Last week, I did the unthinkable! I went in to attended a Intro to Drama Therapy by Living Arts Counseling It was a tough day, Friday evening, I couldn’t get out of work till late, didn’t get a chance to eat dinner before I went in, had a kinda busy day. I had every reason to NOT go! Apart from my palpitating heart as I walked in – I had to just block out the fear and show up. And super glad I did it.
Drama Therapy is unique in a sense – that it’s based on the fact that our bodies record and store every emotion we feel. Be it good or bad – our body keeps the score. And we live in a world of action – doing things and experiencing emotions. The concept is by acting out the actions and replaying the events of past in our heads – we can re-visit those emotions we felt and thereby maybe get a second chance to look at them objectively. The idea is grand, but the process is work! Since it’s a intro class – I get to witness and participate in some of the core activities of it. The instructor was amazing – she made me realize how some people can live life fully!
In 3 hours, my heart got unraveled. I was cut open up like a fruit and on came those emotions. In that span I went through some nostalgic emotions (remembering about my visit to my grandparent’s place during my summers), falling in love (with Sangita & again with my daughter) to fear & anger (about not being accepted as I am by my father and how in one instance I missed to get one more mark, to make the cut, in a test I took when I was 12). It was raw and intense. I couldn’t feel anything for a day.
Sangita has been asking me to go for a long time. She did it long time ago and it changed her life. I always thought being an introvert and how scary it is for me to act out my feelings, let alone talk about them – would be very difficult. It was difficult but the outcome was totally worth it! It’s like a language – which gives access to all locked up emotions and trauma in our bodies. This mask we wear day in and day out is shed among a group of equally trauma inflicted people and in a very safe environment. There were moments where I wanted to leave halfway through, but being an adamant asshole I am I stuck to it and refused. There was this one act – which is called “I want it, you can’t have it” – that rattled my heart out! I wanted the facilitator to call timeout, as those 3 minutes felt like aeons.
It was very insightful – kinda assured me of my own belief that all the answers that I seek lie within me. More and more in my body locked up as emotions. I am not sure if I will do a full course, because it would mean opening up past wounds and feeling completely lost and raw. A part of me thinks I can and a part of me is scared as hell.
I feel like there are 4 people who live in me.
- The wild child – This is the core part, but predominantly hidden. This is the most fun part of me incidentally – but the downside of this guy is – he is so deeply hidden it takes copious amount of alcohol to bring him out. But once he is out, he is fun. Like to think up wild things and will cross every frigging line there is in humanity. Unfortunately a lot of my friends love this guy – so being sober is hard when there is such a demand for him! Oh I also love the beer!!
- The Mundane Normative Guy – This is the guy who predominantly lives most of my life. He is the one, who takes care of the family. Who shuttles his daughter and her friends around parks. Who shows up for her kids activities. Who pays the bills, takes the garbage out, recycles, pays taxes, follows the speed limit, automates his life around with widgets and gadgets. The good guy who loves his family and friends.
- The Analytical/Intellectual guy – This is the guy who keeps tracks of societal change, reads up about stuff happening around the globe. Parses what’s being reported in media. Doesn’t believe everything he hears. This guy judges, analyzes, summarizes. Nothing is sacred for this guy. If there is a holy cow of anything, this guy will put it on a grill and eat it. Very divisive thinking, but also has the capacity of breaking stuff down to basics and being creative to draw conclusions.
- The night time Shaman guy – This is a very secretive part of my psyche. Deeply embedded as the wild child. This guy doesn’t respond to alcohol, but lone time. As I sit alone with my thoughts and think about bigger stuff, when I look up at the vast sky and feel the sensation of Universe staring back at me – I know it’s this guy.
The imbalance I have realized is – the mundane guy has millions of people he can relate to. The wild child – has enough drinking buddies to hangout with. But the analytical guy has very few options. It’s been such a long time this guy engaged in an intellectual banter with anyone. He misses it. He feels like the world is getting dumber and dumber – iconized and minimized to an app based culture of chasing virtual stuff around. The analytical guy can’t stand the stupidity that keeps pouring around him. The spiritual guy – is totally alone. Just sitting there – in awe of the immenseness of this beautiful world around him, but none to share it with.
As I meditate regularly, I see a pattern in how my mind wanders. It’s best represented as below.
My mind wanders between future and past. It continuously reviews the events in the past – reliving the bad and good ones and fearful about the future or numbing myself with fantasy. As I continued to watch these thoughts and after a great long time came a period which I call “Neutral Now”
Neutral now isn’t new – it’s just a habit of observing my own thoughts as they emerge and shuttle in the above matrix. As the habit strengthens – it becomes easy to just acknowledge them and let them go. As I let go of these thoughts, feelings, emotions, trauma etc – my mind settles on something which feels like a forever moment. Like time stopped and focus stood still. That moment is fleeting but it’s there and that feels soothing. I think great amount of healing happens in that moment. I try to get to that point as much as I can.
Today has been a very weird day. Once in a while I have this nostalgic days where I can’t really put my finger on what I am going through but there is this longing. I can’t express it in words and it feels like I go numb inside and just be a bystander to my life. I feel very deeply sad and just memories zoom past. It’s not a physical or mental longing. It’s deeply emotional and being how hard it is usually to word my emotions – one of these days is hardest for me.
