The Complexity of Experience

August 18, 2018

Since January of this year, I’ve experienced the most profound and rapid growth, because I’ve come to deeply understand three things: fragmentation, duality, and the complexity of experience.

I spent a majority of my life fragmented. For as far back as I can remember, I was unable to hold the complex duality of experiences and relationships. Oscillating between yes and no, good and bad, right and wrong. It was always either/or, never both.

Inside my relationships, it was maddening… because I knew in my heart they were bad and wrong and often awful, yet I was repeatedly convinced they were good and normal. Both by the men I was with and the people outside the relationship who only saw one side. I was told that it was either or, and if there is good present or I loved them (which I did), well then… there couldn’t possibly be anything that was truly bad.

Being fragmented made making decisions for myself nearly impossible. It made me constantly question whether or not I could trust myself that what was happening was actually happening.

We all become fragmented to different degrees, because life and family and society teach us that there’s only one way of being that’s “good” or “right” in any situation. We learn it when we go to school. We learn it when we get jobs. We learn it when we start relationships with other people who have also been taught that there are “rules” we have to live by to stay safe, secure, and successful.

But we’re all different.

We all come into experiences with an inherently different frame. Our context for life and what’s true is highly individual. And truth, my friend, truth is subjective.

Healing can only truly begin when we bring together what’s become fragmented. When we’re able to hold the duality of every situation, because even if it’s contradicting, it can be BOTH. Healing, resolution, and growth begin when we’re able to truly understand the complexity of experience, especially when other people are involved.

Watch the video now…

I have a lot I want to talk to you about today and the three primary things are fragmentation, duality, and the complexity of experience.

Some quick updates, Journey Mapping, if you want to take advantage of the early bird and save $200, as well get access to Foundations for Unshakable Joy. That expires Sunday at midnight Eastern.

Second quick update is yes, I’m still moving. I signed the lease for an apartment up near Glenwood Springs. I will be moving at the beginning of September and I will keep you posted on that as well. But let’s dive into what I want to share today.

The first thing I want to talk about today is fragmentation.

And what that is is there are parts of ourselves, or aspects of our experience and our perception that become fragmented. So instead of being able to hold it as one experience, as one perception, as one way of being, they exist in silos. There is no bridge between them. And you may find yourself kind of pushing and pulling, questioning what’s real and what’s not, not feeling confident in your decision-making ability, and very easily pushed or manipulated or convinced to go in a direction that maybe isn’t aligned for you because you are fragmented.

Fragmentation happens for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is trauma, especially developmental trauma. So a trauma that occurs repeatedly as you are developing. It happens from abuse and gaslighting. And gaslighting is something that is actually incredibly common in a wide variety of relationships.

For me personally, it wasn’t until January of this year that I was able to really integrate those fragmented aspects of myself. And I did it because someone that I was dating, who I oscillated between, okay I want to try and do this, and I am not ready, I don’t want this, said to me before I left on a two week vacation that there are two of you. It’s hard to know what to do because there are two of you. And he wasn’t wrong. There was two of me. I was pushing and pulling between those parts of myself because I was so fragmented. I could not hold both sides of that conversation in that relationship at the same time. I couldn’t hold the fact that yes, this was somebody that I loved and adored, and wanted to spend time with, and the reality that I wasn’t ready and it wasn’t something I wanted at that point in time.

And because I was so fragmented, I would oscillate between the two. Because there was also a level of gaslighting happening in that relationship. Because again, it’s so very common, we don’t even realize that we’re doing it, I stayed perpetually fragmented. It became nearly impossible for me to determine what I really wanted, and what needed to happen next. When he said that to me, I left on my vacation. I unplugged from social media for two solid weeks and I really focused on working with those parts. So there was a part that was saying yes, and there was the part that was saying no. And I couldn’t hold them at the same time. But what I could do is I could write down what each of them had to say, what each of them wanted. And I could start to take that written list, that visual something that was more tangible than just an experience that was detached from another and I could kinda smoosh them together.

And I could say, if both of these are true, if both of these are me, which is so important with fragmentation. One part is not wrong. All parts are you. All parts are true. For me in that particular situation, it was that I’m not ready. I’m not ready. And I love this person, but I’m not ready. And being able to hold them together for the first time in my life, I was able to make a decision and stick to it. I was able to start honoring what was right and true for me and move forward for the first time in my entire life, totally integrated, and totally clear.

Which brings me to the second part of this conversation which is duality.

And what duality means is that there are two differing, often contradicting experiences happening at the same time. And this life is nothing if not made up of constant duality. I talk about that a lot with my loss. You know, for a very long time, it was impossible for me to not feel the gratitude for the life and the experiences I was having in the aftermath of my loss without also feeling gut-wrenching heartbreak and wishing that anything could happen to bring him back. And those are two contradicting experiences that felt really challenging to hold at the same time.

