Archive for self growth
“The best way to keep relationships happy, healthy, and supportive can be summed up in one word: appreciation. What you appreciate, appreciates. When we demonstrate our appreciation for the support we receive from others, it reinforces that behaviour and deepens our connection to them.” Marci Shimoff
This is a beautiful quote. I tried to live my life by these types of quotes in the past, never realizing that they were extremely conflicting for me. Today, this quote works for me in the relationships that I have now but in the past a quote like this actually caused internal, subconscious, harm.
Without realizing it, I was trying to appreciate people who were treating me badly. I didn’t think that I deserved support; I don’t think I even knew what it was so I didn’t see that key part of the quote. Instead, I kept trying to see the positive in abusive people and overlook the negative. That was how I viewed quotes like this one. I thought it meant that I should just ignore the mean stuff. But trying to overlook someone’s ill treatment of me was the same as agreeing with them that I wasn’t really worth being treated properly.
Trying to appreciate a person who devalues you is conflicting; it’s like putting a band-aid on top of a severed limb that requires surgery, stitches, recovery time and then rehabilitation.
I am one of those people who fought against depression all my life. I was bi-polar, likely from a very young age and depressions were connected to my dissociative identity disorder issues. I began seeking solutions in self help programs, seminars and self help books when I was eighteen years old. I started in 12 step meetings when I was eighteen too. And for reasons that I could never understand, no matter how much I tried to work those steps, they too were like a band-aid when I needed surgery.
In the past when I read a quote like this one by Marci Shimoff I tried to focus on appreciating the people in my life that were devaluing me, defining me as not good enough, controlling me and squishing me into the ground. I tried to concentrate on how wonderful they were and thought that if I was more appreciative ~ which in a victim mindset means more compliant and more subservient, that they would finally reciprocate and appreciate me. This was all part of my victim mentality which whispered in the deepest part of my mind and belief system, that if I could just find the magic secret recipe for how to make them LOVE me, that they would stop hurting me and love me.
Today I understand and appreciate quotes like this one. I had to get the victim mentality (that I lived in and survived by) sorted out and set right first though. I had to clean up the old foundation ~ which was rotting and full of gaping life sucking lies and build a new strong and sturdy foundation before quotes like these could serve me. Trying to implement positive thinking quotes in the past added to my already low self esteem. Subconsciously I just jumped to guilt, shame, self blame and failure thoughts.
Having realized my own value and truly embraced it has enabled me to appreciate the people in my life today from a more truthful and equal viewpoint and THAT has deepened the connections. Appreciation is no longer a one way street. Now that I know my own value, it is easier to appreciate others for who they really are too.
Please share your thoughts about one sided appreciation or about how this article resonates with you.
Throughout the years of trying to change, I tried many things; in fact I tried almost everything that was suggested to me to try. Seminars, self help books, 12 step programs, I tried holistic medicine, cleanses, meditation, medication, vacations; I tried diet plans, fitness plans, naturopathic medicine, homeopathic medicine, you name it I likely tried it. Most of them became another obsession and another way to escape. And I am not saying that any of it was useless, just that none of it got me that much farther ahead. ALL of it was pointing me in the right direction towards emotional healing, but it just wasn’t the entire answer.
(NOTE: Something I noticed in the editing process of this post is that I opened this post with; “Throughout the years of trying to change” ~ See how deeply it goes? I never considered that I was trying to HEAL, just that I was trying to “change” as though I needed to “change” in order to be “okay” when in reality I was trying to give up coping methods without understanding why they were born.)
