Archive for self growth
Light and truth are much the same. When we turn on a light in our homes, we can see the way things are. We can see the furniture, the evidence of what has happened while we were away, the pieces of beauty we have arranged, the faces of the people we love and what they are telling us. Truth is the same. When it speaks we can see the way things are more plainly. We can see things we didn’t know were there before, we can see things that are missing, we can see things that we have always felt or always wanted but didn’t believe were real or worthy… In speaking the truth and hearing the truth, our outsides start to flow with our insides. A buzz starts to happen. Freedom starts to happen.
Empowerment encourages us in the telling of our truth, our stories. It sees the light we are sharing and says, “Keep that coming! There is value in your light!” It knows that because our value is not in question, what is shared is not threatening. It says, I want you to share your light because the light is what heals. As I shared my posts about how my Dad’s belief system impacted me, I was pretty floored by your comments, how you connected with my truth, shared your own stories, and also how you empowered me through your encouragement. Thank you again to each one of you~ you have contributed so much.
Patricia Singleton has a deep understanding of the opposite of a healthy, empowering family system and offered some amazing insight on the nature of dysfunctional family systems in her comments . She writes on her own blog, The Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker and shares courageously about her story of recovery and how she thrives in her life today. I encourage you to visit her most recent post entitled “Dysfunctional Family Systems” where she shares some great resources and offers in-depth descriptions of what it feels like to be a part of a family system that survives in the opposite direction of empowerment, the kind of system that shuts people down instead of validating their light. Patricia is a true lightworker, bringing her truth to the world and empowering others to do the same. Thank you Patricia for sharing your truth and encouragement!
Truth telling can cause two things to happen: either people are drawn to it, decide to embrace it and work towards understanding and healing or we are entrapped by fear, want to run away and keep the truth hidden; even though the truth is the greatest path to freedom, it can be very scary at first. I am so grateful that my family is chosing to embrace the truth. I am so proud of my Mom, my Dad and my brother. New realizations and conversations are happening and I believe our family is headed towards a new layer of depth in our relationships with each other. I love you each very much. I am grateful for the light and its healing work. I truly believe that we find what we are seeking for and that we have the ability to become all that we were meant to be. And I am truly grateful to be on this path with each one of you!
A belief system that says, “I am a nobody, I can’t do anything right, I’m just stupid” wreaks havoc in a few different ways. I believe we were born with an unconscious sense of our own value; deep down, in each of us, there “dwells a beauty”, a person who is loved and can love. But trying to function with a totally opposite belief system creates a swirling, anxious situation inside, as if two rivers are colliding head on into one another and the water is all confused. In my last three posts (1, 2, 3), I’ve been describing my Dad’s belief system and how it was passively handed down to me as a child. His belief system also created havoc in my family, just not the really obvious easy-to-see kind.
Someone with a “I’m a nobody” belief system still wants to be valued, because they are human. Because my Dad didn’t value himself he sought to find his value in other ways. One of these ways was to put a lot of responsibility on his family to do the work of his own failing self-esteem. He believed that he was loved if his wife cooked and cleaned and took good care of him. He believed he was loved if we didn’t say a mean word towards him or be upset with him in any way whatsoever. If he put himself down, we would disagree with him and try to tell him that the opposite was true. Because he didn’t communicate his thoughts and feelings, my Mom, brother and I were forced to try and read his mind. If he was in a bad mood we ALL could tell- we became so skilled at reading his subtle signs and passive communications at the expense of learning to communicate for ourselves. If we sensed he was upset, we would do the work to try and make things better. Though my Mom would try and encourage better communication, he was so extremely uncomfortable and uptight about trying that things would end up more anxious than before. He was the passive King in our home and we learned to treat him with kid gloves. In living this way, my brother and I learned that love was all these things. Love meant compensating for someone else’s poor self esteem. Love meant not making the other person upset. As children who did not know this was so backwards, it also meant sacrificing our own needs to be built up and paid attention to in order to build up our parent. So the cycle continued. My brother and I grew up with this huge sense of lacking and low self-esteem of our own. We naturally lived to please other people. And all the while, the pain was brewing deep inside.
