My loyalty, above all, is to myself. I am the champion of my own principles, I am my redeemer, I am my own strength. I am my shield and my sword. I am the rock, upon which I have built myself. I am my own garden, pregnant with realities - Abundant. Death and life combined. I am my horizon and the earth that shakes underneath my feet. I am the sky and the rain and all the oceans combined. I am all the stars I could never count. I am the light that won't ever wane. I'll be here when everything burns to the ground. When everyone has turned their back against me, I'm the one that stays. I'm the one that remains. daena de guzman | 2017
Okay, let’s say we get it right for a couple of days, for a few weeks, a few months and even a few years. Then at some point during our progress, we relapse, we go back to our old problematic situation – may it be a previous lifestyle, a disposition, relationships, habits, and just the very thing – anything – we have set our mind to get over with for good.
Why does this happen?
I know it’s frustrating and sometimes complex, but the answer can also be as simple as this:
Because we stop working on it.
Any kind of change worthy of our effort needs our dedication just like physical work out. We gotta do it regularly and even level up the intensity if we want to see progress. Our muscles get back to how they were or even in worse shape when we stop working out. We can’t just work out intensely for a few months and expect that it’s gonna do it for the rest of our lives. We need to be continuously on it, regardless if we’re in the mood or not for it, regardless if we feel like we’re getting back to how we were or not…yet. We usually stop when it either gets better or worse – and things are always gonna go either way, anyway.
Healthy habits have to be practiced consciously, consistently, especially when it’s difficult, since those times are probably when we are at our most vulnerable…to hit a wall or relapse.
Many of us think that we can just get over something for good.
Maybe scientifically, technically, yes, there are qualifiers and there is a need to do that as well. But not essentially. It’s a pretty subjective matter and things are open-ended until, well, we die. We just cannot get over our humanity until then. We are always subject to evolution.
Likewise, we may need to stamp on an issue for our own self-esteem and peace of mind, and that is certainly not a bad thing to do if doing so actually helps. However, for many of us, this only puts an intolerable pressure that backfires when we realize we can’t keep up with our own expectations. This only makes us more critical of ourselves and of others which can lead us into another (maybe worse) downward spiral.
What helped me with my struggle with chronic depression and my fears of relapsing (again) was accepting that it’s probably gonna be one of crosses until I die. I am probably more likely to be depressed because of how I am wired and there’s certainly nothing I can do to change that, and I wouldn’t want to, anyway. It’s only after being able to accept it that I felt powerful over it again.
It’s a struggle and also a beacon of light for me, guiding me on how I should be taking care of myself. It’s a constant reminder of all the healthy habits I should be embodying, not out of fear, but out of genuine self-awareness and self-love. It reminds me of how I won the battles of my life, which only proves how indestructible my spirit is, which only inspires me to move forward in my path.
Many times, I have wished, too, of a button that we could simply press to transform ourselves and our lives with for once and for all. But eventually I have realized what’s the point of life then if such a thing existed?
The narratives of our lives are about our struggles, transformations and triumphs. The Universe hopes that we learn to appreciate them more; to see them as beautiful and full of meaning – and to just. keep. going.
When I was in my early twenties, I used to obsess on getting my communication “right”. I just had to come to the person directly or put my thoughts into writing to “clear things up”. I neither stopped to assess whether she/he was ready for it nor if I should even bother talking about the issue at all. I thought I was being mature. Because I was a writer, I even thought that getting into the roughest details was a gift I was offering. When I wasn’t doing those, I would turn to my friends for a ranting spree. To my surprise, more conflict only gravitated towards me as a result, and those people who I sincerely wanted to be in good terms with only end up hating me. Voila! I have hurt them in vain.
There are still times, even at this point, when I would be “completely honest” thinking that that was what was needed to iron out a situation, or to give myself peace of mind, only to find out in horror how bad an idea it was.
On the other hand, I’ve been able to resolve deep seated issues without ever talking or writing to the person who I felt has hurt me or talking about it with anybody. I have successfully worked through them myself, armed with my connection with the Divine. It may have taken me years, and even decades, to do that, but I know that there’s no better way to go through my healing, anyway.
I think I’ve pretty much lived long enough and I have fucked up enough as well to assess both scenarios.
