Many of us begin to have the nagging sense at some point in our lives that something is missing, that we’re not fully alive. Even if we have ticked all the boxes for ‘happy’, whatever that may mean to us, we can still find that life exists in a variety of different shades of grey, rather than in the glorious technicolour of our childhood. There is a sense of dragging ourselves through our life, rather than being propelled on by the unstoppable life force we know we had in the past, or that we see in others. We experience stress, but we’re not sure quite why – there is no obvious threat – yet we feel wary and fearful. There is a sense that something is wrong – that we ourselves are wrong in some way. We’re not able to fully expand in to the life that is there waiting for us. Our dreams and visions fade away as we live a life constrained by our fears and limiting thought processes. How has this happened?
One way of looking at this is that, by the time we reach adulthood, we have hidden away many different aspects of ourselves that didn’t serve us as we were growing up. These hidden parts of ourselves never see the light of day, they live in the darkness and form our shadow. In childhood as we grow up we go through an essential process of putting away the parts of ourselves that are not acceptable to those around us, and only showing the parts that are appreciated. We often start by putting away things we may think of as ‘bad’ such as anger or selfishness, jealousy or greed, but sometimes it may be ‘good’ things that we put out of sight too.
Sometimes the people around us may have shamed us for some of our shining qualities such as confidence, spontaneity or leadership so they get put away too. By the time we are adults we are only presenting certain sides of ourselves to the world and other aspects of our personality have been locked away. We’ve hidden them from others, and often we’ve also hidden them from ourselves.
Initially it can really serve us to keep these parts of ourselves away from the world, and we may do very well and be liked by those around us, we may find a partner, raise a family, have a successful career and we may enjoy building on the sides of ourselves that we are proud of. We keep our favoured characteristics on show, and keep the sides of ourselves we are uncomfortable with hidden.
However, as we drag these unwanted parts of ourselves around with us we spend more and more time and energy trying to keep them hidden from the world. Even so, it’s pretty much impossible to keep these unwanted sides of ourselves out of sight all the time, and we can find them slipping out in difficult ways that we can’t control. Then we have to work even harder to cover our tracks and keep them hidden. We end up not feeling whole, so we become at war with ourselves, trying not to be who we really are,and losing touch with essential aspects of our nature.
In this way life can have a sense of getting harder and more painful, and this gets worse the older we get. When we suffer significant setbacks in life such as loss, sickness, or other life challenges we may realise we simply don’t have the resources to cope anymore. The sides of ourself we’ve embraced in the past no longer serve us. We need access to those aspects of our personality that we have been denying. We are ready to face the challenges and the risks of accepting the parts of ourselves we have been frightened of or ashamed of in the past, in order to have access to the rich resources hidden there. All parts of us are valuable and necessary if we are to live a rich and rewarding life. So it is time to begin this courageous journey. To reclaim our wholeness and to heal the wounds that prevent us from being all of who we really are.
“It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”
“Become aware of what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it, and give birth to it”.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own soul. We do not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious”
“A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.”
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