Reason to change

Boy, do human beings ever dislike change!  We don’t like it when we have change thrust upon us.    If something changes without notice, well, then, I am unprepared, maybe taken unawares, feeling out of step or off kilter.    We prefer to call our own shots, to have predictability in our lives.   We don’t even like it much when the weather changes, even though it is eminently clear that the weather means nothing personal.

When we see the need for change in our own lives, we often resist it.   Even if we want the change, seek it, work toward it, sometimes we get in our own way.   Obstacles arise, apparently by themselves.   Inertia settles into the body.  We may actively sabotage our own efforts to change our behaviour.   Then we give up, saying, “It’s too hard.   I’ve been okay like this so far;  I don’t know why I think I want to change anything anyway.”   Then we settle for living less than our full lives, sighing with resignation.  “I can’t change.   Things just won’t go the way I want them to. There is no hope…”

I respectfully disagree!   Change is possible.  In fact, change is inevitable.   We work incredibly hard to try to keep things, including ourselves, from changing.  But change is going to happen.   We can prepare for it, try to focus it in a particular direction, and let life change us.   The key is letting it happen rather than trying to force it, or force ourselves.

People come into the office wanting something to change.  Sometimes they want circumstances to change, but mostly they know that the change has to come from within.  Sometimes people want harsh measures, and they are particularly punitive with themselves.   “I have to lose twenty pounds and so I am not going to eat anything good for the next two months…”   Sometimes they want me to be punitive with them;  it may be the only kind of relationship they know.  How different it is to allow change rather than to force it!   How different to set an intention rather than create a goal and rigid steps to achieve it!

Change is happening to you, right now.   It is happening to me, it is happening in all of our lives.  What one tiny step can you take right now to move that change in the direction you prefer?  Maybe you can step outside for a walk, or maybe just a deep breath to change your relationship to your work.  Maybe you can email a friend, to change your social connections.  Maybe you can pick up a bit of litter.  Maybe you can send a positive thought to someone you fear, to change how you relate.

If not you, then who?

If not now, then when?

Fall bounty


I’ve been writing and thinking about darkness, and the lack of light, and how the late fall contributes to my own desire to hibernate.  But here is a lovely little picture of the fruits of the fall;  vegetables at the Boyce Farmer’s Market in early November.   The colours are muted, compared to summer vegetables and fruits, but they are still full of good nutrition and of course the pungent onion may help us to remember that we are, in fact, alive…if we can smell and taste and even tear up due to a vegetable!

The darkness is an opportunity.  It provides us with a chance to slow down, to listen to the still small voice within, to take stock of our lives and our selves.   The holiday season is a last final frantic rush of business before winter;   perhaps a way that we try to distract ourselves from the realities of reflection.   I used to be so busy that I didn’t have time to think, to stop and ponder, to wonder.   I suspect I used to make myself that busy.  Of course social expectations support busyness…do you know anyone who says, oh, I’m not that busy…?   People find being busy to be a status symbol of some sort.   But I think often we want to stay too busy to look at ourselves and look at our lives.  We are too busy to feel our feelings, except superficially.   We like it that way.

The darkness and the cold draw us toward quiet, toward reflection.   Rather than being something to try to escape, perhaps we could see them as opportunities to carefully consider how we are living.   Taking some quiet time in the dark days may help illuminate a path for the future, for a way for life to be different or maybe just for US to be different.

Make sure you take some quiet time this solstice season.  Don’t let the forced gaiety of the holidays overwhelm your need for time for yourself.  Don’t let social expectations flood you so that you can’t feel what you really feel.  Just because “everyone” is happy, you don’t have to pretend.  And know, too, that everyone is NOT happy.   People feel what they feel, and usually that’s a range of feelings.

May the blessings of the season of darkness be yours.

Metaphor: a link between body and mind

Stories are the way that we make sense of our worlds, at least for most of us. We make sense of our day through narrative.  “Oh, today was a good day, because I got a parking place right away at work, and I had lunch with a good friend, and I was productive at work, and my favorite song was on the radio during the ride home.”   That might not sound like much of a story, but it is certainly a typical way for a person to make sense of experiences.  There is also judgment within the story, an indication of pleasure or displeasure about the way that the experience unfolded.   And that story can have a lot of power.   For example, a story about a “good day at work” can influence mood and social interactions for the whole evening, and maybe even predispose the storyteller to experience the next day in a positive way.

