Self-Betrayal: Living Untrue to Your “Self”
Omar is a middle-aged man with an aversion to cold weather. In his mind, when he or loved ones are exposed to cold weather, a clear voice inner voice is triggered: “If I experience the cold, I will be harmed.” He does not allow his children to play out in the cold; an encounter with snow will certainly be deadly! Omar grew up in a war-ravaged environment, with images of displaced families and refugees. As a child, the messages that he received from the trusted adults in his life were of harm afflicting the refugees, especially children among them, during the colder seasons. The images that he internalized were of people without shelter getting sick and dying because of the cold.
The biggest cause of regret in most of the adult journey is the regret of not living true to oneself. Those who are lucky to come to this realization earlier in the journey have the opportunity of a turn-around. For many, they may live with this regret until the last breath of their conscious lives.In our life’s journey, we live in a contracted state with limiting beliefs; we walk with “shoes too narrow”, disconnected from heart and trapped in a cycle of defensiveness, shame, fear, guilt, and limiting judgment of self and others. Our experience of life is restricted to images and beliefs that we weave in earlier years in our inner landscape to decode the world around us. Living true to whom we are, in essence, necessitates that we first learn how these self-imposed constrictions play out in our daily lives. In order to liberate ourselves from the tightness and discomfort of “shoes too narrow”, we must first examine the type of material and the form with which these shoes have been designed, and whether these are a good fit for the real YOU.
How Images and Beliefs Form:
From birth, we arrive as children with an unbridled, undefended responsiveness to the world. The child has not yet formed her inner sense of separate self, although there are inherent dispositions in the soul from birth that she has yet to discover. Throughout the course of developing the growing self, experience teaches us that certain aspects of the world and ourselves are not safe, are not accepted, and are painful to experience. We internalize this negative learning as a perceived reality, and we begin to constrict and, eventually, shut down the life force that flows through our bodies to defend ourselves against the pain of loss and extinction. In Omar’s story, his child image had little experience to compare with; he only knew the reality presented to him by his trusted caregivers. He concluded that his survival in this world requires him to be shielded from the cruelty and harshness of nature, as manifested by cold weather.That had become his truth.
In our early years, we instinctively withdraw from the negative side of our existence. We avoid the pain and disappointments of childhood; we deny parts of ourselves and suppress feelings that we perceive as being “unacceptable”, “wrong” or “unsafe”.We begin to view the world with a distorted lens that limits the idea of who we are and what we are capable of. We begin to form generalizations about life and conclusions that are based on earlier experiences with our parents and trusted adults. These earlier experiences impose themselves, unconsciously, on our outer world perceptions of how things work and how we expect to be treated. Growing into adulthood, we tend to ignore all that does not fit into our “perceived reality”, and we choose experiences that reinforce our expectations. We create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where our limited reality throws us into a perpetual cycle of living untrue to ourselves.
Our often false and limiting about life create blockages in the life force within our bodies, resulting in constricted emotions and defensive attitudes that perpetuate misconceptions. This manifests in our lives as feelings of being “stuck”. Images overshadow pure life experiences and propel us onto a path short of full potential. The only way to get “unstuck” is to revisit childhood experiences and to identify limitations that we had created in response to painful situations. By connecting with our childhood pain, we strengthen our adult capacity to embrace the dualities within and to integrate them into our true being. We learn to accept the dualities of our parents, of the inner child in us, and of the pain and pleasures experienced by our open, vulnerable child-self.We begin to realize that these painful childhood experiences are not what they seemed to be. In the process, we uncover limiting beliefs and generalizations about life and we replace them with more open, more accepting and more expansive world-views. When we release our personal limitations, we step into a state of expansion that has an impact on everything and everyone around us. We become more aligned with the universe, and the portals of the whole soul begin to open.
Identifying Images and Beliefs:
Images underlie the feeling of being “stuck” in one’s path. Whenever we feel hopeless in a personal situation, there is certainly a deeply entrenched at work. Such an image may be handed down through generations within a family structure, which makes the task of transforming an image quite challenging in any one lifetime. If we find ourselves stuck and hopeless in changing a recurring pattern in our lives, we may need to look beyond our own generalizations and into broader familial beliefs or beyond, where false conclusions about life may be common to the culture and history we grow in. Bringing all these misconceptions into conscious awareness loosens their grip on our lives.
In addition to the feeling of hopelessness, shame is another strong indicator of a pervading image . There is a specific shame in the inner child of each one of us. This sense of shame has its roots in our first encounter with the imperfections of our parents, or trusted adults, in our earlier years. We are shocked into the reality that our world and our parents, who are our lifeline and stand to protect us from harm, are imperfect. When the child faces the reality of the imperfect parental love, she assumes responsibility for such action, given her cognitive and affective limitations. The child assumes the blame for whatever she falsely believes was her doing to deserve love, punishment, or abandonment. By the time the child realizes that parents and trusted adults have their own internal battles to fight, the shame is already deep-rooted and the self-worth already tarnished. The growing child matures into her defenses against being hurt again while harboring an entrenched sense of secret shame. With the child’s limited ability to perceive the real source of destructive behaviors in trusted adults, who are also her source of life, the child concludes that whatever comes her way is her own fault. Slowly, the light of the soul begins to dim, and a large part of the personality remains buried among the folds of shame.
In our adult years, the same disappointments and shame that were homegrown in our formative years emerge in present-day feelings and situations. Every time we are faced with the imperfections of relationships – with our partners, children, bosses, work – or life situations, we re-experience the initial pain of childhood. Every time we feel shame, we blame ourselves for the wounds of others, propelling the self back into contraction as a reaction to a childhood image.
Like plants, the self needs to grow into wholeness with light. We need to bring light and awareness where fear, shame, and resentment hide in the unconscious mind. The process requires that we bring forth the buried images and realize the truths of our imperfect world and our imperfect relationships. It requires an acceptance of the limitations of the other without dismissing the good that may also have existed. Growing into spirit means that we face the realities of being, replacing images with expansive truths. As these truths emerge, we can live more authentically and with the capacity to observe ourselves objectively and compassionately. As we develop the skill to become “observers” of the self, we are better able to identify the self-critical voices without identifying with them. We come to the realization that these voices are part of our inner landscape along with other “untruths” waiting to come to light. The skill of becoming the “observer self” is the most important skill to develop as we walk the path to Spirit. At the soul level, we reincarnate with a blueprint to face and resolve unfinished business in this lifetime. We return to complete the life task, the lesson plan complete with a full cast of people, relationships and challenges from childhood that we set up along our paths to bring forth into consciousness areas that need to be transformed.
Practice self-love and compassion. Try this:
In what area(s) in your life do you feel you betray yourself to placate others? Make a list of the ways you undermine your truth to please. What feelings emerge when you read your list? Close your eyes, place your hands on your heart, and allow yourself to feel these emotions holding them in utmost compassion for yourself.