I was thinking about all the things I had tried attempting to enhance my recovery because of the quote I posted as a mental health tip on the emerging from broken facebook page. This is the quote: “Do not wait; the time will never be “just right”. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” Napoleon Hill
I thought about this one thing that I told myself when I was trying to stay out of this coping method that was escaping into a fantasy life that I really loved to live in. The fantasy world was what I thought to be a “safe escape” but I was spending so much time there that I knew it was becoming self harming and destructive and that it wasn’t really helping me get where I really wanted to go. I tried very hard to notice when I was going into that fantasy world, trying to catch myself before I was immersed in the depth of disconnection from reality. And I remember that for a long time I would tell myself “just this once more”. I would promise myself that I would only escape there one more time. I would plead and convince myself that it was not harmful, that it didn’t hurt anyone… that one more time would not really change or damage anything.
I did this with almost every coping method that I ever tried to give up. I did it with binge eating. I did it with purging when I was bulimic. I did it with skipping my fitness programs when I was finally doing them for the right reasons. I even did it when I was going into a self berating spin and trying to learn to stop myself from beating myself up. I told myself that I would start tomorrow. Tomorrow would be the first day of my new life. Tomorrow I would make the necessary changes.
I did almost anything I could to avoid progressing into “better mental health”.
And when I finally noticed that I was doing this avoidance technique, I finally started looking at what I was avoiding. Why was I so afraid to STAY in reality? What was I avoiding taking a look at? What exactly was I trying so hard to escape from? WHY did I have so many coping methods?
And the answer, (or at least the root of the answer) of course was ME ~ I was trying to escape me. I was trying to avoid facing me but NOT for the reasons that I thought;
Deep down I really truly believed that I was the problem and that was why I could empathize with you and see your value ~ I could validate you and try to convince you that you didn’t deserve whatever happened to you, but I could not see that for me. The reason I was so afraid to face reality was because I was afraid that I would find out that I HAD NO REAL VALUE and I was avoiding finding that out.
I had to stop running from that fatal lie and when I did, that is when everything began to change. That was when I began to emerge from broken. That was when I finally turned that corner and began to progress into the new life that I live now.
How does this resonate with you? I find this stuff MUCH harder at holiday times of the year. Please feel welcome to share your thoughts and comments.
p.s. this is a process and I am not perfect. When I was almost but not quite finished writing this blog post, I jumped up and grabbed some crackers out of the pantry. I got some raspberry jam and cream cheese out of the fridge and proceeded to make myself an afternoon snack. When I thought about what I had been doing when I decided I needed the snack, and that I wasn’t really hungry, I realized that for some reason sharing this post with you made me want to escape. And that is very much what it looks like for me ~ I suddenly feel like “running”.
Do I worry about it? No….. well at least not nearly as much as I used to… it is all part of the process of emotional recovery. I often feel insecure about writing the things I write and lately I have been looking at some of the unhealthy ways that I deal with those thoughts and insecurities. And so today I decided to actually tell you. =)
Due to the depth of the comments on this post I wrote a follow up post which you can read by clicking the post title: “Before I faced the Pain I had to face the lies”
Are you aware my of my e-book “Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing”? If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you and you would like to find out “HOW” I broke out of the oppression I lived in, this 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to busting out of the fog and to healing. I’ve received hundreds of thank you notes from people that have bought my book. Get yours here for 9.97 through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing
I’ve been thinking a lot about a one of the last comments made on my post “Groomed to Doubt Through Spiritual Abuse.” The writer said in a nutshell that the people who voiced strong disagreement with my posts were people from my real life who really just cared about me. Words like this can be “catch words”, cause us to stop and second guess… especially in the process of recovering from abuse of all kinds which teaches us to doubt ourselves in the first place. It’s not my desire to pick apart readers’ comments, but it’s the idea behind this particular comment that I want to put under the microscope.
I’ve been writing a lot about spiritual abuse, and it strikes me that so much of spiritual and church abuse happens under this confusing umbrella of “we care about you.” We want you to become a Christian because we care about you. We will confront you about sin and reprimand you with Bible verses because we care about you. We will stand you up in front of the church and tell people about your wayward ways because we care about you. We will talk to so and so and so and so and so and so behind your back and ask them to talk to you or send you an email to correct you because… we care about you.
