When the Present Triggers the Past

By Kim

As I stand in the loft of my best friend’s house, watching as she climbs out onto the decorative ledge to retrieve the Christmas decorations, my heart beats rapidly. It does this every time she climbs out there. She is small and flexible. In very good shape. She does not struggle out on this ledge. She simply crawls over the railing and procures the decorations. I’ve watched her do this many times. And each time, my heart beats fast and then catches. I discover that I am holding my breath. I panic. I know I am over reacting, but I’m not sure why. She’s nowhere near the edge, but I feel anxiety overcoming me. She will fall. It will be my fault. It’s always my fault.

There is a memory deep within me that is being scratched. Each time she crawls out on this ledge, I have the same reaction.

Reliving the past

We’ve gone to the lake for a “spiritual” retreat. A time when we will be tested to see if we truly trust in God. You can’t survive if you don’t trust. The Bible is quoted. It is daytime. The sun shines bright and the air is cold and crisp. The kind of cold that makes your cheeks tingly and feel slightly numb to the touch. We sit in lawn chairs as the Bible is read. We are reminded that it is only through God that we can be saved. It is trust in him that will save you. You cannot trust man. I think that I know this. No man has ever been trustworthy. But I don’t verbalize this. I don’t speak. I know that I will be smacked if I speak. The Lord does not care for the opinions of a female. Females are for the pleasure of men. They are mothers and teachers. They cook and clean. They do not have opinions. Ever. It is a sin in the eyes of the Lord for a woman to have an opinion. She must simply trust in God – who is a man.

I watch as all of the women around me simply nod their heads. Eyes down cast. I notice that the men all sit slightly taller than the women. Their chairs seemingly positioned to make them appear even larger than they are. I wonder if this is an illusion. Or is it simply God?

I try very hard to separate the day-time me from the night-time me. Their worlds are starkly different. During the day the speech is about God and how he is all I need. I must trust in him. Tonight, after the sun has disappeared behind the cliffs, a fire will be started. The talk will become much darker. I will be expected to drink blood from a tiny silver cup. The metallic taste will fill my cheeks as I pledge my allegiance to a dark force known as Satan. I will be forced to participate in dark rituals. It is too confusing to be the day-time me and the night-time me. They contradict each other. So, there are lots of me. We share this impossible task.

As the afternoon passes, the women gather into a circle, sharing recipes and stories of no importance. The men take the children for our “test.” We are taken to the edge of a cliff. We sit as they tell us again that it is our saving grace that we trust in God, not man. We are told how our sins require punishment from God and only he can choose to pardon us. They go on to tell us that the greatest sins in the eyes of God are sexual in nature, like when a woman refuses her husband. Or when women engage in sexual behaviors outside of marriage without the permission of the husband or the father.

Anna and I are called to the front of this small group. We are led to the edge of the cliff. As we look down over the edge I see that it is about 8-10 stories to the ground. My ability to calculate height has been developed by spending much of my life in hotels, looking out the window to the ground, and knowing which floor I was on. It is a long way down. My heart catches, as I am afraid of heights. I know that we, Anna and I, have been to a cliff’s edge before. But the memory is separated from this current me. Just as the current me has not even attempted to look at the irony of the aforementioned speech regarding sexual behaviors. I know I am afraid.

Anna stands slightly behind me, allowing me to block her a bit. It is always this way. I am her protector. I suck at it. But I always take the stance. She is the popular one at school. She is the pretty one. Everyone loves her. But I am her protector. Or at least I try to be. The priest asks us if we love God. We both nod. My hand is behind my back and she has slipped her fingers into my palm. I close my palm around the tips of her fingers. “Do you believe that God will save you?” Again, we both nod. My grip grows tighter and she moves slightly more behind me. “Are you afraid?” I am not sure the right answer to this question. I am contemplating what my response should be when one of the men grabs Anna from behind me and in one swift move, throws her over the cliff. I hear her scream. I scream and run to the edge. I cannot see her below.

The priest comes over to me and puts his hand on my shoulder. “You could not save her, could you.” This was a statement. Not a question. Tears sting my eyes but I hold them back. Every hair on my body is standing on end because I know that this is not over. I gently shake my head “no.” “You two have a sinful relationship don’t you?” This was a question. We are 12. I honestly wasn’t sure that any of my life was not sinful. I nodded “yes.” This was the answer he wanted. “Jump,” he says. I look at him. He is serious. “Ask for forgiveness and jump. See if God will pardon you.” He has his hands on my shoulders. I know that I am about to be pushed. As I think this, he pushes me over the edge. I don’t have time to think about forgiveness. I remember a moment of complete hope though. A hope that maybe I would finally die.

I landed heavily on a large foam mattress. It was a long fall and my breath was knocked from me. When I finally opened my eyes, unsure if I was alive or dead, I saw Anna curled up on the ground not too far away. She wasn’t moving. I ran over to her and moved her hair from her tear-stained face. She was white. And silent. Her eyes were wide and she appeared to be in shock. Her hands were in fists and I gently unfolded her fingers and slipped my hand into hers.

