“He’s a nice guy, a little awkward though.” I hear, in a low but clearly audible tone, as I leave the group of 15 gathered around a table for a cake, and a birthday song. I am about 20 feet away from the table, walking away, as I stop for a moment to grab my phone that I had left on a nearby table. “Awkward” seems to be the activation word for my trauma, that has been buried for so long. The word I have associated with being my kryptonite, that I think defines me. It cuts me like a dagger. Or does it merely cut my ego, does it only cut my attachment to a status, a mask, an appearance, a label?
I try so hard in interactions to not be “awkward” that it appears unnatural sometimes. Hearing it feels like a sharp, strong, breeze of cold air, holding all the memories of high school. The breeze has a mist holding all the repressed, trapped, fight-or-flight responses, the paralysis of never knowing what to say, how to say it, when to speak, what to like, simply feeling I would be better off not being there, all those years of adolescence. IN these moments, an intense panic would set into my bones and muscles, my heartbeat would quicken and I would sweat profusely. ways wishing I could just be invisible or teleport out of so many paralyzlingly humiliating situations in which I was so firmly entrenched in the quicksand of the belief in my worthlessness that everything and everyone appeared as a threat. I began to feel that my physical presence was a burden to people in those years, ages 12-18. The belief and the repeated actions that led this state of affairs in high school have morphed into an internal audio-phone that blares and has sounded enough to become an internal mantra; an abuser, a drill sergeant, a captor.
I have recoiled from this adjective that I hear associated with my name often, throughout my life, enough times to associate it with a concise definition or accurate encapsulation of my social persona. It feels like a punch to the gut has knocked the wind out of me. The echo of it reverberates, like a deafening fire alarm in a metal walled corridors of my heart and soul. It triggers deep, lingering memories of past traumas, of past Peters. Peter’s that I thought died or were healed, in the long distant past that I have risen above, left in the dust or excavated trauma in the wake of my exhaustive efforts at healing. My pulse quickens, I feel a light sweat, I feel the urge to hide, to retreat to my shell and never return to this place.
I’ve taken my hour of lunch already. I need to go and sit with this because I will be of no use in any interaction or work at this moment in time. I walk three blocks to a park and sit. I breathe deeply. I feel a visceral anger, but only for a few moments, or the thought to say something to this person or “teach” him something crosses my mind, but passes, knowing that anything I said would be tied too close to something like an ego-knee-jerk-tantrum of mine. The idea of “teaching” this person anything about judgment and the harmful nature of it, would be overshadowed by his need to save face with surface level pleasantries, (him simply trying to plug up holes in his ego-boat to stop the leaking). The lesson would be stymied at the top floor of his ego, for the need to keep up his favorable view of himself. I would become an attention-hungry victim, in this hypothetical scenario. I am no longer a victim. I will not do this.
No use in trying to go martyr-mode again. MY EGO IS HURTING AT THIS MOMENT AND MY SOUL IS DANCING. A few lightbulbs start to go on as a do my routine- deep breathing, affirmations, mantras, eyes closed, asking my soul for guidance. There are glimmers of hope in the distance, an intuitive sense crawling it’s way into my heart………….. no, Peter, this time is different, this time I rise, this time I forgive, this time I transcend, this is a test. My higher self orchestrated and sent me this test right on time, I’m ready to step up to the challenge, this time you are being taught a precious lesson about humanity, this is a rich lesson in how to expand my heart deeper. How can I use this to find deeper love for this person and myself?
A remembrance is activating in my DNA, and in my muscles, where the pain, the shame, the sadness, the anger is stored from my high school and college…..the imprints, the scars the brands I felt of the labels of……”mute, invisible, awkward, emotionless, loner, boring, creepy.” I feel it all come back up into my nervous system, the jolting reaction and need to hide, to go away and never return, an internalized belief that I never deserved to be seen, to share a deep love, and acceptance with people: you’ve been through this before, you’ve been training for this Peter, I say to myself repeatedly.
I have taken on the role of consoling parent or friend as if I am comforting an angry or upset child who sits right next to me (really my inner child- who still hasn’t forgiven or let go of these deep wounds of shame, of being angry that I never knew how to be, to accept love, I never felt worthy of love, I never knew why we had to strive for the ideals we do in this society and suffered because I never wanted to fit what was the laid out choreography for my life by my parents, peers, and institutions. This event/episode is here for my learning and evolution. I am going to respond differently this time.
What am I being shown about my soul, about my TRUE VALUE as a human soul? Could it possibly be encapsulated in a perception/judgment from a fallible, fellow suffering, human who has their own heartbreak, sadness, and mountain of lessons to climb and transcend in this lifetime? (as we all do.)
Is it that it has nothing to do with what another sees me as? Is this person too tied up in their own unhealed trauma and projections of himself? That a difficult place to be. I certainly am like a chicken without a head, often projecting all types of pain onto others. I’m no clear seer all the time.
As I sit there and breath in the park for 40 minutes, I feel a sense of calm, at was once a visceral reaction of fear, and shame and an almost expectation of being punished for something that I deserved. I question the old program in my head, I try to get some distance from it. I ask……. Do I get a slight sense of satisfaction, even comfort within this role? Have I used it to seek comfort, to derive a sense of victimhood and a story that upheld it in order to rationalize, my lack of action, my lack of interaction, my lack of contribution to the world and the people around me?