If the person saying they care about you has known you your whole life, there’s an extra layer of confusion. Somehow, it seems like their opinion should hold more weight, as if they know everything about you. A statement like that could easily put me into a self-doubt spin. My deeper thoughts flashed through my head:, “Carla, these people say they care about you, that they are confronting you because they care. It’s pretty gutsy of you to doubt them… They’ve known you your whole life, so surely they know the real you better than you know yourself…” These doubts come from that old mentality that didn’t know my own true value and didn’t know how to define myself, myself. When I tune in to my true heart, legitimate questions put holes in their claim of “care”. Do they know me now? Have they bothered to contact me in person and have a real conversation? Do they know my true state of happiness and fulfillment in my life? Have they walked the path with me to see how far I’ve come? No, they haven’t. So when they throw accusations and corrections at my new way of thinking, it strikes me as a flat out lie that they really care about me.
I used to think like them too. I believed that pleasing the “system”, keeping myself and others within its rigid walls, would lead to my ultimate salvation. It felt easier to gauge myself and determine if I was okay or not if I kept following the rules rather than following the adventure of a free willed heart… But the truth was that living in these rigid walls was squashing me. My soul was dying a slow death because as hard as I tried, I could not find my salvation in the rules and constrictions of the system. The system DID NOT care about me. It only cared about numbers and keeping those who were blindly following, blindly following. It only cared about protecting itself.
There have been other people in my life, close friends, who have challenged me. Their challenges have not always felt comfortable. But when I ask myself the same question about them, my answer is very different. I do feel cared for by them, because I know that their aim in challenging me is to help me become all I am meant to become. They have no ulterior motive to keep me thinking the same as them or to keep me in line with their rigid, controlling system. They aren’t trying to keep me boxed in, shut down, small minded, and pliable. They want me to become more myself, stronger, less pliable, more fulfilled and deeply happy. There is a huge difference… and I can feel that difference. Real caring encourages real life, not slavery. Real caring cares about the individual, not the system that the individual is questioning.
As we grow and change, there will be those who will try to lasso us back to where we have come from. They are afraid. They are still trying to find their salvation in the systems they are trapped in and they are protecting themselves and that system. We don’t have to fall for this claim of “I just care about you!” We can doubt them instead of doubting ourselves. We can trust that our feet are taking us in the right direction, deeper and deeper into the life we were meant to live. No one has the power to stop us from reclaiming life giving freedom and reconnecting with our true hearts. No friend, no parent, no sibling, no pastor, no relative, no organization, no leader, no spouse, no in-law. I want to send big encouragement to all of you as you keep pursuing your wholeness. You are worth it and you have what it takes.
A Special Note from Carla
These past seven months have been an amazing journey, sharing my truth and getting to know and interact with all of you here. I have been feeling a strong need to take some time to focus on myself and get more clarity on a few foundational things about “me”. In the theme of true caring, I have decided to take an indefinite writing break from Emerging From Broken. I will still be working a bit “behind the scenes” and hope to share a post from time to time and stay connected. I want to thank Darlene for her amazing support in the process of me making this decision, as it really has not been easy! I also want to thank every one of you for engaging with my posts to this point, and for sharing your incredible journeys with me and each other. With much love, Carla
I’ve been working my way through a depression over the last few weeks. Maybe “underneath” is a better word… Sometimes the journey to freedom feels easy and the truth is crystal clear. Risks don’t feel so risky. There is a strong pull forward. It somehow feels simple to make decisions based on what I know is true. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt a pull downward, a pull to just stop where I am and hibernate for awhile. Some relationships in my life have become more distant and I have felt so afraid. I think the fear of being alone, of being rejected, is one of the most powerful fears we face in our lives. I found myself listening to old voices (much clearer this time around) that said, “See, you just can’t do this. You don’t have what it takes. If people abandon you, you will die. If you are rejected, you really MUST be messed up. You can’t survive on your own…”
I’ve learned this fear comes to revisit me in varying degrees along the journey of healing (I used to believe that if I had dealt with it once, I shouldn’t have to face it ever again.) I know this depression has some very real reasons behind it. In becoming whole, some things must fall away and others will grow stronger. In my survival, I was a ship that had attached myself to many many other ships around me. One rope here, another there, spread out like a giant spider web. These ropes felt like my lifelines. I sent out distress calls and survived by interpreting the feedback I got from the other ships. As I become whole, those ropes gradually get cut or fall away. Some just shrivel up and die. Others have to get snipped more intentionally. And I don’t mean that these ropes are only connected to “people”. Some of them were attached to old belief systems that kept me stuck. Some were religious, some were cultural “norms”, some were family belief systems. But one by one, I have freed myself… I became free to focus on my own ship and start listening to what it was all about, where it wanted to go.
