Construction Zone, New Development Underway

Construction zone
Construction zone, new foundations forming

A specific change within ourselves may be initiated for any number of reasons. Two significant motivations include recognising and consciously deciding to attend to an underdeveloped or absent role that we require; and a specific situation demanding responses that we are unable to sufficiently offer. Whatever the catalyst for personal change, the more dramatic the change and the urgency or drive to change, the greater the upheaval you will experience. It can look very much like your inner being is a construction zone. Internal structure are pulled down, old patterns and beliefs that have been dormant may be liberated and occupy your psyche, even if unconsciously, and groundedness may disappear while a new foundation is formed. This all depends on the magnitude of the change. Life crises can often stimulate such upheavals, with examples of such events being birth of a child or grandchild, divorce, illness, death of a loved one, or the proverbial “mid-life crisis”.

A recent example from my own experience has been recognising patterns I have around taking leadership roles. Based on my life and experience there is no question that I can step into leadership and do well. However, my journey into leadership often takes me through one of the following routes:

  • If others are seeking the leadership role, I step back and say to myself, “Let them have it.”
  • If no one wants a leadership role (or it is an initiative I have started), I throw myself in with energy and gusto.
  • If I am invited into leadership, there is some degree of internal resistance that doubts my capacity and pushes the opportunity away.

All of those being true, I have sometimes surprised myself and moved forward with a degree of ease, though internal resistance invariably manifests at some point.

Lately, as I have recognised these patterns more fully, I have decided to develop my capacity to gracefully claim leadership, step into the space and occupy it with a sense of ease and belonging, and allow myself to be seen. Sounds easy! What a journey it is so far. In a recent situation where I was facilitating I was feeling great, owning the space, and fully there, and then familiar voices sounded off in my head that I was inadequate, should not be there, and I would surely fail. I realised that the difficulty for me serenely and gently occupying space is that I then hear the cacophony of voices that pull me down and back. That moment became a process of choosing to stay in that space, recognising all my own internal nay-saying voices, expanding my capability for intentionally remaining in leadership and cutting, or at least acknowledging and loosening, the bands that hold me to past experience and beliefs. In the meantime my internal world is in a state of relative turmoil, with anxiety and shame being merged with excitement and hope of a new way of being. This is a great time for me to appreciate my fog, recognising it is a natural part of the process of change, and that at some point the dust will clear. Then, I will have easier access to the new capacity forming within me.

What do you do when the fog arises from within? Do you allow it to be, and recognise it as a natural and necessary part of the process of change, or do you avoid the change or otherwise attempt to suppress the fog?

Why ‘Appreciate the Fog’?

About my motivation to write my book
Why did I write ‘Appreciate the Fog’?

When I was introduced to my inner child as part of a counselling process, I judged him as pathetic, weak, vulnerable, and something to get rid of. I then spent several years fighting and punishing that part of me which created a significant life crisis for me. That seems to be a pretty obvious result now, but at the time I experienced a life filled with fear, anguish, and darkness, and I did not see a link to my treatment of myself, most of which I was unconscious of. As the pain and panic grew, life became increasingly intolerable, and I grew desperate. A friend attended a personal growth programme and I saw the real benefit it was for her so I chose to go for myself. On that course I became deeply aware that I not only lacked love and acceptance of myself, I hated myself.

That was the beginning of an intense process of getting acquainted with myself, learning to manage my anxiety, trust others, and develop love for myself. I became hungry to fix myself, and over time learned that was a fallacy. Beneath all the layers of hurt, fear and angst was a beautiful being that radiated love, beauty and power, and did not need fixing. He was buried by all the protections I had erected to keep him safe and shielded from the dangerous, scary world.
I started to peel away the layers of protection (behaviours, beliefs, perceptions, attitudes) that locked that part of me inside and pushed the rest of the world away. I earnestly worked on myself, tried to sort out all the stuff in my way of being, and I one day realised I was so earnest that I was creating a lot of the still current crap in my life. I was clearing something up, and instantly looking for the next thing to work with. The actual process of working through my crap and sorting myself out was creating more crap. I was not allowing time or space for my life to settle. The image of using a stick to stir up the bottom of a pond came to mind, and I realised that I never stop stirring, and was desperate to work on the next issue. I realised I could stop stirring, remove the stick, and allow the pond to settle. When a bubble dislodged from the bottom of the pond, as they do, and erupted on the surface, I could then work on whatever that bubble contained. Life slowed. Plenty of work still presented itself, but I experienced ease and peace.

My life has certainly been filled with experiences to create the anxious man I was (and sometimes still am). Some of the key experiences/contributors include:

  • My father leaving the family as I was turning eight. I effectively ruled him out of my life, and after a few years I did not know if he were alive or dead, and I did not care.
  • My mother remarried when I was 11, and at 17 she and I evicted him from our home for the safety of the family.
  • I grew up in a fundamental religion that instilled many beliefs around how I should live, including many beliefs and fears associated with disobedience
  • These and other experiences contributed to my pervasive confusion over my personal identity, relationships, sexuality, and a host of other attitudes and beliefs about life.

