June 18, 2009

Not long ago, I asked on this space: “Who am I?”

If someone asked you that question, what would you say? Who are you really?Are you defined by your job or your social status or your relationships in life or your aspirations?

I thought perhaps it’s first worth exploring who and what I am not.

  • I am not my thoughts.
  • I am not my emotions.
  • I am not my feelings.
  • I am not my likes.
  • I am not my dislikes.
  • I am not my parents.
  • I am not my loved ones.
  • I am not my job.
  • I am not my hatreds.
  • I am not my physical appearance.
  • I am not my memories.
  • I am not my history.
  • I am not my hopes.
  • I am not my mistakes.
  • I am not my race.
  • I am not my age bracket.
  • I am not my mind.
  • I am not my attachments.
  • I am not my perceptions.
  • I am not my reactions.
  • I am not my reputation.
  • I am not my ego.

All these things are not me. They are descriptions of me and are part of my life situation. But they are not my life because none of these are permanent. They come and go, they fade with time. And in the end I will be left with just my core self.

So I simply am. When all these filters are gone, I know that only my heart and being will be left. And I hope they will be shining with pure consciousness and presence. But I am not there yet so right now the work lies in turning unconsciousness into consciousness and always being vigilant that my mind does not maketh me.



May 21, 2009

Just realised I’ve been running at full speed on all fronts for quite a while now. Busy with work, busy with family, very busy socially.  It’s like I can hear some GA in my head going “Please keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times, because this is going to be one hell of a ride!”

There are so many things I want to do but can’t seem to find the time for. They’ll have to wait, one thing at a time. The other day I thought it was a bit ridiculous that I told a friend who wanted to have a casual dinner that I could pencil him in for the second week of June. Like wth??

On the self front, I’m learning to set boundaries with everything and everyone around me. This is something that was mentioned briefly during my sessions but I did not dwell on it until later. It’s about protecting myself and not getting hurt, frustrated, disappointed by the actions of others.

It’s about knowing that I value myself and that I deserve to be treated in a respectful and honorable manner. It’s about learning to say no and standing up for myself and not letting others walk all over me, whether it be at home, at work, or elsewhere. It is hard to set boundaries that you know involve some sort of assertion on your part because usually the outcome is not pleasant. There will be reactions and conflict because you let the other person know that they have crossed the line and are encroaching on your boundary and it upsets them because it seems like you’re not willing to help them or do things for them.

But here lies the other important lesson i’ve learned, that I am just responsible for myself, and other people are responsible for themselves. Such an easy concept on paper, but so hard to grasp. But I’ve stopped believing that other people have power over me emotionally, that they can guilt me into doing things or feeling things I don’t want to do. No one can cause me to feel shame, unhappiness, pain, guilt or despair. Only I am responsible for my feelings and emotions.

Similarly I am not responsible for other people’s unhappiness, heartbreak, anger. There is no such thing as “You make me so angry” or “You hurt me so much” because it’s just not true. Nobody hurt them, they just allowed their feelings to overwhelm them. I realise I’ve been punishing myself for so long just trying to anticipate what other people’s reactions will be if i did or didn’t do something. By feeling responsible for what they felt or how they would feel, I shortchanged myself on so many fronts and sometimes even tried to be someone I wasn’t. Leaving all of that chaos behind now. Remember that, we are all only responsible for ourselves.


May 5, 2009

I realised after therapy today that I hadn’t had a spare moment to myself the last two weeks. No quiet time to reflect. So today after dinner I went for a walk then came home and journaled some. My therapist said I should take a few weeks off and see how I get along. She’s taught me some very useful tools to work on the areas I wanted to improve and change.  The past few weeks have been a journey of discovery, very insightful and interesting. I keep going through the talks we have had just to remind myself of the issues we discussed.  She has helped me really look at myself not with a self-critical eye as I would have before, but one with compassion and love for myself.

It has been hard.

One of the most difficult things to do is to attempt to change the belief systems that you have grown up with your whole life. But I have made a promise to myself that I will live the life that I dream of without fear. For example, it is so difficult to make myself believe that it is ok to make mistakes and that it is ok to fail. Failure is not shameful, it is what we make of it and how we pick ourselves up that defines us.

