I got to thinking the other day (and don’t ask how my brain ended up there, but it did – something to do with a conversation about enjoying being wrapped in blankets and snuggled up, and feeling safe) about the places I view as ‘safe’, the historical precedent I have for them, and the ways I’m probably still under the influence of these patterns of behaviour.
I’m a hider, you see.
I think it must have started when I was growing up. I’m not sure at what point it became a source of comfort and safety, but I can remember many occasions where I felt safe and secure and protected, and those times were generally alone, in the dark, somewhere small. Preferably where it would take quite a while to find me.
We had an abundance of places like that in my childhood home. The cupboard under the stairs, in amongst all the coats and boxes. The larder, in amongst the tins and packets. Behind sofas. Behind the shed in the garden, or under bushes. Under my bed. In wardrobes. And when I was REALLY tiny, inside the Ali-Baba-style laundry basket, with the lid on.
I remember the feeling of relief, hiding in those places; burrowed down and trying to be invisible and remain safe for as long as possible, shielded from whatever or whomever I was hiding from. I remember the anxiety building – would it be worse when I came out, because I’d done a vanishing act and worsened whatever transgression I’d made, by not being around to face the music? I remember the peace when I successfully disappeared and it didn’t matter and I could just stay hidden for a while and gather myself together again.
Small, dark spaces are my haven. The more constricted, the better. The more I can feel physically blocked in – skin touching the boundaries – the more confidence I have that nothing can get in there with me, and I feel somewhat protected.
As a thirty-something year old adult, hiding is no longer really acceptable as a response to pain. I think life would be rather difficult if every time I encountered a challenge, I shut myself in the wardrobe – I might never come out! But I am aware that my tendency now is to disengage. Not so much when the challenge is external – a problem which needs fixing – but when it is internal. Emotional. Something which tears at my heart. Then I fall back into old ways.
On those occasions, I step back, allow ice to seep in, cooling the connections and encasing my heart in a layer designed to protect. I feign insouciance because it gives me a stronger position from which to counter, should things get rough. I set armour around my vulnerabilities and make a big show of the hurt being naught but a scratch, when the wound to the soul may not be so deep as a well, nor so wide as a barn door, but ’tis enough – enough to make me lose confidence. Enough to send me skidding back down the neural pathways of inadequacy that I know so well. Sufficient to send me running scared, to the dark, where no-one can find me.
At some point it will be necessary to come out of hiding and face up to whatever truth is out there – whether it is my own perception gone awry (as it has a tendency to, given how incredibly sensitive I am to things like rejection (I can read it into almost anything when I’m feeling precarious)), or whether my perception was accurate, in which case work on the ice-palace I find myself building will continue apace, in a frenzied effort to keep myself together – but that time is not now.
For now I’m wrapping myself in blankets, embracing the dark, and trying to ignore the tug of anxiety, which tells me I might be right again – I’m not wanted after all…
I *do* realise that a lot of this is fear playing out to its natural conclusions. I also realise ‘logically’ that in most cases, this isn’t accurate. But at the moment there are a couple of situations (and I know I’m being vague and that’s annoying, but yaknow what – put it down to being part of that ice-castle – I have a tendency, once there, to start hurling snowballs to see how many people will be repelled, and how many will weather the storm with me) which I’m not prepared to go into, which have me shaken at the moment. If you know, then you know. If you don’t, please just bear with me and I’ll try to resume normal service as soon as the world feels safe again.
If you come within snowball-throwing range…just know that I’ll be terribly apologetic afterwards, if I catch you with one.