There is a couple who have and care for a variety of wild animals. One day while out walking, you came across the wife who was walking a tiger. The urge to pet it was too great, and you ask if you can pet the tiger. You quickly discover this cute but very large cat is not to be taken lightly as it reaches out for you. If you aren’t paying attention you might think the tiger is trying to act like a playful kitten instead of the mighty hunter that it is. You cautiously reach out to pet the tiger, careful to not let it grab or bite you. As you reach out and pet the tiger someone close to you comes over to pet it too. They, however, don’t seem to be paying attention to the aggressive posture of the tiger, and proceed to reach out to pet the tiger as though it was a big ‘ole kitten. You see the tiger grab their arm and start biting down on it. You tried to let them know to be careful, but they continued to allow the tiger to grab their arm and bit down on it.
Not everyone is capable of handling the same situation in the same kind of manner. This is especially true when it comes to trauma, abuse and unhealthy dynamics.
Some may be able to apply caution when dealing with dysfunctional situations/people or when a trigger pops up. Others may be unable to or refuse to see situations for what they are, and find themselves on the receiving end of emotional or physical pain. It can become increasingly frustrating when trying to help them to see and acknowledge what they are doing is letting a tiger chew on them. They have decided to play with the tiger.
Then there are those who have moved beyond not being able to see the situation for what it is, or only being able to cautiously apply a defensive position (this is like playing with fire and trying not to get burned). These people have learned how to “tame the beast” so to speak. They have learned how to walk with their past; in complete control of it in their present. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?
Although sometimes the control we think we have over how our past affects us is purely an outwardly appearance we take for a walk, for others to see, because we want them to think our past doesn’t affect us. In our hyper-vigilance to feel in control of what is around us we may pounce, growl, and verbally snip at others; we release our tiger past.
If we were to be honest, I’m including myself here, we all can assume a tiger on a leash is really the one in control; it can choose to attack at any moment with nothing to stop it. I think it’s a fine line between walking with your past (your “tiger”) while keeping control over your present, and trying to appear to be in control of your past. It can be a thin hard line to walk.
There is a place, more often than not, I wonder if it is a place of fantasy; the land of Oz. A place where we can release our “tiger” past. Where our past is free to be where it belongs, in our past. Not messing with our present. No need to put on the appearance of being “over” our past. In reality we have no control over our past, though we may try. We may walk around with our past on a leash trying to believe we are the one’s in control. We may feel we can control the dysfunction around us. Truth be told: we cannot.
Fantasy or not the ultimate journey would be to take our “tiger” past to a safe place where we can release it. Just as in the wild, a tiger is only truly free when it is allowed to simply be. Learning to allow our past to simply be, to allow it to just exist is how we truly free ourselves from it. The past is what it is and nothing can ever change it. When we allow our past to just exist, we are freeing ourselves from it by allowing our past to live in the past and not in our present. Oh, how I often wonder if this is just a thing to be hoped for, a goal to be achieved, or if it exists only in the land of Oz.