Over New Year’s Eve, I went to a firewalking ceremony. Some friends of mine are into walking on glowing coals, and they said it would be a good experience for me to have. Personally, I was more interested in a bonfire than walking on coals, and I didn’t actually intend to “do the walk” with everyone else. I didn’t intend to sit through the little presentation that was offered before everyone walked, too.
But by the end of the evening, I had sat through the presentation, broken a board with my bare hands, and walked across glowing hot coals. By the wee morning hours, I was high as a kite. And now I’m paying for it. Big time.
Because as much as I enjoyed staying up way past my bedtime.. and as much as I enjoyed the company of the folks I was with… as powerful as I felt as that board snapped under my hand… and as much of a thrill as I got from walking barefoot across glowing coals… the benefit was short-lived, but the gut-churning after-effects are still with me.
See, one of the goals to the evening was “getting rid of old stuff that is holding you back.” Breaking the boards and walking on coals were supposedly for breaking free of limiting patterns and getting rid of untrue self-talk. The intention was to symbolically shatter misconceptions about ourselves, as well as find out we could do things we didn’t think we could. And that’s fine. We can all use that. My argument has to do with the depth, breadth, and scope of the changes we were supposed to experience, and the lasting effects on me, in light of my neurology.
I got the impression from the person leading the firewalk, that they considered firewalking a way to completely let go of “old stuff”… to break free from self-limitation, and step into a whole new way of being in the world for the new year. That’s fine, but did they honestly think that a single evening could erase a boatload of trauma for participants, just by breaking a board and walking on coals? They seemed to think so. And they really pushed participants to “get in touch with whatever is holding you back,” which included everything from things people had said to us that were untrue, to ideas we had in our heads about what we were capable of doing. It was a lot to compile. And it was totally overwhelming.
Now, maybe it’s possible for neurotypical people to do this sort of thing — list out a bunch of ideas they want to change about themselves, and then symbolically sever their “connection” with those old stories, and have their lives change for the better. But for this particular individual, the prospect of overcoming neurological, physiological, psychological, and emotional issues (many of which are intertwined, and are perpetuated in a complex cause-and-effect waterfall/chain reaction that is hard enough to track, let alone fully understand) in the course of one evening, seems a bit of a reach.
Some people left elated. Others left despondent (because their issues wouldn’t budge). Others took it all in stride and disappeared into the new year. I started out elated that I’d been able to do the things I’d done, but by this afternoon, after I’d woken up from my extended lie-in, I started to feel downright crappy.
‘Cause my “issues” aren’t quite that easy to dislodge. And I felt sort of the same way after the firewalk, that I used to feel after therapy — like I was supposed/expected to have some breakthrough by identifying my problems, but the waters just got more muddied, the more I contemplated my issues. It didn’t help. It made things worse.
With me — and countless other MTBI survivors — the emotional aspects of life are complicated by neurological ones… and the emotional aspects often camouflage the neurological sources of one’s problems. And the more you hammer away at emotional issues, tring to banish them without addressing the underlying neurological sources, the worse it makes a person feel, who’s seeking relief from emotional distress.
And the more today went on, the worse I felt. Because I was/am tired. Totally wiped out, to the point of not being able to think. And I’m also revisiting all those ideas and scenes and concepts we were focusing on last night that I supposedly overcame, unable to filter them and parse them all out, ’cause I’m so tired. I’m all for personal transformation, but there was something prefunctory and a little presumptuous about that firewalk experience. The more I think about it, the worse the taste in my mouth.
Okay, true, it’s been less than 24 hours since I got home from the shindig, and the emotional hangover will probably wear off before long. But still, the whole experience doesn’t sit right with me, and I feel a bit “behind” today — not rested, not rejuvenated, but tapped out and taxed.
I’m going to bed.