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by Bethany Webster
The most empowering thing I’ve discovered in life was not something ecstatic or “spiritual.” It wasn’t found in feelings of bliss. It was found in the very place I did not want to look and after all other options were seen to be obsolete. There was no place to go but down, down into what I called “the black hole”, that place of despair, of total powerlessness and terror. I realized that my whole life I had been doing whatever I could to avoid contact with this place buried deep within me.
The black hole was what felt like an overwhelming sense of “badness” and a deep-seated fear that other people would see that I am bad, awful, and repulsive. It was a sense that at my core I was truly awful. The main way that I avoided this place was through appearing to have it all “together” and by striving to always be successful, happy, and good. Even though I had experienced tremendous growth and true happiness and success, there was still this background suspicion of myself that I was really bad, and people couldn’t really see it. There was a fear that once they did, they would run the other way.
There was not a clear sense of what this “badness” was. It was vague and undefined. However, the main emotion connected with it was an overpowering despair, like wanting to die.
Most of my life I wasn’t conscious of this sense of inner “badness” until I started becoming aware of my inner dynamics and patterns. When I did finally become conscious of it, I had already been in therapy for many years and had transformed my life into what I’d always wanted: a beautiful relationship, a great career and a deepening sense of inner safety and trust. Because I had already been on a path of healing for some time and had become attuned to my inner self, the black hole gradually became more acute and in the foreground. It seems that my psyche was eventually strong enough to contain the terror that had been hidden for so long and that my system wanted to release it.
The most empowering thing I’ve ever done in my life was to consciously venture into this feeling of the “black hole of badness” within. With the help of my therapist and other trusted people in my life including my partner, I was witnessed in this feeling of badness and had a major realization–that I am not and never was “bad” as I had feared. I discovered that at the very foundation of my being, I am innocent, complete, free and eternal. I could feel this throughout my entire body. It truly felt like coming Home. The undefined, dreadful feelings of badness did not kill me as I had feared they would if I allowed myself to feel them. Much to my surprise, where I thought I would find “badness” I found only pure goodness.
What felt like blackness was a door to pure light.
Through the supportive and skilled witnessing of trusted others, I was able to withstand what I feared most and consciously discover my true nature as infinite, inviolate goodness. I had a direct experience of feeling that I am thoroughly innocent, strong, beautiful, and at my core, indestructible. This experience changed my life irrevocably because as I saw myself as I truly am, my view of life and of others greatly transformed as well.
By consciously observing the sensations and feelings in the black hole, I saw that the feeling of badness that I contacted was actually a flashback from infancy when for whatever reason I felt totally abandoned and completely terrified for my life. It was like a crystallized pocket of suppressed energy that had always been there, festering in my core. By willingly and consciously entering the feelings and sensations of the black hole, I observed that as my little infant self, I thought I was going to die and internalized the experience to mean that I must be thoroughly bad and worthless. I observed that because I experienced being abandoned, I had willingly abandoned myself, knowing intuitively that I had to do this in order to survive. It was a moment of total despair, hopelessness and a kind of existential depression settling in. It was a moment of painful departure, a splitting within myself. By going back to this dreaded place, I was able to witness the trauma that created the black hole and return to heal the split and reunite with my deepest self.
Looking back, I see how this discovery was the culmination of an organic process of healing that I had been going through for years–and my entire being was going through a detoxification process from early childhood trauma. This process was natural and not under the purview of my conscious mind. I had little control other than to be simply aware and receptive and trusting to what was unfolding.
Over time as this discovery integrated into my life, I had many insights about how the black hole was also a way of receiving the cumulative generational pain of my family and ancestors. As an infant, I experienced it as a kind of invasion and implantation of pain that was not originally mine but was being placed in me. Having no choice but to absorb it and metabolize it, it became part of the very fabric of my identity, much like when a splinter becomes absorbed into the skin. Yet, because I had done so much healing, at a certain point my being naturally wanted to expunge the “implant” of pain from my system.
I think we all – to some degree – have a faint unconscious memory of the existential terror of infancy, when we inevitably experienced some form of abandonment or invasion. As infants we were need personified. Because parents/caregivers were human, they made mistakes and we had moments of feeling abandoned or invaded. I have a feeling that the black hole is part of the human experience, holding much suffering that can linger and go unaddressed, greatly limiting our experience of life. Yet, if confronted, holds the key to freedom that opens doors that we didn’t even know were there.
By going into the black hole within, we can discover a light that is indestructible, the light of our true self, that is pure, that is true, innocent, fresh and un-taintable. This is the light of Being.
This is not just an intellectual theory–it's a direct experience of our own divinity. Once experienced, anything can happen to you and you know that ultimately you cannot be harmed.
My sense is that when we are ready, the psyche repairs itself by re-experiencing the feelings that were overwhelming and suppressed at the time of trauma. Life does this through us as a way of experiencing it’s all-inclusive, indestructible nature.
Nothing is fully released until it is loved.
Love welcomes and accepts everything. We can’t truly know this in our bones until we’ve opened to that which scares us and see that even that, yes, even that is loved and embraced by Life.
Everything that is split off or fragmented within us will be eventually called back–to be consciously welcomed into the wholeness that we truly are.
This is because our true nature, our true self is Love.
© 2015 - 2018 Bethany Webster
Art credits: "Wound" by Graham Dean
Related article: The Holy Simplicity of Sitting with Our Pain
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