Tag Archives: Healing

Self-Esteem Deconstructed

For quite a while now I have been of the mindset that a good part of mental health is embracing the flaws, the nicked corners, and the pockets of rust that reside in the darkish regions of the psyche–honestly just because I, like other inhabitants of this world, have learned my lessons well: don’t air the dirty laundry; be professional; when asked how your doing, only respond, “That life is good; business is great.”

But something happened this week that has made me want to explore and ponder the other side of this paradox.Maybe I need to take a hard look at these things I have just been embracing, and like a bad boyfriend, kick them out the door. Or as my 12 step friends say, survey the inventory and throw out what is rotten.

All this really got going when I learned that someone that I know thought I talked too much and was not that great of a listener. This stung for two reasons: this person said it behind my back and well, after a week of self-reflection, it is true.

Like waves on a shore, other character defects began to raise their hands to be called on…judgement of others, brittleness, vanity, a tiny closet stuffed with the I’m-doing-more-than-others attitude, and worst of all–the twins–resentment and pride.

Oh, boy.

Along with this period of self appraisal, this off-season lent or Yom Kippur, has been an awakening that most of the suffering that I see in those around me and within myself, comes from defending these broken places that reside within the human heart. Quite a different entity than acceptance. Defending a sore spot is not the same as acknowledging that it there. If there is consciousness, it can be dealt with, and in time, healed. I see humanity and me wanting acceptance so badly, yet this stuff-that-needs-go just blockades human connection. Sufferers long to be wanted and appreciated, but it just doesn’t happen. At least not in the way the heart hopes.

So where does this leave me? Well, today I accept that I have a lot of work to do. I will not hide these facts about myself…but…I will not just leave them to poison my life and my connections with others. I will roll up my psychic sleeves and work on becoming the better person, the kinder person, the gentler person, that I was meant to be.

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A Run-in with the Law

Back, long ago, in what seems like another dimension of time, I was a college freshman, sitting in a single person desk, in an old cement-block kind of building, trying to catch the eye of the beautiful boy sitting in my row, and pretending that I understood what my philosophy 101 professor was saying. I honestly think I barely passed that class. Not that couldn’t have, but I didn’t have the desire to do so.

You see in my life my parents had made their best efforts not to leave anything up to chance. College was always in the works for me. So were a lot of other positive experiences–travel, prep school, dance, and theatre classes. But there was this thing, this law, quite unknown, that had not been obeyed. And you know how the law functions. It does not matter one bit if you are conscious of it or not. Whether you knew of a particular statute or not. It is still enforced. The law I am speaking of is this:  it is what new-agers call the law of attraction.

In a nutshell, it functions quite simply. What you put into life, and I am talking at the heart level here, at that raw-emotions-that-spur-actions place, is what you get out of it. So that negative talk participated in, will, for example, create a dynamic. It first super-charges the environment with disquieting energy and begins to affect human well-being. People start feeling bad. Work, relationships, etcetera, suck. It also alters the trajectory of things. Ideas and attitudes form life as we know it. So even though the news may be filled with all kinds of ominous warnings of bad guys, from terrorists to dental plaque, coming to attack our castle,  it is we that will decide whether those walls of fortification stand or not.

Here’s a story to illustrate my point. I heard this one several years ago and it goes like this. A man meets a woman on the beach. She is new to town. She asks this beach-strolling gentleman this question, “So what are the people like in this place?” To which he queries, “What were they like in your old town?” She quickly replies, “Oh they were awful. They were judgmental, petty, and very class-conscious.” Then the man on the beach said, “That is exactly how people are here.” Okay. People are jerks everywhere, right? There is more to the story. Another beach walk. Another woman. Same scenario. Same inquiry. Different response. When he asks this new sand-stroller what the people were like in her old town, she gushes, “Oh, they were the best people, so warm and real. I was so sad to leave them.”  To which the man replies, “That is exactly how they are here. I think you will be very happy.”

This story illustrates the law. Creation, artistry of life, is happening ALL THE TIME, whether we are aware of it or not. So when things are bad or seem to be sliding down hill, I have to start with myself. I have to ask some questions. These are a few I start with: What is going on with me? What is causing me to feel like complaining? What is the culprit in my poor connections with others? What is behind the constant disrespect I encounter? Why can’t I seem to move ahead?

It has been said that the quality of  life is based on the quality of the questions one asks. The handful listed above, are often beginning points for unlocking the swirling weather pattern of crazy-stuck-not-working-out stuff that has its way with me so often. Sometimes the answers come quickly. Like if I am judgmental and prickly, I usually find myself on the receiving end of another person’s condemnation or at the bare minimum, experiencing some kind disconnect with other human beings. No one wants to listen to my point of view. I feel less-than and I usually blame others for my predicament. However, after a few days of misery, I know its me. I know the world is not perfect. But its lack of perfection has to do with what is put into the ether…the fear, the scarcity, the people-are-idiots attitude, the things-never-work-out-for-me vibe. I have to abandon that stuff, if I want my life to work again.