The last five years have been a process of seeing these things as the truth of my story. In learning the truth that all these subtle “leeching” dynamics between a parent and his children can have just as much damage as more physical or obvious kinds of abuse, I was exposed to a whole new world. I learned that these things were not my fault. I learned that my depression and anxiety has definite reasons and weren’t just symptoms of a messed up person.
Of my two parents, my Dad’s belief system had the most impact on me. Deep down I believed I was a “nobody” as well and I relied on other people to tell me that this wasn’t true. This wreaked havoc in its own kind of way, testing relationships and causing me to miss out on great opportunities that I felt I just wasn’t worthy of. As an adult, the responsibility to live differently is now in my own hands. Now that I know that this belief system is not my real inheritance, not the one I was meant to have, I can choose to embrace a new one. I can choose which river to follow. Today I am working to change my belief system. Today I take on the primary responsibility of nourishing my own self-esteem. Today I am taking another step into freedom and living in the truth.
At the heart of the devaluing belief system (click here to read Part One) is the lie that as human beings, we are not valuable in and of ourselves. We exist to be used by others. Our own desires aren’t important. Other people’s desires trump our own. Our feelings and thoughts can’t be trusted. We are not capable of living our lives to the full. We don’t deserve to live our lives to the full. This belief system manifests itself in all kinds of ways. But the lie at the heart of it is the same.
Today I will describe how parents teach their children this belief system even simply in how they treat themselves. My Dad never told me I was a nobody, but he lived like he was one. He is also intelligent and talented, but he never believed that about himself. In my childlike observance, I saw repeatedly how he was uncomfortable accepting compliments and also giving them, how he did jobs and favors for others even if he didn’t want to because he didn’t believe he deserved to say “no”, how it was safer for him to spend hours watching TV or reading the paper instead of engaging with us, how he put himself down, even calling himself “stupid”, how he always took someone else’s opinion to be superior to his own. He didn’t offer his true self to his family, rarely sharing what he really felt or thought about something. I got this message from how he lived his own life: don’t flourish, don’t attract attention, don’t fly too high, don’t shine too bright. If other people were successful or happy he was quietly critical or suspicious of them. Be wary of the world because it’s a scary place. This may sound like the wrappings of a humble, unassuming person. But it was not so innocent. How a parent treats their own self is a huge message to their kids about what it means to be human.
As an observant and impressionable child, I grew up in this “lowly soup”. Even though it was never spoken to me, I naturally believed that because my Dad thought so little of himself as a human being, I must be little too. Even though I excelled at school, learned to play the piano, won awards, and succeeded at being popular, there was always this deep deep down feeling that I really had nothing to offer, nothing from my true self would be good enough. I didn’t even have practice in knowing what my true self was! In squishing himself, my Dad’s belief system squished down the spontaneous buds of my own real self. And as a child I had no way of knowing this was happening- I accepted it as the normal reality. As an adult, I have to acknowledge that it DID happen, that I did receive a passively given faulty belief system from my Dad, in order for me to be free from the lies that entrapped me.
Thankfully today, I can choose a different kind of inheritance. I love what Darlene wrote on our facebook fan page the other day: “I am not defined by who they think I am. I am not defined by who THEY say that I am. I am not defined by what happened to me. I am defined by my heart; my tenderness and compassion for others; by my purpose. I am an individual, worthy and valid. ~ Darlene”
It was so subtle. And I was entirely defenseless to protect myself from it. I had no reference point in my youngest years to be able to say, “Hey, believing this will play out badly for me in the future. I’m going to decide to believe differently.” It was what I naturally took to be “normal” because it was my normal. It was the home I grew up in. It was the two most advanced human beings that I knew, modeling to me what it meant to be human. Being 100% impressionable, I watched and learned and without even thinking about it plugged what I saw into my first and most important belief system about who I was and what it meant to be valuable.
