We fight to “keep it together” because we’re so terrified of falling apart. What will other people think? What will this mean for us? But what is this thing that we’re terrified of? What if by allowing ourselves to fall apart we’re not actually breaking – but unfolding?
I’m lying on a couch in my therapist’s office as she’s guiding me through a hypnosis activity. I feel the warm fabric of the soft brown couch supporting me as I hear her words ask me to create a safe space in my mind where I can do the deeper inner work and reflection I need to do in order to heal.
Immediately a picture starts forming in my mind. A beautiful sunny meadow with wildflowers and lush green grass creates itself all around me and I see a large tree in the middle of the scene with the perfect spot to sit in the shade and rest. The vision settles with a precisely placed white picket fence around the perimeter of my rectangular safe space.
Right away I feel calm and I settle in as I describe what I’m seeing to my therapist. She then asks me to describe what it looks like beyond the picket fence – beyond my safe space that I can tightly control. I look out and see a grey, dark, dry, dead landscape where thunderstorms rage on. My little meadow surrounded by a picket fence is completely untouched.
I still have this safe space and the storms can rage on without affecting this. At the time I thought that this was the ultimate Inner Stillness within the Outer Chaos – but as I will learn, this is not the case. My therapist brings me out of the hypnosis and we talk about what I’ve seen. She expresses her sadness for me that the only place I feel light, colour, and safety is within a tightly controlled space, but assures me that we will work on expanding the border of this picket fence and learn how to trust and let my guard down.
The truth is I’ve lived a lot of my life like this. Allowing people to see what I want them to see, but keeping so much of me inside my little picket fence. I hold onto this safe space so tightly cradling it, shielding it, and hiding it away from the world because the fear of the emotional pain that will come from letting my guard down is just too much.
I don’t think that I can feel that much emotional pain again. I’ve already been through so much and felt inches away from breaking. And so I decide to keep my tight grip on this safe space and keep anything or anyone that could potentially hurt me out, beyond the borders of my meadow.
Life continued on and I continued to do healing work with other therapists, practitioners, coaches, and on my own. Whenever this work or life in general got to be too much I would come back to my beautiful meadow within the white picket fence and instantly feel calm. I knew that my Self, my true Self with a capital ‘s’ was safe here.
Several years later I started to learn how to let a few people within the picket fence and allow them the chance to see the real me. The super sensitive ‘me’. The scared, hurt little ‘me’ that is holding themselves together so tightly that even the strongest of winds wouldn’t be able to tear me apart. I lived like this for a while – feeling completely safe that the truest parts of who I am were kept safe from this harsh world that we live in, and knowing that I always had my safe space to go back to within the picket fence.
But then something happened.
One of the people who I let into my safe space hurt me deeply, leaving me feeling emotionally raw and destroyed. This gave me all the evidence I needed to push everyone else out and hold everyone at arm’s length again while I closed off this part of myself even more than before and held on as tightly as I could.
My heart felt constricted, caught up in a tight bear hug. No room to expand, but also no way to get hurt again.
A little while later, I decided to go back to my safe space in my mind with a meditative self-hypnosis session.There I was, leaning up against my tree sitting in the shade and looking out at the dark destruction, the stormy clouds and the barren land around my safe space knowing that everything was “as it should be.”
But then a cloud started flowing over the top of my meadow. Creeping in like a cancer in the corner, blocking out the sun and bringing its damaging presence into my sense of safety.
I started to panic. Not a gentle panic either, a full on sense of impending doom panic attack which yanked me out of the meditation and left me sitting on my bed trying to ride out the wave of anxiety and get ready to go back into my meditation ready to fight that cloud and push it back. Once I find the calm again, I go back in and visualize my safe space again.
The clouds have completely taken over now and the entire meadow is being completely drenched with rain. The sun is nowhere to be seen and I’m standing there getting soaked trying to brainstorm what I can do to get my safe space back.
Then I look on with horror as I see my protective white picket fence start to dissolve and disappear around me. I feel incredibly vulnerable and like the safety and emotional protection I have been able to create and maintain for myself is slipping through my fingers. It feels like I’m looking into the eyes of a predator that has just been waiting for the right opportunity to hunt me down and kill me.
I feel exposed.
Like everyone can see now that I don’t actually have my shit together, that I’m a failure, a fraud. That I’m a broken human undeserving of love. That I’m a disappointment.
But then something happens in my meditation that catches my eye and brings my attention outside of this fear and I notice something curious and fascinating.
The dead, grey, barren wasteland that used to exist beyond my picket fence – it was starting to come to life again. It was like a slow moving healing liquid was pouring out of my safe space and bringing everything back to life.
That was when I realized one of the most profound life lessons I’ve ever learned in my life: If there is nothing to protect, then there is no reason for fear.
If there’s nothing to protect, then there’s no reason for fear.
It was in that moment that I also realized that in my effort to hold onto my highly sensitive heart, to keep up appearances and make sure that it looks like I have everything together and to make it look like I have everything figured out – all of this effort was actually holding me back.
I wasn’t keeping myself safe.
I wasn’t keeping myself from breaking.
I was keeping myself from being the best version of me.
I felt my nervous system relax in the meditation and I imagined myself turning my face up to the sky and letting the rain wash over me as I smiled and allowed mySelf – my true Self to unfold around me.
There is a song by Luca Fogale called Unfolding that I really connect to when I think back to this moment and want to continue to make sure that I stop holding myself back from unfolding and being my true Self.
There are just so many lyrics in Luca’s song that really speak to the fear that keeps us holding onto everything in the fear that it will break. But just like it did for me, it holds you tight, cramped into a ball unable to reach your full potential and become the beacon of love that you can be in your corner of the world.
I still fear the potential that I will break or become broken and find myself wrapping a protective barrier around myself to prevent this from happening. But then I can listen to this song and allow myself to wonder if I will actually break if I let go – or if I will just unfold…
Breaking to me seems like a violent falling apart. Unfolding is like a gentle relaxation and openness that creates a safe space for others to do the same.
And so I continue to choose to unfold, and I hope that you can give yourself permission to do the same.
Found this helpful? Share it with someone you know: