Stockholm syndrome of the spirit: Part I

I’m typing this article up under the harvest moon and it feels rather appropriate. Under the Harvest moon is where we take time to reflect upon our progress this year, to see how far we have come with the work required for a new start. What we sow we reap. I think it has been a profound year for so many of us actually, so many people appear to have woken up to themselves in search of a better way for their light to shine. I was recently asked how ‘hard’ it was to allow myself this huge change (a culmination of years not months if I am honest) and it got me thinking about the process as a whole.

I thought about the difficult times, a bumpy transition to say the least and I wanted to touch upon an aspect that could definitely do with discussion. That is the not so great side of embarking upon a spirit based existence. In the interests of comradeship and concerns some others of you have out there this article will spell out rather frankly some of the conclusions I have come to regarding the ‘initiation process’ if you will where turning yourself over from a fear based to a spirit based approach is concerned. I hope if nothing else you will take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone when you call into question or doubt that you are doing the right thing for yourself (spoiler alert: you definitely are doing the right thing for yourself).

Life is supposed to be good now. You are living your own personal truth, committed to your higher self and generally trying your damndest to be the soul you always kind -of -in -the -back -of -your -mind -since -you -were -7 knew you wanted to be. So why does it all feel a bit shit sometimes? Life has possibly felt a little like a disaster area at some point for most of us with a physical, spiritual and emotional manifestation of our own demons haunting us a little-or a lot. It’s enough to make you want to give the spiritual side of life a very firm yet polite ‘no thanks’ and go running back to your former self. The only thing is you kind of can’t can you? Even if you decide to take a ‘sabbatical’ and test the waters- you know, just in case you were being slightly crazy or weird with this divine self lark, chances are if you’ve downed tools for a prolonged period of time you felt not quite ‘right’ or the issues you were encountering worsened. You are now trying to live your life in a completely different way and in a lot of instances are learning to think and behave in a brand new way too. On top of this your awareness has acutely heightened and expanded and if left unsupported and unstructured can actually wreak havoc on you.

Some of the rougher aspects I’ve dealt with are as follows:

It is messy. It can be really hard to keep centred and focused when you are adjusting your whole life ethos-funny that. You can feel confused, foggy headed, suffer from scrambled thoughts and pretty much resemble something so far the other end of together, cool, calm, serene and enlightened.

It can be frightening. I have had times where I have genuinely questioned my own sanity. I’ve felt lost and scared and even suffered from terrible nightmares. Not necessarily Michael Myers chasing me through the street at the dead of night but dreams where I have been in imaginary situations which have made me cry in my sleep or wake up in a cold sweat with feelings of bereavement, anxiety and agitation. As well as this, I was no longer satisfied with the life I was leading or at least elements of it. This process opens you up to how you no longer wish to do things but it can take a while to show you what you do want to do and even longer to figure out the how of it all. Naturally, this can lead to feeling lost and bewildered as well as frustrated and agitated.

It can take its toll physically. It can be debilitating. My sleep pattern has been not so much a pattern as abstract art, if nothing else it was consistent in its inconsistency. I have suffered lethargy followed by hyperactive periods, a total lack of appetite one day followed by insatiability the next. As well as this I have carried around low-level general unease, anxiety and inexplicable dread. This was possibly the worst part for me as I am sadly not in a position to give up my day job and employ a nanny during my current existence to devote all of my time to cocooning myself during these periods. This meant that through all of the crap I have had to wade through I still had to be an amazing parent and give my all to a job which although I am ridiculously thankful for is not something I find personally rewarding or my ultimate aim in this life. It is hard to do all of this when your body mind and soul are taking it in turns to freak you out.

It is not linear. It can often take a 360-degree loop in the opposite direction in fact. Just as you think you have progressed through one issue you get landed back with it further down the line, almost like groundhogs day. This can leave us feeling frustrated (again) and sometimes like we are failing.

It is unique. I can not and would never dare to predict how long these issues crop up for other people. You may have been through some, all, none or more of what I have experienced. Maybe for a week, a month or even years. Nor could I predict that in the future I will be free of these symptoms forever or indeed your good self.

I know, I’m really selling the spiritual life to you. If you haven’t already run a mile or worse, clicked off with a “well that’s never going to happen to me” keep the faith because hopefully as you see why we go through this experience and what you can do to stay as empowered as you can you will see that it is actually a positive sign and indeed a necessity for many of us.

As I alluded to earlier, I have always wanted to devote myself to ‘the other’. I have always firmly believed that this world in its basic sense is not everything, that there is so much more to our inner selves and all the dimensions within this universe. As well as this, that there was a massive connection between our inner universe and the outer one. I wanted to be aligned and work with my higher self, coming from a place of pure love and gratitude. In a nutshell to live a magical and enlightened life. This feeling has burst through the cracks of my existence for over thirty years, reminding me that it was still kicking around waiting for me to give it house room. Every now and then I would be filled with such an immensely pleasurable connectedness unlike any other. The thing is though, that was only in fits and bursts. That calls in the necessity of the big question: what the hell was going on in my life in between all of that?

In short, most definitely not a life well lived! I could go into in depth the reasons and rationale for the way I lived but it is perhaps best summed up this way. All of my life understandably I have acted as a result of my experience to date, the experiences of my family and my ancestors. More than that, we all develop our reactions and actions towards life at an early age, at an age where we have little control over our lives and not enough wisdom to think that perhaps there is a better way. Now, I am not touting a poor childhood. I did not have one. However, what I can tell you is that from an early age due to various factors I was an anxious nervous people pleaser, I felt guilty and responsible for things I should not have. I also never had a feeling that I belonged here like I was a visitor passing through. That is certainly the case but not in a negative way! Because I couldn’t explain this alienated feeling I had I could not have it explained to me and why it was important that I stayed. I did not develop the kind of boundaries a person who loves themselves as much as they should can develop.

As a result, this led to me being in situations which further decreased any entitlement I felt for love and respect and I was constantly in fear that I was doing the wrong thing all of the time. I also felt that everybody else’s’ feelings and lives were worth more than mine. In short, I felt worthless. Over time this led to an intense duality. I had become on the outside an incredibly argumentative, battle fighting Annie who was counterbalanced by an inner easily manipulated subservient doormat Annie who was desperate to be rescued. I was imbalanced, I was miserable. This led to a tunnel-visioned fear based existence and once you have fallen into this trap it can be very hard to get out of. That is not to say my life was constantly miserable, I have lots of happy memories and have had some amazing experiences but most of the life decisions and spiritual choices I have made did not come from a unified positive mindset.

Lots of us have similar stories, whereby experience has molded us into the person we always feared we would become not the person we wanted to. Whether you have had the same experience or a different kind of negative it is safe to say that fear begets fear. So when we do decide to break free from this, when we see how we do want to live our lives (or at the very least how we do not) why is it so bloody hard? Why does it feel as though nearly every sign is trying to tell us that we are doing the wrong thing? Welcome to Stockholm syndrome of the spirit. Stockholm syndrome, for those of us unfamiliar with the term is defined as the following: “The psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor”. This phrase was coined following a robbery attempt in 1973 in, yes, you guessed it Stockholm. The captors were able to induce feelings of sympathy and collusion with those they held hostage to the point where the victims even began to see the police as an enemy.

I believe that this has happened to a lot of us. We have become so entrenched in what is actually acting against our best interests that it is frightening to go against it. What we consider our ‘normal’ is our safety barrier. It is where we feel ‘o.k’ and protected- its gotten us this far hasn’t it? On top of this, if you think about it, we have only had to act on a fraction of our potential. We have been closed down, we know the rules and our remit in life. Imagine all of a sudden everything which has held you together thus far being removed. Imagine in essence, that pretty much everything you know is wrong. It would shake you to the core it would leave you bewildered confused and frightened. On a very deep intrinsic level, this is what is happening to us and this is why it can be such a struggle. I do not believe the depth of the struggle is based upon the level of ‘closed down’ you have been operating on but more to do with just how much you hold this existence to be true and valid. It is difficult to give up the history of your self.

It would make sense that we feel reluctance or even hostility towards breaking free from this life cycle. Feelings such as bewilderment, anger, frustration and isolation now begin to make a lot of sense. If we were to talk with one of the original sufferers of Stockholm syndrome we could perhaps empathise with how they feel. If we were the police or dedicated therapists we would talk them through their experiences and help them to come to self realisation, that perhaps remaining captive in a bank for the rest of their lives is not the best and only option open to them. We would have an understanding of their situation but an equal understanding of how much better life could be for them. Let’s stretch this out to our own lives. To me, this is what the universe is trying to do. It’s trying to show us that these experientially imposed boundaries and blinkered vision are holding us back, that it is time to look outside of our past to see what will make us happy.

If we take this as true (and I believe that it is), for any of us this is a process. Many of us can’t simply let go of the ways of living and beliefs which we perceive as having kept us safe for so long. If we are jumping we want somewhere clearly defined to jump to! What is crucial to keep in mind is that it is actually down to us to do the work and figure out our role in this lifetime. The universe can guide and support you. It can teach you if you let it.

Quite often during this time, we find ourselves re-enacting or reliving the same fundamental lessons in varying guises. If you find yourself in situations which keep throwing up the same negative emotions ask yourself why? It is very probable that you haven’t yet mastered the mindset you need in order to rid yourself of the same patterns over and over again presenting themselves. I can pretty much guarantee that it is an adjustment within you which is needed as opposed to any external changes required after all our thoughts dictate our reality. This is difficult. Not only then are we dealing with the realisation that we are not our past we are not our experience but also we have to begin to live in a completely different way which is not dictated or predefined. A lot of us, when faced with infinite possibility don’t want it-or think we don’t. But remember this is a process and it takes time. Don’t be hard on yourself and don’t be hard on the universe. You are learning and unlearning at the same time. Be kind to all participants.

The very fact that we can’t just return to our former thinking self and the way we lived our lives is a testament to the belief that a spirit centred existence is where we would be best to head towards. I believe we know it is the way for us but our resistance to change and adjustment from a fear-based life to one full of love makes it difficult, especially if we have no immediate support network or friends with the same appreciations and desires. We have no proof this will work! If we are not careful we are going to be attempting to go forward and evolve while remaining scared which is so problematic and confusing to our souls that it exacerbates our adjustment and makes it impossible. What we truly would be better off doing is giving up the fear, the need to control, the need to ‘know’ what is going to happen next and trust. We all say that the universe has our back we say we believe it is here to support and love us to help us evolve back to the state of natural happiness and eternal love but are we actually giving it the chance to show us that this is true?

Part II of this article will be coming next week and with it the discussion of what we can practically do for ourselves to help us with adjusting our lives and mindset. Stay tuned folks.

Much love,

Annie x