Upside down and inside out

by Elouise

The glories of being intuitive do not include being correct. As I’ve noted before, intuition is as flawed as any other remarkable gift. My intuition is prone to wander, prone to read things wrong, prone to finding a way to make it all work out so I’m still on the ‘right’ side of things.

I didn’t choose this. It’s how I survived childhood and youth as the first-born daughter of a clergyman who believed he was right and I was wrong.

My instincts back then were correct: I was NOT always wrong. Not that I could do much about it back then except pray for the day when I would be an Adult Woman. An Independent Agent living by her own instincts, not yours or anyone else’s. And, of course, with God’s blessing.

I had no idea what it would mean to live according to instincts and intuitions shaped by years of resistance to homegrown and social trauma. Even so, I was often on target, especially when I was dealing with other people and their situations.

Going through old notes from 1994, I recently discovered a small phrase I used in a forum. The phrase is simple: ‘upside down and inside out.’

The notes referred to Karl Barth, German theologian of the mid-20th century. He wrote and taught during Hitler’s reign, the Holocaust, and in the aftermath of World War II. Plenty of trauma going on there, don’t you think?

In the 1980s, when I was a graduate student, Barth invited me to turn my mind ‘upside down and inside out.’ Not to play tricks on reality, but to discover a different way of discovering and naming truth.

He argued that because of human confusion in and around us, we cannot trust our instincts. His theology is a grand effort to show how this works—turning our minds upside down and inside out. So that what we call good or even ‘normal’ is not necessarily that.

So today I’m back to thinking about my instincts. Instincts honed and shaped by what we now call childhood PTSD.

Back then it was all about survival. Getting through without falling apart (even though I fell apart regularly, especially on the inside). I dreamed of arriving at the magic moment when I could live without threat of imminent punishment or humiliation.

I left home at 16 years of age to go to college, never dreaming what my lifetime learning agenda would be. Especially about myself and my instincts. I thought thriving meant living on my own, having a job and maybe even a boyfriend.

Yet thriving isn’t about having a life or even letting go of things programmed into me as a child. It’s about welcoming, affirming and living as the woman I already am.

Put another way, it’s about living on the other side of letting go. I want to name and own what I love about myself and about life. I welcome this opportunity to turn my let-go thoughts and feelings upside down and inside out. I have much to put to rest, and much to bring back to life. Just like those beautifully upside down, inside out flowers and plants in the artwork above.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 March 2017
Lovely artwork found at

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Instinct