Dear Friends, Drodzy Przyjaciele, Cari Amici,
The other day I was listening to a talk being given by Deepak Chopra and he used the phrase “The Prison of the Known”, and it brought to the surface something I want to share with you, because I was an Inmate of that Prison for many years. It often happens for me that a phrase from a book, or a concept that I hear someone speaking about will jump to my mind and suddenly I feel the urge and the capacity to express my personal experience and/or understanding of it. It is very similar to how I painted…I would see an image or a form and suddenly it would become a Platform from which my own Communication sprang forth.
So, back to this Prison called “The Known”. For me it was like this: In my Childhood, everything was predictably Dreadful. The one thing I could be Certain of was that my father would be Cruel and my mother would Look the Other Way. That was what I KNEW for sure. There were Countless times as a Child that I HOPED that things would be different, but Hope never Freed me from that Prison, in fact it Fortified my Prison because this Hope Very Predictably FAILED to deliver what it ever so Quietly Promised it would do. Failed Hope was part of My Prison of the Known.
What happened as a result of so many years of Predictable Abuse and Torture was that my Capacity to Survive Grew in proportion to the Growing Intensity of Every Form of Violence inflicted on me. It was all I knew. I knew how to Predict, Endure and Survive. Round and Around…Deeper and Deeper in Circular Ruts of Survival that Led Nowhere but to More Survival.
Now, leap forward with me to when I am in my 40’s. I am living far from my childhood home and country. After a horrendous assault in the commune I was living in I have a total mental breakdown. Every Survival Tool has Crumbled, except for a faint hint of Courage. Besides being very ill with a sexually transmitted disease from my childhood that had come out of remission, I am diagnosed with severe mental disability. I am moved to another City and given room and board and am given victim services and begin to see Dr. A.
I got a membership to a big sports complex where I could go swimming, which is something that I loved. Clean water was always comforting to me. This was a huge sports complex, with a gigantic parking lot. I think it would be accurate to say that there were over 1000 parking spots in this lot. The women’s locker room was huge with about five hundred lockers available. Because I always went right when it opened at 5:00 a.m., I could choose to park in any spot and I could use any locker I wanted.
Well…Theoretically I could Choose! But I was still a Prisoner of the Known. I was Obsessed with the need to park in the exact same spot and use the exact same locker every morning. I tried to drive at exactly the same time and go the same speed so I would be in MY parking spot at exactly the same minute every morning.
I would enter the locker room and race to get the exact same locker. I swam in the same lane. I did the exact number of laps each day. Get the point? I was a Prisoner. Out of every experience or need, I would Create something Predictable because that was the only way I could Endure and Survive Life, and this need for everything to be Known was not only about Abusive or Dreadful things, it also extended to being Necessary regarding everything else, even those things that I enjoyed or people that I loved.
One day when I got to the pool 10 minutes later than usual because of road detours, someone had parked in My spot and I was sick with Dismay, I felt Dizzy and Angry and Scared and Hurt. I felt like I was in Danger and that this was a Dire Emergency! It didn’t matter that there were HUNDREDS of other places to park, all that mattered was that my Predictable, Known spot was not available. I remember being Frozen in my Car, Unable to Move. My Brain had what felt like a Seizure.
I can’t remember if I was even able to go into the facility to swim that morning or not, but I remember being suddenly Awakened to how Insane and how Imprisoning this dilemma was. For a Moment I became Aware that I was in a Bizarre Trap or Prison. I could See with my Eyes that I was surrounded by Places I could Park, yet in my Brain, in my Survivor Pattern, there was only ONE spot, and it had to be That One. In my next session with Dr. A. I told him all about what had happened and how I realized how Insane my behavior was and how I wanted help with it and how much it Scared me to See My Craziness and Feel the Bars of the Prison in my Brain.
We talked about this deeply embedded pattern in my daily life, and how limiting it was. I remember sobbing for a long time, and feeling the Shame of Insanity and the Uncertainty of whether I would be able to Change or not. Dr. A. suggested that perhaps for awhile I just try to park in different spots each day and use different lockers and see how I feel about it. It became sort of an assignment, an Experiment with Myself. One of the things I often Cried to Dr. A. was that I desperately wanted to “Be Normal” and I knew things like this Extreme Need for the Known was not “Normal”. He never encouraged me to do anything except be Me. He never defined what “normal” was, and never agreed with me that there was such a thing. Looking back I see that he was so wise and so right.
The next morning I very cautiously parked in a “new” spot. I used a “new” locker. It did not feel good, except in that I was proud that I was able to do it. The next day I did it again, and the next day again. And within a week I was absolutely Obsessed with parking in a Different spot and and using a Different locker! But I was not getting Saner! I had managed to now make this new behavior into a Predictable Prison, because now I felt so Out of Control and Off Balance even at the thought of parking in the same spot two days in a row!
My next session with Dr. A. was a very painful one, as I sobbed through my experience of Not Being Able to Free Myself From Prison Even When the Doors Are Wide Open!
His kindness, his compassion, the way he so wisely stood by me never wavered as I went through all these stages of healing. Eventually as my healing went into the Depths, I slowly, slowly Emerged from the Prison of the Known. Now I am actually able to Enjoy Exploring places and roads and shops and cities and ideas and relationships and jobs and foods that are Unknown and therefore New and Freeing for me.
I have to stay conscious every day, and pay attention to when I am under stress of any kind because this old pattern can Surface quickly. When it does, I flood that part of my Soul and Psyche with Kisses and Embraces and Complete Acceptance and then it does not take long for it to Breathe and Trust again. Healing is a Gift, it is a Process and it is a Commitment. Our Healing affects one another deeply.
You Readers of My Heart are a Magnificent Unknown to me and I thank you for Being Friends that help to Keep me from returning to The Prison that took me so many years to Leave.
Your Sister, Twoja Siostra, Tua Sorella
Gabriel Orion Marie