This fall I have been involved in an online therapeutic training called SomaSoul. Every week I connect with other beautiful people to learn more about Body-Centered Gestalt Psychotherapy. This training combines movement, expressive arts, and contemplative practices to meet the human experience with compassion and empathy. Not only is this training supporting my growth as a counselor, it is also supporting my growth as a person.
I share about my involvement in this training because there is a concept embedded in this practice which I think we can all relate to right now. This concept is called “Death Layer.”
Death Layer is part of the human experience. It is the part of human experience which feels awful: the part where we feel pain, discomfort, fear, even a sense of annihilation. NO ONE enjoys or wants to be in Death Layer. In a word, it sucks, and yet, there is no escaping it. We all have and will continue to experience Death Layer throughout our lives.
Death Layer can be triggered by a lot of different stimuli. A literal death is one trigger: losing someone we care about and love is extremely painful; however, death represents only a fraction of possible triggers.
Shame and humiliation trigger Death Layer as does feelings of unworthiness, hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness, loneliness, rejection, incompetency, terror, inadequacy, violation, abandonment, and manipulation. Essentially anything that causes us to feel danger and a sense of being wiped out moves us into Death Layer.
Quite often a present-day stimulus which moves us into Death Layer is compounded by an old memory of a previous Death Layer experience. In other words, something that happened to a younger self, whether that was last week or thirty years ago, got triggered by a present-moment experience.
When this old wound gets activated, we often do not realize it. The memory is so embedded it feels like a part of ourselves, and we get caught up in the feelings without knowing it. One sign that you may have activated an old wound is you receive feedback that your response is disproportionate to the current situation. You may even notice an out-of-body feeling as if you were looking at yourself from a distance.
If you have recently experienced a Death Layer moment, then know you are not alone. Quite a few of my clients have reported such moments in the last week, and I, too, have recently had this experience.
Living in a pandemic with rising viral cases is not easy. In addition to the pandemic, folks are struggling with work (or lack thereof), school, parenting, colder weather, poor health, addiction, isolation, depression, anxiety, loss, and fear. In other words, I would be surprised if you had not felt Death Layer in the last month.
The question then becomes: What do I do when I feel Death Layer or witness Death Layer in another?
The first step is to acknowledge what is happening.
Sometimes you don’t realize you are in Death Layer until you have felt crappy for a while. This is normal, so give yourself a break. Often we engage in behaviors to distract us or to buffer us from the pain of Death Layer.
These behaviors live in Impasse Layer and help us ignore the pain, at least for a little while. If you find yourself engaging in a lot of escapist activities (copious amounts of TV, junk food, gaming, booze, social media, shopping, etc…), then you may be in Impasse Layer.
Impasse Layer is not a failure. Instead treat the signs of impasse as evidence that something painful is being buffered and needs your attention.
The second step is to meet the pain with compassion.
Compassion is non-judgmental and warm. Compassion is kind and understands that humans are messy and make mistakes. Every time we meet ourselves or another, even for a second, with compassion we transform pain.
The third and last step is to stay curious.
Asking your pain why it is here and what it needs is the key to unlocking its grip on you.
During these unprecedented times, I wish you to know that you are not alone and you matter. Please reach out when you are in pain. Let people know you are struggling and need support.
I am so grateful that I am in this training program now. Being with people who are committed to their own healing and who want to support others is a balm for my soul. Having family and friends who care about me is what allows me to show up in service for others. We ALL need to be met with compassion and understanding. May we all receive it.
I am here if you need some additional support. If you want to schedule a virtual counseling appointment, then please contact me.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Five years later, Kim is still in the flow of supporting and building a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.