Hey-O! After several months of writing steadily I enjoyed a little break-ee-poo. But things are still movin’ and shakin’, so let’s get back out on the dance floor.
This post (and probably the next few) will contain segments that are all part of my larger story but not necessarily connected to each other. Expect direct follow-ups to what I call the blog’s ‘central story arc’ (all previous posts), fun new announcements, and progress updates on my move to Spain.
Let’s jump in it!
The Fortuitous Veer
My last handful of posts (from To The Healing Side to Welcome To The Party, Breaux), were exclusively centered around my success doing somatic experiencing therapy. If you read each post in order, you were witnessing- almost in real time, my methodical shedding of childhood trauma, and the a written unveiling of the Gary I was supposed to be all along.
It is a minor aside at this point, but I want to say that my initial vision for the blog was to simply share with everyone how I arrived at my decision to move from the US to Salamanca, Spain. Veering off into jarring family stories of suicide and heartbreak wasn’t part of the original plan at all. It just worked out that way….just as it needed to for me to internally heal from the trauma I’d been carrying inside all my life. Somatic therapy was the innovative and ingenious technique I used to heal myself, but it was also the opening up of my mind- as facilitated by the blog -that gave space and opportunity for my body-self to do what it needed to do. When writing about the circumstances of my childhood, I dove far deeper into my psyche than I ever had before. And made revelatory new connections between past and present. It was my mind and body working together that brought me home.
In the end, the blog will forever stand as a body of personal reclamation and universal redemption. I am thrilled to have been able to share it with you (and the world). I am also enormously pleased that at least a couple folks that follow my blog are firmly on their own path of healing from childhood trauma, too.
I am proud of myself. I did something. I barely have a sense in words of what “pride” means, but I know I have felt it more than a few times in recent weeks. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, I suppose. Appreciation and admiration resulting in satisfaction. How does that work for ya?
Proud of what? This blog. This healing. This Gary.
Pride is not the only “new emotion” I have felt recently. Since therapy breakthroughs moved me from blocked to open in terms of my emotional access, I have also felt genuine anger for the first time in….well, forever. Sadness, too. My overall ability to empathize is much greater, as well. Little more than a week ago I was in the presence of a friend who was hardcore venting his way through some harsh emotions- it was a manic episode, in truth. As I sat and listened, my body began to shake and quiver until I started to cry along with my friend. Pretty incredible, right?! No, I am not the Gary you thought you knew.
Even laughing feels different. With the same friend I cried with, (on a different day) I had a laugh so deep I felt it in both flanks of my torso.
Born At Zero
After giving my therapist (Gabe) plenty of thanks, praise and thousands of dollars (over the course of six months), I have now moved forward on my own with all the tools I need to continue doing somatic experiencing at home. My plan is to set aside some time (almost) every morning to keep it going.
It’s been great so far. And the more I do it, the better I get at it and the more I learn.
The concepts of being blocked or open to emotions are something I’ve learned quite a bit about (and now written about extensively). Not surprising to anyone that knows me, but I’ve also “quantified” what it is to be blocked on an imaginary scale of my own invention. [Reminder: Blocked is when someone cannot fully access their emotions, or is unable to regulate them in a healthy, normal way.] Check out this fancy graphic:
Open 0 ——————————————— 100 Blocked
Simple enough, right? Here’s how it works. We are born our pure selves at zero, “Open” in my terminology. This is the mind-self and body-self being synchronized so that all natural human emotions can be accessed and experienced. But as abuse, neglect, disconnection and general dysfunction in childhood accumulates, our blocked score goes up. Narcissists (like Trump, for example) have shitty, abusive childhoods and grow into adults blocked from their emotions somewhere in the 95 – 100 point range. (Psychopaths are right up there with them.) Knowing everything I know now, I would give myself a blocked score in the 65 – 70 point range. My ex-girlfriend and many of my friends [your vibe attracts your tribe] are all blocked by roughly the same amount. (No, not all. I do have good friends with blocked scores very much on the lower end of my made-up scale.)