Now I am in a pretty confident place to say that communication with others is not always necessary for closure and healing to take place (nor does ranting about it). It may not even be beneficial.
Here are my points on why I think that is so:
1. First of all, let’s be honest, a heart-to-heart dialogue is not really the rule in our reality, but an exception.
Thinking that it should take place before healing or resolution can take place is a sure and fast way to disempower ourselves. We are never in control of anybody else, and expecting them to cooperate with our idea of “mature resolution” only hands them the upper hand. By doing so we are trapped in convincing them to behave and feel a certain way first before we can get to our desired disposition.
We need to validate ourselves instead.
2. People are usually in different levels of consciousness.
Yes, even if they’re identical twins who have lived their lives sleeping in the same bedroom.
It’s not merely about experiencing the same situation differently, but more importantly, having different abilities and filters by which to perceive and interpret life experiences in general. People have, more often than not, extremely contrasting interests due to a variety of factors like their age, nationality, temperament, upbringing, current struggles, how they define pleasure, how they want their life to be, and so on and so forth.
The reality is, sometimes, some people just won’t be able to meet halfway. Sometimes we just can’t be on the same page with another person and no amount of “honest talk” can change that.
Sometimes, the only thing that can heal up a conflict is, as the cliche goes, time…and I would add, mindful silence.
Forcing people to reconcile at this stage usually only backfires.
3. We need more time to process our emotions than we usually think.
When I mean more time, I mean, we sometimes need years, decades even and tons of life experiences in between for our thoughts and emotions to percolate.
Sometimes our initial opinions and feelings about what just happened/what is happening are not really what we’ll find when the dust settles.
This is why barging through the door and airing out our opinions, prematurely, sometimes only stunt or totally annihilate whatever resolution is brewing underneath.
Sometimes what we need is to reach a certain level of maturity first to view the same situation in a more realistic way.
Some Many things are better left unsaid.
Expressing ourselves without filters on can feel good. But this movement about “be yourself, express yourself” doesn’t teach us to embody this with caution.
Well definitely we can be in-your-face honest with a few people who we can justify this behavior with. But when we are talking about people who matter to us and who we have genuine, caring relationships with, taking this advice at face value could do more harm than good.
There are some things that, may be true for us, but that may just hurt them to no avail. We need to check with ourselves first and ask, “Will expressing these things move our relationship to a deeper level? Will it lead to a better understanding of some sort or will this just blur out my good intentions?”
We need to be cautious about the thin line between “brutally honest” and “brutally critical” if what we really desire for is a peaceful resolution and a higher level of awareness (many times “brutally honest” won’t even make the cut.)
Sometimes, taking a step back, is what we have to do instead to save a relationship and/or all the goodness that are worth saving.
5. Sometimes what we really need is solitude and some serious inner work, not catharsis.
Venting out our emotions may feel good, really good. But it doesn’t always lead to integration and growth.
In truth, getting into the habit of talking about our issues, may even be the very thing that holds us back and keeps us in a cycle of frustration.
By not taking enough time to be alone with our own thoughts and feelings we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to know ourselves more. If our initial response to them is to turn to others, instead of listening to them in the privacy of our own spirit, we will surely miss all the valuable information they have in store for us which can guide us into making decisions and changes that are good for us.
Likewise, crises’ purpose is to usher us into a higher level of consciousness. They’re meant to assist us in remembering our true divine nature and what life is really about. On the surface it may look like we’re having an issue with another person, but if we take the time to go inwards, we’ll always see that it’s pointing at something about ourselves that we need to heal.
I’d say any day that addressing that internal issue first is more important than working on resolving an external, interpersonal one. Efforts put on the latter before the former would be futile, anyway.
Communication with others is not always necessary for closure and healing to take place. It may be a part of them or a result of them, but definitely not a prerequisite. We all have the capacity to go through these processes on our own – and sometimes, in truth, that’s what we need to be doing.
I. Seeing Ourselves in Others
Each of us has been walking through life carrying some open wounds, more often than not we are not aware of it. Usually we are even more perceptive of each other’s bleeding than our own. This is how mirroring helps us to be more aware of ourselves. This is why relationships are key to our healing and maturity.
I’ve had a low self-esteem for the most part of my early twenties until recently (I’m 30 at the moment). I’ve always brought this belief with me that my opinions and actions didn’t matter at all to the people around me.
