The woman behind the curtain . . .

One of the images that made a lasting impression on me from The Wizard of Oz (besides those really scary flying monkeys) is the scene when the curtain falls down and we see the little white haired man speaking into a device that turns his voice into the booming Wizard’s voice.

As a highly sensitive person, I often feel that same need to present “bigger” and “better” than my current state — be it at work, in social situations, in social media, even with family and friends. This need to be in the land of “all-rightism” as Ann Lewis, my friend in the UK describes it, can be quite tiring. Most of my life I have been told not to be so sensitive, so I became quite wary of appearing this way to others, even when I was feeling it in every bone of my body. The truth is, I am highly sensitive, and acting like I am not, well it is like wearing a big fancy costume, complete with make-up, that makes me look like the other, “normal” people.

When I interviewed Dr. Elaine Aron, psychologist, researcher and author of The Highly Sensitive Person, I told her that the first time I read her book I broke down in tears. Since then I have recommended her book to numerous people who struggle with being highly sensitive, and they always tell me that it was life changing to realize they really are okay and that there is nothing wrong with them. According to Elaine, we HSPs represent between 15-20% of the population. This is a pretty big number, so it seems to me it’s time to pull down the curtain and make ourselves known, just as we are.

Raw and Unedited

Which is why I am doing something here that is, even now, a little bit scary. I have been stuck in a creative wasteland for several weeks, and I’m going to talk about it. I decided to make a video on the spur of the moment this morning, sans make-up, nice clothes, and coiffed hair, to try to describe what I’m feeling. And I’ve decided to include it in this post, thinking that it might help a lot of people who feel like this and think they are the only one who is like that little man behind the curtain. So here goes . . .

The breakthrough I talk about in the video happened last month. I wrote about it in my other blog, so you can read about it at the link at the end of this post if you want to know more. Basically, I finally let go of the burden I’ve been carrying around for a million years (well, okay, only about 67) that I am damaged goods. Now, I have done a good deal of work, both psychological and spiritual, to let go of this. And I have made great progress, but the thing is that this was wired into me when I was pre-verbal, so it has been very hard to reach. But through this amazing 10-day EFT tapping experience, I reached it. Something so fundamental in me has changed dramatically, and my guess is that this creative wasteland I’ve been in is because I am much like a fish who has suddenly spouted legs and is walking around wondering how the heck she got on dry land, and what to do next.

When I began writing Choosing to Be in the 90’s, I was in the process of letting go of my wish to leave the planet, to kill myself. What I didn’t say in the book was that this was not the first time I had wanted to end my life. Up until that time, I had always held that escape chute near and dear to me, and I think that was what kept me going — saying to myself that “Well, if it gets too unbearable, I can just leave.” The big change that happened to me in learning to meditate was that I was able to let go of that escape chute. I learned that I could choose to be here, and that I would be able to deal with pain and suffering in a way that was new to me.

And I have done that. But since then I have continued to deal with the pain of feeling that down deep I am garbage. This has not been a constant state. It would come and go. I would be fine, then one day I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and the thought would come blasting into my head that I dare not go outside because my ugliness would repel people. Fun, uh?

The Unholy Burden of Shame

There is a name for this, it is called shame. Shame is at the bottom of the pit, below guilt, below apathy, below grief. What I gained through meditation was the understanding that this shame was not permanent, just as nothing was permanent. I learned to feel my anger, then to be willing to accept and forgive, to gain understanding about my life path, to deeply feel love and, yes, even joy. But that shame was still lurking around in the basement.

And now, I don’t care about it any more. I’m done with it. I have opened up the basement, and brought that shame out into the light. Turns out, it can’t live in the light. Who knew?

Now here is where this gets interesting, at least to me. Having let go of shame, I think that what has been happening to me these past few weeks, as I reclaim that beautiful little girl I was and share pictures of her and revel in her goodness, intelligence, spirit and beauty — I think I am grieving all those lost years, the life she wasn’t able to enjoy because she was dragging all those chains around with her.

