Dissociation and Connection: the Psychic Effects of a Natural Disaster
A few days ago, following several days of record rainfall, part of a mountain decided to slide down a gully that leads to the office building that I’ve been so happy to work in since last December. Fortunately it was nighttime and the area had been evacuated, so no one was there, only the building and some trees suffered.
The next morning when I saw pictures my landlord took, a hole was torn in the fabric of my life. It is a strange hole, in that nothing has happened to me physically. In someways it had less immediate impact than the leaks in my kitchen ceiling that I had been fighting all week, and finally sorted out the day before. On the other hand an area of my life had in that moment been changed, irrevocably altered by circumstances completely beyond my control.
I have talked recently with people about the dream like quality that our experience takes on when the usual references are left behind, through traveling, releasing ones family ties, or other circumstances that leave us very much in the present moment. Our waking experience usually occurs in the matrix of “normal”, or the patterns of daily life, home, work, family, friends, who we see and what we do. When this is dropped, or removed, there is a dreamlike quality to experience.
It can be interesting and fun to go to a new country and glide through it without the usual references. Though for some even this may be scary. But to have a piece of the fabric the mind so carefully weaves and tends simply cease to be, is terrifying. It is said that this lack of control is a key to an experience having a lasting traumatic impact.
I have been noticing how my being reacts to this hole in my world. There is a powerful impulse to do something, almost anything, rather than being alone with this emptiness and what it implies. Like the ants in an upset anthill, my thoughts scurry to figure out how to salvage my things, how to find new office space, how to help other people. To either repair the hole, or distract me from its presence. I recognize also the opposite impulse to sit on the sofa and watch a movie, or follow events online, somewhere between distraction and action.
A day later, after making a first attempt to get to my office, which I could see from the pictures was probably intact, I stopped at the bank and got talking with my teller. To my surprise I began to feel faint physically, light headed and slightly dizzy. I realized then how deep in my body being I have been impacted. Even another day later, writing this, I can feel emotions and energies moving in my self. Quite non-verbal and different from my usual experience of fear or anxiety.
What I know is that I need to stay with them. Not to figure them out, or fix them, but just experience them and let them flow. Like the flooding streams they will pass by in time. But only if I allow them to move through me.
Several things help. I was able later yesterday to get into my office (after the city had moved tons of earth an rock from the street below it). All my stuff is now sitting in my living room, something done, accomplished, saved. Just being there, connecting to the place physically, experiencing it directly, all the mud and rock and broken building helped ground me, to give me a bearing on what is real, to begin to replace the hole. All the people, family, friends, landlord, officemates who I met and talked with, sharing my experience also helps.
The doing releases some of the helplessness. The rest is community, the reassurance that although a part of the fabric was torn, the living threads of the people in my life where there and alive for me. I was able to meditate briefly in my space, to say hello to the natural energies that have supported me there, to thank them and say goodbye. This begins to say hello to the level beyond the physical which is still intact, and saying goodbye, even to a place, is always important.
I also take time to feel it all in my body, to slow down some of the doing, to ground myself and be present with myself and with Spirit. Then if there is something to do I can do it. Each time I let the energy rise in me, let it flow through me, I feel a little stronger and clearer afterwards. Releasing it all to Spirit I hand over the helplessness as well, deepening my trust. Wondering simply how it will play out, what doors will open as the old one closes? I balance being with doing.
Sometimes letting go is important, as is the place of being in that holiness that is undefined. When the physical and mental fabric of our life is too tightly woven we may feel safe, but perhaps we loose other things that are essential to living from our Spirit. So I wonder how fast I should replace everything. Perhaps there are new possibilities to weave into the space in the fabric?
Today I am grateful for how minimal my loss has been. I say prayers for all those who are struggling with their own losses, often much more than mine. I write a newsletter and tomorrow I start a class. I cook diner with my son. In between I sit with my body, following its feelings, grounding to the earth, feeling into the deeper web of life and love that our Spirits are part of, even when the personal/mental webs are torn apart. I am grateful for community and the practice in connecting to Spirit that makes it easier to let go and flow through even these potentially “traumatic” times.
My you all be well, safe, dry, and connected to the deep level of Spirit/Self that supports you always.