Saturday, October 31, 2020

Embracing Abandonment & Betrayal

When I was at my lowest point with my back a year ago, my current chiropractor, Scott Kolofer, looked me in the eye and said, "I will not abandon you." We both knew that he didn't have all the answers to help me, but the reassurance of his constancy was huge. As I shared this memory with him recently, I was surprised by the depth of emotion it triggered in me. 

In the 13+ years I've been actively dealing with back problems, I've seen six other chiropractors. As I contemplated my chiropractic history, I noticed feelings of abandonment and betrayal that I'd never really acknowledged. I am not saying there were any bad intentions on their parts at all, but, from my perspective, their actions or choices eroded any remaining faith I had in being able to rely on a healthcare practitioner...a faith that had already been seriously trashed by the medical profession. 

Four of my previous chiropractors either stopped practicing or left the area with little to no notice...the longest advance notice being 30 days and the least 0 days. I understand each of their reasons for their choice, but that doesn't change that fact that I was left to fend for myself, feeling abandoned.

Two of my previous chiropractors gave me bad adjustments that I had to find another chiropractor to fix. In these situations, it was my choice to switch, but that was based on broken trust. Submitting to chiropractic treatment requires relaxed muscles, which stems from a sense of trust in your practitioner. I trusted them to help me get better and I left feeling worse. I know they had good intentions, but it doesn't change the fact that my trust in them had been broken, and left me feeling betrayed.

While working through each of these situations, I brushed my painful feelings aside and went into problem solving mode. If emotions of abandonment or betrayal started to kick in, I would focus on the things I needed to do to move forward, try to look on the positive side of the circumstances, or distract myself with other activities. 

As I was remembering where I was physically last year, and what Scott had told me, the emotions that came up made it clear that I had never acknowledged my feelings of abandonment and betrayal that were caused by my other chiropractic experiences. 

At the same time, I came across this video of Kyle Cease that addressed my issue specifically. Serendipity can be so cool. The emotions I was avoiding are not pleasant ones to feel. Kyle points out that we tend to have a storehouse of ways to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions, including justifying them, denying them, and distracting ourselves. All of these techniques keep the emotions lurking in the background, unresolved. The emotions will keep trying to get our attention... and we will keep looking for ways to not feel them.

So that's what I've been doing all these years. Abandonment was met with a resolve to not be dependent. Betrayal was met with a resolve to be more cautious with my trust. If I could achieve those two things, I wouldn't have to feel those painful emotions. But this was just symptom relief for my emotions, and symptom relief doesn't heal. 

My emotions just wanted to be seen and me. Even if it wasn't the other person's intention, I am allowed to feel abandoned and I am allowed to feel betrayed. Once these emotions are fully embraced, they can be released. By denying them, I've been keeping them trapped.

So I finally embraced these emotions and felt them deeply. Was it painful? Yes, you bet it was. A few tears were shed. After a few hours, though, the pain started to lessen. After a day or two, the emotions released. I'm now actually feeling quite peaceful about my chiropractic past.

I'm now aware of this pattern in me and I've started seeing it in other areas. If an uncomfortable emotion is triggered, my automatic response is to look for something to take my mind off it... checking the news, turning on a movie, listening to music or a podcast. 

To break this pattern, I stop my search for a distraction and tell myself to just feel the emotion that was triggered. Some emotions release fairly promptly, while others take a bit longer. Some are just uncomfortable, while others are more painful. As I do this more and more, I'm seeing a decrease in the frequency and intensity of my emotional triggers. The more quickly I feel and release an emotion, the less emotional baggage I have to carry with me into the future.

I am deeply grateful to Scott for sticking by me this past year. He continues to provide my body with gentle, skilled care, and shows me how to care for my body better, so it can heal. 

My other chiropractors tended to encourage regular "maintenance" visits and more frequent visits when pain was present, creating dependence...and then I was abandoned. Scott is focused on healing, strengthening, less frequent visits, and ultimately independence...and he stuck by me. I find this truly fascinating.

As I look for my path going forward, I was struck by what Kyle Cease said in his video. Don't look for your path. You are the path! Wow. How cool is that? I am the path. I may not see my whole path all at once, but I can at least see the next step. And that's enough for now.

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