I spent most of my life feeling like something was wrong with me. For many reasons, small and big, I felt like who I really was, what I really wanted to express was laughable, incorrect, worthless. In retrospect, I see how I inhabited less and less of myself as I went from a child, to a teen, through college, into the workforce and then motherhood. Losing trust in the validity of my own experiences. Actually contracting my physicality to limit the expression of my emotions. And energetically vacating my pelvis and gut, my root, lifting up and away from the place where my sense of self and safety originates from. There were various signs, God winks as my Grammy puts it, clues to this disconnect. But it seems in my journey it wasn’t until I felt like I was running on empty, like I was empty, that I could begin to come back to myself. And it is an ongoing process, a practice, day to day and moment to moment!
I remember hearing an OnBeing episode a few years ago where Krista Tippett interviewed Brené Brown. She talked about the differences between fitting in and belonging. She said while interviewing middle-schoolers about this topic one student said, “You know, miss, it’s really hard not to fit in or belong at school, but not belonging at home is the worst." I remember this hitting home and feeling so touched by this. And then began a thread of thought, “And what if you feel you don’t belong to yourself?”
Why do we disconnect from ourselves?
We disconnect when what we’re going through feels like, or perhaps is, too much for us to handle in the moment. When we are afraid or when we don’t feel or actually aren’t safe in a situation. When we experience pain. When we are in survival mode (fight, flight, freeze), When we feel stuck or as though we don’t have a choice. When we feel that we shouldn’t be ourselves because it will upset another. When we believe we shouldn’t be feeling the way we do. There are as many examples as there are unique individuals. Many times this disconnection is formed out of survival. We may feel we have to, or we may actually have to, shut down our senses in order to make it through a situation.
What is the toll it takes on us when we do?
When we are out of touch we lose trust in what we feel, think, know. Our intuition. In order to do this we may suppress our emotions, our power, our love, our voice, our knowledge. And we constrict our physicality, binding the energy and memory of the situations in our bodies. Anodea Judith says, “Even though the world we see and touch is “out there”, we actually experience it “in here.” When we limit our authentic expression, we stop feeling what it is we feel. We get stuck, tight, shrink. By staying disconnected we perpetuate the beliefs that feed the suffering. We fan the flames of the emotion or experience that isn’t being met, felt, experienced.” Over time the physical constrictions in relation to not feeling what we feel, or being who we are, become more bound. These parts of ourselves carry the burden long after the actual experience occurred. And the entanglements in our energy transcend the unseen realm and manifest into form and impact our physical body – our fascia, muscles, body systems functioning. We use up a lot of our energy to keep these things in place which diminishes vitality, our life force. And ultimately we lose our sense of self, of soul or spirit, our very aliveness. We become fragmented, only experiencing life from a narrow perspective, and only from parts of our being. It may feel as though our existence shrinks or is stuck in a too tight, constricted space.
Why should I want to reconnect anyway?
I’ve heard from so many people the fear of opening up to these tucked away parts of themselves. The pain, the grief, the worthlessness. The fear of being ashamed of what may come out. That they will fall apart. That it’s too late because whatever happened was a long time ago. And the truth is, in my experience, it is scary. It can feel ungrounding, confusing, like you’re jumping off a cliff knowing there’s no net to catch you. And yet, there are ways of being with our pain where we don’t get taken over by it, where we can cultivate a relationship with ourselves without judgement, shame, disgust, you name it.
The path home
As we return to knowing ourselves, we begin to understand why some of these reactions, “personality traits”, family legacies, formed in the first place. What did I take on as a child, throughout my life, or throughout my lineage, that I’ve been living with? What contributed to the lens through which I see my experiences and myself? We begin to feel in our bodies what it feels like when we’re experiencing something that is led by a false belief or layer of conditioning. From something that maybe isn’t even ours to begin with. We can learn to feel experientially and trust again our own authentic yes’s and no’s. What it feels like to act and respond from clarity, from right here in the moment, from Self. Through these practices we cultivate a loving and positive regard for our own body and being. Our very existence becomes sacred again. Something that we can know intimately and experience an ever expanding loving relationship with. We reconnect with our intuition and knowing in a way that feels untethered and spacious. No longer bound and compacted. By bringing into our conscious awareness those experiences or parts of us that have been left unprocessed and unacknowledged, stuck energy can move, be discharged. New space is made for us to live into and inhabit. We began to feel who we are as a verb, letting go of the nouns – labels, identities, concepts, roles we were playing out.
As we loosen the constrictions within ourselves, there is a freer flow of energy. We literally feel more energetic. More connected to our aliveness and vitality. More in our body, embodied. And when we get swept up in the breezes or gusts of life we can return to our fundamental nature, that is both still and unchanging, vibrant and alive at the same time. It doesn’t mean distress, discomfort, pain, suffering, doesn’t arise at all. But perhaps, we can experience these things from our center, and respond from our core, instead of reacting out of past experiences or future projections. And grow in our ability to have compassion for ourselves when we don’t. When we’re connected and attuned to our wholeness we experience life less influenced, overwhelmed or entangled with the changing content of each day. We can live into having an unconditional relationship with life.
As we become familiar with the language of our internal landscape we can use this inner wisdom to help guide our life. Noticing how we constrict, when, and where, helps us to get hip to the pathways that have embedded these constrictions in our mind, our hearts, and our bodies. Knowing ourselves in this way enables us to take a pause, breathe, and respond instead of react. It opens up the possibility that we can respond in a new way, skipping out of the groove of our conditioning and opening us up to choice and new possibilities.
To belong to ourselves is to meet all of ourselves with love, to know that how we feel is ok to feel, and can be a trailhead leading us to the next layer of healing and evolution. To accept how life unfolds, even if that means accepting that we don’t accept it. And to become familiar with the resonance of knowing that just by being, we are enough, worthy, loved and sacred. As we become whole, belonging everywhere we inhabit, we begin to fall back in love with ourselves and the world. We can meet others as they are, the paradoxes of life as it is, and the unity of ourselves and all things as one.
In the words of Brené Brown again, "It’s not just that the things that go wrong for us are part of our wholeness...but also that what goes wrong for us is part of our gift to the world."
May you feel safe and supported as you embody and love yourself. Your very existence is a gift.