The past is passed.
I’m reading a book called Hauntings by James Hollis. It’s not about ghosts, like dead people haunting you, but about ghosts of experiences haunting you. There are many words in the book that resonate with me, but 3 ideas are the most powerful. Paraphrased here: How often has our failure to show up in our lives revealed immaturity on our part, a failure to grow up, an active participation in victimhood? Wounding moments hurt, sometimes for decades, but our willing participation in those wounds perpetuates them. What new values or opportunities may appear if we stop serving the message of the haunting? Reflecting back on experiences shapes me and sometimes heal me. No knight in shining armor can do that for me, no one is going to come and save me, if I am not willing to save myself. Sure, people can help and people will help, but the hard work is mine. For me it’s about growing up. Looking at the past, using discernment to sift through what happened, why and how it impacts me or limits me now is not always easy, but in doing so I’ve found I’m able to live more fully. I’d like to look at all the good parts of me and ignore the “bad” parts. But at some point realizing that the bad parts aren’t actually bad, they are just parts of me that I’d like to change or maybe embrace or just let it be and move on. My hauntings are almost always based on fear. Sometimes a rational fear and sometimes an irrational one. I used to, and sometimes still do, start sweating bullets when I have to get my blood drawn. Why? Well, rationally I can say it shouldn’t be a big deal, but when I think back – when I was a kid – if any of us got sick or injured – my Mom’s “guts would start rolling” and she’d be out on the front porch puking, because we didn’t have any money to pay doctor bills or a way to get to the doctor without having to ask for help. Her anxiety about all of this and the puking and crying – THAT made me hate getting sick and pretty much made me deal with every illness, broken bone, blah, blah, blah as if it was no big deal. Nothing to see here, my leg’s falling off, but please don’t be upset Ma! Because of this and other instances related to medical issues, my fear was in overdrive. It wasn’t rational, but it was still real. I took on my Mother’s anxiety about it and eventually had to be held down to do a simple finger prick for a glucose test. Then I learned I could take a Xanax and I could tolerate the blood draw – IF I was laying down, turned my head, and I counted to 20, while they were doing whatever they were doing – which I could not speak of. I couldn’t walk through a hospital. I couldn’t think about going into a hospital. I could go to the doctor, but the mention of a blood draw would make me woozy. What did I do with that? This was no way to live, eventually I was going to need to get a blood draw and at some point visit a hospital, eventually there would be an emergency and I was going to need to be present. I needed help. I needed to take care of myself. I read somewhere that the Dalai Lama passed out once when he was having his blood drawn and started to have anxiety about blood work because of it. So each time before a blood draw he would visualize the needle going in his arm and also allow himself the luxury of passing out if he needed to. Give it up – go ahead and pass out. So, I took up the same practice, because I was having to get blood draws more frequently for a thyroid test. At first it stressed me out more, I was so worried about passing out. I also still took the Xanax. Sometimes we get stuck in a childhood memory or haunting that doesn’t allow us to let go, to face it, to grow up. So, I kept focusing on growing up, I kept facing it, kept understanding and sifting through all the memories of the instances that contributed to this childhood fear. I’d ask myself, What are you afraid of? What’s the worst that could happen? I’d remind myself, you have insurance, you’ve always paid your way, you always find a way through if you run out of money. I kept having the conversation with myself. I realized this haunting was holding me back. It took a long time to uncover it all, but in the last few months something has shifted, maybe I’m desensitized or maybe I’m willing to grow up a little more and say, I can do this and am no longer haunted and stuck in a childhood nightmare of blood and guts and dying and someone puking off the front porch. Now, I can get a blood draw without a Xanax, sometimes. And while I was working on this fear I realized that other fears were dropping away as well. I do feel more grown up. As if I evolved somehow, have a greater consciousness of this fear and how it haunts me and how to work with it and not against it. And at the same time work with kindness with my 10-year-old self, who still trembles at the thought of a blood draw, telling her that this fear has no place here anymore, I’m a grown up and I got this. Sometimes as children or after some experience as an adult, we make a decision to protect ourselves out of necessity, but we also need to know when that protection is now holding us back. What’s haunting you?