– Manon McPeters, Seattle
I am, by nature, a very fearful person. Growing up, I was so scared, of so many things that I felt incapacitated by that feeling. I soon decided that that level of crippling fear wasn’t working for me, so I learned how to shut it off. I figured out that if I pushed it away hard enough, I could disconnect from the feeling of fear. That became my superpower, and throughout my teens I carefully honed my identity as “the fearless one”. I am so grateful that I learned how to escape my fear. I would have been paralyzed otherwise. However, the problem with un-feeling so completely, is that over time, you forget how to feel at all. I became so good at turning off my emotions that I began to believe I didn’t have any at all. I resorted to self-injury and an eating disorder as physical outlets for the storms inside me I no longer knew how to acknowledge.
I became so good at turning off my emotions that I began to believe I didn’t have any at all.
A huge part of my recovery has involved reacquainting myself with my emotions– all of them– and reclaiming the power in feeling deeply. But still, I often struggle to find a middle ground between closed-off, hyper-composure, and freezing in the face of feeling. Gray area has never come naturally to me.
One day, one of my sister-friends Kysa and I were on a hike. I was a newly-trained yoga teacher, and in the midst of creating flyers and websites and making myself known as a teacher. When we came up to a rocky outcropping, I saw an epic, dramatic, yoga-advertisement photo in the making. I begged and pleaded and coerced Kysa into playing photographer for me, and then scrambled off toward the rock. As I got closer, I realized there would be a bit more rock climbing involved that I anticipated to get up there, but Fearless-Manon didn’t care! I started climbing. The whole way up, I had the idea that the far side of the rock had similar exposure to the side I was on. Some short drops, but nothing extreme. If I fell it would only be maybe 10 feet before I hit something. Working with that assumption, I flung my leg over the top, and went to pull myself up and over onto the other side. I got almost halfway over before my head cleared to top and I could see where I was hoisting my body. As it turned out, the back side of the rock wasn’t a gradual slope at all! It was a sheer drop all the way to the bottom of the mountain! I felt a jumpy flicker of fear in my belly. I scampered up onto the small, flat space at the top of the rock. Then I remembered I still needed to do a sexy yoga pose! I looked at the sharp drop a few inches to my left. I looked down at Kysa, waiting expectantly with the camera down to my right. “I’m not scared!” I snapped to myself, before pressing up into Wheel Pose. As soon as I came into the pose, a GIANT LIGHTNING BOLT of terror hit me. My heart started racing, I wanted to throw up, my whole body started shaking. But then, I started feeling my feet grounding down into the rock, anchoring me. My body wasn’t going to let me fall. I took a breath, and felt my chest open, and my heart unguard. And there I was. Terrified, and feeling.
But then, I started feeling my feet grounding down into the rock, anchoring me. My body wasn’t going to let me fall. I took a breath, and felt my chest open, and my heart unguard. And there I was. Terrified, and feeling.
For me, reconnecting with my body has been a powerfully healing step in reclaiming my emotions. Even if my mind can convince me that I don’t feel anything, my body still knows what’s really going on. I am becoming more and more skilled at noticing how my body feels along my whole emotional spectrum. Embodiment also serves as an anchor, when I feel like I’m being blown away by my emotions. If I stop feeling when I’m in a handstand, or climbing up onto Mt. Terror, I’ll fall. But when I trust my body, it lets me do amazing things, and that feels so so good.