By the time I said good-byes to Gabe, I estimate that my somatic breakthroughs had reduced my blocked score down to around 35, about half of where I started. This left me comfortable and experienced enough to continue this type of therapy pretty much anywhere, anytime. Further work at home has dropped my score down even further- probably to the 10 – 15 point range. That’s REALLY LOW, folks!!!! Good on me!
What will I be like if I make it all the way to zero? Should I start shopping now for tie-dye shirts and headbands? My answer to this is, NO. I don’t say no flippantly. I plan to remain quite firmly grounded outside and in. This is what I foresee as being my niche within conversations that depart from the material world into one that’s harder to detect with our traditional senses. I will make sense of the non-material “dimension” by anchoring it firmly to the everyday world we see all around.
In Other News….
I have a new adventure I am super-excited about– a podcast. Yes, I know….there are already (quite literally) a million podcasts out there…. but I’m telling you, none like this one. The name of the podcast is Marty & The Bro. Don’t look for it yet because we haven’t even recorded the first episode. Preparations are definitely underway, however, and I am feeling pretty rosy about it.
So, if I am The Bro (per how my last name is pronounced, though not spelled), who the hell is Marty? Readers that have been with me since the beginning were (somewhat) introduced to Marty already. The fourth post I did was called, Smoke ‘em If You Want To Live. Go back and read it if you didn’t already. It’s a great post and still ranked as the #1 most read post of this entire blog. One of the stories I share within that post is about a friend I refer to only as M. The story involves the day he planned to take his own life. M is Marty. Marty LIVES! Marty is my partner on the podcast.
Marty’s given name is Marcellus Wright, Jr. In his old neighborhood a lot of people called him Marty and that’s how he introduces himself in certain situations. I won’t say much more about Marty now or how he and I got to know each other. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out. He’s a remarkable guy and I am excited for others to get to know him as I do. Our plan is to launch the podcast the first week of January 2021.
Don’t Forget Spain
My visa application to Spain is a work in progress. There is quite a lot to it– an FBI background check, medical certificate of health, financial records, health insurance, translations, etc -but I feel like I am still on track to start my new life in Spain on or about February 1st of 2021.
In case you were wondering… last week I received the FBI Background check. And they found nothing! So there! HA!!!
My body is internally “buzzing.” I’m not so aware of it when moving around, but if I stand, sit or lie down, I can feel an electrical activeness within my tissues. Less than a buzzing, really; it’s more of an internal vibration. I park in front of the massage therapist’s building, shut off the car and sit for a second. The vibration is obvious–feeling. It’s like the car’s engine is idling and the whole car is vibrating. But I shut it off…and my car is all-electric anyway; it has no engine.
It’s so subtle, I cannot tell whether the vibration is coming from within me or from the earth. This all started yesterday in the immediate aftermath of what I’m calling the big breakthrough (on Oct 12th).
Tamara greets me at the entrance to her building and takes my temp (Covid precaution). I’m clear! That’s when I start telling her, “I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this, but I’ve been doing these somatic therapy sessions lately, and, uhm… yesterday was a pretty big day. I was thinking maybe you could kinda…” I jockey my hands in front to unconsciously gesture how uncertain I feel towards my own words, “…re-balance me.” My voice actually curls up at the end so it’s more like I’m asking. That’s when Tamara tells me she’s done somatic experiencing herself and is also trained in the practice. Holy mountain of dark chocolate, WHAT!?!
Seriously! I had no idea she had experience with this stuff. I thought Tamara was just a regular massage therapist. Suddenly, she’s my “shaman.”
Pause… wait, what’s going on here?
Once I had moved from being emotionally blocked to open, very quickly coincidences, lucky breaks, and other seemingly random events told a very different story from the one I thought existed. Second pause… I am by no means pointing to a single fortuitous happenstance with a massage therapist and saying “Ah HA!” Not at all. Since the previous day’s breakthrough I’ve been seeing and feeling an entire kaleidoscopic montage of connectedness everywhere. Knowing Tamara was exactly the right person for me at that moment felt like overwhelming confirmation that the universe has some sort of meaningful flow to it. GASP! I said it.
