Childhood "stuff," fear and self-hatred, and procrastination/perfectionism
A recovering friend once took me through a little exercise. I was in the same self-lacerating mode — mercilessly berating myself for alternating sessions of procrastination and fruitless, obsessively perfectionistic work — that I've been in this week and couldn't get out of that mindset. Called him, overcoming tremendous resistance to doing anything kind for myself.
And so he asked me to concentrate my mind and heart on someone -- a pet, a child, etc, -- who I wouldn't want to suffer. My kids came to mind. He then asked me to picture my kids hurting, suffering ... "can you see them? Yes? Now ... what do you feel?" I said that I hurt because they hurt; I feel only love and compassion for them, I want to comfort them and help them. And he said: "that love and compassion? ... that's you, Ian. That's the real you. That other voice telling you you're shit — that's your disease, glorying in and stoking the flames of your pain with lies. That's Mara, the Evil One — that's ego, thought, mind, clinging desire, masquerading as truth."
And just like that, he'd flipped an internal dynamic that has dominated me for most of my life.
I've always identified with the suffering child; I could always see myself in that position — always felt overmatched and beleaguered, alone, abandoned, forsaken. That is how I felt as a kid — today I can and do feel compassion for the "adults" who raised me, but the truth was that as a child my caregivers weren't able to do much real parenting, nor were they able to model successful, fulfilling adult lives.
It follows, then, that I've never identified with the "good" parent, who provides the safety, security, guidance and modeling that a child needs. Nor have I ever seen myself as a competent, confident grown-up living a successful, fulfilling adult life. I've always seen myself as a beleaguered kid trying to act the part of the grown-up, and not be caught as a fake.
So my friend's neat trick showed me that I do actually have the "good" parent within me — the makings of it, the love and compassion and devotion and williingness to do all I can provide my loved ones (including me, the little guy part of me) what they need; the strong desire to be of service to the loved child.
Maybe if I practice noticing and awakening this part of myself, I will be better able to trust myself and higher power, better able to let go and let god, and better able to grow, take risks, move toward owning my life in an honest-to-god adult way.
Thanks to vic for helping me remember all this; I need it today.
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Awesome - this really spoke to me. May I quote the first part to friends on my lj?
Thank you for sharing. I believe we all have these meltdown phases. Remember "This too shall pass". The fact that you can step out and see it is proof of recovery. E. Tolle explains it so well as the that "pain body" that needs to feed.
Check out this site, 12 step meditations ,really helps in the awaking part of yourself.
I need to remember too. Every day I forget. But it's ok we remind each other.
PS Even "wanting" to be a good parent makes you one. Today providing the safety, security, guidance and modeling don't work anymore, it is a whole new world out there.
@vic - thanks, I needed that.
Read your comment yesterday, but I'm more able to hear it today.
Yesterday was a real "meltdown" day. Strong feelings of despair, which always provoke a profound resistance to taking any positive action. When I don't take positive action anyway — when I'm not willing to tell myself "Maybe I'm wrong; maybe my negative thinking and feelings of hopelessness aren't true; maybe I'm not seeing things correctly" and then move to get a reality check from someone else — I just move farther and farther away from reality and feel worse and worse. By evening yesterday, when more extended family visited, I was practically vibrating with self-loathing. I was reminded that my "soul sickness" is life-threatening; that I've gone through periods in which I just say "I don't think I can stand being alive and experiencing this for too much longer." Not in serious suicidal ideation, but just a step or two away.
Feel a little better today. I may or may not lose this client; I may or may not overcome these issues and salvage my career. I may have to find an alternate means to support my family and whatever that might be, it might not provide as comfortable a living as I could make if I could just learn how to be consistently productive in my current career.
But I don't have to suffer like this — I don't have to choose to identify with a "pain body" inside that says I'm an okay human being only if everyone in my field thinks I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. (thanks for reminding me of Eckhart Tolle -- his writing on the "pain body" is one of the most powerful things I've ever read.)
I love my kids, and — at least at this point — they are happy, thriving children. They seem ... intact, in a way I'm quite sure I wasn't when I was their age. I can take comfort in the fact that I'm a pretty good dad, and even in the fact that their mother and I are still together — albeit in a marriage that's strained far past its pound-test limit — and present for the kids every day.
And I can practice presence, work the Steps, use the tools — and maybe find out more about who I really am, beneath the illusion my pain body protects so fiercely.
Thank you. Today, I am in my meltdown. I cannot find my cell phone, have been looking all morning, all the other defects I have have been surfacing, and the self loathing pain body seems spronger than the recovery part of me. I feel exactly like what you wrote above:"Strong feelings of despair, which always provoke a profound resistance to taking any positive action." Knowing that you have moved past this phase gives me some hope and courage to say I am feeling this way and not alone, maybe that is what we have to do is feel it.
Anyway, have to go to airport phone or no phone.
What is to give light must endure burning.
Viktor E. Frankl
pm had a remarkable wrap up. I too moved past the pain body with prayer/hp. It started here when I became willing to be willing.