This blog is the transcript of Episode #60 of “Under 10: A Mini Podcast on Intimacy”. Listen along here.

Last week I finished a five-part series on asking for what you want in intimacy.  This week I’m going to level with you.  Episode 60 is going to be real talk about feeling down, struggling, getting triggered, checking out, feeling alone and losing hope. In short, all about feeling fucked up.  That’s right, this episode earns an “explicit” rating. I’m going to be explicit with you about this experience.

First and foremost, from my perspective, there’s one main problem with being fucked up.  The problem is that we don’t talk about it.  Or we rarely do.  I know I don’t share a fraction of my lowest times with my FB feed, but definitely share a high percentage of my best times, which is pretty much the norm.  So that creates a very weird illusion, the one that conveys to the world that we are doing better than we actually are.  I guarantee, if there was some social permission slip that said, okay no one will judge you if you admit the kind of dark, down thoughts you think in your head, and we all made that post on FB on the same day, you would see your own most extreme despair reflected in others’ thoughts and feelings. And then you could exhale, and realize, ahhh, I’m not the only one! I thought I was but I’m not!

In an effort to help us dispel shame around our process, my intimacy coaching program essentially created that permission slip.  During our training, we had a Facebook group with the title, “I’m Fucked Up”. It was a private group for the students where, when we were having our lowest days or felt lost in one way or another, we could post our experience and be seen, heard and validated by the mentors in the program.

I’m pretty sure I never posted on that page.  But I needed to. And I never forgot that permission slip.

In this time of global conflict, continued pandemic-inspired divide and major consciousness shifts, I know a lot of us are looking for help. And a lot of teachers and guides are offering solutions.  Let me make something clear. I don’t feel I have big answers for you here. But I’m going to join you in asking a lot of questions. Oh, and also admitting something to you. Lately, I have been seriously fucked up.

Now, most people who know me know that when I’m wrecked, I will still show up for my clients and exercise and keep the house clean and eat well.  It’s in the quiet, deep recesses of my mind and the voices that live there where my darkness flourishes.  I start to feel major doubts, convince myself how alone I am, replay the meanest things people have said to me, revisit childhood wounds and I’m gone. So gone.  Hopelessness sets in, then bitterness, anger and rage have a turn, and the cycle goes round and round until I fall asleep.  Sleep is usually my best refuge, in addition to all of the other things I attempt to soothe myself.  Sometimes they help. In my toughest times, it feels like almost nothing does.

So let me acknowledge here that I am someone people look to for support, and I have just told you, sometimes I feel I can barely support myself.  What happens for you when you hear me admit this?

There’s this thing that can shift when people who we think have it together admit that they don’t. Something about the way our brains organize goes from an “all or nothing” style of thinking to something more complex and nuanced.  Something that allows for opposites to co-exist.  Something that sees that strength and struggle could go hand in hand. Something that embraces the possibility that someone could be competent and be falling apart all at once.  Some dawning that may include seeing yourself and your own struggles not as problems or deficits that mean there is something wrong with you, but as experiences that connect you with humanity in a deep, important way.

If we only ever show each other our outsides, then we risk shame shutting us down.  The voice that believes that you could be the only one who is this broken.  But when we show one another our insides, as scary as that can be, and admit – “Me too, I’m totally fucked up today!” – we allow ourselves and others to be complex and full of contradictions and no longer isolated.

This episode, in large part, is about reminding us how connected we are.  Beginning with the permission to admit, if this is true for you, that you have been feeling totally fucked up.  I have just written your permission slip, so go ahead, savor it, the freedom to admit what’s true and to say to the shame monster, nope, you don’t win.  Because if Jessica is fucked up, and she’s pretty cool, then I can be fucked up and still be lovable too!  Go ahead, and make sure to tell your shame, I’m a doctor and I know things so it must be true.

With one of the couples I coach who are going through an especially challenging time, the assignment I gave the husband recently is to tell his wife every day, “There’s nothing wrong with you – it’s the stress you’re under and it’s not you”. During our last session, when he said that to her, she stopped shaming herself. It was like her lights came back on, her eyes opened more fully and she started breathing again. So I decided to have him dose those words to her like a daily multi-vitamin. I’ll find out next week if they are actually doing the assignment.  I hope so. The shame that can sit on top of feeling hurt is what takes the hurt into that worse place, that hopeless place.  No one should fall into that. Not when we are so capable of catching one another through the simple acts of listening and giving permission.

Thomas Huebl is an author, teacher and facilitator who wrote the book, Healing Collective Trauma, in which he offers tools for all of us to heal collectively and individually.  Thomas teaches that we are each part of the same global nervous system and also part of a global immune system.  As in, we all have the capacity to feel reverberations of the same things that affected the people who came before us, and the people who are alongside us, too. That we are feeling something collectively when we are in pain. It’s not just ours.  And it’s not just us.

This notion has given me solace and been another way that I have fought back my own shame at feeling down about my life and world events.  The weight of what I am feeling is not just my own. What I am feeling is something many others are feeling, even if mine has a particular flavor unique to me. And – this may seem like a stretch to you, but try it on – what we each do in connection to our own personal nervous system impacts the larger, collective nervous system.  That may seem hard to grasp, but you might simply imagine that when you give yourself permission and space to feel what you are feeling – without demeaning yourself – it means that you are much more able to be in relationship to other people. Shame cuts you off. Feeling brings you back.  When you come back, you are another living link in the human chain of connection.  And that return strengthens us all.

My dreams have been vivid lately, and some of them, painful.  At the end of a particularly disturbing, recent dream, as I was waking, I heard a dream voice ask, “What does it mean to be human?” And then I heard a similar voice answer, “To feel and to care”.  Though the majority of the night my dream sequences had been fraught, I woke grateful for the clarity of that voice and the power of that knowing.

To feel and to care. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. I think when we give ourselves permission to hurt and to be all sorts of fucked up – and to do that together – that we have a much greater chance of shifting from numbed by shame to feeling again. That’s the care part.  Thomas Huebl says that when we can feel, we are more able to be response-able.  As in, able to respond to our worlds, and even feel our responsibility to our worlds.  I wish that capacity for all of us.

For homework, share this podcast with someone in your life.  Admit to them, “I’ve been fucked up lately.  Can you listen to this and can we talk about it?”  See what kind of honest, open conversations come out when you each feel that permission slip.  Then write me and tell me how it feels. I’d love to hear from you, so that I too know that I am not the only one.

Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash