Sitting on a Ledge, Feet Dangling?
It seems that plenty of us are going through significant experiences these days—cathartic, sudden life changes, even.
Or perhaps we know we need to dig down to the bottom of our truth tank and come up with a solution or make a decision we’ve been putting off.
Recently, I had a transformative experience that was not planned and could never have been planned, not in my wildest imagination.
I didn’t even know I was sitting on a ledge, feet dangling…
Well, What Happened?
This experience involved three things: 1) a group of kind and brilliant friends that I feel close to 2) an issue of mine that has been present for years, and 3) an early morning dream message from a friend.
By sharing my experience, I hope it encourages you to find courage, in case you have a pair of feet dangling, and let them walk you toward a change that really works for you.
First, some helpful information about humans and how we tend to solve problems.
There are two distinct ways. One method is not better than the other, but they are different—utterly and completely different.
One way to approach change (which means walk those feet down from the ledge) is through steps. We change by taking steps forward—tiny ones, giant ones, and everything in between.
Taking steps focuses on 1) planning what to do step-by-step and carrying it out. Or 2) modifying actions a little at a time to achieve a desired result. Either way, these acts are intentional with eyes wide-open—while taking specific action.
For example, let’s say I have my eye on working for a particular organization. I make a plan to find out what their requirements are, fulfill them, and then submit my application. It’s a clear and straightforward set of steps to get an interview and hopefully get the job.
Transformation—What Is It?
A second way to get off the ledge is to, well, JUMP.
This will cause transformation—from sitting still to falling or flying. Taking a leap of faith can create a sudden a-ha or a powerful leap in understanding.
Another way to describe this is that transformation is metamorphic. It is drastic and all-encompassing and causes a caterpillar-to-butterfly effect. We become entirely and suddenly different, so much so that we hardly recognize ourselves. Our changes are as drastic as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly—at no point in a caterpillar’s life can we logically predict that it will turn into goo or grow wings. And yet, it does.
Transformation often occurs around tragic experiences—profound failure, sudden loss, or the threat of loss. These are powerful transformation setups.
But what I experienced recently was in the company of loving friends, people I’ve known for a number of years. It was an average day. There was nothing pressing on the horizon.
However, I didn’t realize I was sitting on a cliff or that my feet were dangling in new territory. Being ripe for change was not on my radar. Nowhere in my experience could I have seen what was coming, that an event would push me over the edge, and on the way to flying, I’d face something important.
The Set Up
This recent experience began with my Zoom group. There are five of us who gather every three weeks or so, and we’ve been doing this for the last two years.
We have a solid relational history together. We’ve practiced inquiry, we’ve plumbed the depths of our own and each other’s emotional seas, and we’ve grown closer. We look forward to these calls. We’ve developed a quality of relating that each of us had been looking for. Respect and trust with each other run deep.
In this meeting, one member reported that she had awakened on a recent morning thinking about me. Specific questions floated into her mind, which she made note of. She asked me those questions that morning.
Her questions hit home. Even though she asked them lightly and casually, and truly offered them as a gift, they felt point-blank. They made me squirm. They felt a bit shocking, not because of what she was intending, but because I was ripe for change.
She realized I was uncomfortable, and quickly gave me an out.
She said, “Is this okay that I’m giving you these questions? I know you didn’t ask me for any kind of assistance, and if you want to call this off, we can stop. It’s just that the message seemed important, and I trust what I receive in the early hours. That’s why I’m bringing this to you.”
Taking a deep breath, I somehow found my bravery. I don’t know where it came from, frankly, because I was nervous. It was clear to me that saying yes to this conversation would put me further in the hot seat.
To consider things, I paused, then finally said, “It’s okay. Let’s keep going.”
So we did.
In no time, I was sweating and crying. It happened that fast.
Nobody was being mean to me. Nobody was doing or saying anything inappropriate. I was just up against my stuff while four kind, self-aware, and adept counselors held space for me.
What felt reassuring was that deep inside I knew I was just fine. Perfectly fine.
Part of that was knowing I was in the hands of skilled therapists, coaches, and a psychiatrist. These people are my friends and colleagues. They know me. And they love me. They would go to bat for me any day of the week, about anything.
The other part is that I trust myself to take worthwhile risks.
As if watching events unfold on a screen, I noticed my defenses rise and felt my skin thicken. It was a little creepy, a bit like when the steel plates on a transformer figure snap into place in preparation for battle.
Soon after, I noticed my instinct to run. Flee. Hide. But I didn’t. I sat with all those feelings going on.
I clearly remember the thought (but didn’t say it aloud), “Oh, they can’t get to me…”
Which is not a thought I would normally think. With my friends, or with anyone else.
It was right about then that I realized I wasn’t dealing with just me and how I think. It felt like someone else was inside my head.