For so long I could not figure out why I struggled and struggled with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. I had no traumatic event to point to in my childhood to explain it. When I thought about my past I just felt lost and hazy. In my present, I was anxious, quiet, afraid to assert my real self, not really knowing who my real self was. I grew to assume everyone else was better than I was , even though I was smart and talented. The common slogan of “just be yourself” always appealed to me, made me feel excited, but I never really got it. Inside I just felt empty. I habitually admired other people, and eventually I learned how to act like other people in an attempt to feel like I was somebody, that I had something, something in myself that I admired in them. I was always trying to be somebody else… because I didn’t know how to be me. Because I couldn’t figure out why I struggled so much, I really felt like there must be something wrong with me. I was weak, somehow faulty, just prone to be depressed. Later on in life I beat myself up for not believing enough that God loved me, that I really must be failing spiritually if I was so depressed. It must be true, because what other explanation was there? Somehow, I was doing something wrong.
The belief system that became such a powerful force in my life had a beginning somewhere… The beginning of this belief system, passed down to me like a bad kind of inheritance, was so hard for me to see because it happened so passively. The lies were never said to me verbally, like “Carla, you are worthless. You’re just one big screw-up. You have nothing to offer.” Nope. My parents never said things like that. How did it happen then that I grew up in a definite state of repression and eventually depression?
There are different pieces of the puzzle, as enforcers of the belief system cropped up in different areas of my life. But I’m focusing a lot on my parents now because they were my first teachers and therefore the most powerful ones. My Dad has his own story of brokenness. If you know my Dad you may feel angry or defensive reading my posts because he is a very nice man. But the belief system that caused brokenness in my Dad’s past is the very same one that caused him to contribute to my broken past. Exposing how the belief system was passed down to me leads to understanding, and understanding leads to healing and freedom. This is why I will write so candidly. In seeing how the belief system was implanted in me in my earliest years, I become free of the lie that I was just born faulty, born with the tendency to be depressed, born with a weak mind or weak soul. This is the truth: I wasn’t born with it, I was born into it. I wasn’t born to be depressed or to struggle with low self-esteem. I learned it from somewhere and just didn’t know how to get rid of it until now. The cycle of lies will only die if they are exposed to the light. I’ve already written about one aspect of the belief system my Dad passed down to me in “The Unengaged Gardener”. In my next post, I will expose another aspect.
In reading Paulo Coelho’s amazing book “The Alchemist” I was so inspired by the main character Santiago, on a quest to find his treasure. He reflects to himself that “he had to chose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure. ‘I am an adventurer, looking for treasure,’ he said to himself.” We are adventurers on a quest for our treasure, the treasure of knowing the real truth about who we are and why it has been so hard for us to believe that truth. This quest will definitely lead us through painful territory. But the treasure is worth it. I’m excited to be on this journey with you!
I went trail riding last summer as part of my vacation. I’m not an avid horse-rider, and though I have this admiring affection for them, I was still afraid. The guides assured me that these horses had ridden this trail a thousand times- they knew exactly what to do and where to go and there shouldn’t be any surprises. It was true. Though some parts of the trail were more open and gave a little bit of freedom, these horses fell into a predictable nose to tail pattern. We switch-backed down through a steep valley; they plodded along with steady, consistent rhythm. But what had intimidated me at the beginning of the trip was there all along; these were big creatures, strong and powerful. And even though they were controlled day by day with reins and the predictability of the trail path, they had all the potential to break free and take me for the gallop of my life.
Nose to tail, nose to tail… plodding along the same path. What happens when a person’s full potential isn’t valued? What happens when a person is actually valued for being less than all that they are, or for doing things (or not doing things) that please only someone else? Value is placed on the wrong thing. In the powerful dynamic between a child and a parent, the child will automatically strive to be more of what their parents value. As a child, I knew I was valued for being good and right, so I strived to be that way. Or what if there is little interest shown at all? Maybe a parent is physically present, but shares no emotional interaction, doesn’t give of themselves or seek to know, really know, their child? The child assumes that she isn’t worth pursuing, her whole self isn’t worth pursuing. Or maybe, her whole self is “too much” to handle, too much to pursue, not worth the effort.
These were the deep conclusions I had drawn about myself that were at the root of my depression. Over time, what I was valued for was becoming far too cumbersome and burdensome to maintain. Like weights around my shoulders, pulling me down… All my effort to be right and good created endless shoulds and should nots and guilt guards and striving . What I was not valued for was still deep down inside, but so afraid to come out, unaccustomed to interacting with others, unsure of whether or not it would be accepted. I did not know that it was valuable, and I didn’t know how to value it myself.
