The Greatest Act of Courage | By Arabella Tornow

I love going on adventures, so one day I decided to book a trip on the well known Greyhound bus from Sedona to Los Angeles. In my world, this was the most convenient way to get from A to B, as I generally travel with a lot of luggage.

In anticipation of the trip ahead I was reminded of my time in Australia as a backpacker, where I had traveled on a luxury Greyhound bus before, for close to 30 hours. During that experience I found myself admiring the scenery and overjoyed to have WIFI on board.

Thinking of how incredible my experience on the Greyhound bus in Australia had been, I felt that the 10 hour trip to LA would be far from a tragedy. In fact, I found myself looking forward it. I could finally read, listen to podcasts, relax, meditate and write.. anything and everything you can imagine doing on such a long trip.

The Greyhound bus I had booked from Sedona, however, had a very different reputation in America. Looking back, it seemed as if Spirit wanted to show me once again that it’s better not to have any expectations; something I realized only after I got on.

As I boarded the bus, I came in contact with Daniel, a man who was 31 years young, who helped me stow away my suitcase. Daniel attracted my attention not because of his helping manner, but rather because of his alcoholic smell. I took note of it inwardly, waved goodbye to my friends, and hopped on the bus to find a seat.

The second thing I noticed was that the bus was packed to the top with passengers, making me feel quite frustrated. Walking through the bus without many seating options, I found myself having to choose between a sleeping man who blocked almost two seats and a young woman, who seemed to ignore me.

As I was about to sit down and make room for my bags, Daniel called to me from the front of the bus. He was sitting to the right hand side of the driver, with plenty of space alongside him – and a seat to spare.

I was relieved, and he was visibly delighted.

Looking back it still surprises me that my encounter with Daniel touched me so deeply that I would write an article about it.

Daniel was from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was on his way to pick his cousin up from Indio, to drive him back to a rehab clinic in Albuquerque the following day. He had worked for Greyhound for 13 years at that point, which after finding out, clarified the question mark on my forehead. He joked around with the driver, helped stow the suitcases and sat on the most comfortable seat on the whole bus – which he now fortunately shared with me.

It didn’t take long for Daniel and I to really started talking, mainly because he is just a year older than me – which, without being able to hide it, surprised me a lot! I would have guessed that he was in his mid-40s, as his face and body looked like he had some stories to tell. And let me tell you, he certainly did!

Daniel told me that he worked around the clock, and all he really looked forward to was the weekend because that’s when he could be at church helping other people. Understanding this about Daniel made me instantly perk up regarding our first interaction and his smell of alcohol. Why? Because my own father was an alcoholic, and had worked as a sexton in a church years before he died.

This made me wander about what was stressing him out so much that he had the inner urge to constantly numb himself? What was he running from? What pain was he holding on to? These and other questions began to gradually pop into my head.

His eyes were glassy from the alcohol, his face puffy, and his laughter seemed more like a mask. He cared more about filling other people’s cups than his own. I saw a man who had a big heart – but didn’t give his heart a chance to speak and breathe – afraid of what he might find. Physically this had manifested into panic attacks and a stooped gait, with drooping shoulders protecting his heart.

In my work, I focus primarily on supporting men in identifying where emotions are trapped in the body and releasing these stored emotions. I understand that what we feel and can’t express verbally, we often express through our body language. Our bodies hold our unconscious feelings, and we unconsciously communicate these true feelings to others through our posture, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Therefore, our bodies carry the memories of our trauma and grief deep within our cells.

At that point, I already knew why we had met there that day.

With most of the men I had worked with, as well as within my own personal experiences, I had found a deep-seated fear of fully opening up because of things that had occurred in the past within this or other lifetimes.

These deep-seated (childhood) wounds caused energetic imbalances in feelings of security, safety, value, and worth. The lack of self-love then manifested as self-abandonment, self-sabotaging, manipulation, and/or over-self-sacrifice to get love. 

Sadly, we have all grown up in a very wounded society, where men have been taught that they always need to have everything figured out, and that they should “suck it up” and be “real man” when they feel something, rather than expressing their emotions.

Not being able to feel safe enough to speak openly about their feelings, desires and needs has created an internal separation, leading to deeply stored emotions such as shame, guilt and fear – held in the lower energy centers within ones body.

The outcome, most of the time, has been addiction. Addiction to pornography, alcohol, drugs, and sex. The need for external things to compensate for the internal lack. The rush of chemicals emotionally, connects to the masculine fears – deep feeling of loneliness and isolation. 

