Sunday, February 22, 2015

No urgency on the path of love

As little ones, we put forth our best effort to make meaning of our experience – weaving a dynamic narrative about ourselves, others, and the world: I am not enough. I am not worthy of love. Something is wrong with me. I cannot trust others to be there for me. The world is not a safe place. It's too dangerous to reveal my vulnerability. I'll be alone forever. It's not okay to be sad. It's unsafe to feel angry. 

As we slow down, bring a pause into our busy lives, get curious, stay embodied, and offer ourselves the gifts of space and kindness to carefully explore our experience, we can come to discover the specific beliefs that are limiting us, and preventing us from resting in our true nature. These 'internal working models' (as they are referred to in the attachment literature) are quite old, very embedded, and do not yield easily. It takes clear seeing and tender kindness to unwind them. It also requires that we be willing to not shame, judge, or admonish ourselves for these beliefs, but see that they served an adaptive function, helping us to navigate and make sense of misattunement, lack of mirroring, and empathic failures in our families of origin. 

As these early beliefs begin to illuminate, we can start to inquire into whether they are an accurate reflection of what is most true. We can see that while they may have served certain survival needs in the past, whether we need their support any longer. We can then begin to explore an alternative vision that might be more accurate, more skillful, and more kind – one that arises from our adult-level capacities instead of stories told by a little one who was in survival mode and plagued by fight-flight-freeze reactivity. Nothing is solid. It is so wide open – your body, your brain, your nervous system, and your heart. 

It is common that as we come to know these beliefs and how they have been functioning in our lives as the lens through which we see ourselves, others, and the world, we can become hyper-aggressive toward ourselves, setting out on a grand mission to remove them from body and mind as quickly as possible. But this urgent activity is usually not very kind, often just more of the same, repeating the pattern of how our emotions were related to as young children – and is sure to keep them in place and entrench them even deeper. 

While there is a very genuine part of us that wants to change, to rewire, and to heal these old patterns, there is often another part that is not so sure. This is the case, I believe, as on some level we know that to truly transform these archaic organizing beliefs would require that we come face to face with every feeling, emotion, and sensation they have helped us to avoid. No more hiding. The only way out is through. Additionally, such transformation can trigger a certain primordial, existential anxiety and groundlessness – who would I be if I was not the unworthy one? The unlovable one? The guarded one? The complaining one? The one who can no longer blame my experience on another? What sort of responsibility would I have – toward myself, others, and the world – if these old identities dissolved? 

Please remember that the journey of the heart and of healing is not a 'goal' for you to approach with self-aggression and more shame and judgment. You need not add it to your endless to-do list and never-ending project of self-improvement, which you can then beat yourself up for, for not doing right. You are not broken and are not in need of some urgent fixing – and you need no longer relate to yourself and your experience with fundamental aggression. This is the old wiring. But with care and compassion, you can set down the neural groove of kindness, of mindfulness, and of presence, while simultaneously pushing yourself a bit, with an unconditional commitment to finally meeting, holding, and staying with what is alive in the radiant here and now. Not so that you can 'fix' yourself, but because you care, and are so curious about this life, about others, and about this world. 

You are not a project which needs to be resolved. You are eternal. This is the work of a lifetime and there is no urgency on the path of love. 

Photo by Reddit user sillygoose08 – Step 2: take over the world