This is the work I am doing. Chiselling out more understanding, more understanding, deeper and deeper. Uncovering these root beliefs truly is the door to freedom for everyone still plodding along nose to tail, nose to tail. We are each filled with unique and amazing potential and value beyond this trail.
We are born valuable but vulnerable. We have this inherent sense of value for ourselves. As babies, when we were in pain, we cried. When we were hungry, we cried. When we were uncomfortable, we cried. We cried because there was no thought or experience that disconnected us from the truth of our value. We knew what we needed and had no reason to fear asking for it. We also laughed when we thought something was funny or stimulating. Pleasure, happiness, didn’t require a labyrinth of justification. Our value wasn’t something we knew in our heads. It was something we just knew.
A wise friend once told me that our home life does not define our value, but models it. God has already defined my value for me (no one on earth can actually do this) but the purpose of a home, a family, is to treat each other as the valuable people that we are. It’s a valuing that respects the value that already exists. It models respect for my unique abilities, passions, dreams, and obstacles.
My home life was very predictable, very “secure”, very normal. My parents tried to do everything the right way. We went to church, did family devotions, did chores, got allowance, were disciplined for misbehaving. But… something was missing. My whole life I have questioned my value, never felt like my own feelings and thoughts were really good enough, have struggled to even know what my own thoughts and feelings were!
I was not taken advantage of sexually or physically, but I was valued for the wrong things. The real Carla was not valued or engaged with, not asked “do you like this? Do you not like this? What do you think about this? How did that make you feel?” She was told to be good and was valued for being good. She was applauded for being right more than she was for being herself. So, I was a very good child and decided to continue being very good throughout my life so that I would continue to be treated as valuable. The church loved a good girl, as did the private school I graduated from. I sweat blood and tears to be good and right in order to be valued.
Today it is my quest to be the real Carla, the Carla not boxed in or confined by the labels of “good and right.” Somedays it still feels like a very wobbly path because I get my value mixed up with these old skewed definitions. It sometimes feels foreign and uncertain to know and trust my own real feelings because for so long I have tempered them with what is intellectually “good and right.” But our souls can be nurtured back to life. The seeds that have been dormant for years are still there inside of us. With some loving work and nurturing, they will grow. It is happening day by day, re-bridging the gap between what is really true and what I deeply know to be true about me.
(continued on from my previous post, Beauty and Power in the Struggle)
And after the struggle, I am gifted with a stronger sense of the truth about myself. What I doubted so fiercely in the “tug” has gone through a refining process… like the juice squeezing out of a lemon or a bubbling sauce on the stove reduced to thick deliciousness or rich coffee swirling up from the pressure of a coffee press… Belief emerges on the other side, a bit clearer, a bit brighter, a bit more sure, more real. My effort, my decision to pay attention, to listen for the truth and to believe it, has produced another drop of my purified “identity” essence, created a clearer reflection of my true self for my own eyes to see.
To have this end result in my hands is gold, a treasure that can absolutely never be taken from me. It wasn’t forced upon me or slapped together in make-shift impatience. It was created, brought forth from my very own self, my own pain, my own labor, my own process of acceptance.
I rest and marvel at what has just happened… I feel at peace. I have proven something to myself, that in the intensity of the struggle, I have embraced what is true. I have presented myself with flawless evidence that I do have what it takes for this journey. My heart is good; it ultimately wants what is good; it is able to choose what is true.
It used to be necessary for me to ask someone else to take my hands and place them on the “truth” rope… I do not judge myself for this; I had no practice in the better way. I had survived on other people’s help, on other people doing for me what I didn’t believe I could do myself. I will sometimes need this kind of help at certain points along my journey; sometimes is different than always…
But oh the joy in finding the ability to be able to do this for myself…
I do believe there’s a “blog party” going on around here… Truth gleaning after a struggle is one of my favorite times to celebrate, so I think I’m in the right place. If you have any post-struggle “truth treasures” of your own, please feel free to share them here so we can celebrate with you too!