Cultural pressures have also played a very decisive role: especially among men and women who come from Middle Eastern and Third World countries. Here we find an even more distorted idea of the tasks and expectations of a man. Poverty, war, violence and the constant struggle for survival leave their mark not only on the physical and mental level, but most of all impact the emotional and energetic planes.

Often we cannot even imagine, unless we are affected by it, how deep the wounds of the older generations are embedded in us, and what psychological and physical impact these wounds still have on us today.

I am reminded of this by the story of my grandfather, who feared for his life in Russian captivity during World War 2. My grandparents were shaped by their war experiences. They never spoke about it. It was taboo. This makes me very grateful that I was born into a world where I can think and say what I want, without fearing for my life. 

It was Daniel’s wish to be a father himself one day. But he was afraid of failing, and passing on the trauma within his family. He had grown up as the oldest son in a family of five. His parents fought almost daily, and he was used as an emotional and physical punching bag.

He told me about a scene he witnessed when he was three years old; his father was lying on the bed, with Daniel in the room with him. His mother suddenly entered the apartment with a firm kick. She stormed into the room, yelled at his father, and became physical with him. As she kicked him, he reacted by grabbing her by the throat, and pressed her against the wall. His parents are now separated, and Daniel at that stage Daniel hadn’t been in contact with his mother for four years. 

Daniel expressed that his mother reminded him too much of his father. She also blamed him constantly for the death of his younger brother.

“You are a junior. That means you are responsible for your siblings,” were one of her last words to him. 

Daniel’s eyes glazed over. As did mine.

I had initially noticed a tattoo on his upper arm, which now made sense. The date “1994” had been sticking out to me all along.

Daniel’s younger brother had died almost five years prior. He told me that he hadn’t cried since. He lost himself in alcohol, weed and cigarettes – until one day, he woke up and knew he had to change his life. He quit smoking, started his own business with his father, and took a job at a church, which meant he worked non-stop.

He voiced that despite all of that, he still feels alone when he comes home at night. The inner emptiness is still there. He no longer turns to drugs, as he did in the past, but to the Bible, he tells me.

He had stopped engaging with his friends, explaining that hey don’t understand him, and make fun of him.

“They only call me when they’re bored or want to smoke pot.” 

From my own experience, I knew that my clients’ biggest fear was often being judged or criticized by others in society when showing their vulnerability.

Can you imagine that? That’s how deeply ingrained our programming is.

The truth is, vulnerability requires so much inner stability and security, and is one of the greatest acts of courage. 

Daniel’s grief ran deep. The burden on his shoulders was heavy. Even though he knew that his mother was projecting her grief, guilt, and “failure” onto him – it still hurt.

That pain wanted to be heard.

What happens when we don’t surrender to our pain and grief? I believe it catches up with us in the form of illness and a feeling of deep emptiness and powerlessness.

If we were only to surrender to it, we would find that the real grief and the original wounding took place much earlier: In childhood, as a newborn infant, and perhaps already in the mother’s womb. 

Our connection to our mother in the womb is our first and most intimate connection. 

In the book: “Warrior, Magician, Lover, King – A Guide to the Male Archetypes Updated for the 21st Century” by Rod Boothroyd, he explains: “This union appears to be a state of existence for the baby in which he and mother are experienced as one and the same; there’s no sense of separation between them in the baby’s consciousness. Child psychologists tell us that a baby only becomes aware of itself as a separate being after a few months of life.”

I find it common that it is difficult for men to connect with their feelings and heal the wounds created at that time, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, without help. The trust towards the feminine energy has built up from being blocked for so long.

We are all born with different degrees of resilience. Whatever wounds a man or woman may have, could just as easily leave another untouched.   

Boothroyd further explains: “We may feel that experience of unity again during adulthood, at least to some degree, during the moment of orgasm when there seems to be a loss of self.” 

Every behaviour, every addiction has an origin, and it is our individual responsibility to transcend it. 

The lines in “Warrior, Magician, Lover, King – A Guide to the Male Archetypes Updated for the 21st Century” are very thought-provoking and, in my opinion, is wonderfully summarized in the excerpt: “All love and all connections can bring us both joy and grief: joy when we have them and grief when we lose them. We even feel grief when we do not get the love and connections we have a right to expect simply because we’re alive. Our grief then is about the absence of what should have been ours yet never was.” 

When my best friend passed away unexpectedly five years ago, my greatest fear became an overnight reality. I had to face losing a person that I loved more than anything. 

