Staying Open When You Have Been Broken Open

When you are broken open, you realize that you cannot go back and un-experience what just happened.

There is not another soul who can judge if you broke open, or that you need more opening, or that you need to close the opening. No one has that right; no culture; no ethnic race; no gender; no opinion; no textbook or philosophy…no one gets that job except for the one who has had the experience.

In my sixty years of breathing, I have experienced many cracks in my foundation as I have lived my life. Some done to me, some done by me yet I have always been able to have the understanding that people are doing the best they can with what they have at the time. I have been lied to, betrayed, manipulated and used and I have done the same.  I have been called names, removed from circles and asked to shut up. I have been given accolades, encouragement and messages of gratitude that what I have to share has shifted their mindset and they awoke to their own brilliance.

It is our human wiring to self protect with the coping skills we have learned from our original tribe as well as the ones that bubble up from our own selves. We self medicate, stand behind false doctrine, pontificate and point out what another should do, think or say. Brene Brown calls these folks that cannot look inward and who only points their finger at another, as those “sitting in the cheap seats”.

We have a myriad of shadow tools to use as shields and defense, and we wear these layers of protection proudly.  These shields and layers keeps our fears, insecurities and lack of confidence inside, contained, together and safe.

When you are busted open by a significant experience, you get to look at life very differently. I am not in the comparison game here; I don’t play my trauma versus your trauma. I am speaking from an authority on a unexpected life altering event. I was on receiving end of a phone call that my child has been in an accident and he did not survive. I can still feel the suffocating moment when my life broke open and I was helpless to stop what was put into play.

Child loss is close to the top of the human list of trauma and the effects of this trauma does not break you open – it SHATTERS you.

First there is the event, then there is the “after”, and the “after” came with little instructions.  When my nineteen year old son left his body, I was launched into nothing I wanted to be part of. From deep inside of me, I knew I would survive this, I just didn’t know how. What I did know is I had to lean into where I found inspiration and encouragement. I realized that we don’t need to be defined by only one part of our story – that we are all the parts and they all have meaning. Among those that helped me discovering this were Heather Plett, Brene Brown, Carolyn Myss, Clarissa Pinkola Estes and those mothers and fathers in my tribe of child loss.

As I started to piecing back together the broken shards, the process of becoming began. It has been my experience, and I speak from authority, what was false, meaningless and no longer important sloughed off. I became hyper aware of what was real, authentic; what had staying power and what no longer served to support my existence. It did not mean people and concepts in my life were dropped- oh no- it is that those that could be in my life expanded; those concepts of lower energy were dropped and the places of transcendence expanded and exposed me to so much possibilities. My personal tragedy offered me a universe to explore and lean into.

In Heather Plett’s “Holding Space Coach Facilitation Program” the students learn what luminal space is, what imaginable cells are, how to recognize emotional colonization; white privilege, marginalization and cultural appropriation means. As students we are shown how to practice being present for another and using new learned skills to trust a someone you do not know how to hold space with you.

It is a magical, vulnerable and brave space to put yourself in. We signed up for the experience to learn, practice, share, deepen our awareness, practice, pair up, redirect, write, practice, explore an amazing venue of holding each other’s strength, vulnerabilities, the unknown, with an openness and curiosity for the unknown.

It was my experience that I was held in my own life story safely as I learned that I am an equal. I may have a different story, opinion, set of values but when we are in Circle, we were told that we all hold the rim of the container together. No one is above or below you; in front of or behind you.

It is a beautiful experience to show up naked and be held in a safe place as well as a brave place.

Brene Brown gave the values of acknowledging what being vulnerable feels like, where perfectionism hides and shame tactics rise, how to notice authenticity in yourself and where it is absent in another. She offered the concept of “Daring Bravely”, which I am still practicing and have learned that I have a voice and what I have to say, someone is interested in hearing it.

Carolyn Myss brought “Spiritual Madness”, the spectrum of human behavior including our shadow side. Her religious teachings brought alchemy, mysticism, history of shamanism, the Saints and the difference between going to church and being “church”.

My beautiful storyteller, Clarissa Pinkola Estes….she gave me the language that I did not have to explain that my symbolic and metaphorical way of approaching life is how I view living.  It is steeped in indigenous cultures and stories and what Jesus used to get his point across.

I have been collecting my bones and honoring my life story for many lifetimes and I have embraced the joy in this amazing “hard as shit work”.

As in Clarissa’s story, “Sealskin Soulskin”, I have been reclaiming what has always been mine and in doing so doesn’t need to take away from what another has. It is my process; hard stuff; amazing eye opening, beautiful journey.

Then there’s Suzanne Giesemann. She grounds me. She lifts me. She removed the cultural and religious trappings that we are only this body. If my son could have returned to his body after his accident, he would have. What contained him was too broken. He had no choice but to be himself without the container. Suzanne has worked with me to remember what I have always known; We don’t die. We have always been. We continue to be. This is what propels me to wake up each day and what I think, talk and write about. And I love the container this belief system let’s me expand in.

The parents who have outlived their beautiful children, regardless of when they left, or how they left, amaze me that they can even breath. These “Shining Light Parents of Shining Light Children” remind me of my own self. I see so much courage and resiliency, raw wounds in their faces, words and stories. I get to experience their processes of embracing their own life in the absence of their child. I am privileged to witness their rise to expanded awareness as they discover the presence of their children. These people are in my Sacred Tribe. It is an honor to stand beside the bravest of the brave.

