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January 1, 2013

The Cocoon.

There are those moments in everyone’s life where there is a threat to one’s emotional or physical being.

That is not unique. What is unique is how people handle that feeling of being threatened, and how it manifests. Each person has his or her own cocoon.

A cocoon is a retreat. It is a place of safety and seclusion, and it can take many forms.

In a lecture I attended recently, we were asked about animals’ defense mechanisms when there is a perception of imminent danger. For example, there is the turtle who pulls all external limbs and the head inward. There is the porcupine who fans out an array of sharp quills so that nobody will come near. There is the chameleon who blends in with its environment so that it cannot be detected. And the list goes on and on. Even though the manifestation of coping is unique, each one of these animals behaves in a way to avoid further feeling of danger.

This makes me think about my own personal cocoon, and makes me realize that sometimes humans and animals are so interconnected. There is so much commonality in behavior that I find truly spiritual.

When I perceive danger, I notice that I initially internalize it.  I attempt to understand it, rationalize it, intellectualize it.

I have been through rough spots over the last few years and suffered in ways that I didn’t think I could handle. Throughout one particularly difficult stretch, I had the overwhelming urge to retreat to my room, turn off the light, get under my covers and forget the day. I would feel so incredibly empty inside, that it didn’t feel like there was anyone on the planet who could help me fill my void. I would dream of going to sleep and waking up years later, so that the memories of my hurt would be distant. More often than not, I would fight this urge and face the day.

On reflection, I wonder if it was beneficial or not. At the time, I felt like fighting it was the right thing to do. I was so scared to retreat into the darkness and hermit into my own shell, because I thought I would never be able to escape it. Instead, I pressed through it.

Now I believe that I would have come out of the darkness and into the light eventually.

Maybe I should have allowed my body to do what it wanted? I filled my time with the people and things that I love instead of retreating. All of the questioning in retrospect doesn’t seem like productively spent energy. I handled it the way it felt best at the time. What I can do is reflect on what fits for me now, and how I can act most authentically in each moment—perceived danger or not.

We all have our cocoons, and we all have our ways of dealing with actual or perceived danger. It is our relationship with our cocoon that makes the difference.

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Ed: Kate B.

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