Kassi Martin's Blog
on being Messy, Complicated and shoving it all in a dark cupboard
hi there, Dear Heart
How are you? Hey... it's me, Kas, you can tell me how you Really feel. I am listening. I want to hear from you. Really! How is your life? Messy? Complicated? You don't think I would believe it all? It's too hard to explain all the many threads to just one part of what's going on for you? It's easier to just say you're fine?
Sound familiar? You know, I think the majority - I won't say every one of us - however I do believe the majority of us have Messy, Complicated lives. We do, don't we? There are so many different threads to each of the issues within our lives - money, relationships, sex, career, friendships, health, food, relationship with our selves, alcohol, joy, anger, anxiety, unspoken truths... Then someone like me comes along and says; 'hey, how are you? How are you REALLY? Let me in...'
I think when somebody asks how we are and they Really mean it and want to know, it can throw the best of us off kilter. What is this thing that we all worry so much about, appearing as if we are 'fine', 'everything is great in my world...' and announce our next big trip to Australia or a move to a bigger house?
There we are walking along the street and as we recognise the parent of our daughter's friend... or a neighbour (oh no... cringe... did they hear the massive row I had with my partner on Friday night?) or a colleague walking towards us, we know the first thing they are going to ask is, 'hi, how are you?' and we know we are going to lie through our teeth because it is what we were all 'trained' to do. It was modelled to us by family and life in general. We were encouraged to adopt that way of being too. Would you agree? The zillion and one issues that cause us stress, migraine, high blood pressure and sleepless nights are shoved forcibly to the deepest, darkest, cupboard and the door is slammed shut and bolted in the back of our mind, while the stoic, strong, Self musters up the biggest, brightest, toothiest smile and announces in complete repression and denial, 'I'm great, yes, really REALLY good... and how are you?'
We continue through the seemingly endless and exhausting 'Ritual of Hello and Being OK' usually talking a pile of rubbish in falsely bright, higher pitched and almost wobbly voices before we finally manage to escape each other and slide back down inside the miserable, draining but familiar inner world of one self where we feel more at ease, knowing most of what lies within, rattling around, making us clench our teeth, causing headache or 'hang on tightly', guarding against that horrible, grating, anxiety in our belly, chest or throat - wherever it is that you feel your bodily sensations.
This takes up a huge amount of energy. It would be so much easier showing up at a building site and humping wet cement and bricks on my shoulders for a ten hour shift than all this deceit and pretense we go through. We are put through intensive training in our very young and impressionable years to 'hide the truth at all costs' - by people who were also put through the same 'training' in their childhoods - whilst consistently being told we Must Not Lie - EVER - or we will be punished Forever in a terrifying, underground, burning place. Wow, just think about that for a moment. How does a tiny Soul - usually under 5 - handle that kind of Impasse and utter internal turmoil? Oh yes, I remember, they just block it all out with denial, fling it all into that deep, dark cupboard in the back of their mind.
I remember being at somebody's house one day - a house in need of Much Tender Loving Care, a very long time ago. I say this as a truth, a fact, I don't mean to judge them. My house is Very Lived In (read between the lines). I'm certainly not house proud, I prefer to paint a Tree or hang out in the depths of Other's issues than hoover. My lounge, master bedroom and laminated flooring is mostly catered for the comfort of our dog. But back to that house I was visiting.... my daughter who was around 3 years old was with me, needed the loo. I instantly regretted training her out of nappies before her first birthday but back then, I was competitive, and if my friend's kids were all potty trained - be in no doubt - mine would be too!
Having glanced around the kitchen (insisting I did not want a coffee) I wasn't sure what I would find in the toilet. I carefully held my daughter up above the wee splattered toilet seat - dotted with occasional pubic hairs for texture - when she looked deeply into my eyes, with a very wise expression and said brightly; "this is a lovely clean toilet Mummy isn't it?" My poor little baby had been through the intensive training of denial, repression, falseness and discretion which had begun not long after potty training. Oh my... (heavy heart, big sigh, feeling awful...)