More on this new-agey mumbo-jumbo later, so stick around for that [or run in the other direction…Rick]. For my money, however, the real reason to keep reading is because a little later you will join me underneath the cream-colored sheets on Tamara’s massage table in nuttin’ but me skivvies. I promise you it will be the most bizarre massage experience EVER!
As Real As Gravity
“But we haven’t even gotten to the craziest part of it.” That was the teaser that ended my last post. Was I exaggerating? You will judge– tears flowing on a massage table….sadness trapped inside my buttocks (hip)….orange bolts of energy shooting from my head? Maybe this is normal in your world, but it sure seems pretty crazy to me. [By the way, sincere hugs to those that communicated with me how much Significant Conditions resonated with them. There was definitely a lot there!]
Embedded within all the strangeness you’ll be hearing about in this post, I was just sharp enough to pull out three “super-truths.” And by that I mean universal truths. Like…I can’t see it, but this feels just as real as gravity type of truths. All three truths will tumble forth for you as this post unfolds. But here… since I’ve already half-given one away in the opener, I’ll just say it for you plainly…sans the gasp: Everything is connected.
Last thing before we move on. If at any point I start sounding like a “life coach” or a mystic, please know it’s unintentional. My whole M-O has been and will be to simply tell you what happened. I won’t stop now.
One of my very good friends here in the Denver area is Dr Becky Chance. She’s both a basic knucklehead (like me) but she’s also a bad-ass who earned her PhD just last year at 45 years of age. If you’ve kept up with my blog from the start, it is my own muddled “hero’s journey” that you’ve been reading. Well, Becky has been on quite a hero’s journey herself. In fact, if her and I were to compare personal growth timelines, she’s leading me by about two years.
Similar to me and my situation, Becky has had to overcome the challenges of a childhood filled with trauma. But, thanks to a course of her own therapy (the more traditional type), Becky managed to move herself to the healing side of trauma a couple of years ago. As this shift was occurring within her, there were no big breakthrough moments (such as what I experienced). What Becky got instead was the cumulative effect of hundreds of ah-ha moments, each one a shift towards everything in her life taking on new meaning. At her own pace, and when she was ready, Becky moved from blocked to open. As this happened, she was able to make connections between the string of life events that led her into a new reality– one where the universe reveals its true nature on a daily basis.
Becky and I had dozens of past conversations where she would tell me about something that happened in her life that…maybe, didn’t quite go like she thought it would. But she would say to me, “I guess that’s not what the universe wants for me.” Annoying, right?!
Bumped and Nudged
My own personal mistrust of the guided by the universe concept is on display several times within this blog. It’s wrapped in the things-happen-for-a-reason packaging, but it’s really the same enigma. I’ll happily admit that a great many things have come together for me this year. All of the twists, turns, epiphanies, people, things, events… they seem to have been neatly aligned to bump and nudge me towards this really sweet state of being I find myself in right now. But is it really “forces of the universe” doing the work?
Whenever Becky would use this phrase about what the universe wants, I found myself stuck between an eye-roll and a 10 minute rambling soliloquy about how such talk doesn’t quite add up for me. My wagon has been hitched to the “not buying it” pull-car ever since I departed the nonsensical village of Christianity at age 16. I even look back at my childhood full of Jesus with a good deal of condemnation (how ironic). Not to veer too far off course, but… I once heard it said about both religion and masturbation— neither should be done in front of children. [Amen to that!]
But now get this. All of my universe-schmuniverse thinking came at a time when my modern mind-self was blocked by trauma from my ancient body-self (Explanation). Once these somatic experiences opened up access to the body-self’s vibration, the universe got a whole lot closer. Suddenly, I wasn’t just looking back at twists, turns, epiphanies, people, things, events and wondering if they are connected, I could intuitively feel their connection. Yes, everything really is connected.
