Seeking, then, is the problem, not the solution.
Seeking, then, is the problem, not the solution.
Moving forward is tougher than it sounds.
Beautiful blog about how life works. Short, deep, and helpful.
Hard to have a blog if I don’t write. Duh. Sometimes the most obvious things escape me completely, like the danger of marrying someone with whom you’ve never had an argument. (How can that relationship be real??!!) But I digress. I’m not interested in writing about the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-oh-damn-it’s-an-oncoming-train! that is my marriage to Bob.
I want to write about something I heard in an interview yesterday that may have changed my life. And how sometimes we can be so close to what we need to know, need to do, need to feel and still miss it entirely. (For instance, remembering that I need to write in order to have a blog.)
Dr. Eben Alexander, M.D., neurosurgeon and author of the book, Proof of Heaven, was being interviewed and talking about a depression that came on late in his life when his birth mother was not yet ready to meet him. He had already talked about what science (and moms) knows about what babies pick up, or come to “know” in utero and in the first months of their lives. He spoke about his depression being a result of his birth mother’s exposing an old ‘memory.’ He said, “my first message in life was that I was not wanted.”
I was not surprised by what he said, but in how he said it. The sentence, “I am not wanted,” resonated through me at a very deep level. And, hearing it said in the context he said it and the way that he said it opened up an entirely new way of looking at myself and my life. Not bad for an old Oprah show on the DVR! (Btw: I’ve read Dr. Alexander’s book and I highly recommend it.)
I am a therapist and I’ve done years and years of my own therapy. Due to early and repeated traumas of rejection, abuse and abandonment I needed to help learning how to cope and move forward in my life. I have done the work myself and I have facilitated that work with others. And for the most part the work I have done has been effective.
For instance, I don’t consider myself a trauma victim. I don’t harbor bitterness towards the people who have played their parts in what hurt me. I have a tool box full of coping skills that serve me well, and I have the experience of a personal relationship with G-d, whose Grace carries me through every day. I have learned things like, “life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you;” and “it’s always for the good, even if it doesn’t seem that way yet;” and “forgive everyone, everything–for your sake, not theirs;” and “love everyone, but some must be loved at a considerable distance;” and also,”if you spot it, you got it (meaning that same problem is in you, too).”
HOWEVER, the therapy work has not been so effective that my patterns of attaching to people who will betray, reject and abandon me have stopped (BOB!). So something is missing, something didn’t take. I’ve got more work to do somewhere because Life isn’t random.
There is a capital-I-Intelligence (harmony, order) that underlies every part of creation. For this reason, apple seeds create apple trees, which create apples–oranges will not randomly appear on an apple tree. As such, our choices, our beliefs, our thoughts, words, and actions create a “harmony” unto themselves. Therefore, if I don’t like the “fruit” (results) of my choices then I need to trace that “fruit” back to its “seed,” dig it up and plant a different “seed.”
The “seed” is my thoughts (beliefs), words, and choices (actions) I will find what I need to know to experience life differently. It may be that my experiences change or it may be that I experience the same things differently, the kind of change doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am able to take responsibility for my life, to find my way back to the place inside of me that is connected to all power, all knowing, all presence, and all Love. (The movie, Groundhog Day is a particularly good story about this phenomena.)
Back to Dr. Alexander’s comment and how I have been “so close, but so far away” from finding the “seed” of my repeated experiences of being rejected and abandoned. Dr. Alexander’s first message to his newborn soul is in the present tense, using the negative (what he did not get) “I am not wanted.” My therapy work was done in the past or future tense, “I was abandoned and rejected,” or “I will always be abandoned and rejected,” framing my experience in a declaration of what happened, as opposed to what I didn’t and wouldn’t get. It’s the way therapy works and it was the best it had to offer at the time.
However, I was semantically holding my trauma at a distance (past or future) and looking at what I did get (that I didn’t want or need) instead of facing more directly what I didn’t get (that I needed very badly). This is such a subtle point, and it is so important that it is transformative. Because the semantic difference (crafted by very good and effective cognitive therapy) allowed me to proceed in my life without having to feel all of my feelings. Instead, I’ve been unknowingly carrying them around with me all of these years.
On one hand, by semantically distancing myself from my profoundly sad experiences I was able to summon the energy to do the psychological and emotional work I have done over the years which has gotten me this far. On the other hand, that distance allowed the “seeds” (beliefs) of those experiences to remain in me. Of course, I wasn’t aware of this. And the “seeds” or beliefs I have held all of my life have born the “fruit” of the repetitive experience of …. can you guess? NOT BEING WANTED.
If you’re still with me, hang in there, because there is reason to hope in the midst all of this heartache.
