sure it I could handle that. More importantly, he didn’t know if he could have handled it.
Sharing this exercise with someone is so incredibly intense, and I feel like it bonded us in a way that can never be undone.
For a long time now, I’ve been thinking about shadow work. I’ve been stuck, in my life, for a really long time, and I think it has taken affect on my physically, and emotionally.
I’ve heard people talk about shadow work, and what it entails, and how it can leave you crying in a corner, even though it’s cathartic.
I never truly understood what that meant though, until I did this exercise with my friend.
I feel like I tapped into a deeply vulnerable and (what I consider) broken part of myself, and not only that, I actually shared that with someone else.
I relayed this entire experience to my husband, who thought it was wonderful that I was able to get this stuff out, and open up that part of me.
I slept deeply that night, and when I woke up, I felt lighter. The tension in my shoulders still hasn’t come back, and I’m so grateful.
And now, I want to work on myself. I want to go deep, and take a look at my binge-eating habits, my lack of motivation, and my absolute hatred of cleaning. Which is really tough with three children, a cat, and a dog.
However, I know I need to be careful. And I know I need to go slow. I don’t think my mind could handle blowing the lid on all my carefully constructed boxed up secrets and memories.
It’s exciting though.
The last few weeks I’ve been lying to myself, saying that I think there’s something big I’m hiding, because honestly, I feel fine. But I’m not sure. I think I’m fine with everything, but maybe I’m not?
After this exercise with my friend, I feel like it opened up the pathway for me to move forward on my own. And I am so incredibly grateful to him for that.
This is also a theme in my life that I’d like to address in my shadow work; many times I’ve faced a block of some kind, and in order to get there, to get passed it, I have to violently force through it.
What are these blocks that I’ve put up in certain parts of my mind? Worse; why can’t I get through them gently, with soft coaxing? Why does it take such extraordinary force to shatter them?
I’m so glad that I’m not stuck any more. I’m so glad that I know there are things I need to work through for myself, that I’ve been in denial about for a long time (including being in denial about being in denial).
I’m so grateful my friend and I have the shared experience of being vulnerable together.
I can’t wait to really start my shadow work, journaling to uncover the hidden parts of myself, to make me a better person, a more whole person. It’s terrifying, but exciting.
But also terrifying.