Of course it works in less obvious ways, as well.   We can tell ourselves stories about how we’ve been badly treated, about how the world dispenses injustice, or about the things we would like to do to act out on feelings we’re having.    We can tell ourselves stories about how we can do something or about how we cannot do something.   Stories help us to construct our sense of ourselves as well as our sense of the world around us.

Stories tell us who we are and explain the world to us.

When we hear stories, we often respond viscerally. That is, we have a feeling about the story we hear. There is a set of sensations in the body, responses that happen just as a result of hearing a story, reading a story, watching a movie or tv show. We don’t even need to be “into it” very much to have a response. In fact, distancing can be a response to a story.
The story you tell yourself helps to create the YOU that you are. You can choose the story, though. You are not stuck with the story you have already in place. Perhaps you could tell yourself a story about a person who was stuck in old patterns, who had few different ways to behave, who was not so spontaneous, who didn’t feel feelings very clearly. Perhaps this person was learning about other ways to be in the world, was starting to think about taking some risks to be different than before. Perhaps he or she was getting ready to become someone different. Below is an exercise using a metaphor around this kind of story.

Gold chrysalises
  • You can bring your body into this exercise, or just attend to your thinking and notice that your body comes along. For example, you might imagine that you are going through a change process, perhaps like the one that turns caterpillars into butterflies. You could imagine yourself all wrapped up tightly in a chrysalis, change happening but not yet visible to the outside world. If you want to, use your body to help your mind in this imagining.
    • Feel the tightness of the hard case around you; feel your own desire to break out and begin to move freely.
    • Notice how your face and head feel, how your back and legs and torso feel, while in this tight casing.
    • Notice your own awareness of the changes in your consciousness as you have been learning more about yourself.
    • Notice the parts of your body that particularly want to expand and open.
    • Then using your powers of mind, imagine the hard casing of the chrysalis easing open, gently splitting to reveal …. what? Now just let that opening happen and allow whatever is there to emerge, providing a welcome to whatever is present for you at this moment. Welcome the new sensations, images, feelings, ideas, with compassion. If they are not what you wanted, still welcome them with kindness, knowing that there is something there for you, even if it might not be what you decided in advance should be there.

Acceptance of what is allows things to change.

Many thanks to ” Erica Marshall of ” for the insect photos, and to Brenda on Flickr for the books.   My apologies for using an old saw…the butterfly metaphor….but it works.

How do you see yourself reflected in the stories you tell yourself? What would it mean for you to know that you are not your stories? How might your life open up?

Balthasar’s Hand

I love the process of clearing space.  I love doing it in the physical world, where I declutter, remove unneeded objects, and put things in their proper places.  I love doing it in my inner world, too, when the mental noise is starting to be more insistent than my experience of sensory pleasures.  That is, when I notice that I have been walking in the woods for the last ten minutes but haven’t seen, heard, or smelled anything at all that told me I was in the woods, then I know that I am far too caught up in my inner life and that my real life, the life of my body in this world, is passing me by.

But there is a seductiveness to thinking, thinking, thinking.  In my thoughts, I can imagine that things work out just the way I want them to.   In my thoughts, I can also imagine that things are Just Terrible, and that there is an awful tragedy, and I can suffer mightily.  For some reason, people seem to like to dwell in thoughts like those maybe even more than dwelling in thoughts that bring pleasure.  In my thoughts, I can wreak vengeance on those whom I think have done me wrong.   I can see my personal justice brought to bear in my thoughts.

I don’t really want to trash-talk the thinking process.  Thinking is perhaps the most useful tool that human beings have developed.  We are capable of remembering the past on multiple levels, and of projecting the future, and those two things allow us to create new objects and experiences.  They also allow us to re-experience through various means; reading books, watching movies, talking with friends.  Thinking is a powerful tool and we don’t use it all the time. Our minds are busy, though, even when we don’t need to be thinking.  This is an adaptation;   our minds are on alert for threats to survival, opportunities to increase the likelihood of survival, and sometimes just ways to entertain us.    These busy minds can also cause us a lot of grief if we have learned habits that are unwholesome and lead us to getting caught in our thoughts and feelings.


Having a cluttered mind is like having a cluttered home or a cluttered office, though.   The clutter can really get in the way of priorities.  It can divert attention from what is really important.  And sometimes I discover little bits and pieces of clutter that really belong somewhere else.  If those bits and pieces were put where they belonged, they wouldn’t actually be clutter.


