First of all, allow me to exhort you to watch this piece of sheer brilliance. I've watched it a few times and every time there is another level of brilliance to appreciate, especially as I'm fairly certain that he is improvising some of it. Try watching the first couple of minutes from a perspective of diversity issues and racial assumptions. Try watching the first five minutes without laughing. Pay extra attention to the wonderfulness that begins at 5:50. The rest of this post here will be better if you watch it now and then continue with my post below.
Three nights after my guided LSD therapy session I woke up at 5 am in my friend's house in Courtenay. I did not feel relaxed and well rested. My nervous system was abuzz and my jaw had a familiar tension. I knew my body needed to catch up on sleep, so I lay there and focused all my attention on relaxing my jaw. I breathed long, slow, easy breaths in and out of my jaw and imagined it sinking down, down, down toward the earth.
I fell asleep and dreamt that I was in a library. In front of me was a young librarian, and I asked him if the library had a certain book. I can't remember what book I asked him for, but he responded that they didn't have the book Singing The Song of Your Voice. Then the light began to fade. It became pitch dark and the darkness closed in on me, squeezing me and pulling me down. It took everything I had to open my mouth to try and call for help. I woke up with my second attempt to call for help. Because of the constriction of the darkness, not much sound had come out of my mouth with my attempts to call for help in my dream. I summoned everything I had and was about to blast open and yell for help when I realized I was awake and in my friend's house. A full yell for help would have been a less than pleasant wake-up call for my hosts. Phew.
If you read Part 1 of my account of my LSD therapy session, you may remember that I had a strong and visceral fear response while being held close by my guide and friend Bruce during a very vulnerable point of my LSD journey. Plant medicine healing ceremonies and psychedelic-assisted therapy are very much about working through the wounds buried in the unconscious. Dreams are often about the things that are bubbling up from the unconscious. Clearly, something difficult in my unconscious was surfacing, slowly but surely.
What does all that have to do with the video clip I recommended at the beginning of this post? That video is a part of my answer to why the hell I would want to do such deep and difficult healing work. I want to be free to be my full weird, creative and wonderful self, not just because I believe that doing so will be a gift to the world, but also because it's a more fun, inspiring, and meaningful way for me to live. Moreover, I want to be the best parent I can be to my inner children. I have an inner teenager who is depressed, lonely, lost, and so very insecure. I have an inner child who flirts with his brilliance but is terrified of punishment and judgment and big emotions. These inner children of mine need me to show them how to face difficult things, how to trust others to be there for me in vulnerable places, how to trust myself in my vulnerable places, and how to shine my light in a way that is bold and humble and deepens the connection to others.
Here is my favourite example of me shining my unique light out to the world. The message within the shining of my light is, "There is gold in the deep healing work. Get to know your wounds and your shadow; dance with them! They are deep wells of creative energy, beauty, and meaning."
A few nights ago I dreamt that I was being overpowered by two men, and one of them was trying to force me to be sexual with him. I woke myself up struggling to get free while saying "Get off me!" I take this over-powered-by-men dream and the lights-out library dream as very good indications that a part of me is coming out of a freeze state, barely mobilizing itself in the lights-out library dream and then finding more strength in the overpowered-by-men dream. A very normal response (often the only response) to trauma is for the nervous system to go into freeze, aka faint*. The freeze or faint state is the Dorsal Pathway of the Vagus Nerve. In the Dorsal Pathway, body systems are shutting down (pulse rate decreases, body temperature lowers, facial affect is flat, etc.) in an attempt to survive an overwhelming experience. Animals will go into this state if they have been overwhelmed by a predator. If an animal happens to somehow survive (perhaps the predator is distracted or chased away) it will come out of its freeze state by increasing its breathing and shaking its body, such as in this short video.
When we have overwhelming experiences as children, we have no capacity to come out of our freeze state and integrate the traumatic experience. Therefore, whenever we experience situations somewhat similar to the original overwhelm we automatically go into freeze. Sometimes, people have so much trauma that they are almost constantly in some degree of freeze (we can be partially in Freeze while also partially in the Fight/Flight or Social Engagement pathways - the other two pathways of the Vagus Nerve). A good goal for therapists who are helping people work through trauma is to help them feel safe enough to mobilize out of Freeze and into Fight/Flight - the Central Pathway of the Vagus Nerve - and then eventually into the Social Engagement or Ventral Pathway.
Stephen Porges, who developed the Polyvagal Theory is well known for being extremely difficult to understand. Fortunately, his son Seth Porges is easy (and entertaining) to understand, as he is in this video The Polyvagal Theory: The New Science of Safety and Trauma. If you are a healer of any kind, this is an important video for you. If you want more on the Polyvagal Theory, Deb Dana, the Pied Piper of Polyvagal Theory, is a great resource.
Another motivation I have for doing deep healing work is my desire to be as connected as I can be to myself, to others, and to all life. The more I heal my core wounds, the wounds that take me into freeze or fight/flight, the more I can connect. The language of NVC can be a very helpful tool, but if you are speaking NVC language while in the Fight/Flight or Freeze/Faint pathway of your Vagus Nerve, it will be extremely difficult for you to maintain an intention of connection. When people tell me they found NVC practitioners to be judgmental or cold, and my guess is that it is because the NVC language was expressed from Fight/Flight or Freeze instead of the Social Engagement pathway of the Vagus Nerve. The Dorsal Vagus pathway of the Vagus Nerve is where we experience the Freeze/Faint state but it is also where we experience a deeply relaxed state, which would also be an effective state from which to express NVC.
Back to my dream of freely shining my quirky and brilliant light out to the world. Why do so many people who try to shine big lights (celebrities) get lost in drugs and alcohol? I believe it's because shining your light in a healthy way requires that you do your healing work. Shining your light will bring you up against or push you past the limits you unconsciously set for yourself to be safe and accepted during childhood. The wounds that led to those limits will surface, leaving you with two choices: get support to work through them or attempt to push them away or escape them. Of course many non-famous people get lost in drugs and alcohol and other addictions when their wounds surface as a result of shining their lights or of their relationship or life challenges.
Along with healing work, people need community, mentors, and elders who know how to support them to boldly and humbly shine their light in service of the greater good. One of the roles of a mentor and/or elder is to see and acknowledge the mentee's gifts while teaching them humility and integrity. Without that support, it's all about the ego. I most certainly have a young part in me that wants to be special and famous and admired. Fortunately, I have mentors and elders and healing work to help keep me humble while also lifting me up.
* Some people make a distinction between Freeze and Faint, Freeze being a Fight/Flight state of panic or terror in which one doesn't know whether to flee or fight and Faint being a collapsed state in which the body's systems are shutting down.