Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

The deliciousness in suffering

Luz, my grandmother, used to have a friend. They visited each other and talked for hours remembering and telling stories from their past, crying and crying together. My dad used to laugh to tears telling me that these two comadres would say with great delight:

—”Ahhh! Lloramos rico!”
(translation: “crying together is delicious”).

We all have memories of stories that involved hurt and pain.

I’ve noticed that, even as I process that pain in order to heal an emotional wound, sometimes there is a stickiness to hanging on, to lingering, and keeping coming back to it… To suffer again. When I first noticed this, I guessed that perhaps there may be more layers and details I have not yet processed. But something else I’m realizing now is that there is a certain purpose in keeping some emotional loops recirculating.

If the memory contains positive emotions (in addition to the pain), our coming back to it may have to do with the neurological association we experience to those positive emotions as well. Not letting go fully is our way to keep alive the piece of the story that brought us a sense of love, connection, happiness, and enjoyment… We fear that letting go fully of the trauma will also erase those experiences or people we cherish.

I am discovering that the opposite is true.

Now, discussing this with Joaquin, he commented that there are some experiences that are certainly void of positive emotional associations. Pure trauma. Pure pain. Of course! And what I’m sharing here perhaps does not apply to those experiences. But then, maybe a piece does…

So, based on the learning journey I’m going through by reading and diving in experiencing the four characters Jill Bolte Taylor offers in “Whole Brain Living”, I have discovered a few new ways to navigate through the healing of these sticky emotional wounds.

Why do it?

Because different events will trigger our past emotional pain. They will remind us of how we felt at that time, and the memory and the undigested pain will reduce us to an aspect of our being that is very limited. Very childish. In a way, very primitive and unable to make the best choices in the present.

Also, depending on the frequency of these triggers, we may decide that we’d like to suffer a little less. We may decide that we no longer want to feel as victims of a past experience. Or simply, we’re ready to let go of the bitter bites around a story or a person and hope that we can keep the sweet ones.

Notes from a healing journey

In order to heal, I must go back there. Fully and truly. Life may trigger this “journey” for me, or I may choose to purposely summon it back. I must re-live it, but I must be in a safe space to do so. I need to trust that going there will not break me or my present life right now.

With my current glasses and experience, I believe that the actual wound has more to do with what I did or did not do than with the actions of others. So healing is all about re-doing MY part using the maturity and wisdom of who I now am in order to do what I wish I could’ve done at the time, but didn’t.

This may happen in imagination or reality. Safety first, always. The key is, our brain processes imagination as if it was reality, and in the safety of our minds we can say and do anything. Sometimes though, life gives us a chance to actually do it, which is tremendously cathartic. Sometimes life gives us a chance to have the past respond back to us, which brings clarity where only darkness existed before. Truth emerges; the story changes, and we can’t feel the way we did before.

That re-doing shifts things neurologically and energetically. Emotion is energy. I’ve felt it swirling in my body, moving to specific places, pulsating, choking me, softening, dissipating, and also sometimes leaping out entirely off my body.

When the emotional energy I’ve stirred is intense and feels like a storm about to consume me (I’ve awakened the beast), it helps me to pause everything, get quiet and still, and ask “Character #4” to process it. Character #4 is the boundless being Jill Bolte Taylor discovered (through her stroke) we all are in the absence of our left hemisphere neuro-circuitry… The cells that live in the thinking tissue of our brain’s right hemisphere. It helps tremendously to give this part of ourselves a meaningful name—mine is called “Amethyst”).

What occurs in this space is profound. Engaging these brain cells, or this aspect of myself shifts my consciousness from the identity of the characters I know (me, you, her, him, them) to completely impersonal energy in motion. It shifts my awareness from “my life” to the whole Universe and the fabric that is woven from each fiber, each life, that exists cosmically. Each of us is just a particle, a wave, and our interactions affect everything. From that vantage point everything is perfect and I shift to complete peace.

Once the dark beast has been faced, unmasked, and reduced, any leftover suffering I come back to that is not too intense (perhaps just me lingering addictively, fearful to let go because I want to keep the good parts of the past experience) a simple shortcut I can use (should I purposely choose to use it) is to move from the emotional tissue of the left hemisphere (Character #2 —the emotion from experiences in my past or my projections about the future) to the emotional tissue of the right hemisphere (Character #3—the full emotional experience of being in the here and now, not limited by any judgment).

I do that by pursuing any activity that is enjoyable and brings me fully to the present moment: A meaningful conversation, creative projects, dancing, singing, playing, going out to nature, etc… We each have our own joymakers. So without the need of a lot of mental work, analysis, and complexity, I simply and purposely choose to move from the deliciousness of the past to the deliciousness available now.

In the present of this exact moment, life is completely beautiful and perfect.

Unhealed trauma (big or small) clouds our experience. When an emotional wound is actively throbbing, we function in the present as if it was the past, and as we were in the past. Being able to re-write and re-wire that past neurologically is liberating. I notice that what I cherished about the old stories is still there—in fact it is more available to me now. I can still remember the stories and laugh. The yummy is still there, but the suffering, the tears, the ache, the unmet need that cried for a long time to be met are all washed away. I understand now. I have finally done the right thing—What I couldn’t do then, but now that I feel safe and expanded, I can. 

It’s never too late. 

me, in character #2 me, in character #3 me, in character #4
Experiencing life through characters 2, 3, and 4
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