“How much longer?” I pleaded in the direction of the long space-time tunnel that separated me from my midwife.
My mind had leapt back on stage and grabbed the mic. You can’t do this, it said. You’re going to die. This is literally going to kill you. Who do you think you are trying to do something like this. You don’t have what it takes.
The relentless stream of negativity made everything worse.
I thought, as so many birthing women do, that I would be annihilated in that moment.
And perhaps I was. Perhaps my mind broke open and one layer of its lies fell to ashes on the ground.
But then, in my deepest moment of surrender, it was over.
Initiation and why we need it
That would not be the last time I’d find myself on my knees pleading for mercy, desperately demanding how much longer? But the lived experience of moving through fear would stay with me as an imprint to draw from in these darker times. As a means of distinguishing the tantrum of the protective mind from the deeper faith of the soul. I would bring with me to future birth canals a knowledge that the screechingly excruciating tight spaces lead to new grand openings, upleveling, and expansion. And I would know, deep down, that I would be okay, even if I struggled to believe it.
This is what initiation is for — it is a lived experience that exposes the illusion: the ego, the mind, and our attachment to control for the limiting forces they are. Initiation brings us to the brink and demands that we bow as we are pushed off the edge… only to find that we can take flight when we thought we would plummet to our deaths.
We need initiation to begin the adultification process. To begin to tap into a sense of who we are, of our divine and primal power, and to begin to experience a core sense of self that doesn’t change when our opinions or personality do.
Because we are no longer ceremonially initiated by our tribespeople, as men and women, we are all still being driven by our childhood wounds. We have not yet discovered who we are as an impossibly unique contribution to the greater design. We are walking bags of unexamined trauma, unprocessed emotions, and maladaptive patterns.
Many believe that every living human has sustained a cardinal psychoemotional injury by the age of seven. A wound that triggers shame and inadequacy. This wound could be severe as in violence or sexual abuse, or it could be that your mom said your sister could have ice cream but not you. The response to this wound is our personality, our defenses, our habits, and ultimately, our beliefs about ourselves and the world.
We carry these unprocessed emotions in our bodies and our bodies try to show us that we can run but we can’t hide… these are called symptoms, illness, and disease, and can ultimately lead to identification as a psychiatric patient, broken, for life. But, identifying with a disease (I’m a cancer patient, I have Depression) is like saying that the smoke alarm is the reason the house is burning down. You are not your disease. It is helping you to see what you need to look at, deep inside.
It is in this way that the child self runs our lives. Always beneath the surface, this wounding program is activated by anything and everything that smells like, feels like, looks like, or behaves like the characters in our primary injury. The wound wants to be seen, and so it is always actively commanding our attention.
We go out of our way to attract experiences that confirm our beliefs. Take one of mine for example — I have a programmed belief that no one has my back… that when things get tough, no one can or wants to be there for me. They can’t handle me and everything I am. I developed this belief through a childhood wound.
For many years of my life, I collected experiences that confirmed that belief. I would find that colleagues would scatter when I came under media attack, that family and friends abandoned me in one of my dark nights, or that I would repeatedly fail when trying to assemble groups of like-minded researchers and clinicians.
Then there is a patient of mine, Sarah. At least four times in her life, she was reflected that she didn’t have what it takes. Her school counselor discouraged her from applying to top tier schools, she was told to reconsider her artistic ambition to open up a gallery, and she has been medicated for years by a doctor who told her that she couldn’t handle the stress of a powerful but unstable relationship in her life.
Identifying these patterns and beliefs is a way to take responsibility for everything in life that feels unfair. It’s a way of recognizing that you have control, exactly in the times and spaces that you feel most victimized, of turning out the monsters in the closet. What if you didn’t struggle in the ways that you do — then what would happen? What would that be like? You’ll find, as shocking as it is, that you are getting something out of being a victim… safety, being right, being blameless.
But addressing this wound is the hardest work. It’s the apex of the climb. First comes physical healing, then emotional inventory, and then facing the wound.
Facing this wound and working with the relationships that will help your childself feel heard is the hardest work we will be asked to do in a lifetime. And the house of cards that we had held up for sometimes decades… well, it might need to fall.
The confusion, pain, and disorientation that can come with that will characterize your rock bottom. And perhaps your final birth canal. The final dark night. The final trial.
This process results in the energetic shrinking of your parents and childhood authorities, so that they become a smaller part of your psychic landscape. So that the frustrated need of your child self to be seen and honored by them is lessened. Ideally, at this point, you are held by others in your tribe who see you and honor you, authentically.
