We all need to feel safe and at times we can only get that by withdrawing into our bubble to feel anchored and grounded. Then there are those bubbles that can make us feel cut off, separate and disconnected from others and the world around us. If you really think about it, bubbles are there, for all of us, all of the time. Life can be about navigating bubbles.
As a child I blew bubbles, with soapy water or with gum. The aim was to blow the biggest bubble ever and to make it last. The soapy onesalso needed to fly high and higher before they burst. The bubble gum needed to stretch further and further before bursting into sticky stuff on my face. As a child I also liked to build dens, with boxes, blankets and bedspreads, something secret and special. As an adult, like most humans, I still pull my blanket over my head, when I feel frightened or cold. Those are also bubbles of some kind.
Apart from the solitude 'I need to be alone' and isolation 'Why don't you let me near you' bubbles, there are many others: The shock and disbelief bubble, when something difficult and awful has happened. The bubbles that come with fear, anger, grief or depression, when we struggle to engage with the world outside of our head and heart. Physical illness and pain can also put us in a bubble, as can medication and its side effects. Pain killers and chemo brain are two examples.
Some bubbles we create and need; they may give us time and space to feel safe, to think things through, to just be, to recharge our batteries - physically, emotionally and spiritually. With some bubbles we have a say in the matter and make a choice. They might even become part of who we are. Other bubbles may be imposed on us by others, or we are left out by the bubbles they create.
Cancer can create many emotionl bubbles:
- In the blue corner we have fear, uncertainty, anger, rage, hate, mistrust, grief, loneliness, disbelief, blame, hopelessnes, self-loathing, low self esteem, indifference, denial, dying and death.
- In the green corner we have: help me, keep me safe, tell me the truth, listen to me, how can I help myself, peace, purpose, resilience, spirit, understanding, kindness, love, living and life.
Thinking of the title of my blog, Between Self and Doubt, each of these three positions can be a bubble, each with its own purpose, potential and energy.
I often describe my cancer experience as a transformative experience. In order to deal with it, to stay anchored and to keep going somehow, with a sense of purpose and a sense of who I am, I needed to start changing and transforming something - ME.
I needed to review my bubbles, those created by me and those created by others. Which are essential and which are a hindrance and get in my way? And I realised just how many bubbles I had been enduring and how many I had outgrown and how many had cancer written all over them.
I needed and wanted to start making choices. I have been given this chance and would it not be foolish to just carry on as before? I do not want to carry on as before. I cannot be bothered and I don't fancy it anymore - thank you very much. No offense intended.
To make a bubble inventory, from time to time, can be a smart thing to do. We might have outgrown some bubbles and we might be ready for different ones.
And sometimes I am in the 'Between' bubble, when I am pulled in different directions, when I don't want to be sucked in by the 'Anger and Despair bubble' and when my 'Purpose and Determination bubble' is not big enough to contain my fear of the future.
Karin Sieger is a BACP registered and accredited psychotherapist based in London. She specialises in supporting people affected by cancer. In her blog, Between Self and Doubt, she reflects and life and death and how to thrive despite cancer.