Do you ever find yourself going along your merry way, fairly happy and peaceful, when suddenly BAM! a brick wall comes out of nowhere and smacks you in the face?
I could do without this. I’m doing my daily soul work: holding important relationship boundaries, looking inside to see where I might be veering off course or doing too much for others, checking in with my feelings, handling the mundane busywork of living. And then, that brick wall. It could be an email, a piece of unexpected news, a distracted spouse, a schedule that doesn’t allow for rest or reflection, a word or a look that is easily misinterpreted.
Emotional brick walls are land mines – you never know when they are going to trigger an explosion. When my reaction is ten times bigger than the situation calls for, I know I’ve stepped on some unhealed wound from childhood. The further back it goes, the deeper its hold on our psyche.
The pain is similar to what you would get if you ran full-tilt into a brick wall or if a bomb exploded under you. It causes panic and fear and chaos. The crappy part is that no one can see this. Only you. And most of the scabs that get torn from our childhood hurts involve our biggest questions around identity and value. We feel internal agony, and pretty soon we are asking, “Am I good enough? Do I matter at all?”
When I was a kid, I walked on eggshells, all day and all night. Under these broken eggs were many undetonated land mines. Most of this had nothing to do with me – it was my parents’ garbage, brought in from their damaged childhoods and given to me as a legacy. But I didn’t know that then. My coping mechanism was to disappear into other people. When an issue came up, I took responsibility for it and fixed it, even if I wasn’t even involved in it.
This destructive habit of caretaking has plagued me for my whole existence. Deciding to shed it was both the best and worst thing I’ve ever done. The best because it finally meant I could look after myself. It gave me options; the choice to let another person manage their own life instead of me doing it for them. But it was the worst because it stripped me of everything I hung my value on. It hollowed me out. If I wasn’t fixing everyone else’s problems, what in the world was I good for? I was nothing, no one, utterly useless without this stressful busy work of bleeding into everyone else’s pain.
I have better skills now. But every so often, that brick wall materializes and I am terrified of all those unexploded land mines. Am I really enough, just as I am, or do I have to hustle harder to prove I deserve a spot at the table? This endless longing to be loved for who I am and not for what I can do ties me up in knots every damn time.
It boils down to this: does unconditional love really win or am I searching for more gold stars for my behaviour chart? I must feel the pain of everything I cannot control, absorb the sadness of the losses I have sustained, and then bravely decide to get back on my feet and keep going. There are no shortcuts in soul work. We have to keep walking, even when it’s dark and scary and we are all alone, and hope that soon we’ll be on the other side and can finally understand the lesson we were meant to learn.