The One Big Lie
I want to make sure that you can identify the one big lie that your mind will tell you when you are in that dark night. The lie is:
I am never going to feel okay again.
That’s it. This is the lie that drives people to self-destruction. It is the pole holding up the banner of hopelessness. It is the dark cloud obscuring the sun. It’s also the lie that keeps dynamic, complicated individuals captive in a system that says: your struggle is a permanent and defining feature of your brokenness.
This lie drives our fear so that we scramble to do, fix, mitigate, and stem the bleeding in whatever way possible.
If you have encountered this lie, here are some tips from someone who’s been there, and who has worked with hundreds of women whose minds have trumpeted this falsehood at various moments in their transformational process.
1. No decisions
We are used to making decisions from our intellect. Pros and cons, better now than never, safe than sorry. In these times of your life, however, when time slows down, and where you feel the ground moving beneath your feet, proceed in a different way. As my teacher Swaranpal always said, when you don’t know what to do, wait until you do. You will know when you have to make a move and what it is supposed to be because it won’t feel like a choice any longer. That doesn’t mean you won’t still be bracing against it, it will simply be clear that the only way forward is through. Ending a relationship, quitting a job, confronting a family member, sharing a long-held secret. This is what it feels like to make decisions from your intuition.
2. Ask for prayer
I was once accused by a therapist of never letting anyone in my life know that I needed them. She was right. In your dark night, ask for help. You might even ask for someone to pray for you. In my most recent struggle, one of my dearest built two altars for me that burned for weeks. And I asked five other friends to pray for me. And not just in the colloquial oh yeah I’ll send you good vibes sense. In the real, focused, intentionality sense. In fact, data on remote healing is pretty remarkable, demonstrating improved healing even when people don’t know they are being prayed for. Ask them to pray for an easeful transition, for spiritual support, or for what is in your best and highest to manifest. Ask them to hold you in love.
3. Safety mantra
There may be whole days during which you feel like you are going to disintegrate from worry, unease, and deep discomfort in your own skin. Pick a safety mantra. Mine has been simple: You are OK. Literally, that’s it. I would say that hundreds of times a day at the worst of it. You could choose, I am loved. This will end. I have everything I need. I will only experience exactly what I can handle. Or anything that you wish you could hear whispered from on high. Whisper it to yourself… a lot.
4. Stop life as usual
Because society makes no room for breakdown/breakthroughs, we are enculturated around our persistent functioning, reliability, and productivity as the metric of okay-ness. When you are hitting a rock bottom, make space. Cancel meetings, get quiet if you need to, tell people the truth — that you are going through something and need a pause. The energy you reserve by doing this will channel directly into your process.
5. Let it move through
Many believe, and I have experienced, that the soul may want to leave the body during these alchemical transitions. It is a kind of dissociation. In fact, there’s a flower remedy specifically for this: Clematis. Get back in your body through sensuality. Turn on music that feels like your mood. Move the energy through. Take a bath. Get a massage. Make love or self pleasure. Often these things will feel like the last choice on your list of possibilities. That’s your fear speaking. Let your soul know that your body can hold it.
6. Call in quantum possibility
As a quantum physicist and Rupert Sheldrake fan, I like to bring science to the mystery of the human experience. Because the future is pulling the present toward it — through Attractors — you can reach out to one of these quantum possibilities with your mind, body, and soul. You can envision a scenario that feels most harmonious and expanded, even if impossible, and you can call it in. Or you can simply make room for a possibility that cannot be envisioned from your current state. Feel, in your body, what this possibility would be like to live. Feel it into being.
There’s somewhere we haven’t wanted to look. There’s some primal fear that we’ve been running from our whole lives. There’s a big thing we have to forgive, a conversation we know deep down we have to have, a heavy secret we’ve been towing around. Rock Bottom is when we can run no more. It’s when it’s time to turn, face it, and bow down in surrender. Remember, in this moment, that impermanence is the only real constant in this life experience. Change, evolution, and growth define living, and this moment in time will indeed pass. I promise. And you will come out the other end of it, having let it all fall apart, marveling at the possibility that you could have ever considered living uninitiated to the self that has emerged.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.
Defining negative experiences, Darkest Moments, as a need for medical attention, or as a need from some sort of moral improvement lectures, is PREDATORY.
People will often undergo stress and need to respond to situations. But this does not mean medical or moral improvement. Best situation is if they can be politically active and be open and gain support from Comrades.
A psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or Life Coach is not a comrade.
I enjoy creative writing and that was fabulous.
Reading ( doogie howser) theme music expediated I consider there is an avenue on this bone. This cavity edging and the outcome is a person that is lost to your knowledge. Dr. Brogan I feel this is a moral article.
I think of my own sibling who I’m not close with. He is attorney doing employment law from his home and also went to University Chicago law school.
People like him are lost on the clarity you provide.
Morality. They fight against bullying and hostility and lose. I had psuedo prejudice at my career and then I had prejudice and emotional abuse.
Didn’t care and says he represents employer and employee. I did research when stung me and he often litigates employer against individuals of other races than Caucasian.
The nerve of my sibling.
Dr. Brogan individuals read your article though they aren’t aware of this tubular cavity off the bone there is huge problem. Not being aware are microsomes Dr. microsomes of morality.
I feel so deeply emotions with people that share my faith. Individual(s) of different heritages. Also though other benevolent faiths.
Kelly, close but no cigar. I had to stop reading because there are some wounds that are almost beyond empathy and either you never had it or IDK.
When a human is in a place or sheer terror or horror the wound analogy misses something.
The mothers – documented in Louise Erdrich and Toni Morrison novels who had to let their infants die to go on living. That my dear is all things being equal very much not being equal because it NEVER SHOULD have happened.
This is the HORROR of our world terrible things happening to both children and adults not because of any inner psychic issue but the complete and utter inequality of the world.
The knowledge to avoid most of our tragedies is there just certain folks don’t want to be bothered.
As hard as your own hardness in life is unfortunately there are others unable to voice the true reality of life as it is these days.
House in Detroit, Michigan visit there and write for them or better yet teach them how not only to witness but to act.
We have to have both and it cannot be done without human andhumane. Support.
Brilliant comment, Catnight. All of this is especially powerful and true–
“The mothers – documented in Louise Erdrich and Toni Morrison novels who had to let their infants die to go on living. That my dear is all things being equal very much not being equal because it NEVER SHOULD have happened. This is the HORROR of our world terrible things happening to both children and adults not because of any inner psychic issue but the complete and utter inequality of the world. The knowledge to avoid most of our tragedies is there just certain folks don’t want to be bothered.”
Although deep psychic wounding is certainly the RESULT of an unjust and unequal society, as is sheer terror. That is an unsafe world so we suffer from chronic fear, worry, shame, guilt, and doubt–all negativity, and extremely disempowering. And from those wounds, more of the same is created, generationally. As a humanity, we’ve been at this for quite some time, eons. Right now, these energies and emotions run thick throughout the collective. To my mind, they are up for healing, shifting, and transmuting.
I’m thinking as we address one we address the other, and some will be prone to look at society, first, and see the flagrant injustices which in the end harm everyone, and others will look within, first, to see how to shift perspective and then be in the world in a different way, creating from new beliefs and perceptions, a new interpretation of life seen on a broader big picture level. I believe they complement each other and are inherenntly interconnected, as well as equally vital on which to focus.
I do feel that healing our deep wounds would raise the energy of the world to new clarity, so that perhaps we can find solutions which will bring humanity into balance, thus creatiing a just society. It will simply be more practical for all concerned.
Creating inner balance and harmony will create these around us, because we define our boundaries differently as we discern what is nurturing and supportive to us vs what is toxic and draining. Deep wounds can create confusion for the psyche in this regard and cause people to repeat bad dynamics because they are always trying to heal that wound through another, albeit unconsciously.
Whereas CONSCIOUSLY healing these wounds from within changes our self-perception, sharpens our ability to discern how something makes us feel, and shifts our entire relationship landscape, as we begin to attract that which supports our balance and well-being.
Thus, reality expands based on what we can achieve internally, with our awareness of self and others. Things change as we grow, and beliefs are tested, causing us to reflect on what we now, in present time, value, as distinguished from that which no longer serves us, so we let it go. That is the nature of change and transformation, which is what we’re after given how dense our world is right now. We are in dire need of light!
But you’re right, Catnight, some folks “don’t like to be bothered about this.” That’s a problem when those who resist change sabotage the efforts of those who desire it. And many don’t just desire it, they NEED for change to occur because their lives, and quality of life, depend on it. I believe it is reasonable and just, but that doesn’t matter. For the powers that be, it then becomes an emotional issue, and they turn into “victims.” So shamelessly manipulative and false. That’s the sticking point.