Dr. Alexander understood that he had internalized the message “I am not wanted,” and this is what brought on his depression. He began to live out that message as a belief of his own. As a result he says that he stopped believing in G-d and became deeply depressed in spite of 100% of the rest of his life being full of love and everything he had ever wanted.
His depression was ultimately resolved by nearly dying and having the spiritual experience of being deeply loved and wanted by G-d, hence his book.
Frankly, there had better be an easier way than that to get a healing or we are all sunk.
In the interests of space and time here I’m going to jump ahead and list the steps/stages of a potential healing path without much explanation. I’ll come back to this in my next posts.
The first thing to do is to find those first messages. Take your painful experiences and put them in the present tense and frame them in language that explains what you didn’t get that you needed.
There will be feelings that come with first messages like, “I am not wanted,” and “I am not wanted as a girl,” or “I am not worth being protected,” etc. We need safe places in which to experience those feelings and to allow them to stay as long as is needed for them to pass. (Feelings do pass! But only when we are willing to have them.) We also need tools to be able to experience them as feelings while not acting out in the emotions when our feelings get mixed up with fear. Therapy will be necessary for some, but there is a more effective way to heal yourself–mindfulness meditation. (More and more on this later.)
Then, begin to consider the ways in which those messages are bearing “fruit” in your life. And notice how they may have become your beliefs about yourself. Finally, can you become aware of how even when others are not reflecting those messages and beliefs back to you (i.e., hurting you, betraying you, etc.), that you have learned how to hurt (criticize, reject, abandon, etc.) your true self so precisely that you don’t even realize that you’re doing it?
This is the rest of the work–to find the ways in which we are doing it to ourselves and stop it. Because when I am wanting myself–my real self, with all of its flaws, imperfections, and difficulties–it will be impossible for me to ‘fall in love’ with and marry someone who would ever reject, abandon, and betray me the way Bob or any of my other ‘loved ones’ have done.
This is the work I will do for myself and with G-d’s help, I will help others to do. This is not therapy. This is deeply spiritual work that is done prayerfully with our feelings and in the Silence of our own hearts.
And when I can live free of this kind of pain, struggle, and failure I will thank G-d for Bob for being a selfish, cruel, and heartless fraud, the perfect reflection of how I have (mentally and emotionally) treated myself, until now. Meanwhile, I’ve got some work to do!
Love. Love. Love.
Since this is all very new, I hope it makes some sense. All comments and questions are welcome.
As I was saying (in the previous post), somewhere along the way I fell asleep to myself. I stopped being able to feel and hear my own inner longings and responses to my life. Truth is, I didn’t even know that falling asleep to oneself was even possible. In fact, it seems impossible.
If I’m out of bed and my eyes are open then I’m conscious. Right? Life isn’t that complicated. Eat. Sleep. Move your body around. Suit up. Show up. Fall down. Get up. Don’t quit. Not everything requires insight and analysis, does it?
By asleep I mean unconscious, and by that I mean unaware. All of us have two lives, two experiences, our experiences of the outer world and the experience of our inner world. I have discovered that I can be alert and awake to my experiences in the outer world while being almost entirely unaware of my own inner world.
The amusing irony here is that I work as a therapist. And throughout this period of personal unconsciousness I was able to facilitate the work of experiencing one’s feelings for other people. (We’ll save the commentary about crazy therapists for another time.) In hindsight I can see that I limited my inner world to analysis and attempts at insight. But analysis can be a problem. Analysis comes from the intellect. And when your intellect overrides your heart, you fall asleep. So I was physically and humanly awake and emotionally and spiritually unconscious. My outside was working, but my inside was shut down.
The weird thing is that I thought I was having feelings. I liked things. I didn’t like things. I felt anger, frustration, irritation. I felt love for my children and friends. I felt inspiration. I had insights into myself and others. I fell in love with my new husband. So how is this unconscious?
When I took some time to consider how it was that my life had been burned to the ground, it seemed that all of the feelings that I had were reactions to people and events outside of myself. I had stopped spending any time in my own interior, emotional and spiritual world having a relationship with me. Overall my identity came from my relationships with and my relation to people and events outside of myself. Focused on the goals of the day, i.e., the outside world, I stopped dreaming my own dreams and following my own inner guidance.
So I didn’t even notice that the goals I had set were not consistent with who I really am. I just wanted to ‘get there,’ to finish what I had started. Our inner and outer worlds are very much connected to each other. Even the deeply unconscious receive “signs” and “wake up calls.” And while I can see now that there were signs from the outside that indicated that something was amiss with what I was doing with my life, my response to the “signs” i.e., road blocks, set backs and challenges was to try harder and work longer at succeeding in my outside world. It never occurred to me to pause, go inside myself and question my choices; to ask myself how I was really feeling and to consider going in a different direction.
