what do you need?

what do you need?

climbing my way back out of the underworld to take up space, armed with an invitation, a challenge, and some unsolicited advice around building self-trust. [longread, with audio]
[image description: a photo of some of the wild and wonderful root system of beech trees, creating a natural set of steps up a hill’s incline, taken at Hardcastle Crags in Yorkshire]
[image description: a photo of some of the wild and wonderful root system of beech trees, creating a natural set of steps up a hill’s incline, taken at Hardcastle Crags, Yorkshire]

well, hey there.
it’s… it’s been a while.
i’m actually rather amazed, and quite touched, that you’re still here. never mind that there’s even a few more of you, despite my lengthy silence.

the fact that some of you might open this email (or stumble on this post), some of those somes might read all of it… and some of those somes-of-somes might even respond to it!… fills my re-evolving heart with loving anticipation :) and a fair bit of trepidation :(

being out in the world again really is rather scary. and gee whizz did i pick a time to stick my head back out of my safe little turtle shell. jeeeeesh, world. the fuck??


i dunno about you, but i wouldn’t mind some comforting-discomfort convos around it all. some digital coregulation, for those of us whom that works for. and for that to take place away from social-media-land (a place i’m only just recently revisiting, and rediscovering i don’t wanna stay too long).

i’d like to share some of the stuff i’ve gone through, and what i’ve learned (and am learning, and unlearning), and invite you to share some of your own. perhaps you wanna give yourself permission to take up a bit more space in this messy-assed world, but are a bit scared of daring to, aswell? yeah. i hear that. maybe this is a place you can be a little more brave, with me?

i mean: how the fuck are we, through all this? how can we help each other? what can we DO? and what do we each need in order to survive all this?

the patterns i see across the net tend to be the same, and they reflect my own thoughts, fears, and general-sense-of-powerlessness (no matter what we’re all respectively battling personally behind the scenes). so i’m thinking maybe i can hold space for some stuff that we all might benefit from.

stuff like: text-based shoulders to weep on; group grieving for the loss of what we’d hoped was/might become, and the acceptance of what we now know is not safe, for anyone? a space to just fuckin allow the rage to exit your system; for it to be heard, validated, addressed; for you to be held safe - and to hold others safe - while we release these necessary-yet-fractious energies which are so forbidden ‘out there’? a shared knowledge repository about how to take action, for those who’ve never done this before? a glossary of terms for those who have questions but don’t know the language to use to find their answers? a fence-sitting messy-space for those who aren’t comfortable with x but know y is problematic, and just want to chat thru that shit without being screamed at? a support space for more experienced activists to find coregulation and recharge together, whilst also cocreating/linking to guides and resources to help the newcomers get the lay of the land? (— heh, we could call that one ‘social justice warrior onboarding’).

what else?

i’m thinking: break it down, keep it small (erm, okay, maybe not ‘small’, given my TL;DR leanings. i mean something more like ‘longform that is specifically targeted’). a bunch of posts about each ‘thing’ that is really getting to us, with open, honest, brave convos around them in each post. i’d make it subscription-only (free, as usual) as private-only posts so there’s a bit more security (i love to speak openly, and all my posts here so far have been public, but it’s easier to get to know who’s ‘in the room’ slightly more confidently if it’s behind a ‘freewall’ - and far easier to remove those who are only there to mock, shame, troll, or abuse).

you could open what interests you, and scroll past the rest. you could offer wisdoms if you have them, and acknowledge the bits of info which you find helpful or which you pass on elsewhere (it’s nice to receive validation for your efforts, even as another commenter on a thread :)

so that’s the invitation.
now for the challenge.


i want you to ask yourself: “what do i need?”

it’s h.a.r.d. to know what you need. i still haven’t worked it out fully, and i’ve been working on this since my diagnosis almost four years ago. i’m a lot better at noticing when i don’t have what i need, now, and am getting slightly better at asking for those needs to be met when they need to be met - rather than ending up silently resentful of people for not meeting needs i thought they understood, when i hadn’t clearly articulated them. (“practice makes permanent”, as my boxing trainer says, on loop).

the way i figure it, if we are going to survive this ongoing barrage of bullshit and its injustice whackamole olympics, we’re gonna need our full selves, and each other. all of us showing up as our true/raw/in-pain/terrified selves, safe (??!) in the knowledge that everyone else is, too. that’s a big deal. and no one taught that shit in the schools i went to, or through the ‘parenting’ i received (or rather, didn’t).

knowing what you need to sustain yourself, and owning your right to ask for those needs to be met, will enable far greater resilience over a much longer duration. this is gonna be a long, gruelling battle, which we probably won’t ‘win’ in our lifetimes. those who’ve already been fighting for generations urgently need more support of every flavour. and modelling that ‘permission to get our needs met’ will really help others around us to give themselves permission to do the same.

coz, look. this is it.
this is the time for ramping things up.
and this shit is proper hardcore scary.
and it hasn’t even started.