Whether you can feel it or not could indicate which side of the blocked / open divide you might be on. But don’t think too much about that right now (if you’re blocked you probably won’t get it anyway), I’ve got to move on to my second and third big truths and how they both sprang from a fractal in nature. [If anyone can figure out what I mean by this, I’ll Venmo you $10 (just to the 1st person, please. (..and maybe the 2nd))]
I’d love for you to have a better feel for the progression of my somatic therapy sessions over the course of the last six months. I’ll describe it using terms all red-blooded Americans will understand- Are you ready for some FOOTBALL!?
You are looking at a football field. When my somatic therapy sessions began in May, I was starting at the goaline with 100 yards to go. Every weekly visit was a simple, predictable 1, 2, or 3 yard run up the middle. BORING! –Go, talk a little, try to meditate, talk a little more, drive home. But I never punted and was steadily (albeit unconsciously) gaining enough on each play to keep the drive alive. The good thing about this therapy was that I never lost yards. With every weekly visit, the gains were virtually imperceptible to me, but I was moving forward.
My particular type of trauma, the kind that left me emotionally blocked, is a tough dam to bring down therapeutically. The biggest gain I made was maybe about a 7 yard run at the start of the analogous second quarter. I was using ketamine in my sessions at that time and finally managed to access a worthy cry after punching a sofa cushion with my fist. That session was followed by a couple of no-gainers, so then I switched to cannabis and kept on fighting for small yardage up the middle.
After 5 months of weekly visits, I was only at mid-field. Granted, I had no sense of my field position at the time. I just knew it had been slow-going and the endzone didn’t look so close. I needed a big play. And got one- my first somatic experience. I’ll call it a 15 yard pass to the tight-end. I missed a week due to scheduling, but once back in the clinic for my next sesh, I completed another pass to the wide-receiver for a gain of 20! Then, on my day of six somatic experience cycles…I scored a touchdown!
To be sure, this did not mean the game was won. Scoring a touchdown was a game-changer for sure, (and my end-zone dance was EPIC!). But I also knew that the 5,000 ruptures I harbored in my body could not be vanquished in one play, regardless of how spectacular it was.
The week after the touchdown, I aimed for a two-point conversion…. and got it. More somatic cycles, more breakthroughs, and even more deep truths revealed about how the universe actually works.
Get Out The Way
I love the football analogy because it makes clear that somatic therapy is a bit of a grind. But, once my first genuine somatic experience was in the bag, I was almost there. So, if any of you therapy-inclined friends out there want to check-out somatic therapy for yourselves, you will have an almost unfair head start because I’m about to tell you one of the keys to doing it.
When I go down into a meditative state and mentally zoom around my body in search of bigfoot, I mean, signals coming from my body, or the somatic experiencing “wavelength,” or whatever we want to call it… what I should really be focused on is simply getting my ever-vigilant mind-self out of the way. If I were starting my somatic therapy today from scratch with this knowledge….? Fuggetaboutit! I could have shortened the field and been doing my endzone dance in far less time than 6 months.
I know I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the nitty-gritty details of somatic experiencing, but not without good reason. This point about getting your mind out of the way is a slam dunk, money-saving, take-it-from-me, pro-tip for anyone interested in doing somatic therapy work themselves. And, it is also the second of my three new big truths!
So, where are we? #1 Everything is connected. #2 Get out of the way. Let me show you how this figures into real life and how not knowing any of this led me to my life’s biggest regret.
Off By One Degree
Hands down, my biggest fumble in life [wait, I think we’re done with the football analogy] was getting my degree in accounting. I understand today why I made this poor decision way back when, but that does not soothe my regret. It all traces back to childhood trauma, wouldn’t you know. And also to my first and second big truths.
I chose accounting for purely practical reasons. You’ll always have a job, is what I heard over and over again. They weren’t wrong, either. But where was the advice about making a decision based on what I was feeling? Since I was way blocked from my feelings at 23 years old, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, but still. If I’d had access to my feelings and, by extension, was open to that whole universe business, the right answer would have come to me….if only I could have gotten my mind out of the way. All that practical thinking definitely steered me onto a career path that was ultimately not a good fit.
Coulda-shoulda-woulda, right? I wonder how many signs I walked past because I was too blocked to see them. If signs were there, the gentlest and truest interpretation of my missing them is that I was simply not ready.
