Running away from your self. How to come back and stay this time. Part 1.

My notebook is full, yet the pages of my medium site lie dormant. Why is it that I find it easier to do a million and one things other than that which sustains me most — to write my self? I would rather do things for other people, or that I think I should do to be a better human being (so I tell myself) — keeping a clean and tidy house, making sure my clothes are washed and organised, the larder stocked, the laundry done. Sure, these things are important, your life benefits from having at least a semi-organised framework, interaction with others, but should this come BEFORE an engagement with your self — your gift, your true soul purpose? Why is it that being with and fulfilling your self can be so uncomfortable that we may move in a myriad different directions to avoid the experience?

I for one find it easier to do things for other people, but I notice that I’m starting to resent this unless it is mutually beneficial. I’m getting annoyed with myself for putting me second because I now recognise it is a choice based on outdated precepts that are no longer relevant or beneficial. Yet I continue stubbornly on this path, as if the world will fall apart if I change direction. So today, I am experimenting and doing things differently to see what happens. I am writing first and doing the washing up later. The nagging voice can carry on regardless — I have enough strength (just!) to ignore it. I know it doesn’t serve me well because, like the ghostly clank of Marley’s chains, it is an echo from the past I no longer need to listen to.

This is fighting talk, but in reality making the step towards your self is challenging and involves hidden pitfalls which we must learn to recognise and negotiate. It’s not easy because the feeling sound that reverberates in response to self endeavour is the deafening clang of GUILT. Flaring up each and every time you bravely stretch into new territory in an attempt to grow bigger, it is scary enough to knock you off your feet. I’m using caps because guilt is large and heavy and can envelop you well beyond its use-by-date. The date on my guilt is probably stamped 15–5–1978. It’s still wearing flares and worrying about the fuel crisis, power cuts and the 3-day working week, suggesting my case of guilt is laden with other people’s worries — I couldn’t read the papers in 1978! However, being a tiny person overwhelmed and full of concern, I tried to help by carrying the extra load. I loved and wanted to be loved. Unfortunately, I overpacked.

Here I am 40 years later still dragging around that self-same suitcase. I’ve even had a thorough attempt at sorting through its contents during 5 years of therapy. Still the guilt remains like a dense encircling fog, pulling ‘me’ down, elevating the needs of others (you should do this etc), and hampering my attempts to create a brighter future. In fact, it appears that any attempt to transform and move forward (to wear the yellow dress — see below) merely exacerbates the problem leaving me wondering how I can find my way through such choppy emotional waters.

Here, my mind turns to the novel by Milan Kundera, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. This red thread of a book has found its way to me time and again, often in unexpected ways and, beyond its rich content, the title alone has started to provide some illumination on this difficult problem which might best be reframed as:

“the expansion of the self counter to the constrictions of guilt/the life of others within the self”

Lightness and Weight. We need both in order to propel ourselves forward like the octopus expanding and contracting with a natural rhythm. It has taken me years to grasp what Kundera might have meant by lightness and how it could possibly be ‘unbearable’ but I am starting to recognise the experience and see that it must be come to terms with if we desire to be more present in our self rather than slavishly abiding the demanding conglomeration of perceptions/needs/presence-absence/frustrations/griefs etc, that we have absorbed since our earliest experiences of relationship and which live on within us, heavily weighing us down on our journey towards self-hood.

If you have been lucky enough to experience a moment of joyous expansion then you will know that it feels really good. I would describe it as a ‘heart burst’ — a sense of limitlessness, a stretching beyond your known frame or skin. A sensation of pure fluidity in which you feel at one inside and out, with a tangible awareness of growth in real time: a naked transformation. This is indeed a wonderful and intense experience, but this sudden break in the parameter — your sense of self-definition, is also deeply frightening. Akin to free-fall or an explosion of your boundary, this infinite instant of growth shatters our usual frame of reference demanding a sudden letting go of the known. We need this frame to ground us in familiar territory and typically the weight we use to secure our sense of self relies on our baggage of memory and past perceptions which are closely interwoven with and sustain our sense of guilt because they keep us orientated (even in a negative space). Thus our guilt forms a helpful hindrance! What would happen if we recognised the truth of ourselves and released it all at once to be gloriously and unashamedly ourselves? Like taking off gravity boots whilst walking on the moon we might simply fly off alone into an infinite and chaotic cosmos never to be seen again — certain death! Freedom can be a dangerous thing!

So once the elastic moment passes it can be quickly supplanted by panic. Being in unfamiliar territory is scary: I don’t have a map; my compass unweighted by gravity, is spinning out of control; who am I now and who are you? (for such experiences rarely occur unaided). Here, in this movement towards being truly ourselves, connected to a chaotic universe, we discover Kundera’s unbearable lightness. It is both beautiful and terrifying, for we must learn to adjust from living a life reliant on weightedness to one in which we embrace our ability to soar.

To be continued…