I was pretty surprised to discover that one of the things required of my studies in Integrated Imagery is nosing around in my own subconscious. Truth is that we all have a lot of stuff hidden away there, like that closet full of good and bad stuff we mean to reorganize one day. I thought I had mine pretty well organized, already, with a healthy focus on the positive. Years of therapy back in the day had been useful in helping me handle the lesions of my past. Vulnerability to that old stuff was a thing of the past, or so I thought. Those lesions were healed.
The word fits. Lesions. Wounds. Oh yes, I had them. At one point or another, we all have been wounded and we may still. Those wounds are a result of some heavy-duty opportunities to grow and learn.
Challenges are part of life and facing them, handling them,working through them–that’s how we grow. I just didn’t expect to be thinking about my life events so deeply at this age as part of my graduate program. Some interesting insights have emerged from this internal work, though, even at this latter stage of life.
This, too, then, is part of growth.
Most of us develop some armor over the years, protective armor that’s meant to shield us from some of blows of life, those spears in the side, knives in the heart, the painful parts of life. Maybe we don’t recognize the way we keep part of ourselves locked safely away so that it can’t be hurt.
In class last semester, our professor regressed each of the four women in the program individually in class (in front of the others), and also as a group. He also regressed me privately before class began, at my request. That’s a lot of internal exploration, let me tell you. After my in-class regressions, one of my classmates said, “If I hadn’t seen that regression I would have never known you had any vulnerabilities.” The rest agreed.
But I was taken aback.
When I told a BFF about it, she said, “But you KNOW that’s how you present to the world!”
I guess I really didn’t. I mean, I know that people think that, but I can’t understand why because to me, all my vulnerabilities seem obvious.
It made me think about a quick dialogue I had recently about someone we are both acquainted with. Barely.
“I never heard anything back from her,” he said.
I responded, “She’s not a very likable person.”
I thought about her because her exterior is very tough. Super-tough. Masculine-tough. I’m pretty sure that she has no idea how she comes across to the world, just as I don’t and just as most of us do not. I hadn’t consciously considered that she might be vulnerable and that her rough exterior might be simply a protective shell to safeguard her vulnerability. But now, I did consider that was probably the case.
The week after I returned home from all that deep diving at school, something happened that made me come unhinged in a way I hadn’t ever before. I mean UNHINGED. And even as it was going on, I knew exactly what had happened. I had discarded my armor back in Virginia Beach and now, open and vulnerable, something someone had said had hit directly and plunged into a very deep wound from childhood. The source of the wound was very clear to me as it was happening. But I couldn’t stop myself from becoming absolutely unglued. It was as if my conscious mind was giving me all the reasons why it was happening, even while my subconscious or unconscious mind was absolutely out of control.
Vulnerability. I don’t much like going around naked and vulnerable, not at all. But that episode was tangible evidence that I’d built up pretty good armor during growing up and that perhaps I had not let go of that particular lesion.
Immediately, I reached out for help to my closest confidantes and also to my professor, who suggested I think of that lesion like a ghost. That it’s a long-departed event. And that I make a self-hypnosis recording with some specific messages and listen to it each night before bed for a month.
Most of us don’t like messing around in old stuff. It can be painful. If we’re older adults, we think we should have handled this stuff by now.
Well, maybe we have and maybe we haven’t. Maybe we have some knee-jerk ways of responding to people and things that don’t work in our self-interest.
And maybe, we can change that.
No maybe about it.
We CAN change.
it’s never too late to grow.