Photo of Tara Ruttenburg | Tarantula Surf
"What is your Shameful Secret?"
Tarantula Surf's Writing Immersion 2020.
Inspired by an excerpt from the book Women That Run With The Wolves
What we keep 'secret', is in attempt to protect our ego. Which later erodes and shames our emotional body. Prompted to identify a 'shameful secret', gave an opportunity to reflect on something of our past, that may still live off of us in our adult lives.
Re-reading what I wrote in response to this prompt is what inspired February's letter to you, and it felt very empowering to witness how far I've come on my own 'emotion tracking' journey.
I've been reflecting a lot on 'anxious attachment style' and if it is something we could always identify with, and/or if we can evolve from it.
I strongly believe in emotional evolution so if you can relate to this, I hope reading this story creates a connection for you!
Close your eyes, take one long inhale, with an exhale in equal length. Once you’ve done this a few times and you’ve felt your nervous system settle, think back to your 12 year old self.
What was your home situation like?
Who were you surrounding yourself with?
What did you and your friends value as important,
or notice yourselves being drawn to?
Now let's go a little deeper.
What was your first memory about noticing your body change?
Remember those early years of puberty.
Did you grow up in a household where it felt safe to ask questions about sex, intimacy, and exploring self pleasure?
Most likely not, and that could be a major projection on my end.
I definitely did not talk about any of those topics with my parents.
I have always had very open and honest conversations with them, however we never spoke about anything intimacy related.
Take your time with each of these questions, some may quickly bring memories up for you. If any emotion becomes present, notice what sensations follow within your body. These could be helpful sensations to track if you find yourself resonating with what I'll be sharing with you below.
Before we reflect on anxious attachment style, and Shameful Secrets, I’d like to share a little about my story from those early teen / preteen years.
The group of friends I was beginning to spend more time with were very sexually curious, and I was drawn to them like a moth to a flame. I wanted to dress like them, agree with them, move like them, talk like them, be one of them, and let the child that I still deeply was be forgotten completely.
I shamed myself so often for not developing into my body like most of the girls I surrounded myself with did. I acted out towards my mom because I didn’t understand why my body was different, so I shamed her for it. I put every girl that I hung out with, that had the figure I didn't have, or the outgoing personality, on such a high pedestal. This evolved from who I was hanging out with, to girls on TV, older girls I’d see at my school, and I became incredibly self conscious those early teen years. Not to mention when I was home alone, I was still making fairy potions and spending long hours in the forest communing with imaginary beings over what reality show was on MTV. To be honest, that still hasn't changed.
I felt like all that I knew didn’t matter, and what I watched within my friend group was what I needed to do to be seen and/or of value.
We stayed up late to create ‘seductive’ screen names on AIM like lilhunny143, babygurl69, sxxxycherry00. We dressed like we were 18 years old, stole alcohol from our parents, stayed up late on online chat rooms, lied about who was sleeping over at whose house to sneak out. We had begun to open ourselves up to a part of the world that we were very vulnerable stepping into. The world at that age became very secretive, very exciting, and very unsupervised.
That was the best part of it all.
All that we could do without our parents knowing, and feeling so free doing whatever we wanted. Thinking that we could lie so easily and do so much together made us feel unstoppable. These early experiences began to set the tone on how to use this newly found sexual energy, with little to no guidance.
Would I have listened if I received any?
Reflecting on my mindset from 12-14 years old, probably not.
By comparing myself to every other girl in my life, I didn’t know what was actually ‘safe’. I began to be led by assumption and not advocate for myself. I began to see how my friends would flirt and get attention and I still was very out of touch with my body, personality, and my independence. When I would see or hear what a friend did, I would mirror it, and not have an awareness of any consequences that would come from some of the choices I would make.
When we all started getting cell phones, it was crucial to get a camera phone. For sweet photos of the woods or adventures we would go on? Nope. For all those ‘sexy’ mirror selfies. Duck face and all. This was when it all began to escalate for me. I felt so incredibly confident behind the screen. I didn’t have to worry about how shy I was because there wasn’t any ‘in-person’ interaction.
