The Past

I am becoming myself. Between becoming and being myself lay a miasma of ancient feelings, values, and perceptions. These are the unknown forces to which I respond by looking everywhere else for the solution, an end to my fears and hunger. These “forces” will be unknown until I believe that re-discovering and experiencing them will feel better than being insidiously controlled by them.

While I believe that some dissatisfaction is part of the human condition, I experience how much more fulfilled I have become over the past years. When I consciously began the process of discovering who I am, my life memory was like a sketchy album of photographs, the pictures smoldering in pages of resentment. During the last few years, the snapshots have developed into movies, the resentments sharpened to anger and tears, and recently, to forgiveness and appreciation. I believe that I have worked through much of my past. This is partially verified to me by the richness and satisfaction that I usually feel in the present, and by how my self-destructive behaviors keep dropping away.

But sometimes something gnaws at me. I feel distracted, restless, lonely, hungry (gratefully, the desperation that I once continually lived with is gone). Although I believe that the universe constantly affects me in ways that I do not and cannot understand, I suspect that some of this turbulence is unfinished business. My memory is a vital part of clearing out the malignant old so that I may be fully alive in the present.

My once brief memory now contains a broad panorama of my life. Many gaps have filled from nothingness to internal pain to wondrous release (relief). I denied that any hurt and anger even existed. Now that I have felt these feelings, they do no longer exist. I believe that there is more for two reasons: I still experience inexplicable craziness, and I still don’t remember parts of my early childhood. I suspect that within these memories are cancerous hurts; pain that I am now deciding I would rather experience than keep unsuccessfully buried.

I don’t believe that what we don’t remember is repressed. We also forget because of the lack of importance, the lack of energy connected to some experiences of our lives. I do believe that what was painful and is not remembered is repressed; that energy is still tied up in the unpleasantness whether or not we consciously realize it. This blocked pain is the cause of much of our present pain and craziness.


I am again at an impasse. Something surges up, but I choose not to deal with myself. I eat when I’m not hungry, I keep myself busy with work and friends. I don’t remember my dreams. I feel chaos, a sense of disease. Fritz Perls writes (Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, page 60):

Then we experience the anti-existence, we experience the nothingness, the emptiness. This is the impasse, the feeling of being stuck and lost. The impasse is marked by a phobic attitude-avoidance. We are spoiled, and we don’t want to go through the hellgate of suffering. We stay immature, we go on manipulating the world, rather than suffering the pains of growing up . . . And this is the great difficulty I see in self-therapy. There are many things one can do on one’s own, do one’s own therapy, but when one gets to the difficult parts, especially to the impasse, you become phobic, you get into the whirl, and you are not willing to go through the pain of the impasse.


A few days ago, I led a weekend Gestalt Therapy training workshop. In the course of the first afternoon, a few people probed into the torrents of anger and grief that they had been living with for many years. As I worked with them, I felt an immediate and ancient sadness well up in me. The workshop over for the day, I went home, alone, and tried to cry. My “tears” had disappeared. I decided to go for a run; at the least, I would enjoy the exercise.

After running a few miles through early fall woods, I begin to feel a rhythm. I stop thinking and tune into the earth underneath my feet, the springiness of my legs, breath entering and leaving my lungs. I feel particularly strong, clear, aware. A man and a woman are talking on the path ahead of me. They are friends, psychologists, taking a break from a therapy training workshop that they have been attending (several miles on the other side of town). We talk, and I tell them about my workshop experience and disappearing pain. They ask if I want to work on it. I hesitate, and decide that I do. For half an hour (with their catalytic guidance), restrained hurt and anger come out of me. I connect the feelings to the first five years of my life. I realize that I don’t want to go any farther, and we stop. We talk briefly, and I run on, feeling stronger and yet much calmer. I thank the Universe for Sylvia and Victor being here, right where I needed them.

Something is coming out of me. I can (physically) feel it in my skin. I stop writing, and tremble and sob. Tears come to my eyes. As I begin to acknowledge the deadness and suffering that is here inside of me, I feel great sadness and, also, great relief. I realize, as I have in the past and will again, that there is often pain and difficulty in growth. I realize, with complete certainty, that I would rather grow, I would rather be myself than do anything else with my life.

This night I have dreamed that I am a woman being chased by a tall bearded man (who looks similar to me) through snowy hills.

In the early morning, I dream that I am exploding.

Just the recognition of our stuckness mobilizes us. By the very act of realizing that I am stuck, I begin to become unstuck. I feel a numbness, a tingling, and then energy in my dead parts. My dreams, my past, my feelings are re-membered. I again claim the life that is mine.

— Leaf


I will respond to any questions, concerns, or comments that you send to me, Leaf, care of THE SUN, Box 732, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.