In growing past striving and pursuing a life of thriving (flying), struggle takes on a whole new meaning. Laboring under what is not true, trying to be perfect, acting only to please other people- these are tiresome and fruitless struggles. But the struggle to grow, to change and embrace what is true, this kind of struggle is what helps me move forward. Even though some days I just want to be “done”, (finished!), no living thing on earth ever is… And my soul’s true DNA is not interested in being a plastic houseplant.
Struggle is painful. Sounds like “tug” to me… There’s a feeling of being pulled in two directions, one back towards the old way and one forward into the new way. I am stretched for this moment of time, during which some life-force, life-changing things happen. I have this vision in mind and I face myself towards it. I am, at the same time, encountering my fears and also gathering up what I need to get to my vision. The fear lives to protect the old way: “You won’t be safe in the unknown. You might fail. Maybe this isn’t really ‘you’ anyways.” The gathering up of what I need is the truth (always present): “This and this and this is what is really true, Carla. This is what you really want. This is who you really are. This is what is ultimately best for you.”
For a time I am held in this uncertainty, confusion and clarity all at once. Sometimes the old way still wins… (but there’s always second chances, glorious second chances!) The farther I come along my path, the more opportunities I take to grasp on to the truth, the forward pulling rope. I move a bit further ahead. Guaranteed, as long as my beating heart is on this earth with a desire to thrive, I will engage in struggles to greater and lesser degrees along the way. Accepting this is so freeing for me. To struggle does not mean I am not whole. Interacting with my struggles means I am growing in wholeness.
When it comes to struggling in the process of fulfilling a vision, my Mom is an inspiration to me. She has been learning how to make pottery over the past few months, a dream she has had for long time. I never knew how much work pottery was until now. She has spent hours in learning the art of making a bowl. Before she could make big bowls, she had to master making small ones. Now she can make all kinds of amazing things. But the process and the struggle to make her vision reality never ends. She attempts her visions again and again. Sometimes the clay gets thrown away. Sometimes the glazing comes out unexpectedly. Sometimes something she thought would be a flop turns out to be her favorite piece… Sometimes a bowl turns into a plate or a mug instead. But for the love of what she’s doing and the joy she finds in her creations, she continues to engage in the process and the struggle.
There is a beauty and power in the struggle. Engaging in it when I need to is my opportunity to grow. Deciding to grasp on to the truth rope gets easier the next time, and the next. This struggle thing is really the magic happening deep down in my soil, that buzz that sparks new things to grow and flourish, the life force that can take what has died and make it into something new.
In this post I was wanting to capture the feeling of learning to fly for ourselves. We are untangling, we are, in bits and pieces, letting go of what we thought was true about ourselves and grasping on to something new, something better. These moments of growth, these little steps, are not so small… Allowing ourselves to see a bit clearer, stepping into the freedom of being more of our true selves each day, choosing to live in the truth even though others may find it hurtful, can feel like leaping across a crevice… There is tremendous courage in these moments.
In an excellent fantasy series by George R.R. Martin (the first book entitled A Game of Thrones), Bran is a curious, adventurous young boy who loves to climb as high as he can, whether it’s in the trees or all along the tops of the castle. But one day he is intentionally pushed from a high castle window, falling far to the ground and becoming physically crippled. Just before he wakes up for the first time, after weeks of being asleep, he has this dream. It struck a deep chord with me and I’d like to share it with all of you. In every moment, we move farther along our miraculous journey. With love ~Carla
It seemed as though he had been falling for years… Fly, a voice whispered in the darkness, but Bran did not know how to fly, so all he could do was fall. The ground was so far below him he could barely make it out through the grey mists that whirled around him, but he could feel how fast he was falling. The ground was closer now… He wanted to cry.
Not cry. Fly.
“I can’t fly,” Bran said. “I can’t, I can’t…”
How do you know? Have you ever tried?
The voice was high and thin. Bran looked around to see where it was coming from. A crow was spiraling down with him, just out of touch, following him as he fell. “Help me,” he said.
I’m trying, the crow replied…
The crow took to the air and flapped around Bran’s hand.
“You have wings,” Bran pointed out.
Maybe you do too.
