I hated talking about my feelings. Ugh. Sharing my inner world. It was awful. This is how I felt up till my early thirties or so.
But I would have times of intense depression and desperation and the psychiatric medications I took weren’t enough to completely numb it. There was this idea I had that when you have an emotional or mental problem you “get help”. Like some kind of magical solution happens when you “get help”.
At that time “getting help” meant therapy to me. Going to some kind of expert, a professional. So despite the dread, I would motivate myself to seek out a therapist. This happened a few times over the years. I would go to someone and hate the sessions and then leave feeling worse. After a few sessions I just couldn’t bring myself to go back. When I stopped seeing that person I felt I had failed at “getting help”.
One main reason I felt worse after these sessions was because I had so much repressed pain that would start to surface and I had no idea how to talk about it. I didn’t understand it at all.
But there were other reasons. I felt like a sick patient in those sessions. It was also awkward because I would be blocked and it was hard to talk and the therapist would stare at me waiting for me to say something. The pressure was difficult for me. Sometimes I would share what was happening in my life and would feel I was being psychoanalyzed and would get further labeled or diagnosed. They wanted to pick apart my childhood and my relationship with my parents and that was excruciating to me.
I was intimidated by them. But I could sometimes sense their fear of me too, of my self-destructiveness, of how traumatized I was (even though I didn’t really know it then myself). Other times I would feel the person’s projection on me and I knew their solutions and ideas had nothing to do with me, it was their own unresolved stuff.
But then one day I attended this short workshop on dream symbolism at a local holistic health fair. I was immediately drawn to the woman who led it. I’m going to call her Nan (not her real name). Nan radiated a certain presence. After the workshop I looked up her website and found out she gives therapy sessions in her home in my neighborhood.
I started seeing her once a week and this went on for several months.
I loved it. I loved her. I started to open up. I was coming out of my shell a little. I felt lighter and happier than I had ever felt up to this point.
Interestingly enough she seemed to have no desire to fix me or label me or even try to help me solve my problems. In fact, sometimes I would tell her about the latest health problem I suspected I had and wanted to obsess over it. She would refuse to even discuss it saying “No, we aren’t talking about that”. I would be confused and disappointed at first. Isn’t she supposed to help me figure this out? Doesn’t she see I could be sick, maybe even die? Doesn’t she see something is seriously wrong with me?
Other times I felt relieved and elated with her permission in letting go of guilt and doing what made me happy. But then I would start to blame the other person for guilting me. Again she would say “Nope, not doing that”.
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was forced to let go during those sessions. Nan refused to indulge my fearful obsessive mind and my tendency to swing from blaming myself to blaming someone else.
Sometimes on the way to our session I would feel there was no point to going. I had nothing to talk about and nothing was going on. Those times we would just sit silently together, no pressure or expectation for anything to talk about. Out of nowhere I would start talking about something seemingly random that happened to me recently. And then I realized that yes, something did happen and it bothered me. Nan would listen. She sometimes shared a story. Sometimes just reflect what she noticed in my sharing.
After a few months, she moved away and I instinctively knew it was time for me to move on even though I struggled with losing her. (After this I went on to the work I'm doing now which has given me a depth of knowing that was unimaginable and unattainable for me at that time of seeing Nan)
So why was Nan’s approach to therapy so helpful to me while all the others weren’t? Some therapists I went to had successful careers, books published, and advanced degrees in psychology. Nan didn’t have these things, she was a retired social worker.
It took me years to understand why this woman had such an impact on me.
The two things that stand out to me:
She Respected Me
She Was Present
It seems so simple. But it is profound. Why? Because in order to give these things to me she had to have done it for herself first. That takes focused inner work and wisdom. Can that come just from learning psychology? Can respect and presence come by studying ourselves or another solely through mental concepts and elaborate mental explanations and strategies? No, not in my experience is this possible.
