That Old Shoe

How do we give ourselves permission to be joyful? I mean really joyful.

How do we duck from under the weight of conditioning wrought by generational trauma that gets in the way of us finding our own joy?

Well, the truth is we can’t duck it, we have to deal with it. We have to look it in the eye and ask, “What are you holding on to?,” and listen to the answer with an open heart and an open mind. To heal from what was we must recognize and acknowledge it. From my experience it’s emotional pain that causes mental strife … it’s the stuff that stands in our way of experiencing pure, unmitigated joy, and it does not leave on its own. It needs to be loved away.

I have come to this conclusion after 24 years walking the healing path; a journey that continues because even now, after all this time and with all the healing I have done, I still find myself bumping up against generational trauma that limits my ability to find my own joy in the moment.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

The notion is that nothing good is given without something good being taken away. Or, that when something good happens it will be quickly cancelled by something equally bad.

This is the big one. This is the one that sits quietly in the background of my psyche undermining my joy.

This is really old stuff. This is my two tyrannical grandfathers reigning terror on my tenderhearted grandmothers and their children.

I’ve done a good deal of family history so I have a fairly basic understanding of the hardships, prejudices and world events that shaped my family’s lives. Some of them coped better than others. My grandfathers not so much. I know now that their actions were the projection of their unresolved pain. The thing is that in those days no one talked about, never mind dealt with, their hurt. Everything was covered in a shroud of secrecy and bravado and allowed to fester and explode on the people around them. Not surprisingly, their families took the brunt. Sadly, this is still too much our society’s truth.

These days there’s no reason not to deal with our pain. Oh, there are plenty of excuses, most of them based in fear or shame, but the fact is the resources are out there to help everyone when they have the courage to step up and say, “Enough is enough!”.

I had to do it, or my life was going to implode.

Happily, one of the magical things I’ve learned while walking my healing path is that it’s not just my own pain I’m healing, it’s that of the ancestral collective that lives in me.

Many years ago, after a painful divorce, I made the decision to deal with my emotional baggage. I distinctly remember writing in my journal at the time that, “The buck stops here.” It wasn’t that there was a next generation I had to save. As fate would have it my family tree stops with me. It was more a strong feeling that I had to provide some relief for those who had come before me. We know from the field of epigenetics that trauma and beliefs can be encoded into our DNA. This means that we bear the emotional wounds of previous generations and these are perpetuated onto future generations unless we gather our courage and get the help we need to stop it. Think about  it … how many family ghosts are dwelling in your family’s attic and pull the strings of your life?

So, I made a pact with myself, and my ancestors, that I would do what I needed to heal my life and their pain. Interestingly, the more I have grown in self-awareness and been able to remedy my issues, the deeper has become, in a healthy way, my connection to my ancestors and their stories. I fell empathy for their experiences, not angst. This brings me joy because I feel I am no longer constrained by the debilitating patterns of self-denial wrought by generational terror and waiting for that damn shoe to drop. Most of the time.

Blossoming in our own truth

Every once in a while, when I feel the light of something wonderful in my life, I feel the threat of that old shoe. Years of therapy have put me in a better position to recognize when it’s there and to know that it has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with my experience. It is old. It is the shame, guilt, disappointments, bitterness, and all other negative emotions that dwell in the cauldron of fear that have stirred for generations. And when I sense its presence, it takes every ounce of courage I have to surrender the need to be controlled by this old family shame and throw the spectre of that old shoe out the proverbial door.

We are fortunate in these modern times to have access to good mental and emotional health care. Trauma no longer has to rule our lives if we only open ourselves to a chance for healing. Once we can free ourselves from the chains of family trauma, we are free to blossom into our truth and share its beauty with the people who share our lives.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Punch the Monster

Be authentic;

know who you are.

Understand what’s

buried beneath those

mountainous feelings of

inadequacy,

fear,

suffering,

depression,

despair,

grief.

Be prepared

to walk deep into the

cave of your misgivings;

to poke the monster,

Vulnerability, and

hear its high-pitched

squeal that shuts you down

or sends you running.

Be prepared

to punch the monster

in the nose and say,

“No more!

No more will I be

ruled by the unseen

terror that lies

dormant within.

No more will I

allow it to undermine

my truth and sway

me toward the lies

that feed

its hungry belly.”

Be prepared

for the struggle that is

that step from the dark

pit of toxic unknowing

into the light of pure truth.

Be the David to your inner

Goliath; slay the monster

and rise victorious. It is

your right to be

authentic.

~*~

When we have no understanding of who we are, or what makes us tick, we cannot be authentic. It’s just not possible. All the fears, anxieties, and other negative feelings that keep us stalled in a debilitating life pattern are driven by what we don’t know about ourselves. It takes courage and shining a light of curiosity into the cave of our unknowing to unearth our truth, remove the obstacles that prevent us from living it and be authentic. It’s a heck of a journey and worth every moment.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Daily Prompt: Authentic

 

 

The Heart Knows

Daily Prompt: Too Big to Fail

Tell us about something you would attempt if you were guaranteed not to fail (and tell us why you haven’t tried it yet).

