Monday, July 8, 2013

Excerpt from a letter to a friend, pt. 2

...How deeply do the circumstances of our childhood condition us, I wonder? And, as we've been reflecting on, how much of our chosen pursuits are initially motivated by a negative: 

"I'm doing this because I'm afraid that if I don't, I'll end up like that."

That fear has been with me for so much of my life, and to outgrow that fear feels, to me, like the first step towards living a life unburdened by rules that make no sense. These 'rules' only effect us to the extent that they are present within us, and I believe that if we are willing to do the difficult work of excavating our own inner landscape than we can re-establish a foundation of identity which is founded upon a positive affirmation of self-worth and creative possibility. No one besides us has access to our interiority, so no one else can do this work for us... and yet we can't do it alone, either. We need each other to do this, we need the support and companionship of friends along the way. 

It seems to me that some of us are born into lives that demand such inner excavation - some people do seem more innately inclined towards it than others, but nevertheless people who are born into challenging circumstances (of any variety) either have to dig deep and find a source of strength within themselves, or do their best to go numb to the pain.

Something I've been sitting with lately is the possibility that once you embark on a path of 

a) simultaneously doing your best to stay present to life (as painful as it may be) 

and b) working to overcome your situation and break whatever cycle of suffering you find yourself in

...once you set foot on that path, you've committed yourself to a lifelong journey. I don't know that it ever gets 'easier,' but it seems that we get stronger, more skillful, and more aware - more discerning about what is truly worth going into and what isn't, more able to maintain a balanced perspective even in the midst of very emotionally intense circumstances. 

For myself, I've recently had to learn how to parent myself... in other words, how to love myself. There is a facet of my own personal psychological profile which I have only recently become consciously aware of - a facet which may be the point of origin for a belief system which has prevented me from stepping into an empowered role in my own life for as long as I can remember. This facet is a little boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old, feeling scared, vulnerable, and very much in need of love. A little 'Ryan' who needs someone to protect him, someone to care for him, someone to comfort him, because he is unable to do those things for himself. 

It seems likely that this unhelpful aspect of my psychology is the result of the psycho-sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of my grandfather, although there could be other contributing factors. Whatever the case, as long as this scared little boy remained unaddressed and didn't receive the love he so desperately needed, he was looking outside of himself for care and protection. Translation: as long as I was not aware of and was not actively caring for this part of myself, I was unconsciously looking to other people in my life to take care of me. This little boy didn't believe he could protect himself or give himself what he needed, and so on some level I never believed I could achieve my goals or provide for myself. As an added twist, when this little boy didn't receive the love that he needed he came to the erroneous conclusion that he was unworthy of love, and so began seeking out (and actively creating) evidence to support that theory. Every minor transgression or deviation from the path of what I knew I 'should' do became an opportunity for negative self-talk. For so long this little boy, his need of love, his belief system, and his negative self-talk lived in my unconscious - only recently has light begun to shine into that dark internal space of mine.

Sometimes what we need doesn't make any sense: I've been talking to myself a lot lately, because I'm consciously creating a new facet of my (potentially schizophrenic) psychological profile: an inner parent, who steps in with an abundance of reassurance and comfort whenever little Ryan needs love. Yesterday morning I was sobbing with fear and pain and simultaneously speaking to myself out loud, saying: 

"It's ok, I'm going to take care of you... every day is a fresh start, and every day we're going to wake up and do our best. We're going to say nice things about ourself, not mean things... and if we forget, that's ok." 

...etc. Point being: you got this, because there's only one outcome for anyone who has gone as far as you have on the path of self-awareness and commitment to remaining open to the current of your heart's true desire. That outcome is wholeness, and that outcome is a quality of strength which means that no matter what you do, you will bring the full presence of yourself to your chosen activity and light up that space.

I think that many people who shine in that way, many people who the rest of us experience as profoundly inspirational... I think such people probably experience all the same feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, distrust (and all the rest) that we do. It seems to me that difference lies in not turning away from those feelings, but rather embracing and allowing them, and knowing that those feelings, as well as their opposites, (feelings of superiority, self-worship, etc) are just stories: stories which are founded upon a dualistic winner/loser, better/worse paradigm. That paradigm simply is not true, and when we begin to outgrow it we can then begin to receive all those little voices with love, allowing them to be but not identifying with them. More importantly, we can step into the performance of our chosen work in a story-less way, unburdened by any ideas of either sucking at it or being awesome at it... which means that we are then free to be more present to the work itself as well as to everyone else involved, with the result that we are in fact much more effective.



  1. Ryan, thanks for this. Some random thoughts:

    The part about parenting yourself really resonated with me... I tend to do a lot of negative-talk to myself. The funny part is I am great at being supportive to others...

    I keep thinking if I can only do this, or become that- then I'll be happy.
    Also, I tend to get stuck in the extremes- I am great at "_____" or I suck at "______". Neither viewpoint is particularly healthy or true.

    We just have to learn to accept ourselves and keep moving forward towards those things we know to be healthy and wholesome. And be kind and gentle "parents" if we stumble and fall... urging, coaching and guiding ourselves back onto our desired path.

    Hope you're enjoying your journey. Feel free to reach out if you ever need an extra boost... though it really seems like you are doing great!

    Much love from the states.

    1. thank you Sammy! I'm grateful for the reminder - the more we can support each other in re-writing our own psychological profiles, the more we can step into empowered roles in our own lives and live out whatever 'story' is our heart's highest desire.

      i also do everything you described, although a long practice of bringing awareness to those habits is beginning to pay off.

      let's be kind a gentle parents, indeed... happy to be connected along the path.

      love to you from australia!