I see it as a deep, very honest, and mystical personal exploration inward. It’s facing the unknown, over and over. And over and over. Until it begins to be more of a way of life. In the unknown we inevitably come to layers of fears and pain from the past. Transforming what we come across frees us and we no longer need to project that onto others.
At that time of seeing Nan, I had not yet learned to respect myself. I had not yet learned to be present with myself. She modeled this for me though. I was not a broken human being that she had to fix and put back together, even though sometimes I wanted her to. She taught me without teaching me. She did what was easy and natural for her. Because of this, I was not a burden to her. I was paying her for a service she provided, yet she refused to take on my worries and fears.
Was she perfect? No. Could she help me understand what was driving my obsessiveness and my guilt and blame? Could she help me see the truth behind my dependence on medications? No. That wasn’t her purpose for me though. That came later when I started working with Mada Dalian. That’s when I started to uncover in myself the respect and presence that I continue to deepen and grow today.
I don’t blame those other therapists for not being able to help me. How could they? They were suffering deeply themselves. In some ways they were also a reflection of myself.
I know now that LOVE is not what we think it is.
I write this in gratitude to all who have guided me towards the next step, regardless of their level of awareness. Most of all to my teacher, Mada.
Sometimes it's our clarity that allows us to see the issues and lack of sensitivity in another person's behavior towards us.
But If we stay fixated on blaming them for our own stress & unhappiness then we lose contact with true reality. We haven't seen what the situation and person is there to teach us.
If you are reading this thinking your situation is an exception. If I were you, I would think again. You might very well be staring straight into the liberation you've been asking for and telling it….
“What is this situation here to show me?” is a question I use often. But I have to mean it when I ask it. I have to really WANT to know.
If this resonates on some level with you but seems very difficult: Have you first acknowledged, and fully expressed and felt any blame, hurt, anger, judgments, and self-judgments? This is how we compassionately and bravely take full responsibility for ourselves. For all we experience.
Another way to avoid reality and liberating yourself is to sugarcoat or spiritualize the situation. We can do this by trying really hard to or pretending to be loving, accepting, forgiving, grateful...when inside we actually feel very differently.
If you allow the challenge to deeply transform you, you may be shocked to experience a spontaneous gratitude for the asshole :)
Thank you for all your strength. For all the times you had to go into battle and face harm and even death. For all the hard work you have done under the pressure to provide and to protect.
For thousands of lifetimes, you have had to be the strong one. The one who knew all the answers. The one who took charge. Who fixed it all. Who could never show weakness. You have had to stay on guard for so long.
I know it takes time for the armor to come off. It’s not fair to expect you to suddenly rip it all off at once. It will come off when you are ready. You decide.
I know these are confusing times for you. First, you had to carry the job of being the bigger sex. Now there are messages out there telling you to make yourself small and be obedient. That it's wrong to be powerful.
You are seen as both, God and the Devil.
It's not just women. You too have also been manipulated and used. Projected upon. You experience deep pain and fear too.
Personally, I disagree that it’s your job to fix “patriarchy”.
I also know you have been shamed for your sexual desire and yet told it makes you a "real man”.
You feel pressure to perform and know what to do, without any guidance. Unrealistic expectations that no human could satisfy, much less experience love.
Vulnerability is a challenge for me. For you, that challenge is multiplied, many times over.
I think it’s so perfect and beautiful to be a woman. And it's so perfect and beautiful that you are a man.
I don't want us to be the same or to always agree or see life the same way. How boring would that be?
Thank you men. For teaching me to be compassionate and understanding. Thank you men for pushing me to find my strength and independence. To take responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings. And my boundaries. Most of all thank you for teaching me that my choices are my own.
I know the moments of power struggles and those little battles will still happen. But even when it's chaotic and messy, deep down I still remain so grateful for all of it. So grateful for you being you.
I have seen so clearly that we were never meant to save each other and satisfy each other's expectations. But instead to help know and love ourselves. And share our self-knowledge, presence, and love with each other.
I love our dance of interdependence.
Dear Men, you are essential. Essential to everything.
