Whether we have a positive attitude to personal learning and growth or require life circumstance to motivate us on to a path of self-exploration, life as an adult is about unlearning deficient patterns and opening to new ways of being authentic. It can be exciting, is every bit about growth and development as growing up from baby to adult was, and it will involve pain insofar as we resist the unfolding. Through this process, we gain access to our unbridled potency, our power, and can return to manifesting our true and full essence.
Stephen Graham Harrison. (2012). Appreciate the Fog: Embrace Change with Power and Purpose. Auckland, New Zealand: Xlibris Corporation. P. 30
I know I have asked myself the question ‘Do I matter?’ from time to time. I know of other’s who also find themselves struggling with that question. At such times it seems common to look outside for evidence, and when we actively look it seems that often the world conspires to assert that we indeed don’t matter. Hmm! What to do?
The best person, and only person capable of truly affirming your value, is you. Other people may help, may provide support, may be there at times to lift you when down, but no one other than you is always with you. The challenge is finding the truth of your value within yourself when all your learned behaviours and protective patterns support your fear that you do not matter. And when you do negatively judge yourself that is when you seem to draw negativity towards you like a massive, unrelenting magnet. Even more important then, it is crucial that you are able to connect with yourself, with your needs, and dive below the seaweed of fear and muddiness of hurt to the place of unencumbered beauty and light that does exist deep within you. First you must step into the apparent darkness to find it.
What do you identify with as defining your value? Do you refer to external feedback and measures such as popularity, praise from others, financial or other success, possessions, rivalry with and one-upmanship of others? Do you have access to your own inner voice that speaks to you of your value irrespective of the feedback from the outside world? Can you weather the buffeting of an unwelcoming or critical world that rips you down rather than builds you up? When the world does turn on you, how do you find your worth then? How do you remain connected with or reconnect with your worth and that you matter in those dark moments?
One key thing at such times is to truly love and accept yourself as you are. If you have hit a dark patch you may well be working really hard to do the right thing. You may find that lots of energy and activity is undertaken in an effort to save yourself from the abyss you secretly fear will swallow you? You may be using distraction and procrastination to avoid engaging with your fear of your circumstances. You may know you must work hard and then get annoyed as you get distracted by petty diversions you know do not help. You may work really hard to help others at your own expense (because there are things you need to be doing for yourself) so that even if you perish you know you’re a worthy being. Whatever your pattern, however you manifest your inability to apply yourself as effectively and productively as you know you should, love yourself for who you are. Accept yourself as you are. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings. Show true compassion to yourself. Open your heart to your own inner self, and drop any expectation of any particular performance. Reconnect with yourself, and recognise should, must and other such directive words are from your critic. They lack love, and will not support you as a person who is currently hurting. Own up to your pain, to the emptiness within, and pour the light of your own love into your soul. If you do have a friend who can support you in that moment all the better, but there is not greater gift that you can offer yourself than to love yourself in that moment when you do not feel worthy of it. Then you get to start learning how much you matter to yourself, and actually begin to demonstrate that it is true, attend to yourself and your needs in a gentle and authentic manner.
I cannot claim confusion as this image could certainly create. I was on the Northwestern Motorway on a beautiful, clear Saturday morning doing 100km, and I was photographed by a speed camera and a ticket was issued, a large fine for 30km per hour excess speed due to the temporary speed restriction signs. I did it! And then the mind goes to work and creates fog…
“I was in a line of traffic and everyone was doing the same speed… revenue gathering, not enforcement.”
“There was no one working… it was not a matter of safety… more strength to the revenue gathering argument”
“What about the traffic show on TV a few weeks ago where the motorcyclist got stopped by a traffic officer doing 100km in a 30km temporary signed area, and was let off… unfair! Impartial speed cameras just click away and there is no mercy, justice only. Grrr!”
I then imagine all the individuals in the other cars that sunny Sunday morning, all now having received their infringement notices, and all on their own in their grief, anger, frustration, or whatever else they may be experiencing. What fog are they experiencing? It is an individual experience even for a commonly share situation.
I notice my resentment, and know I am struggling with all sorts of stories in my head about fairness and justice. I feel powerless against the impartial machines that snap photos irrespective of what is going on around them, and it takes me back to a period of my youth with an authoritarian stepfather where powerlessness was a frequent experience. I feel angry because I have to pay money, and while I may slow down in the future out of fear of the machines, my 100km per hour was exactly on the speed limit for the motorway I was on except for… that temporary sign. I feel annoyed about the supposed teaching moment, one that has much less potency being confronted with a piece of paper a couple of weeks after the fact than having the ‘taking to’ by a police man at the time.
