Opening The Terror Chest
A couple of weeks ago, I attended an intensive weekend of men’s work with John Wineland. I was feeling both excited and nervous at the start because I knew I was crossing a threshold into a new depth of integral work.
Friday evening was challenging, but I very much enjoyed diving into deep practice with a group of courageous men who were committed to holding the space for each other. I slept well that night and woke up the next morning ready for a long day of growth and exploration.
The day began with a challenging Chi generation exercise followed by some archetypal embodiment work. After a while, I began to feel energy moving through my body that felt much stronger, and more frightening, than anything I’d previously felt in a workshop setting.
My legs, arms, and lower jaw began uncontrollably shaking, my vision started blurring, and memories came flooding back to me, primal memories, of moments in my childhood when I experienced abandonment and terror. Within a few seconds I was sitting on a chair, barely able to follow the exercise, and giving everything I had to try and stay with the intensity of my experience.
I remember reading Robert Bly’s book Iron John a few years ago. He spoke of the area between a man’s head and genitals as being numb and locked down. I know this experience well in my chest area. It’s the armor that covers many layers of wounding and keeps the heart protected, but also closed.
During this workshop, my chest was figuratively opening. The armor was cracking, and the terror that had been stored up for years was breaking out. I tried to fight it, but my resistance was nothing more than a lace curtain in the face of this emotional cannon ball.
Opening the Terror Chest
The terror chest was opening, and there was nothing I could do about it.
The next thing I knew, I was incapacitated on my back on the floor and, in that moment, I honestly had no idea whether I would live or die – let alone walk again.
I’ve always had deep respect for people who have this kind of strong emotional reaction to doing deep inner work. In past workshops, I have admired their courage, while feeling relief that I was not having their experience, at least in that moment.
It was my turn now, though! I’d only been putting this off for 20 years, and my body had decided that enough was enough. The time had come!
As I lay there on the workshop floor, the temptation was to move into self-pity. In truth, if I could have moved, I would have hauled my ass out of the workshop and skipped the rest of the weekend.
I couldn’t move though, and with that, there was no choice but to be with my experience.
As I lay there, I felt vulnerable, helpless, abandoned, and alone. An image came to me of a child, left to starve on the streets of the Warsaw ghetto. I experienced myself as that child and felt profoundly the pain of those suffering similar fates right now in 2015.
Then came an acceptance and peace with what was happening, and I knew that all was perfect and as it was meant to be.
I needed that collapse! I had been holding things together for too long.
My lesson was that it really is okay to be vulnerable!
I don’t know how long I was laid out, but at some point I started to come back. I noticed that my breath was moving in my chest and that my heart was softening and opening.
Finally, after all these years, life was returning and permeating that numbness in my chest, and my armor was shedding. Slowly my strength returned, and I was able to get up on my feet and continue with the workshop – albeit in a slightly shaky fashion!
Over the rest of that day and the next day, I experienced the rare sacredness that comes with being open and vulnerable with a group of conscious men. I discovered the beauty of sharing my light and my darkness without fear of being shamed or judged.
I experienced a deep connection with the ancient archetypes of Warrior and King, and the long overdue shedding of some of my armor. Most of all, I came out of the weekend with a real clarity of purpose that felt grounded in my own integrity.
At the end of the weekend, I was exhausted, but at the same time I was alive in a way that I had not experienced before. The strange thing was, even though I had such a strong emotional shift, I wanted more! I still do!
I’ve started the essential work that will take my practice as a Hypnotherapist and a Coach to the level I want it at. I am already noticing the positive shift in how I am showing up for my client sessions!
I am also noticing integral shifts in other key areas of my life. I think about money in a different way now. The way I show up in my relationship is also different. I am a different father, and my son is enjoying me being more playful and present.
The way I hold myself and the way I breathe are major differences that I’ve noticed, and these two simple things make all the difference! It’s like I have cracked the old mold because my body feels totally different, like I’ve traded in a Robin Reliant for a BMW X5.
Most importantly, I have met some great men. We are forming a men’s group and I know we will serve each other powerfully. This group is essential. I have been longing for something like this. Like most men, I have at times led a life of unnecessary loneliness and isolation. That can end now.
To any men reading this: Check out John Wineland’s website www.johnwineland.com. If you want to get a taste of this work, check out the Facebook group The New Men’s Work.
You want this! Even if you don’t realise you want it – yet!