Some people love freedom when they first taste it. For myself, freedom has not been an easy experience (yet!) Living so long with my ropes tied to other ships, I had so little sense of my own direction, of where my own sails wanted to take me. Cutting those ropes has sometimes felt absolutely terrifying. How will I know where to go? How will I know that I’m going the right way? What if I cut these ropes and sail off to sea all by myself? Will I ever be close to others again? How can I be close to others if we aren’t tied together?… My depression was a way of coping with these fears. If I could just turn the voices down, or just fall back into the old belief that all of my pain really is my own fault, maybe this would feel easier… Maybe I could go back to coasting alongside someone else… or just hole up in the harbor again, or maybe find some isolated island to call my permanent home…
Deep within my own ship is a lantern, burning with the truth about who I am, with the life and the unique journey that is mine to take. Throughout this depression, I have felt its presence. As loud as those old voices and fears have been, my own presence has been loud too. I know that it is there. But I have felt such angst, running back up to the main deck, peering at the ships I used to be tied to, fearing my “aloneness”, fearing that the lantern with my own light isn’t bright enough to trust, isn’t good enough (now I ask, good enough for who?) It’s the most life squishing lie of all time.
My soul won’t give up. As tempted as I have felt over the last few weeks, the light inside wants to win. To keep walking forward into what feels terrifying is what my whole self wants so much more than to fade away back to the place that feels deceptively safe and familiar (it’s not the same back there anyways). I have always wanted the open sea. Facing old fears is part of learning to sail well, and I am on my way.
In this conclusion of our series “A Mother Daughter Relationship ~ From Broken to Whole” my Mom, Debbie Dippel, describes what our enmeshed relationship felt like for her, how she started making changes, and what things are like now. We thank you so much for following this series and for sharing your heart-felt responses with us along the way.
I used to describe the relationship I had with Carla as “very close”, which sounds so warm and desirable. But it was not a healthy “close”. She needed me to be her sounding board, comforter, advisor and rescuer. I needed her to live her life a certain way so that I would feel fulfilled and happy. This enmeshment felt as if I carried Carla around in an emotional backpack everywhere I went. My mood would be determined by her mood. If her day started out well, I would prefer not to hear from her in case it went downhill. I wanted to stay at that level of contentment and if she called to say something happened to cause her upset, then my day would take a downturn. She carried my level of well being around with her. When I worried about her weight I wished I could get inside Carla’s skin and manage how she ate, exercised, dressed, and took care of herself. I saw her as a naturally beautiful person with many talents and reasons to be happy. I felt sure I would be a better caretaker of all those attributes since she didn’t seem to appreciate them. I tried to live my life through her and it was doing damage to both of us.
