I am with a man and we go down into an underground bunker. The corridors are narrow and we pass by a room where there is a bloody dead man sprawled on the floor and go into another room. Then I decide to go back up. I have to walk back past the dead man and climb up to a door. I open the door a crack and look out. It seems as if I have climbed up some kind of silo. I see other buildings and a huge parking lot below with lots of cars with black windows. I suddenly become fearful that there is someone out there amongst the cars that will try and get to me. I turn and go back down into the bunker. I pass by the dead man again.In the dream, I feel as though I pass by the dead man several times, like around each corner, there he is. I even have to step around his legs to pass by. But, I don’t stop. I don’t look at the dead man because I don’t want to see him. In the dream, I feel nothing about this dead man. I do not stop and I don’t look. Yet, he keeps appearing, so there must be something here that I am supposed to feel, to know about. And, I must know it because I choose to go back. Choosing to go back is choosing to go forward.
In our dreamwork session, my therapist Sue says she is curious about the dead man and she takes me to this moment and tells me to stop and asks me what I feel. “Nothing”, I say. “I feel nothing. He is dead. I don’t want to see him.” This feeling of not wanting to see, of turn away, not wanting to be exposed or vulnerable has tagged me through several weeks of dreamwork. We work some other dreams and come back to this moment. Something breaks and I feel the discomfort of deep pain rise in me. It feels like some old hurt. I feel the "tip-of-my-thumb-in-my-mouth" kind of child-like hurt come up and I can’t stand it. I want to attach it to something. Any old story will do: being given up for adoption, the death of my birth mother, the death of my older brother, perhaps even the death of my own passion…something. I don’t know. If I can find a story, in the story I can find some type of shame to kill this feeling. I am guilty somehow. I am responsible. This is my fault. I can feel anger come up. Anger can take care of this discomfort as well. I can be angry that there is a bloody dead man; anything to get out of the squirming discomfort of unattached pain.
The truth is I don’t know what this dead man is. So, I draw his sprawled body. I sketch him on the canvas. I paint his body. The desolated space of the bunker room rises up around him. Now he is naked, exposed. I can’t see his wound, but it is bloody and he is dead. Dead in the bunker and I feel a deep hurt at seeing him this way.
I am reminded of the all the war movies I saw when I was young growing up in the 70’s. Most of the movies were about the Vietnam War. It was a bloody senseless affair, like most wars. But there was always a moment between some soldiers on the battlefield. One of the buddies dies and one is grief stricken. But there is always another buddy there to say, “It don’t mean nuthin’, it don’t mean nothin’”, until this becomes the mantra, the survival mechanism: it don’t mean nuthin’. This is the mantra I have lived by. It don’t mean nuthin. This is why I have never experienced romantic heart break, never fully felt the losses. I never allowed it. This is hard to admit, because I see now that the not allowing of the hurt or the pain or the loss is to not allow the love, the joy, the gratitude. It is a half life, a twilight life. It seems that vulnerability is the key to moving into all of these feelings. I have been the Amazon, the warrior woman soldier who would cut off her own breast to make the bow string pull truer and unhindered. To loose the arrow that would protect me from mine enemies; to keep me safe from weakness so that I wouldn’t be “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded”.
But I am the warrior woman who is coming home. Home is where the heart is.
Vulnerability is like humility in that you can’t talk about how you are vulnerable. If you believe you are vulnerable and carry your vulnerability like a badge, then you are probably just living in the hurt, the victim hood. I am realizing that vulnerability is not about being hurt or feeling pain or allowing love. It is about being totally open, knowing that you may be hurt but existing in that place anyway. It is about living and speaking from the authentic place without the masks, without the bow and arrow, without the fear of judgment. Feeling the pain is not what makes me vulnerable, because truly the suffering cannot be avoided. My fear about the open heart comes from the lie that I must avoid the pain, but the truth is I am already suffering.
It is the open heart that makes me vulnerable. Here is the dead man in the bunker.