Friday 03 November 2023
As the rain patters hard against the window, I feel a quenching in my chest. Anxiety we often call it – but is that just a hollow word to sum up unknown sensations that resemble something akin to fear?
If I observe the sensations, I feel that I do not want to focus on them. I want to distract myself, with work, with screens, with planning the future, anything to keep me from feeling the unknown and undefinable fear of the present moment. The digital age makes it so easy to ignore the things we do not wish to see.
Rain knocks hard against the window; footsteps echo from above or below. I am ungrounded.
I inhale. The exhale is lengthened as I attempt to return to the present moment. A spasm extends from my chest up my throat.
I am always trying to pin things down, to define them, understand them, in some attempt to make myself less fearful. But here I am, back in the tumble dryer, spinning faster and faster to try to understand something. And yet, the more I try to pin things down the more they evade my grasp. I observe myself grasping, knowing, wanting to understand.
I see the fear that drives it. What am I afraid of? Loss? Pain? Death? I am not sure.
The weight of being alone always sits heavy in my chest. So much fear, and yet so little idea of what I am fearful of. Fear with no object – or more likely, fear of an object I am unwilling to see.
It’s ok to be fearful I tell myself. Again, I am in the tumble-dryer of rationalising my fear away, or turning it into art. It’s ok to have fear and not to know why.
I see that there is a lot of anxiety in my past, suppressed anxiety that had to be stored away and unfelt. Perhaps that is what I feel now. Was I waiting for a time to feel that fear, a time when it would be safe? Is that time now?
I connect with my younger self. Sometimes it takes a while to see the face of my child-self when I am particularly disconnected. Immediately my awareness shifts from the weight in my chest to a soft smile on my face. It’s ok I tell myself. I am safe. Now I see a younger version of myself, myself as a baby. This is really early stuff, a pre-lingual or newborn fear. A disconnection from the essential relationships for a safe and connected existence.
"I am safe. I am loved. I am here."
It is so interesting to do this kind of ‘active imagination’ work, letting the mind wander through writing and connecting with lived embodied experience. Somehow I discover things through writing as though I am dialogue with myself in a way not possible when I am only thinking.
In fact, I do not often think in the sense of talking through an argument or rationalising things. I do a lot of feeling and not a lot of thinking. Perhaps the thoughts, beliefs, and ideas are in constant development in a pre-verbal, subconscious state, stewing and brimming under the surface ready to be assimiliated into some kind of art form.
When I write, or when I paint, content certainly does pour onto the surface as if it had been waiting there for a long time ready to burst forth without any force or thought on my part. However, I am often suspicious when people talk of work not coming from them – perhaps it is a method to distance oneself from one’s creations out of shame or guilt, denying the responsibility of having created a thing that exists for others to interpret, reject, accept, or scorn.
We are so concerned with the opinions of others that we shut ourselves down to expression, convinced that the judgement of others is truthful when in fact it often says much more about the one who judges than the one being judged.
We are slaves to our conditioning, and only with open, truthful, and compassionate self-awareness and connection can we hope to heal and begin to see things as they are.
‘Pre-lingual’ – that is a word that strikes me as meaningful here. That anxiety, that aloneness, that terrible fear of being alone, feels to me a pre-lingual experience, one natural to all children born into disconnection. I see now that connection and love are the greatest remedies to this kind of deep anxiety and fear.