Author’s Note: This is a very personal article and before you get to it I want to share a few thoughts and disclaimers.
First, this is based on my experience at a workshop this past weekend so it’s still fresh and a bit raw and probably not my best writing.
Second, if you have never experienced emotional release work, please don’t let my experience scare you away. Not everyone has such intense experiences – although many do – and the potential benefits are huge!
Third, while the work I did this weekend addresses the deep emotional wounds I carry, neither this article nor the work itself is meant to encourage what Caroline Myss calls “Woundology.” I believe the vast majority of us carry wounds from early childhood traumas. Woundology is a victim-based place where you seek – usually not consciously – to hold onto your wounds and to blame the circumstances of your life on past traumas and the people involved in them. Emotional release work, on the other hand, addresses those wounds in a positive manner that acknowledges their presence, seeks to diminish the “charge” they hold and minimize the influence they have on your thoughts and actions.
So with that in mind, here is the article.
This weekend I participated in a very powerful workshop called Naka Ima. My first Naka Ima experience was ten years ago and after that one I wasn’t in a big rush to do it again! But a few weeks ago when a good friend mentioned that there was another one coming up and that she would be participating, my inner guidance system started going off and it was clear that I was supposed to be there.
With my birthday journey to the Grand Canyon beginning tomorrow, my time felt a bit compressed but I could sense that a big shift was possible at Naka Ima. Just as I sense that there is something waiting for me at the bottom of the canyon, some letting go or opening up or insight or … I don’t know. But whatever happens down there, the Naka Ima work has been great preparation for the trip.
Naka Ima is about letting go of core attachments and the work can be quite intense. On both Friday and Saturday, in the “Triad” work, I had deeply cathartic emotional/somatic releases.
Now before I share my experience I must admit that I have been avoiding any kind of emotional release work for quite a while. I’ve done a LOT of it over the past 10-years and I’ve been feeling frustrated that, even after doing so much deep – and I mean DEEP – personal work there always seems to be more. I was questioning whether emotional release – ritual or breathwork or this Naka Ima work – was the answer.
How many times do I need to go into that abyss of grief and anger, despair and rage before I reach the bottom? Does the pain ever end? And if it doesn’t what is the point of re-experiencing that trauma?
Those were some of the questions I had going into the weekend and I voiced my doubts to Deborah Riverbend – the facilitator. She assured me that in all the years she has been practicing and teaching this work that she has NEVER seen a case of “never ending grief!” According to Deborah, the pain does end. You do reach the bottom of that abyss.
That was extremely wonderful to hear and I’ll keep you posted as I continue to explore this work about whether or not I’m the one exception!
We all have wounds
Most of us carry wounds. Some are extremely deep, some not so much. There may or may not have been a specific traumatic event or incident. But whether you were abandoned, betrayed or abused, neglected, rejected or smothered you most likely have some inner wound that influences your thoughts, feelings and actions.
Like me, I’m sure you’re pleased to know that there is an end to the impact that wound has on your life. You CAN release the charge and start living free from the unconscious impulses of that wounded place within you.
On the first day of the workshop I dove right in and worked with the grief I carry from my adoption once again. My story, that my mother “didn’t want me,” that I was abandoned and betrayed, unwanted and unloved, has deeply influenced the way I create my life. The story seems to weave its way into just about every aspect of my life even after more than 15-years of intensive personal work. So on Friday afternoon, when we moved into our “triads” I was feeling very ready to drop in and let go.
By now, I’m quite skilled at going into emotional release. I can tap into the vein of grief very quickly, perhaps because it is still so close to the surface. So moving into the grief was not a problem. But I was encouraged by one of my triad partners to “find my edge.” She wondered what would allow me to discover a new, deeper place of release and healing.
Are you willing to be seen in your woundedness?
I quickly found the edge: Was I willing to be seen, really seen, in my grief?
Closing my eyes, curling up in a ball and letting the pain come out is pretty easy for me. There is a sense of comfort in that space, a familiarity that feels welcoming.
Staying connected to my partners, looking into their eyes as I was deep in the pain and anguish of the adoption experience was terrifying. To see and feel their love for me as I was expressing my woundedness was almost unbearable. I felt an overwhelming urge to close my eyes, to curl up into that protective ball and run from their love.
But I stayed there with them. I allowed their eyes to anchor me to the present even as the cellular memories in my body were fully immersed in and releasing the pre-verbal trauma from my adoption.
At some point the process moved into a spontaneous “rebirthing” experience. As my body began experiencing and expressing the trauma of my birth it became difficult to know where the emotional pain ended and the physical pain began.
At times it seemed like I was experiencing the birth from my mother’s perspective. The involuntary movements of my body and the ripples of pain moving through my belly seemed to reflect a mother’s experience during labor and birth.
It actually makes sense that I would have “encoded” my mother’s experience in my cellular memory. After all, in that moment, we were still connected, still “one” being. Our experiences were merged and so, too, perhaps did our cellular memories become merged. So releasing her pain from my body was a welcomed blessing.
Welcome to a world of love
As the intensity of the experience began to decrease an image flashed into my mind of the “welcome” I received into this world. In that image I saw myself looking into the eyes of my mother for the few minutes she held me before I was taken from her arms. As I looked, I saw and felt her fear and pain, anger and anguish.
There was love there also: hidden, dampened, muted and merged into the other emotions. And as that image flashed into my mind I knew that it was time to experience being born into a world of love. I wanted to “come out” to welcoming, loving eyes and arms.
So I asked for that experience, I asked to be rebirthed into a world surrounded by love and acceptance rather than fear and anguish. And my partners made it so. They bundled me up in blankets and laid on top of me, creating pressure as if I was still compressed inside the birth canal. Slowly I pushed my way out and into the light and into their welcoming arms and eyes and hearts.
Because my body was so “in the experience” of the birth, that reenactment, even though it was not very “realistic,” had a major impact on my psyche. I obviously cannot change the actual events of my birth, but I can reprogram my memories of that moment.
You can re-create your memories
In essence I was “tricking” my mind into re-membering my birth experience. Brain researchers have discovered that memories are extremely elastic. Contrary to what researchers believed until quite recently, memories are not fixed. They are fluid and mutable: The very act of remembering something actually recreates the memory.
So why not take advantage of that mutability and consciously recreate the memories from a traumatic event? If I can insert an experience of being welcomed with love and joy into my birth memories, maybe I can shift the way those memories influence my present day thoughts and actions.
It’s certainly worth a shot!
One thing I do know is that after this weekend I feel much lighter, more open and receptive to the love and blessings in my life. I can still feel the remnants of the grief swirling around inside of me and my body feels like I took it out for an Iron Man Triathalon (well maybe only a Tin Man)! But my psyche feels so much more present, awake and engaged in this moment.
I’m looking forward to deepening that presence while I’m down in the “womb” of the Earth – the Grand Canyon later this week. And I’m looking forward to celebrating my Re-Birth-Day while connected to her nurturing, loving energy.
So does the pain ever go away? Does the grief ever end?
Deborah Riverbend believes it does. I’m hopeful and open to trusting her. And I’m very willing to experiment with my life. I’ve made a commitment to follow this rabbit hole down, down, down and see just how deep it goes. I’ve made a commitment to participate in as many Naka Ima triads and other emotional release processes as I possibly can over the next few weeks and months to see if I can find the bottom of this hole.
I’ll let you know!
Leave a comment below and let me know your experience with Emotional Release: Have you found the bottom? Have you discovered a place where your trauma no longer holds an emotion charge?
I won’t be able to join the conversation until I return from the Grand Canyon next week. But I look forward to hearing your thoughts when I get back!