Afraid of My Own Subconscious

You just can’t rush the healing process, no matter how annoying it is for friends and family.

I was dismayed when my best friend gradually stopped returning my texts. When my old boyfriend, who I had always assumed was still in love with me and would always listen to my whining, finally bowed out, too. And you know you’re in trouble when even your mother says things like, “God, why can’t you just get ever this already?” The general consensus seemed to tip-toe around this sentiment: You wanted to get divorced. Now you’re divorced. Be happy now.

In hindsight, alienating myself from my confidants was the perfect remedy because it forced me to talk to myself. Wow, I annoyed myself, too. Yes, why couldn’t I just get over it?

My crocodile began to emerge as what it really was, once I cared to look. It was my subconscious and I was terrified of it. I had read enough about the havoc that beast can wreak in all the self-help books I devoured in a panic over the last several months.

In What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, Shad Helmstetter, Ph. D. said I’m telling myself all kinds of negative, destructive self-talk all day long. Most of this I picked up when I was a tiny child and my subconscious has accepted it as truth. Often it wasn’t meant to be harmful: “Be careful, you’ll hurt yourself!” “No, you can’t do that.” Of course, sometimes it was plain mean, though. “You’ll never get into college with a C. They’re gonna laugh.” “You’re a big fat yeast roll.” That last one was adapted from the Quincy’s Family Steakhouse theme song by my older sister, who was very skinny. Yes, she actually sang it to me.

In Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz, M.D. told me that 99.5% of the population has unresolved emotional scars from the past which produce the agonizing pain of defeat, failure, frustration and loneliness.

In Healing Back Pain, John Sarno, M. D. talks about deeply repressed anger from childhood causing tension myositis syndrome, which can manifest as everything from sciatica to asthma.

These books were all illuminating and helpful to me, and I do believe that repressed gunk needs to come up and out in order to truly heal, yet I started to see my own subconscious as an enemy. The tragedy of this was highlighted in a surprising way, and the moment of revelation was one I’ll never forget.

At the Kadampa Buddhist Center I attend, we always begin with a breathing meditation. You follow your breath in and out and try not to think of anything else. If you need imagery to do that, you can imagine all your tension and distractions gathering together in the center of your body, in the form of dark smoke. On your out breath, you dispel it.

Simple, right? Not really.

After about a year of doing this very meditation, I realized that I was forcing my breath in and out. Controlling it’s flow, instead of following it. I hadn’t gotten it at all.

Then one fine day, after I had become the crocodile with no one to kiss my false tears, I was able to actually DO the breathing meditation! Finally. Instead of actively breathing, I sat and watched myself breathe. It felt like a balloon being filled and emptied automatically, without any will of my own. And…it wasn’t “me” doing it. It wasn’t my conscious mind doing this benevolent thing called breathing, to keep me alive. My subconscious was keeping me, my ego, “Sarah,” alive.

Wait.

My subconscious is benevolent?

Yes.

What a beautiful, steady, trustworthy part of myself. Suddenly, I had real, wet, salty tears running down my face. How had I been attempting self-love, like all the self-help books say, all those agonizing months since the divorce, without loving the most faithful part of me?

This was Mean Greeting Card #4. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

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My Lonely House

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The rebound.

Everyone knows rebounds are destined for disaster. Most of us have been through one already, or at least witnessed the fallout of a hasty new relationship after a breakup–with friends or family, on t.v. or in books, heard about it in love songs, read about it in poetry, seen art about it. The list goes on. This is no great mystery. Why do we do it anyway?

For me, pressure to begin dating as soon as final divorce documents were signed was intense, and expert dating advice abounded.

“Just have fun with it. Keep it light.”

“My sister met her doctor hubby on a dating site. You should try one.”

“Yay, we can hang out again. I’ll be your wingman like in the old days!” (Translation: Misery loves company. Everyone knows dating is a nightmare.)

The urge came from within, too. Mostly it arrived like my descicated philodendrons crawling out of their pots, across the door jambs and up the window panes, in search of lifegiving water and light. Anywhere!

Because, the divorce process was like a trek through the desert, holding scabby hands with a wounded enemy who occasionally vomited on me as my only chance of sustenance. I’ll admit I spewed on him regularly, too, and probably with more acid. Yet, the nightmare didn’t end once the judge whacked the gavel. Next came a new wasteland, with no hand to hold. Not even in friendship.

After years of clinging devotion, Mr. X moved in with another woman only a handful of weeks after he moved out of our family house.

Ex-family house.

My house.

My lonely house.

The moral superiority I felt with never having been unfaithful or not having a standby lined up blew out in the hot stinking blast of his exit. All I was left with was a hand mirror.

I needed to remember who I was, before I was mired in monogamy and sexual obligation. I needed to reclaim the artist I was, before I stopped working to be a stay at home mom. I needed to feel special and important and authentic, and have someone understand me for who I really was, instead of judge me after over a decade of actually living with me. I needed to know that true love was still possible and that great sex was available and likely, all the time.

Enter, the rebound.

Poor Mr. R. He was no match for my subconscious. Had I considered, even for a moment, what Mr. R needed? Do I really need to even answer that? Heartbroken people are so selfish.

Well, I can’t feel too sorry for Mr. R. He broke my heart again presently.

But, why? Wasn’t he the perfect replacement, the one who I had been searching for all my life? It’s laughable once I write it down. With some distance, I can now see the holes in my delusion…

I’d picture the private corner office he was sitting at (not a cubicle), while thinking of me all day long. Sure, the evidence showed that he drank like a fish while watching sports in bars most of the time, but I believed he led a rich inner life and one day I’d see it. Remember that one joke he told two years ago about attending seminary school? Of course, I knew that there was a good reason he would only communicate in texts, too. Maybe phone calls were a thing of the past. And no, he wasn’t ignoring me–it was my fault for being too pushy. I don’t need kindness, because I’m not a needy girlfriend (friend with benefits).

All of my suffering arose from my own disappointment each time he showed up–or didn’t–to be just exactly who he was. In reality. Yes, my heart was broken when he dumped me. I was in madly in love, after all. But, I was in love with my imagination. I had absolutely no patience for the real Mr. R.

Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

So, why is patience even necessary?

Because it’s the remedy for anger, and anger–or resentment, or constant disappointment, or depression–is a destructive force that places blame outside ourselves and prevents growth. Anger is not accepting what exists before us, and grasping at wishes instead.

Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which one fills up first. Stephen King

Mr. R wasn’t the problem. The problem was a mind that wouldn’t accept reality and a heart that was rushed straight past the healing process. Yeah, I was sad. I had just gotten divorced, for crying out loud. Denial of reality only brought me more pain, each time my fantasy crumbled a bit more. Each time another bandaid was ripped off.

It was a slow torture that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So, please take my advice and run screaming from rebound relationships.

Yeah, right.

I hope yours is easier than mine…or at least quicker!

This was Mean Greeting Card #3. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

Thanks for liking, commenting, and following!  Visit my contact page HERE for social network links, or sign up for my mailing list HERE to be the first to see new work.