personally, i need to be out in the world, contributing something - anything - toward the movements who are moving mountains working to leave the world better than they found it. AND this scares the living shit out of me.

i know so many of us are so tired, in so much pain, so scared, so angry, and feel so powerless. and none of us feel like we’re doing ‘enough’… amplified by systems which have been telling us “you will never be enough”, like an abusive parent, since we were born.


you don’t have to tell me what you come up with (although you are welcome to). i’m purely offering an invitation to play with some guidance which has come to me from various sources, and which (following a hard-won dollop of quality therapy, and a deeply transformational rite of passage), is starting to really work for me. i mean, look… it’s working so well i can be brave enough to fkin be here again, right?!


right. this is where i get instructive (those who wisely boundary against unsolicited advice may want to turn away now - sorry!)

i’d like you to pause for a moment. close your eyes, scan your body, and ask yourself if reading that bit about ‘asking for what you need’ comes with any physical sensations. check in, ask yourself if any part of your body is tense or in pain. is there anything at all that you notice there?

i’m asking that because i’ve found ‘doing the work’ (internally and externally) to be a lot easier if i’m keeping an internal awareness open to what my body has to say. and as external activism work (and basic survival) requires you to be fit and well internally, it is pretty essential that both your body and mind are in alliance rather than in opposition. and let me tell you, as someone who’s mind/body have been in direct opposition my entire life: that shit is unnecessarily exhausting.

so… to be less instructive: if you would like to, i invite you to…

  • take yourself-and-a-notebook-and-a-water-bottle-and-snack off somewhere soothing (i generally choose trees, i find specific ones to be extremely conversational and sensorially uplifting). make yourself comfortable, and ask yourself “hey, me. mind, body, heart, soul: what do we need?

  • and just sit there. don’t think about it, don’t force it. just sit there, breathe, and look at the leaves fluttering overhead; listen to the river trickling nearby; let the thoughts buzz, flip and twirl.

  • you might find there’s a few obvious ones, “i need to own a home outright so i’m not shafted by landlords/mortgages anymore” (if you’re lucky enough to have a home at all). “i need a job which pays me a living wage and doesn’t depress the fuck out of me, daily”. get all those out of the way, first. just bullet points is fine (or you can be swanky and mind-map them if that’s your thing).

  • then flip your attention back to the trees again. feel the wind on your face and hands. inhale the scent of woodland mulch. ask your body how it’s feeling, what it’s feeling. is any part of your body speaking louder than the others? what might be stored there which might need some attention? ask it how can you love that part of yourself a little bit more.

  • eventually, despite seemingly lying there gazing at the trees and into your own body (which Capitalism calls “doing nothing”), a thought will pop up. “oh! yeah, i know what i need…”. it might not be an external thing at all. it might be giving yourself permission to go swimming. or dancing. or to cry, or hug yourself tightly.

write everything down, even it seems silly… there may be something more informative under the surface. spend as much time as you can just noticing and jotting things down. and then, when you’re done, need to be somewhere else, or are just not feeling it anymore: carry on with your day.

as you leave, reflect on whether you feel any differently to how you arrived. i generally walk very fast to my designated tree, and meander much slower away from it. i love noticing that shift.

other things will begin to pop up over the day/next few days. when they do, add them to your list. you don’t have to do anything with them - unless there are some easy ones you feel prompted to change without too much energy exertion. the point here is to simply plant the seed of noticing what you need, internally and externally, and how those noticings feel in the body. this redirection of attention simply lets your mindbody know that you want to hear what it has to tell you.

give yourself permission to practice this regularly. a few minutes daily, and/or a longer session weekly… whatever works for you. keep writing them down. and, when you’re ready (i notice this as my subconscious-microwave going “PING! okay, i have processed some stuff, and now i have shit to say about it: capture me right now!”), give yourself some quiet time to have a more detailed look at that list. expand on things that were originally dotpoints. begin to cluster things which seem to interconnect. explore the patterns, the stories they reveal. and keep checking in with the body while you do so.

where you notice emotions coming up, allow them to be whatever they need to be, for as long as needed, and then dig deeper to see if you’ve understood all of the layers they’re expressing (e.g. underneath rage there tends to be stuff like fear, loneliness, rejection, and grief). i’ve found it can help to look at lists of emotions as reminders of their breadth.

where you notice physical tension, spend some time thinking/writing about what part of the body is tense and what the connections there might be. tension in the throat, for example, can mean that we’re self-silencing; there’s something we want to say but have been too scared to put into words. allow yourself to say it, even if it’s a quiet whisper or a written mock-conversation. or sing it… singing of any kind is incredibly good for the mindbody.

sit with it, dialogue with it, walk toward the pain your body has been trying to protect you from. because the pain, and its “ye shall not pass” blocks, is where the healing lives. if we want to release the pain we have to truly listen to what it’s asking for. i know this sounds contrary, and - jeez - i KNOW how scary it is to walk toward pain. trust me, though. the fear of facing that pain is far far worse than actually facing that pain. make friends with that fear, and allow it to introduce you to the stories the pain needs to express in order for you to become free, together.