There is a Christmas cactus in the living room;  it is in a clay pot, and sits on a white saucer, to protect the table from drips of water.   On the edge of the saucer is a small brown object.   I noticed it when watering the plant, picked it up to wonder at it.  It’s a hand, actually, a ceramic hand, broken off a ceramic person and just cluttering up the saucer.   When I held it I recognized it;  it belongs to a statue of one of the famed Three Kings of Epiphany;  Balthasar, to be precise.  Balthasar comes out, along with his brethren, during winter holidays.  These guys are remnants from my life as a young mom, making merry with my small children, and Balthasar has always had trouble keeping his hand connected.  However, finding Balthasar’s hand on my plant saucer in mid summer means that it has been there for months, existing as clutter.

What to do with this hand, now that I have noticed it, picked it up, identified it?   I could find the statue and glue it on.  I could pitch the hand in the trash, which is perhaps the most reasonable thing to do. After all, Balthasar has managed without his hand for some time.     But no, I did neither of these.   I did the only thing possible for me at this time.  I put it back on the saucer, in hope that I’ll remember where it sits next December when Balthasar comes to visit out of the decorations stored in the basement.   In the meantime, in its current incarnation as “clutter” the hand has distracted and entertained me, and in fact, provided an inspiration for a post that started out being in favor of decluttering.   Maybe I’ll need to reconsider my position on that!

What is your experience?   How do your chosen objects enhance your life?   Do they ever impinge on you in a negative way?  Is it easier to do a complex task if your surroundings are clear?


Shape Shifting…or how cognitive maps have rocked my world



Have you ever had the experience of going back to where you grew up, seeing with adult eyes a place that you had experienced as a child?  Usually people remark that everything seems so much smaller.  The houses you knew, the parks, the walks to school, all of those things that were the fabric of your daily childhood experience seem to shrink in size when you return as an adult.  Of course that makes perfect sense.  When you were a child, you were physically smaller, so your actual relationship to the concrete aspects of your environment was different.  Relative to you, things ARE smaller once you grow up.


I have recently had a different experience, one that strikes me as nearly opposite but arising from the same place.   I have been visiting a part of the US where I lived as an adult, where I worked, raised children, commuted, participated in all the usual activities of a busy adult life.    The area is fairly heavily populated, towns strung like tightly packed pearls on a necklace of highways, traffic usually busy, lots of stores and businesses, shopping malls and medical office parks, housing subdivisions, convenience stores competing with each other on every corner.   I have been visiting my former home, the college where I worked as a professor, the community where I consulted twice a month, and places that I frequented to run, bike, walk or drink coffee.   What I have discovered is that everything here is seems bigger, rather than smaller.  Distances are much longer than I remembered them to be.  Buildings are larger.   Rooms don’t seem different but buildings themselves seem out of human proportion, or at least out of proportion to me.

What’s going on here?   I think it is a great example of how our minds actually create our reality.   The relevant research term is “cognitive mapping,” which refers to the internal structure we create to navigate our literal world.   The parts of this literal world that I recollect the best are the ones where I had a personal connection, and I remember them without really remembering the parts in between.  That is, I can easily recall the building where my office was, and the coffee place across the street.  What was not clear to me (in memory) was the actual distance between them.   I remembered the route to drive to the college but the distance was a shock to me!  It takes a long time to get between here and there in real life, but in my memory, there was no distance, and hence no time, at all.


I am sure I could get used to this place again, and stop feeling befuddled by my perceptions.  But the question it raises for me is  a bit bigger.   If I have created a mental map of my surroundings, based on my experiences, my “working model” of the place, that means I have left out things that my mind classifies as irrelevant.   I have heightened my perception of the salient points.   If I do this for locations, do I also do it for other important elements of my experience?  I am sure that the answer is yes.  We developed these minds to help us manage in an over stimulating environment.  We automatically classify, label, categorize, and evaluate all of the data that enters our sensory systems.   I appreciate that;   that cognitive ability makes it possible for us to learn new things, take in new information and make sense of it.   But I am still left wondering what it is that I don’t know….what might I be missing in all that is around me?   If I am in fact creating my perceptual world out of some objective collection of matter and energy, I am likely missing quite a bit.

Parallel universes?  Right here in our very own minds?   Sure, why not?   Maybe that’s a part of therapy;  once you have a different way to look at your circumstances, they might look a whole lot different.

Have you noticed things that were “new” simply because you were able to shift your perspective?   What does that mean to you?


