“Before the truth sets you free, it tends to make you miserable.” Richard Rohr
I can attest to that.
Finding truth is sometimes painful.
I remember a very significant finding I had earlier this year. May-ish. It was a Friday afternoon and Chris was off work, so we split the day to give us each some “time off”. My morning had been incredibly stressful with a number of typical life and practical details demanding attention, plus a playdate gone somewhat awry as our toddlers screeched over all the same toys at the same time. By the time I handed the baton over I was desperate for some chill. I grabbed my yoga mat and headed to the water in Greenwich.
Not long before this, I had discovered a technique for stress management called, EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. The premise is similar to acupuncture — that your body has a grid of energy meridians that regulate its functioning. Like acupuncture, the point is to tap in to this energy system to relieve dysfunction. This grid holds the physical form of what you experience as memory and emotion. So when you have traumatic, painful or negative memories and emotions, the physical storage of that is blocked energy in your meridian grid. The theory is that tapping on certain points in the body your body releases blockages. So for instance, you will still have the memory, but the negativity associated with it is dramatically reduced or eliminated.
People use EFT for everything from sugar addictions and weight loss, to PTSD for war veterans. With pretty dramatic results. (If you are curious what it looks like and how it works, this is a great video explanation and demonstration.)
Sounds hokey? Perhaps, but I had casually “tapped” along to a youtube video just out of curiosity one night, and ended up discovering some dramatic results in the coming days. It became a tool I started using periodically.
So back to that Friday afternoon. I headed to my special spot thinking I would do some tapping just to dissipate the morning stress and be able to enjoy the rest of the day off. I did a couple rounds, and then sat quietly looking at the water, enjoying the absence of pressure in my head. I don’t know exactly how to describe what happened next, because it wasn’t dramatic and sudden feeling, but it also wasn’t something I consciously chose to do. Quite naturally, I just started talking to myself in a way I never had before. In fact, I spoke to myself the exact same way I speak to my two year old daughter. “Rachel, you are such a sweet girl, I love you so much. I am so proud of who you are, you are so precious to me. Oh honey, I love you so much…” I wrapped my arms around myself and held me, tears streaming down my face.
Its hard for me to think about it even now, months later, without convulsing in tears. It was such a deep experience. The experience of love and affirmation I had secretly been searching for all my life, had always been within me. This was no technique in positive self talk, it was a totally spontaneous expression. One that I didn’t know how badly I needed, and one I didn’t know I was capable of giving myself.
After a few minutes I got up and continued on with my day in a sweet sort of daze.
I spent time afterward thinking of that experience. Had I really not felt loved by myself before? What about all the times I “treated myself” to… a pedicure, a new piece of clothing…? Weren’t those loving expressions? I tried to isolate different times and see what was really going on. Like when I bought myself some new item, was it really an expression of love, or attempt to make myself more lovely? Did I want a leather jacket because of the jacket or because I thought wearing it might somehow increase my own perceived value? On and on through various experiences it dawned on me how disconnected from my own needs I was, filling in “the holes” with all kinds of things that never did the job. Like a parent who lavishes gifts and “things” on a kid who they are too distracted to just spent time with. And even though I’d spent plenty of time alone, I began to hear the steady voice of disapproval I had maintained in those moments. Being alone was often my longing, but also my punishment. I wanted quality time away, but I many times ruined it with my own inner nagging.
Like any relationship, it doesn’t just change overnight, but awareness is the best gift. The journey continuing on from that day to this, has been rough at times, but every day I feel closer to the truth that lies beneath. It is only when you have begun to deal with how you treat yourself, that you have authentic basis to deal with how others treat you.
I could no longer mourn the love I felt I hadn’t received from others, once I realized how long I had deprived myself. I discovered that safety was my actual definition of love. You cannot receive what there is not natural space for, and I had never created safety in myself.
As wonderful as that day was, as needed as that hug was, no one can survive on a memory. Relationships take steady focus, and the one inside, most of all. I reckon I’m still starting out. Putting the effort in takes consciousness, and life is so easily lived unconscious… Overtaken by the moment, swallowed up by circumstances, drowned out by the noise, distracted by the things “outside” we’re still addicted to. I’m getting there though. Somewhere good. I hope you are too.