the opposite of trapped

For months, one of my girlfriends has patiently had the same damn conversation with me.

“Okay,” I’ll tell her. “This shit that will never change is pissing me off and now it’s definitely time to bail. That’s it.”

“And will you have learned what you need to learn here, if you just bail?” she’ll ask.

“No,” I’ll grumble. “No, I won’t.”

Sigh.

The Tuesday before last, I was trapped. For hours.

What I experienced as “trapped” might not have felt that way to other people. What other people might or might not have experienced is irrelevant, though;

with my specific history of trauma, this was “trapped,”

and I experienced it as a depth of pain

light years beyond “excruiciating.”

After I became physically un-trapped, talking about it with a couple dear friends helped.

Some.

I recently wrote about my alexithymia, or my inability to understand or articulate my feelings. Unable to understand my feelings, I’ve also been historically unable to act appropriately on them. Among other catastrophes, this inability to interpret my feelings as a signal that something needs to change has led to me repeatedly acting out those unnamable feelings in unskillful ways.

It was only thanks to my recent work to diminish my alexithymia that I was able to understand that terrible Tuesday feeling as “trapped.”

It was only thanks to that work that I was able to ask myself, “In this context, what might one do to resolve the ‘trapped’ feeling?”

Knowing to ask the question,
and asking it, I found one
solid, workable answer.

From the seat of the muscle car he’d soon be renting me, the manager trainee gave me a quizzical look. I’d just said “yes” to the third or fourth optional protection he offered.

“You really don’t care, do you?” he asked me.

“Nope,” I confirmed. “Whatever’s most protective and least stressful, that’s what I want right now. I would pay a lot for two days of this peace of mind right now.”

(Most people aren’t nearly as quick as was this empathetic young gentleman to identify that someone else may have different values than they do. At that moment, then, I was touched and grateful to be in the presence of someone who got it within a few questions.)

I didn’t drive the car much over my two days with it,

but when I did, it was with windows rolled down,

and bone-deep satisfaction just to feel

the wind sending my hair

every which way.

On Monday, I got to feeling and acting some kind of way.

With only three weeks of consciously understanding any of my feelings under my belt, I didn’t understand what I was feeling. Unfortunately, same as during the many years I spent feelings-clueless, that didn’t stop me from acting on those feelings.

After the kids were in bed that evening, I danced and contemplated on this for hours.

What on earth had happened?! Where did that inner storm come from, even?!

As I reflected back on the bodily sensations I experienced when in it, I was shocked:

The feeling I’d had was “trapped.” But–

why on earth would it come up there,
in such a different context?

As I continued dancing and reflecting, I grew clearer and clearer–

not only about what had happened, but what actions I’d have to take to resolve that particular “trapped.”

On Tuesday, I took the first action I’d identified:

Letting someone know I’d need to change how–or even if–I show up in certain situations.

I felt great, knowing what to do and then doing it, but …

that satisfaction was not what actually got communicated,

leading me to yet another bout with “trapped.”

I called my dear girlfriend for a repeat of our bail-or-don’t-bail conversation.

“Okay,” I told her. “This shit that will never change is pissing me off and now it’s definitely time to bail. That’s it.”

“And will you have learned what you need to learn here, if you just bail?” she asked.

“No,” I grumbled. “No, I won’t have.”

This time, I added, “I literally actually heard you asking me that when I went to just bail without consultation yesterday. Hearing you ask that is what gave me just enough pause not to bail.”

What’s the opposite of trapped? I wondered a couple days ago.

“Space” immediately popped to mind.

Since “space” isn’t a feeling, I then wondered: What feeling is the opposite of trapped?

“Free” was the feeling that roared up within me, so that I immediately better understood my trauma-informed love both of space (as reflected here) and for the people who grant me space when I need it.

As the week progressed, I grew in my understanding of feeling trapped as an important signal that different action is needed on my part. I grew, too, in my ability to act on the feeling while it’s still small and I’m likelier to act with any skill.

In situations related to Monday’s “trapped” one, appropriate action is to excuse myself from certain conversations. I don’t mind if they continue without me; that’s not my business. I just can’t be a part of them and feel free.

So: Through my newfound understanding of my relationship with “trapped,” I now also better understand something Brené Brown teaches:

Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

I’m about to really level up my kindness skills, then,

and am not remotely deterred by the fact this may result in me sometimes being perceived as not-nice.

For what I now understand is this:

My sustained experience of “trapped” isn’t just about other people.

What sustains it is myself choosing to stay in the circumstances giving rise to the feeling.

What soothes it is myself choosing to exit those circumstances, as early and kindly as I can.

The power to resolve my “trapped” is within me and my actions–no one and nothing else–

and that, my friends, is glorious to finally understand.

For months, one of my girlfriends has patiently had the same damn conversation with me.

“Okay,” I’d tell her. “This shit that will never change is pissing me off and now it’s definitely time to bail. That’s it.”

“And will you have learned what you need to learn here, if you just bail?” she’d ask.

“No,” I’d grumble. “No, I won’t.”

This is a conversation I am now both equipped and happy to leave in the past, for:

I did not bail.

I stuck with it.

By doing these things despite all the pain I have felt, I was able, at long last, to learn what I have most needed to learn for probably decades:

The power to resolve my “trapped” is within me and my actions.

Which means:

The seeds
of my freedom
are already
taking root
within
me.

No one else can set me free;

only I can do that,
and I’m
doing
just
that,
now.

2 thoughts on “the opposite of trapped

  1. I have a friend, very similar to yours, who lets me talk… until an answer presents itself… and I act on that answer. To have that friend is buried treasure to me. To act accordingly is to unearth the treasure. I’m glad you have such an unearthed treasure in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me, too. She has been way more patient than I would have been. My hope is that, having experienced it with her, I will have learned enough about it to be able to pay the gift forward. I will definitely be aiming for that. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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