Body Psychotherapy: an apparent paradox

I keep thinking about this term, body psychotherapy.   Really, what bioenergetic therapy offers is psychotherapy OF the body and FOR the body.   But in some ways, that’s something of a paradox.   The “psych” part of the term comes from that ancient goddess Psyche, who, in “Greek mythology, was the deification of the human soul. She was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a goddess with butterfly wings (because psyche is also the Greek word for ‘butterfly’). The Greek word psyche literally means “spirit, breath, life or animating force”  (yes, I quoted this from Wikipedia).   Before the modern period, psychology was particularly interested in the “soul” or that which makes us human.   Early thinkers located this soul as within, but not part of, the body.  Hence we have ideas such as the body dying but the soul or spirit or animus/anima leaving for some other, eternal place.

So in Greek thinking, the  psyche was disembodied, capable of some sort of existence outside the physical realm.  However, in recent history, psychology has been more involved with the mind, and mental life, than with the soul or spirit.   In fact, with the development of Freud’s “talking cure,”  the clinical focus moved to the mind.

The Mind in the Body

We have almost as much trouble locating the “mind” as we do in locating the soul, however.   Generally, people seem to assume that the mind is in the head, or perhaps more specifically, in the brain.  The mind may be the more-or-less conscious activity of the brain.  But recent research has required a bit of a shift from that point of view.   We now know that there is a “mind” in the gut, for example, where neural tissue does more than just transmit information to the central processing unit in the brain.  Similarly, there seems to be an “intelligence” of the heart, suggesting that these other locations in the body are important in the construction of the mind.   A newer definition suggests that the mind is a process distributed across the body, including the brain, of course, but not limited to that organ.

So we know this:  the mind is NOT synonymous with the brain.  But the body-mind couldn’t function without the brain.   It is a good thing we have this central processing unit.

The Nature of Emotion

We know that emotion is a body experience with a cognitive label. That is, you feel your feelings in your body and your thoughts translate the body sensations into a name:  happy, sad, angry, or scared.   For some people, though, even that simple explanation doesn’t explain their experience.  I ask people to tell me about their experience, where in the body, for example, are you feeling that anger?  We experience body sensations, and then we interpret them, attach a verbal label, and then we have having a feeling.

When I ask about body sensation with emotion, some  people report that they are feeling those feelings in their heads.     This suggests that perhaps the verbal label is taking some priority in their experience.   I am certain that the FEELING of anger or sadness didn’t arise in the thought process, but when a person has cut off body sensations, or simply has learned to ignore them in favor of thinking processes, then there is no awareness of the body experience.   The body exists as a servant to carry around the thinking part of the person, to take in information and move the mind around in the world.  However, the body experiences, in and of themselves, are not available to the person.

What a loss that is!   Losing the body awareness of your feelings means that you experience only the barest little touch of emotion.  Many people would like to avoid feeling certain feelings.  Sadness and anger are often uncomfortable.  Fear is, well, frightening.   Some people even refer to these experiences as “negative emotions.”

I want to suggest that any emotion, any feeling, is neither negative or positive.  It just IS.  It is an experience that arises in the body, has a duration and a trajectory, and then it leaves.   That’s what emotions or feelings do, unless we mess with them.    They serve a number of purposes;  they help us to make decisions, provide colour and liveliness to our daily round, inform us of social situations, and alert us to danger.

How We Try To Change Our Feelings

But there are MANY ways to distort our emotions, when just experiencing them is too threatening.  One way is to shrink them down and contain them, holding our bodies so tightly that we end up with chronic muscle tension and energy blocks.   Another way is to  inflate them with our thinking, with our beliefs that an emotion is “justified” or “righteous” or “deserved.”   When we inflate, then we can allow them to control our behaviour,  generating an emotional excuse for hurting other people or damaging relationships or property.  Neither approach serves us well.

Two Emotional Types

Most of us either contain too much, creating rigid schedules, belief systems, or internal criticism.  We struggle to feel happy and relaxed, as well as try desperately to compress and ignore our anger and fear.  There is often a thought that allowing free flowing feeling is unsafe, and that feelings have to be managed.     Many others feel uncontained and overwhelmed by emotions, perhaps with anxiety or with rage.   Often this sense of being uncontained comes with a belief that they cannot stand the emotion and have to struggle with it.    People with so-called anger issues sometimes have containment problems.  They will try and try to contain until things become explosive.   There is often a thought, perhaps not fully conscious, that they must explode one way or another.

