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CONFUSING LONGING AND WOUNDING

Deep at the core of every human heart is the desire to connect..

We are highly animalistic in the physical sense and seek solace and comfort in communion with others, be it in romantic or platonic relationships. There is something about touch that soothes the soul. And given the situation we currently find ourselves in, the lack of this lifeblood connection is felt more than ever. Yet we often get mixed up between our longing for connection and our emotional wounds.

The vast majority of us are the walking wounded, and the search for connection is like trying to put a band aid on a bullet wound. It’s just not going to do the job. The wound is too deep, and no amount of sticking plasters are going to fix the gaping void. What is needed is surgery, to remove the bullet, the cause of the wound, and seal up the skin so it can heal.

Recognising your wounds

However if you don’t know you’re wounded, you’re likely to be spraying blood onto everyone and everything you touch, wondering why you’re in pain and why your relationships look like a crime scene from a murder mystery movie. Other people can see the problem a mile off, but you stay stuck because you’re too numb to your own sh*t to recognise the bigger picture.

We can’t change what we can’t see or feel. Living in our own little bubble we create our own stories and illusions in an attempt to maintain control and gain a sense of comfort. It may work for a while, but life has a way of making growth happen, whether you like it or not.

At some level we’re all in pain, just for the most part we’re completely unaware of it. Pain is something that typically we get told to ‘poke up’ with, get on with it, man up and keep trooping on. Our cultures have taken trauma and edified it, turning it to stone and entombing our very life force in the process. You see, the vast majority of us are codependent. We are dysfunctional in relationships.

We are not sovereign, but woven into enmeshed and contorted emotional and energetic connections that corrupt who we really are. Codependent. Not interdependent. And this is a BIG problem which most people are living through but not aware of. I had no idea what that meant until 8 years ago when someone close to me introduced the concept, and the book Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody. And just like that, a whole new can of worms opened up.

Until that point, as far as I was concerned, I was ‘all right’. I considered myself to have my head screwed on, and that I was fairly adept at navigating the world. I had good relationships, plenty of friends, a fantastic job and my life overall was pretty wholesome. When I read the book it was like reading my biography. People pleasing. Poor boundaries. Emotionally sensitive. Manipulation and control. Fear of abandonment. Intense feelings of shame and guilt. The list when on and on.

Breaking through

God damn, ‘this is me’ I thought. Whilst my stomach sank with the realisation, it was also a breakthrough moment. It finally gave me the strength to see a therapist and begin unravelling my convoluted emotional dealings that had unknowingly permeated my existence.

Codependency is sneaky. It’s like one of those untraceable STI’s you get that flies beneath the radar and you don’t know you got a problem until, well, a few other people do too. It makes you think that everything in your life was and is ‘normal’ until, well, all of a sudden it isn’t. Because essentially codependency describes dysfunction in relationship, and guess what, your life is riddled with relationships. Dysfunctional ones at that.

Uuff I appreciate that may sound like a judgment, but I’m pointing the finger firmly at myself too. Until I knew about the phenomenon of codependency I thought all my relationships were healthy and normal. Well now I know they weren’t. Part of me already knew that, but this new knowledge gave me deeper insights and how I needed to heal and change, to make my life actually work for me.
What I realised during my journey is that my life and energy were being directly impacted by those around me, especially my close family relationships.

Playing the codependency game

Everybody is codependent to a greater or lesser extent. It depends on the luck of the draw of the family you were born into, and the amount of healthy emotional coping mechanisms that were present (or not). Unfortunately the majority of our modern cultures do not support or encourage healthy, free and open expression of our wants, needs and feelings. As a result we learn to manipulate and control our reality in order to get our desires met, without asking directly. We become incredibly sensitised to the needs of others around us so that we can meet them, and in turn get rewarded or recognised, and ultimately receive love.

Codependency is born as a result of conditional love. Love that is only given when certain conditions or circumstances are met. Instead of being something that is freely shared, love becomes a currency that may be withheld or provided, depending on the demands and needs of the giver. When children receive this type of conditional love from adults, they learn to comply with, meet and/or anticipate all of the adults needs. When they are successful, bingo, they receive love, praise and acceptance. If they fail to comply, then guess what? Shaming, ignoring, guilt tripping, criticism, anger, and emotional manipulation.

I think you’ll agree that’s a highly toxic cocktail most of us wouldn’t wish to knowingly drink. Yet most family systems have been brewing this foul tasting concoction for centuries. Conditional love is sadly the norm, and hence why we are all codependent. I have compassion for us all because the way I see it, our situation reflects the direct result of generations of emotional repression and collective trauma. When something becomes so normalised it becomes inherent and woven in to the fabric of society. It also forms part of our DNA, and now the science of epigenetic proves it. Hence the reason I thought I was fine, when in actual fact, I wasn’t. I couldn’t for the life of me see the wood from the trees.

