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. It became, feel a spark of emotion or a sensation of pain 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 pain 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 was unhappy. I wasn’t aware I was not in love with my husband. And I just couldn’t live that way forever.
When you have never been fully conscious, you have no idea what you are doing or feeling. 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 taking almost two decades so far to reconnect. 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 probably other empaths that struggle with this piece as well. I believe I was so overwhelmed by physical stimulus that I shut that down tight. For most of my life I have not been able to feel energy physically.
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 time 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 to quickly you create more trauma and the slow or stop 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.
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.