Opportunity. It exists in everything. It’s more obvious in those conditions and situations that feel “good”, and yet it is also in those that feel more like the dark night of the soul.
I have an amazing opportunity in front of me at the moment. I have a chance to dive into my own awareness and acceptance of some well-worn emotional patterns that no longer serve me and practice some new routes – all with a beautiful safety net of being loved while I do it.
Making the most of this opportunity is my aim. The opportunity doesn’t come as a result of a sudden tragedy, a loss, or an angry hate-filled flurry. So I don't expect that most will understand it, and that's okay! I intend to make the most of it by diving in and noticing who I am now at this point in my life and how I can shine my light more fully more of the time. So let’s get started.
Pretty much all families have dysfunction on some level. It’s a rare one of us who was raised by parents who made it clear to us that we were enough simply because we exist. Most of the time we learn that we are enough when we behave in a certain way, get certain grades, do what we’re told, and make life more comfortable for our parents. It’s not that they did it to intentionally to mess us up – it’s what they were taught too. You’re enough, when you perform in a particular way. WE then take this same approach with ourselves as adults... when we weigh a certain #, when we reach a certain income, when we accomplish that thing we've been talking about doing - THEN we will be enough. Seems funny how that day never seems to really arrive doesn't it.
The undoing of whatever our particular dysfunction is, isn’t something that just happens on its own. A change in environment, location, career, health won’t change an ingrained emotional pattern long term. Externals may inspire a change but for it to be sustainable takes more than externals and conditions for it to stick. It takes some willingness, and some conscious choices. More on that in a bit.
Think of your brain and your emotional patterns like an LP record album – remember those? They had grooves that the needle would sit into and play the song embedded within. This is kind of how your emotional patterns work too. And those grooves can become soooooo deep and worn in that getting out of them can take a major jolt to jump the needle up out of the groove to play a new song that is more in line with who you have become. I mean who wants to listen to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when you are now, at this point in your life, more into Led Zeppelin for instance?
Emotional patterns don’t magically improve or change just because someone left, arrived, or stayed – they change when we walk straight into them and ask what it is we need to learn in order to heal ourselves. This is something very few people choose to do. Which explains why it sometimes seems that people don't really change much. We are capable... but not willing. Our insecurities aren't there to taunt us - but to help us HEAL.
If you’re unsure what your emotional pattern is that no longer serves you and is inviting you inward to heal yourself – look no further than the person or people who drive you a little crazy. The person who you resent, dislike, or are annoyed by is as Fr. Richard Rohr says “carries our dark side”. We most dislike in others what we most dislike are don't accept in ourselves. This dark side or our shadow self contains some major information that can transform our lives - if we are willing to look at it.
So if that is the case, here is what I need to dive into and look at in myself:
To grow myself I need look no further than the things I blame and criticize others for. I am aggravated when people are super hard on themselves and dim their light. I am baffled and a frustrated by people who are amazing, incredible and continue to kick their own back-sides with nasty words and behaviors that dim them. So it looks like I need to increase my OWN levels of self-esteem and self-compassion – THIS is why witnessing it in others annoys me.
I also get really frustrated when I hear a lot of blaming, name calling, bullying, defensiveness or not learning from choices made, side stepping honest conversations – this all sounds like things a two year old would be doing, and it really gets my red-haired, Irish, anger up - so looks like I need to take a look at my own emotional maturity.
This aggravation, dislike, being annoyed by stuff is showing me “the log in my own eye”. (Matthew 7:5 - I looked it up!)
Since #1: low self-esteem is the biggest obstacle to #2: emotional maturity, let’s take a look at what Self-Esteem is and what it isn’t:
We ALL need some increased self-esteem. It’s part of the human conditioning we get here on the planet - to develop this belief that we aren’t enough, not worthy in some ways. It takes three steps to move in the direction of knowing we are indeed enough:
When we accept that we have been making choices to dim ourselves or develop emotional patterns that are hurtful for us, then we have the ability to practice a new or different way. Acceptance and self-compassion are closely linked and many of us have very little compassion for ourselves. We notice that we are doing something that is harmful to ourselves and we then kick our own butts for doing it, vow to change and then go right back to doing the painful thing again. Without acceptance and compassion for why we are doing what we are doing to cause our own pain – we will simply return to the same pattern over and over again. Think about the last time you felt like you needed to lose a few lbs. You become aware that you want to weigh less - so you vow to take action like diet or exercise. You don't give yourself any acceptance or compassion for why you may have added a few, so the effort isn't inspired (pulled) from LOVE, it's motivated (pushed) by FEAR. This is why it doesn't result in lasting change.
Acceptance is the invitation to ask ourselves "WHY?" Why am I doing this? What am I getting out of it that I could find a healthier way to accomplish?
This quote above is so true! When we don't accept our demons - we try to avoid them and that leads to having them bite us in the butt! Those demons or hurtful emotional patterns aren't "bad". They are there in an attempt to protect you. They just don't realize that you don't need protecting. Acceptance and compassion for our messed up emotional patterns is the step most of us miss in our efforts to revise our ways that are causing us pain and it is the step that will change everything.
So if you have a pattern that you notice you are annoyed with in another person or people, become an observer this week. How is that same behavior showing up in YOU? It might look a little different in how it manifests in you, but notice it – what is it when you boil it down?
Then love yourself, show yourself compassion for the behavior you are so annoyed by in others. Consider why you might be doing it, what are you getting out of it?
Then see if you can practice one small step in the direction you’d RATHER go in your emotional pattern. If you have some challenges in self-esteem like I do, take a look at the list of what healthy self-esteem looks like and see if you can practice just one of those for a few days.
Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily e-mail message all last week was about going THROUGH instead of AROUND the darkness. That’s what it takes to really shift emotional patterns. They don’t fix themselves just because conditions changed – no matter where you go, there you are. The courage to look at, accept with loving-kindness our own role in our suffering and then practice a new way, THAT is the way THROUGH.
Stuff I've been reading this week that inspired some of what I Chatted about here:
Pia Mellody on Codependence and Love Addiction - YouTube videos and books
Father Richard Rohr: Daily Meditation e-mail and also Hope Against Darkness
Tracy McMillan Instagram posts
My own journal notes from sessions with my therapist Joy!
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!