When I was about six or seven years old, my dad took me to see the Royal Palace, on the Dam in Amsterdam. He pointed upwards. “Look!” – he said. “You see that guy, carrying a globe upon his shoulders?” – “That´s Atlas, the bearer of the World“.* It was quite impressive, enough for me to remember more than two decades later.
The reason I titled these posts “Finding Atlas” is because the shift in my perception of Self, that I mentioned in the first one, is about finding a degree of mental fortitude that I would have considered impossible before. A state of mind which can protect me from feeling like a victim, feeling childlike, and being overly dependent on others.
Although the progress is slow, one step forward, a few steps back and so on, I can now use awareness as a tool to “feel” where my mind is slipping, spot the physical symptoms (such as shortness of breath and tension) and put it back on track by using multiple strategies of relaxation and mindful presence. It has had quite a miraculous outcome so far.
To “spot” yourself and guide your own mind and body towards a different state of being is quite a demanding exercise. It requires and builds resilience, willingness to “get over yourself” (even if this includes ignoring the response of the central nervous system), and total dedication. My focus needs to be on being mindful, every day, all day.
In addition to non-response to “urges” (such as the urge to feel like a victim, the urge to hyperventilate or the urge to self-harm) I am actively engaging in awful challenges such as taking a shower with cold water when I´m clenching my body, or doing a workout when I´m feeling dysphoric, and then telling my mind to “roll with it”.
The courage I get from experiencing every tiny victory helps me charge into the next challenge, face it directly rather than dodge it, grab it by the horns and then hoist it up high above my head. The decision to get through whatever our minds are throwing at us – dysphoria or otherwise – is what makes us capable of incredible things.
It doesn´t mean that there is no dysphoria, or that there is no physical or mental memory of trauma. Identity can still clash with physical appearance and mental patterns don´t disappear into thin air. But when we take power away from them, and become bigger than any of these factors – that´s when we can start becoming our true Self.
* Today I actually learned that Atlas is not carrying the World but standing on it, and shouldering the Heavens. Whether my dad was uninformed or I just didn´t remember correctly, I am now up to speed!