Sunday, May 25, 2014

4 Powerful Steps to Let Go (Finally!)

"... like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us. " ~ Gaston Bachelard

How many of us married either a slightly different version or the stark opposite of our mothers, fathers, or other primary care giver whom we have unresolved business? How many of us created similar situations in our adult life that existed within our family dynamic? If no one spoke truthfully in our family, does our intimate partnership mirror the same behavior? 

I attracted a relationship that mirrored my unresolved childhood issues. In that relationship, I re-engaged with my 4 year old self, my 8 year old self, my defiant teen (that happened during the separation), and finally, finally, finally grew up my little girl and LET GO of my pain, shame, brokenness and everything else that no longer served me. Taking full responsibility was the first and crucial step.

1.  Acknowledging Our Part - The Silenced Inner Child Finally Speaks
Intimate relationships often provide an elaborate hiding place. We often attract either similar or opposite experiences within our adult relationships that mimic, in some way, our childhood experiences.  If we are afraid of experiencing our feelings, finding an intimate partner who does all of the emoting for us can keep our fear hidden. Perhaps we are afraid of taking care of ourselves financially or emotionally and thus create situations wherein we are always caring for others or are over-caring for our partner who pays the bills. Perhaps we don't believe we deserve love. Finding a physically, verbally or otherwise abusive partner will solve our need to hide from that belief, too. Acknowledging that we have called forth the relationships that we may deem harmful is an empowering act. Taking responsibility empowers us to call forth our deepest desire to heal and engage in our dreams. Healing begins when we begin a dialogue with our silenced inner child and acknowledge his or her pain.

2.  Expanding Our  Stories - Hearing Our Inner Child   
This is the step where most people get stuck because their stories lack fluidity. If we insist on keeping our gaze on the relationship we called forth by replaying the abusive spouse tape or the cheating spouse tape or whatever tape that we play to keep ourselves tethered to one aspect of our story, we fail to see the way our story wants to grow. Our stories can grow beyond a singular painful act by healing the original pain. By listening to the brilliant child who called forth an opportunity for our adult self to see their pain, we finally begin to heal. Our inner child may be begging us to speak up for ourselves, or step into our gifts, or let go of irrational fears, or some other instruction that was not possible for our child to accomplish during the growing up years. Psychotherapist Alice Miller refers to our inner child as our "true self."  When we hear and heed the wisdom of our "true self," the chains of our suffering are broken.  

3.  Embracing Ourselves and the Other - Growing Up Our Inner Child 
Once we grace our stories with an opportunity to grow, we see the perfection of our choices. We see how we called forth an opportunity for healing through our current relationships. The vantage of seeing the greater truth of our choices gives us the space to not only forgive ourselves and the other we called forth, but to celebrate the brilliant way the human psyche fosters healing.

4.  Falling Into Place - Our Inner Child Finds Joy
Until I took ownership of what needed healing within me, I could not find it in my heart to really understand the edifice of my suffering. Blaming the very relationship that I called forth to find healing kept my attention outside of my needs and created its own prison. The emotional house that the broken child needed repaired came into view when I took a deeper look. Finally seeing what was needed gave me the courage to take responsibility for my choices, do the work required to heal my child, and then the miracle―everything fell into place. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "It is a happy talent to know how to play." When my work was done and the child inside of me was happy, healthy and healed, I once again could begin to dream, and with sheer spirited abandon engaged in play.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Escaping the Prison of Being Right

