Inside Outside

As I was saying (in the previous post), somewhere along the way I fell asleep to myself. I stopped being able to feel and hear my own inner longings and responses to my life.  Truth is, I didn’t even know that falling asleep to oneself was even possible.  In fact, it seems impossible.

If I’m out of bed and my eyes are open then I’m conscious. Right? Life isn’t that complicated. Eat. Sleep. Move your body around. Suit up. Show up. Fall down. Get up. Don’t quit. Not everything requires insight and analysis, does it?

By asleep I mean unconscious, and by that I mean unaware. All of us have two lives, two experiences, our experiences of the outer world and the experience of our inner world. I have discovered that I can be alert and awake to my experiences in the outer world while being almost entirely unaware of my own inner world.

The amusing irony here is that I work as a therapist. And throughout this period of personal unconsciousness I was able to facilitate the work of experiencing one’s feelings for other people. (We’ll save the commentary about crazy therapists for another time.) In hindsight I can see that I limited my inner world to analysis and attempts at insight.  But analysis can be a problem. Analysis comes from the intellect. And when your intellect overrides your heart, you fall asleep. So I was  physically and humanly awake and emotionally and spiritually unconscious.  My outside was working, but my inside was shut down.

The weird thing is that I thought I was having feelings. I liked things. I didn’t like things. I felt anger, frustration, irritation. I felt love for my children and friends. I felt inspiration. I had insights into myself and others. I fell in love with my new husband. So how is this unconscious?

When I took some time to consider how it was that my life had been burned to the ground, it seemed that all of the feelings that I had were reactions to people and events outside of myself. I had stopped spending any time in my own interior, emotional and spiritual world having a relationship with me.  Overall my identity came from my relationships with and my relation to people and events outside of myself. Focused on the goals of the day, i.e., the outside world, I stopped dreaming my own dreams and following my own inner guidance.

So I didn’t even notice that the goals I had set were not consistent with who I really am. I just wanted to ‘get there,’ to finish what I had started. Our inner and outer worlds are very much connected to each other. Even the deeply unconscious receive “signs” and “wake up calls.” And while I can see now that there were signs from the outside that indicated that something was amiss with what I was doing with my life, my response to the “signs” i.e., road blocks, set backs and challenges was to try harder and work longer at succeeding in my outside world. It never occurred to me to pause, go inside myself and question my choices; to ask myself how I was really feeling and to consider going in a different direction.

It never occurred to me because I kept going unconscious. I kept overriding my internal guidance system with my busy schedule and my intellect and then soothing myself (also known as stress reducing activities) with the simple pleasures of the external world–food, wine, television, talking, the internet, movies, books, shopping, socializing, the list goes on.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in any of the simple pleasures of our external world, or engaging in any stress reducing activity, or soothing oneself, except when doing so keeps us away from our real feelings. The problem for me was that since I was asleep I didn’t realize that my stress reducing activities were helping to me to avoid my feelings.

And dating my future husband was one of those simple pleasures of the external world. And he came at the most unusual time–just before the two months where both my parents and my adopted ‘brother’ died.  I was already more or less numb on the inside before they all passed away. Intellectually I knew that this was at best a weird time to be pursuing a new relationship. And I was so grateful for the outside distraction of the feeling desired, chosen and special that I wasn’t going to let it go.

Dating became another soothing activity. Yikes. Reading that sentence again gives me the creeps. Even though I am not alone in pursuing ‘love’ as an escape from stress, etc., connecting to other people is not meant to be the equivalent to watching television, eating, surfing the internet or having a glass of wine. Except that it is exactly that if you are unconscious, asleep to yourself, unable or unwilling to feel your own feelings.

And the reason I go on and on about this is to point out the importance of being thoroughly connected to our internal selves. We must be able to find and feel our feelings. And this won’t happen in our thinking. Thinking is a part of our connection to our external world.

Our feelings are registered in our bodies. They are stored there as well. Our bodies remember every single feeling we’ve ever had, even if we don’t.  Being connected to our internal world requires that we be able to sit without thinking in the experience of our bodies.  It’s a tuning in process and it requires abstinence from the distractions of the soothing activities of the outside world.

There are techniques to learn this tuning in process. Mindfulness practice is one of those techniques. It’s the one I’m learning and working with now. And it is a life changer.

In order to avoid the consequences (losing it all, in my case) of being untrue to ourselves, we need to feel all of our feelings.  When we allow ourselves our feelings, when we resist jumping into soothing activities, when we are willing to persist with allowing the internal discomfort that will arise through that tuning in process, we will intuitively know how to create our best lives, we will experience freedom from fear, and we will know peace.

This is my prayer for me.  And this is my prayer for you.

Take the time to sit with yourself and make sure that you can feel your true feelings. They are what is most real about you. And they are your guidance system for living your purpose. Our inside world and our outside world are so entrenched with each other that anything less than your internal truth will eventually show up in your external world. So it is much, much better to have an outside world that reflects the best of your feelings instead of one that reflects the feelings you were trying to escape.

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