Broken open. – Life trauma. It happens and will continue to be part of the human experience.

I mentioned before, human beings are wired to self protect, keep masks and shields up for protection. It takes a great deal of courage to break out of suffering and to rise above the event and enter the rooms of “brave space”. Sacred texts, fairytales, mythical stories and the ancient mystics warn of false prophets, wolves in sheep clothing, those who project what they want you to see but they are wounded and can keep their wounds open because emerging from them is damn hard soulful work.

When I am in the presence of authenticity, I feel it. When I am in the presence of shadow side of what makes us a human being, I smell it. There are those who are so wounded by their culture, religion, families of origin, and political systems that they find the open hearts, the ones who have been broken open and shattered.  These people tend to be compassionate and available to listen.  Many of these have transcended their own trauma to emerge out of luminal space to become who they have always been – open, trust worthy, benevolent and free from much of lower level earthly baggage. It has been my experience (and I attract wounded birds occasionally), that wounded people can take hostages without understanding their own motivation or intent. These people cannot or will not look within, or have no idea how they opened themselves up by oversharing.  They seem unable to take responsibility for entering in their own brave space and turns the listener as the villain.  This is a human coping skill to keep their wounds and trauma open…it is very hard, deep work to cleanse and heal traumatic wounds.

This is a human experience that crosses over gender and cultural lines.  When you live with an open heart, you enter into a benevolent space that has been set up to be a safe-brave place for all parties.  It is a place to talk story, discuss difference of opinions and to speak differences with autonomy.  When this is breached due to something that was triggered in another, this  is the learning opportunity for the wounded to figure out what was raised inside of them.  If the person who has been triggered behaves under false pretenses that everything is okay with them, and will not speak their true feelings, the burden of the problem lies on the triggered individual.   Oversharing and exposing ones’ personal story, unsolicited, is the action on the storyteller, not the listener.

There have been instances when I have become what I call “emotionally naked”; and overshared and could not find a safe place to stand with that person. It was not the one holding my nakedness who was in the wrong place. It was mine. I blamed and stood in self righteousness. I covered up my lack of self confidence, and falsely exposed my listener as the one who was had wronged me. As embarrassing as this to admit, I started gathering hostages to hear my victim story.

I have a list of significant stories where I walked back over that crevasse and apologized, took ownership that the person was only holding my story and I blew it into something it was not. Then began building the bridge to where it could hold us both if agreed by both parties.

So, why am I writing this piece? Something rose up that seemed unfair and the shadow side of human response showed up in an unlikely corner of human connection. I am sensitive to anyone whose been hurt especially those who have already been broken open.  To say to someone they need to break open and then saying “think about it and when you feel you have learned, we’ll talk” is a behavioral shield and mask to try to control and manipulate a situation.  This recent statement triggered something that I have experience in my own story.  It is being dismissed without any direction to move except to the one wielding the power.  I have been in the situation where someone I look up to has used shame and such tight confines of response that leaves only one option; ambiguous atonement.  In my cultural studies, this is called public shunning, shaming and emotional blackmail.

The most courageous, brave, authentic people are the ones who have been broken open, shattered, who have spent their lifetimes studying under diverse cultures regardless of their birth DNA. I am a white female, with Irish, English and Swedish roots. This does not make me indifferent to my soul brothers and sisters of color. I am sensitive to harm to any persons regardless of exterior packages they carry themselves in. We are not our bodies but we use our bodies to experience this life.

We all have wounds and trauma stories; we all have celebrations and triumphs.

I have learned what works for me in my journey is to own up to my responsibility, not yours; keep my street as clean as I can; manifest an openness in the presence of another’s closeness; be thankful For all the parts of my story; speak in my voice and trust what I have to say, someone needs to hear; forgive the shortcomings of people in leadership, they are learning too; be aware of false narratives that support smallness and be prepared to soar and grow with Divine guidance.  None of my teachers, mentors, or guides have ever pointed at me as being the cause of someone’s harm by being open, honest and the ability to hold  space for another.  I chose being a personal trainer, wellness coach and speaker on purpose because I have the skill set to listen and hold benevolence with another.  Not everyone is suppose to be in my circle of life; some are just here temporarily.  Some are needing much more than I can give because I do not understand their needs . This does not mean I owe them an apology for their wounds; it means I owe them compassion and a strong sense of my own strengths and weaknesses to guide them to the appropriate space for them.  Last I knew, reading minds was not a gift I have been given.  I trust those who have been broken open, shattered, especially after the loss of their child.  There is nothing like this experience to create the perfect place for holding compassion, confidentiality, trust, hope and space to let another be themselves.

Bridges are needed to built, walls need to be taken down and only then can a healing happen to people of all genders, ethnic background, cultural and religious  and the non-religious peoples on this planet we call home.

Staying open when you have been broken open is always going to be challenged, as long as we are in our human skins.  Our human container is remarkable and amazing- it holds the capacity to bring a light of hope for a person who is wanting to move forward.  It also has the capacity to hold space for a person who wants to stay in their story as is.  Both have a significant role but the choice and responsibility is in the owner of the story, and no one else’s.  More to come on this subject.


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