The Real "I"

My parents remember me as an easy-going child. I didn’t keep them up during the night and nor was I a picky eater. They recall that I’d be happily playing even with a high fever. I wasn’t fussy or demanding.

Then why did I have so much to heal from during college? 

Why couldn’t I just bandage the wounds, kiss the pain away, or jettison the old memories? Why was I experiencing pangs of sadness, longing, incompleteness, and loneliness?

The emotional pain from my childhood ran deep like the layers of sedimentary rock found on the earth’s surface, hiding beneath the bodies of water. It lay dormant in my unconscious, silently infecting my soul. Slowly, it found its way into every part of my being…and spewed out during a counseling session: 

“So tell me, Sabrina, why is it that you consider your books to be your closest companions?”

“Because I can depend on them. They’ll always be there when I need them.”

“But you say that you can never get yourself to finish a book, right? Not even the ones you really enjoy? Aren’t you curious to know how the books end?”

“No, I quit reading the book before I become attached.” 

Attached?”

“Yes. What if the book ends, but I still have unanswered questions? What if I’m not ready to let go? What if I don’t like the way it ends? It’s just easier if I leave the book before it leaves me.”

“Hmm. That’s rather interesting. Sabrina, would you say that you fear abandonment?”

And that’s when I first came face-to-face with the hidden demon.

My fear of abandonment was controlling and limiting my the interactions. I was afraid of having to depend on someone other than myself. I not only chose to do all of my classwork alone, but I also chose to share most meals with a reliable book instead of a potential life-long friend. 

During my final year at Babson, when the emotional stress became unbearable, I stopped attending classes. I didn’t want to graduate. I was ready to mentally abandon my entire college experience, as I had already done with my childhood years in Chicago.

Over time, I learned to manage my fear of abandonment through self-discovery and search for certainty. However, the fear tumultuously remerged two years ago, when I was living in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

Having to wear an entirely foreign identity – including attire and language – I felt stripped of my real identity. I felt lost. I couldn’t identify with my reflection in the mirror. My mind frantically searched for something steadfast and solid to lay my heart on. I craved familiarity and security.

Who could I rely on? Who could I trust? Who was watching out for me? Why didn’t anyone care? After 16 consecutive weeks there, I feared the loss of my sanity. I felt trapped, abandoned, and forgotten.

Suddenly, a moment of Truth emerged.

My soul seemed to beckon, “Is it I your eyes are seeking?” 

“Yes,” I wanted to say, “yes it is you. You are the only constant, life-affirming, link to eternity.”

In that moment, Truth witnessed a momentary death of my self-preserving ego. The knowledge of my soul saved me from my imaginal fear of abandonment. 

The inner purpose of my journey to Afghanistan was revealed through the book I was reading at the time, Light On The Path and Through The Gates of Gold by Mabel Collins: 

“To put on armor and go forth to war, taking the chances of death in the hurry of the fight, is an easy thing; to stand still amid the jungle of the world, to preserve stillness within the turmoil of the body, to hold silence amid the thousand cries of the senses and desires, and then, stripped of all armor and without hurry or excitement take the deadly serpent of self and kill it, is no easy thing. Yet that is what has to be done; and it can only be done in the moment of equilibrium when the enemy is disconcerted by the silence.”

The path towards healing is painful. It’s time-consuming, inconvenient, and rigorous. It requires patience and careful observation. Despite all of this, if done correctly, healing is extraordinarily transformative, as Elijah had mentioned. The books Elijah has selected for me to read are strikingly captivating, causing my mind to sew together seemingly disparate experiences. 

Lastly, an excerpt from the book I’m currently reading, Deeper Man, by J.G. Bennett: 

“The possibility of the transformation of consciousness in us is something we are most afraid of, because it appears to us that this will result in the loss of our ‘I’. Here we have the mystical experience of the ‘dark night of the soul’ in which comes the fear of losing who we are.”

-S

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