It wasn’t until my then-boyfriend broke up with me two years after her death that I ended up breaking down.

At the time, I had also blamed myself for her death, since I believed that I should have been there for her.

The breakup with my former boyfriend that became the catalyst for my inner journey – a journey that had been incomprehensible to me for a very long time. All I had wanted to do at that time was to die. And I did. That being said, this death turned out better than I could have ever imagined back then.

I couldn’t have imagined that I would find answers to my greatest fears and heal my grief hand in hand with my inner child.

Today I know that the grief I felt then was the grief I had unconsciously suppressed for years, and thus was never able to express. It caught up with me.

I was too young to understand my father’s emotional absence’s impact on me. Grief, after all, is not always when we lose something – but also when we were supposed to have something – but it was never there.

At the time that my healing journey began, when I finally gave myself permission to feel and express my pain, I was also able to better understand my fears, anger, and self-harming behaviour.

I gave myself and my inner child the attention, love, respect, and affection I had so desperately wanted at that time, in my case, from a male.

Energy healing and bodywork are, therefore, inevitable for me.  

Rod Boothroyd also writes: “Feeling grief is a natural response to a loss of any kind. Grief can shake us to our core and may destroy our image of being “independent” or “strong” – Grief connects us to our vulnerability and makes us aware of our simple human need for connection. It connects us to the core of ourselves and what is most important to us – to love and connect deeply.

For some reason, in our society, we characterize grief as “painful.” Yet this pain is really the pain of grief which is not expressed. 

To love oneself, and all the parts of oneself, is not easy – especially when one or both parents were not emotionally present, and the emotional needs that we have were not fully met.

Ultimately, we are all human, and making mistakes is part of being human. Therefore, we all carry more or less this woundedness within us to some extent.

This is why it is crucial that we listen to our inner child, to understand our inner child and get to know ourselves better in that way.

It is even more vital that we take on the role of being a loving parent to our inner child. If we can’t do that, if we can’t embrace our inner child, how can we ever become a good parent? 

Daniel knew that he could break the trauma loop in his family, and was already breaking it.

Often we suffer our biggest breakdown right before our breakthrough. 

“Why were you drinking?” I asked him.

He looked at me and paused for a moment.

“Because I wanted to sleep on the way to my cousin’s house. I didn’t sleep a wink last night. It’s become much less common for me to reach for the bottle – but it happens. You held up an important mirror up to me today, so I would like to thank you. I’m grateful to have met you, and I have a lot to process and think about.”

He had tears rolling down his cheek, and I could feel how real and healing the conversation had been – for both of us. 

Before he got off, he opened his backpack and pulled out a box full of snacks to hand out on the bus.

“What are you doing?” I exclaimed.

“I don’t need the food anymore” he responded.

“Are you sure about that?”

He smirked and put the box back in his pocket.

“I need the food for myself because I’m returning to Albuquerque tomorrow.” 

Time flew by on the bus. Seats were gradually becoming available behind me, however because I had enjoyed our encounter so much, I didn’t want to move.

Daniel thanked me continuously as the rest of the journey unfolded, but I knew that as much as I had helped him, he had also helped me. He had provided me with a sense of safety and connection. This had made me smile and think of the quote by Ram Dass: “We are all just walking each other home.” 

What does this story have to do with business?

Daniel’s expressed that his deepest longing and fulfilment lay in caring for others.

He wanted to open a homeless shelter, where he could help homeless people integrate back into a stable life.

He already had the financial means, yet felt blocked inside. This inner blockage was an invitation to him to connect his heart with his mind and his power. This would help him realize his dreams and experience them with authentic joy.

For all of us walking this path, authentic joy can only occur when we stop running away from our pain.

We can only truly fulfil our deepest calling when we are ready to face our deepest fears and work on them.

If we close ourselves off from our grief, how can we expect to experience our joy? 

Connecting with Daniel showed me that we all carry a story. We all carry experiences with us. Unfortunately, these experiences are not always positive. We all carry wounds and traumas inside of us, and emotions such as anger, shame, guilt, sadness, and fear running so deep that our psyche has developed various defence mechanisms over the years – which can only be helpful to us for a short time. Ultimately these defence mechanisms prevent us from being authentic, living our truth, and realizing our dreams.

Before we said goodbye, Daniel asked me if I had any ideas for a tattoo that he should get, since he still had space on his upper right arm.

“How about forgiveness?”

He looked at me and smiled. “Yeah, that feels good, and look, it fits right there.”