I remember my senior year in college going to a party with a bunch of International Students. And after a few beers, the Internationals took turns doing their impressions of the typical American. One put on a barely discernable southern accent and said something about rodeos. Another talked about wawlking the dawg; and then one tall blonde Dutch guy reached out his hand to me and with his best attempt at a high-pitched Valley Girl accent said, Hi my name is Sharon and I have abandonment issues.
Everyone burst into laughter.
I hid my face; I didn’t want anyone to know I was in therapy for abandonment issues.
I was ashamed then.
And, if I’m really honest, I still am. And if I’m really honest, all the therapy has been an attempt not only to heal the trauma but to erase the wounds of my childhood; to make me like other normal people.
It didn’t work. I still return to those early years. Sometimes with no warning.
When my youngest was little, she would often ask me, mama if you could have any superpower, what would you want? And I’d think, sweetie, I already got my superpower—I can shape-shift and time travel NOW! But I of course wouldn’t tell my ten-year-old this; I would usually answer something like, the ability to read minds.
What is hard about this time travel isn’t just the re-feeling of the trauma, but it’s the fact that, as adults, we judge ourselves for feeling it. We think we should be past this already—what they call the second arrow in Buddhism. So, we try to get rid of it. We tell ourselves, I’m not my thoughts, I’m not my feelings, blah blah blah…but that doesn’t make us feel better. We withdraw from society with a gallon of ice cream and Netflix; that doesn’t help…just gives us a belly-ache. Or we tell ourselves to grow up and put on a happy face for our friends and family…I blame social media for some of this!
So, what does help?
A recognition of our humanity. Our childhood. Our past. Our trauma. A leaning in. A curious mind. Safe spaces where you can be a mess and not be told ANYTHING about how to be or what to be grateful for or that you are not your thoughts or your feelings. You can just be held. For me, writing also helps. As does taking a long walk. Moving my body. Yoga and breathing. But, it’s important to note that these aren’t escape mechanisms…like, maybe if I do enough downward dogs I will feel confident again. No, it’s more like…hey sweetie, it’s safe to feel everything you feel; there is room here in your body for all the pain and the thoughts and the feelings. I’ve got you—here in the muscles, here in the breath, here in the movements, here in the resting.
It’s saying, as Tara Brach teaches in many of her meditations, that our true home is within. And that home will take us as we are. No pretense. No makeup. No mantras. No resumes. Just the pure brilliant soul that you are. That I am—abandonment issues and all. That we all are.