If i have one aim in in this life, it is to have it full and varied. And that means living in the moment — leaving the past behind and not worrying about the future. Every minute that I spend rehashing what happened yesterday, or fretting about what tomorrow brings, I am squandering the chance to live for today.

So just for my reference, today’s session focused on potency, permission, protection and finding a new parent. And in this one sentence alone, lies a ton of work to be done. This is adapted from John Bradshaw’s work on reclaiming one’s inner child.

Our wounded inner child is the one that prevents us from doing whatever we want. When I think twice about doing something because I fear someone will be displeased, that is not me talking, that is my 8 year old self talking. When I become afraid to speak up or stand up for myself in the presence of someone with authority, that is my 8 year old self thinking. This is where all the irrational fears come in.

So the ‘good’ coping mechanism, — rather than regression or repression, which I have been doing — is to empower and protect the inner child in me. To love that part of me and to reassure it unconditionally so that it can feel safe and my adult self can connect and control it, rather than letting it be controlled by external influences ie reclaiming my inner child.

This of course leads to the ultimate question of  “Who am I?” But I haven’t figured that out yet. I’m  slowly getting there but I don’t have all the answers.

Reading all this back, it sounds like a big pile of pyschobabble and baloney but it definitely helps to know that these ‘afflictions’ are common, because we all come from dysfunctional backgrounds, to some extent. We are all flawed in some way. It is not wrong, and there is no blame. It just is.


April 21, 2009

After therapy I always emerge with a renewed intention to keep the focus on myself and not worry about other people, what they do, what they think, how they react or communicate. Narrowing the sphere of influence, so to speak.

My current challenge is to build up  my higher self and sense of empowerment so that I can overcome the negative critic in me, which causes all kinds of emotions to engulf my being. Tied in with this is to always be aware of the ego states I’m adopting in any situation and what kind of communication patterns I set up with other people.

My therapist tells me everything can be overcome with work and practise. It just leads me to wonder how much of who we are comes from nature and how much from nurture. How many times have we heard people say character is inherent. It’s the way we are born. But more and more I’m learning that the answer lies in the way we were brought up and nurtured. There are reasons why I’m afraid of authority figures, why I hate conflict, why I build walls around myself, why I have the belief systems I do. They can all be traced back to roots.

Once again the journey of self discovery is so very interesting.


April 14, 2009

One of the main reasons I decided to seek professional guidance was that I wanted to make the changes in my life stick, but I found that I didn’t have the proper tools to do it. Self reflection is one thing, you know where you’ve gone wrong and you know what you’d like to change. But what happens next? I found that I was veering toward painful self-flagellation and had difficulty detaching myself from the past. So I decided to try some form of therapy. I’m very fortunate to have found a counsellor I feel comfortable opening up to and she provides a very real sense of safety that I have rarely felt before. I went in knowing pretty much what kind of goals I wanted to achieve in the long term and she has mapped out our sessions based on these objectives.

In today’s session, we started to delve into how I relate to people and how they perceive me, in other words, communication. It all begins with self-awareness. I did a questionnaire to determine my dominant ego state. This is a theory called transactional analysis, developed by Eric Berne, who basically posited that everyone has a little bit of the parent ego, adult ego and child ego states in them ie behaviours, thoughts and feelings we learn from our parents, from when we were children and what we feel in the here and now as adults.

Tellingly, I scored extremely low on the Free Child component, which represents spontaneity, creativity, enjoyment and all that good stuff. In contrast my Compliant Child component was very high — submissive, overly adaptable, anxious, inwardly rebellious. In terms of communication, negative components such as compliant child often invite negative responses while positive components will invite positive responses. Much of who we are today comes about because of the way we view ourselves, but the way we view ourselves is influenced greatly by our prior experiences and the type of nurturing our parents and significant care givers provided us when we were young. But my therapist was quick to stress that there’s no wrong or right, it’s just the way we are. It was very interesting to look at my other ego states and how much they occupy relative to each other.

So today I learnt that while there are things I need to work on, breaking it down so methodically helps me deal with the fear that it cannot be done successfully.


April 9, 2009

In today’s session we talked about cognitive theory and the ABC diagram — antecedent, behaviour and consequence. The aim was to help me identify what my primary trigger was and what my coping mechanisms were and they’re basically fear and flight. Very enlightening, and I felt so drained after. Drained and hungry.

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