We cannot be free if we don’t know what’s holding us, containing us, or chaining our feet to the ground.
We cannot be free if we don’t recognize the voices that we mistake for reality.
It’s easy to mistake the way that we think about things, even the way that we experience things, for the way that things really are.
For example, there have been times in my life that my heart grows glum and lonely. “No one likes me. Why would anyone like me? I don’t have friends.” Blue. Blah. Blech. I would accept that voice as truth. A while back, I noticed a trend. First, I listened to what this voice said: No friends. No one likes me. Next, I acknowledged that these statements aren’t true. I have dear friends. Then I noticed that this voice tends to show up on a regular basis. Like, once a month. Unfortunately, PMS is real. I named this gloomy voice: Eeyore. And ever since Eeyore got a name, Eeyore has lost a bit of its power. Oh, that’s just you Eeyore. I’m fine. You’re fine. We’re ok.
More recently, I was given a glimpse of some other voices that needed recognizing and tending to. Fear and shame appear to be best friends in my life: worried, worried little friends. One minute wringing their hands together, bemoaning the general state of things. The next moment clinging ferociously to my legs, like my little people do sometimes, making it impossible to move forward, let alone run or dance.
Fear and shame’s favorite topic of conversation? “Not Enough.” This is their main message. When I recognize “Not Enough” as the message underlying what I “hear”, I know that fear and shame are trying to run the show. I can catch those thoughts and acknowledge that they are not true.
Fear and shame say things like:
“Ohhhh. I don’t know if she can do it. Don’t try that. That will be hard. I’m not sure she has what it takes.”
“Don’t open your mouth, honey. If you do, they’ll know for sure you’re not really as [smart, kind, good, etc.] as you’d like them to think you are.”
“Aaargh!! She made a mistake!” [Picture the wicked witch of the west melting, melting into the ground–that’s how shame feels about mistakes] “Now everyone will know she’s been faking it this whole time! Not enough! I knew it!”
“Hide. Let’s hide. Maybe we can just get her to hide with us.”
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where fear begins and shame ends. They work so closely together.
I received a visual picture of what this looks like the other week: a “gift” from my daughter. My husband showed some fantastic ingenuity when we were at a hotel with our family. The head board bumped against the wall anytime we touched the bed. Hotel nights with a family of five are hard enough already. We don’t need an announcement every time someone rolls over. The husband found some hot pads from the kitchenette and stuck them between the wall and the headboard. No more sound. Perfect Solution!
“You are so smart!” I told him. “Thank you.”
Not a minute later, my daughter threw herself onto the bed, wailing and crying and thrashing around.
“Why are you crying?” we asked, bewildered by the sudden storm of 5-year-old emotion.
“You don’t think I’m smart!!” she wailed.
“You don’t think I’m smart!!” she sobbed.
Oh, dear Lord have mercy. Have mercy.
For real. Have mercy.
Because as I watched my daughter thrash around in despair, I realized that I do the same thing. (These days I keep it on the inside, but it’s still just as ugly.)
I’ve had a bad habit of hearing someone praise another person and think that I was being told in a roundabout way some of the things that I am not.
“So-and-so is such a great [fill-in-the-blank].”
I hear an added: “You are not like this. [Hint. Hint.]”
Who does that? Which of my friends tries to provide me an object lesson in my deficits by praising other people? Do I ever do that? No. My friends don’t do that either. They are just sharing something good about someone else. Enjoy the goodness. No need to worry.
I only recently recognized that the message I “hear” when I listen this way is: “Not Enough.” There it is. That’s my signal to pay attention. This isn’t real. This is fear talking. This is shame talking. And they’re not being helpful at this moment in time.
So now, when I catch them whispering or screaming their “Not Enough” message, I let them know: “Oh, Fear. Oh, Shame. It’s okay. We’re okay. We are loved. So very loved. And for today, that is Enough.”
“What is enough? When are we fulfilled? Getting better may now mean deepening our experience of what is already there. This is an inside job. ‘Enough’ is a place you can arrive and dwell in.” ~ Lynn Twist, The Soul of Money