"I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be."Albert Einstein
Have you ever stood in the blinding light of self-righteousness?  Perhaps your Republican neighbor is the devil, your boss Hitler, and your cheating spouse the dirt beneath your feet. I certainly have had those feelings. When I marched as a teen to end apartheid in front Shell gas stations, there was no telling me that the Shell  Company's decision not to divest from troubled South Africa at the height of the abolish apartheid movement was nothing more than unadulterated greed. When I found out that an ex-partner had been having affairs, he was lower than low and deserved to be punished. What I failed to see was how my stanch positions caused me to suffer and stifled a beautiful opportunity to grow.
When we fail to see ourselves in the other, we suffer.  If we refuse to see the humanity in another, even our enemy, we fail to have compassion for ourselves. Nelson Mandela said that "Our human compassion binds us the one to the other―not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future." When we insist on being right, there is no space to move forward. If one is cloaking the fullness of another in any way, they are cloaking the fullness in themselves as well.
Yesterday I had the pleasure, while volunteering at a polling station to help a dear friend running for a state office, of seeing two people on opposite sides of the political divide come together and have a colorful, thoughtful, and informative conversation. They listened.  They considered.  They acknowledged fully the humanity of the other and found, on several occasions, not only common ground, but a shift in their position.
What are we denying when we eliminate the possibility of being wrong? The need to be right is like wearing an emotional suit of amour. Strong emotions often awaken old wounds that need healing. When I experienced a partner who had sex outside of our relationship, it brought back the abandoned little girl who missed her father. My failed adult relationship was really a gift that offered awareness and an invitation to heal that long-standing wound. My strong advocacy for others as a teen gave rise to my often ignored need to advocate for myself. We call forth relationships to mirror what requires healing within. Our obdurate positions are often a cry from within to attend to our unfinished emotional business. When we fail to examine our actions, we deny the gifts they bestow.
Responsibility without judging the self is the key. When we insist on being right, we take no responsibility for our personal history and how we may have formed our thought patterns. We turn a deaf ear to the other we hold as "wrong," and cut off and strangle the most fundamental parts of our being―love and compassion. We often do this because we judge our actions. By rendering them "right" or "wrong," we find it too painful to visit the "wrong" parts within us, which are merely our wounded parts. Healing can be as simple as choosing to move, as Nelson Mandela said, toward "hope for the future." By opening our hearts to our wounds, we embrace the opportunity to grow, expand, and recognize our humanity and the humanity of others. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Do You Cling To?

I veer away from politics. It is my self-imposed third rail. Personal growth, self-empowerment, and becoming self-aware can get lost in the body politic because of its divisiveness, inflexible structure, and suspicious nature. But as I fought to go back to sleep at 3:30 this morning, President Obama’s infamous quote during his first campaign played a continuous loop in my head:
“You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio—like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing's replaced them. …So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations.”
The ensuing debate will not be discussed here. However, why and what we cling to when we feel broken will. We attract where we are emotionally, and where we are emotionally is the sum of our life experiences. 
President Obama’s quote put me in mind of what I clung to during my marriage. While there was love and endearing moments, I held on to the parts of my marriage that were filled with rage, immobilizing and castigating words, and sometimes-violent actions.That became my supreme focus. I held those moments almost dearly to my heart, enveloped them into my very being, and let those moments become the very essence of who I was. Why? It was where I found comfort. Those actions were the actions of my father, the man who terrorized my mother, me, and my two sisters with the unpredictable and raging actions of a drunk. It is no wonder I attracted a mate to replicate some parts of my childhood experience because that was the space where I craved love and healing.
We attract what will heal us. We are not seeking to cause ourselves harm; we are seeking to understand. To re-frame what may be deemed as disastrous into a sublime opportunity is the true nature of our choice if we are open to healing. Our soul desires to grow and thus the repetitive act of re-engaging in what caused us pain in different forms provides us unlimited opportunities to move beyond that pain. The continuous loop will never cease if we fail to heed the opportunity to heal and grow. We will engage in the same types of relationships, compulsive behaviors, and self-sabotaging impulses.
To look deeply at ourselves and have compassion for the other is the only way to move forward. What do I cling to, and how is this an opportunity to become whole? That is the liberating question and catalyst toward the process of healing.  Dire circumstances and binding relationships simply exists to remind us how to return to who we really are—loving, caring, whole, creative, curious, wondrous beings.