IT'S NOT ABOUT NOT BEING DISREGULATED
When I first started my own healing journey, I had an idea that I would know I was doing it correctly if I was able to be smooth, calm, and always regulated. I thought the goal was to clean the internal messiness - that if I was doing healing “right,” the mess would eventually be cleaned up. I thought that mess was what made me “sick,” and that if I put enough effort into cleaning it, it would be gone and I would be well.
I’m not sure how much of that idea came from my own interpretation of what I was taking in, and how much is just prevalent in the culture because of the way the culture interprets the truth and spits it out in a way that can be sold to people.
When I took healing into my own hands and began a relationship with psychedelics, I was slowly (and somewhat painfully) able to drop the fantasy of what I thought healing was, to be able to meet the truth of what healing is. We heal through our mess. We need it; it is the arrow that points us in the direction of liberation. The mess will always be inside of us, it IS us, and we do not want to continue to resist, hate, or repress it. In fact, having to repress the mess is what caused the trouble in the first place, and it is exactly what we are trying to reverse.
Disregulation is the first step to healing. It is a marker that something is asking to be healed, and let go - and disregulation will always be with us. It won't, however, have to be with us in such an aggressive way when we learn to hang with it. We grow through our mess - without this step, we would be bypassing. It would be like going to the gym but never lifting weights. Would would never get stronger. We get stronger through engaging with our own disregulation. The mess (or the mind) is our sparring partner, but this is not as antagonistic as it sounds. The mind doesn’t know any better. It is like a feral animal just trying to survive. It is our job to tame it. This is a loving process. Our mess/mind is the worthy opponent who makes us stronger and healthier and part of the journey is learning to honor it as such.
I want you to save this essay somewhere and come back to it when you’re feeling hopeless or helpless. I want you to come back to it, especially when you feel like you wish you had another body, like okay- I-get-it-we-need-the mess-but-if-I-could-just-have-someone-else's-mess-please. Like if you were anyone else, it would be easier. Your mess is sacred. Every mess is sacred, but your mess is sacred. It is a unique training regimen, tailored specifically to you, so that you can liberate yourself, and through that, so we can liberate each other.
So let me say it again, and clearly: Healing starts with a feeling of disregulation. If we want healing, we have to learn to love disregulation. Learning to love disregulation is what changes the game entirely. The disregulation is not working against us; it's working for us. Something is coming up in order to be healed. It cannot be healed unless it presents itself to us. It is not comfortable when something is trying to process out, and I wish I could make that different for us all. But this is the truth of the matter: No one can make that different. Our task is to learn to love that discomfort because it is the very thing that heals us, liberates us, and makes us stronger.
Learning to love the discomfort frees us from having to effort in preventing it. No matter what, there will always be a way to disregulate us. We live in bodies with trauma of all kinds. But when we learn to love the discomfort - to spar with it in a friendly way - we can learn to handle what comes as it comes. This is mastery. We can put down the idea that we can prevent future disregulation (we cannot) and instead we get to learn that we can be with the disregulation when it shows up, because that is what we are practicing. It is nearly impossible to prepare for disregulation. During disregulation we are out of our right minds, where we store all of that good prep work! So we cannot prevent it. All we can do is practice with it when it's here, and enjoy it when it's not. Whether or not we are disregulated is none of our business, really. It happens when something gets poked, and if we want to go out and live a full life, we can't really prevent that from happening. It doesn't mean we haven't done a "good job" if we get disregulated. It has nothing to do with that.
This is why the practice isn't about making disregulation disappear. If we are out there in the world, our stuff is going to get hit. That's just how it works. Through practice, we're learning how to experience that stuff and be in the world at the same time. All that junk that was once too overwhelming to process needs to un-stick if what we truly want is to heal. For that to happen, that stuck junk needs to be present in our bodies. "Being present" in our bodies feels like disregulation. We cannot heal with out that step. If the stuckness cannot be experienced, which is to say if we cannot train to experience it, it will stay stuck and we will stay sick. So healing is not about not being disregulated - just the opposite. Healing is practicing being disregulated better. Every time we get disregulated, we get to practice, and the very thing we need here is practice. This is a special and sacred thing. It becomes an intimate bond between you and you. You are lovingly taming the lion of your mind that says "If you experience this, you will surely drown in it, or get stuck there, or hurt yourself, or someone else..." (Please enter whatever nightmare scenario your own mind presents for you, they are endless.)
I use the word "tame" here very deliberately. It’s not a battle, a war, or a fight to the death. The mind is out of control, and it feels better when it has a loving mistress or master. You feel better when you grow into the role of mistress or master. Everyone feels better when the mind is tamed, and it cannot be tamed by a punishing mistress or master. Who could feel safe under that gaze? It will continue to gnash its teeth and distrust you. It will not be tamed by something that hates it, and it would be right to stay far away from that energy.