Of course I could write and argue the point with the New Zealand Police. Would that work? Or perhaps marshal all the other invisible, individually grieving drivers, and create a collective that makes this a bigger social issue.
All of this is fog, clutter that gets in the way of clarity, with feelings that are often rooted in past experience, regurgitated for this one. Much of this is irresponsibility in action, looking for the excuse to put blame for the result on someone else, and the sooner I claim and own responsibility, the quicker and easier my life will become. I still have to pay, and speed cameras will still be snapping tomorrow. At the end of the day (or of this episode) I have to own I was speeding, was snapped doing so, and either choose to follow an appeals process or pay up and let it go. The quicker I get to that place the quicker my life can literally move on to more important matters.
What raises clouds of fog for you? What do you do to process and clear it?
Anyone can be positive on a good day, but how do you regain a positive sense of self when you are suffering doubt or have a rampant internal critic, and you need to authentically front up with confidence and belief in self? Perhaps you’ve had a bad performance review, lost your job, messed up in some way, or some other trigger has magnified your inner critical voice that suggests you’re inadequate. Maybe you don’t need external circumstances to trigger negativity and self-doubt. What can be done at such a time to reclaim a positive sense of self?
Some approaches that can help at such times include:
Own your [negative] state of mind, that you are beating yourself up, that it is not helpful, and that you are the one who needs to make that different. Awareness, acceptance and self-responsibility are important.
Acknowledge that there is a purpose to the negativity. The critic is attempting to keep you safe from further pain, whether based on fear of failure, rejection, disappointment or some other potential hurt. Thank the critic for its efforts to keep you safe, and gently request the protection to cease. Retraining the critic in a loving manner is an important, long-term activity.
Take some time to connect with your value as an individual. It helps to have done some work on this prior to a negative state, but it is not essential that you have. Identify and name positive qualities that replace the messages from the critic. Invite people you trust to contribute if you cannot find much to work with. The process asserts your value against the voice of negativity. Each positive quality you identify and claim creates more space for your positive sense of self, asserting your position on this planet as worthwhile, and edges out the critic (for a while at least).
Maybe you have done something that did not work as desired or was plainly wrong. Love, accept and forgive yourself. There is no need to understand what you did or why to move into a positive place, though some form of rectification may be necessary at some point to truly move beyond it.
Before a negativity outbreak, identify and write a genuine statement of personal purpose that is truly inspiring. When feeling negative recall and connect with the purpose, a way of pulling yourself out of the ditch. I have personal dream, life purpose and contract statements that I recall when I need to return to my centre. I have used them many times over the years.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope you find it helpful. In the future I will write more about each point, or you can buy my book and get a fuller concept quickly.
There are a number of physical directions: north, south, east, west, above, below. There is also the direction ‘within’ when working with our own inner world and the journey of getting to know ourselves more fully. A direction that is often overlooked is ‘between’ when exploring and getting to know the relationship between us and someone else. Every relationship has a different landscape for ‘between’, and it is worth getting consciously aware of what that space is, what you do know, what you assume, and what you are blind to with each relationship.
The first important piece of information is the degree and quality of attraction/repulsion in the ‘between’. Within seconds of encountering someone we have a feeling for or against them. That instantaneous sense of the relationship is a powerful factor in our deciding what form and nature that relationship may have. A strong repulsion is likely to encourage distrust, distance, protectionism, and caution. A strong attraction will promote openness, vulnerability, trust and confidence. So what is it that contributes to this initial sense of the ‘between’ when meeting someone? Can it be trusted?
Some of the factors that contribute to this sense we hold on meeting someone include past experience, our patterned responses and general attitudes towards openness and protectionism, and our availability and readiness to meet and engage with others. There may be qualities that this person presents, whether physical, behavioural, attitudinal etc that remind us of someone from our past that encourages us to be more open or closed. We may hold prejudices, judgements and universal beliefs that exclude or include the person (e.g. ethnicity, gender, educational background etc).
To see someone and truly meet them we have to overcome all of our baggage, peel away those initial judgements that occur so fast that we usually don’t realise they are in place, and allow ourselves to see them as they are, insofar as they actually present themselves in their authenticity. Oh no, another factor. Not only do we have all our stuff, but they have theirs as well, getting in the way of a genuine meeting. Exploring the “in between” requires courage and commitment by both parties, and a willingness to be authentic during the process. Anything less and the process is slowed, protracted, and may never be fully realised. It takes tremendous trust in self and willingness to risk to fully engage with someone else authentically, and require authenticity of them, and it is a skill that can be developed.
Exploring the “In between” is even more fraught when we already have history with them, and there are issues and conflicts in place that cloud our ability to engage with each other.