"It takes courage to grow up
and become who you really are."
This mind-body program I'm entering into called "Releasing the Past" is kicking my mind and intellect out of the way to focus on my subconscious, where all of my patterns first began. This primary brain exists within every one of us, and helped to form our identities based on the fact that we were sponges absorbing everything spoken and unspoken by our guardians and environments — all before the age of seven.
I've learned that human beings are the only animals on this planet who do not have an instinctual understanding of who we are and how to survive at birth. As babies, we're wholly dependent upon our caretakers to help us live, and by the luck of the draw, we either had conscious parental figures to create the archetypes of how we take care of our selves (mothers) and how our relationships with others develop (fathers), or we had less than ideal individuals showing us how to navigate our ways in the world. Without a choice in the matter, we were along for the ride.
Now, I have an opportunity to go back and reprogram everything in a way that enables me to live my truth now. Either unfortunately or fortunately, my parents were not those conscious individuals, but I don't blame them anymore, which was perhaps something I resolved in psychotherapy, or something that came about after witnessing my parents evolve over the years. The developments and acknowledgements both my mother and father have made about their mistakes is a testament to the fact that you really are never too old to change or to make amends.
The question now becomes, do I have what it takes to truly heal and embrace my power?
Initially, I'd say yes. I've powered through huge hurdles in my life and know that the will exists within me to thrive. Yet, going through just the beginnings of this "Releasing the Past" work has made me realize how terrified I am to revisit the experiences and relationships that contributed so substantially to an all-consuming battle with various versions of eating disorders, as well as making choices in relationships and career that kept me tamped down in darkness.
It's forcing me to look at the effects of my upbringing, which I thought I'd already processed. And, it's bringing deep clarity on the difference between healing versus coping. Similar to what my business coach said about affirmations being "icing on a shit pie," Barry (the mind-body expert I'm working with) points out that affirmations and this quest for spirituality can indeed be coverings on ingrained beliefs, so that there's always some sort of mismatch or "lack of congruency." Basically, I'm battling myself at the very core.
And, this is coming from a woman who's dedicated her adult life to being "better" through healing modalities and greater learnings. Am I running, running, running as hard as I can to get to where I think I want to be? Have I ever really turned around and put my hands up, standing firm on new ground that my past templates cannot possibly dictate my future any longer?
"Y'know, I notice that you're a really joyful person, Judy. You laugh a lot," Barry told me the other day. "I don't doubt that you are happy, but it does make me wonder if this isn't perhaps a coping technique? That because your mother was so dark and bitter, you did everything you could to be the exact opposite? I ask this, because sometimes your reaction to the things we talk about aren't quite congruent."
Every time I see my craniosacral healer, he says in a thick Scottish brogue, "Now, I'm going to say something, and if it feels like it fits, great. If it doesn't, just let it go." And what I learned in yoga teacher training is that if something is true for you, it rings with an unmistakable sound in your body and soul. I couldn't help but think more upon what Barry said.
During high school, it seemed that each and every morning, my mother would berate me as she drove me to school, telling me about all the things that I was doing wrong and how horrible of a person I was. 12 minutes later, we would be pulling up to the front of Beverly Hills High and I would be on the verge of tears, a huge unmovable lump in my throat. I'd get out of the car, walk through the front doors of school, and a friend would come say, "hello." Right when that happened, I'd smile the tears away and not speak of what had just happened. I became really good at pretending.
When I took an acting class, just for the fun of it, in my mid-20s, I'd get great feedback from my fellow classmates. "You're a natural," they would say. "You're so good at this!" And in my head, I would think that I had at least 25 years of practice. I could be whoever you wanted me to be, without you saying a word, because I became so good at reading your body language and intuiting what you needed to make you happy, that I internally shape-shifted to fit your vibe. I came to believe that if I made you happy, you would in turn not do anything to harm me. This is how I learned to watch out for my parents preparing to fight, how to duck out of the way, or put on a show, so that they would become distracted enough that maybe, for just another few minutes, they would forget what they were so angry about in order to eventually not take it out on me or my siblings.
When I finally arrived at psychotherapy for my eating disorder in my mid-to-late 20s, my therapists would tell me that they needed to be on their toes, because I would tell them exactly what they wanted to hear for them to think that I was getting better. It was such a seamless process that even professionals had a hard time deciphering what was real and what was my way of asking to be accepted and loved.
"Who would you be if you didn't have the archetypes that were set for you by your mother and your father?" Barry asked.
Suddenly, I was lost. I thought that being on this yogic path, I've been learning exactly who I am for years. I know intuitively when something is right and when it is not the right fit for me. But here I was, being asked who I would be if I could be who I am from scratch. And, I wasn't sure what to say. Would I actually aim to be this happy all the time? Would I truly devote my life to inspiring healing and joy in others if I didn't know what it was like to suffer and not have a way out for so long?
We learn in yoga that your soul chooses to come here, to do what it is meant to do as part of its mission in this lifetime to burn off karma and samskaras. We learn to thank those who challenge us the most, because they are what is bringing us closer to enlightenment. To that end, we can thank our parents for volunteering to be the bodies that brought our souls into existence and that they did what they did, because it made us who we are today.
But is this who I want to be? Why am I still filled with doubt that I am worthy and lovable? It doesn't matter how many friends tell me what my positive attributes are, or how many students come to me with compliments for my teaching abilities. At the end of the day, I am with me. As far as I have come from where I once was, I still choose to be in relationships that treat me disrespectfully and I still choose to live in the shadow of my fullest potential. I have not yet owned my power, my beauty, my sexuality, my heart, my humor, my soul, my spirit, my entire being.
I keep giving my power away.
And that is where Barry comes in, to ask me if that's really what I want to keep doing from now on. Do I want to keep allowing others to dictate my present? Do I really need anyone else to tell me what is good for me, to give me permission for being me, for giving input on what will add to my life and what will detract from it? Do I still need someone to affirm what resonates with me as truth versus something I feel like I "should" be doing?
It is amazing how much my mind has taken over my existence. My intellect powers everything. When I was in the midst of eating disorder recovery, I told my therapist that I felt like my family and I were living on a castle with a moat around it, and that it was taking everything I had to try to let the drawbridge down, so that I could leave. And yet, even when I finally got to that point, I couldn't. As crappy as my upbringing was, walking away meant leaving everyone behind. And, this was both in the actual physical present, as well as the ghosts of who we all once were. I just didn't know if I could do it. For my healing, I knew I had to, but my heart was still attached, waiting for approval and affection.
Here I am again, still making my way around the castle. Trying to get that drawbridge to stay down. The way out is open like never before and I'm standing right in the midst of a choice between staying behind or moving forward. This is what it's like when you have a hard time letting go. This standing still between two worlds where I am an adult woman feeling like there's a whole life to live that I'm not taking full advantage of, as well as being a little girl tugged back towards the life that never happened the way she had hoped.
Do I have what it takes to embrace all of my power? Can I overcome my ego the way that Barry keeps reminding me is the hardest battle that I will ever fight?
"You are now Arjuna," he says.
I am a warrior.
I don't know how the battles will look, and I've already lost a few this weekend. But I'm picking myself up. And that's the point, that the only thing that will stop me is to stop, and that it's time to let go of this idea of "being the good girl" and doing everything right.
Being the good girl never saved me. Being the fighter, did.