It is very easy to replace one form of imprisonment for another, perhaps more subtle and invidious, kind. Escaping the geographical Colditz does not necessarily imply that one has freed oneself from the cells and bars of the cranial vault.
Freedom start, and ends, in the mind. It has become clear to me, this morning, that I am still shacked emotionally to the ball-and-chain of the past; that, for all I have escaped physically, my mind and emotions remain bent in cringing terror of the next manipulative ‘blow’; that putting physical miles between myself and my metaphorical jailer cannot banish the prison and the behavioural traits produced by decades of emotional incarceration.
The recent resurgence of anxiety is an acknowledgement of – and an essential facing up to – that. It has forced me to see the extent to which I force my own expectations (of other people’s reactions to my behaviour and feelings) through the narrow, and scary, pipe of habitual gaslighting: That I expect people, especially men, to be angry with, and rejecting of, me when I am distressed; I expect to have to explain and apologise , to take the blame, for everything. I still shudder and quiver, come close to absolute panic, when faced with silence and non-response because it triggers the memory of all those times when silence was used, deliberately, as a weapon to punish me and bring me to heel.
I have shown impatience with, and lack of respect towards, myself in the sense that I had expected (hoped, more like) that moving to Glastonbury would bring instant healing and relief – and have, therefore, been angry with, and bitterly disappointed in, my own response because the pain continues, I still feel panicky and sad most mornings when I wake up, the palpitations remain and my trained reactions to certain situations seem to be so deeply ingrained that a mere geographical move cannot uproot them in forty days. There are times when I feel a complete failure (though I know I am anything but) and fear that I have made no progress at all (though I know I have).
But, understanding the way I have used the principle, and reality, of replacement certainly helps. Now that I can see that I have constructed my very own concentration camp of the emotions, I can foresee a time when it will be nothing but a pile of rubble in the Civic Amenity Site of the past.
Only I can give myself permission for true freedom. Only I can turn that vast key, open the mind’s most intransigent door and make for the open spaces.