When Carla started seeing a counselor changes began in her. She stopped sharing every thought with me. She became stronger and started to draw boundaries. She made some decisions that were hard for me to handle. I often crossed the line with prying questions or statements that I knew were subtle hints in order to control. But now Carla responded to these in a way that said, “I will decide for myself”. I knew that I was obsessed with Carla but I felt helpless to break free from it. This was when I decided to begin counseling for myself. What surprised me was that we didn’t spend much time at all talking about Carla. I learned that I needed to become emotionally healthy myself in order to have a healthy relationship with my daughter. My marriage came under the spotlight and I started to pay attention to what my relationship was like with my husband. The more I learned about the lacking I felt in my marriage, the more I realized that I had channeled my desire for relational intimacy through Carla, hoping that she would find what I was missing and be happy enough for both of us. As I continued to grow, I started to see myself as a person who deserved to live in freedom and wholeness all on my own, not depending on someone else for my identity. Having a better understanding of all these things empowered me to begin making changes in my own life. I gained a new sense of confidence and clarity and began to value myself as a person. I started to believe that I deserved a meaningful relationship in my marriage and began making changes in that area. I started taking pottery lessons, a delightful new experience for me, which has opened up new possibilities and enriched my life.
Carla and I enjoy a much more fulfilling relationship today. I still feel empathy for her when she struggles but I know that she is strong and will work them out as they come along. We are both continually growing in better ways of relating to one another, experiencing both the joys of our successes and learning from our mistakes. This is the new essence of our relationship. Carla is a wonderful encouragement to me as I grow independently from her and find interests that are truly my own. She inspires me to look for what is true and good in myself. I am so grateful for what we have learned and that our relationship has become what it is today.
One of my favorite movies is “Yentl” with Barbara Streisand. She sings one of my favorite songs at the end of the movie and these words have often come to mind and brought me inspiration:
“What’s wrong with wanting more? If you can fly then soar! Why settle for just a piece of ground?”
There is beauty of all kinds in each stage of our growth. Whether we are courageously turning towards our pain or celebrating a truth that has sunk that much deeper, our personal growth happens uniquely and surely through all the ins and outs of our path. All these ins and outs serve us as we move through them, empowering us along our way, giving light for the next step before us. Ins and outs such as…
Confusion~ Our hungry hearts feel lost, frightened, hopeless yet hoping… We are drawn to sort through our realities to find the answers. We feel the angst of not knowing but we also feel that there is an answer we can find…
Rest~ To grow at one speed all the time would exhaust us. Here and there we take a breath, draw from self-compassion, be gracious with ourselves and say, “It’s okay. I can rest for awhile and no ground will be lost.”
Anger~ This surge of feeling that says, “This or that is not right.” It’s a profound knowing that things were not as they should have been. We allow ourselves to feel ripped off. Sometimes anger gets stored up for a long time and surprises/scares us when we first let it have some space. The more we honor it, the more we will be able to understand where it comes from and we can let it pass through.
Fear~ Because we don’t know everything… The journey is a “one step at a time” thing into brand new territory. We don’t have previous experience, so how can we know exactly what to expect? Fear is always one of the doorways at the threshold to a new phase of growth.
Joy~ A deep re-awakening of our worth and value that we never knew before or had lost along the way. A bubbling kind of peace that feels light and deeply satisfying at the same time… That unstoppable feeling that works its way to the place between our ears and our cheeks and urges a smile.
Excitement~ which may feel uncomfortable and freak us out! I have long been wary, doubtful and afraid of my excitement because I had never learned how good it actually was. I doubted so much about myself that I often linked excitement to some kind of selfishness or a misguided way to make myself more important than I really was. I had learned to “temper” my excitement so that it wouldn’t intimidate others or get me “carried away”. As we heal, excitement is reborn. It’s a whole new energy inside, connected to our purpose, that celebrates what is happening and looks forward to what will come.
Disappointment~ Because nothing is ever perfect. Disappointment is something we pass through. It’s normal. Without letting it evolve into guilt, shame or beating ourselves up, disappointment can help us become more successful at getting what we really want next time.
Observation~ of ourselves, of how things “work”, of how far we have come. Observation means I don’t have to figure it all out at once. I can let my eyes do some work for me and let time sort out the puzzle pieces as they come into focus.
