As people, we like to believe that we have an objective perspective of the world and our surroundings. But in actuality, we all hold a subjective perspective based on our past histories, experiences, traumas, etc... The way we see the world is colored by our own individual lenses. However, by considering and including each other's perspectives, we can start to hold a more objective, accurate, all-encompassing perspective.
Much like most people, I am affected by what is going on in the world today. What feels most painful to me is that the world is so divided right now. I feel like the separation, division, disconnection, and hate is killing us. I was reflecting on why it's so painful for me and it hit me that I'm seeing the world through the lens of my childhood. My parents are very opinionated, stubborn, strong-willed people and they can be unwilling to consider other people's perspectives...and they tend to hold very different perspectives from each other. When they felt their perspectives/worldview were threatened by one another, they would experience shame and deflect that shame onto each other (which is commonly how humans react/respond to shame). Growing up, I felt like I was stuck in between two worlds. Needless to say, there wasn't much space for my own perspective and I developed the ability to be able to take different people's perspectives as a coping mechanism (which is also a super useful skill for my career...so while it comes from pain, I recognize it's also a gift).
If it's not painful enough to see the world divided, I'm also seeing my childhood family dynamic being played out - making it doubly painful...it is a re-traumatization (which I imagine is the case for many people). It makes me feel helpless and powerless, like I'm watching everything collapse before my very eyes and there's nothing I can do about it. I return to feeling like the little girl who felt responsible for resolving my parents conflicts, but didn't have the tools and wasn't in the position to do anything about...so I felt frozen.
I decide to take myself through Teal Swan's Completion Process. Rather than resisting what I am feeling, I allow myself to surrender to this freeze state...and it brings up fear, discomfort, and hurt. My heart is pounding out of my chest and I feel it throbbing in my body, and I notice that my hands and feet feel cold. I start to feel dizzy, and I allow myself to sink more deeply into these sensations.
I feel emotionally unsafe. I can feel the shame of the collective, and how they are deflecting it onto each other...trying to shame each other to change...and each doing what they believe is right to make things better. I find myself wanting to hide, make myself smaller, and not be noticed out of fear of being judged or shamed.
I tell myself softly, "I am completely here with you now. I want to feel this," and I ask myself, "when was the very first time I felt this same exact way?" A familiar memory surfaces from age 2 when I felt like I was drowning in a pool during swim class. This memory has emerged several times as I've used this process, so it seems like there are multiple layers of healing involved with it. Everyone seemed so distant in this memory even though they weren't actually that far away, and they couldn't see that I was struggling. I felt so cold and alone. It felt like it lasted forever, but in actually it couldn't have been that long. After allowing myself to fully experience the memory from 1st person-perspective, I use an active visualization to create resolution for this memory within my thoughtscape which results in emotional relief. As part of the resolution, I visualize being surrounded by friends at a beach with caring, attentive adults close by to keep us safe. During this visualization, I allowed myself to fully soak in and relish in this bliss...it feels amazing. Upon coming out of this journeywork, I reflect on my needs that were highlighted in this process...connection and belonging. I want to be a part of the solution, the antidote to the global crisis...and to do that I will share my presence, my authentic voice, and my vulnerability.
So I ask you today...What is the current situation telling you that is unhealed from your past? Can you be brave enough to bring loving attention to these hurt aspects within you? Are we willing to come together and hold each other's pain with compassion during this difficult time, instead of tearing each other apart? What do you want your role to be during this time in history?
Eight years ago, my life changed. I had left the state of Virginia where I spent most of my life to start my clinical internship in Florida, which was the last step of my Ph.D. Moving was always difficult for me, but this move was particularly difficult as it was my furthest out-of-state move as an adult. I was leaving behind the safe bubble I had been cocooned in as well as practically everyone and everything I knew. However, what made the transition easier was that I was reunited with one of my dear friends from college, Kay. I was excited to find out that my internship site was where she was completing her post-doc, and she helped me to feel settled and comfortable in my new home. It was like old times again - we reminisced about our time at Virginia Tech, we cooked together, and we enjoyed culinary adventures at local eateries as we were both foodies. But, this blissful time was short-lived, as she was killed in a hit-and-run accident approximately 2 months later. I don't typically watch the news, but that morning, as soon as I turned on the TV the local news channel was broadcasting her death. I was devastated and my world fell apart. Although I had lived through the horrific Virginia Tech shooting a few years prior, Kay's death had an even more profound effect on me. Even though there were people to support me, I felt depressed, angry, scared, and deep grief. My safe bubble was shattered, and I began questioning my entire reality and worldview. I was in a lot of pain. This was the beginning of my spiritual journey.
I realize that tragedies can often be a catalyst for spiritual awakening, but I wish that I could prevent as much suffering as possible for myself and others. Often times, people wait to make positive changes in their lives until they are forced into a choice point by a painful situation (myself included). This became a motivating force in my work, as I want to help others become self-aware so that they can be active agents in creating the lives they want to live rather than passively allowing life to happen to them.
My grieving period was difficult and definitely not graceful. But the best thing I did for myself was honoring my feelings and allowing myself to feel them no matter how uncomfortable they were. So eight years later as I reflect on my loss, I still miss Kay's physical presence, but I no longer feel the desperate pain that accompanied it years ago. I also feel a deep gratitude towards her because if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be where I am today. I was actually surprised about the internship site that I was matched to for internship as I had applied to and interviewed at many sites. In retrospect, it completely makes sense because of how priceless my time was with Kay, and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. Moreover, this loss catalyzed me into questioning everything about myself and my reality, and I realized that I had been living very cautiously and passively, which ultimately led me to live more authentically, consciously, and self-lovingly.
So, for those of you that are deeply grieving, please know that I feel and understand the pain of losing someone special. I know that it can feel like this pain will never end, and I don't think you should rush through this process or force yourself to feel something you don't. What you are feeling is completely valid, and you have every right to feel this way. And you don't have to go through this pain alone. It's okay to let yourself fall apart and allow others to be there for you.
Hello and welcome to my new blog! I’m excited to share with you my insights, perspectives, and opinions about psychology and therapy. I am passionate about wellness on all levels (emotional, physical, mental, spiritual), and I am committed to lifelong learning and growth. I'm happy that you are joining me on this journey!
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Akiho Tanaka, Ph.D.
Dr. Tanaka is a Clinical Psychologist in Orlando, FL. Her curious mind, keen intuition, and compassion for human suffering led her to enter the field of Psychology. She finds nothing more worthwhile than empowering others and facilitating their healing process so they can live more fulfilling lives.