It is said that by the time we are 7 years old our pre-frontal cortex is pretty much wired to the rest of our brain. It is around this time that most of us begin to understand that there really are not monsters that live under our beds.
Or are there?
It wasn't much later than when I was 7 I knew that there was a monster still lurking under my bed. I knew that I could never tell anyone about it, because by that time everyone knew that monsters didn't exist. This was long past those days when I was 4 or 5 and loved those Sunday mornings when I would watch my father shave his pencil thin mustache and he let me use the Gillette safety razor with no double-sided blade in it. I was going to be just like dad!
But a few years later, I was been drawn to mom's closet and I could not stop staring at her dresses. One day when no one was home I tried one on. Of course it was way too large on me. Well, you know this story... but now the monster was loose. I could never tell anyone about this. This little pup of a monster was called denial, and over the years it learned so much.
I thought I was a cross dresser for so many years as I snuck and hid the times I dressed up in women's clothes. I did this when I was single, married and then single again. That denial monster grew and grew. He became so strong he was even denying that I was not really a cross dresser, but something quite different. It took me until I was 62 years old to tame that monster and admit I am a transsexual.
It may sound strange that I consider myself lucky that my marriage ended long before I tamed the denial monster. I have many friends in long-term marriages working on their denial monsters and I hear stories of their partners being taken over by their own betrayal monster. I have a sense that the denial and betrayal monsters are mortal enemies. It is a shame how hard it is for people in relationship to tame these monsters. I doubt that my own marriage would have survived this battle way back when. These battles leave so much destruction in their path. It seems that only a lucky few are able to do this. I hope this changes.
When one feels betrayed, and lied to, there is a clear sense of being violated. How often we get into relationship and believe we know the other person, their thoughts, their feelings, even their secrets. How we believe they will always be there for us, just as we know they are right now! Our own small denial monsters let us believe this lie because we think it makes our life so much better. Even if we know we keep secrets from our partner, this matters not, as it is really the secrets we keep from ourselves that are at the root of all the problems. However when we see through our own lies to ourselves -- and most of us eventually get there sooner or later, as we tame our internal denial beastie, the war of the monsters begins and often it beckon a new monster that has been hiding under the bed for many, many years. This monster is called abandonment. This is one of those 2-headed beasts that are so hard to slay. When our partner turns out to be different or changing from the picture we have emblazoned in our mind this monster attack us first with the feeling of being lost, forgotten, displaced and joins with betrayal to make you question everything that occurred before. It frees our anger which feeds the other head of abandonment which then follows through with yelling or silence... and threatening (oh, such a variety of threats are possible here) and it is interesting to see these two heads breathing fire in all directions.
How often all is lost, when the monsters win!
I think that if we learn that these monsters are real, we can take away their power. If we know their names, and how they try to control us, they will lose their power. When we stop lying to ourselves; when we accept all our relationships with our selves and others may change over time; when we love unconditionally without fear or neediness; when we believe we are strong enough to face all of our own monsters, then the ones we named and all the others under our beds will no longer be able to hurt us.
It is not easy to tame or slay our monsters. They sneak up on when we are not looking and sometimes we do not even know they have trapped us. But we can succeed! Even if we were knocked down, or singed around the edges, we can recover and grow in many new and surprising ways and directions.
Change is not a bad thing. Especially when we can change our monsters into peaceful companions!
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. Grace is available for speaking about authentic living with Living on-TRACK, and Gender Variance Education and Training. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .