A writer struggles to uncover and release his deepest childhood fears.
This was one of the bad nights. At 3am, I lay on my bed on top of the covers fully dressed, with all the lights on, just in case. I couldn’t concentrate so I couldn’t read a book to distract myself. I had turned off the TV because I couldn’t remember what I was watching. My legs had been shaking steadily for several hours, just like you see with people after the shock of escaping a bad car wreck wears off.
A car started in the parking lot and the noise put me on high alert. What was that? Was someone coming? Was something bad about to happen? I was breathing rapidly, could feel my heart racing, but I couldn’t slow myself down. How could I get away if I needed to? Where could I hide?
Back in the ‘80s, I remembered a violent incident which happened with my Dad when I was a teenager. Numerous times I had watched the movie Platoon, sitting in a darkened theater with my legs shaking as the fear released. What I felt now was worse – deeper, darker, more forbidding. I felt suffocated – as though I had been locked in a small room with no air. I kept gasping to catch my breath, like something heavy were pushing down on my chest, squashing me. The nebulous and terrifying image of an asylum – that undefined horror my grandmother had threatened me with — was a huge weight pressing down on me, crushing my spirit.
In July of 2007, I had remembered a second memory about my paternal grandmother, nicknamed Mamaw. When I was eight years old, she told me that she could have me committed. She threatened to have me locked up in an insane asylum. Years later, I did an inner child exercise to remember what she said, and I had a clear picture of what had happened and how she had forced the message home – driving it deep into my gut.
She told me she had checked with the doctor she worked for, and he had agreed that if I grew up and went crazy from writing, he could have me committed to an asylum. I didn’t even know what an asylum was, but somehow she got across to me the vision of a dark, damp, forbidding place where really bad things happened.
Suddenly the resistance I’d felt about writing, and more specifically publishing, became a lot more clear. It was a huge extension of my understanding about what had happened – everything made much more sense. No wonder I had walked away from publishing two books! After this awareness surfaced, I purged really deep feelings – old fears that came out mostly through shaking — all through the month of August.
Sometimes the fear would release as feeling memories. One time as I lay on the bed, I suddenly felt myself in the back bedroom at Mamaw’s house. I was about eight years old and it was the middle of June, late at night with no air conditioning, the windows open, the back door open, only the catch on a screen door to protect me.
I had the sense there might be something more that had happened with Mamaw, and I sat with it for a couple of weeks to see what might be revealed. Nothing came to light, and I concluded that Mamaw had said those ugly things to me, and then must have said something like “if they come for you, it will be in the middle of the night.”
Night after night I lay awake until 4 to 5 am, frozen, unable to sleep. My friend Karen said the bad energy she was picking up from me (she’s very empathic) had kept her awake a couple of nights. She was scared to go to sleep and it felt to her like “monsters in the closet”. Mamaw had left me alone in the back bedroom of her house with my active imagination, fearing the worst.
I started having nightmares. I had always thought the nightmares came from watching the movie The Blob with Steve McQueen, which scared me silly. For months afterward I had to check under the bed before climbing in, and still couldn’t sleep. Now I realized there might have been another reason. The phrase “monsters in the closet” kept vibrating through me, clutching at my chest.
I returned to my Chinese medicine practitioner to continue acupuncture treatments, which helped break things free. The fears continued to be purged. I had brief moments of calm where I could set up query letters to literary agents for the memoir I had written. I began to think that going back to the oil industry and working for my former company for four days a week might be the best way to fund the publicity I would need to get the word out about the first book.
Karen gave me more feedback on my manuscript Freedom’s Just Another Word. After having typed the first two thirds, she said it was a “fabulous” book. My arms and legs shook, more fear released from my body. With the violent incidents I had remembered about my Dad, eventually the fears subsided, and I thought it would happen in a similar way this time. But that was tough to remember when I was lying on my bed shaking at 3 am.
At the third acupuncture session, as I was lying on the table, I assured Danny, the eight year old boy I had been, that the things Mamaw had told us were lies, that he could be safe, that I understood it was painful to let these old fears out but on the other side of fear was great joy. I could sense him take heart from these words, but still being afraid of the monsters that might get him. Again the phrase “monsters in the closet” vibrated through my soul. Why monsters, and what was this about a closet?
At the fourth acupuncture session I unexpectedly visualized “Danny” in the back room at Mamaw’s house in the dark, in the middle of the night, and not feeling safe. Suddenly, a bright light encircled him and formed an impenetrable barrier. The light exposed the entire bedroom, so there were no hidden corners where monsters could hide. I sensed Danny feeling safe and protected. I hadn’t felt this safe since I was very young. It was a phenomenal and very healing experience. I had to walk it around for a couple of days to realize how significant that bright light had been for me.
I became more and more convinced that the light exposing the corners of the darkened room had given Danny safety, and that the effect of Mamaw’s cruel words had been broken. Wishful thinking – I was wrong.
By the end of August, I relaxed enough to get some rest. I told Karen I was ready to read the book but just saying that forced more fear to the surface. Yet the fear released with diminishing magnitude like a wave coming up on the beach just before it dies out. I tentatively accepted that I was, at long last, free to spring into action, like Chuck Yeager attacking the sound barrier. That would prove true, but I forgot: there was some turbulence when he broke the barrier, a powerful resistance to be pushed through.
“Don’t Fear, the path leads on. =)” Lindaaslund @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Deprivation” Jeremy @ Flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.