In 2006, I had a period of illness following a mild traumatic brain injury, where I was forced into a personal “lockdown”. As my brain hardly tolerated any impulses from the outside, I had to isolate in my home, without any input from computer, TV, radio, social encounters, not even telephone for about five months. My brain allowed me no entertainment, no distraction. The only thing I could do, was to breathe – and to feel. I felt a lot. In the start, I felt mostly sheer panic and rage. I felt victimized by the situation and fought an intense inner battle to come back to my old life. What totally freaked me out was losing the feeling of being useful and acknowledged in the social world. My social junkie missed my daily boost of social appreciation and likes.
The world as I knew it was turned upside down. In this reluctant meeting with my inner world, trying hard to return to my daily life but again and again brutally (or so it felt) thrown back into stillness and darkness, I was finally forced to surrender to my inner landscapes. During these months spent lying down in darkness behind closed curtains and in total silence, I got very acquainted with my inner personalities.
I met a lot of different personalities that were part of me and that had unconsciously more or less ruled my world until then. They were screaming louder than ever now that I was home alone with them.
I met the “Undetonated Poor-Me Terrorist”, wanting everyone to see her misery and to feel sorry for her, desperate to make them fill her empty holes of unmet needs. I met the “Critical Observer”, closely watching over me, to see if I did things “correctly” or if I was good enough, any moment ready with a crushing judgement. I met my “Smiling Face” – a pleasing, good girl on the outside, but full of passive aggression inside, creeping out through the cracks in the sweet surface.
I also met the General, the Clever Little Girl, Mr.Right and Mr.Wrong, Mrs. Never Good Enough, the World Champion, the Stubborn Boy, the Hysterical Drama Queen, and several other more or less colorful personalities. All blocked in a mental pattern that was far from constructive.
Finally, I also met my inner Compassionate Mother, hugging and caring deeply for the wellbeing of all these confused and unhappy inner parts.
Learning to meet these inner personalities, not with condemnation and fear, but with a spacious, mothering nurturing love, was what I needed. Not only to get through my illness, and to be healed – but to come back to my everyday life – living my life so much richer, stronger, more meaningfully.
Nine years later, in 2015, I ended up in the same situation again – with my third concussion. This time, I was not so unprepared. I did not fight for as long. I surrendered more swiftly into a world of silence, of slowness. Of body, breath, feelings, inner landscapes. Of slow walks in nature, senses open. Into a grounded sense of being a tiny part of something much bigger. Letting go into a state of mind where my mental control and panicked automatic reactions to the situation were taken less seriously. Where my old life of deadlines, pressure and hurry now seemed meaningless. Time stood still. Time was unimportant. I could not relate to the world out there. I was just being. Right now.
Still, it was a test of patience, and it took almost four years including another serious illness before I was out of my lockdown. But this time I knew. I knew I would get through it, and I knew I would get through it stronger, through my meeting with my internal world. I had the tools to get through it, I had the social support – and I was no longer so scared of my aloneness on that inner journey.
I am so grateful for the tools I had learned and for the people who stood by me during these months and years. I could not have done it without them. But I also know that the most important work was my own, that I had to meet my inner demons, my inner tigers and my inner landscapes of fears, shadows and raging anger – but also of beauty, wonder, magic and sheer power.
It is 2021, and I am again in lockdown. So is everyone around me, and many millions worldwide. It is not a personal lockdown, but for many, the isolation, the restrictions on freedom, the frustration, the impatience and uncertainty can create an emotional situation quite similar to that of my personal lockdown.
This time too, I know. I know that we can get through it, stronger.
Many of us have experienced personal lockdowns, in one shape or another, and we know. We know that we can get through it, as stronger, wiser human beings, even if it triggers our fears, pains, shadows and frustrations. We don’t have to fight to merely survive, hold our breath until it’s over so we can return to the same world as before.
We don’t have to go back to the same old versions of ourselves. We are so much more powerful than we think, and our inner life is so much richer and more beautiful than we allow ourselves to experience. Our fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable has kept many inner, vulnerable but colorful personalities locked up for years. What if meeting and embracing them could help us become more happy, more balanced, more whole? If this lockdown causes a personal inner battle and crisis in us, it may be existence calling on us to venture on the journey inward.
We can use this golden opportunity to be gently and lovingly exploring our inner landscapes. To switch off those beckoning screens and distractions for a moment and tread a step in to really see and meet our inner, screaming personalities. And – to dare reach out for a helping hand when we need one, when we feel lonely and confused by the commotion inside. We can slowly get better at the subtle art of embracing our vulnerable, hysterically upset inner parts with our own mothering compassion. Even if we don’t agree with their obstinate view of the world.
That is when we can meet others with the same compassion and know that we are all one. Even if they don’t agree with our view of the world.