I NEED TO MAKE SOMETHING VERY CLEAR BEFORE YOU READ THIS: IF YOU HAVE HAD, OR THINK YOU HAVE HAD, SEXUAL OR PHYSICAL ABUSE AS A CHILD,
STOP FOR A SECOND….
I am HIGHLY recommending that you have a safety net person aware of you listening to this podcast, and at the ready to talk with you if needed. I did, and I am glad I had my wife there to bring me back from the edge.
I am a huge Tim Ferriss fan, and have been for quite a while. I love his blog, his books, and his podcast is not number one year after year for no reason. I am so glad he had the wherewithal to undertake this journey for the benefit of so many others. It is a rough listen, but I HIGHLY recommend it. Here is some of my own experience after listening to this podcast…
I am not aware that I personally have dealt with sexual abuse, but even so, I found this podcast very triggering. I have had my share of crap to undo and/or overcome, but nothing as traumatic as what Tim Ferriss and his podcast guest Debbie Millman share in this raw and beautiful conversation. It is difficult to listen to at times, but I found it very helpful in dealing with some of my own demons. This set me down the path of digging in my own head, and uncovering (and releasing) a couple of things from my childhood that clearly have been lying just under the surface all these years.
I was an intelligent child as well as being SUPER sensitive. This is a tough combo, given how mean the world can be at times. I am sure there were many things I intuited as a kid that everyone else thought went over my head or was beyond my understanding at the time. Kids in the neighborhood bullying you, or at school making fun of you for every little mistake you made, whether reading out loud and messing up, or wearing the “wrong thing” to school. Drastic life changes like my grandparents going away for six months to their summer home in Phoenix literally crushed me. A family member who, although meaning well, said or did something that shreds your confidence or self image. There are times when something done with the best of intentions has the worst of outcomes. I never thought about it in these terms until I listened to this Tim Ferriss podcast, but the mind of a child can do amazing things to cope and deal with these types of this when they occur. This is a built in defense and self preservation mechanism, which serves its purpose at the time.
The long term problem is that childhood coping skills become adult operating systems.
This was the part that I wanted to get to and resolve for myself as much as possible. I broke through a few things recently during a two week fly fishing road trip with my Dad and the month following this time. During that trip I spent a bunch of time with hours on end of silence while fishing, or while driving and my Dad was asleep. With the help of this podcast, I managed to get deep into my head and uncork a couple of things that were really bothering me. They were hiding just under the surface, but seemed inaccessible until recently. What seemed to be memories buried forever, completely inaccessible, suddenly came flooding back with crystal clear clarity. Needless to say, this has been very difficult at times. I have had a few episodes of me crying, almost uncontrollably at times, only to feel 50 pounds lighter within hours of this breakdown(thru). I had childhood fears that have kept me from fully letting go, in experiences, in relationships, in life. I have missed out on the full experience by allowing these thought processes and defense mechanisms to still be the default operating system in place. This podcast helped me see this, and change the way I view things.
I’ll give you an example of what I am talking about from my life. I have a fear of jumping into water. I don’t like to go under water at all, but especially when I I jump in and can’t tell when exactly I can come up for air. I can swim, but I wouldn’t say I enjoy it. I don’t water ski, wake board, or any other kind of activity where this unknown timeline is a factor. I don’t particularly like to have the water in the shower hit me in the face either. I didn’t make the connection in all of this until after listening to the podcast and doing some real digging. Somehow I was able to get to the root of the problem, in the most vivid of detail:
When I was a very young child, I was taken to the YMCA for swimming lessons. I had suppressed this memory so long and so deep, that it literally felt like a bubble coming up through mud and finally reaching the surface of my conscious mind. I could see my tiny little feet, hanging over the edge of the pool, being encouraged to jump in. I didn’t know how to swim yet, at least not to the point that I had the confidence to jump into the deep end of the pool. I was petrified, at that moment in my childhood, and equally i the present, as I released this trapped memory. I was shaking. I didn’t want to jump, and I could feel my toes gripping the edge of the pool. I stood there, frozen, for what seemed like an eternity. And then someone pushed me in. I went under, and I did come up, but I was panicked and gasping for air. I was flailing around and thought sure I was going to drown. The lifeguard for the class came over and got me, and guided me to the side of the pool. I coughed and sputtered and cried. I was humiliated and so scared, and I never wanted to relive that experience ever again. But that’s not how this worked; I had to repeat the process over and over until I “learned how to do it”. Needless to say, this did not go well.
Since that day, I have hated jumping into water. I never learned how to dive, that seemed like way too much to do. When I have had to do it for one reason or another, I have jumped into water. Most of the time, my fear of peer pressure overrode my fear of the water. THAT was why I did it, no other reason. I controlled my fearful response long enough to regain my composure and move on. The most recent example of this was on my honeymoon in Costa Rica, literally just shy of a year ago of me writing this. THAT is how much impact this early childhood experience had on me.
Zoom out from this specific fear to feeling helpless in any situation when you don’t have control over something, and now maybe you can understand why this has had an over-arching effect on my life. I have a quick temper, and am somewhat of a control freak about certain things. My default response to having things be out of my control is anger. It is a more powerful emotion than fear or cowardice, and I exploit this to the fullest at times. It is not healthy, and I know that. I have worked hard to gain control of this over the years, but it is not easy for me. I seem to always choose power over submission, but my “power” stance is rooted in anger.
The month that I spent sorting through this was filled with ups and downs, and my wife was a huge part in helping me through this stage. She was the recipient of my anger at times, simple default reactions with no intent behind them, but nonetheless I found myself apologizing for my remark and/or snapping at her. She understands as best she can, but she fully supports me in this journey. I don’t expect her to have answers for me, but rather just listen and not judge me. This is my sh*t, and I can’t expect her to understand this to much of a degree. She has her own stuff as well, and we talk about that sometimes.
As I said at the beginning of this, I am HIGHLY recommending this podcast, as it has had such a heavy (and positive) impact on me. But you need to proceed with caution, as this can unlock things trapped in your mind that will lead to you questioning a lot of things in your life. I BELIEVE IT IS WELL WORTH IT, but I do want to you to be careful as you go plunging headlong into the darkness of your mind. It can be a scary place in there, bring a flashlight and a friend with a rope to tether yourself to.
I wish you luck in your endeavor.
And thank you @timferriss for yet again impacting my life so heavily.