Which leads me to that third big truth. And wait until you see where I find it.
This is a long post, folks. My apologies for that. And you’re only about half-way through. Ugh! But I have some good news. This last part is FASCINATING!!! So, take yourself a little bio-break and then buckle-it up for the bizarre massage and other Gary’s Believe It Or Not moments.
Also, this will be my last post for a while. I need to dedicate time to filling out the Visa application for Spain. Andole!It has been an absolute blast of learning, growing and sharing!Thank you so so much for being a part of it!!
Welcome to the Party, Breaux feels like a good place to draw “Act 1” of the 1MoreWorld blog to a positive and gentle soft-close.
So Where’s My Damn Sadness
Somewhere in the midst of one of the six somatic cycles on touchdown day, Gabe asked me if I could “find my sadness.” I scanned around my body and with a little voice answered only, “I don’t know.” At that point in time, the concept behind Gabe’s question was still very foreign to me. Once I am in Tamara’s hands, it will be found. And I promise we’re almost there. But first…
This wackadoodle notion of the body having “stored-up emotions” has not been an easy one for me to wrap my head around. But the more of this somatic experiencing I do, the easier it is to internally feel this is exactly what happens when traumatic situations are not processed appropriately, especially in childhood. When you are not allowed to cycle-through intense emotions, the tension remains until you (on a sliding scale) become a bundle of nerves. I know that when I’m in a meditative-somatic state, electrical impulses are firing muscles all throughout my body. There was even a moment in one of my sessions with Gabe when I felt two small orange “charges” sort of shoot forward and down out of my head. If there’d been a slice of pizza in front of me, it might have gotten scorched. [I’m kidding. It wasn’t that strong. But pizza does sound good.]
One of several ways my body felt “different” after the big day, was that it instantly felt more relaxed (even with the vibration-thing going on). I went straight to the park after that session and did some stretches- basic yoga poses, really. The vertebrae along my spine easily “released” as I twisted my torso, much more so than I’d ever felt before. Other joints, too. Orange bolts of energy or not, I was demonstrably more loosened-up from head to toe. Plus, it was like all of my standard 55 year old body aches and pains had just received a power-washing and a fresh squirt of oil.
So where the hell is that damn sadness? Tell you now, my ass!
Donut To The Face
Tamara steps out for a moment and I undress down to my aforementioned “skivvies” (briefs, of course). Her return finds me under a soft sheet topped with a light blanket. My feet protrude out the bottom, because I prefer them getting air.
It’s actually my second massage with Tamara. My first was 3 ½ months ago and it was awesome, though also pretty “standard” as far as massages go. [In case you’re wondering, I get massages maybe 2-3 times per year on average.] I heard about Tamara from my friend Vanessa, who felt so inspired for me to go see her, she even paid for my first visit (as a birthday gift).
For my initial massage with Tamara I did about 8 mgs of an edible beforehand. Note that I checked with her in advance to make sure this was okay. Interacting with the world while being elevated by cannabis was not something I had much experience with so I was ever-cautious. Motivating me was that I really wanted to see what a massage would feel like with the heightened body-awareness you get with cannabis. Folks, it was an exceptional experience! Afterwards, I concluded that MOST regular cannabis users already know this “innovation” and would never consider getting a massage sober.
For my session this day (Oct 13th), I did 10 mg, only a slight increase from before; so still not a super-high amount.
My face is down into that little donut thing at the end of the massage table. Soft music is playing from a speaker and Tamara begins. I let my mind-self start floating to the side. She is touching my back with long slow motions that slide along muscles deep beneath my skin. It’s not long before my body gives forth a somatic response- meaning I “flinch.” And, then do it a few more times. Soon I go into more of a full somatic tremble. Tamara is further tuning-in to the fibers within my right shoulder that have apparently been holding onto…..well, something. As I lie there, I am fully aware of my body’s response to her touch, but feel extremely safe in her presence… enough to let my body-self do whatever it needs to do. That’s when, from great depths, I begin to cry.