It never occurred to me because I kept going unconscious. I kept overriding my internal guidance system with my busy schedule and my intellect and then soothing myself (also known as stress reducing activities) with the simple pleasures of the external world–food, wine, television, talking, the internet, movies, books, shopping, socializing, the list goes on.
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in any of the simple pleasures of our external world, or engaging in any stress reducing activity, or soothing oneself, except when doing so keeps us away from our real feelings. The problem for me was that since I was asleep I didn’t realize that my stress reducing activities were helping to me to avoid my feelings.
And dating my future husband was one of those simple pleasures of the external world. And he came at the most unusual time–just before the two months where both my parents and my adopted ‘brother’ died. I was already more or less numb on the inside before they all passed away. Intellectually I knew that this was at best a weird time to be pursuing a new relationship. And I was so grateful for the outside distraction of the feeling desired, chosen and special that I wasn’t going to let it go.
Dating became another soothing activity. Yikes. Reading that sentence again gives me the creeps. Even though I am not alone in pursuing ‘love’ as an escape from stress, etc., connecting to other people is not meant to be the equivalent to watching television, eating, surfing the internet or having a glass of wine. Except that it is exactly that if you are unconscious, asleep to yourself, unable or unwilling to feel your own feelings.
And the reason I go on and on about this is to point out the importance of being thoroughly connected to our internal selves. We must be able to find and feel our feelings. And this won’t happen in our thinking. Thinking is a part of our connection to our external world.
Our feelings are registered in our bodies. They are stored there as well. Our bodies remember every single feeling we’ve ever had, even if we don’t. Being connected to our internal world requires that we be able to sit without thinking in the experience of our bodies. It’s a tuning in process and it requires abstinence from the distractions of the soothing activities of the outside world.
There are techniques to learn this tuning in process. Mindfulness practice is one of those techniques. It’s the one I’m learning and working with now. And it is a life changer.
In order to avoid the consequences (losing it all, in my case) of being untrue to ourselves, we need to feel all of our feelings. When we allow ourselves our feelings, when we resist jumping into soothing activities, when we are willing to persist with allowing the internal discomfort that will arise through that tuning in process, we will intuitively know how to create our best lives, we will experience freedom from fear, and we will know peace.
This is my prayer for me. And this is my prayer for you.
Take the time to sit with yourself and make sure that you can feel your true feelings. They are what is most real about you. And they are your guidance system for living your purpose. Our inside world and our outside world are so entrenched with each other that anything less than your internal truth will eventually show up in your external world. So it is much, much better to have an outside world that reflects the best of your feelings instead of one that reflects the feelings you were trying to escape.
This is the start of my second blog. The first blog began on Tumblr when I thought I was starting from scratch by moving across the U.S. with my husband to a place where I had no family, friends, or job.
The blog was going along, albeit slowly. It wasn’t easy trying to blog and unpack given the stress of moving. Little did I know what was waiting for me around the next corner.
While I had let go of all that was familiar to make the move to Buffalo, New York, I had not lost it all. I still had a husband I adored and his emotional and financial support. And then, with no warning at all, that was gone too.
I’ll save the details for another time. 82 days ago I had my heart eviscerated and anything resembling financial security taken away. I am 56 years old and I have no home and no income. My belongings are all in Buffalo. I am in California. It was a new marriage so the laws pertaining to divorce will not make me whole financially. I am soooooo screwed.
I thought I had made a conscious decision when I agreed to marry again. It turns out that I was wrong about that. And in opening my heart and my life and giving it all to my new husband I took the risk of losing it all. And lose it all, I did.
Somewhere along the way, way before I met my soon-to-be-ex, I fell asleep to myself. I stopped being able to feel and hear my own longings and responses to my life. And I was looking to something or someone on the outside to move my life along to it’s next chapter. I started dating again, after a very long break. I started dating when, in hindsight, I would have been better served by taking a long hard look at my life and letting go of what was no longer working.
Had I done that instead, I would have been interested in the man I married, but I wouldn’t have married him. We wouldn’t have been a match, and I would have known it back then if I had been able to be a more authentic me.
But I didn’t do that. And Life gets It’s way 100% of the time. Instead of getting rid of what wasn’t working in my life the easy way, Life got rid of it for me the hard way.
The grief, the shock, the sorrow, the stress, the health problems of the last 82 days have all been so overwhelming and sad that blogging was not only inappropriate, but also out of the question.
So I begin again now. And that will be a recurring theme here. Because the way to move forward (when it is time to move forward) from any failure, disappointment, shock, tragedy, or loss is to begin again now.
Here I am. Here I am, G-d. And G-d responds and the sadness and anger abate for a bit and I can breathe a deep breath and really feel, ‘I am here.’ I am here now, not that horrible there, but here.
I am here. I can work with that. Breathe. Feel. Breathe again. I am here.
I can begin again now.