I recently went to Barcelona and what should have been a super relaxed 5 day break in one of the most inspiring cities of Europe, turned into a rather nightmarish event. On the first day of our trip I had felt anxious about my bag, so I’d been watching it like a hawk all day…
I felt there was theft in the air or maybe it was a premonition. I felt unsafe and in the eve, while out to dine, my bag got stolen with everything in it, as usual in one split second of not watching it. I only had my mobile left. I’d never thought I could be so happy with just a mobile phone left! My friend kind of lost the plot, but I handled all quite quickly. (I’d been there before unfortunately.)
We went to the policestation and a few hours later we came back to the hotel to hear my bag was found, but empty. We encountered a girl at reception at the same time, you could she she was in shock. She’d just been mugged as well. She had stopped at a traffic light in the centre of Barcelona to find a gun pointed at her head. They took her car with everything in it. She was left with ‘just’ her life. We comforted her, and I realized it could have been so much worse.
The next day we went to the Dutch embassy and on our way back, armed with my new temporary passport with the worlds worst picture on it, I was grabbed at the undergound by a man, who tried to force himself upon me. It was 2pm and there were people everywhere. Now I’ve been through this kind of abuse many times before, and I’ve never before been able to defend myself. I would always freeze… but not this time. This time, with recent developements in embracing anger as fuel for change… I unexpectedly became very angry. In fact it felt like the Hulk came out, I was not again going to become a victim and in a flash I hit the guy without thinking twice, as hard as I could and gave him a good push and had he not walked away, I would have kept hitting him in real Hulk-style. ( note to the reader: I hit him with my shoppingbag, so he didn’t really get hurt that much. But it scared him off.)
Although I absolutely hate any type of fighting or violence, I felt so good that I had been able to defend myself for the first time ever. I realized that all those years of hard work, years spent on forgiveness and release of pain, guilt and shame (see ‘Forgive and Forget’ in the media section) had made me strong, I really had changed. Victory… you see, sometimes ‘bad’ things happen, so you can actually relive something in a new way. A way that makes you stronger! But it didn’t end there… does it ever?
What happened next was actually quite unexpected. That night, the still stored and locked subconscious fears and vulnerability came out. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was fainting, choking… One of my worst anxiety attacks ever. It had been many many years since I’d had one. I wanted to go back into freeze-mode, to numb but I knew that this was my chance to go through it, to release it. this was my chance to heal all of it. So I stayed with it in stead of trying to suppress it or go back into ‘freeze’ mode. I knew I had all the knowledge and tools to deal with it.
I was fine during the days, but each night the fears would resurface and each night I would allow it, I would cry, shiver, hide, and allow all the bad memories to come back and be released. I felt so incredibly vulnerable at those moments, but I just had to go through it. I used only one technique, to sit and breathe and to allow… It wasn’t easy but it had to be done. As soon as we left Barcelona, I could sleep again.
But back in England the anxiety attacks kept arising at unexpected moments, usually when somewhere alone and an unknown man was around. I really had not expected this, but it also felt I got the chance to deal with this one last time. It was now or never. So I set myself a task, I would go out alone each weak and make sure I would encounter my fear every single time. I had big and small panick attack after panick attack the first few times and I just allowed them. QWuickly they became easier and easier.
I noticed other patterns showing up from the far past: I’d gotten back into wearing loose shirts with high collars, and loose trousers, I’d stopped salsa dancing, I’d stopped going out… I was going back into hiding mode. Something I’d done for many years in my twenties and early thirties. Trying to be unnoticed at all times. Hiding my light so I wouldn’t get hurt anymore. I was determined for this not to happen though and I made myself drop this pattern too. Steady but surely after a few weeks of discipline in facing my fears, I noticed one evening that I’d been completely free of any anxiety. It had just exited via the backdoor.
Still I felt it wasnt quite over yet. I felt the need to do something with the anger that got unlocked. I knew part of it was there waiting to come out. I wanted to use it to empower me even more. So now I’m back at practicing body-combat. I haven’t been able to exercise in a gym since my carcrash three years ago, and I still can’t do a full hour without my head starting to hurt but… when we punch and kick in class, well… I see the face of that man in Barcelona in front of me and boy, it’s good to let this anger come out within the safety of the gym. I never knew I had it in me, and I’m still surprised each time that it is still there and that I can use it to make myself stronger.
I’m sharing this because all of you, who have been victims, need to know that anger… when it gets locked in the body, turns into depression or hate and eventually developes into illnessess that can kill you. It’s neccesary to deal with your anger. Its neccesary to let it out and it will free the pain underneath so you can become peaceful again. Anger is an amazing energizer and great fuel for change when we use it with wisdom.
It reminded me of a dream I had some time ago: I was standing at my door and all these people, friends and strangers were coming into my house and they kept taking all the things that I loved away. I would ask them not to do so, but they would laugh at me and say; ‘but we know you won’t fight, we know you love peace so we are just going to take it’, and in the dream I ended up with an empty house, stripped to the core.’ That dream would end different now… and so… I thank the man in the underground that grabbed me, and the man that stole my bag… because these two events ignited the strength inside to fight for what is rightfully mine. I can defend myself when it is appropriet and it allowed me to heal many years of abuse in unexpected ways. It made me so much more healthy.
We know nothing, but life…. life is wise, if we are willing to trust it, even in our darkest moments… how hard it may be, trust is all we have. May all of you trust and embrace what is given, and move forward more empowered.
( I did have backup, it’s always good to have back up just in case. To Max: thank you for your bigger then life & heartfelt presence…)