I've heard enough sad stories and read enough books to know that it wasn't just my family who said things like; 'come on now, nobody wants to see a grumpy face... do they? What would (put anybody in authority's name in here from Grandma, the Doctor to God) say about this grumpy, snotty, tear-stained face of your's? Hmmm?' Meanwhile the child in question is mustering up a huge burst of energy to shove all their Big Feelings, Emotions and a ball of confused anxiety residing in their gut, into that deep, dark cupboard in the back of their mind - not because they want to, or that it is easy to do but in order to be loved by Mummy - or whoever the main caregiver is - it's the only way. They hadn't been taught to do it differently... Denial, Repression... they were/are the only options.
Then comes the words of reassurance making the huge effort of shoving and pushing - suppressing and repressing - all worthwhile. 'There you are now, look at that lovely smile, you are such a clever, brave girl/boy. Mummy loves you very much and I'm very proud of you... (wiping big glistening tear drops away briskly). I think I have a sweetie in the reward cupboard for you!' And now we become aware of how we cover up our tricky, painful feelings with food.
Things do become much worse but I am only writing a blog, rather than a book...
Phew, No wonder there is so much anxiety, depression, stress, anger, personality issues and behavioural difficulties (you get the picture) around.
I ask you this next question Really Seriously... what would be so wrong with us just saying how we really feel? Sharing about our big bust up with our husband or girlfriend, or how stressed we are find our new job whilst juggling school hours and being a 'good wife and mother'. Or how Dad is really ageing and it makes you feel so sad to see his decline.... and it makes you horribly aware of your own death which is sure to pass and that you desperately wish you could just jump on a train to Europe and disappear for 6 months (really? is that all?) ...that you would like to turn the clocks back and do Everything Differently.
What is so wrong with just saying these inner truths - out loud - when somebody asks us how we are?
Ah maybe I have an answer! Whilst we were in 'training' from birth onward on how to cram that deep, dark cupboard in the back of our mind full of misery, the majority of us were not taught how to manage Big Emotions, or contain our Feelings', how to Regulate ourselves so we could say how we feel, allow our emotions to be real and the bodily sensations that accompany all of this to emerge and be processed - AND manage ourselves with self-love, empathy, compassion and understanding. Wouldn't it be so much easier to just train us all in these wonderful skills and ways of being rather than all the exhausting Denial and Repression stuff? Just think how we might feel if we de-cluttered that cupboard in the back of our Mind and filled it with Joy, Love, Happiness, Music and mountains of art materials in my case... what would you like to put in your cupboard by the way?
The amazing thing is, once we just say exactly how we feel, we tend to feel a great sense of relief. A huge release. Something just drops away from us. Weight lifts off our shoulders - and it's quick! It can be instantaneous. Wow, imagine that? Yes we may feel a bit wobbly, or emotional for a while, however isn't that better somehow than feeling absolutely awful, trying to numb those Big feelings with wine, chocolate or something else?
So let's just replay all of this differently... someone says to you, 'hi, how are you?' and you say exactly as it is for you... You hear yourself, you feel your feelings, you have the skills to listen with compassion and empathy to yourself. You don't judge or threaten or manipulate yourself. The other person gives you space to speak and share, they listen without judgement and with compassion and do not need to Fix you with 'have you tried this or thought of that?' (wine, food, sex, or something else). Wow... just imagine it... definitely food for thought.
This is why I love my job so much. So I decided to create a new workshop on all of this called Paint Your Tree of Truth and Wisdom. I put it together, advertised it and within 12 hours it was fully booked, so I am guessing there is a Need out there for this. I will be offering this one often if you are interested.
I am also making it into an eCourse as you may find it useful if you can't travel here.
Take very good care of your amazing self and I will take good care of me. I truly hope you find this useful in some way. If you have a friend, relative or colleague who is struggling with any of the above, why not give them a gift and forward this on to them so they might find some kind of release or relief from reading this.
Great post, it's true we often bury things and when someone asks how we are, it can be tempting to just say ok. When you do open up though and are honest not only to the other person but yourself as well it can feel really good.
Thank you Julie. Yes a very valid and important comment. Sharing honestly gives others permission to share and be more authentic. Thank you Julie. Kas