A thunderous voice quickly came upon us. “You repented and God has saved you this time. The most precious spirit is a child that has just recently been forgiven by God.” Anna and I are then led over to the foam mattress. “Remove your clothes. Your elders will now reap this benefit of forgiveness.” The sun is dropping in the sky and the air is frigid. Anna and I lay head to head on the foam mattress as we are raped by two different men. As the men thrust into our bodies, our heads bump into each other. We both leave.

As I watch Shanon crawl back over the ledge with the decorations, my heart begins to slow. She has not fallen. She has not left me. She has not gotten hurt. I do not have to try to save her…..and fail at doing so.

The gift of healing

I begin realizing that I am not truly afraid of Shanon falling. I realize that the present situation is triggering the past. I am reacting to an event that is not happening now. I am allowing my present thoughts and emotions to be dictated by my past.

We all do it. Often. Every time you have a strong emotional response to something, take a moment. Look at it. Is it really about what is going on in the present? Or is something from your past being triggered? Is an old wound being opened?

These are beautiful moments in which we can begin to look at how the situations we are creating in our present lives give us the opportunity to heal our old wounds. I was not in a place at age 12 to realize that it was not my responsibility to protect Anna. How could it be? I, myself, was thrown over that cliff. There was no way to stop them from throwing her. Yet I still felt responsible.

I did not want to accept that I could not protect her. I could not protect myself. We were children. But my desperate desire to save both of us put me in that role. For many years. And every time I failed, I blamed myself. I couldn’t save her. I wasn’t good enough. The fear is very old. The fear that I am a horrible protector. That I am not enough. These are old memories with old beliefs. And these old beliefs were painting the landscape of my present life. Seeing Shanon out on the ledge was threatening my very existence. As she was securely perched on the ledge, I was teetering on the cliff of failure. Again. All because of the past.

And now, as my best friend makes her way safely back onto the floor of the loft, I realize that I have created the perfect opportunity to heal this old hurt, this old belief. And I do.

Looking back

When I am faced with a very deep emotional reaction now, I give myself some time to go looking for the root cause. There is always a memory from long ago pushing the current reaction.

If you find yourself struggling with a large emotional response that seems out of proportion to your current situation, try the following:

First, take a breath and remind yourself that you are in a safe place.

Second, ask yourself when was the first time you ever felt this particular emotion?

Next, take some time to listen to your own stories. Honor them and recognize that you were doing the best that you could at that time.

And finally, realize how your life is different in the present. Allow yourself to see how beliefs that you formed 10, 20, 30 years ago, are not relevant to your life now. Thank yourself for showing you this pattern of emotional disturbance and allowing you to grow from it.

Our lives and our stories are not done to us. They are done for us. We can be defeated and belittled by our experiences, or we can grow from them. My stories are extreme, but I refuse to allow them to suppress me. With each strong emotional reaction I experience today, I am able to uncover a false belief that was formed many years ago. And with each unearthing of these false beliefs, I remove another layer that covers the purest and strongest version of Me.

Next time you experience a strong emotional reaction, I encourage you to go digging for the root cause. The outcome is always beautiful.

Have you ever wished you could break the chains of fear and step fully into love? Shanon and Kim share their journey of healing from trauma, abuse, and programming through acceptance and love. Do you want to step out of fear? Subscribe and follow their journey. 

Hiding Behind Anger

By Shanon

I’ve been familiar with anger as far back as I can remember. I grew up in a very angry household. Daily I walked the landmine of anger, trying not to detonate an explosion. A constant fear of what might set off an outburst. A constant fear of being harmed.

But I can clearly recall the day my companionship with anger began. I was 7. My parents had separated. My mother didn’t want me. I was acutely aware of this. One day I was at the park with her and my sister. She must have been calling me to leave, but I didn’t hear. I looked up and she and my sister had walked away toward the car. My mother turned to me and said, “You can just stay here and find another family to live with.” I ran to catch up to them but she said, “No, you’re staying here.”

I stopped. I crossed my arms over my chest and said to myself, “Fine. I don’t need anybody to do anything. I can do it all myself.” An armor fit for battle descended over me and I said “f-you” to the world. Had I known the word, I’m sure I would have said it aloud. I grabbed anger’s hand and for over three decades I didn’t let go.

The comfort of the familiar

I remember a retreat I attended shortly after meeting my teacher. We were discussing the Tantric worldview and how our view of the world creates our reality. We were asked to complete the sentence, “The world is…..” I’ve looked back at my notes many times. I wrote “hostile, separated, ignorant.” That was how I saw the world. Through angry eyes.

Anger became my go-to emotion. I used it to deflect disappointment, guilt, sadness, anxiety, pain, and most of all, fear. It was so much more comfortable. Like a well-worn pair of jeans. It fit just right.

Until it didn’t. Like concrete blocks strapped to my feet, as I began to grow and evolve, it became the weight that was dragging me under. Threatening to drown me. I knew drowning was not an option, so I was forced to begin looking at my anger. What was it really about?

Friend or foe?

