Opening Doors

By: Annie Kaja Reed, BA, CAS
Counselor, The Refuge – A Healing Place

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness,some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

– Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

I remember when I became afraid of my phone. Sometimes I would look at the blinking light on the answering machine for weeks before I dared to press the play button. Armed with a notepad and pen, I would quickly scrawl the messages and press delete. For a little while, I felt relief but then someone would call and leave me a message and the anxiety would start again with the little red blinking light.  I also became afraid of my mailbox. I just stopped going to pick up my mail. I thought that if I didn’t look at my mail, it would just go away. Everything was just simply too much for me to handle and I was operating with a core belief that “life was hard.”  Self-medicating my symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder wasn’t working and the door to my guest house was shut.

One day, as I was driving down Discovery Lane, I was tricked into answering my cell phone. I was expecting a call from my martial arts teacher and when my phone rang, I answered it. It was the grants coordinator from Peninsula College. She told me they had mailed a letter weeks earlier to notify me that I was being offered the Opportunity Grant from the State of Washington to return to school to become an Addictions Counselor. I had applied for the grant months earlier but since I had a core belief that “nothing good ever happens to me”, I had dismissed the possibility of receiving the generous and prestigious award. The conflict and strength of my negative beliefs kept me from saying yes over the phone and I told the woman I needed a few days and hung up. This was my life dream right in front of me and I needed to ‘think about it’!  My phone rang again. I heard the thunder of my martial arts teacher’s voice saying “Whatever it is, say YES!” and then he hung up.  (He was simply calling each of his students with that message and then hanging up the phone.) I called the grant coordinator back and said “YES!”  And I went home and checked my mail, signed the acceptance forms and sent them back.  From that point on, I began opening the doors again – to my flip phone, my mailbox, and my future.

Trauma, birthed in a terrifying experience makes fear hyperactive. Fear creates patterns of avoidance and it is these patterns that really create the damage. Our problematic thoughts and feelings create problematic actions which generate problems that feed the problematic thoughts and feelings. Problems pile up and negative thinking loops get so emotionally painful that we turn to anything that can numb us and help us avoid. Doors shut, life goes out.

Healing however, calms fear, fosters willingness which creates openness. Openness creates patterns of engagement and these patterns are generative, not destructive. Our hopeful, surrendered thoughts and feelings create actions that help us trust and find solutions and these solutions then empower more positive thoughts.  Happy things pile up, positive thinking loops start to happen without effort and our resilience (ability to bounce back from negative events) returns. Doors open, life comes in.

Life is both good and bad and in between. When we close doors, we can suffocate ourselves trying to keep from feeling. Life, by its very nature doesn’t want to constrict – it want to expand, move, change, grow, and create. By choosing the path of healing, by being grateful and welcoming all the feelings and thoughts that come with being human, we can let go into the goodness that waits as close as our very own mailbox.

At The Refuge, that’s what we do. We help our clients heal the trauma and patterns of addiction that have shut out the goodness of life. We teach and provide experiences that help each individual learn to be more and more courageous in facing their feelings, changing their thoughts and acting in new generative ways. We have the privilege of watching clients open the doors to life again.