I believed I was as insignificant as a speck of dust or a strand of eyelash that has fallen without anybody’s notice. I thought my actions didn’t affect anyone, ’cause after all, I was invisible to them.
Lately, though, for the first time ever I’ve decided to take a real look at my relationships and evaluated how they were doing. Mind you, I still had this belief that I didn’t play an active role AT ALL in my relationships. I was just curious, and I had all the time in the world for introspection.
It didn’t take long before an answer floated to the surface. In an instant, I was confronted by the reality that my relationships were starving for something…something that I thought was insignificant…something that I thought was invisible.
The closest people in my life (except for my SO) were starving for my affection, for genuine connection with me.
Initially, this was all news to me, and I found myself nothing but speechless. Then all my questions bubbled up, “How could that be possible when I didn’t matter? How could that be possible when nobody needed me? My opinions and feelings didn’t matter. I’ve been living my entire life unseen.”
Or so I thought.
Seriously, the depth of my self-esteem issues was at the level that I couldn’t fathom how could they possibly long for my…love. How could anyone (aside from my SO and my dogs) ever need my presence? That’s a legit question for me. It’s a real puzzle.
Then eventually, another discovery arrived at my feet as I was walking back and forth trying to figure out the answer to my dilemma. It went something like this –
The thing you are withholding from others is the very thing that you need.
I have disowned my need for affection for so long that I’ve forgotten it ever existed, that there was even such a thing going on around the world.
II. The Root Cause
Like most adult issues, the root cause of this could also be found in my childhood. I was forced in a way by my parents to parent them, instead of them parenting me, in an emotional sense. This has pushed me to learn, before I was even ready, to be self-sufficient emotionally, whatever that meant for me at that vulnerable age.
As a result, I have adopted many unhealthy coping mechanisms all through my adult life and disowning my need for affection was one of those. If one doesn’t see a need for something, one can never fill that need up. So obviously I couldn’t even provide myself with what I needed.
III. The Unraveling
This aching, forgotten need has reared its head in many ways. I’ve been in a series of codependent (non) relationships with emotionally unavailable guys all through my late teens to mid-twenties (I am so lucky to have even come out alive!). I struggled with chronic depression and was suicidal for years. I felt ostracized for so long that I have adopted it as my identity. I wanted to keep rocking the boat and be the troublemaker. I was self-destructive in both obvious and subtle ways.
I was so disconnected from myself that I was practically running all over the place with my head cut off and my heart ripped out of my chest.
On the other hand, when the apparent chaos has subsided, I went too deep inwards. I’ve built walls around myself. I cocooned in my distrust of others around me except for my SO (and in my worst days, I even distrusted him). On the surface it looked like I was finally having my shit together. I have changed, healed, grown up.
But to me what only happened was that I grew older. I couldn’t keep up with what I have been doing during my twenties. No one could. Eventually, unless genuine healing has taken place, one has to transition – to just another kind of crazy. To just another kind of hurting.
IV. A Door Opens
The sad truth was, all those trouble and self-flagellation I’ve went through were not enough to wake me up. I was so used to self-loathing and soul-crushing emptiness that I chased for more of them. There’s nothing new to people treating me like trash and myself treating me like trash. That’s the story of my life.
What’s news to me, was my recent nagging distrust and resentment of those around me. When I stopped being busy killing myself, I started unconsciously projecting all my anger externally, not even just to those closest to me, but to practically every human being around me (again, except for my SO).
Suddenly, I was confronted with all this anger that I didn’t understand.
That opened a door for me. I had to walk through it to make sense of all this anger. As I went further along the unraveling path, I’ve been introduced to my deep-seated issues one-by-one like a tourist in a foreign land. That’s when I’ve discovered that I’ve been acting up out of pain all this time not knowing that I was hurting in the first place.
I got so busy moving through life that I didn’t even see my own wounds. I didn’t even acknowledge that I was hurting. I didn’t even validate my own emotions and disposition. Whenever my pain reared its head, I would immediately squash it or push it back in its place, or leave it altogether. I didn’t take a closer look. I didn’t want to pay attention…or maybe I didn’t know how.
I was having all this hatred because I was hurting. My pain had to be seen, validated and cared for.