No emotion is bad or negative. Emotions are energy in motion, and energy isn’t good or bad. It just is. Emotions are merely a form of communication. Our feelings are the language of the soul – a way for our higher self to alert us to something. It is appropriate to be angry when someone crosses a boundary or violates us. It is appropriate to be angry when we are treated unfairly or witness injustice. It is a sign that something needs to change. Perhaps we need to set better boundaries or end a toxic relationship. Perhaps it is a call to action to right a wrong. Anger is often a message to reconnect to our inner strength and to step into our own power.

But when an emotion becomes our constant companion, there is a problem. It means we aren’t listening to what it is telling us.

I stayed angry for over 35 years. When I wasn’t angry, there was still an underlying irritability that never truly went away. I spent most of my marriage angry. A big part of that was the unconscious patterns I was repeating with my husband. I had made him my mother. I made sure that I would not feel cared for and could hold fast to my belief that nobody would do anything for me. I had to do it all myself.

What I didn’t realize was that each and every time anger came up, I was being offered the opportunity to heal. What was I really angry about? Who was I really angry with? And what was behind the anger? I never looked. And the result of not listening to your emotions is that you keep re-living the same experiences over and over again.

The seeds of emotion

The root of every emotion lies either in fear or love. That’s it. And I knew the root of my anger was not love. So, what was I afraid of? What deep fear was being triggered? What was hiding behind my anger?

It would take me a long time to figure it out. A big part of it was the ending of my marriage. After I left, I was no longer angry. I still got mad about certain things, but it was short-lived. I was no longer in a constant state of irritability. Anger was no longer lingering in the background because I was no longer playing out the false beliefs and unconscious patterns that were mimicking my relationship with my mother. I let go of anger’s hand and our companionship began falling apart.

But it would take nearly a year after my marriage ended for me to finally figure out the missing piece. Another memory buried deep in the recesses of my mind. Someone I loved very dearly had been hurt. Someone I would have protected with my own life. And I was blamed. Worse, I blamed myself. I had believed it was my fault.

And in that moment my biggest fear was formed.

I had spent my life caught between the belief that I had to do it all and the paralyzing fear that I would fail at doing it. No wonder I was always angry.

Breaking the pattern

But this time I didn’t hide. I walked straight into it. I had already been working to fix the false belief that I had to do it all. So I began the work to heal that part of me that blamed myself those many years ago. There were many tears. And I forgave myself. I let go of the guilt I had held onto for so long. I had done my best, I know that.

I no longer hide behind anger. The truth is, I don’t really get angry anymore. I get frustrated or annoyed, but I am able to look at those feelings as a communication. I peer into them to see what they are telling me. And then I act accordingly, making the necessary changes to restore my natural state of peace.

Some, like me, cling to certain emotions. They feel comfortable, so we hide behind them, never looking deeper to find their true source. Some block all emotion, hiding behind a wall of numbness. Neither is in our best interest and highest good.

Emotions are our greatest source of information. They are our teachers and our connection to Spirit and the unconscious mind. Whenever you are in emotion you are accessing information. Begin to look at what they are trying to tell you, remembering that all emotions are rooted in either fear or love. Anger, jealousy, resentment, guilt, shame, sadness, grief, anxiety, and depression are all rooted in fear. Start to ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Do the digging. Begin to listen to what your feelings are telling you.

Because buried in your deepest feelings are your greatest opportunities for healing and your highest truth.

Have you ever wished you could break the chains of fear and step fully into love? Shanon and Kim share their journey of healing from trauma, abuse, and programming through acceptance and love. Do you want to step out of fear? Subscribe and follow their journey. 

The Illusion of Being Good Enough

By Kim

As I pull on my leggings, I feel a heaviness in my core. A sense of dread. I sit on the ground and pull on my socks. Right foot – “I don’t want to.” Left foot – “Please don’t.” I grab my spin shoes and slip my feet in. As I tie the strings, the sobs well up in my body. “Please don’t go. I’m not good enough. And everyone can see.” The tears spill over. Hunched forward on my knees with my forehead steadied by the closet floor, the sobs consume me. Here I stay for what feels like a lifetime. The closet carpet a precarious cradle for my horrific release.Read More »

Changing Prepositions

By Kim

Over the years I have reached a place of owning my history. I no longer deny that I was abused or sold for sex. This hasn’t been easy. I’ve never really liked sharing my story with people. I had worked through a lot of the shame. And it wasn’t that I felt guilty anymore. I knew that nothing that had happened was my fault. I just didn’t want pity. I didn’t want people to hear my story and feel sorry for me. There was always a fear that people would judge me – determine what I was like without even knowing me – simply because of what was done to me. As a result, I never really talked about my life.

Less than a handful of people (outside of the abusers) knew what had happened to me. I just didn’t tell.

While I didn’t want pity from outsiders, I also continuously struggled with seeing my life as some tragic Lifetime® movie. Poor me. I had been through so much. A victim of so much harm. A family that was abusive. A plethora of emotions and behaviors that were a result of that abuse. And loss. More loss than I knew what to do with.Read More »