#interoception and #somatics

it’s important for me, as a neurodivergent person, to point out that you might not notice anything happening sensorially (your body’s responses to the question). i still only occasionally notice anything significant, and never used to notice anything at all, so all these sites/courses/books saying “just feel into your body” used to drive me (even more) nuts… i was like, “HOW?! and why are you dangling this carrot at me without explaining the barriers for some of us, which just reinforce how i am always bloody wrong?!”

it’s okay if you don’t notice anything internally, and don’t want to (take or leave any/all of this). and it’s okay if you don’t notice and would like to be able to (keep up a noticing practice, and you will keep noticing more and more things… it’s pretty cool!)

if you want to learn more about why you might not be noticing embodied sensations, look up ‘interoception’. it’s the body’s scanner system which manages mindbody internal comms stuff - like telling our brains we’re hungry, thirsty, or need to wee. for some of us, our default neurological and autonomic nervous system wiring can impact our interoceptive systems so they’re not working at full capacity. it’s incredibly common for autistic people, for example, to have disordered eating, or to not notice when we’re dehydrated or when we need the loo.
trauma can also block our interoception - it’s one of our clever body’s ways of protecting us from the pain those memories hold... because painful lived experiences get stored in our physical bodies. true fact.

on the other hand, some autistic people (and some allistics) are extremely receptive to their bodily sensations. some to the degree that they cannot be touched by other people (or even some fabrics) because of the intensity of their body’s response to external stimulus. and some can hear the internal sounds of their eardrum, or their blood pulsing through their veins, so loudly that external sound is simply too overwhelming on top.

we’re all different, so what works for some won’t work for others. and that’s fine, coz there are loads of ways to access this internal work. if it triggers you, if it’s really damn uncomfortable and just leaves you feeling worse: stop. immediately. the point is never to force it, or force yourself to comply with a.n.other person’s way of doing things. the point is to begin the journey of meeting yourself, mindbodysoul, in any way which works for you.

#woo and #selfcriticism

this work (looking inwards, learning to hear our bodies), can sound proper ‘woo’. and because the systems we live under don’t like woo (and, hey, some woo is baaaaaaaaad right?!), this can be a particularly discombobulating space to enter. it can scream self-criticism at us from every level. this is part of the unlearning, deconditioning, which is a vital foundation to all this healing business. (and one of the best approaches to healing is to better understand and resource your systems so you don’t get so sick, so often).

when i listen to my body i’m listening to voices that are, essentially, ‘in my head’. that left me feeling, for years, like i was ‘making it up’, thereby devaluing any good which came from it all. it can be super hard to trust, at first.
for me they’re not (always) literal voices. sometimes they’re memories, or thoughts, and sometimes cravings for a very specific kind of food (which, as someone with disordered eating, is quite a beautiful revelation!)
sometimes i notice that there’s a tight clenching in my jaw, throat, chest, neck - which i just used to think was stress/bad posture/no self-care. now i understand that each of these signals are invitations to spend time with those things, ask them what they need, and then do whatever possible to fulfil those needs.

what i’ve realised is that even if i am ‘making it up’, none of them are harmful, and all of them help me to feel more connected with myself. they help me feel more whole. i’ve felt like i was missing something, dissociated, not fully present, for so long that feeling whole is a dramatic reveal i am loving every second of.

one of the biggest growths i’ve learned from this practice (and the somatics work which allows far deeper investigation and healing), is that the “it’s all in my head, i’m making it up” voice turned out to be a core part of my lack of self trust, which is all rooted in my social conditioning and upbringing. so, by beginning the work of listening, and trusting my internal systems to be truthfully telling me what they need, and then fulfilling those needs and observing the positive impacts of that cycle, i am building foundation blocks for a far greater self-trust. the more i trust myself, the easier it is to trust myself - and the less arguments and criticism i throw at myself. it’s pretty magickal shit.

i’ve been promising to write more about my experiences of trauma healing, including somatics, for a very long time, so perhaps that’s one of the posts we could start with.

i mean… i dunno. i haven’t got all the answers, coz no one has. we’ve never cocreated a world which works for every living thing in it before. i just know i have found a bunch of things which have helped me survive the last 7-odd years of sheer hell, and the lifetime of embedded toxicity which created that hell. i needed to do a whole bunch of very quiet, hidden, private work with only very safe, experienced, authentic people around me. and now, even though i am still doing a whole load of that work and still newly evolving from my pupae gloop and allowing the wings to dry before i take full flight… i need to grow my found family, and i need to step back out of my turtle shell and actually fucking DO something. so i’m proposing that i start here, with this offering, invitation, and intro-level guidance from a passionate novice.

so… who’s in?
and what do you NEED?

sommat's gotta give. navigating the seemingly unfeasible struggle to survive systems designed to harm us, while also working together to build a sustainable future for all humans and the planet.
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