Finding my voice and using it
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
'There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen' ~ Rumi
At some point in my life, I began to disconnect from my own inner guidance. I don't know exactly when this happened. My sense is that it was some time very early on in my childhood. So early, in fact that I don't even remember it happening. I don't think that it was a sudden or stark moment that this disconnect occurred. I believe it happened very slowly and subtly, with a large number of repeated, seemingly 'small' experiences that continued to tell me that what I was feeling inside was wrong, inaccurate and simply not ok. These experiences occurred within my family of origin, the culture I was living in, the people around me, systems, institutions and basically anyone and anything in my life that caused me to question my reality, my connection with myself and what my inner voice was telling me. Like a frog dying in a pot of slowly boiling water, it happened so slowly and so subtly that I didn't even know it was occurring. Eventually, I just believed without question that this was the way I was meant to be living. Self betrayal, looking outside of myself and asking others for validation became second nature to me. It also began to slowly kill me.
With time, I came to realize how so much of the chronic pain I was experiencing (physical, emotional and spiritual) came from being deeply disconnected from myself - having no sense of what is going on inside, constantly having to ask others for advice and validation and needing to repeatedly be told 'what to do' and how to live. The degree of stress placed on my body from existing this way began to slowly erode my health and vitality. It created a build up of anger and resentment inside of me that continued to grow, contributing, I'm sure, to the onset of my autoimmune thyroiditis, as well as my chronic depression and anxiety. It manifested as a profound feeling of emptiness and directionless-ness that I attempted to fill through success, achievement, workaholism, food, using substances and relationship addiction. Suppressing and ignoring my own inner voice became a lifestyle that, while perhaps giving me a sense of outer belonging, surface level connection and a false sense of control, erased any relationship and connection that I had with my authentic self. I lost myself. And it was such a subtle process that I didn't even know that I had. Until I did - and then it became starkly apparent to me.
The process of returning home to myself and beginning to speak my truth has felt deeply foreign to me. Most of the time, it feels like stumbling blocks - extremely ungraceful, awkward and agonizing explorations of a foreign and strange new terrain. In order to mend my relationship with myself I have had to begin to explore how the disconnect even happened in the first place and that has come with it's own massive grieving process - truly seeing and understanding how ingrained toxic belief patterns of self neglect and self sacrifice are programmed into each one of us from a young age. It has taken me many years (and counting) to begin to reclaim my voice and to say a firm (literal or metaphoric) 'no' when faced with pressure to ignore or deny my truth. It means having difficult conversations and risking the fear of potentially losing important relationships, or even being viewed as different or 'other than'. This is not an easy road and in many instances I've felt like it would just be much easier to stick my head in the sand and 'back off', go back to the way I was living, in self neglect, self denial, people pleasing and appeasing.
For the most part, I don't think the world makes it easy and/or safe for us to be authentic. We are pack animals. We desperately want to 'fit in' and to have connection, which of course, makes perfect sense. For myself, it has been important for me to understand how much of my self abandonment has come from a place of survival and from a deep, instinctual urge to preserve attachment and connection to others. Out of a desperate effort to have control or to create some semblance of safety in my life, people pleasing or 'fawning' (a trauma response where you adapt to the sense of what you believe others want you to do) became second nature to me. I became very brilliant at becoming what I believed the person in front of me wanted me to be. The fear of rejection, abandonment and loss of connection was so great, that I became a brilliant chamelian, adapting beautifully to every environment that I found myself in. This stategy would be quite successful if it didn't come with the deadly outcome of completely losing myself in the process.
Then there has been the chronic disconnect from my body. So much of how we experience our 'gut instinct' as human beings is through the connection that we have with our bodies but, as a society, we are chronically and pathologically disconnected from them. This disembodiment is trained into us. Don't cry. Don't slow down. Don't feel. Emotions are inconvenient in our society and we are given ample methods to numb, disconnect and ignore our emotional worlds and many reasons to feel ashamed of them. Since emotions exist within the body, it makes sense that we would then choose to disconnect. How can we not, given our fast paced lifestyles and cultural demands that we 'keep up' lest we fall behind, fail to be producers and consumers, and become 'unproductive' members of society.