Is it longing or connection?

Codependency is where we confuse the longing to be in connection, with our emotional wounds. Our wounds are the delicate places that were created because we never got our needs met when we were children. When love was given conditionally and we moulded ourselves to survive. In order to fill the voids that remain deep inside our child self, we seek something out in the world to plug the gap and soothe our pain and sense of lack. In this moment our inner child is crying out for healing.
Rather than searching in the world for something that can’t be provided, as adults we can give ourselves a precious gift instead. This is the gift of unconditional love. It is the surgery for the bullet wound.

Bringing full attention to our child self and nurturing it as we wished we had been loved. Wiping away the tears and allowing emotions to flow, gently holding ourselves and allowing our cuts to slowly heal so that we can come into genuine connection once more. Firstly by connecting with our own innocent selves, and then from a place of genuine longing and expression, sharing our unique essence with the world.

Healing codependency is a journey to claiming your sovereignty and power.

It can feel overwhelming because you’re disrupting an ancestral pattern and drawing a line in the sand for the next generation. I want you to know that this IS a big deal, and one you should celebrate and thank yourself for taking. Whilst we’re replaying the past, we can’t move forward. We all know that a brighter future requires something different. Making the decision to heal your wounds is a great act of courage and the rewards will be unfathomable. Let’s make the next cultural revolution one that’s driven by love.

Ready to enrol? Sign up now by loving yourself unconditionally. It is not for the faint hearted, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Remember,
Breathe the change you wish to see in the world.

Philippa x

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GRIEF WILL BURY YOU ALIVE

A few nights ago it hit me. I hadn’t stopped and dealt with life. As I sat for my evening breathwork session I found myself suddenly rewinding and arriving back 14 months earlier. February 2019. At the time I was working in a psychedelic retreat centre in the Netherlands, holding space and teaching breathwork. It was intense, and one of the most challenging and beautiful experiences of my life to date. I was working most weekends facilitating the healing and transformation of others from around the world. I was in the right place certainly, and I was on mission. Yet life was about to throw me a curve ball.

One Friday evening after our first day of retreat I arrived back to my apartment tired but satisfied. Out of the blue I received a phone call from my Dad. He was crying and incredibly distressed. My grandmother had been taken to hospital and was in a critical condition. I immediately burst into tears on the phone. She was experiencing heart failure and having difficulty breathing. To hear that someone (even at the age of 80) so fit and healthy was in dire straights sent a shockwave through my entire being.

He was at her bedside in hospital and so I asked him to put the phone near her so I could speak with her. I heard her voice croaking and could viscerally feel her pain and terror. We spoke for a couple of minutes and I told her she would be okay. I told her I loved her… and then my Dad came back on the line. A few moments later he said, “it’s not looking good. I don’t think she’s going to make it.”
I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t believe it. It all seemed so absurd.

As we finished the call the reality started to sink in. This couldn’t be happening. So sudden, so surreal. One of the people I looked up to the most and had inspired my adventurous spirit was about to pass over. All without getting to say goodbye. It was unbearable.

I felt powerless, weak and childlike. What could I possibly do? Nothing. I was in Holland and she was in the UK and it was 11pm at night. There was no way of getting there in time. Tears flooded from my eyes and my body contracted with shock. I froze like a statue. My world stopped spinning and became very still. As the situation sunk in I did the only thing I could possibly think of.

I breathed on her behalf.

Riding the rollercoaster

My emotions were up and down for days. It was intensely painful, but I also knew that she was in a good place. I would hear her comforting words as if she was still here in the physical and it would reassure me to know she was okay, and reunited with her beloved mother. In some ways it was a blessing that she passed so fast, because if you knew her, you’d know she would have hated to lose her faculties or health. She was a tour de force to the last.

After a difficult few days it seemed the universe wasn’t done with me yet.

The following day my other grandmother had a seizure. I was staying with her and I was woken up by my aunt. After the ambulance arrived we headed to the hospital. I spent hours there, calming my Nan down. She wasn’t lucid and her mind and thoughts were all over the place.

She wanted to get off the bed but was hooked up to machines. I kept repeating what was happening and reassuring her. It went on for most of the day. Little did I realise that my time spent at the retreat centre had prepared me for this situation – to support my own family member in an altered state of consciousness whilst everyone else around me was in meltdown. It seems that life has strange ways of preparing you for the next challenge…

After what seemed like an eternity (and was probably more like 7 hours) she began returning to a normal state. It wasn’t the first or last time this type of event would happen, but after such an intense preceding few days I was exhausted.

