Choosing Presence

When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

As a result of growing up in an environment that didn’t allow space for the expression of emotions, many empaths learned to stuff down their emotions.

The process of stuffing emotions became automatic. After a while, it no longer required you to feel, emote, think “I shouldn’t be expressing this,” then stuff down what you were feeling. The routine became; feel a spark of emotion or a sensation of pain/fear/sadness/joy, and then stuff or dissociate.

Dissociation, as I am using it here, means to disconnect your consciousness from what your body is feeling. This process eliminated the thinking part of your brain.

Humans walk around 90%+ of the time in an unconscious state. Meaning our body is working from a program that supersedes our conscious mind. Autopilot.

When I owned a business with my ex-husband, we had an office near downtown Portland. I began noticing that on several occasions we would leave our house to go to say, the movies or maybe grocery shopping, only to end up at the office. We were not present in our bodies and our consciousness.

Growing up, I spent most of my life dissociated, my consciousness was floating around the ceiling, mostly outside my body. Why?

Well, sometimes I was day dreaming, sometimes I was upset and there was no one to comfort me, and sometimes I was in physical or emotional distress and being in my body was uncomfortable or overwhelming.

Dissociation is a big reason I eventually divorced my husband (and probably even why I married him in the first place). I got very good at living my day-to-day life disconnected from my consciousness. I didn’t know I why I was unhappy. I wasn’t aware I was not in love with my husband. 

But I was unhappy, which at that time, looked like numb. Psychologist would say, a person with a flat affect. I was feeling no highs, no lows, just flat. A little spark in my brain recognized this wasn’t the way it should be. And eventually, I realized I just couldn’t live this way anymore.

When you have never been fully conscious, you have no idea what you are doing or feeling most of the time. You are just floating through life reacting to world like a pinball. I was ricocheting off the walls and the flippers. I made very few self-directed and self-executed moves. I did what people expected of me.

Realities of Reconnection

The process of connecting my feelings to my consciousness has had many stages and has taken almost two decades so far to reconnect. Though some things came together more quickly than others, in general, it has been a gradual expansion of my presence that began with me connecting to my unhappiness at the rock bottom of my dark night of the soul.

Currently, I am working on reconnecting my physical sensations with my consciousness. This has been a slow process. I imagine there are quite a few empaths that struggle with this piece as well. I believe I was so overwhelmed by physical stimulus that I shut it down, tight. For most of my life, I have not been able to feel energy physically and more importantly I have not been aware of many signals my body sends me.

When I am on a table getting energy work, usually the only sensations I feel are in my crown chakra. There are but a handful of times I can recall feeling sensations in other places. The same with picking up physical sensations from other people. For years, I didn’t feel it, I simply knew it. That is much easier to deal with, especially in a crowd, not so easy when with intimate groups.

Over the last year or so, I have been working to reconnect these pathways that interpret physical stimuli. It has been at times overwhelming to do this work and it definitely feels like a very slow awakening but progress is being made and I am grateful for each layer of experience I get back.

The truth is you can’t rush this process. It is slow because if you go too quickly you create more trauma and that slows or stops the process altogether. The process of opening over time means you continually gain presence and sensation while going at the speed your body chooses.

The Objective of Presence

Why am I doing this work? Especially when at times it is scary and not so pleasant? Because I have missed out on a lot in life by not being fully present with people and with myself. I am choosing better relationships with my family, friends, colleagues, and myself.

I have gotten into unsafe relationships and situations because I wasn’t able to interpret the signals that were warning me to stay away. In fact, I was taught not to trust my feelings/instincts–I was taught by every person who told me I was overreacting and by society that told me talking back was rude, that questioning authority was disrespectful, and that I was difficult when I asked too many questions.  

Currently, I disconnect when big emotions come up, like in relationships and friendships. These big emotions might be lovely or they might be awful, but my body treats them the same; disconnect and go unconscious.

I want presence. I want to be in a moment with the people I love and feel all of it as it is happening, not in reflection when the chance to offer an authentic response has passed me by.

I have caught glimpses of the depth of connection and presence I am capable of and I won’t settle for less anymore. That kind of relationship is worth doing the work to reestablish communication between my consciousness and my body.

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About the Author

Laura Rowe is an Intuitive Strategist & Spiritual Seeker at The Vital Spirit. Living in Portland, Oregon, Laura founded The Vital Spirit in 2013. She has a background in business operations, a master’s degree in organizational management, and she has spent the last 35 years studying spiritual traditions and practices, and the last 12 years training in intuitive energy healing modalities.

Laura helps empaths and sensitives who have struggled their whole life with belonging. Explore How We Can Work Together