Bran felt along his shoulders, groping for feathers.
There are different kinds of wings, the crow said…
Bran was falling faster than ever. The grey mists howled around him as he plunged toward the earth below. “What are you doing to me?” he asked the crow, tearful.
Teaching you how to fly.
“I can’t fly!”
You’re flying right now.
Every flight begins with a fall, the crow said. Look down.
Bran looked down , and felt his insides turn to water. The ground was rushing up at him now. The whole world was spread out below him, a tapestry of white and brown and green. He could see everything so clearly that for a moment he forgot to be afraid. He could see the whole realm and everything in it…
“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” he heard his own voice saying, small and far away. And his father’s voice replied to him. “That is the only time a man can be brave.”
Now, Bran, the crow urged. Choose. Fly or die.
Bran spread his arms and flew.
Wings unseen drank the wind and filled and pulled him upward. The terrible needles of ice receded below him. The sky opened up above. Bran soared. It was better than climbing. It was better than anything.
*Please note, this passage is taken from pages 160 to 163. Though it is quoted word for word, I have left some parts out to facilitate easier reading!*
(Part Two from my post The Guilty Way)
Imagine that as you journey along, a destination, a place you would like to be, flashes like a picture into your mind. You can see it. You can see it so clearly… You have this strong sense deep down of what this place is like. You naturally have this urge of wanting to be there, wanting to reach it, this desire coming from the uniqueness of you. You picture this place and feel the desire to be there all in one flash, one spontaneous moment. This is an aim of your heart.
You contemplate moving towards your destination but suddenly you also have this doubt… this strong palpable doubt that what you have pictured is really, well, okay. Is really… good enough. You’ve heard other people describe their picture and suddenly yours seems a little dull. Maybe the vision cast in your mind is faulty. You start to feel anxiety and a sad kind of disappointment all at the same time (you really liked your own picture… in that flash of a moment it was really yours, it was a worthy destination…) Or, you start to doubt if you can make real what you see in your head, if you can actually go from here to there. You’ve never bridged that gap before, never spanned the distance. Maybe you should ask everyone else around you how to get there because they definitely would know better than you do. Oh, YIKES- everyone has a different suggestion! Everyone has a different experience to offer you with different advice! You try to take steps towards your picture but you get pulled this way, that way, updside-down, downside up. Maybe without you even asking, the Guilt Guards say, “But your aim isn’t the right one!! It’s not valiant, virtuous, perfect enough!!” They slam their spears into the ground and block your way.
Voices all cry out at once and the more you listen to them the more they cloud your picture, that picture that at one time was so clear and desirable, just a moment away. Eventually you decide that the mine field between you and your destination is just far too treacherous. The Guilty Way has befuddled your desire to live out what is on the true inside of you (this analogy could relate to many other things besides guilt, but it’s all in the same pot).
Feels like something died.
As I continue to work through my recovery, the difference between that scenario and the next all hinges on the work I’m doing at the foundations of what I know to be true about who I am. Living from these new foundations, my interactions with life (big and small) are growing more and more infused with freedom…
Re-imagine your picture… And this time there’s a clear path straight to it. In sorting through the lies and the truth, you have this growing sense within you, this sense that knows “I have what it takes to live my life. I have that good heart. I can trust it!” You still know you’re not perfect but you accept that as part of the journey and not as a means to discount yourself. So, you see your picture and nothing holds you back anymore. You don’t need to give in to the Guilt Guards to protect you because you now know that the freedom beyond your current borders is a place you can thrive in, and a place you are worthy to thrive in! The Guilt Guards and the Guilty Way just disappear. You bridge the gap and make it to your destination. You feel… alive. You have manifested what was inside of you, outside. You didn’t deaden yourself with pretensions and conventions. You acted out of your own unique spontaneity and were relieved from being pulled in all the directions of the other voices and extra-terrestrial rules. You make it to your picture and breathe in the satisfaction of being there… You did it. And you do it again, and again and again, striding forward towards the aims of your true, good heart. You are free to fly, free to learn, free to grow. This transcends the Guilty Way. This is the Freedom Way!
Big encouragement to everyone as we continue on in our journeys.