In a stressful or confrontational situation my first inclination is to hide, run away, become invisible. Sometimes physically, sometimes metaphorically. Even after that situation has stopped it takes a lot of courage for me to stop hiding.
For years I’ve known that I’ve hidden behind masks (pre-exchange to Thailand) and behind a thick emotional wall that rarely let anyone in. I conceptualised people in my life as belonging to various circles of closeness. Being aware of who had made it past which protective wall and could be trusted with what aspect of my true self. Heart family, spirit family. There’s a very, very sensitive core inside that not many people see, extroverted introvert.
However, this morning, after a particularly trying, and in various ways lonely, couple of days I realised that actually, behind that wall that I always knew was there is also a set of caves.
This is where I hide. The wall keeps people out, I hide in the caves. (Yay Moon in Cancer!). Anytime that I feel like I’m a disappointment to someone, any aggressive situation, some noisy situations, particular tones of voice, or facial expressions, any time I don’t acknowledge what I need for emotional support and plough on through pretending it’s all OK or don’t get what I need for emotional support when I do know what it is, or feel that someone has completely and unfairly misjudged me, I retreat into these caves.
This morning I realised I was a few levels down.
On the other hand at least I realised it, which has helped in coaxing me back out again, looking at the fears and needs. Taking some actions, like calling girlfriends.
Looking back there are entire periods of my life where I’ve lived obliviously in these safe, warm caves. The caves which prevent me from actually dealing with issues or forming deep relationships.
The flip-side to this (thanks Leo Rising!) is that I’m also really good at the facade of not hiding, to be safe you can’t actually let anyone know that you’re hiding, they might try to drag you out or attack you. Stoicism, pretending I’m coping, being gregarious, very chatty, a social butterfly, being efficient or logical can all be smokescreens to the fact that I’m retreating further into those caves. Crab-like. Not always, but they do sometimes form this function.
In some ways it does feel like a crab by the seaside. Scuttling away under a rock at the first hint of danger, and then slowly, checking at every step, inching back out into the light, always ready to hide again.
It’s a trust thing. Trusting it’s OK to come back out. Love will do it, as will compassion, geneuine friendship and demonstration that someone notices and cares, certain places draw me back out, as do certain practices (morning cafes) and habits. The sense that I am safe and am in control enough that I won’t disappoint anyone, or myself. I’m realising how much of my life is predicated on not really trusting that anyone actually cares or notices.
On the plus side, I’m writing this out and sharing it, rather than hiding it away again. Metaphors help in many, many ways.