What if the things you struggle with most, the personal issues, feelings, challenges, foibles, problems, habits, downfalls, etc., are not actually yours?
This past year I have had the great and good fortune to be working with someone who has helped me to see that many of the longstanding struggles, the things that have made me feel the worst about myself, the very things I have been working on for decades, were never mine to begin with. Instead, they were something that I took on as mine from another, a kind of mistaken identity if you will. Therefore, no matter how diligent, committed and widespread I was in my attempts to heal, because it was not mine and did not in fact belong to me, I had no power to effect real and lasting change. Further, it all gave rise to a kind of confusion, frustration and self-criticism around why things were not different given how hard I was working.
It was the equivalent of trying to clean out or rehab my own home by going across the street and working on my neighbor’s house. No matter how hard I worked, it was never going to happen.
It puts me in mind of something I once heard about the generations that followed Holocaust survivors. It seems that the children, and at least the children’s children of those who lived the horror of concentration camp life somehow bear that mark in their DNA; even though they themselves did not go through the experience. That somehow their wiring in terms of how they feel about themselves and the world got altered by an experience they themselves never had.
No baby comes into the world with self-esteem issues, a sense of wrongness, or not enough-ness.That is something we all learned. More to the point, something we all absorbed from those around us when we were more one than two. Growing in utero and as babies and children we did not experience what those around us were going through or how they felt about themselves and the world, as separate from us. Instead, we experienced what was happening for them, as happening for us. This is far more than a case of adult modeling, or even about the things that got said or done to us, and everything to do with us experiencing what they were experiencing. Believing it was ours. Their frustrations were our frustrations. Their sorrows were our sorrows.Their self-criticisms and resentments were our criticisms and resentments. Their fears were our fears. And their dysfunctions were our dysfunctions. On and on it goes. Pick anything, and watch where it leads.
Understanding it in this way gives rise to a whole new way of understanding yourself; particularly around those things you struggle with most. Those things you have put so much time and energy into. Those things that you know intellectually should be different, but never seem to change. Never is this about blame or abdication of our own free will, but instead it is a kind of redistribution where we carefully, lovingly and mindfully put things back where they belong. Just like we were taught growing up when we were done playing with something.
If you feel as though you have been at something about yourself for a very long time, with limited success, could it be a matter of properly identifying where it belongs? Could it be a matter of returning it to whoever it belongs to? As simple as asking, “Whose is this anyway?” Not with anger or animosity, but more like “Oh, sorry I got confused about who this belongs to.”
Now, of course this all happened before we had words or grown-up ways of looking at things which means that now, to really be with this, we will need to see beneath the words. We will need to listen for the echo or the shadow of the ways we are not good to ourselves. Maybe it will show up in not taking our share, or the subtle ways we diminish ourselves. Maybe it will show up in how we eat, sleep or relate. Maybe it will show up in what we believe we can expect from Life. Listen and feel deeply for what is below the surface. Just like an animal would. And when you get a whiff of something that smells off, something that leaves you feeling less than, ask with great curiosity and gentleness “Is what I am feeling right now even mine?” .
(Deep gratitude to Gabrielli and Infinity Healing)