You are one half of this earthly experience. You are one half of me. I'm so glad you exist!
To all men, I just simply love you.
**This one felt too personal to use a stock image for. So I dug out some old photographs that I took and processed a long time ago in a college photography class. The model is my then-boyfriend. Back then I thought being naked was all it took to be intimate.
One of the most manipulative social ideologies I've witnessed in recent years is this idea of Privilege.
It gets split up into factions too
You name it, we can take any advantage a person has and attach the word privilege to it.
Issues such as racism, sexism, class-ism, homophobia; these have created much pain on this planet. But can we truly heal by just turning the tables on who has the power over others? Creating mental simplistic labels and imposing them on another without any genuine connection to them as a human being diminishes them (and ourselves). Diminishing a person solely for being a financially successful white male is not that different than diminishing the precious being that happens to be a transsexual woman with dark skin.
Personally I love being inclusive when it feels authentic to me! When it feels real there is joy and expansion in it. But if I’m being inclusive only based on trying to avoid being socially ostracized, labelled, or judged than I’m not being inclusive at all. Because I'm excluding myself. I’m conforming out of fear.
The chaos, anger, and pain that continues to surface in the collective makes the times we are living in ideal for doing our inner healing work.
Chaos precedes clarity. Pain surfaces when we are ready to heal and break free of something.
Anger too can be a good sign. For example I was in a relationship years ago and would experience sudden bouts of intense anger at my partner. I was reacting to my partner's subtle but controlling behavior. The anger meant progress because in the past I was submissive and focused on how to please the man in my life. My inner power was rising up but it was chaotic. I knew I needed to work with my anger because it wasn’t fair to my partner to throw my personal history of repressed frustration and pain at him.
When I worked with my anger and frustration triggered by him I saw that there was still an insecurity in me that was looking to men to validate my self-worth. I realized that I was unconsciously expecting him to give me love and validation. I also saw how much pain he was struggling with. When I started looking inside and waking up my ability to love and validate myself I stopped having all those heated power struggles and have attracted healthier and less volatile relationship dynamics. I experienced much more mutual respect with everyone in my life.
If I would have concluded that it was his “mansplaining” or "male privilege" that was the problem and that's that, I would have continued to outsource my personal power. I would have also had to face the pain of my inner conscience for participating in violence towards another.
One practice I do is to observe my mind and my thoughts. Over the years in doing this inner work and observing my mind I've come to recognize that anytime I have repeating thoughts about how someone did this or that to me I know there is something for me to see about myself related to that situation. When this happens it's an opportunity to break free of something that has been limiting me. The person or situation is just the trigger.
This doesn't mean there was no injustice or wrong doing in the first place. There is injustice AND we can learn and grow from it.
Something else that I see a lot and often comes with the ideology of privilege:
You owe it to use your voice to speak up for those less fortunate than you.
Who says we owe anything to anyone? Who decides that? Can compassion be imposed on us from outside of us? Does it follow rules about who deserves or who doesn't?
It can take time to genuinely start to question or see through these things, especially if we've taught ourselves not to question.
I was so use to following the crowd because it's how I've survived that when I tried to find my own voice I would cry because of how impossible it seemed. There was so much clutter in my mind and energy.
But I persisted. I have been releasing so many layers of mental programmings, ideologies, beliefs, outside opinions, judgments (about myself and others), etc. As I've done this my inner voice (my intuition) has become much stronger and clearer.
I may want to stand up for another person or group. I may not. But I alone am responsible for that decision.
I know that I can only make a conscious impact if I’m learning to take greater and greater responsibility for my life and my own individual and unique self-empowerment.
Here are a few similar blogs I've written:
The Game of Women's Empowerment (If you don't mind a rant mid-way about being accused of belonging to a cult)
How to Spot A Manipulator (I think this one freaks people out a little, but it's one of my favorites)
Adventures in Dating (If you like hearing stories about my love life, or my almost love life)
Leela Haris ~ E x p a n d i n g Consciousness