The urge to slam the door on the face of emotions
Like almost everybody, I'd always been really attached to my protection systems. If I started to feel something even remotely not-good, I'd quickly shut down. It was like slamming the door on the face of a family member I didn't wanna see. I'd isolate myself behind the door, bury my head in the sand and pretend everything was alright. The hardest thing was always dealing with weeping, precisely because it's so hard to mask. I'd see myself crying and think "what a ridiculous scene". Even though I never meant to, I'd bought into the idea that sensitivity is weakness and that it was absolutely crucial that I "control my emotions" (instead of simply letting them run their course).
Like most transformations, mine took place over time, almost unnoticeably. The core practice that led to the shift has been pay attention to the moments when I was about to shut down and making a conscious effort to stay open/connected. There were countless times when I tried and failed, but I got better and batter at recognizing the feeling and, over time, as staying open started to feel natural, the meaning of "I'm alright" changed radically. I didn't fully know that this was the process I was starting back when I discovered the gut as a data processor and trusted the experimentation not knowing for sure where it would lead me, but last week, the change became very clear.
It was during a moment of heightened sensitivity. I was in a strange environment, without the possibility of leaving and then something new happened. Underneath the vulnerability I could feel joy emerging as I noticed how my primary instinct had shifted. Instead of reaching for the mask of perfection, instead of shutting down and burying my head in the sand, I noticed that my new "I'm alright" allows room for difficult feelings to appear without the story changing to "oh, no, now I feel bad". And so, at 3 AM I felt very sad and wept because I miss someone dear. I lied on the floor and held the dog as I let the tears roll down my face and, believe me, I was alright.
A different kind of alright
My new "I'm alright" means I'm connected, alive, paying attention as things change from one moment to the next, with the help of my mind, my gut and everything else that runs through me. My eyes well up as I'm talking o a friend at the park and a minute later we're laughing again: I'm alright. I work late, wake up early the next day and feel super tired: I'm alright. I spend the whole afternoon in bed watching sitcoms in the middle of a weekday: I'm alright. I simply feel what's there to feel and I know I'm alright.
It doesn't matter much anymore what someone outside me might think if they see a grown woman crying on the floor, holding a dog: visceral consciousness assures my mind that I'm absolutely lucid. The sensitivity I regarded as weakness for so many years has become a source of power and my tummy makes sure I don't forget this. I feel freer because there's no need to be scared of non-good feelings. I'm alright, after all. For someone who's spent the first 30 years of their life afraid of going insane, under the burden of a family history of mental illness, experiencing this shift in my body is something huge, something that calls for celebration. In my tummy, I feel relief, fresh air, soft fuzziness: as if a boss has been defeated and I can move on to the next stage in the game. Everything's truly alright.