One of the essays in Engaging the Spirit World was a piece on Inner Alchemy, by Taylor Ellwood and it, combined with the Norse concept of a person having multiple souls, got me thinking about the self as an animistic community.
In the past, I’ve met parts of myself during trance – most notably as something like a soul retrieval and as a monster that I had to overcome – but until now, I’d not considered myself as a complex spiritual being made from the co-operation of discrete parts, physical, mental and spiritual.
Given that I’ve had more trouble than usual with this particular part of myself, I set out on a journey to meet my Anxiety and try to talk some sense into them (myself? Us?)
I settle into the trance and find myself on the beach that I usually start from. Instead of climbing the cliff or entering the cave, I stay on the beach and reach out, inviting Anxiety to meet me where I am. I take a step forward and she remains behind – she lives in my back and shoulders, after all.
I turn to face her and she looks much as I once did: chubby, hunched and quiet, hiding behind long dark hair and dark clothes. She is afraid. Of cruelty. Of punishment. Of me. She worries that I hate her. That I’m angry with her. That I might raise my voice and crush her beneath my rage. I remember these feelings so close and clear, and it breaks my heart to see her so scared.
I sit on the sand – cool and damp under my jeans – and invite her to sit with me, but she’s hesitant. The sand is unclean; it might have germs. I lay a blanket out for her and she sits next to me, looking out to sea. We don’t make eye contact.
I tell her I don’t hate her, that I’m grateful to her. She keeps me alive. She keeps me safe. She protects me and makes sure I shore myself up against an uncertain future. But her absence from my body make me taller, more confident. I like the way I feel when she isn’t there, and she knows it.
I lie down on the sand and she lies back on the blanket. We hold hands, our fingers entwined, and watch gulls wheel through the clear azure sky.
Thank you, I say, for helping me save money. “It’s not enough,” her face twists with worry. How much would be enough? She can’t answer me.
“I doesn’t want us to get hurt. I don’t want us to die,” she says, changing the subject. We must die eventually, I say. She starts crying and I wish I had the words to say what I need to without hurting her.
Eventually we’ll die, I say, but not now. Right now, we have friends who have proved – time and time again – that they love us. We have a home, a job, a career, a relationship. Things are good and we should enjoy them while they last.
“We will never find such a good job again,” she says. Maybe, but we can cope with less money, that’s why we’re saving – because you thought ahead and got us to save.
“Our friends are lying,” she says. Then they are world class actors.
“Our relationship will fall apart,” she says, “transitioning will destroy it. The future -” I interrupt: the future is never certain, that’s why it’s scary. But right now, we have warmth and sunshine, and friends and family. Just breathe, we’ll cope with whatever comes.
“I don’t want to die.”
You won’t, I say, I need you. Every time I cross the road, every time I pull out into moving traffic. Every time I make a choice, I need to know what could go wrong. But you’re so powerful right now. It’s too much; it’s overwhelming. I need you to take a step back. I need you to give us space. You will always be there, but you don’t have to work so hard. I need you to trust me that I won’t kill us all. Please. How can I get you to trust me?
But she is gone. The blanket is empty and my fingers entwined with nothing. When I return to my body, my shoulders relax. For now, Anxiety is gone.
But I meant what I said – I love her and I need her. I trust her to keep me safe and I hope she can trust me to keep her safe. For now, though, I breathe deeply and relax into today.
Looking back, three weeks later, and my anxiety has been much more manageable. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence, but a lot of the stressors that had been getting to me really haven’t gone anywhere. I call that a resounding success!
I know I still have a lot of work to do in terms of finding a balance and I’m still prone to catastrophising, but I genuinely feel better since doing this. I think that, by meeting Anxiety and talking with her, we’re starting to forge something closer to a working relationship. We are all in this together, after all.