Who was it?
What a good question…
I didn’t know the answer.
…so I kept going.
Whenever I said something that didn’t feel like authentic me, I could feel the support pillars around that reasoning and logic break down and fall. My body felt nauseous and I was afraid I might vomit. It was as if someone had wound me up like a toy and I chattered on automatic.
During the interaction, I defended myself—and heard it clearly. Plus I said things about myself that I don’t normally say (or I’d never really heard myself say), and I repeated certain phrases like a puppet.
Again, it felt strange. Like I was not being myself.
Sometimes I repeated phrases like “I don’t know how…” or “I can’t…”, and I’d notice the feeling of a dam giving way inside me. As the conversation continued, there were also buildings falling, bridges collapsing, highways and passes closing. I felt trapped. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
Partway through, I distinctly remember wishing desperately that I’d never agreed to the conversation. I wanted to call it off. But I kept going, defenses falling everywhere.
Nothing about the conversation or the resulting sensations was easy or comfortable. But I felt strongly that it was time for the conversation even though I had no clue what would come of it, or if there would be any value.
There’s no way I can describe how this sort of thing happens safely and effectively. So I won’t try. But I will say that it felt like the Universe had my back.
In fact, it was miraculous. It blew up stuff I never wanted in the first place.
This Went On…
My internal process continued after we completed our Zoom call. I felt vulnerable and cried a lot. I reached out again to the members by email, and after two additional conversations with a couple of them the next day, I had a breakthrough. A big one.
This kind of experience is not for sissies, I can tell you that. It’s intense.
For now I can say that I experienced a separation between my father’s thinking and mine. There was a separation for a second or two—it was only a flash. But in that flash, I disconnected from his beliefs and his fear.
In that split second, I realized that because I’m empathetic, I felt his fear in our home environment as I was growing up, and thought it was mine. Basically, I downloaded it.
This happens with children ages 1-7. We take in most everything in our environment.
This is no one’s fault. It’s the human way. Maybe it’s how one generation passes unresolved trouble to the next generation to complete.
For the next few days, I continued to have vivid flashbacks about my childhood—things my dad said and did. Things he didn’t do. Criticisms he leveled at me and others. How he treated my mother, how he spoke to her, the pressure he put on her, the anger he directed toward her, arguments they had. Ways he was negligent about the safety of his children. The opportunities he turned down because of lack of belief in himself. How he told stories at the dinner table in a way that guaranteed he was the hero and the smart guy. How he was always, always right.
I remembered a lot…
The transformation is that I see that certain mental frameworks of mine about success actually belong to him. Every day now, I am sorting. Does this belong to me? Who am I as an entrepreneur without him in my head?
As you might imagine, all of this is rearranging my brain. This is my work—be vigilant and keep sorting. Keep making distinctions.
After a transformation, we can never completely go back to an old way of being or doing. For me, I can never go back to the unconscious blend of him and me. There is a line in the sand now. I am sorting in order to remember and reclaim who I am, particularly in business.
When I notice fear around stepping out to offer what I know about relationships to thousands of people, or taking my business presence to an international level, I’ll keep checking that fear, “Is this me?” Each time fear shows up, I’ll send it back where it came from—thanks but no thanks.
I’ll keep you posted!
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100 Words by Terri Crosby, How to Save Your Fourth Marriage, In Care of Relationships, intimate relationships, Terri Crosby, transformation
WOW, thanks for sharing this story, or rather this experience. I know that sensation that once the information is discovered~ there is no going back.
Shiner, thanks for reading, and thanks for your comment. Whew! Life is generous with all of us. And I, like you, am really glad about this “no going back” thing! love you, Terri
I love this. The unfolding of your dismantling the program you “downloaded” kept me engaged. So happy for you and us for sharing your journey!
Toni, thanks for your comment. Yes, a profound experience for sure. It’s so interesting to feel no fear in places I used to, and in other places when fear comes up it fades as soon as I feel it and recognize it. It doesn’t hang around. love, Terri
You’re telling of this experience is as powerful as any telling of transformation I’ve known. It was like going on a ride with you, an honest journey to be sure. Thank you so much for sharing your life and your art!
Thank you, Devaya! I’m so glad the story came through powerfully. That means a lot to me! Then the story did its job for sure. Blessings, Terri
Thanks for sharing a very intimate process of transformation.
It takes tremendous courage, love and commitment to stand in the emotional fire of experiencing our dysfunctional subconscious programs.
You also put in the time and loving energy to create a compassionate and skilled support system to hold the space for you to dive in.
This transformative experience further equips you to hold that space for others in your work.
Hi Joe, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. Yes, so important to have support to set up the experience, and then stand with me during and after. Unraveling is always interesting! Take care, Terri