~*~

You ask what is too big to fail?

Life.

Life is too big to fail.

To live from the heart;

To be free of emotional encumbrances

And the pains of past times

That swell inside because they will not be

Set free.

And why are they not set free?

Fear.

Fear of feeling.

Fear of failure.

Fear of imperfection.

Fear of death.

~*~

This is old.

Old lies plastered over

Real truth.

The truth that resides inside and says,

“Anything is possible. Believe.”

Thus, there is no heart’s desire so big

I will not throw my whole heart into it.

The heart knows what is truth.

And truth knows that all that stands

Between success and failure is

Fear.

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015 

Freeze and Thaw

Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

~*~

As someone who’s spent her life surviving the slings and arrows of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the point of almost burning out my adrenal glands, I suppose I could speak volumes on this subject.

To the overwhelmed nervous system almost anything can trigger the heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness of the adrenal rush … and not in a good way.

My adrenalin responses have rarely been justified, but when you grow up  feeling constantly under threat of something you lose sight of what constitutes an appropriate adrenal response. Not that you’re even in control of it. It just is, stimulated by whatever trigger pokes its way into a painful point of subconscious memory.

A life time of living in chronic survival mode is hard on the adrenal glands. (As is a life spent chugging down energy drinks, but that’s a discussion for another day.) They do burn out, and chronic anxiety is one of the results. Until I became aware of what was happening beneath the surface of my anxiety there was no way I could change it.

This awareness was finally raised during a trip to Sarajevo in March 2009, when the war-wounded city reflected the incredibly deep wounds of my own emotional trauma. Anxiety attacks in benign circumstances triggered three flight and freeze reactions during our one-week stay, reactions over which I had no control. Since we were travelling with a group of virtual strangers there was the added stress of shame attached to it.

Yes, you need to know that freezing is also a response to trauma.

In simple, primitive terms, this is when prey under pursuit will drop to the ground and play dead so the predator will lose interest and leave them alone.

My freeze ~ the clamp of anxiety. The desperate need to getaway without knowing where is safe to go. Stuck. Immovable. Traumatized. Invisible. On a continuous playback loop.

Since Sarajevo it’s taken years of therapy to get my frozen emotional core to finally thaw. The experience is a bit like the sensation of regaining feeling in your hands and feet after a bout of frost bite. Years of frozen feelings melt into a stinging liquid form. The pain all too present … but it must be felt to be acknowledged and, ultimately, released.

I’m reminded of the time I attended an NFL game in Buffalo with my ex-husband and his family, maybe 20 years ago. It was December, 15 below and snowing, and I was not dressed properly for the occasion. By the fourth quarter I was in the first aid room with thermal blankets wrapped around frozen feet (and a husband angered by the fact he’d had to miss that last quarter).

The agony of the thaw was indescribable. There were a few moments there where I felt like I’d rather die than endure the grief of feeling my limbs come back to life. However, once the worst of it had passed, and I could feel my feet and hands again, the pain of the experience became nothing more than a passing memory. I can recall the incident now as the source for a funny story or, for that matter, a teaching moment.

Feelings that come up while thawing are painful, but they must be felt in order for us to be completely free of them.

The first step, however, is awareness.

I learned ~ through psychotherapy, naturopathy, hormone therapy, equine therapy and other important sources ~ that the freeze response, which had become my go-to place when overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control (rooted in early childhood trauma), had created a debilitating life pattern affecting mind, body and spirit.

I learned that what we harbour in the way of resentment, fear, jealousy and the like becomes our master and we its slave, and that this plays out in our lives in unhappy and insidious ways. Panic/anxiety attacks, addiction, lashing out or anything else that numbs the mind, body and spirit are all manifestations of the freeze response triggered by overwhelming events.

As horrible as those anxiety-ridden moments in Sarajevo were for me, they taught me it was time to be honest with myself and seek help. The kind of help that would allow the thaw, the healing, to begin and bring to life again the parts of me that had been playing dead.

Freezing was how I’d made myself invisible. If I was invisible, no one could see me; no one would abandon, reject, abuse or hurt me ever again. In the process I had become stuck in the pattern of abandoning, rejecting, abusing and hurting myself. It had to stop.

It’s been almost six years since my rigorous, sometimes hellish and incredibly cleansing journey began. A veritable trip through the refiner’s fire. Still, if I had to choose between who I am now and who I was before the thaw began, there’s no doubt what I’d do. Even knowing how tough it’s been I’d go through it all again to unearth my truth and free myself of the pain that had frozen me in chaos.

My heart and mind are open; my adrenal glands are functioning more optimally and thus my nervous system is becoming more robust. I’m finally able to live my life more on my terms. I’ve learned to live in the moment; to leave the past behind and to allow the future to be what it will be.

