"Finding a safe container that will enable us, once again, to build faith in our emotional lives is essential for our well being." Francis Weller -The Wild Edge of Sorrow
Have you ever felt like you had to hide aspects of your personality to have a good life?
Like there are parts of you that are simply unacceptable, unwanted, and must remain locked in the basement?
Never to be seen, shown, or looked at.
I certainly have. Many times.
I’ve used that basement to lock away my grief from a life of collected, and unprocessed sorrows. Losses along the way, that had I experienced them fully, wouldn’t still be dragging along with me like a bag of rocks.
That same basement has held my shame about who I am, who I am not, and who I’m not measuring up to be. Shame spreads in us when it stays locked in the silence of the basement. This shame tells me what is and is not worthy and acceptable about me.
For many years I found myself running hard and fast to ‘fix’ these feelings, but in ways that looked at it wrong. Much of the time fixing included propping myself up with false confidence to try and appear to be something I wasn’t.
Mix that in with anything that could distract me from being present and quiet with myself, I had various strategies to keep that basement locked.
As the basement continued to fill up with all I shoved down there, the feeling of being in a rut, disconnected and fragmented from my own life grew.
In recent years I’ve arrived at the realization that these parts of myself that have been shoved in the basement with the kitchen broom, like a mistreated animal, hold the seeds to an enlivened life.
It’s in turning towards these parts of myself that those feelings of melancholy, discontent, and dissatisfaction can be tended.
The realization that had precipitated this, was realizing I’m not one singular or fixed personality. At any moment, I can be experiencing myself and life through a myriad of lenses.
There’s the part of me that is fascinated by life.
This part believes that we are here to live a full life, by engaging with ourselves and the world around us. This part knows that to do this, I must engage with the full range emotional experiences innate to our human design.
This part of me flows well with the day. Isn’t easily angered, frustrated, or scared. Dance, play, and enjoying others come from this part of me. The heart of this part of me wants to support the life force within and around me.
There is also the part of me that tries to tell me that it’s wrong/bad for me to want more for my life.
This is the part that says, How dare you ask for more from life! You should feel grateful for what you have.Think of all the people that have nothing. This part of me often speaks through shame, guilt and fear.
Telling me that there is something fundamentally wrong with me because I want to engage in and taste the fullness of life. Assuming, through extremes, that If am living my life fully, that it guarantees harm to others.
Using the rationalization and judgement that if I seek more for my life by way of fulfillment, then I’m greedy and uncaring. This is the antagonist to the former part of me.
Then to make this web even more fun, there’s the part of me that says to only engage with the part of me that is all about life.
Living it. Enjoying it. Embracing it. Lean into this, and shove that problem child in the basement. He’s making too much noise. As if anything/anyone shoved in the basement is going to stay quiet forever.
I’ve opened the basement time and again to create a new relationship with this part of me. Turning towards the judgements and criticism, as well as the shame, guilt and fear.
I’ve been having new conversations. Conversations that before never happened. Other than those that belittled, disowned, and shoved this aspect of self away.
This conversation entailed allowing myself to fully feel what this part of me was experiencing. Not shutting it down. Not distracting from it with my phone, coffee, kids, clients, or anything else.
Going into my body and feeling the emotions and sensations. And as we are in conversation, beginning to ask questions to better understand what this part of me is really trying to show me.
As I have created a new relationship with the parts of me that I have longed disowned, rejected, and ignored, something new began to happen.
A feeling of animation began taking hold in my life. An experience of lightness began growing from rare moments to increasingly being a part of my daily experience.
What’s more, my own self respect and acceptance grew as I came to know without a doubt, I’m okay. Not only am I okay, I can hold myself in my struggles, and grow through it.
Something special begins to happen the more we feel our own self respect, compassion, and being embraced. We feel to be walking through life more and more as the person we have been trying to touch, taste, and bring to life for decades.
As we sink into finding and heeding our own inner teacher, it will ask this of us. It will ask us to open up the basement door, to invite home all of us. In this invitation to return home that unfolds over time through ritual, containers of support, and daily life, we come to know our true selves, and the life we are most aligned to create.
If right now you are feeling like life is in a rut, and you are need of a shift — I offer this invitation.
First, begin by adding 15-20 minutes to your calendar/day. As long as you have the time set aside, that you know is for you, you got it right.
Second, ask yourself what your intention for this time is… I’ll offer that the intention for this first go around is to connect with and understand the part of you that feels to be in a rut, in need of something else
Third, create a threshold to cross for the start of this time. It could be lighting a candle. Going into a special spot you enjoy alone. Or something else. As long as it signifies you crossing into this space held for you. A threshold you will cross again upon completion.
Fourth, as you cross the threshold and settle into the space for the next 15-20 minutes, begin with a few deep and deliberate breaths. Put your attention on the breath as it moves up your belly, into your chest, and out of your mouth/nose.
Fifth, answer each of these questions one by one, as best you can without omitting, editing, withholding, or trying to get it right (there is no right way ) — Use either a notebook or a voice recorder. One of the two.
• What does this part of me that feels to be in a rut (stuck, overwhelmed), have to say?
• What else does it have to say?
• What feelings and sensations are associated with this part of me?
• Given what was shared and felt, what has been discovered?
Opening the basement of our lives can be scary, and challenging, especially at the beginning. We can do this work in moderation, and in small or large time chunks. We really have to come to know what is the balanced way for us. Along with our own level of willingness to ‘go there’.
Like a client recently told me, Matt this shit is not easy. But I know it’s the path I am supposed to take
The way that works best for us is unique. Uncovering what works well for you can add some fun to a path that is hard won, challenging, and freeing all at once.
Parting note, as you complete the time with yourself, acknowledge verbally that the crossing of the threshold is symbolic of your diving into the depths being complete for the moment.
And with your eyes closed, tell the parts of you still wanting your attention, that you will be back. It’s important that we honor a balanced way of working with these parts of ourselves, to support safety, containment, release, and care.
It can’t be done all at once, and so pacing is important.
Reach out to me if you want some support creating this for yourself. I’m happy to see how I may be able to support you to fully engage with your life.