Once various public schools began merging, and we all joined in high school; everyone was texting, on MySpace, and glued to analyzing each other within the digital realm.
I had a crush on someone and was so scared to do anything else besides use my body to get his attention. Since of course that was the key that all of us young ones thought we needed, to unlock and retrieve physical attention.
In the dark high school dances or behind my phone when we texted, was when I was the most confident around him. I was getting very obsessive with finding every possible way to be noticed by him. Then the day came when we were in our usual late night text conversation and he said to me, “Send a pic.”
A pic? Of my face? I have my rubber bands in for my braces… Why does he want a picture of my face? I texted back, “Of what?” “You know what.”
I had so much anxiety because I felt responding to this was the next thing I needed to do to get closer to him. My phone lit up, it was a picture from him. A picture of his little 14 year old erection. Another text came in, “Dnt show any1.” My face turned bright red and I threw my phone to hide it thinking my parents knew what was going on. He sent two more texts, “U there?” “I did it so now u have 2.” So that’s exactly what I did. This was the very beginning for me. Before a first kiss or anything. This was my first experience with what I thought it meant to be ‘sexy’, admired, or what to do to be worthy in another’s eyes.
The next day at school, I didn’t exist to him.
This began a very deep rooted pattern of what I can now recognize it as ‘anxious attachment’. The constant scarcity driven feeling of completely dishonoring yourself, for the needs of someone else. Anxiously clinging and fearing that if you don’t constantly be in a place of pleasing someone, they’ll leave you, forget about you, replace you.
I’ve done a lot of uncovering and unraveling to find this wound. In retrospect to challenges that happened long after this, I didn't see the value in this innocent story until I continued to revisit it. This life experience has provided a mapping point within my emotional landscape.
Reconnecting with this memory or ‘wounding’ has created deep alchemy into the way I choose to evolve within intimate relationships. I believe in valuing these ages within us, so we can feel when they are speaking up, and how to make space for them.
Shameful Secrets | A short story | Writing Immersion with Tarantula Surf 2020
You didn’t notice me. You looked away, and the further you went, the further away I was from myself. I didn’t view myself as being one with my body, so I used my body as leverage to be what you wanted. I wanted you to see me, choose me, and all I knew was that my body was all that I had ever been recognized for. I took advantage of myself, in order to be ‘worthy enough’ of your attention. Not my thoughts, my eyes, my laugh, or the texture of my skin.
My body began taking shape, and taking up space. The curves of my hips and my breasts were becoming their own separate beings that I didn’t think to get to know.
Subconsciously, I believed it was best to put them on display if I wanted affection. It captured your eyes, so now what do I do for more?
Next, was showing you parts of my naked young body.
At your request.
Our conversations were never in person, only hidden behind a screen.
When the sun would rise, we never spoke of it.
I remember when the day came that I found my naked photos in the hands of someone else, someone who I thought to be one of my closest boy friends. I was mortified. I then learned it had also been in the hands of 10 or more others.
I remember the waves of shame I put on myself, and never confronted you.
I remember how angry I was at the friend that had received those photos of me, and didn't tell me, or tell the other boys to stop.
14 years old.
This memory being the first layer, to a deep anxious attachment wound.
A deep need to prove myself for validation and approval of affection.
Objectifying myself was what I truly believed I needed to do in order to be received.
When repetitively I felt invisible around you, and not to mention completely dissociated from my body, my next plan was to erase myself entirely. I didn't have an ounce of self worth to speak up for myself, or connect with a different friend group. I anxiously and desperately clung tighter to earn your approval. I created someone else. Someone who wasn’t me, and I could hide behind them just to be ‘worthy enough’ for your attention. I put on a mask, created an imaginary person. She acted in ways I was always too shy to act in. She talked to you effortlessly and you had long conversations and my mind registered this as, “he wanted to get to know her, not me. She is enough.” I then clung to her. Making her into the absolute girl of your dreams, and it worked. This fake girl I had created. With images of a woman I will never know. Blind to see that behind this other girl, it was me.
I didn’t see it that way though.