So when it comes to fragmentation, the way that duality plays into this is that again, the level of difference, the level of contradiction between the two experiences is so great that we cannot hold them at the same time. And the story that comes to mind for this is a relationship based again, you know, I look at one of my ex-boyfriends gave me a car. Granted the car needed about 10 grand in repairs. But I needed a car at the time and it was better than what I had. And he gave me this car.

That same boyfriend, that same relationship, they are also the reason that I spent the better part of a year being unable to even hold someone’s hand because I would have a panic attack. Because the trauma, the manipulation, the control, the abuse was so intense, and deep, and constant that it destroyed me. I was not able to hold both at the same time. And that’s something that’s very common with people who gaslight or people who manipulate or control is that they are often incredibly charming. They do very amazing things and big grand gestures and all of those things. And that does not negate or make up for the stuff that is not okay, that is abusive, that is horrible, that is unacceptable.

It’s only been since recently, since again, since January where I was able to take the fragmented parts of myself and smoosh them together and hold the duality of my experience as one that I have been able to get really honest about my relationships and how bad they were, and how toxic and abusive they were.

If you were to go back in the archives of my blog, way, way, way back, I don’t even know if they’re still online, you would see that I talk about my high school boyfriend, a different boyfriend, very kindly, very with consideration. Now that I’m able to hold the duality of that experience in that relationship, that there was good and there was awful, I am able to talk about it honestly. I’m able to trust myself and my perception of what is reality, and what is really happening, and what is and is not acceptable. I am able to say that yes, there are wonderful aspects to all of my relationships and my exes. And there are some really, really bad, really bad things that happened that make it okay for me to say there was good, and I never, ever, ever want to speak to those people again.

This is where the complexity of experience comes into play.

So I was recently with a friend and he was talking about someone who was no longer in his life. He was telling me all the reasons why she was wrong. I remember saying to him something that I believe so fully, so passionately, which is, you are the bad guy in her story. In her experience, you are the bad guy. That doesn’t make it true that he is the bad guy, or that he was the bad guy, or that everything is his fault. It also doesn’t make her wrong.

And the reason for that is we are literally all living in alternate realities while occupying the same space. We are all different personality types. We have all had different experiences. We were raised with different sets of beliefs, and values, and rules about how the world should and should not work. We have had different traumas. So we are all coming into our situations with a different frame, with different context for what is and is not happening, with different expectations, with different beliefs, with different experiences, with things that hurt us or lift us up in different ways.

You and I can be going through the same exact experience at the same exact time and our perception of what is real and what is happening is completely different. And this is how it plays back into fragmenting. One of the ways that we fragment each other, that we gaslight each other without realizing it is by making each other’s experiences wrong. So even if my experience is different from yours, my story, my perception of the events, and how they unfolded, and how it felt is different from yours, and you don’t agree with it, does not give you the right to make mine wrong, to make anyone’s wrong. And nobody else gets to take your experience from you as well.

One of the ways that we can really start working towards healing is by starting with that first piece of acknowledgment that experience is complex.

It’s varying. It’s different. No two people are having the same experience at any given time. And if we really want to heal, if we really want to communicate and create changes in ourselves, in our relationships, in our work. We have to start there. And we also have to really start holding the duality of life in everything that we do.

You can be grief-stricken and traumatized, and you can hate the world, and you can also love it, and feel expansion, and be excited about what’s to come. You can be grieving and heartbroken and still grateful for everything that you have in the aftermath of that loss. It is both.

The more that we are able to hold the duality of our experience to trust and honor our own truth and the experience that we are having, the more we can integrate those parts of ourselves that have become fragmented, the easier it becomes to declare this is what I want, and to start taking actions that allow you to make it inevitable.

What I have for you to today is really start looking at where you feel wobbly when you’re making decisions, where you feel wobbly around your boundaries, where you’re unable to get really clear about what it is that you want, or where you feel yourself kind of flip-flopping between different parts, different beliefs, different experiences.

Take out a piece of paper, write down what’s true for all of those parts. Honor them, love them. None of them are bad. None of them are wrong. All of them are true because they are you. And work on bringing them together and really holding the duality, and the complexity of your experience, and your truth, and what it means to be a human walking through this world.

And notice where you have a tendency to make someone else’s experience wrong because it’s different from yours. Call people out when they are gaslighting you. They can have a difference of opinion. They can have a different experience. They do not get to make you wrong in the process of that. And the quickest way for us to start healing and to start building more fulfilling relationships that are really supportive and nurturing of both people is by learning how to hold both. We are all living in alternate realities while occupying the same space. And nobody gets to take someone else’s truth or experience away from them. That is not how you help somebody grow. It’s not how you help somebody change. It’s not how you compromise in the relationship. And I think it’s really, really difficult for a lot of people. And that’s why I wanted to talk about it today.

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