Depression, numbness, deadened enthusiasm about everything: how many of us have not experienced it?
And here I am, claiming that excitement never dies. Let me explain myself.
In the Grinberg Method, we address emotional patterns in a physical way. We notice that oftentimes, in feelings of depression, two physical events happen at once: there is an active anxiety in the upper stomach region, and in order to stifle it, the chest and shoulders come down to weigh on it like a heavy lid. The anxiety is no longer felt but the numbness is.
I recently heard of a method called TRE — tension & trauma releasing exercises. Like the Grinberg Method, it proposes that the shaking, vibrating physical energy that we often call “fear” or “anxiety” is natural and vital, if unobstructed. All other mammals shake of fear. Human beings are the only animals who have stifled this response. TRE works to tire muscles in order to bring them to a state where they can shake of their own will.
So, when we call ourselves “depressed,” it may in fact be a strong reactionary pattern to that life energy that has never left in the first place! Energy that, for the purpose of this post, I’ll call alternatively excitement, fear, trembling, desire, vitality.
That excitement dies is the greatest myth that ever existed.
El Dorado was a mythical famed city. Played up by sightings of precious relics and passed-on tales, it drew explorers to search for the lost city of gold. Lack of life, too, has a raison d’être constructed from unsubstantiated tales. Our culture and minds continually bring back tales whose function is to stagnate our fear-desire-excitement compass.
“Arrivals without end, he further said,
Were there to make rich votive offerings
Of golden trinkets and of emeralds rare
And divers other of their ornaments;
And worthy credence these things he affirmed;
The soldiers, light of heart and well content,
Then dubbed him El Dorado, and the name
By countless ways was spread throughout the world.”
– Juan de Castellanos
When we approach fear, what happens…?
The first tale says, this is dangerous. It says, you’ve seen this before. Something bad may happen, or you may go out of control.
This tale comes from the past. It tells you, this situation is like all of these past other situations, and there, you were hurt. But the thing about trauma is that it doesn’t say, “go away.” In fact, we crave what hurt us before, in a small dose that won’t overwhelm us. Sooner or later, it returns: as a memory, a physical sensation, a story, or a similar life experience. It is constantly signaling to us: please, bring me to a space in which what I relearn what hurt me in the past, in which the situation occurs with a different outcome, and in which my fear can heal me.
What you fear is also what you desire. Ponder this. Fear is the opportunity for a known circumstance to become an unknown one, something new. For you and your life to change.
The second tale says, others are responsible for your fear-desires.
Whenever I was interested in someone, I wouldn’t own and embody my desire. I would ask a small and ambiguous question such as “do you ever come by my area during your days?” If the answer was “no,” the person having not inferred that what I was truly asking, steps beyond that, was, “would you like to spend time together?” I would exhale with relief. Bam. That’s over. Had no chance to begin with, and I’m not responsible for my desire anymore! Wipe that sweat off of the forehead.
In other ways, I go purposefully toward the executioners of my desires: when unsure that I can manage something, I’ll crave feedback from the person who least approves of it. I’ll take the nearest and quickest chance to kill it.
Not a single other person is responsible for the weight of your desire. What makes you tremble is what you must upkeep, acknowledge and express, regardless of the result.
The third tale takes the form of self-critical voices.
When we approach our fears, there is a huge chance that we, as personalities, the way we know ourselves, will utterly dissolve. Because the ego — which wants to preserve itself, succeed, keep control — knows how endangered it is, it’s fighting harder than ever against the power of vital energy. There is a choice here whether to go into the mind or into the body. The body is life, excitement, transformation, and the head — which is losing and gripping at the last straws — is all of the past versions and phantoms of us.
The fourth, the fifth, the sixth, say variants of this: you shouldn’t, you won’t be accepted, you won’t be able to.
The problem about all of the above myths is that they all address potential results, when that matters little: what matters is only the life energy in its journeying.
If, often enough we dismiss this vital energy that demands us to follow it, we choose numbness. When I lived in Paris in the middle of a funk, I had a realization about my bedroom: how many unsent postcards there were, unattended concert programs, and other forms of unfulfilled dreams. I was living with all sorts of ghosts in my home space. I had dismissed all sorts of fear-desires. My first transition step was organizing and addressing these.
What makes me vibrate?
Look for moments that offer you becoming.
In a moment of two options — old pattern, new opportunity — I sat in my body’s trembling. I sat in my mind’s talking. I let fear talk, try to give me the no-go: I let it literally move me up and down on that grass by the tree, up-down-shake, using the fact that I couldn’t leave as fuel for the body to work, and then when it came to the moment of deciding I went.
I used to be a classical pianist. I have come to realize that the feeling ten minutes before stepping on-stage at Carnegie Hall is the same one. In piano, I came to recognize it as a thrill — because there was no opting out of the performance, and because I had done it so many times. My digestion quickens, and I feel a queasy cleansing in my solar plexus, stomach and bowels. I’m in danger and I’m at my best.
But I freeze!
I’m trembling as I write this blog post. So I go and see Johnna, my roommate. She’s about to audition for a violin competition. Do you want to get the award, I ask? She answers, no. If I think about wanting to get it, I’ll freeze when I’m trying to play. It’s too much too handle. And second, I’ll get really sad afterward, if I don’t get it. It’ll knock me down.
There: acknowledging desire and fear are the same.
Sometimes, an amount of fear-desire is simply too much for the body to handle at that moment. But the process of life is this: learning to contain an amount of fear, desire & vitality that is continually increasing.
Expanding our capacity
How do we expand our capacity? It’s in the body!
The body is a channel that can handle a certain amount of flow. When we get past the amount of flow that we can handle, various things can happen: freezing, paralysis, numbness. But when it’s just the right amount of flow – one that’s just slightly uncomfortable, that is coursing, that is a lot but enough so that we can relax into it – this is aliveness. This is what has us jumping, inspiring people, moving, feeling joy, bedazzlement, wonder.
So much in our tensing feels automatic. What are the ways that we squish our desire-fear? Do we eat too much? Avoid action? Distract ourselves? Not nourish it? Surf Facebook to get small doses, small versions of the same thing that barely satisfy us? Are too much in our heads?
I invite you to bodywork sessions to work through this, to know what you are tensing through. What would it feel like to contain the flow of everything you want? That thing coursing through your veins: that’s turn-on.