When I’ve met this age of myself in my adult years, her immense fear of unworthiness, there were countless times when she fully took over conflict within adult relationships. I didn't think to notice her, sit with her, listen to her, and affirm to her all of who she truly is. That it can be safe to receive, to be seen, and it is safe to show up in her authentic worth. To open herself to affection from another doesn't have to be constant work, or pushing and pulling. It can be effortless. I can now reflect on this time and recognize when she is triggered within my adult relationships.
I hold her close, and remind her of this:
The part of you that is hiding behind what you believe to be ‘beautiful’, is such a rare young woman. An incomparable beauty. You are wild, intelligent, sensual, wise, connected to the world around you, radiant, and I will remind you this as much as I need to. All I ask is, who truly deserves to experience this beauty? Do you touch your body knowing that it is for you, FIRST, and always? Hear me now, and feel my words when I affirm to you that your depth and love would be chosen even if one had no eyes to see. Your voice, your laughter, scent, the way your energy moves throughout a room would create any person to fall in love. Your clothes, looks, alterations, are all something you add to a very complex and untamable human being. There is so much more to you than what is on the outside, and the world that exists beneath your skin is a journey you need to be the first one to take. Longing for validation is the biggest trap you’ll fall into the more you journey away from yourself. View your body, your emotions, what keeps you curious, as the many trails to take to come face to face with your soul. If you get lost, know that no matter how far you are, you’ll find your way home.
The Weaving of Ages
When I first made the connection to this memory I remembered the embarrassment and the shame I inflicted upon myself at the time. Do I shame that part of myself now after making this connection? No I do not. Has this been my most challenging experience within my sexuality? Definitely not. It has been the foundation underneath. This memory helped me recognize what part of myself to turn to when I feel anxiety kick in if I start to compare myself, if I start to fear that what I do isn't valued, or if something ends out of my control. I know now the feeling that arrives, and how to make space for it.
It is very common for us to attach to these wounds / stories once we identify them, and commit to a mission to always be in a state of ‘healing’. I’ve come to realize that wounds can leave scars, and healing doesn’t mean making something disappear. Resiliency is how we move through our lives with the scars on our body, how we integrate, and how we share our stories. Making the connections to where we can access these memories within our body, will help us uncover the part of ourselves that is needing to be seen or heard, so we can move on.
Throughout the last year of my former partnership, my 14 year old self was screaming inside me everyday. At the time I had no idea that this memory was a connecting root to my anxiousness within relationships. After awhile, my partner began to pick up on this pattern, and would tell me I had an ‘abandonment wound’ I needed to look at, and then he would walk away. This only made me feel more insecure, lost, rejected, and disconnected from myself. I projected so much pain onto his emotional unavailability, because I wasn't looking deeper within myself to meet my emotional needs and create boundaries within our relationship. I became so obsessed with making things ‘work’, in order to be chosen, to be fought for, and I did all that I assumed he wanted in an attempt for him to stay with me. My inner 14 year old still thought that could work. Thus repeating the same pattern I did with that high school crush so many years ago.
Tracking our emotions gives us a chance to really connect with ourselves in a profound way. There is a level of liberating compassion that builds within us when we learn to ‘re-parent’ , ‘re-partner’ , ‘re-member’. The shame falls away, and the supported resiliency grows.
All of our 'Shameful Secrets' may root differently within the body. We all can relate by knowing what it feels like to be violated from another, and when we detach to the extent of violating ourselves. We can build connection with one another by remembering that we are never alone in our experience. We can experience pain and heartache in various ways that no one can fully understand because they are not in our body. We are all coming forth in connection with different cultural backgrounds, lineages, social upbringing, home environments, and it is true that all of our walks of life differ. When it comes down to recognizing solely the feeling of our challenges, without the need to define them, that is when we can see how interconnected we all truly are. We can all step forth in sovereignty and be each other's witness. Hearing each of our stories and seeing the scars.
The wisdom that weaves within our challenges is always weaving in a continuous motion; under, over, under, over (as above, so below). It is there for us to always unravel how ever many times we wish. To release the tattered pieces, and weave again once more. Whether we are weaving in solitude, or weaving in community, the momentum of the evolution of our collective somatic consciousness will continue to grow.