On these days I usually tend to listen to Sufi music. It’s kinda healing. Especially a lot of Kailash Kher. As I was listening to it – I came across Arziyan – a song which I love so much but completely forgot what it used to feel like when I listened to. It made me cry. It’s a beautiful song. It’s more than a song – it’s a heartwarming homecoming for me. A warm place where I belong. It’s a very deep song – Arziyan means “requests”, in this case to God – but in a very Sufi way – where God is the ultimate beloved. Just one line explains myriad emotions that I am feeling…
Darare darare hain maathe pe maula,
Murammat muqadaar ki kar do maula
It is said in India – the lines on your forehead signify the amount of experiences you have gone through – and it could be both good or bad. In this line, the singer, is requesting his/her beloved God that his forehead is filled with lines and only He can fix his/her destiny.
There is just so much lost in translation above. I can’t explain it. In poetic Urdu – it’s just heartwarming to hear that. The song was made for a movie but since I can’t find a link to the whole audio song here it is on Youtube. It’s from the movie Delhi 6
It’s just one of those days. I can’t stop listening to it and can’t stop the pain.
Sometimes it feels like I am stuck between my confirmation bias and my crazy cognitive dissonance. As I spend some regular time meditating, I get into this mode of observing what my brain is cooking up and how my behavior is affected by it. I tend to seek (as many of us) – information, things, shiny stuff – that fit my mold and agrees with me very well. I can see (sometimes) clearly how I am biased towards certain ideas, thoughts, people, places and opportunities. As I become aware of it, and as I catch myself from digging a deeper pit of my own bias – I try to straighten up and fix it.
Since the bias is prevalent in various behaviors – I choose certain bias I can change. Like try to genuinely understand Trump voters or read fiction or think of how everything around me is made up of just atoms and there is no particular divine thing. It’s a very interesting thought experiment. But this lead me to some other problem – Cognitive Dissonance. Two or more opposing ideas floating in there and confusing the hell out of me and doubt my sanity and intelligence.
Confirmation Bias feels like that warm cozy leather chair by the fireplace – where all my thoughts are dotted and ideas are crossed. I get a fuzzy feeling that the whole world is complying to my requirements. Cognitive dissonance feels like sitting by the side of a putrid smelling rotten stuff! Throws me off and makes me imbalance.
Being the Libra I am – I don’t know how else to balance these two extremities in my life. I feel like I am trapped between these two.
I avoid reading fiction. The main reason being when I read – I associate a lot of my life with the book, characters and then feel the pain, pleasure and trauma of the characters. The only kind of personal stories I like are mostly biographies. Other than that, it’s mostly non-fiction.
Recently I have taken a leap of faith and took a deep dive into a book – which I knew would make me sad from the beginning. It’s a posthumous biography of a neuro-surgeon named Paul Kalanithi. It’s an amazing book. I think so far it has made me cry every 10 pages! I feel so much of what he is talking about. Not in a way I relate to what he did or what has happened to him, but more at a core level of his Soul. He has a beautiful soul and I can at some level feel and understand what he is talking about.
The writing is just amazing. I have read everything about him online and tracked all his writings. He was a great soul. It’s heart wrenching that he died so early.
This book has really been a test for me. I never thought I would be able to handle so much pain slowly delivered page by page. But in a weird way, the book makes me more reflective on my mortality and makes me feel more appreciative of things in my life. It also makes me feel strong about my life.
It made me become very polarized to appreciate every moment with my daughter.
Next I do plan to read – Oliver Sacks’s biography! I think that would round up the mortality of our lives and fleeting nature of our moments!
Last Friday we attended a parents’ training program setup by Sahana’s awesome school. The talk was about Trauma Proofing your Kids by Carlee. It was based on a book by the same title written by Peter Levine. I learned a lot about myself and it kinda let me gain insight into my behaviour.
So, every one of us has something called “Stress Response”. It’s the default way we deal with stress in our lives. There is no right or wrong way in this, it’s just how we deal with stress. There are different archetypes of how we deal with stress. And as we did the exercise, I fell in a bucket named – “The Hummingbird”
Here are the patterns of stress responses by Hummingbird,
- Tracks a lot of information from different sources
- Vigilantly notice energy/shifts in the environment
- Engage intuition, read the situation and all people in it
- Attend to lots of little details
- Attention “leaves body”
- Inability to stay present
- Stop attending to bodily needs or fail to recognize exhaustion, hunger, or emotions
That list was so on spot, I was shocked how well it organized everything along these archetypes.
So the basic baseline of my stress response is – my attention leaves my body. In other words, I get all mental – focus on past or future. Anywhere in space and time except here and now! That blew my mind. I know I am always up in my head, a lot of chatter going on but no much awareness of my body. But I didn’t realize that is how I respond to my life. And how I respond to my life has basically organized my life along those lines.
- I can go on ignoring my hunger pangs for hours – for someone or something’s sake.
- I love books – they are my gateway to escape into a different reality
- I could never understand or appreciate art. I don’t know why, I mean I admire some cool art but for what reasons I don’t know.
- It’s hard for me to take compliments. My critic is basically mowing me down when I think other people say that I am good/cool.
- Self deprecation is my default mode of humor!
- I have hard time learning things that involve me doing something with my hands or body. Like pottery or swimming
- At the same time I am super good with software and learning languages – which I think are highly mental.
The list goes on and on but the most fascinating nugget I learned is – as the trainer said – When people drink alcohol, they tend to focus outside of body and since I focus outside of body for my stress response – I like people who drink or like to drink. That literally blew my mind.
Sangita thinks there is a way for me to bring the focus back to my body. She did a lot of Somatics work and she thinks I should do Drama Therapy. That mere thought scares the shit out of me. I mean to enact what I am feeling among a group of people – would be the toughest thing I would ever do. As usual, I am thinking……