First Things First


The further I go in this journey, the more apparent it is to me how simple my needs really are. To feel the sun shining in my face, to watch the wonder of the bird sitting outside my window before it flies away, to be safe in the presence of another being myself and nothing else. To be connected to the earth and trees and sky and sun and all life. To surrender to the unfolding.

The uncomfortableness of the shedding (8+ months on!) of my previous labels and ways of knowing myself is getting easier to be in. I still don’t have answers for the demanding questions of my mind/egoic self

where’s this all going, what will it look like, will I like it, will it be dangerous, will people leave, will I still have a job? how? what? why? when? where?

I get why there’s an urgency to answer those questions. We are taught we must have answers to them before we can act. Trauma reinforces that impulse. There’s so much out there telling me what I should be, how much I can achieve, and pushing me to pursue external things of value and compare myself to others. So many messages imputing doing to worth. All kinds of self improvement strategies and plans I can put in place. Opportunities to engage in the struggle with myself abound.

And perhaps I WILL, eventually, do some of that

mountain climbing and achieving and pushing and perfecting and growing and striving and expanding myself beyond the definitions I have known, and fighting and raising my voice, and traveling and being a social justice warrior and conquering fear of sharks to learn to surf

…but right NOW it seems I’m working on

inhabiting my body from the waist down, reconnecting with the rhythms of the natural world, feeling safer in my own skin when someone else is in the room, becoming aware that I’m a squishy living thing with a body made of guts and bones, singing and dancing, staying connected to myself when I touch someone, being my own person no matter where that takes me or what it costs, practicing being accountable to my highest self, and questioning everything I think I know without shutting down or freaking out

It’s been hard to make this shift – surrendering to what is – but it’s become glaringly apparent that not only is there no choice anymore (fighting it is pointless and exhausting), but the place doing originates from matters a great deal. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if it’s the ONLY thing that matters. Whether it’s rehabbing this broken leg, or advocating for others, doing my job or the dishes. If the energy for the doing, no matter how well intentioned, originates from fear or trauma, it seems to perpetuate more experiences of fear and trauma, and just generally mucks things up.

And coming to this understanding of surrender hasn’t been a process I could rush or force. Letting go isn’t very intellectual, or logical, and hasn’t been particularly well-timed, or suited to my comfort or understanding. It just IS. It’s clear to me now that acceptance isn’t a thing that we can really choose to do, it’s a thing arrived at when there is no other option – when it is time to let go. Any time someone has announced to me they’ve “chosen to let go”, it’s been pretty clearly wishful thinking, an attempt to bypass the real feelings involved, or plain old adaptive disconnection from self.

There is no substitute for going through. Whether we arrive at that place of no choice through crushing logic that becomes sudden visceral understanding, or being slowly wrestled to our knees by daily helplessness that weakens into final surrender, the result is the same. Utter relief, gratitude, and no wish for anything different. Not the so-so, lukewarm, unsatisfying, vaguely numb leap over it all of premature acceptance.

For the thousandth time, I find myself grateful and astounded. I did not know what this business of “living” could or would be like (who knew I needed a pelvis??? and a digestive system???), and I could not be in this place where I now find myself without the support of my partner and of somatic practitioners and community that I am so lucky to know.

Visit traumahealing.org or contact me for more info about somatic approaches to trauma resolution.

About Cynthia M Clingan

Cynthia Clingan is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Columbus, Ohio who offers somatic psychotherapy, spiritual coaching, and meditation and mindfulness instruction.
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