Do Not Give Up:  You can have your feelings, have your life, and live it well

But don’t give up!   Don’t give up what Alexander Lowen said is your birthright!  It is your birthright to have your feelings, to feel them fully, to really live your life.   He recommended daily practice of aware, mindful movement, including emotionally expressive movement, using your voice, and feeling yourself fully.      We all can benefit from a regular practice of using the body to express feelings.

What Bioenergetic Therapy does

That’s the beauty of bioenergetic therapy.   The work itself is about expressing feelings through the body. When we express, using our arms, legs, head, voice and our energy, the expression is clear and clean, not distorted.    Amazingly, when you explore the clear expression of your feelings in a safe place, with a trusted person to see you, support you, and help you to understand the experience,  other things begin to change.  Thoughts, memories, and images arise.   You may experience yourself as different from your everyday self.   Therapy is a safe place to explore parts of yourself that may not have had a voice, or any way to be clearly heard and seen.  Then you can choose what to do with those new experiences when you leave the therapy room.

In bioenergetic therapy, we work with feelings as they are in the body.    We work with the thoughts and ideas that arise as we explore your emotions.   We work with what is happening in the here-and-now, and we notice when the present seems to melt into the past, either through explicit memories or by way of your experience.

This fall we are going to be offering more opportunities to experience bioenergetic therapy, as well as the ongoing bodywork classes.    Stay tuned here and to the Facebook page for event updates.


Thoughts on a garden chore


This morning my task was to deadhead the trailing petunia in the hanging pot on the front porch.  Petunias have a way of stopping the flowers after they have done their job:  that is, to make seed pods.   The petunia figures well, my job here is done, no more need to put my energy into flowering.  Instead I’ll grow these seed pods to maturity and that way I’ll perpetuate my DNA within the world.  As a result, most gardeners know you have to pick off the dying flowers before they set seed in order to keep your petunias blooming.

The petunia on the porch is a hybrid;  it already has been genetically reprogrammed to keep blooming even after it has set seed.  Of course all petunias have been genetically reprogrammed in one way or another.  But as I set out to nip off the dying flowers I was struck by a number of thoughts.

In trying to be mindful about my work, I focused on the body sensations I experienced as I worked with the plant.  I felt my bare feet on the wood of the porch, noticed the feeling of the air passing over my bare arms, felt the odd furry stickiness of petunia on my hands, and was aware of my dislike of that sensation.   In fact, I have to remind myself that it is just the petunia and that I will wash my hands after the task is completed, in order for me not to be carried away into thinking about how much I dislike petunia aroma and petunia stickiness.  Instead, I tried to be with the petunia  (I know, sounds kind of frou-frou and fluffy).   So I snipped off flowers and noticed my thoughts as part of the experience.  Here are some that surprised me.

  • Deadheading?  Why is this called DEADheading?   Those flowers are a bit past their bloom but this is hardly a dead thing, this seed pod full of the possibility of new life.
  • How peculiar to make a plant that will bloom beyond the need to set seeds.   It reminded me of what my dear partner says about seedless watermelon….that seeds are the REASON for watermelon, and so a seedless watermelon is a paradox and peculiar.  I guess that means so called “ever-blooming” petunias are also paradoxical and peculiar.
  • I thought about my efforts to control the bloom of this flower;  my desire, by doing this chore, to keep this plant blooming and blooming.  By my watering and feeding, by my pruning and my attention, I turn the nature of this plant to my desires.   I felt pretty odd about that.  But then, that’s the nature of gardening and of agriculture, isn’t it?   We don’t really live with nature.   We really do exert dominion over it, even in the small sense of pruning the petunias.


How interesting, too, that we appreciate and enjoy the flowers of the plant but the seed pods are cut off and discarded.   That is a different matter with food plants, where we might save our seeds for next year’s crop, I suppose, but most of us do not do that.   I had a sense while pruning that I wanted to honor the seed pods and the plant for creating the seed pods, in some way flying in the face of the human control that keeps on pushing for flowers.  Yeah, you people might like flowers, I can imagine some petunia voice saying, but I’ll keep subverting my energy to make seeds, and you have to keep on working to try to bend me to your will.

You go, petunia!

Strawberry meditation

Some years ago, I was privileged to participate in a strawberry communion. It was in a church community, a small, very liberal one. The minister and his family had picked strawberries the day before, and on Sunday morning, everyone present was asked to take one and hold it. Everyone ate their strawberries together. This was a powerful experience for me, many years before I had any knowledge of mindful practices or had even heard the phrase, “being present.” Even without those contemporary tags, here was this strawberry communion.

