Our Culture is a Cocoon and We are Suffocating in it

Gillian May

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When I take stock of things, my life is marked by constant and drastic transformation. Yet again, I’m beginning a new chapter in a new place. I’ve left another city and another group of friends and have stripped my life raw and void of everything it used to be.

I am an empty vessel, and I have no idea what’s around the next corner.

I’m not a stranger to beginnings and endings. I keep leaving friend groups, communities, jobs, and relationships in a quest to honor a pull inside of me that I often feel I have no control over at times. I trust the pull though, it feels innate and primal. It feels like inertia that’s as godly as nature.

But my mind and heart are often at odds with each other. I work hard to reconcile this every day, because although the pull feels natural, these two opposing forces, do not. I used to succumb to the insecurity and self-doubt that this often brought up in me. These days, I know enough not to let my mind win.

I know enough to accept that the mind is a toddler version of myself that was molded by forces I had no control over. Forces that were not, and never have been, my true self.

I suspect we all understand the opposing forces of the mind and heart and how terribly uncomfortable it is in our quest for becoming. And who are we becoming? Our best version of ourselves, of course, so long as we let it happen.

But let’s be real, shall we? Transformation is utterly painful and gutting at times. We’ve all heard that metaphor of the liquified caterpillar turning into her beautiful butterfly-self. I tattooed that shit on my arm to remind myself that this isn’t going to be easy.

The reason people are afraid to listen to their hearts is that it doesn’t give a crap about the things you need to give up to dissolve yourself and re-emerge anew.

What I mean is, your mind says, “No, I can’t bear my ground collapsing from under me yet again.” Whereas your heart says, “Whatever, stop being so attached and childlike, this is how it is to be alive.”

But it hurts. Oh my god, does it ever hurt. There are times when I think my body and soul just can’t take this anymore, but then I feel my heart pounding with wild joy, and I know that I can keep going just a little further.

The choice between staying put and avoiding our growth versus opening up and venturing out has never been easy for anyone. And for me, I don’t know if this pain is the old me that still thinks she should stay small to be safe.

There are people we admire, and we obsess over their courage, don’t we? We look to them as heroes of change. They seem to drop things and move on as if they don’t have a single thought about it.

But then some people think I’m like that too, which only proves that you never really know what’s happening in the minds and hearts of most people.

The truth is, I am sad and scared all the time, but I am also excited and joyful too. For a while, I couldn’t understand how these feelings can co-exist, but they do.

But our minds will always have a hard time believing that transformation is healthy. This is entirely the fault of the culture we were raised in, and I know now that it will never truly support us on this path.

Parents, teachers, colleagues, bosses, and the general public have reinforced the idea that to keep leaving things for transformation makes us a perpetual adolescent who is irresponsible and undeserving of support and encouragement.

For me, when I even mention how hard this can be, I’m often met with responses like, “Well, you chose this, so what are you griping about?”

I’m just being real; this shit is hard, and I need to honor that. What’s the point in portraying some fantasy that everything is la-dee-da because we dare to have the courage to follow our hearts towards change?

What I know for sure is that our hearts are screaming about one crucial fact — we cannot afford to stay in our safety zones anymore. Our culture is a permanent cocoon that we constructed centuries ago, and we are suffocating in it.

We can no longer listen to the nonsense in our minds that tell us to stay put, stay safe, and screw anyone else who tries to take our comfort from us. I think we’ve seen the fallout of that attitude in the current cultural climate.

This is precisely why people who transform are often shunned. Such a threat we are to the status quo, that people ridicule us. The worst part is that they have no idea why they’re shunning us. But that’s what happens when you sever the bond between your mind and heart.

No, we are not butterflies; we are human beings with ego thoughts and complex language. Our over-developed brains are both miraculous and destructive. But it’s time for us to take stock of that if we are to transform in a healthy way without imploding or exploding.

Whenever the pain comes, I try to remember this. I lean into the only true wisdom I have — that undeniable pull to change and become. With that, I can move towards acceptance of the discomfort, which helps me breathe and relax my body a little more.

And besides, who knows if caterpillars aren’t screaming from the pain just as much as we are. No human can speak or hear their language, so we will never know.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work - https://upbeat-trader-4181.ck.page/839d0ab3f9. I also have a book on Alcoholic Liver Disease coming out in 2021.

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