Why is it hard to hear what’s inside of us?
We are busy, we are distracted, we are scared.
My inner child has been screaming at me to listen more, play more, dance more.
It started after taking a new job in complex mental health. Ten people (clients) live in their own units with the office next door. Upgraded to a more managerial role at the job interview, my ego puffed up whilst my gut rang out ‘Do they appear slightly desperate to you?’. Oh no, it’s just the gig or the industry I told myself shaking off unease.
Fast forward, first week involves normalised targeted abuse from my direct client. Management doing a hot potato dance as to who will take turns to sort out the latest ‘incident’ (minor assault). I’m left with grave doubts as my inner girl starts to whisper..’I don’t feel safe…’ as I act out professional.
Second week, the daily routine firms up, I sit with a client who chooses not to eat but grog and his hallucinations get worse progressively over the day. Go figure. But we follow his ISP (strategies on how to assist him with his voices and prevent self harming) sit with him and breathing deeply. I start to feel the spirits swirling around in the air. Maybe they don’t call alcohol ‘spirits’ for nothing. Trying to anchor someone in this reality when they are elsewhere feels pretty stupid and futile. Again the little girl inside is calling out, ‘I don’t feel safe. This feels familiar- the drinking, the demons but I don’t like it. I want to feel safe’.
Third week, I trigger my client sufficiently to become the focus of her aggression as she runs headlong at me with her fist in my face. Planted to the spot I growl at her to not touch me. Friendly staff support me and shovel a EAP card (free counselling) in my hand. Adrenaline is high as I try to regain composure. But the signs are getting louder. I find myself a shell when I get home. My boys reach out to comfort me and I can hardly talk. I go to bed and have disturbing dreams.
I start to wake up. What do I want? Which side of history do I want to be on? I want to be cultivating health and growth, and I must feel safe. At work, the word trauma is used as a knowledgable slogan..but it’s skin deep. Any real change in these people’s lives is slim. It’s a holding pattern for enabling behaviour without the framework to address underlying issues.
Next weekend, I go to a dance class. For two hours, I feel into every part of my body and move to the music. I drop sweat and stress on to the floor and feel alive again. When I close my eyes, my little girl is with me with the largest grin on her face. I hold her hands and we dance, I tell her that I am going to listen. That when she sits up and says, ‘I don’t feel safe’, I’m going to be there: boldly, lovingly, firmly making adjustments so she can breathe easy and be able to play and love.
The next day, my managers deliver the news that I will be taken off the team as they are concerned for my safety. I receive full pay for the next two weeks. A quiet comes over me, my little girl breathes out and stretches her arms into the air. Ahh, the universe works in miraculous ways, I can feel it is an act of Grace.
Trauma is a funny beast. It kind of gets into our cells unless we consciously take time to shake, release and reform new ways and choices of being in this world. Often we get attracted to relationships that live out past hurts; or we surround ourselves with energies that feel familiar in their dysfunction but are not life giving. This is what the context of this job felt like for me. There is no failure, only learning in this process and since progress isn’t always linear, we can go over ‘familiar’ territory a few times, and sometimes a bit more, until we get the clarity or insights to change our course.
Today I am creating new opportunities for work, and I’ll walk in the forest. I’ll blast up the music and have a dance with my little girl giving full expression for this luscious life. If we choose joy, it’s not selfish, it’s not childish, it’s a necessary guide to living.