Envy the Bizarre Massage
For the record, this is not an ugly cry, the one where you fight to hold back and it makes your face all contorted. No, I am flowing and it’s all quite wonderful. Tears are the relief valve of the soul, I once heard. The part of my mind-self that has stayed online acknowledges the bizarre scene I am participating in. I mean, who the heck cries like this in the middle of a massage? But…you know….given everything else I’ve been experiencing lately… it’s all good.
As the massage progresses, Tamara moves down to my lower back and the area around my hips. My earlier crying cycled through and I had momentarily returned to calm. But the best (the worst…?) is yet to come. Gabe had asked me if I could “find my sadness” and I could not. But Tamara will. With the knowing touch of a mystic, she presses deep into the tissues of my right hip; I begin to shudder again. This time even more than before. Never in my life have I felt crying like this. The concept of storing away sadness within the body is no longer foreign to me. It is true. It’s all true and I am feeling it first-hand. The body does keep score and all of the sadness that rightfully belonged to me as child growing up in the breeding ground for suicide is still fucking there.
I cry full body until keeping my head down in the donut isn’t allowing me to breathe. That’s when I prop myself up on my elbows and keep going. Tamara’s experience in this somatic world is invaluable to me. I thought about how Vanessa (with no knowledge of Tamara’s somatic training, btw), not only told me about her, but felt strongly enough about it to buy me a Groupon to make sure I went. I am telling you again, everything is connected. Coincidences are gone! I think about this while crying through the massage. As more and more tetris pieces of evidence find their fit inside my head, a crazy-deep laughter joins into the crying….until it becomes impossible to tell which is which.
Gary’s Believe It Or Not Moment
Last crazy thing from the bizarre massage. At one point, Tamara asks me to roll onto my back, which I do. As she continues to work her hands into my hip area, my body-self’s somatic reaction does not stop. In fact, it begins to escalate even more. I have given up my internal controls to Tamara and simply follow the guidance of her touch. After I reach some sort of crescendo, she slowly brings me back down again to a calm state. The somatic shuddering slowly slows to a stop, my breathing eventually returns to normal. My eyes are closed throughout, so I feel everything. The flowy music continues in the background and I lay completely still once again. Tamara’s hands, both of them, now rest gently on my right hip.
An image of what I’m feeling inside my body forms within my mind like it’s a computer simulation. I feel and “see” an orangish current of energy flowing up from my right leg in the direction of my hip. I feel into my upper body and sense the same flow of energy channeling in the opposite direction, down towards my hip. Then it hits me, Tamara is pulling the fucking sadness out of my body! What the hell is going on!?!! This is freaking my ass out…in a good way. I’m not complaining, it’s all just so far removed from the seeing-is-believing world I’d previously known.
Really?! Do I think I’m going to write about this in the blog? I don’t know, man. I’m not sure if I’m ready for this. Are you?
Ready / Not Ready
Okay, I am done with recounting somatic experiences….almost. I have to share with you an important lesson (the third big truth) that came from my last somatic session with Gabe (Oct 19). This is six days after my bizarre massage with Tamara.
While Tamara had ‘found my sadness,’ and even released a bucket of it, my hip area was still home to a great deal more. Not just sadness, but anger, fear, and who knows what else. After finding my way into a somatic state once again– body-self alert and quivering –I tell Gabe I can feel a “swirly sensation” down in my right hip. He coaches me to keep watching and notice if it changes. It does. The swirly sensation morphs into a colored blob and my body-self instinctively becomes more agitated.
Gabe asks me if it would be okay for him to put his hand there. Without hesitating I fearfully blurt out, “NO!”
Moments later, Gabe asks, “Could you take your own hand and touch it to your hip?” I visualize making this seemingly simple movement, but the thought alone makes my entire body flash with fear and everything within me tightens up another few degrees. I shake my head back n’ forth and say these words out loud, “I’m not ready.” Gabe reassures me that’s okay. He explains that it’s normal to feel conflicted between wanting to protect oneself against an outpouring of potentially difficult and painful emotions, and feeling secure enough to let those emotions express themselves without constraint, knowing they have a safe place to be received.
