I recently got food poisoning and found myself stuck in debilitating nausea that lasted for hours. During those hours I wrestled with a reluctance to vomit until finally that fate inevitably came. Relief soon followed and after a day of exhaustion, health was restored.
A few weeks later I found myself in a debilitating state of anger regarding a specific life situation. As I went about my day carrying this anger, I felt a vague sense of familiarity with how I was feeling until at once I realized- this is the exact same feeling as physical nausea, only it is occurring in my mind. I have mental nausea. This meant I would eventually have to in some way vomit the poisonous thoughts from me as I had done with the poisonous substance I’d ingested. This confounded me and led to yet another observation.
Our body is designed to release toxins and waste products. We have a variety of ways to do that and we, ourselves, never need put effort into that process. It is autonomic, i.e. automatic and regulated by our sweat glands and our digestive system.
The brain does not have an inherent release mechanism the way the body does. Where it would be impossible for me to drink a glass of water and then decide to hold onto that water indefinitely- (eventually, I’d yield to the call of nature) my brain, on the other hand, can (and does) hold onto moments from the past of things said or done and simply never lets them go. The human form, (or any form for that matter) is not a finished thing. We are a constant work in progress, pushing the edge of evolution into as yet unimagined new potentials. While the human body is pretty near to perfect in physical capacities, the human mind is still very much in development and is currently working on developing a waste removal system. That process must be a manual chore on our part, like taking out the garbage and brushing our teeth. Our minds will not inherently cleanse and release. Perhaps one day the mind will develop autonomic cleansing processes like the body but for now, we have to put a conscious effort to that end at this point in our current evolution.
While still in the grips of my anger which was demanding a great deal of time and energy, I somehow also managed to recall and associate my recent physical experience of food poisoning and the particular sensation of upheaval that occurred in my body. I specifically recalled how resistant I’d been to that looming event, how I’d tried to find a way to avoid vomiting. That avoidance and reluctance was coming from my brain while my body, wisely just over road any effort of suppression.
I realized the power of my brain to avoid and suppress thoughts and feelings that were deemed inappropriate to allow and suddenly realized that if I was going to get rid of this anger, I would need to allow my mind to vomit, which is to say, I would need to allow my mind to have the thoughts and feelings it doesn’t want to have. Images of African and Native tribes shaking and shouting to a drum came to mind as I yielded to growling and physical struggle. I let the anger shift out of my brain and express itself in my body. The feelings of anger and violence were the toxins needing to get out. A sensation of mental vomiting rose up. Alarming violent impulses rose up of me wanting to hurt the person I was angry with. I did not shut down these images. I let myself imagine really making contact with that impulse and I stopped trying to withhold that desire from my mind.
Acknowledging a desire is not the same as acting on it. The Bat Spirit Animal introduces us to other dimensions where our impulses can be registered and felt but also not wreak havoc on our lives in this dimension. I was alone in my house and was nowhere near the possibility of interacting with any human, especially not the one I was angry with. But I could feel the strength of my conviction informing the air around me. I did not want to be angry. I did not want to want to hurt this person. But that IS how I felt and that feeling needed to come out.
Very much like the physical food poisoning, I found myself pacing and trying to resist and then ultimately I gave way to the process that was much larger than my opinions of how life should be.
The Bat Spirit Animal Totem is about yielding to the pull of pain we do not want to feel and letting it take us through that convulsive process in order to restore wellness. It is about renewal through compulsive and sudden release, but only after we’ve stopped fighting the reality of our ugly, unwanted, angry or embarrassing thoughts and feelings and made space for them. Living in alignment with Bat medicine is not going to be a fun time. But resisting will only prolong the nightmare. No medicine is a permanent state of being. These energy fields cycle.
People who have the Bat Spirit Animal Totem as a personal totem have within them a particularly strong spiritual fortitude to handle and process through the pain of life. These are often people who are first responders or midwives. They are leaders and guides through extreme physical and mental processes who have likely endured a difficult physical experience. In ancient times, they were the shamans of the village who did not flinch from looking at the reality of the brutal truth of nature. They endured and traversed the tunnels that lead to realization and greater awareness. They know first hand, from experience, they can handle what may come.
If Bat medicine has come into your life, try not to fight or suppress what you are feeling. Go through that tunnel. You will want to reschedule social plans. If you don’t, those social plans may end up being a platform for release which may be awkward to explain afterward. The Bat Spirit Animal Totem speaks of a solitary time. If retreat and isolation are not possible for you during a time of mental-emotional upheaval, try to do your best to explain to those around you that you need space and privacy for detoxing. Navigating the difficult and anti-social aspects of our shadow side is a part of the human experience. Remind yourself and your people of the value of tribal dancing and the importance of ‘freaking out’ as Western cultures view ancient practices of release and renewal. Don’t operate heavy machinery. This is a time to stay in and pile up the pillows because once Bat medicine arrives, everything will be uncomfortable, even the pillows, as you travel through your old perceptions into a new perspective.
But much like the physical process of purging nausea, keep in mind that this process of emotional and mental purging will not last long. If you find yourself in mental distress for longer than a day, you will want to enlist the help of someone else, either a friend or professional. That person can help you bring out into the open the thoughts that are eluding your conscious awareness. We are very skilled at dodging our own thoughts and can often be unaware of how we really feel due to an extreme aversion to acknowledging those feelings.
Feelings occur. Feelings are not choices we make. I can not choose to feel a certain way about something. How I feel rises up as a force of nature and is as it is. I often wish I felt differently and sometimes even try to pretend that I do. But it is only a matter of time before the truth wins out over my efforts to veil it. When I acknowledge the truth of how I feel and make decisions from that truth, I empower myself and improve my position in any dynamic. I may not be the powerful one in a dynamic but I will not be caught off guard with sudden inexplicable tears or anger if I commit to the practice of honest introspection.
But you may need to actually talk out loud to discover what is true for you- from that voice you don’t want to hear. You may need to expose that voice to a trusted witness so that you can really hear it. The only reason it has lingered so long is because it needs acknowledgment. That acknowledgment can come from within you. But it is sometimes hard for us to validate and accept our own selves by ourselves. If we develop authentic, therapeutic communication with one other person in life, we may be able to avoid the big, nauseating lessons of upheaval. Preventative medicine involves daily work to stay connected with the shifts and changes of our body and mind.
Human relationships can not require each person to behave in pleasant ways all the time in order to interact. We do need to follow the basic social customs most of the time for most life relationships. But we also want to know consciously that each person needs to find one or two people with whom they get into the mud with. At these times, we can not require “proper” social behavior. We get messy and try not to add to that challenge by heaping on feelings of shame or guilt for needing what we need.
One part of taking responsibility for ones self is the act of connecting with another person whom you let help you and to whom you offer help. Letting someone help you is much more difficult than offering help. Being the one who helps another has a certain power. But that power must be shared if a relationship is to be authentic. Being vulnerable is a requirement for truly satisfying friendships.
At the same time, it is also necessary to not live in a constant state of vulnerability. We can not expect our friends to put up with frequently reoccurring bad moods. In this life, we all need to develop the strength to carry our own weight and just a little more for the times when friends need us.
Bat has wings but she is not a bird. She takes to the air with a completely different system of gifts. She is a mammal with complex listening skills. She sees with sound through echolocation and her teachings are always saying- Listen. Really listen in order to see clearly. You may not want to hear what you hear. Or see what you see. But what is will not change until you acknowledge it as it is.
For more perspectives on the Bat Spirit Animal Totem, check out another of my article about the Bat Medicine and Adulthood Rites.
I wish you peace and pillows during your times of upheaval.