Going Back Into The Maze Voluntarily
The journey towards our authentic self is often rewarded with a deepening sense of freedom, joy and love. Temporary peak states, plateaus and times of ecstasy or flow give a taste of what is waiting behind our conditioning, fear and comfort zone.
But the more light we invite into our lives, the greater also the shadows on the wall appear to become. In this context it is helpful to distinguish emotions and feelings. Intense emotions – in the sense of unresolved, often physically stored feelings from the past – come up and might give us the impression that we haven’t developed at all or are even regressing or developing a mental illness. But instead of going crazy, this is rather a spiritual crisis or healing process and an important turning point in our personal evolution.
The limits of our conditioning
Often times we react with the same behavior patterns that we used to, when the original threatening feeling was triggered. Back then it was overwhelming, too much to deal with in a conscious way. So we did what we had to do to protect ourselves – we split off from that sensation, numbed ourselves in some way and thereby found a way to escape from the threatening situation. The price is to become unconscious, behave like we are run by automated programs (i.e. behavior patterns) and to limit our freedom to express who we are creatively and fully in the world.
I’d like to share my personal experience of this, on the one hand to reflect my own process and have the therapeutic benefit from it, but mostly to offer my insights for those of you who experience similar states and challenges at this moment.
I remember being bullied at school. I never really learned to express anger towards others. So the only way I saw to protect myself was to hide. My coping strategy was to even physiologically make myself invisible and to develop a strong internal judge as an ever present inner voice. Doing so, I hoped to protect myself from the judgement of others. If I do to myself first what I fear from others, then they might spare me! If I retreat from contact with others, they can’t exclude me! I chose to become unconscious of some aspects of my reality, because they were too much to bear. Too painful the shame, the exclusion and the threats. So I cut myself off from them. I limited my freedom and my options how to act in social situations to the degree that I didn’t go to parties, social events or openly interact with others much. By holding back my gifts, especially my sensitivity and intuition I tried to become more like others, hoping to find acceptance from them.
Many years have passed since my adolescence days. But in many ways, the behavior patterns I learned back then to protect myself are still in place when I find myself in challenging situations. And recently they came up stronger than ever. It felt like I lost all my knowledge, my spiritual tools and powerful insights which I gathered over the past decades. Also my self image regressed dramatically for the worse.
At first it was difficult for me to make the connection and realize what was happening. The outside situation I was in was fundamentally different from what I experienced as a teenager. And yet I felt deep existential fear and threat. The feelings seemed so real, even though I spotted my thoughts to be overly critical, pessimistic and even unrealistic or plain wrong. Especially the negative judgements about myself deviated from the perception and feedback from others tremendously. And I began to develop a sense that my thoughts are not actually true and realistic, even though it was hard to truly feel and accept it.
At one point I realized that the feelings were exactly the same as the ones I had in the past or came up even stronger. I felt like being trapped in a prison, like a grey shadow clouding not only my experience and capacity for joy in life but also my abilities, intuition, creativity, insight, cognitive capacity and interpersonal competencies – which made me feel even less worthy and lovable. I realized how making myself smaller and adapting to the mediocracy around me used to be a strategy to be loved by becoming more similar. I couldn’t figure out how to get back to my strength.
Shame is the gatekeeper – vulnerability is the key
These old emotions now coming up so strongly for many of us are actually an invitation. Now that we have the capacity to hold much more light, we have the opportunity to stay conscious with what is, as an observer and witness, to infuse the experience with awareness. The invitation is actually to not shut down, to feel the painful feelings again consciously. Thereby we can slowly choose not to fall back to our old behavior patterns and we have the opportunity to make new choices. We can generate more options on how we want to react and thereby change our feelings and reality. The shadows we project might just disappear and what we feared would happen doesn’t happen at all or feels much different than what we thought it would.
For me, the most important step and threshold was to show myself vulnerably with what I am going through. Instead of shutting down completely and retreating from social interactions, I showed up and shared openly with some close friends and my family how I was feeling. I let them in on all the self-doubts and fears I was experiencing. And the fear of being excluded and judged didn’t happen at all. I was welcomed with acceptance and love. By being reassured of the love of others even for these shame inducing feelings, I could slowly accept them myself somewhat more.
It was a constant choice and struggle not to collapse but to accept what is. The witness capacity within myself that was there, at times even just to a small degree and faint idea, took the role of the adult being there for the wounded inner child. Holding myself and giving myself permission to witness and to love that part in myself that I have been so deeply ashamed of was not an easy task and still is a challenge at times.
Voluntarily going back into the maze
Why would anyone choose to go back to these deeply painful emotions? I believe, because we feel a call to a freedom that is much greater than anything we have ever experienced before. We are becoming aware of the matrix around us which we never noticed, like the water that surrounds the fish. We can develop completely new behavior options for our lives. What we need to do is to embrace our wound, love the hurt child from the position of the adult we are today and take our responsibility to protect it. We can allow ourselves much greater freedom to express who we are since we become less dependent on the opinion of others.
Willingness to face our pain
Our culture is primed to look for a quick fix, a remedy of the symptoms to make the pain go away by swallowing an easily available pill. But at some point this strategy fails to provide a cure and just disconnects us from who we are by numbing the pain. More of the same and ever increasing costs of side effects lay the path for a deeper truth to find it’s way. And at some point we have to face our fear and open our hearts for the pain that is waiting in the shadow to be felt. We are forced to be who we truly are with all our dualistic labels of darkness and light. We cannot hold back any longer by pretending to be smaller or greater than we are.
This is the point where we might realize, that the deepest wound we carry and the resulting core shadow we created is actually the greatest gift we have – for ourselves and the world. In dealing with our shadow we developed unique skills and capacities that are of great value for others. In healing that shadow and learning to love our weaknesses we can contribute something unique to the world. Our shadow can become the rocket fuel for our growth and awakening.
The reward on the other side of fear
If we find a way to contribute something to the world that is related to this wound or the competencies we developed from dealing with it, we have tapped into a virtually unlimited source of energy. It becomes part of our healing process in helping us to reframe our biography. In this way, we can realize that we are powerful creators instead of helpless victims.
This way of healing can be a project or a vocation that supports people who have experienced what you have and help them in their healing process. It can also be a contribution so that others don’t have to experience what you created for yourself. It is so personally related to who you are that you will need to be unapologetically and fully who you are to make this project successful. And in that way, your project will help you to uncover who you truly are on the path. Since personal growth is one of the strongest drivers for why we do what we do, this creates an enormous source of motivation and energy for your work in the world.
By being there for ourselves, cultivating self-love and holding our inner child and hurt parts of ourselves, we become more independent from the opinions of others. This freedom enables us to be a lot more creative and daring in how we show up in the world. It will be powerfully reflected in the success of your work.
Announcement: Conscious Creation Program 2.0
I redesigned the Conscious Creation Program into a 10 session one-on-one curriculum that starts by identifying your core shadow and how to turn it into your greatest power source. Together we focus on how to create a “project” or a vocation that unveils who you are on the path. You will create something unique in the world that is a representation of who you truly are.
This program is exactly that for me. It is what makes it truly unique and so powerful. It is only suitable for a few selected people who are willing to go this deep and are at this point in there lives. If this resonates with you or you know someone who will benefit from the program, please contact me for a free first coaching session.