I did not touch my hip that day, metaphorically with my mind, or physically with my hand. I wasn’t ready. Instead, I just hovered in that somatic state of being for as long as I could without doing anything more than I was ready for. There was too much stored inside my body to let it all come pouring out at once. My mind-self was thinking, Just be here. Do what you need to do, body-self. I will hold the space for you until you are ready.
What stayed with me from the ‘hip-touch challenge’ was another one of those big truths. As I now see it, the concept of Ready / Not Ready applies at any scale- it is universal. So, yes…you have freewill. But that’s a discussion more fitting for another day. Also being saved for later is the rather mundane reason why the universe is connected and flowing in the first place. [Hmmm, maybe I’ll write a book.]
When the universe bumps and nudges, it will only change the course of your life when you are ready. Being not ready is perfectly acceptable, too. The universe will hold space for you, if you get out of the way and let it.
A Million Percent Right
As I mentioned when talking about my friend Becky earlier, once she had crossed over to the healing side of her trauma, she was able to look back at all of the turning points in her recent life and see overwhelming evidence in support of an ‘everything is connected’ universe.
None of this made sense to me while I was stuck in the blocked world. Being blocked left me disconnected from so much, including the true nature of the world around me. As soon as that block between mind-self and body-self was lifted, the connectedness of everything became suspiciously obvious. I called Becky the same afternoon of the big breakthrough day and admitted to her, “You were right.” I said this with playful confidence. However, the truth was that I knew it was way too soon for such firm declarations. What if I come back to earth the next day and see things differently; and realize that ‘connected universe‘ feeling was all a bunch of hooey?
Well, that next day was the same day Tamara ‘sucked sadness from my right hip.’ It was also the same day I could see and feel very clearly how Tamara’s perfectly timed entrance into my chain of life events broke the back of random chance. It was all there, strung out behind me like fallen dominoes. Each one a bump or a nudge to direct me forward…through the looking glass that connects our material world to the instinctual side of existence.
It’s much like nature adjusts and directs the flow of a river over time– sometimes it’s a quiet lean from changing patterns of vegetation….and sometimes it’s an avalanche.
About 24 hours after I’d called Becky to half-confidently say she was right, we had the following short text exchange:
Gary: The “universe is speaking” concept is becoming laughably undeniable. You were not only right, you were a million percent right
“You know me. You’ve known me for a lot of years. If anyone in this world is grounded, it’s me. And that’s not gonna to change. I’m telling you this in advance, Boris / David / Maria / Vanessa / Double-D / Rob / Isaac / Wels… (and you, too, Greg). I need to say it now because… If I go down some weird path and find out there actually is more to it all, I need you to stick with me, okay? I’ll need you to believe me. I mean, this is Gary speaking. Whatever it is I might discover up ahead, you know I’m gonna keep it real either way.”
To be precise, I did not literally have this identical conversation with every person in my orbit (but you know who you are). I also want to really emphasize the timing. This is what I was saying way back in February, before the Covid shut-downs, before therapy was even a thought in my head (much less somatic therapy), before I’d decided to sell my house in Austin, leave my job, and begin a new life in Spain, before the blog, and way too long before I ever knew childhood trauma even had a healing side.
For whatever reason, however, I had a strong sense then that something was on its way. Perhaps I would discover some curious insight from tripping on mushrooms or LSD. You know, mystical-realm type stuff. As it turns out, however, neither of these substances have had more than a tiny influence on me at all. I never actually did a whole lot of either, just some timid doses here and there. So far, my experiences on that front have given me nothing much to report. Hey! I am keeping it real!
And with that as your set-up, let’s start our fully-grounded mind-bending adventure towards understanding what it means to be blocked.
In this post and the one that will quickly follow, my goal is to make some keep-it-real-world sense out of “SE” -somatic experiencing- that freaky-ass voodoo stuff I’ve finally been able to access in my therapy sessions. Turns out there is a logical explanation for what goes on during a somatic experience. And it’s not voodoo after all. [Still pretty freaky though.]
