I’m tired of hiding, I said & she smiled.
That’s good, she said,
because I’m tired of pretending it doesn’t hurt....
Brian Andreas of Story People
When we decide that we will hide no longer, REAL MAGIC HAPPENS. We stop pretending that things that hurt don't or that we really are happy with getting less than what we truly want. We begin declaring and we begin making bold action steps.
Coming out of hiding takes real courage. It takes radical willingness to be with oneself and to see what needs to be seen. Whether it is a source of dissatisfaction in a relationship, or a deep longing that's gone unsatisfied for too long, or a dear personal dream, seeing all the ways that one is called to action can feel overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that we'd rather bury our heads in deep sand. That we'd rather stay numb. That we'd rather stay unhappy.
A client of mine once shared with me that she had poured herself so completely into work in order to avoid dealing with the pain in her relationship, she became very ill. "But the disturbing part," she added, "was that I sort of preferred being sick to having to face everything I hated about my marriage."
Disconnects breed dis-ease. Every single time. In every single case.
If you are looking to make powerful and lasting changes in your life, heal the places of disconnect. Begin by exploring all the ways you don't want to be in YOUR body and all the ways you'd rather not participate in YOUR life. This can be scary, I know, but so so worth it!
Reluctance is human. All of us, as poet David Whyte so beautifully puts it, at one point or another end up "tasting the single-malt essence of our own reluctance to be here." All of us at one point or another choose smallness over the full expression of who we are, or settle for less than desirable conditions in life, work, or relationships instead of risking asking for what we want.
The reluctance to "be here" is the manifestation of the top secret fear we almost never talk about, the FEAR OF LIFE. Life that is too messy, too difficult, too unpredictable, too devastating, too powerful, too triumphant, too ecstatic. Life that is too much and requires too much and demands too much. Life that demands that we KEEP SHOWING UP...OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
If we panic when Life asks us to show up, our internal conversation may sound something like this: It's too difficult...It'll take too much...I don't have what it takes...Maybe later...It's too overwhelming..too scary...I can't do it...I don't want to do it.
We panic and, often, we freeze, succumbing to inertia, complacency and avoidance.
How much time do we spend trying NOT to feel what truly needs to be felt? Or trying NOT to see what truly wants to be noticed? Or trying NOT to address what desperately needs to be addressed?
What is the amount of time spent in avoidance and checking out?
Some of this "checking out" is not entirely unhealthy, but if it is unconscious or compulsive or constant, it can be and often is quite detrimental.
As a therapist, I see many individuals who are faced with the painful consequences of habitual avoidance. They experience panic attacks, are plagued by sleepless nights and experience the nagging heaviness of things never feeling "quite right."
Being split off from what is bothersome, difficult or stressful is the origin of nightmares and headaches; it is draining and it creates a chronic sense of joylessness.
Healing the splits and the places of disconnect is a matter of orientation. We must begin by ORIENTING TOWARD what we need to face....
FACING WHAT IS DIFFICULT:
Sooner or later in our work I introduce all of my clients to the practice that helps them safely look at what they have been avoiding. To begin, I let them know that the avoidance is NOT a matter of weakness and that it is not a character flaw. I suggest that the propensity for avoidance often points to a number of possible things worth exploring. Here are some of the reasons WHY avoidance might become a coping strategy:
-Chronic nervous system overwhelm: Without getting too technical or clinical, the nervous systems can be understood in terms of its capacity to tolerate distress safely. Think of our nervous system's capacity for distress by imagining it as a vessel of some sort, a cup, for example. If the cup is already pretty much full (let's say a person has a significant trauma history and faces ongoing stresses in work or relationship), then any additional stresses from the day-to-day occurrences will fill the cup up in no time, sending the person into a state of total unbearable overwhelm. For this person, it might take very little to feel utterly overwhelmed and because of this, this person might become completely averse to anything he or she regards as stressful. It is also likely that this person might start coping with their fear of overwhelm by AVOIDING anything they deem to be too stressful, difficult or anxiety-provoking.
-Competency fears: When we do not believe that we have what it takes to meet the difficulties in our lives, we shy away from everything we deem to be too difficult. When we lack confidence in our abilities to take on a difficult task and to handle it well, we can easily fall into a pattern of avoiding that task by choosing a less demanding activity.
-Fear of having to make difficult choices: This one invites you to take personal responsibility for YOUR HAPPINESS. Yes, happiness is very much what all of us want, but being responsible for it ushers in a distinct slew of fears. Do I even know what makes me happy? How do I ask for what makes me happy? How do I go about creating it? Am I deserving of having what I truly want? What if I am simply not meant to have what I want? Taking responsibility, by he way, IS ALWAYS about integrating personal power, so another unconscious fear here may be about fear of being THIS POWERFUL.
Seeing what needs to be seen in our lives takes FULL PRESENCE. From the place of full presence we are able to PARTICIPATE in our lives in a very different way- we are sharp, awake and there is more...
THE GIFT OF FULL PRESENCE:
The gift of full presence is FREEDOM. Freedom to make choices in accordance to what you actually want in your life. When you bring your whole Self to any given experience, you choose to embrace your self and your life more powerfully.
Participation is the practice of bringing your whole Self to whatever is happening...now...in real time. Showing up is essential to healing. Participating is essential to healing. But where to begin?
Like a tree, if you want to grow in health and abundance, make sure your root system is robust and healthy. To show up powerfully, we must know who we are. To know who we, we must begin by re-membering all the parts of ourselves we have cast off into the darkness. To know who we are, we must acknowledge and get to know parts of ourselves we do not like. We must integrate aspects of ourselves and we must turn toward what nags at us at unsettling and distressing.
During a session one of my clients reported feeling conflicted about a woman he was dating. On the one hand, he was attracted, easily interested and very much enjoyed the sexual connection. On the other, he frequently felt uneasy and anxious around her, which he could not easily understand. To tolerate the internal conflict, my client chose to more or less dismiss his anxiety, focusing on how exciting the connection was. His strategy didn't pay off as the anxiety he has been trying to ignore ended up skyrocketing to unmanageable proportions. Clinically, this makes total sense as whatever we resist always persists and whatever we deny ends up showing up in a more exaggerated form later down the line. Ignoring the very important voice of anxiety was obviously not the answer for my client. Over time, he has learned to engage with all of his feelings even if he felt afraid that examining them would mean he needed to make some tough choices. Making those choices eventually has led him to find a partner he was much more compatible with.
When you are faced with something challenging, uneasy, scary...TURN TO IT. Begin to dialogue with it and I promise you that whatever nags at you as heaviness or doubt or longing HAS SOMETHING OF TREMENDOUS VALUE TO OFFER YOU ON YOUR GROWTH PATH.
When we turn to something in order to learn FROM it, we naturally open ourselves up to that something being an ALLY. For my client, learning from his anxiety has led him to see with more clarity what he needed to shift in his approach to dating in order to receive what he so dearly wanted in his romantic relationship. That was, needless to say, of tremendous value to my client.
If you are interested in learning a specific technique for working with what has been difficult or scary to face, take a listen to my talk on SoundCloud called "The Practical Guide to Embracing Your Shadow."
And finally, here is another hopeful bit from Brian Andreas of Story People: I promise you the heart of you wants to dance & sing & love whomever you will & it’s as easy as breathing when you’re finally ready & after, you may not even notice how quickly you forget all the years you spent being afraid of exactly this....
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Until next time,