“So you can doubt. And you can hate. But I know no matter what it takes:I’m coming home.” - Skyler Grey
“What about anacondas?” I asked. “Isn’t the Amazon Scary?”
He paused for a moment and smiled at me before he answered. ‘It’s the safest place I’ve ever been,” he said while pulling out his phone to show me a picture he took of a Jaguar swimming away from his boat.”
After a 2 & ½ hour shuttle ride to the Liberia airport in Costa Rica, listening and learning from this man about his thoughts on Shamanism, the Mayan ruins in Guatemala, the Pachamama Alliance, the Amazon, and of his former work life involving unsavory business deals that effected the global economy, this man assured me that visiting the Amazon was a must. “Don’t worry” he said, as we exited the car and grabbed our luggage, “ the Amazon IS safe.” He looked at me one last time before we parted for good and said “but love... now that’s scary”.
“Did he just do a little door knob therapy with me? ” I wondered as I walked into the airport and searched for the Jetblue Terminal. Tracing the threads of our conversation over and over in my mind, I finally remembered that I did tell him that I was a therapist. Perhaps that’s why he said what he said when he said it, just as many of my clients do at the end of session? They reveal their deeper truths as they are literally walking out my office door- which allows them to say what they need to say, while avoiding any real exploration of it. This man shared with me a deep vulnerability and then left.
As I stood in line waiting to pick up my boarding pass for my flight home to Boston, unable to shake my curiosity, I decided to buy and read his book. After perusing the chapter about his childhood, I understood what he meant.
Like many clients I see, he grew up having to do what others wanted him to do- which became a part of his adult relational reality. His own wants, needs, ideas and desires, if they deviated from what his family approved of,- were not permitted. He developed what therapists call “a false self” -one that organizes around pleasing others and their realites- denying the authentic yearnings within. Yet, he always acted out his deeper wishes- just in destructive ways; dropping out of the school his family wanted him to go to, having affairs, ending his marriage, etc. It made perfect sense to me why love felt so scary to him.
When people fall in love, they are often falling in love with parts of themself that they see in the other person. Sometimes, they can only experience those parts of themself through that other person - at least initially. In a way, lovers become each other’s muses, inspiring their true nature and deep creative passions. If these parts are lost parts - exiled because they were never permitted and deemed unacceptable by those close to them, then the euphoria of being “in love with another” can quickly turn to panic - as the primitive implicit memories associated with the negative consequences of being authentic begin to surface. For many, like this man, Love WAS scary. And for those whom it still is, until healed, it will remain so. When this is the case, people then chose relationships that reenact the model of love they are most familiar with- and sometimes find partners with whom they feel safe with but empty. The lyric from O.A.R..’s song shattered “all I can feel is the realness I’m faking” speaks to that reality.
Yet the lie (false self) can not become the truth no matter how hard one tries to make it so and the call to authenticity will always be there as long as we are alive and have air to breathe. Some have the courage to take a deep breath and answer it and some do not - but the “phone” will never stop ringing -even when silenced.
It will not quit.
Rather it will wait patiently for you to surrender to the sound of the song your soul sings.
The man I shared the shuttle ride with did answer his call-at least professionally - as he changed careers and is now dedicated to helping people all over the world live in economic fairness and in alignment with the earth’s natural resources. The draw to the amazon was his therapy and his experiences with nature and people who live connected to nature and her rhythms, helped him connect to his own.
He writes about how Shamans literally saved his life. “Shamans”, which means medicine men or women are healers of the mind, body and spirit.
Therapists are too.
But if you are not quite ready to answer the phone call home to yourself, here’s a pre therapy tip that will prepare you to feel safe for the “some day” trip to your inner amazon. Find a quiet place to sit or lie down and close your eyes. Bring one hand to your heart and another to your stomach. Scan your body for tension and see if all the aches, pains, tensions and knots would be willing to soften just a tiny bit- more if they’d like. Relax your jaw and allow yourself to breath in through your mouth without even trying to. Just wait and yield to the breath when the body needs air and inhale. Then allow the exhale.
And again and again.
It’s a simple surrender to the rhythm of your breath - and the rhythm of your soul, where all the answers to your questions live- patiently waiting to share their wisdom with you. As the breath slows down, so will the mind. When that happens, you will soon begin to hear the sounds of the rich biodiversity of all the inner voices and parts inside of you - which at first will feel scary. If that’s the case, just return to the breath and see if you can trust that all the frightened, shamed, scared, angry, lonely, sad, should, no don’t, but I have to and any and all parts of you that constantly contradict each other -have valuable data for you to listen to. They all matter and they can all live in harmony inside of you when and only when you listen to them all and deny nothing of what they have to say. They will then guide you on your journey home to authenticity and your true self.
That’s when love shifts from scary to rich, alive and exciting.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
My book: Finding Hope in the Crisis: A Therapist's Perspective on Love, Loss and Courage, is hitting the book shelves this spring. Be the first to know by clicking here.