The few hours remaining in the workday pass without consequence. I retreat into a detached, observer perspective, still in a state of shock, feeling betrayed by this person, yet I know that I am being introduced to a new part of myself: a humbler, less self-important Peter, a Peter less paralyzed and blinded by a heavy cloud of ego and a false identity. I am again test driving a new Peter, with the help of God and my higher self, who might not obsess over the labels that other put on me so much. It is heavy, this unloading, this confrontation, but MY GOD does it begin to feel liberating as the afternoon progresses.
Towards the end of the day, I start to feel a little hop in my step, the sadness begins to subside into something much different than it has in the past. I begin to feel a sense of lightness, something new, a chord or something tying me to the need of “being liked” by others, it feels as if one of those ties has been chopped off with a machete. How now do I act if I know that person has a set view of me that is based basically only on his own projections?
This feels like a freedom. This feeling is like, God, my higher self, setting up a situation, in divine timing to show me how I can free myself from all this “polite” bullshit, this rehearsed act, and all the deception programs that are running. But also not to be triggered by it, maybe my soul is prompting into a gentler Peter, who doesn’t go into fits of rage and tell people close to him to, “fuck off, and go back to your comfortable illusions you call a life.”
Maybe there exists a Peter who isn’t always reactive, isn’t always launched into some preacher mode, some “higher persepective”, slowly these last few weeks of October, I feel a surrender in the air, I feel a urge to let it all go. Let people have their truths, let people study what they want, let them be around the people they want. It’s not my business and I don’t have to lose sleep and be devastated when I haven’t “converted” someone to my way of thinking. It was so egotistical in a way, thinking I needed to save so many people, I can see slightly more clearly that this was a way of overcompensating for my feeling of lack, of hurt, of emptiness, of not feeling valued and worthy and lovable so I played into the role/ transaction game.
Something was set in motion in order to show me how truly meaningless it is to be “liked and accepted” by people who are just staying at the surface in a desperate attempt to pretend their internal trauma doesn’t exist. God answered my prayers. Every day I ask to be shown what is behind people’s masks, what is behind my mask? Every day I ask, How I can be freed from all this shame programming? I command it to myself, I scream out loud in my meditations, alone, in the car, in the shower, in the bathroom.
This entire day was a masterclass in discernment. That day was about 3 semesters worth of psychologically deep lessons in DISCERNMENT. The most important lesson I have ever known. Knowing what to expend one’s energy on, and what to know is a mask, but also know that a person can think and feel however they please towards me, but it has nothing to do with me, and more important, is this person hurting, what does it reveal about his pain and hurt, what he is dealing with?
And how can I remove the blockages in my own perceptions and distortions in my own projections to hold space for his pain?
The whole day was like being returned to a day in high school, every feeling and thought, the panic, the dread, the fear, the suffocation of feeling trapped in my body and desperately wanting to crawl out of my skin, and be someone, to be free of this prison of labels, that was really only constructed in my own mind, imaginary all along, but that’s how powerful the mind’s defense mechanisms are. The day did just that, showed me what it felt like in my perception, to be chained to labels, and have the label “wound” or “cut” me in my usually steady and safe self concept and angle of perception.
I was doing that, trying to play the mask game, be polite, dance around this person’s projections and insecurities, obsessing over the way I present myself to him, in order, to be perceived, as cool, or funny?
I saw, well it wasn’t so bad. Man, all this stress and sadness I experience, for what? It’s not worth all the stress, maintaining the mask, just to be “outgoing or cool, or funny.” What are we all striving for, what does it matter if you are well liked and even loved by your group of friends if you can’t break down in tears with them and go deep, cry with them? What does it matter if you are “liked” if you all have buried trauma or sadness that has been locked away and doesn’t know how to come up?
What does a real friend do? Does he pretend and accept your smile and insistence that nothing is wrong? Or does he sense when something is off, does he hold silence and listen to you cry and scream when you feel like you’ve lost everything, and you don’t know how to go on? And does he sit there not trying to fix, but instead say
“Yeah, this world is brutal and it sucks and you are allowed to have those emotions. You’re one of the strongest people I know for being able to express this pain and confront it head on, let it teach you, let it sculpt you, and let it make you stronger for so many people that you are going to help in the future. Do you hear me? You are here on this earth for a reason, I love you and we all need you. Going inward and confronting yourself and your own abuse you have inflicted on yourself after all these years, it’s one of the hardest things one can do in this life, to stop running, to pretending and face it all. You are a warrior, and I’ll sit with you, stand with you when the end times come. We’ll stand together and face the demons in this world, knowing that first we had to confront a huge amount of them in ourselves and the programming in ourselves is the first place to go to extract the demons, we are accountable.”
This is a real friend. Anything else to me is just playing theatre and selling myself short. I’ll be alone and intimate with myself, on my own path for as long as I have to be, until the universe is ready to send these people. But I simply will not settle for anything less than a friend who knows what it means to die in his or her heart daily, and confront the inner mystery inside themselves daily for the highest good of humanity, for the war of peace being fought in each and every heart on this earth.