When we think we have been hurt by someone in the past, we build up defences to protect ourselves from being hurt in the future. So the fearful past causes a fearful future and the past and future become one. We cannot love when we feel fear…..When we release the fearful past and forgive everyone, we will experience total love and oneness with all. – Gerald G. Jampolsky
A quote sent to me in November.
As clients face the challenge of a less than desired connection in their relationships, with partners, parents, children…..the fear of moving forward in their careers, face the insecurities of releasing old patterns, ie. eating disorders, addictions, pleasing others…..we are able to look into the judgements they made about the world and themselves, the opinions they formed about the same, and a decision they subsequently came to. All this directed their lives to their current challenges. In my mind, the current life challenge is a pretty unique and special invitation to review the opinions, judgements and decisions they made as children to make sense of the world. Their current life challenge is no longer supported by their learned ways of coping.
When we are children, we are constantly using our sensory antennae, ie. hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling and….intuition, to make sense of the world. However, our minds are not as developed and complex as they are when we are grown up. We don’t have access to all the available data – information – that could explain any particular event or experience, just a very simplistic cause and effect understanding. Let’s take the example of childhood upbringing. Cause and effect thinking of it might look like “when i do this, what happens is that”. So, perhaps, “when I express my needs (complain), I get punished” (yelled at, ignored, withdrawn from). This is the judgement the child made. The opinion then possibly formed is that “it is dangerous to, or it hurts to express my needs”, “it is not safe to express my needs”, “I am afraid to express my needs”. We then come to a decision about this whole process, over repetitive conditioning, to stop expressing our needs in relationship. As adults, in forming or maintaining relationships, we might come to counselling or a friend, feeling that our needs are not being met, feeling we want too much, we “are” too much, or complain about our partners being selfish with their time, ie. going out, indulging in fun activities, all the while feeling and building resentments that they have a better or easier life than us, or feeling abandoned, or that we have more responsibilities than them while they are out playing. (Playing by the way is a very necessary activity in childhood AND adulthood; however their forms may be different). Arguments ensue, or silence develops, the distance widens, connecting becomes more and more difficult, and we feel powerless to make changes. We experience anger, frustration, hurt, abandonment, loneliness, powerlessness and victimhood.
So….in realizing and perhaps placing faith in this process, if we can trace back the decisions we made that have directed our life choices to our present circumstances we have the power to understand what might have given that originating experience the meaning we gave it as a child. (when I express my feelings I am punished, asking too much….) Cause and effect. With our adult minds, we can understand that the reactions of others to our complaints as children, might have meant something else, ie. They are tired and depleted, they are overwhelmed, don’t know how to respond….. and free ourselves from the belief that when we express our feelings, bad things will happen. We are now free to learn new and healthy adult ways to express our needs, that don’t blame, point fingers, corner or land as ultimatums. Now our needs can be heard and responded to in equally healthy ways. As we exercise this new approach to understanding ourselves and the world, with compassion instead of judgment, we are open to new meanings, find the appropriate action, and exercise power over our lives. The anger, loneliness or frustration lifts, we are lighter, optimistic and can move forward in any area of our lives we choose, by following some very simple steps.
"Have you ever thought or wondered that perhaps we are given life's challenges so that we can learn how powerful we are in the face of them? Maybe these challenges are opportunities, in that, as we overcome the many hurdles involved in getting to the other side, we learn about ourselves in the process. When we know who we really are, then we also know what we are capable of becoming. That is powerful! Then we get to create the life that we want, and not just simply receive or react to what comes our way. This is key to self mastery.
The first step, however, is seeing that we are not just given a bad hand, or that we are unlucky or undeserving. It's because we are capable that we are given the gift of challenge, and by facing these problems we can gain the wisdom, self awareness, ease, and success that comes through these struggles. How does a child know what it feels like to have the wind run through their hair and against their skin, and to master their fear of bruises and scrapes if they don't keep getting back on that bike? Do we tell them that the fall, the scrape and bruise is a telltale sign that they are not meant for bike riding; that their fear of failure should stop them from mastering this skill?
We tell them to not give up, to believe in themselves. We teach them that without knowing struggle, we can't know success, empowerment, and personal growth. Then, when we see the look of accomplishment and joy as they are finally able to stay on that bike for thirty seconds, we too experience that sense of accomplishment. We are proud, happy, and perhaps we celebrate. So it is my privilege and joy to encourage you back into the harder parts of your journey.
This is all available to you with each challenge no matter how big or small, long or short. There is a saying: "There are those who see challenge in every opportunity, and then there are those who see opportunity in every challenge." I say there is a breakthrough waiting with every breakdown. What would life be like for you if you approached every challenge, every breakdown with eagerness for the opportunity to experience the breakthrough and the success on the other side?"
Anxiety, like all other feeling states, has a purpose and function – to alert us to actual or perceived threat. It allows us to be prepared by anticipating such a threat. Imagine being confronted by a bear, and not having the physiological response appropriate to it (ie. rapid heart rate, reactive fear, etc). We need these responses to either take fight or flight for survival in these circumstances. However, anxiety may be present to “perceived” but not “actual” threat as well. Our bodies and minds respond in the exact same way, to a lesser or greater extent, as to “actual” threats. Worry about money, relationships, being alone, social settings, being a good parent, the health of a loved one, a new baby...can sometimes cause us to experience ongoing anxiety. There is a “perceived” or “imagined” threat - ie. I will not have enough money, I will not be a good enough parent, people will not like me. Our bodies and minds prepare for what we believe may be a negative outcome; so that, at the very least, we are uncomfortable and unable to relax. We may want to “fight”, “flee” or “freeze” from and in these circumstances. Understanding that we are fully and gloriously equipped with survival instincts, that they are intact, combined with not making “anxiety” bad or wrong; is the greatest step in understanding and accepting this feeling state. The next step is taking action. Examples could be: talking to someone you trust, physical activity to use up the stored and charged energy, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or talking to your doctor or therapist. Self management and self care further adds to your self worth and overall well being.
If you would like my help managing your anxiety, or learning tips on self-management and care, I am available to support you at convenient hours during the day and evenings.
Testimonials from Lillian's Clients
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