The past, the present, and the future

Originally published on Linkedin

In my last letter, I wrote about peeling off the first mask.

Throughout this journey, the one thing I learned is that there is no end. Challenging for someone whose profession is about starting and finishing projects.

For a while, the EMDR treatment was life-changing. I went from having screaming voices at volume 11 all day long, to the blissful silence of a light hum. I was walking on water, king of the world, conquered the impossible.

But later, I would realize that each of these treatments turns down the intensity of one thing, only for other things to emerge that were previously drowned out.

Behold the magical ????

With the volume turned down, I was on a high, ready to go to the next level. A friend of mine had an opportunity for me to do a mushroom ceremony.

I showed up at the house. I sat down at the counter, and tea was prepared. A little green tea, a little honey, and some of the plant medicine ground up into a powder. He asked if I want to drink it or eat all the chunks.

YOLO, let’s do it.

I’ll come back to this experience in a future letter, but for now, it hit me like a wall. Pretty colors, the feeling sounds, tasting shapes, the whole 9 yards. A few moments in, part of me wanted to get off the ride. In my head, if it’s going to be like this, it will be a long day.

Then everything blanked out.

I came to and I was back home in my bed. I woke up, I came to consciousness, I wasn’t sure where I was. I walked down the stairs. And all was blank.

Blank is a strange feeling. It’s nothingness. I have no consciousness of it. Almost like sleep, without knowing you’re sleeping. Maybe it was what not existing feels like.

I lost count, but I repeated this pattern 30-40 times, waking up in different moments, coming to consciousness, experiencing life, and then losing consciousness. In a way, almost like the cycle of birthing and dying.

It all made no sense until it made all sense nearly a year later.

I see a yellow building

A few months passed, and eventually, my therapist referred me back to more EDMR. As always, giant leaps open the door for something else to emerge.

This time, I knew what I was doing, and even then, I resisted making the call, I resisted scheduling the session, and the day of, I thought about turning around.

In the session, I came in with an image of a yellow building. I had an uneasy feeling about it. I’ve never seen this building, yet the imagery was so vivid.

So that’s where you start. With whatever you have, and you sit in that feeling, sit with the imagery.

This therapist used a set of buzzing devices. You hold one in each hand. With each round, you describe what you see and feel, then buzz buzz buzz. It goes back and forth between your two hands.

Buzz, buzz, buzz. Weird but okay.

Describe what you see.

The yellow building has a straw roof, this vibrant yellow, paint or clay. There’s a window. I see a figure in the corner, and he’s curled up. There’s another larger shadow of a man. He’s close to the window. I see just the backlight silhouette of him.

Buzz, buzz, buzz.

The intensity of the feelings doubles.

The man in the corner is my dad. He’s in a re-education camp (after the Vietnam War ended, soldiers that supported the Americans were rounded up to be “re-educated,” a nice way of saying tortured. The figure is a man above him. He’s scared of this man.

I’m shaking at this point. I’m crying uncontrollably. I’m okay, I tell my therapist.

Buzz, buzz, buzz.

And over a few moments, the carpet of the office slowly because dry, cold dirt. I’m in the corner, I am my dad. The room is dark, and the walls are dark. I look up and I see a small window. The figure is prominent, the light makes him backlit.

I look out the window. The warmth of the rays of sunlight emerges. When I focus on the window, it takes away from the fear, disgust, and anger.

There’s a faint figure beyond the window. A man waves at me. I feel comfort, that I’m going to make it through this.

The shadow comes back. He’s walking away. I cry at him, come back. Don’t leave me alone. He’s my oppressor, he’s hurting me, yet I have this deep icky feeling wanting him to come back.

I’d rather be hurt than to be alone here.

I curl up.

I’m crying.

Come back, don’t leave me.

Daniel. Daniel. Daniel.

I come back to reality. I’m back in the office.

Where were you?

I described where I was, and what I saw. The cathartic feeling of my profound abandonment wound.

Buzz buzz buzz, we let the feelings set in. I feel at peace.

Back to the future

What do you do with all this? I have bits of the puzzle, but it makes no sense.

The screams of the boat turned down.

Living in the multiverse

The yellow prison

In 2023, I participated in my second psychodrama group. I used this opportunity to re-enact the experience. I sit in the corner of the room, literally. I have a big man standing at the window. The sun perfectly casts that shadow.

Within seconds, I’m crying uncontrollably, to the point where it was awkward to move forward.

We take me out of that role and had someone else be my dad, in the corner. I’m able to observe it from the third-person point of view.

Then as an observer, I feel a sense of shame. This man is weak. Look at him, he’s in the corner crying.

We have another person assume the role of Dan.

Dan is my protector. He’s tough, he’s strong.

I look at Dan (really for the first time), and I’m scared of him. He’s so angry. He’s been beaten up over the years.

Then I look at the facilitator and I tell her I think I’m good.

She looked me in the eye and then asked if I’d be okay if I had a support person next to me.

Umm, sure.

So I’m sitting face to face with my protector. I have two people sitting on either side of me. They give me physical boundaries. When I push left, I feel someone. When I move right, I feel someone. Then a person is behind me, with her hand on my head.

What do you want to say to Dan?

I whimper.

I can’t look at him.

I push hard to get a slight look up.

I look at him in the eye and whimper out, “We made it.”


We made it.

The group in chorus repeats with me, “We made it.”

At that moment, I let out a cry. Not just any cry. It was a cosmic cry. Generations before me that never had the opportunity to cry out their pain, all contained for generations.

It was deep. It came from deep inside, beyond my physical body.

We made it.

The man in the distance

This therapy happened in Santa Cruz, CA. After my session ended, and we were on a break, I walked out and looked out into the ocean. I held up my hand, and I waved out. We made it.

And at that moment, the timeline was complete.

The figure my dad saw in the window was his son, 42 years later, after doing his work, sending out a message that we made it. It was the glimmer of hope decades earlier that rippled in the timeline and gave me, a grown man, the completion of the cycle.

So finally, the ???? trip made sense, that the past, the present, and the future all exist together.

We made it

The high of this session, the completion of the cycle, and the sweetness of the connection would eventually come down. As always, these big break though only allows the next thing to emerge, but for now, we live in the moment, knowing that the moment is fleeting.

Published by Daniel Hoang

Daniel Hoang is a visual leader, storyteller, and creative thinker. As an experienced management consultant, he believes in a big picture approach that includes strong project leadership, creative methods, change management, and strategic visioning. He uses a range of visual tools to communicate business challenges, solutions, and goals. His change strategy is to build "tribes" of supporters and evangelists to drive change in culture and organization. Daniel is an avid technologist and futurist and early adopter.