Action~ For when we feel ready or sometimes just before we feel ready… We put shoes on our new truth. We want to try it out, test it out, go somewhere with it, build new and fulfilling things on our new foundation. Our new understandings on the inside take shape on the outside. Action works best from the inside out.
Patience~ Truth plants the seeds in our souls. Sometimes these seeds blossom quickly. Others require more time to take root and flourish. There are no rules or timelines when it comes to our growth. Each of us will own a unique story.
To you as you move along your journey. Please feel free to expand on my list from your own experience!
I’ve just come through a time of feeling really overwhelmed. Living full and free in my wholeness doesn’t always come easy to me. Sometimes I come up against these big “piles” that seem to be blocking my way- challenges, new things that I don’t know how to do, things I don’t understand. In the foundation of my old belief system, there was a lot of self doubt, a lot of confusion about who I really was. Coming up against these piles when I felt so doubtful that I even deserved to be pursuing a fulfilling life was just too overwhelming. Even though I doubted my worth and my ability, I still pressured myself to be some kind of perfect superwoman. I worked hard to fulfill an impossible task with faulty tools and when I failed to overcome the pile, I really believed it was because there was something wrong with me. Each failure validated my self-doubting belief system, and the next time I encountered a pile in my way, it was that much harder to work through it.
It’s okay to be afraid and to feel overwhelmed. Fear is something I will feel often as I pursue new things and new ways of living. But similar to my thoughts on pain, I believed that if I felt afraid, there was something wrong with me too. My fear somehow made me less deserving of the journey.
I recently finished reading hockey player Theo Fleury’s book “Playing With Fire”, the incredible story of his life and his recovery from abuse. In the process of seeing the truth, connecting his pain and anger with what had been done to him in his early life and realizing how he was coping with this pain, he wanted to move forward in new and better ways. After some intense times of hashing all this out, his girlfriend Jenn (who is now his wife) said to him, “Let’s just take this big pile of shit and chip away at it.” Theo says, “So we would do one thing and realize, ‘Oh, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.’ And then we would tackle the next thing. We are still working on that pile.” (Playing with Fire, pg 303)
Their mindset moved and inspired me. As I worked through my most recent “overwhelmed pile” I gave myself the space to take one thing at a time from it; I believed that I was worth taking the time to spread all the parts of the pile out and see them for what they were. What was most powerful for me as I sorted through the parts was this voice within me that is gaining more and more life. It’s a voice that comes from the foundations of my new belief system about who I am. It said, “Remember who you are. The Real You is not a loser, not just a quitter or a failure or a coward.” I connected my motivation for working through the pile with what makes up the Real Me. I believed that it was worthwhile for me to go through the pain and the fear involved. I could bear it because of the fulfillment that was waiting in the midst of it and at the other end. As I work the work, I gain confidence that I can go through it and continue on this journey of an increasingly fulfilling life.
“And a woman spoke, saying, ‘Tell us of Pain.’ And he said: Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain….” ~ Kahlil Gibran
We are learning to struggle well. Our desire speaks to us of a new place, a place we have belonged all along but for so long believed we didn’t… Wholeness. A place of validity, entirety, freedom, fulfillment, excitement, promise, purpose.
People and events told us we didn’t belong in this place, we didn’t deserve to go there, we weren’t good enough for it, we had to work harder to earn the right to be there. We got broken. And then we got tangled up in trying so hard to make ourselves “righter”, make ourselves more worthy so we could get there. We got sidetracked on our way in all kinds of other places that promised peace but only delivered disappointment and anxiety. We doubted ourselves. We questioned if we should keep trying to get there…But continually burning deep deep down inside, we knew that we belonged there; we wanted to belong there… Even if at first all we heard was a whisper, a longing, a puzzled feeling, the “click” of a moment when we realized, “hey, this and this and this that I’ve believed all along about myself doesn’t really make sense…”
A dawning starts to happen. And the light draws us toward it. The warmth we feel says, “Yes, this is the right direction. You do belong here. You are stepping in the right tracks.”