So today, when I tackled the job of getting our annual strawberry supply, I thought to try to make the work my practice for the day. It wasn’t quite as simple as sitting on a cushion or doing bioenergetic exercises! However, I want to really be where I am, so I persisted in bringing my attention back, over and over, to what I was actually experiencing.

I could tune in to the sensory aspects of the work, feeling my knees or seat on the ground, noticing the berries in my hand, the various degrees of effort to twist and tug the berry from the stem, the texture of the berry in my hand. I noticed how coyly some berries hide themselves away, tucked under a leaf or two, requiring my full attention to locate them. And then I had a thought about the nature of these berries, gorgeous deep red, contrasting with the green leaves, provocative and eye-catching. This is no accident. These berries are red because we can see them, can distinguish them from the leaves (well, most of us can. People with red-green colour-blindness would be exceptions), and can pick them, eat them, and conveniently NOT digest their seeds. We are a seed-dispersal system for strawberries. We are being manipulated by the luscious aroma, the rich colour, the melting softness, into eating these berries. It is a pretty near perfect system. And yet the strawberry gardener or farmer thinks that he or she is in control…that the plants are grown to make berries for me to pick, and to pay the farmer for those berries. True, of course, but not the whole picture. Then, because I was practicing, I noticed that I was thinking (“thinking”) and brought attention back to what was right in front of me. Ah, yes, berries. And children and parents, birds singing, a light breeze (my mind goes to gratitude for that softening of the heat)…and oops, back to paying attention!

I also held awareness, while picking, that I was holding onto summer for winter. At our house, we pick berries to freeze, to be turned into jam at a particular cold winter time. That taste of summer in winter means a lot, and knowing that I picked and processed the berries and my dear partner made the jam, and that this is a pattern of our lives together brought me a sense of continuity and wholeness, independent of any discomfort of berry picking. I could feel some sort of sensation in my midsection as I became aware of those thoughts. There was a fullness…or maybe I had been eating too many strawberries.
When I got home, I had berries to process for the freezer. Lots of berries! I scooped up handsful to rinse in the sink. Even an hour after coming home, the berries in the tray retained their warmth. I felt the warm berries on my hands, knowing that the sun had warmed them, as it had warmed me. I stopped for a moment to be aware of that warmth, to take it into my body through my hands. Now those berries, sun-warmed and sun-ripened, are stashed away against the days getting colder (as they will) and the nights growing long (as they will).
What I have, though, besides berries, is the body memory of picking in the warm sun, feeling the stems and fruit and the occasional squishy one, the smells of soil and overripe berries, and the inner peacefulness of being part of a greater whole. And while my mind is a busy place, monkeying around everywhere, the moments I come back to the present are the ones where I feel most fully alive.

Food for thought….

Here it is, from Pema Chodron.   I am still chewing on this one.  What do you make of it?


“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

Defensive cleaning….or whatever.

I just got home from a long weekend trip.  The trip involved a celebration with a number of family members whom I don’t see often.  The celebration was wonderful, the visits with adults and children in the family were lovely, and I got to see a part of the world that I haven’t visited for a long time.

NOT the house I was cleaning…

Once home though, I found myself frantically busy:  doing laundry, tidying up my things, looking around the house critically and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.   I know when I get like that, something is happening that is a lot more than I have a dirty house.  In fact, the house wasn’t particularly dirty but I was particularly wired up…I went out to run five kilometers and came home to vacuum and dust and wash countertops.  At one point during this compulsive vacuuming, I finally asked myself the relevant question:  what is it that I have to clean up?  What untidiness am I fending off?  What messiness am I afraid of?

I stopped in mid stroke of the vacuum as the answer smacked me in the head.  Okay, that didn’t really happen but the metaphor is apt:  I felt like I needed to smack my forehead.  Of course.  I am busying myself so I won’t feel my sadness at leaving my children and grandchild yet again.  I am pushing away the very real and painful longing to stay close and connected to these people to whom I am powerfully attached.   I am displacing those feelings by being irritated at the dog hair and normal untidiness of a lived-in home.

Yeah, so Freud was right.   We DO defend ourselves against our feelings….our sadness, our anger, our longing, our fears.   Do you know what you do when you are trying NOT to feel something?

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