Carrying on as normal

A few days later things were back to ‘normal’ and I returned to Holland. I did what I’d learned to do with pain and grief, which is to keep busy and get on with life. The following weekend I had another retreat. A week or two after that I was due to be facilitating a retreat in Costa Rica and the dates coincided with my Nans funeral.

I expect that if I’d needed to, I could have cancelled my trip. But a part of me didn’t want to. I wanted to run away and not have to come to terms with my grandmothers death. If I didn’t face it then it wasn’t real. And after all my work was also important and I couldn’t cancel. Decision made. My family understood the situation. Off I went to Costa Rica. The day of my Nan’s funeral came in the middle of the retreat and I did a little ritual on the beach (her all time favourite place) with sage. Every time I smell it burning I think of her. I said my goodbyes and closed the ritual. I sent some messages to my family back home and returned to ‘normal’.

But in all honesty it wasn’t normal. With everything that had happened my system had been overwhelmed and got totally blocked up. I packed up my pain and grief, compartmentalised it and forgot about it. I moved on. Every now and again I’d remember she was gone. During meditation and breathwork I’d sometimes feel someone holding my hand. I knew intuitively it was her. Like a reassurance I was on the right path.

Fast forward to a year or so later…

Grief revisited

A few nights ago in my breathing session it all came flooding into my awareness – I was transported back and shown everything that I’d done. I realised how I’d packed everything away and hadn’t allowed myself to deal with life. A tidal wave of grief flooded over me and consumed me. I cried and cried until my face hurt. She was there holding my hands, I could feel it. As the tears rolled down my cheeks I knew it was time to feel and release the pain. Something I’d been avoiding for over a year. I finally allowed myself to experience the depth of my sadness and breathed into it. As I did I could feel the wall that I’d built around my heart, and with each breath it was like a brick was being removed.

My heart had been buried alive and suspended in time, and had blocked part of me from living. I came to see how closed, guarded and disconnected that tender part of me had become and how I kept the world at a distance so I wouldn’t get hurt. Because part of me rationalised that if you never love, then you can never lose. Don’t get attached or let something fully in, because you’ll end up getting burnt. It’s safer to keep your distance and not go too deep. Bury and avoid your pain and it will go away. Keep busy and just get on with it, don’t look back and you’ll be fine. Life had indeed given me some of those experiences and I developed a very good memory and subconscious response to protect myself.

Understanding the pain

Yet in the midst of my deep discomfort I found myself rightfully asking: Is that really how I want to live my life? Withholding my full self and floating above the complex human experience? Detached, numb and with a fortress built around my heart? To my mind this made perfect sense, yet my soul knew it’s wasn’t the answer.

In the book The Places That Scare You – Pema Chodron thoughtful asks:
“Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?” 

It’s incredible how such a simple question cuts deeply to the heart of the matter, but here’s what I came to understand: 

Whether you like it or not, pain IS part of the human experience. Grief is the very proof that you did indeed love, and at a very deep level.

It makes sense that humans rationalise our emotions in order to avoid hurt. Yet if you never allow yourself to love, are you really experiencing the full spectrum of existence? Or are it just skimming the surface of life, in fear and anticipation of loss before it even happens? Keeping closed and guarded against some unknown eventuality that’s unlikely to materialise.

Is that really LIVING or just existing? Living? Existing? What will it be?

I decided I’m here to live, and to the best of my abilities at that. It might be the only life I get so I’m going to make the most of it. Why would I choose otherwise? I’ll be dammed if my fear mind is going to get the better of me.

Furthermore, Pena explains the second aspect of bodhicitta (awakening mind) as “our ability to keep our hearts and minds open to suffering without shutting down.”

This is what I believe our experience is here to teach us and it is the path of a true warrior. To keep opening ourselves and loving MORE, even through painful experiences. Much of our early life and ancestral trauma keeps us stuck here, yet the only way out is through.

I realised that I don’t teach breathwork because I’m an expert at it, far from it. It’s because I need to be reminded regularly that my feelings matter and they need to flow freely for me to stay healthy and sane. Whenever my mind leads me off the path, my breath continues to show me the way home.

Living in the colour of life

The infinite breadth of human emotion is what living is about. If contrast didn’t exist then I believe the world would be a very bland place.

Feeling my grief and sadness has begun to open my heart once more. With each breath the colour of life is returning and I feel softer and less guarded. Taking the time to allow my emotions to exist, be witnessed and freed, has in turn created more beauty in my life.

After a long slumber my heart is coming back to life. Perhaps it’s time for yours too?

Remember,
Breathe the change you wish to see in the world.

Philippa x

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