What happens when the tension falls away?

Matt Hogan
5 min readSep 11, 2021

I’ve heard people say, ‘meditation makes me anxious’.

No, meditation shows you how anxious you have always been. My coach said that, and he was right. It brought me back to five years ago.

I had begun going through EMDR therapy at the time of my separation from my fiancé. My therapist asked me to meditate for two minutes, to see what happened.

What happened was, I experienced a panic attack. I struggled to breathe, and felt like my chest was going to collapse. It felt like my world was crumbling. I was going to pass out and die. This was how extreme and terrifying this experience was for me.

To soothe myself I had to go outside and distract myself with the downtown lights and noise of Kansas City, MO.

Then, I meditated again.

Again, panic attack.

I was instructed to observe my thoughts as clouds.

These ‘clouds’ were a constant barrage of martyrdom, crucifixion and self aggrandizement. This had been running behind the scene for years. I never knew it.

Being in my brain and body was a scary place, especially in the moment of seeing what was the truth of my world.

I clung to each one of those voices (clouds) as the truth of life. Each of those thoughts represents who I was and must be at any given moment, to feel like I am ‘making it’ in life. Or, thoughts that stated, without question, who someone else was or was not.

On this night, there was a mix of shouting about my fiancé leaving. The RFP process I was spearheading to double the size of our team. And, a lot of, ‘what the hell am I doing?’

Then, I meditated again.

Again, same result.

The imbalances in my mind were evident, and yet, I had no idea where to begin. There was so much pain and suffering from years of my mind wiring this way.

I fell apart. I cried from a deep pain that had been inside of me for years, as I lay on the floor.

I cried more this night and during this period of my life, than ever before. Each time, creating new space, and feeling of lightness, follows.

What were all these lies that I had been believing?

Which were lies, and which were real?

What made me feel and think this way?

Why does this hurt so damn much?

How do I fix this?

Questions going on for me as my world crumbled, from the inside out. As I crumbled inside, it felt like all the world around me was falling apart, too.

All the ‘facts’ I ever believed began to come into question.

During this night, my sister’s death came to mind for me. She was killed three years prior. Ran over by a car. She was 34.

I had yet to face her death, other than I made a commitment to remember always, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Here I was, 31, and I felt like I was dying. Something inside of me was dying. I recommitted to myself what I had committed to her at her funeral. About how I would live my life.

On this night, it became clear that this way of feeling and thinking is not normal. It is not normal to talk to myself this way. To feel this way. Even though I had carried most of this with me my entire life, it was like a switch flipped that night.

That switch flipped that once had me in the dark about how I was doing life, and the source of its creation.

There was a knowing that this could change. And, I would devote my life to changing this way of experiencing life, that caused pain for myself and others.

I had this experience seven times in one night. Each time, the anxiety and tension, lessoned.

I look back now and see why I was always uncomfortable with silence. The constant work. Music. Exercise. Talking. Everything that kept me from being quiet and alone with myself. Noise kept the ever present tension in my mind and body operating unseen.

I once hung out with a T-Rex around this time of my life. This ferocious T-Rex was like the experience of living in my mind and body.

When you consider the dinosaurs, there wasn’t much you could do to stop a T-Rex if it was after you.

It wasn’t pretty for the other dinosaurs, or for me as the host of this carnivore being in my mind. Devouring any semblance of self esteem. Devouring any moment of feeling at ease, with all the things that are wrong with me or the world.

It was an ongoing onslaught of one thing to fear, after another. I was never at ease. Always on guard. Always striving toward the next thing. In my mind, I was keeping everything together.

During this period of my life, falling apart was exactly what I needed. Because it’s in the falling apart that we can collect ourselves, and rebuild anew.

I let myself fall apart again and again. I began to see all the lies I had convinced myself to be true, and how they haunted and harmed me. This was a major turning point in my life.

That same night, I remembered when my boss referred to me as a ‘work horse’. At the time, I wore that as a badge of honor.

On this night, that badge of honor started to look hollow, meaningless, and harmful.

If there is anything written about my death, being known as the following, is not something I aspire to….

“Here lies Matt, the man that worked himself to death for another person’s dreams. He was a great horse. Until he wasn’t.

Here lies Matt, lived his life scared of his own shadow, afraid to see how he lied to himself until his final days”

In the allowing of my falling apart, I was able to see what I once could not. I began leaning into the tension and angst that had always been there, with greater awareness. In doing this, I continued my path of creating a more easeful life.

I was further freeing myself from the shackles that bound me.

This period began to create space for more curiosity, wonderment, and creative expression. Bit by bit, this started to show up in each area of my life. Over the past five years, I have continued my process.

What has shifted is living my life more as a process rather than a goal. I do have goals in business and my life. And, it’s been learning to be present to the process of their creation, that freedom and results exist.

Freeing ourselves occurs from the inside out is an ongoing process that unfolds. Developing the courage to lean into the tensions we sense are there, is our next step to freedom.

Will you give yourself permission to lean in?



Matt Hogan

Coaching Leaders & Executives to Find Purpose, Clarity, and Alignment. | World Traveler | Soul Seeker | I help you through the hard sh*t.