“The knowledge to avoid most of our tragedies is there”
Yes, this is what wants to come to light, and which is being kept hidden from view by those supporting the corrupt and insane-making status quo. In our status quo, our global “norm,” there is great profit garnered directly from the tragedies of “others.” When we allow this to be seen and known, and stop enabling systems which reap profit from suffering, causing only more suffering, then transformational shift will be in full swing.
Kelly, I’m slapping the kitchen counter and yelling, alone. This is beautiful. This is truth. This is precise and expansive, both in the best ways.
The power (yes, power) your words embody through the screen and the pixelated text is pulling me through to the next part of a very powerful journey.
I VERY MUCH aspire to be my own, real self, with the degree of power and self-security you carry into your body of work, and your physical self. You are what my generation calls a “Bad B—-,” which is a very high compliment. It’s not quite enough, though.
I also very much hope to work with you in a professional capacity when my own vision of power and security materializes outside of my current circumstances. We would make an absolutely fantastic, spiritually & “ideologically” compatible team – I have enough fierceness to contribute to the mission, believe me.
Back to the article – every word is precise and powerful. Want to know which part was the best? Read the whole thing back to yourself – that whole part was the best.
Kelly. This writing has great value to a person in an experience of madness. Thank you. Please keep contributing to MIA – I feel we need you.
Penalties for perpetrators and reparations for survivors. This is what restores public honor, not time spent in the therapist’s office.
Thank you Dr Kelly,
This is just what I needed to read right now.
Everyone, darkest moment is that people listened to me demean Massachusetts peer leaders. Demean and pompous attitude then to move here. Ahhh.
Everybody please get back on this train. People here and around the world join hands.
I was a dork. A pig.
This author also she’s great. What an article.
Kelly, I loved and savoured every deep and true word of your quest. Yes to lack of intiatiion! How we’ve lost the wisdom of ancestors while we’ve been taught to worship things, and power.
My son is very much at the point of initiatiion. I’m trying to help him: he’s been through so much rejection, pain and trauma, yet he remains stuck, when he is so strong. He doesn’t believe his strength. I didn’t believe mine but when I had no option four years ago, I was re-birthed and came out the other side. (I had Open Dialogue therapy.)
Earlier today, reminded by you, I asked a group of friends to pray for him, to uplift him. I know from my life that prayer works. Namaste to you. xxx
Thanks, Kelly, for your incredible article. I am forwarding it to a woman who I am hoping finds it helpful.
My regret is that you did not follow the line of the importance of initiation further. And where to find a woman’s initiation.
The men’s movement has a grass roots initiation that I found very helpful: http://www.mkp.org
Thanks for this very helpful blog Dr. Brogan. There is a lot of good suggestions on how to tap into our power and core sense of who we are.
The only suggestion that doesn’t work for me is “this moment in time shall indeed pass”. I used to believe in the phrase ‘this too shall pass’ but have found out it certainly does not apply to harm and damage inflicted by psychiatry.
Articles like these, written beautifully within a lot of wisdom.
Yet I cannot help it, part of me does not subscribe. Articles such as these prompt me to examine myself ONCE more.
It can lead one down a weird winding road, with no end in sight.
I think it works for some, because they believe. Much of healing is based on belief and faith.
However, some feel that they do not measure up to what is presented.
A bit like the EGO and ID by freud.
I have a problem with these views, information in the same way I do with psychiatry.
Presenting a “healing” view and peddling it (not meant negatively)
Some crazy reactions or emotions, tools, lack of them, might be exactly how people get through the day.
It worries me that people who are not ‘happy’, or anxious etc, grab onto the next “way” of whatever is presented and yet feel they missed the boat. Therapy can be harmful, it works for some.
We might think of those people as ones who are protecting their pain, don’t want to see, EGO, defenses, not ready and on and on.
BUT, we have no proof that is the case.
Each therapist has their own perspective and what worked for them, is not “the truth”.
It reminds me of “enlightenment”.
I have no clue if people are not supposed to be ruled by anxiety or fears, or anger. I need to see the original of “how people should be model” to compare.
I think it’s okay to feel as if no one had your back. So what if we wallow in self pity. To recognize it is a major step, but to try and get rid of that, those real feelings, might not be in the best interest of persons.
But who am I to know?
Like a lot of therapists, I just guess. But I know squat about healing, so I cannot inform others.
We also know that what we proclaim today, might change. We might have a different version of tips for those who ask.