I’m writing about this right now because it’s wholeheartedly present in my life, and I think it's a good example. For folks who’ve been with me for a while and followed my story, you know there was a time during COVID where I was searching for housing and in a holding pattern of house sitting, moving every few weeks. It felt like I lost opportunity after opportunity and that I just could not solve the problem of housing. It took about 18 months for me to land in my current apartment, which is great for a home/office, but not a great home. I am very much looking forward to my next step, and in mid-October, I started doing some preliminary searching for my next possible living situation.
For many people, that would be absolutely no big deal. But for me, it is a GIGANTIC deal. The amount of trauma I have around “home” goes back a long way, and additionally was very recently activated through COVID. Practically, I host clients at my home, so my financial security is tied into my housing security. Psychologically, I love my work and anything that could harm it makes my mind go bananas. On top of that, the near-constant destabilization over that span of 18 months took a toll on my spirit that is still hard for me to verbalize. It was chaos, instability, insecurity, feeling completely out of control and never being able to land. That period of time hurt every area of my life. As I move in the direction of new housing, my whole body is screaming. It is terrified that we will land back in that place of chaos and instability, and on top of that, that we will lose clients and our very special livelihood.
As soon as moving went from window-shopping to offers on the table, panic set in. I mean legitimate, heart-stopping, holy-shit-I-can’t-breathe kind of panic. I began watching myself go berserk.
This is what the mind does to us, and this is why we practice with it. Out in reality, things were working out in my favor. I set myself up really well - I started looking for housing several months before I actually had to move to be able to collect a lot of data and not get caught in a crunch. I asked for, and was able to receive trial runs at a few places I was considering, so I wouldn't have to move anywhere without getting a real embodied feel for the place, which is crucial for me in this tender state. No one was asking more of me than I could comfortably give. In fact, they were opening doors and giving me exactly what I was asking for and needed. Objectively, I could have been extremely proud of myself. I digested all the lessons from that terrible chaos and integrated them into a new way of approaching moving, housing, and housing security. I could have been giving myself a thousand high-fives and letting myself bask in the glow of meeting myself exactly where I was. But the primary feelings I was experiencing were terror, panic, and doubt. The gap between pride and panic is where the practice of taming comes in.
Processing (or taming) major trauma almost always involves psychedelics for me, and that is why I use them with clients. I believe they help us learn how to practice healing, because they help us understand what healing really is. Psychedelics, for me, are my way of calling out to god. They are how I ask for more strength than I currently have. When I can’t tame my mind alone, I know if I can collaborate with the medicine, the medicine will help. I don't want to give the wrong impression here so I need to say that, when asking for the strength to tame the top layer of something major, things get worse before they get better. If I'm overwhelmingly disregulated, it's because whatever is under the surface is too scary for me to see (and tame) in my present waking life. If I go in and ask for the strength to see it (and tame it) with the help of psychedelics, when I come out I’m going to be very sore, and f*cking exhausted. So there I am spent, having used all the energy I have to tame this scary thing, and then I have to deal with what happens to my waking mind after the medicine wears off. The non-medicine mind is going to freak out and it’s going to go nuts resisting integrating the taming for a little while -- meaning the disregulation goes UP for a little while, before it settles and I get the spacious feeling of liberation, having tamed another piece of outdated trauma that will no longer have control over me. That spacious feeling of liberation guides my life, and is how I can bear the process. It will be how you can bear the process, too. It gives us a kind of security is that is undeniable, inviolable. This is worth more to me than anything else in the world. That is the true power of healing, and is available to you, and everyone.
This is why it’s not about being regulated. The disregulation is attempting to help us understand the we have wires crossed inside of our subconscious. Healing happens when those wires uncross, and our practice is to become strong enough to let them. They will do it on their own; they want to. When something gets hit and the disregulation happens, the system working as it should. It's trying to heal. The wires are attempting to un-cross and the wounds would on heal on their own if we really understood how it worked, and we knew how to let them. Most of us don't understand how it works. We are terrified of disregulation, and what we think it means about us. So we Capital-R-Resist - not because we want to, but because it is the only thing that seems safe - and then everything comes screeching to a halt. But this process can be sweet, and tender, and through acceptance can even become kind of fun. With enough time, practice, and love, there can start to be a kinky pleasure in staying with the discomfort. For every thing you can hold, you gain liberation, you gain self-assured trustworthiness, and you gain the kind of confidence that cannot be denied by you or anyone. It is awe-inspiring and amazing.
We are human beings, and we live in a crazy, messed-up world just as a baseline. The global scene doesn’t even incorporate the amount of interpersonal stimuli that hit all our soft spots every day. We will be disregulated more than we will be regulated, that has no bearing on how healed we are. In fact I would side with Krishnamurti in saying "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Regulation is not the measure of wellness. The measure of wellness is in how we be with that disregulation, as in the relationship we have with it, and to it. If we can practice lovingly taming this lion, we will come to see that disregulation is not the problem. It is the arrow that points the way to freedom.