For me, my internal guidance system is intricately linked to my body and to my felt sense - all of which I disconnected from at an early age out of survival. The light bulb went on very recently and I realized that it is impossible to expect myself to know what I want, need, how I feel or what is right for me if I do not take the time to pause, breathe and connect with myself and my body. In a way, it's as though I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off - only in this case, my 'head' refers to my second brain, my gut feeling, my enteric nervous system, my felt sense, my body. Beginning to connect with myself in this way has started to make my life so much easier because I finally have an anchor from which to exist from. A baseline. A grounded navigation system. Though, it has taken time and experimentation to begin to trust my body, that it speaks my truth and that it will never give me more than I can handle.
Another massive ‘aha’ moment for me has been waking up to the ways that I had been outsourcing my power, my autonomy and my decision making over to systems. I do not blame myself for this either. Once again, it was how I was programmed to exist. The notion that ‘experts’, systems and institutions know best and are able to make the best decisions for me was societally ingrained in me from an early age. It was to the point that I would completely deny and self-gaslight my own reality, knowledge and inner knowing simply because my experiences weren't recognized and/or fit into the boxes utilized within these systems. Like everything else, this occurred over a long period of time, without my conscious awareness or questioning. I assumed that because what I was experiencing wasn't recognized within conventional frameworks that it must not be real, or that there must be something deeply wrong with me.
Of course, there is value in accessing supports from individuals trained in specific fields. Guidance is important, and utilizing professionals who have information and resources that we don't have on our own can be very supportive. The problem is that we are trained to completely deny our own truth in support of the structure of these systems. We are socialized in our culture to ignore our own intuition in favour of what we are told by people in positions of power, despite what we know and how we feel inside. We are taught that we don't have the answers and that we need to look outside of ourselves to obtain them. We give away our power and our own inner knowing. We trust systems to have our best interest in mind, all the while disconnecting from our intrinsic internal knowing. And when we ‘challenge’ these systems by simply asking questions or communicating their limitations, we are often met with disbelief, denial and rejection.
Beginning to connect to my inner self, my authentic self, has meant learning to truly trust myself again, learning how to set boundaries and use my voice, even despite the deep discomfort of invalidation and potential alienation that come along with it.
As a trauma survivor, a woman and a highly sensitive, intuitive being, being silenced, in one way or another, has been a large part of my life story. I am learning every single day how to speak up for myself, stand my ground and know that I do in fact know what I'm talking about.
To firmly stand in our authentic truth, our intuition, our knowing can feel threatening for existing power structures. Speaking up is not an easy task - especially when socially accepted ways of being are typically not questioned. It means saying 'no, I'm not going to live that way' even when others around you are. This is scary. We need to honour how scary this is.
What I want to say to myself and to anyone else who has felt disconnected, silenced, belittled or shamed into ignoring their inner knowing is this:
I'm sorry that that has been your experience. I'm sorry that your truth was denied. I'm sorry that you were made to feel as though how you felt, what you sensed and what you believed was not sufficient to make decisions for yourself. I'm sorry that you had to disconnect from yourself in order to survive. I’m sorry that you were raised in a culture that taught you how to ignore numb and abandon yourself.
But I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're still going. I'm glad that you've found the resources within yourself to continue despite what you have been told and the ways you’ve been dismissed. If you can do that, despite it all, you can do anything.
And we really can - we can do anything. But first we have to recognize how we are allowing structures and belief systems to keep us from doing it.
Thanks for reading and for existing.
Reilly Scott is a singer/songwriter, blogger, yoga teacher and facilitator residing in Kenora, Ontario. She is passionate about combining trauma informed practice and body based healing modalities with the arts to support psycho-education, health and wellbeing.
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