I want to recommend a great & sweet movie, Get Low, starring the inestimable Robert Duvall. Movies that deal well with the topic of grief touch my heart like no other. It was clear to me, early in recovery that I had grief to deal with. Feel, Deal and Heal is the saying. The work I did, ably supported by knowledgeable practitioners and teachers, made it possible for me to become comfortable with grief to the degree that, I wouldn’t say I seek it out but I definitely don’t run from it and that is a huge blessing.
The question becomes how do we feel deal and heal? In my recovery the studies of body and energy work confirmed that which I had suspected all along; to cope with pain too great for the childhood nervous system, we block the corresponding emotional flow that events trigger. Over time, the blocks become permanent and therein lies the damage. Unable to loosen our armor, we are unable to consciously feel inflow and outflow and the attendant emotions. To put it another way, we can’t grieve and cry, for example. This impedes natural emotional growth. A common fact for many men (and women) emerging into recovery from addiction. Energetic and emotional blockage creates a “backlog”, like a reservoir holding back water.
A) Many children are subjected to pain great enough that we feel overwhelmed, “swamped” with the fear and pain, which for us, as the little tykes we are, amounts to a feeling we might die. The child may not be conscious of that, but this is the purpose of the blockage, to keep us from a feeling of overwhelm.
B) In our adult state a backed up reservoir, in and of itself, feels overwhelming and as we begin down the road of recovery toward healing, the fear of overwhelm, being swamped, comes back. That’s the very thing causing us to hold back, to not cry and to not heal. Much of the addictions of society, not just drugs but too much work, money/shopping, food, love/sex, consuming, you-name-it are all in the name of keeping blocked and busy and distracted enough to not feel this backlog.
The body always seeks homeostasis but must have flow and feel supported to really achieve balance and optimal health. Think of a dam, sitting over a town and it’s going to blow, or a river, that rains are overflowing and causing a flood. The townspeople scurry fast and hard to get to safety, running to and fro, worried of destruction, and yet, after the storm, the waters do recede, the soil is replenished and everything comes back to normal. One of the reasons some Native tribes developed tipis, knowing the natural rhythms of the earth and life, was so they could pick up and move before the flood and come back later when the soil was healthier. Meanwhile, if one does not get pro-active, the barricade hampers the natural development of our being.
I love these movies when well done because various supports gave me the help I needed to drain (or lower at least) the reservoir, so to speak. Grief and emotional flow became safe for me. In time, I knew I would not be overwhelmed, in fact, the adult organism can’t be overwhelmed and has built in defenses that maintain safety. Our childhood trauma made life, being in our skin, not safe when in truth the body is always safe. We can self-regulate, learn to feel deal and heal and emerge into a much healthier emotional life. It’s a process, a titration.
Now, Get Low; Duvall, my favorite living actor, plays a 1930s Tennessee hermit, a fabled curmudgeon , who famously threw his own funeral party while he was still alive. Well supported by a wonderful cast, beginning with the quietly hilarious Bill Murray, this movie gets us to the heart of guilt, shame, grief and secrets keeping us sick. Our need to beat ourselves up, to not forgive ourselves and others, creates a downward spiral and can lead us to miss a lifetime of LIFE and here we see the pain and glory of it all. It’s a worthy journey.