The shedding of skins

Beings with soft skins can simply get those skins to grow with them. Those with hard outers have to slough off a layer in order to grow – crustaceans, insects, snakes and lizards grow this way. There are other creatures for whom growing up means radical transformation, not just shedding the outer skin, but changing the whole being. There is a drama to this transformation that softer entities don’t seem to manifest.

Birds shed their feathers. Mammals shed their fur, and we soft things also shed skin. The part of us regularly in contact with the rest of reality is forever changing, dying, falling away and being replaced. It is an interesting parallel that I do not shed my physical skin well, tending to accumulate layers of the dead stuff. This works well on the tough soles of my feet and the music calluses on my hands, but will turn the rest of me grey if I do not soak and scrub. I hold on to my old skins, my protective and disguising layers.

How our minds grow and develop seems to vary a lot. Small changes can be sloughed off like last year’s winter pelt, but a major change in thinking can bring more complications. If I’m trying to shift how I see myself, or the world, there are times when no tidy progress from one view to another is ok. A point of having to switch can feel a lot like taking off a skin. Not always a dead skin, either. Some of them bleed. I had it suggested to me a while back that depression can be a sign of transformation. Perhaps that’s why it leads to so many people sleeping more. It’s simpler to make those big shifts of consciousness when the conscious mind itself isn’t looking. When you woke up this morning, you might not have been the same person as you were on waking up yesterday.

Avoiding and resisting pain are hard wired survival skills. Unfortunately, large and necessary changes can hurt like hell. Healing and growing can be an excruciating processes, forcing us to recognise things that were wrong, insufficient, shabby… that can be a profound blow to the ego. So we hang on to the skins, or we flail about in trying to let them go.

This is a story I wrote about a year ago. At the time these were things I could only talk about with distance and metaphor, but it’s a rare case of my writing something very much from my immediate emotional state. I knew I couldn’t hang on to the dead skins much longer, but was afraid of taking them off. Who or what will I be if I let go of the dead layers? Somewhere underneath it all, is some actual skin, and I have no sense of the shape it takes. I may have a few layers to go, but I’m more human shaped than I was when I ventured to write this.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “The shedding of skins

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