Kicking the habit
I have looked at the title of this post for a couple of days now. It came to me when I was thinking about how much lighter I have been feeling lately. I knew what I meant when I wrote it, and, for some reason, I did not feel like explaining myself. In fact, as I write this now I am becoming grumpy. "Why don’t you all just know what I mean already?" I complain to myself in silence. "Why do I have to explain everything?" Of course that is absurd, because I am really talking to myself. It is not about explaining to you, out there, the reader. It is about how I confront this and understand it for myself. After all, I cannot kick a habit if I do not understand where it comes from and why I might not need it any longer.
Much of what I have been doing these past few years in therapy, and on my blog, is trying to understand the emotional memory conditioning I sustained in early childhood, and how it was necessary for my survival. Getting to know my survival habits. Those never-ending repetitive cycles – knee jerk reactions, within and without, to situations or interactions with significant people in my life. Exploring my delusions of self control when, in fact, I was feeling and reacting, seemingly, without choice.
Gradually, as I learned that I have a choice in how I view my reality, it began, very slowly, to dawn on me – literally, to shed light in front of me – and I was able to test out different ways of feeling or reacting about things. And so, it might feel as if one morning I awoke and suddenly I was lighter, baggage of my old emotional self shed and left behind on the path somewhere up in Northern England a few weeks ago. But, in fact, it has been a very long time coming, and has taken much hard work.
The way I see it is quite simple really. Bob-the-therapist described it to me over and over again and although cognitively I understood what he was saying, it did not seem to touch me on an emotional level. Bob spent a lot of time in therapy showing me that the collective family view, myth or stories about me, had absolutely nothing to do with the reality of who I am. It had everything to do with the way people chose to view me, and, more specifically, the way they tried to squeeze me back into a mold they needed to create in their minds about me. In order to survive, I developed a kind of script that went something like this: I must believe their world view, story, labels, beliefs, Truth about me, because a) they are bigger, older, stronger, more intelligent than I am, and, b) I need them to survive, and that is the only way they will love me.
Between January and March this year events took place within the family system that I am not going to go into here in any detail. However, for some reason all those hours and years of therapy and self-alteration, finally, kicked in.
I got it!
Just like that. Something snapped inside and I realized that each and every family member is entitled to their view or belief about me. They are also entitled to react the way that they do. In all that transpired absolutely nothing had changed. The repetitious cycle was crystal clear. The only thing that changed was the way I saw it. I realized, emotionally as well as cognitively, felt it throughout my being, that all the subtleties of interactions had absolutely nothing to do with who I am. It was not personal.
Ooh, it was painful. I cried, I raged, I hurt. For the full month of March, driving to and from work, in the shower, walking in the woods, going shopping, doing yoga, preparing dinner – whatever I was doing, I would burst into uncontrollable, violent sobbing. It felt as if my heart and soul were breaking. In fact, nothing was breaking at all. I was more intact than I had ever been. Instead, I was allowing the shield of illusion around me to disintegrate, rays of light to push through the cracks. Letting it out was like giving up the only real defense mechanism I had owned. It meant growing up, throwing out childhood notions and becoming an adult. It was exactly like the metaphor Bob, and my friend, Susan, had created for me years ago in Buffalo – I was like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. I was, literally, kicking the habit out of me.
It is not that I see myself as a perfect angel. Indeed, I am as full of all kinds of feelings, notions and behaviors that are as complex as anyone can have. I just do not see myself as all those names I have been called any longer – "rubbisher," "liar," "disloyal," "femme fatale," "destroyer," "Sephardi (whatever that means)" … and so on. More than that, I am able to see significant people in my life in a much more compassionate, complex and holistic manner, understanding that their view of me is clouded by their own vulnerabilities and insecurities, sadly for some of them, blinding them to who I really am. It has brought them all down to an equal size, no one larger or greater than me. Just all of us human beings like everyone else! All of us in this crazy, confusing, unexplainable, mysterious life together. No one solution for everything. No one size fits all. A great big messy mish-mash. And all we can hold onto, or know for sure, is loving relationships.
As I allow myself to shed those ancient molds, the family-system-created-role for myself, I find space to explore what I want and need, where to make necessary emotional changes, or how to open up to loving relationships that are so important for what remains of my life’s journey. I can tell where I am deserving, and past exclusions or losses of birth right become superficial trappings in the grand scheme of things. For I am able to create my own birth right, my own home, my own safe, emotional space within me.
As I allow myself to shed those ancient molds, the family-system-created-role for myself, I let go of so much of the burdens of shame and guilt acquired along the way – for those, too, were part of the illusions, myths, ancient stories I chose to believe about me – weighing me down and blocking emotional freedom and availability.
Kicking the habit, undoing all that emotional conditioning is tough. It is on-going, challenging and painful. It seems to take forever. However, there really is light at the end of the tunnel, a way up and out of the abyss, and dawn at the edge of night and break of day.
And, I suspect, that from now on it is just going to be a whole lot easier.
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: A real and serious blogger