Hallucinations

 It’s so easy to feel like a failure when my emotions run high. I throw myself away on others, and when that fails – it always fails – I am left with that emptiness, bereft of my connection to myself. I feel that emptiness and fear in my heart, and I tell myself that I don’t want to burden others, but that notion that I am somehow a burden just creates a sense of shame. And the emptiness and shame combine to form a perfect storm. I am caught in a whirlwind of self-blame and helplessness, and even though I know I will eventually get out, the situation just seems like another confirmation that I am damaged, that I am just not as functional as other people.

My strength comes from staying with my heart and staying in the present moment. After years of meditation and heart-centered practice, I am finally getting better at seeing through the whirlwind and coming back to my heart. But it’s still hard to see through the self-induced hallucinations. I noticed this particularly today in a conversation with a friend of mine.

He’s one of the shiny people I mentioned in an earlier post. We met and spent some time together last week. I wanted to enjoy his company and share some of the victories I’ve scored in the last few weeks. I wanted him to be proud of me. But before the meeting, I could feel the nervousness mounting, and by the time we sat down, I was already stuck in the fear of abandonment. I thought I was still fine, but I wasn’t paying attention. Before we could even say hello, my desire for approval had already turned to fear of abandonment. Everything he said in that meeting got stuck in that filter of fear. I had thrown myself away. In the midst of my anticipation of another person I forgot to tend to myself. And that’s the problem with desire and fear. When I am anticipating, I am not present; I am not here with myself. Later, looking back on the conversation, I felt injured. I was certain that my friend had been harsh towards me. All I remembered was the hallucination, not the attempt to reassure. We talked again today, just a few lines in chat, and I remembered his continued availability to me. I feel like I shouldn’t need this from him, and I resent that I still want it, but he has actually been there all this time, working with me despite the discomfort he must feel as the object of fear and attachment.

There was something interesting that I noticed in my feelings toward my friend: it was so similar to a friendship I had a long time ago. One of the hallmark traits of people who have suffered childhood trauma is the tendency to idealize and then denigrate the important people in our lives. Looking back, I could see how every interaction with my old friend also came through that filter – that need and fear. Neglect and imbalance in early childhood caused me to expect abandonment later on in life.

And now, as I see through the anger and fear, I can already notice my mind turning back towards idealization. My friend has always been faithful to me, he’s a wonderful teacher… Forever, forever, forever… Relief turns to desire, and the cycle continues. And the reality? Somewhere between the idealization, the fear, and the dissatisfaction is a person I think that maybe I still have not met. And maybe that person is myself.

After years of meditation and tending to my heart, I am starting to see through this, but it’s an ongoing process. What does life look like beyond this? I have glimpses of humor and an ease of communication. As I find more space in my mind, I find myself writing to you, my friends, instead of just to one shiny person. I find that I have more energy for the tasks that I need to do, that I want to do. I find that I have more patience and joy interacting with everyone. And I find that loving myself is possible, that I can touch my heart. And, incredibly, I am finding my way out of the whirlwind.

***

Speaking of seeing through – I have a retreat starting Sunday evening. It’s my first solitary retreat! Yay! I’m looking forward to being on my own during the full moon Christmas this year. So I won’t be around for a couple of weeks. I wish everybody a warm and happy holiday season. Be good to yourselves. Peace on Earth; good will to all.

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