Finally, I feel free to be me.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

Useful resources:
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The acclaimed guide to stress, stress-related diseases and coping ~ Robert M. Sapolsky
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma ~ Peter A. Levine
Riding Between The Worlds: Expanding our Potential Through the Way of the Horse ~ Linda Kohanov
In An Unspoken Voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness ~ Peter A. Levine
Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation ~ Dr. Dan Siegel
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome ~ James L. Wilson

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

An Ode to My Love on Valentine’s Day

Daily Prompt: Cupid’s Arrow

~*~

Thou art the breath of fresh air I hardly

Knew to breathe when

First we met.

Healing of heart to my broken one;

True in nature, and kind.

My light revealed in thine eyes.

My voice awakened in thine ears.

My frozen feelings thawed by thy gentle warmth.

My truth, with thine, reflected in the nurturing world

Create we, now, together.

Cupid’s love-tipped arrow hath hit its target true.

~*~

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.

Dorothy Chiotti

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

My Life Teacher

Daily Prompt: Teacher’s Pet

~*~

Dance Like No One’s Watching

I was never teacher’s pet. Or, if I was I never knew it. School was a nightmare for me.

At the time I wasn’t aware of it, but I was a child with abandonment issues lugging around a good deal of emotional trauma. My trust had been broken at an early age by the adults I was supposed to be able to rely on the most, so trusting that anyone else, including a teacher, would have my best interests at heart was next to impossible.

And when you can’t trust anyone, who can teach you?

It’s not that I wasn’t loved. I know my mother loved me, but she was so wrapped up in her music career while putting food on the table that I inadvertently became a shadow dweller ~ lost; lonely and invisible.

I didn’t begin to understand my early history and how it created the misshapen patterns of my life until I checked myself into therapy in spring 2009. Feeling stuck in survival mode I needed someone to help sort me out.

Coincidentally, or not, it was about this time the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, complicated by early-onset menopause (or the other way around, it doesn’t matter, it was brutal) began to manifest. Anxiety and panic attacks, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight gain, et al, drove me to near distraction. I wanted explanations. I needed to know what was going on. I needed to address underlying issues and give myself life again.

Like most people I was hesitant about jumping into the mental health abyss. Psychotherapy still has such a stigma attached to it ~ as if it is a weakness to step up to the plate and ask a specially-trained objective third-party, “Why am I this way and what can be done about it?” Still, it became clear after a tumultuous trip to Sarajevo in February that year, during which I had three separate and inexplicable panic attacks, that something needed to change. And anti-depressants, or any their kin, were not the answer.

So, with my husband’s support, I found a good, trustworthy therapist. I prefer to call her my life teacher ~ a person who can safely reflect back to me who I was/am ~ for good or ill ~ and show me how to embrace what works and re-configure what doesn’t it.

And, what a journey it has been …

I have learned more about myself and my world (and my place in it) in the last few years than I’d known in a lifetime up to the point of sitting down in that therapist’s office. My therapist is the life teacher I’d never had, shining a light on a window to my world that I would never have been able to look through, let alone begin to enjoy the view.

She has shown me my strength; helped me to see my successes more clearly; opened the way for me to have the courage to recognize my pain without dwelling on it. Naturally it has not been easy, but facing my truth has given me the strength to see myself so longer as a victim but as a woman who can share the wisdom of her life experiences in profound and empathic ways.

I can say, in all honesty, that I am not the person I was when I walked into my life teacher’s office nearly six years ago. I’m thriving more than surviving.

Of course, the journey continues. There is much more to sort through; much more to learn but, truth be told, I have always looked forward to that hour and a half per week where I can sit down and sift through my emotions and issues with someone who does not judge me for the absurdities (self-judgement) that trips from my lips. Every visit my life teacher shows me how to see myself through a softer, less judgemental lens; to take life as it comes and let the past be where it lives ~ in memory only as a teaching tool. And to take what I learn of, and from, my past and recognize the strength of character that brought me through those experiences to this point.

My life teacher has taught me that my past is not my present, or my future. That I can reprogram my dysfunctional ways to create a new more holistic way of being. A way of being that integrates past experiences with present realities to support deeply-held and beautiful personal truths that have no attachment to my early childhood trauma and the illusion I’d lived under for so long.

So, you ask who my most important teacher was … and still is?

The person who has taught me to see, be, and love, my Self ~ my therapist; my life teacher.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Harm Not My Sanctuary, Lest I Weep

Daily Prompt: Free Association

Home ~ Sanctuary
Soil ~ Harm
Rain ~ Weep

~*~

Harm not my sanctuary, lest I weep,

For here is where my heart doth rest,

My weary body sleep.

Tis here I close my tired eyes,

Replenish here my soul

And find within my stirring depths

The truth that makes me whole.

Tis here my joy abides each day

That girds me forth in life,

Where love and safety keep me warm

Protecting me from strife.

Harm not my sanctuary, lest I weep.

~*~

My home is my sanctuary.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015