2022 Intention Part One: Lists of Eight

In November 2021 I excitedly told my therapist it had been nearly one year since I self-harmed. Just a few months before, I was convinced I would not make it to the 365-day mark, but with only twenty days left, I knew I could tough it out if needed. There was an element of pride in my declaration, but my therapist did not let me settle in with that. She acknowledged my growth since we first met in 2018, but she was not about validating my victory—not that I needed it. In fact, she was true to her style and challenged me to look deeper. I appreciate that about her and her work with me.

“You seem to get caught up by goals that are either pass or fail. I am curious if you have considered what your intention for 2022 will be? Something open-ended, expansive, and nuanced rather than black or white? What would you like to do? What will that look like? Is there a word you can use to represent a concept, idea, or cluster of ideas that give you a direction rather than an all-or-nothing goal?”

A checklist of previously considered words lit up like fireworks in my mind when she asked. It felt as though she had read my mind. I pulled out my phone where I had a list of eight potential intentions. When I made my list of words, I considered what I wanted my life to look like and then followed all kinds of rabbit trails with other words and concepts. My list was a tangled mess of causation and/or correlation. I was having a tough time picking a word because of that. Nonetheless, I read the list of words hoping she could give me insight.

“Self-compassion, acceptance, awareness, curiosity, confidence, understanding, nurture, and no.”

I feel as though I need to be punished or beaten to a bloody pulp. If no one else sees it, then they are blind. I do not believe I am experiencing innocent pain and suffering throughout my day-to-day interactions. No. I have made terrible decisions and deserve every horrendous beating I can get. Just lay it on me. Bring the hammer down. The funny thing is, if another person had the exact same life as me, I would not dream of treating her the way I treat myself. No way would she deserve that kind of punishment. I would do my best to understand and show compassion. Man, do I need self-compassion.

Every one of my mistakes gives me one particular focus and direction: I must reject myself until I am perfect. I must fit nicely into other people’s molds. The things that make me who I am can no longer be who I am. I must hide me away. I will not be emotional! I will not be weak or vulnerable! I do not need other people! Wow, there are protective parts of me that have tucked the other more vulnerable parts so far away that I do not recall ever seeing them. Occasionally, I hear a faint echo and feel a longing that tells me they are there. The opposite of my self-rejecting and hiding is acceptance—I need to accept myself.

There is something unfathomably safe about living life in both a state of fog about self and attentional overwhelm about the world. Not knowing who I am, or who I want to be, gives me the ability to fit in, avoid the pain of acknowledging my own trauma, and live “happily ever after.” Over-experiencing the world around me through each of my senses makes avoiding myself that much more uncomplicated. Or does it? I hold a false sense of danger about the world around me and a sense of safety by my forced (ignored?) lack of awareness of myself. Unfortunately, it blocks my own ability to see who I am or live according to my values, desires, and truths.

The only way for me to be aware, whether I want it or not, is to welcome curiosity. Because I carry a backpack of bricks on the trail of fear, being aware of me seems quite dangerous. I think only the fearless adventure seekers would veer off the well-traveled path into this type of unknown wilderness. I run swiftly away from the curiosity that may lead me to authenticity and understanding. I mean, running is always easier on a trail, trust me. Staying comfortable, or at least in the familiar, makes sense considering my desire to create safety for myself. But it is detrimental. I have become the enemy.

I disengaged from my body a long time ago. The sensations, body memories, and disdain for the shell I was living in were torture. However, shortly after starting therapy with my current therapist, I had to start “resourcing”—develop coping skills by interacting with my own internal or external environments. As someone with a history of trauma and intentional separation from my physical body, I found the idea of resourcing terrifying. My first attempt to bring awareness to my body and surroundings in the present moment was through yoga. Nope, definitely not for me. I tried a few other activities too—some of them even stuck. But I also needed movement, so I joined a gym. To feel comfortable entering the building on my own, I signed up for personal training sessions with the owner. The first time was distressing and awkward, but now there are days I feel like the mayor when I walk through the door. Nonetheless, I avoid going to unfamiliar places or trying novel, exciting activities because I lack confidence.

Asking myself questions—being curious—and listening to the answers can and will give me a necessary knowledge of myself as well as the wisdom to navigate my place on this globe. What happened? Who am I? What do I need? Why do I need that? What makes that significant? What makes me significant? Without answering questions like those, I may never have the ability to like or accept who I am. If I can be curious about my own humanity, what makes me tick, and the people around me, understanding will follow.

I understand this: I need to gently take my hurting inner child/adult by the hand and sit with her. She hides deep inside her dark closet, fearful and crying; her tears flow silently, but her despair screams so loudly that the vibration from the sound waves makes her bones ache. That distressed version of Becks has an entire world she has not yet experienced. She has a brilliant personality, unmatched quirkiness, and passion that she has not yet discovered. While others can guide me through this process, I am the only one who can nurture those wounded parts into an unafraid, unapologetically unified person.

Often, I answer yes to questions before I fully process what it is being asked of me. “Can you do me a favor?” and “can I give you a hug?” are my nemeses. I have done some crazy things and hugged too many people because my “yes” answer has become automatic over the years. One positive answer becomes the precedent for future occurrences. If I agreed to something before, what right do I have to withdraw permission either in the moment or the next time someone wants something? Although I recognize the fallacy, I find it uncomfortable, impossible really, to change my mind or say no. What a great boundary to be able to set though.

The explanations above were not shared with my therapist, but I think she knows me well enough to understand why those eight words were excellent picks for me. BUT, I think she may have already had a list of words she was toying with for me. I cannot be certain of that unless I ask her though. If it was instead an on-the-spot thought though, she and I probably had simultaneous neuron firing of a perfectly parallel idea. She spoke to the thought first, and I sat intrigued, as I often do, that we were on the same page. “What about the Eight C’s of Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy?” The Eight C’s are compassion, curiosity, calm, clarity, courage, confidence, connectedness, and creativity. At the time, I could not recall each of the eight words, but I think they may be skeleton keys that could help to unlock ME.

The Eight C’s bring an energy with them; an amalgam of doubt, anxiety, excitement, conviction, and assuredness that bounce around like a red rubber ball—the red rubber ball. Although I have never read Kevin Carroll’s book, The Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, I am familiar with a line from the book: “Your red rubber ball is what grabs you by the soul. It’s what captures your imagination.”

My red rubber ball is a subtle notion, still vague and cloudy, but clear enough for me to feel it. My therapist calls it my “shine,” and she is anxiously awaiting my discovery of whatever that looks like. I am too. It feels a little like Christmas morning excitement. We are enjoying the music, goodies, and family, but we cannot wait to see what is inside that beautifully wrapped package hiding in the corner.

In a way, I feel like I am riding on a raft down the New River in West Virginia. Sometimes it is a wild ride, splashing joy erratically like the spray of the river water, and sometimes it is as terrifying as sharp boulders in the middle of the class five rapids. Either way, it is an adventure. It is a process!

So, with two lists of eight words to choose from, and only a small overlap, what is my intention for 2022? I guess we will all have to wait and see where the adventure and process take me.

One thought on “2022 Intention Part One: Lists of Eight

  1. Pingback: 2022 Intention Part Two: Open Chest, Breathe, Open Mind | Burn the Boat!

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