Voila! I have actually talked and written my way out of this. . . I get it now. Grief is good. Grief is necessary. I can do grief because I know I need to honor this loss, and I know that when I do, I will be stronger for it. I am on my way out of the wasteland, and I suspect that a beautiful landscape is waiting for me just around the corner.

……………………………………….
Go to www.KatTansey.com to read the post about my breakthrough with EFT (Tapping).

Go to Finding Magic in Midlife for my interview with Dr. Elaine Aron.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Gwyn Teatro March 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Kat, you are a woman of great courage.
I loved it when you suggested that you might be moving to a different variation of yourself. It shows such possibility…and hope.
Thank you for helping me think about my own life; what variation of it I might be moving to; and what might be there :-)

Kate Trafford March 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Kat

Thank you for your courage and authenticity. Thank you for letting go of the ‘mask’ for long enough to allow your true beauty to shine through!

It does sound to me, also, as though you are going through a period of intense integration of your recent significant shifts. That is a marvellous thing – something to be embraced, perhaps even celebrated…

You described perfectly, the ‘ebb and flow’ of the creative process. Your woke up expecting ‘flow’ (creative output) and instead you found yourself to be energetically still in ‘ebb’. It has taken me a very long time to receognise this as an important part of the process, something to be honoured. Your readers will still be hear when your flow returns…!

Until then, a final sharing of my own… A few weeks ago, I saw a TED talk featuring an amazing woman named Brene Brown on ‘The Power of Vulnerablity’. If you haven’t already seen it, I strongly recommend you take a look. It had such a profound impact on me that I watched it over and over, and then shared it on my blog. You can find my post, including a link to the talk itself, here: http://katetrafford.typepad.com/cruisecontrol/2011/01/getting-real-on-the-road.html. I hope that it will resonate with you as fully as it did me.

Love, KATE x

Wayne McEvilly March 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Kat Tansey-
As I read your words these words came to my mind- this is HONEST COMPELLING COURAGEOUS APPLICABLE USEFUL & LOVING -
I am thumbnail typing this on a blackberry so will not go on-have to get back to the mac to see video-
I have heard your voice & you don’t have to raise it.
Wayne

Kat March 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Gwen,
Thank you for your kind comment — it’s nice to know I may have said something that helps you think about your own life.

I am a big fan of your blog at http://gwynteatro.wordpress.com/ and always look forward to reading your new posts.

Love,
Kat

Kat March 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Kate,

So interestingthat you shared the TED talk of Brene Brown — I too was struck by what she said and wanted to know more. Her book “I Thought It Was Just Me” quite literally kept me up almost all night – I couldn’t put it down. I think her words were resonating in my thoughts when I was writing my post and talking about shame. She is a serious researcher on shame, empathy and vulnerability, but her book is written just like she talks, and is filled with great stories and practical steps.

I enjoyed reading your blog posts, and got a good laugh out of the story about the bus:)

Are you on twitter? If so, connect with me there. My twitter name is kattansey.

Great words – integration, ebb and flow — they are quite comforting…

Love,
Kat

Kat March 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Wayne,

I appreciate so much that you hear me, because I know how you listen with your heart.

Your music and your mission touch so many lives — I love seeing your smiling face on your website — it reminds me about how much good there is in the world :) http://www.waynemcevilly.com

Love,
Kat

Kate Trafford March 23, 2011 at 12:14 am

Hi Kate,

I’m not on Twitter, but you and I are connected on Facebook, which is where I saw your link. I’m so glad I did.

And now I have a new book to order…! :-)

Kate x

Anne March 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Kat – Thank you for sharing your experience & your vulnerability with us. What is truly a “shame” is that we are taught from a very young age that being vulnerable and being sensitive are “bad”. That being tough and unemotional are “good”. I like to imagine the possibilities for this world if and when all her inhabitants can just be. Thank you for being you – authentically.

A fellow traveler on this journey of life & learning,

Anne

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