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movement of the psyche: i

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Since I was three years old, I’ve been poked and prodded by strangers more times than I can count, or even remember. Hundreds of blood tests and canulas. Forty colonoscopies. Thirty chemical infusions, ten endoscopes, seven intubations/catheterisations, three liver biopsies, two spinal surgeries, one liver transplant, a rape (and a partridge in a pear tree.)

A month ago I attended a psilosybin-therapy retreat. I went with the intention of getting deeper in touch with some old beliefs that were keeping me stuck; one being a fear of dying.

While the retreat was profound, with many provocative and powerful realisations, there was one key message I hadn't seen coming: my relationship with my body, and how that was a key in unlocking a world of other beliefs that I hadn't quite ever seen fully. My voice said to me, in waves....

My body belongs to me.

My body belongs.

I belong.

I want to be in this body.

This is my body.

You see, for fifty years, in one way or the other, my body didn’t belong to me. I didn’t believe I had agency over what was happening inside me, and I surely had enough evidence to know I had no autonomy in my most personal inner-space. Instead, I felt trapped inside a body that did not register as wholly mine; it was never how I wanted it to be. I was chronically unwell.

While there is increasing research around psychedelics and their many benefits, one aspect I have been particularly interested in is understanding their anti-inflammatory properties and potential to increase the neuroplasticity of the brain, which can help to change how we see the world, and how we feel about ourselves. While the aftermath of the experience has highlighted hidden beliefs, internal dynamics and my ability to shift those messages, one thing hasn’t changed: the process inside my body.

My factory of cells learned to create an extra step in the immuno-dance; namely, to wage a war on itself by stepping on its own toes rather than killing intruder cells. Eventually this manifested physically through auto-immune disease, which underlying features are chronic pain and inflammation. There is more to the story of auto-immune disease than a simple mutiny of B-cells and T-cells, but suffice it to say for the purposes of this post that my internal world somewhat reflected my outer world. From a very early age I learned to suppress my emotions their expression, and a great deal of that time was spent pleasing others and learning how not to be in the line of fire. My youth was spent largely in denial of the disease as I turned away from it, tried to fix it in one way or another or hid it from anyone that might be tuned in enough to notice. Rather being taught, or learning to have a healthy relationship with my whole self, the disease became something I 'had'. It was a burden, I was broken.

I had the 'pleasure' of meeting this cellular machine during my psychedic experience; I saw its industrial complex with my own eyes. Spending time in and around it, the deepest part of my psyche understood why I'd been fighting it, and why I'd been fighting myself for as long as I could remember. But for the first time I also truly got that it's not the kind of fight that's do you fight an apple into being an orange?

This insight was a biggie for me, and no matter how many times certain people have alluded to this in other contexts, seeing, and feeling it myself has been a powerful catalyst for learning to accept my quirky immune system that can't help itself from inward attack. It works overtime, causes me pain, has taken me to some dark, and surgically complicated places, but somehow it has kept me alive.

It's not happened overnight, but learning to understand this part of me has lead to a larger umbrella of self acceptance. It might sound unbelievable, but it is only recently, for example, that I realise I don't have to apologise to anyone for simply being me, for having my own needs, desires and feelings. For seeing the world differently than other people. For choosing to live differently. It sounds so basic on some level, yet the mind is complicated; there are lots of places to divert, bypass, hide, and even normalise self-depreciation.

This is a new and different position for myself, one where I'm engaging in decision-making conversations about my health, asking for support, and setting boundaries that I have a choice in creating. It is a reminder that I choose life, in this body, because of and despite the challenges.

And, at times it can be uncomfortable. Exhausting.

At times, I need to retreat.

In order to allow for a space where my own emotions can fully express themselves, I need plenty of space and time to go inward, because, despite over two decades of yoga and meditation practice, I'm still learning how to do this, and sometimes I forget. This inner place is where I process, reflect, and make sense of who 'I' am, and what I need.

Of course, it’s not always possible to take the necessary time to go inward to process; to treat ourselves with 'kid gloves'. Life is not one continual retreat. So a part of this self-acceptance is in realising that sometimes acting out and reacting uncontrollably to strong emotions is ok too. After all, no-one, maybe with the exception of Pinoccio, is made of wood, and emotions aren’t static or always in control. That’s life.

All of life comes from movement. Movement of emotions, movement between the various roles we play; movement that enables perspectives to shift. Movement connects us, and separates. Conscious movement can support positive change.

Here's to movement, to healing a wounded psyche; here's to life.

Sculptures by Tung Ming-Chin

PS. The title of 'movement of the psyche: i' implies there will be a part two to this post.

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