The tracks are not always easy. Some feel very painful.
Pain feels like something is wrong, and if something feels wrong our old belief system tells us that we are wrong. We try to avoid the pain because of this misconception, one we have suffered under for so long. We avoid the pain because we are afraid that it will tell us that we really are mistakes after all… But now we see the misconception for what it is. We connect with the new truth about ourselves that is gaining life deep down inside. We see the lies woven into the misconception that fuels our fear and we decide that we don’t want to agree with those lies anymore.
Pain invites us to look deeper, to look through. It is not telling us that we are wrong, just that something is wrong. It draws our hands to feel around us, to feel at what confines us. It draws us to open more windows, to let in more light here, then more light there, so we can see more clearly, bit by bit. It says to us with matter-of-fact assurance, “I can’t leave until you really pay attention to me.” It wasn’t our brokenness that was the problem; the real problem was what caused the brokenness. And what caused the brokenness was not of our making.
We work to understand this. We peel back the layers of our past, we uncover the lies that were whispered or shouted to us. We learn the truth. We realize that all the work we have done to earn our worthiness, the crawling and striving we have done towards feigned acceptance, was not required of us. It was work done for other people’s benefit, not our own. We feel the pain of being deceived, of being discounted, being taken advantage of. We feel the pain of disbelief, of sorrow and grief. And sometimes after we have gotten to this new place of wholeness, we feel the pain of learning. We feel uncomfortable because it is so new. We sometimes still slip into those redeemable ruts. And we are invited into one journey after another of rebirth.
Our pain is a corridor. A place of deep movement towards where we truly belong. It is the breaking with the past, the hope of new growth and new life, the acceptance of reality all rolled into one. It is part of the process that helps us to keep moving forward.
Courage and love to you on your journey…
What was it that I needed to know? What was the “it” that I had been seeking for, hungering for, all those years? What was it that I was born desiring, born fully open to and able to receive but left wanting?
Deep inside me, every second of every day of my life, there dwells a beauty. A real person, a human being. She is sensitive but determined. She is curious, investigative, and thorough. She is creative, deep, resourceful. She goes through fears, questions, doubts. She finds the answers she wants. She has dreams! She has goals. She has desires that are good. She loves to cook and serve delicious food to her friends. She loves to make music. She loves to sun soak and walk and go crazy on the dance floor. She cares about people and loves to write because she wants her story to help others. She loves, and she is loved. She has stopped off to one side of her path many times but has always gotten back to her feet and followed her heart, a heart that tugs her forward, forward, forward. She loves adventure and having fun. She is passionate to live out her full potential. She is willing to learn. She is generous. She is a valiant truth seeker. She is classy…
This is me. Please substitute your own words for yourself if you would like… Deep inside each of us is one unique expression of what it is to be human. This expression is complete within every person, whether it is uncovered or not.
First, I needed to know that my hungry heart was okay. I needed to know that what I felt was lacking really was lacking. It was not my imagination. My hungry heart was not selfish or self-centered. It was hungry. Hungry happens for a reason. I needed to know that the circumstances in my childhood that created that hunger were wrong. I needed to know that it was not okay to be emotionally neglected by my Dad. I needed to know that it was good for me to be angry about that (Darlene explores this topic further in her post “Anger at Parents~ A Pathway on the Journey to Freedom“). I needed to know that a person who is hungry will try to satisfy or stop their hunger with lots of different things- accomplishments, boyfriends, addictions, depression, the approval of others. I needed to know that it was okay that I tried to fix my hunger with these things, that it made sense. I needed to know that I was so much more than my ways of coping. I was not simply possessive, jealous, depressed, needy, angry or insecure. I used these things to try and solve my problem- they just didn’t work.