Sometimes excavation is the order of the day. I have to dig deeper. Ask bigger questions. Sometimes the face of judgment I perceive on my neighbor, is just a reflection of some unresolved issue within me. For example, last night my son was talking about how all his friends like coming over to our house because they feel loved and feel relaxed here. The house is by default, kid friendly. It is dirty, old, and needs lots of repairs. The walkway is lined with surf boards and a sundry of other junk. It’s a little trailer parky. Then my boy said there was one ex-girlfriend of his that found it horrid. My heart hurt. I think I made some nasty comment deriding her character. But then I had to think about my reaction. You see, at the heart of that negative reaction was a sadness at the-just-getting-by nature of our finances and a shame at not being able to take care of most of the material things granted to us–cars, home, our boat project. And once I was able to admit to my inner most self  exactly what was up with my comment about my son’s friend, I was free. I owned my sadness. It was not this girl’s fault. It was my reaction because of an unhealed pain in my heart.

So this is what I did. I told God that I am sorry for always wishing for something that I don’t have, instead of appreciating, loving, relishing in the life I do have. And then I went and looked at the stars and felt better. I have learned that this process is absolutely vital. We have had both sides. I have seen how hurtful words born of scarcity and fear have created a life that has nearly annihilated my family. I am happy to report, the profound affect of the positive, too. Almost every knot of an emotional problem has been untangled through the realization that I have the power to create something different. You see, it is not just making a mantra of things you want to see happen, nor is it restricting yourself to only positive words, whilst seething just beneath the surface. It is understanding that life is trying to get you to resolve the pain that is creating your existence, so that you can think another thought; and in doing so, make something new. For regardless of what you think, thoughts become things.

Just look at the history of this country. A mess of a militia facing the greatest fighting force in the world. A David and Goliath scenario. George Washington realized after receiving pounding after pounding by the British, that he didn’t need to win the war, he just needed not lose. His strategy was to HOLD ON, despite all the evidence bellowing, “Give up.” In fact the new government, the Articles of Confederation, was created after one of the Patriot’s greatest defeats. What an act of faith! When they had no evidence that they would  even get to be a country, they acted as if it had already happened. They were determined to create something. Their focus was not primarily about being against the British, but shinning brightly at the center of their attention was the idea about creating something new, something where equality and freedom could grow. Do you see the difference?

It is not a denial that *bleep* happens, rather it is  a determined change of mind, to make sure that you are not a contributor to any more of the hurt, discouragement, or dysfunction that trips us up and make’s life like a dingy room lit by a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. It is suppose to be more like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It is sublime. It is miraculous. And stuff just works out, if you are aware of this law and you start inquiring within.

Back to Philosophy 101. So this is a class I barely passed…truly because I was unconscious of all that I have talked about today. Yet for some reason, I remembered Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which, in Cliff-notes brevity is this: A bunch of guys are in a subterranean cave, lit from some unknown-to-them source. Shadows result on the walls. The cave dwellers think that the shadows are reality, when reality is through the hole up in the world where the light is sourced.

This is how I lived. Shadows being what I thought was real. I had to make the tough trek to the opening…to discover what was really going on. I still do. I still think the shadowy feelings I have are informing me of reality. But they are not. I have to ask the right questions to not only get out of my cave, but to make sure I am not adding to the pain of the world around me.

We have a weighty responsibility to obey this law, but isn’t so cool that we can commit to thinking differently, to healing, and in doing so, shift the world.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” Margaret Mead


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Resolution Revolution

Every day for the last 10 days or so, a few simple exercises have been added to my morning routine. They take me all of 10 to 15 minutes–leg lifts, toe ups, squats, crunches, and push-ups–and best of all, I can see results.

Okay, let’s let those two words from those two sentences sink in: simple and results.

So my question is this, why have I not done this before?

The answer is easy, but rather esoteric. It is behind  all the things I have wanted to do and have yet to do. I can pretty much guarantee, also, that it will not show up in any  January resolution topic’d magazine article.

So what is this secret?

It is found in an old African proverb:

If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.

Are there a few quizzical looks? Raised eye brows?

What would be an enemy within? All I can say is that it is different for each person, but the origin of the enemy, the first cause, is always the same: it starts with a wound that has not healed, and no, I am not talking about a physical wound, I am talking about an emotional one.

And those unattended, invisible wounds have a life of their own. They operate in all sorts of scenarios, exacting their pound of flesh. They are behind every type of failure, in every type of circumstance possible.

So how do you find your wound? I know it sounds lame, but look within. The wound is inside, but so is the guide. Get quiet. Notice pain. Ask, what is this about?

In The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd, via her narrator, Lily, says this:

“Every human being on the face of the earth has a steel plate in his head, but if you lie down now and then and get still as you can, it will slide open like elevator doors, letting in all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently, pushing the button for a ride to the top. The real troubles in life happen when those hidden doors stay closed for too long. But that’s just my opinion.”

About two years ago, I made a slight, but significant alteration in my habit of journaling. I began to transcribe the anatomy of my personal “fall.” That is, I recorded my digression into the hole of  fill-in-the-blank. I wrote down the hurt and the embarrassment as precisely as I could. Then I noticed something, the fill-in-the-blank didn’t have the power it once had over me. I felt a new robust strength that I had not had before: the power to say NO to something that did not have any of my best interest in mind, and YES to something that was good for me…something that would move me forward in my life.

The enemy within was having its cover blown.

So that’s how I have been able to do my calisthenics each morning…but it’s just my opinion.

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