When we have painful experiences as children without the support and care from loving adults to preserve and restore our sense of innocence and wholeness, we can easily begin to believe there is something wrong with who we are. This can result in a rejection of ourselves as an attempt to get rid of the perceived wrongness or badness. We then look outside ourselves to find out how we need to be in order to be loved, and how to create a socially-acceptable self. As children we are so sensitive all the minute clues and signals we pick up from those around us, and we use those to decide how we should be. In this way we create what can be called a “false self”, in that it is a self constructed by external definitions rather than a natural expression of who we are. This can serve us very well for a time until we begin to feel internal rumblings of unease and discontent that remind us how we have disconnected from ourselves.
Initially, it may be hard to pay attention to what is stirring within us, because we have put in place defences to maintain the sense of self that we have established over years of living. We may notice that we are feeling irritable or frustrated, resigned or depressed. The process of opening up to what is stirring within us can be a delicate one, because the defences are very linked to our very sense of survival and have served an important purpose. It requires sensitivity and patience to begin to dismantle internal structures that no longer serve our best interest. What has defined our sense of self can begin to feel as though it now confines a new expression of life through us.
To support this emerging self, it is very helpful to connect with a sense of a greater Presence which we could say is our essential Being that has been there from the moment we were born. It is like the stillness at the depth of the ocean which remains even while there are crashing waves on the surface. This is a place where we can rest and take refuge from all the changing tides of life that we experience. When we feel shaken up and disoriented by the process of letting go of old ways of thinking, feeling and acting, we can touch back into this place of timeless Presence and find a spaciousness that can hold whatever we are experiencing. This takes practice and there may be times when we feel completely lost or caught up in the challenges of our life and our habitual ways of addressing them. And yet, when we are able to remember and return to the ground of Presence within us, we can begin to develop confidence in our capacity to meet life in a new and fresh way.
It is like an eternal dance between our invisible and infinitely mysterious Being, and our unique and quirky human expression of life.