I will be using a couple of fresh new terms that I’ll need you to grok (FULLY understand) for my thesis on SE to make sense. The terms are body-self and mind-self. What I am doing is deliberately simplifying the body-brain-mind package into having only two parts. Trust me, it will work for this purpose. The body-self is the primitive, nervous system based part of you that would still be there even if your frontal cortex, home to your mind-self, was removed. Throughout my explanation, body-self and mind-self will align with: nervous system and frontal cortex; ancient and modern; squirrel and human. You’ll get why adding “self” to body and mind is so important as my explanation unfolds.
There’s A Nerve Cell In My Soup
Imagine yourself attending a casual dinner party for eight where seven of the guests have been close friends since birth. It’s awkward immediately because you arrive late, but it gets even worse. Much of what goes on at the table- the inside jokes, the subtle digs, the knowing looks -will be lost on you.
Keep that feeling in mind, but switch out the characters. Let your nervous system be one of the friends that’s been there since the beginning, and your frontal cortex be the new guy, able to see and hear the conversations, but with scant ability to pick-up the unspoken queues and greater context of the stories being told.
I think this analogy is useful because… when we go diving into the body-self’s primordial soup, the stuff from which our nervous system cells got their start, all of the elemental forces of the universe were already sitting at the table. Inside the tiny little microscopic bodies of whichever multi-celled creatures eventually evolved into us, nervous system cells are there to aid in survival. These cells of ancient origin cut their proverbial teeth on all variety of invisible signals coming through the ambient that modern iterations of our brain are not specialized to detect or interpret in the least.
We observe examples of animal “intuition,” such as when they run for higher ground before a tsunami approaches. For the animals themselves, they are simply catching a vibe that says danger and heading somewhere they feel safe.
What does any of this have to do with SE? Hold. HOLD..! I’m getting there.
At the truly primal level of existence there is no seeing, hearing, or smelling, but there is feeling. And that feeling needs only two modes to operate in. As I’ve already hinted, I will label them Danger and Safe. I could have chosen 1 and 0, On and Off, Alert and Calm, Rupture and Repair, or any other two terms with similar import. But Danger and Safe are good choices within the larger context of my particular type of trauma. Also, in case it’s not obvious, 0, Off, Calm, Safe… this is the default mode we need to be in to thrive. Danger Mode is where we go when we need to survive.
To bring it all together… our nervous system (the body-self) knows danger and safety at the most basic level our universe has to offer, but that knowing can be overpowered and controlled (think suppressed) by the highly adaptive and ever-dominant frontal cortex (the mind-self). When I was a child “trapped” in that house on Creekwood, hiding under the bed, waiting to get a spanking from my father for reasons I could not make sense of, my nervous system was switched into Danger Mode while the rest of me was trying to figure out how to cope.
But here’s the clincher. That house on Creekwood was a breeding ground for suicide. I lived in Danger Mode. Even when my dad wasn’t around, I didn’t feel safe. What if I did something, broke something, for example? My dad might find out and then what?
It’s so funny to me seeing how a squirrel will bounce away at the most innocent change to their environment, i.e. me walking down the sidewalk. Their acorn-sized brains (so ironic) are dominated by the ancient nervous system where Danger and Safe modes are most of what they have to work with. But that’s okay. The beauty of the squirrel is not just its fluffy tale and oh-so-cute face. The brain of a squirrel has the effortless ability to scamper back and forth between “Danger, Will Robinson!” and, “Yeah, I’m cool…and cute.”
If only I could have switched back to Safe Mode. Instead, my adaptive frontal cortex had to find a way to tamp-down my nerves by controlling and suppressing the emotions I deserved to be feeling- particularly anger and sadness. In my childhood of 5,000 ruptures and zero repairs, turns out my body-self never stopped keeping score.
This left me blocked, unable to truly connect with people, to patiently listen, broadly see, and intuitively feel the universe around me and know my place within it. Fortunately for me, the story does not end there…
I feel like this is already a lot to digest, so I will stop here to give us all a chance to breathe. Look for the fascinating second half in just a couple of days, when I’ll go from Blocked to Open. It’s a supersonic ride!