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Identity Flow Like H2O

By Dr. Patty Williams on July 7, 2023

BISN founder and president Dr. Patty Williams is a trauma therapist who specializes in EMDR, ND-Affirmative DBT, and IFS modalities. Through Bright Insight Support Network, she works to counsel, coach, and advocate for gifted, twice-exceptional, and neurodivergent persons, along with other marginalized populations.




Identity Flow like H2O


In our BLOOMERS: GIFTED AND 2E ADULTS group on Facebook, I posted a Sunday Funday prompt asking folx:

In 10 words or less, give me your title... Not your job title or typical labels. What/Who are you, REALLY!?

This is a prompt I use with my first-year college students also, during the first week or two of new semesters. It is a great one for any classroom or shared space and gets us thinking of who we are outside of typical labels. My title changes from time to time and depending on who I am talking to.

In the Bloomers group we had so many fantastic responses that ranged from deep and serious to fun and super silly. Though I tend to be a silly sort, my answer this time was more introspective. I wrote:

I am Patty: Soul Whisperer, Introverted Advocate, and both Beacon and Anchor to Outliers of Outliers.

I could go into the meaning of each of these words and titles. However, for this blog, I am choosing to respond to a couple of comments I received from other group members.

First, one of our beloved and longtime members posted an image of a lighthouse. I responded:

Awww! The lighthouse metaphor is a super meaningful one to me. I feel seen (there is a pun here, yes, AND I totally mean it).

A newer Bloomer then posted:

"For real? If I head towards your beacon, will I find sanctuary?”

They alluded also to how they were becoming seasick from life’s waves.

I answered:

"For real, friend."

I ended up chatting with this person for a bit. It was an enjoyable conversation where they sought to know me with curiosity and genuine appreciation, and I them. A connection like this is so nice.

Within this conversation though, we noticed a lot of metaphors involving the water or ocean, while it was also pointed out that I live in the desert. I AM in the desert, though I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, a port town as one could ascertain from the name.

So why the lighthouse as a beacon? Why not something more like the Bat signal?

With the Bat-signal, a person sends up a notification that they are in distress... then Batman finds them! What a hero! I am gentler and more introverted in my approach. I like to live in a way that I shine a light that some people see in a way that they need to.

Not every person needs a lighthouse.

However, sailors in distress may certainly benefit from and even look for it. Heck. Some people just like lighthouses. I want to live and project myself in a way that those who may need or like my sort of energy and support can find it.

Over the years, my strange little light seems to be found by outliers of outliers- even outliers within the gifted community- folx with odd or difficult-to-diagnose health conditions, the chronically misunderstood... they are drawn my direction.

Strangely, one of my other favorite symbols is that of a boat anchor- I have a tattoo of one with a heart on its chain. As a therapist, I do not want to fix people (how could I?). I do, however, enjoy being an anchor for folx doing their own work. This anchor often looks like a calm, unconditional positive regard, compassion (always), and encouragement.

So we have an anchor and a lighthouse, and we are maybe relating others to sailors on rough seas. Well, to top it off, I considered those seas and my own journey in yet another Facebook post in yet another group that considers DABROWSKI’S THEORY OF POSITIVE DISINTEGRATION.

In this group, I reported that I felt like I was riding in the wake of a recent positive disintegration (the muck of it lasted probably three to four years).

I was trying to put into words what this wake was like while welcoming the insight of others. What this looks like for me as an introvert is:

  • I have a strong need for isolation so I can further develop ideas and writing projects such as blog posts and a book I am halfway through.

  • I am also super drawn to creativity- wanting to delve into poetry again.

  • And I am reading again, which I've not done outside of my recently completed doctoral program for YEARS.

  • I am craving depth, complexity, and compassion.

  • I have a strong sense of self and ability to defend it.

I even sidestepped into calling an attacker out on narcissistic behavior over social media, which would surprise many who know me (and not surprise folx who REALLY know me). I promise it was warranted and I hoped it shocked this person into introspection.

What is huge though, is that I am admitting this here since it welcomes criticism, which I fear less these days. Oof! Now that IS huge! Thank you positive disintegration and EMDR!

This wake of my positive disintegration is real and seemingly tangible- AND it is another metaphor for myself that relates to water and the ocean.

What does this mean!!??

I certainly look at experiences as waves at times with a build-up, a crest, a trough, and a retreat back to the sea even. Sometimes I feel like I just need to flow like water through an experience, without resistance.

Maybe I am water.

Dream interpretation often relates water to emotions. Fair enough. Hmmm.

I know some look at positive disintegration and life changes as waves or the movement of tides. So I am curious if these water-related metaphors are relatable to others. Do folx understand or use them also?

How about you?

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