As I peeled away the layers and got closer to my true essence inside, I became deeply acquainted with my inner child, learned to love him, and developed a relationship with him. Now we effectively walk side-by-side, and if needed I protect him as necessary from the world, but he no longer needs to be protected from me. I love him. I love myself. From that space I find it much easier to shine, be real, and be myself. Life still has fog and patches of darkness, but I navigate those easier because I have more certainty about who I am, and have stopped being my own persecutor. When I find I am struggling the solution is inevitably to reconnect with myself in a loving and accepting manner. I came to realise that appreciating the fog is much easier and more rewarding than struggling to force clarity and certainty from a life that is meant to contain unknowns.

The book ‘Appreciate the Fog’ (click here for more information) emerged from my own experiences that took me into many a fog, and the learning process, both formal and informal, that has taught me how to better work with my fear-based responses. The outcome is the capability to operate consciously, with power from a basis of love. The aim of the book is to offer what I have learned in the hopes that others may benefit. I have certainly benefited from writing it and getting clearer about my own processes that get in my way.

Celebrating Relationship

Couple in relationship
Being in relationship

Being in deep relationship with others trumps any other approach to learning about ourselves. We may take a journey into ourselves through solitude, meditation, and a myriad other ways to get better acquainted with ourselves, and raise our consciousness and awareness of what makes us tick. At times we may need space and time to disentangle from the complexities and crossed messages that play out when in relationship with others. However nothing beats relationship for creating an environment that enables growth.

I have enjoyed solitude, going on silent retreats and developing awareness of my inner world. None of that comes close to the pressure cooker of being in relationship with another human being and learning while in process. I manage that in small doses, then claim some space for myself before reengaging.

Also, I am not suggesting all relationships are positive. Some are diabolical, or at least damaging, and that we allow them to persist suggests lessons of self-worth and of ending abuse we have yet to learn.

As a young person I felt awkward and uncomfortable with myself, and even more so with and around others. Key messages from my internal critic were that I was inadequate and unworthy, and no one would want to know me. No wonder I felt awkward. Those messages still play though with less intensity. They interfere with engaging smoothly and easily. I watch others who seem to flitter easily into and out of connection with others, and sometimes I feel jealous. I wish it was that easy for me.

However, I have learnt how to be with others, some others, in a deep, intimate and very real way. This includes recognising that:

  • a relationship comprises three primary entities: them, me and the in between.
  • deepening a relationship requires me to share something of myself. As I am more vulnerable and trusting I invite the other to join me. What they do then is their choice.
  • as a relationship deepens feelings are unleashed from within as past experiences (often unconsciously) manifest as current behaviour. Recognising those feelings are not about this person but are about past wounds can assist the relationship building process, especially if I don’t make the person with me the dumping ground for my past hurts. Staying with those feelings and allowing myself to be seen and held in and through those moments is healing. Dumping them on the other person is damaging for them and the relationship.
  • being with the other person as they struggle in their own experience is a privilege so long as they are not dumping their past on me, making me the target of their pain.
  • Empathy, forgiveness and love are crucial ingredients for moving through hurt between me and the other person.
  • in addition to the three primary entities, a relationship includes all those who have been part of both our lives. Their voices, their shaping of our beliefs, attitudes and perceptions, and how they may have hurt us may manifest in our minds or be reflected in the other person at any moment.
  • Not all relationships are equal. Some people will not respect or positively respond to my vulnerability or genuine attempts at being in relationship. Choosing wisely about when and where and with whom to share myself is important.
  • Being in relationship is a dance. It is not a linear process, going deeper, deeper, and deeper still. Instead, it is learning how to engage with this person in front of me, different from all others. Which steps do we share and that enable us to flow together? Which steps do we struggle with and how do we develop in them? What causes us to step on each other’s toes or to trip and fall? How do we pick ourselves up and start again? When is it appropriate to let go and move away? When do we choose to return and reconnect?

These things I have learned are about being in relationship with anyone, not just an intimate partner. The degree of intimacy (“in to me see”) and engagement can be contextual, but often it is choice.

Being in relationships is not an easy exercise. It can be deeply rewarding. At the end of the day success is, in my mind, defined by how I have engaged with others, and what I have learnt about being more fully and authentically with others. In the process I will have seen aspects of myself previously unconscious, and encountered challenges that require me to dig deep and develop new capacities. By being in meaningful relationship with others we have the opportunity to learn about ourselves more deeply and intensely than any other way I know.

What have you learned about being in relationship with others? What gold have you gleaned from your experiences?