When I knew all these truths, I became free to know my real self . Underneath all the things I used to cope was the real me, the Carla who I had all my life been so hungry to know and so hungry to share with others. In affirming that she was real and that she was good, I became confident to meet her and embrace her fully as myself. I could stop striving to “manage” or fix all these different parts of her, hiding parts from certain people or embellishing other parts for other people. In knowing that ALL of Carla was okay and that all parts were necessary, I could start on the kind of journey I had dreamed of my whole life, with my whole self on board. All of me is now in one place. I know now that I am worth knowing, worth exploring. With this new belief at my foundations, I can now give myself what was lacking before. I have the freedom and the power to celebrate now what was not fully celebrated in my past. I take up the task of protecting, accepting, nourishing and teaching my whole self to thrive and flourish as I was meant to all along. All these things are what I needed to know, all parts of one big truth, one big vibrant picture.
A few years ago I was at a workshop and I participated in a church tradition of eating bread and having wine during one part of the service. Three lines had formed in the room and we were all waiting for our turn to be handed a piece of bread to dip into the wine cup. I was waiting in my line, watching the server break off piece after piece from the loaf in his hands, piece after piece to this person and the next… Each piece was so small, I noticed. I was hungry. It was a big loaf of bread with that crunchy crispy outside… As I stood there a couple thoughts floated through my mind. The first came along… “Hmm, I hope I get a really big piece...” My second thought was a reaction springing from the lies I used to believe: “I wonder if God is disappointed about me standing here only thinking about how big a piece of bread I’m going to get...” Thankfully, at that point in my journey, the guilt guards didn’t win those kinds of battles anymore… So I didn’t fight either thought and they were held suspended in my heart as I approached the man for my piece. I stood there, and as he made eye contact with me his elderly hands tore off the BIGGEST chunk of bread I had seen the whole time I was waiting in that line. Even he seemed surprised at the size! I felt deeply affirmed in that moment that it was okay to want more.
I am so familiar with that acute desire of wanting more, the feeling that something was missing or that there was something great that I needed to find. I imagined what it would feel like to find that “thing”… I searched and searched in every person I met and book I read and movie I watched to see who “had it” or where “it was”, that thing I was looking for. And I analyzed and tried to figure out exactly how a person got it. Had they always had it and I was just born missing it? Did they have to work really hard for it? Did it just happen one day? Did someone else need to give it to them? Many times I had also felt the message being said to me, “Why are you even searching? Can’t you just be happy with what you have? Look at the many people who have so much less…” which for me translated into “your heart is over-sensitive, selfish and unreasonable and your desire is just too much.”
My recent posts have been about how my Dad’s belief system so strongly impacted me. Passive withholding abuse is difficult to define or see. As adults it can feel overwhelming and scary to even try to see it in our pasts because there’s nothing really concrete to “pin point”, there are no solid markers along the way. It’s like… growing up believing that all there is to eat on the planet is potato soup. The same thing, every day, same quality (kind of watery…), same amount, not completely nourishing or delicious but enough to get us by. As children, the reality that this is all we’re served tells us that this is all there is. We feel disappointment but it doesn’t really make sense because it’s not like we had the better soup at one point to compare it to. As we grow older, we still feel something is missing, something doesn’t seem satisfying… But we don’t understand why. We struggle with depression and low self-esteem, guilt and anxiety. But in our reasoning, the potato soup was always there and seemed substantial enough, especially compared to those who were never served any soup or actually served toxic soup… Still, there’s this sense of… lacking soup. There’s this restless hunger that’s misunderstood. It is so painful to feel the hunger but not the validation that the hunger is worthy; for me, depression was one way of trying to make the hunger and the pain go away altogether. Darlene has shared about this kind of abuse as well in her post “Withholding Emotional Abuse“.
As I was putting the pieces of my past together and growing in the affirmation that my struggles had been caused by something, my intense hunger was an answer in itself; it was the “pin point” as well as the starting point on my quest to gain what was missing. I see now that it came from the very alive part of me, the part searching to find what I was born wanting… the “more” that we are all worthy and deserving of.