I’ve withheld affection from the people around me, initially, as a way of protecting myself. I’ve figured out that if I didn’t open up that much and they couldn’t get too close, they couldn’t hurt me or project their aching needs on me, like my parents did back then.
Consequently, in doing so, I’ve annihilated all the goodness that can come out of it, too – those that would have been beneficial to me.
By withholding love from them, I’ve deprived myself of love as well – the thing that I needed the most.
VI. Coming Full Circle and the Journey Ahead
It may have taken a long while before I have reached this place of understanding. In hindsight it all makes sense to me that it had to happen that way. After all, that’s how a cycle gets completed, isn’t it? One has to be in all possible positions to reach integration.
I had to be both the victim and the perpetrator to know the full nature of the issue, why it happens and how to end it.
Now that I’ve reached this point, I have also understood that there is no easy solution to this issue. Understanding is a vehicle by which I can traverse the path ahead, but the path remains open-ended. I can’t figure out its resolution in a cerebral way, nor carry out half-baked decisions and actions in response.
But I’m committed to this journey, nonetheless, and I believe it’s all that matters for now. This time, going forward though, instead of only carrying my bleeding wounds with me, I’ll be carrying this piece of light, too, which hopefully leads me to healing and peace.
You may be confused at the moment. You may be in a foggy part of your path. You may be feeling lonely, probably you’re running out of faith in your tank, too. While I won’t pretend to know how exactly you must be feeling and what exactly you’re going through, ’cause I acknowledge the realness that each of our journey is unique, I want to extend my empathy and best wishes to you as a kindred spirit.
Many people have accused me of not knowing what I really wanted with regards to my career and life path. Many people have withheld trust from me because of this perception. Many people belittled me. It went on for so long to the point that I started believing them.
But in the middle of my recent retreat, when the fog started to dissipate and I could have some clarity again, a knowing just sprouted out, like a tiny mouse that has been hiding simply to protect herself from the momentary chaos around her. I knew then with full certainty that it was not true that I didn’t know what I wanted. It was not true that I was intrinsically confused. And in fact, it was not true that those people who have accused me of not knowing what I wanted really believed in that –
They knew very well that I knew what I wanted but that it was simply not what I was pursuing.
Of course, they didn’t have any idea what it was that I wanted, but they’re pretty sure that it was not what they were offering me. They didn’t know why I was not pursuing what I wanted but surely, they’ve got all the reasons to not wanna work with me. My mind was somewhere else. That’s why they rejected me.
My issue was not the not-knowing but the suppressing of my own desires in the first place because I thought they’re too big, too impossible, too far for me to reach. So I put my focus on other things, I reached for the low-hanging fruits instead.
I was playing small. I didn’t even dare speak nor write about my desires. I simply let them float like clouds above my head as I walk through life half-awake.
There was no blueprint that I could use, no map to lead my way, no one I personally knew I could ask for guidance – these were the reasons why I refused to pursue my own path, refused to even own it to begin with.
You might be on the same boat and these might be some of your reasons, too. Yes, we may have forgotten what it was we were truthfully passionate about after pursuing something we have merely settled for, but I dare you to look inside yourself and realize that you know you are not confused. In fact, you very well know what’s gonna make you happy and what’s gonna enable you to live your life to the fullest. Maybe the answers are not what you expect from yourself, maybe they’re not what the people around you expect from you.
But this is the truth we all have to confront – that we won’t ever be able to pivot in the right direction if we don’t own these answers. We can’t move through the path of joy and fulfillment if we judge our own desires to begin with, if we feel unworthy of them, if we think they’re ridiculous or impossible.
We have to stop looking outside of ourselves for validation. We need to avoid comparing our dreams with those around us, or even with the people we look up to.
Each of us has a unique path of becoming. It is both our right and responsibility to claim it – to take it.
The path will unfold and our steps will be lighted once we say yes to it. All the other possible paths collapse through the power of our focus. It will be a path of uncertainty, exactly because it’s a new path – it’s ours alone. There will be ups and downs and bumps along the way like any trail of adventure, but each stone, each broken branch, each puddle of mud will only take us closer to where we wanna be. Even though we’re not there yet and it may take a while we can always rest in the knowing that we are not lost and our efforts are worthwhile.