Reconnecting with the True You

Sitting here thinking about all the aspects of being connected and our productivity, I had a moment of being overwhelmed with the enormity of this subject.  I will do my best to keep it to one post but it’s going to be long! J
When we lock away parts of ourselves because we think they are unacceptable, we don’t just lock away the negative parts.  We lock away some good parts, too.  This is true for our emotions and our productivity.  I’m using the word productivity to encompass the doing part of people.  We feel, we think and we do.  The “do” part includes our connections with people, involvement in activities and work.
When I was young I shut away the parts of me I thought weren’t perfect (read the previous post “Moving from Disconnected to Vulnerable”).  When I was in 7th grade I discovered I could act and sing.  I thoroughly enjoyed being on stage.  It was gratifying to me to see that I could make people smile.  As I got older, the acting world got harder.  I wasn’t comfortable taking risks.  It was as if the perfect part of me wouldn’t let me.  In the acting world, a person has to take risks; she must put everything she has into a role or it won’t be believable.   I did not see this back then but as I look at all the pieces of the puzzle from this vantage point, I can see it clearly.
When I started looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to attend a school that would further my acting career.  My parents weren’t excited about my desire to enter the world of theater.  I interpreted this as displeasure with me.  I dropped the idea immediately and chose instead to go to the college my mom attended.  I wanted to make her proud of me; I wanted her to accept me.  Since the acting part of me wasn’t acceptable, I put that part away.
As with my emotions, I wasn’t aware I did this.  It just happened.  As I think about it now, I remember having no idea what I would major in.  I chose psychology because the classes fascinated me, but I never felt truly settled.  Part of me wanted to be in business, part wanted to be a teacher, part wanted to be a doctor, part of me wanted to be a child psychologist and part of me didn’t want to do anything.  I was very confused.  When we aren’t connected, when we shove parts of ourselves away, it is very difficult to choose the right fit.  The parts of us that are put away aren’t really gone, they are just in hiding.  When dissatisfaction bubbles to the surface it might be a result of the part put in hiding.  It’s trying to get out, to tell us that we’re working with an incomplete set of skills, interests and desires; there are other valuable parts with lots of duct tape on them to shut them up.  Eventually the duct tape starts to loosen, and we start hearing those hidden parts.  I’m not saying this is always the reason for dissatisfaction with the doing part of our life, but it might be.
Are there parts of you in hiding?  Think about your life.  Do you have an underlying belief that parts of you aren’t acceptable?  I’m not talking about the parts that want to hurt people or destroy things.  Those parts need restraints.  I’m talking about the truest parts of who you are.  The parts, that if no one would judge, you would feel safe to let out: your creative self, your intellectual self, your playful self, your inquisitive self, your free self…  Journal about all of this; sometimes when we write things down, then go back and read the words, we get some clarity.
Think about your young self, way back before too much hurt had been heaped on you and before you shut parts of yourself away.  That’s a hard task for me because I think some of the hurt started pretty early.  I love, love, love my parents.  I am thankful for them, but they were not perfect.  I have some scars from things they did or didn’t do.  It wasn’t intentional.  They didn’t set out to hurt me, but in their humanity they did.  Do your best to remember the uninhibited you.  That might help you get a sense of who you really are.  Think about the things you really enjoy and why you enjoy them.   You may find activities you thought you enjoyed but when you give them some thought you realize you only do them because you think others will accept you.  Perhaps you will re-engage with a part of yourself you put away because you thought you had to in order to find acceptance.  Be gentle with yourself and others as you go on this journey.  You may have to go through a time of mourning as you grieve the past.  Eventually, as you heal from the grief over lost years and lost parts you can begin to celebrate the awareness you now have and the opportunities that await the connected you. Take your time with all of this; it’s not an overnight task.
Some can process through this all on their own with the help of trusted friends.  Some will need the guidance of a trained counselor/therapist or coach.  If this stirred something within you, I encourage you to get the help you need.  I used all of the above in my journey and I am incredibly thankful.  I might be messy, but all of me is present. J

Getting Your Needs Met Part 3: What Are Your Needs?

Moving right along from the last post related to understanding what needs are, let’s shift into understanding your own needs. I introduced the idea of contemplating your needs in the last post but I am not going to assume you came up with any. Not because I don’t think you can come up with your own needs. It’s because I don’t want to assume the task was easy for you. I get frustrated sometimes when I am introduced to a new concept but not guided down the path slowly through each point so that I can fully understand and incorporate the concept into my life. If you are already aware of your needs then feel free to skip this post and wait for Part 4 🙂
So we begin the journey of figuring out our needs in relationships. It begins with knowing yourself. Some of us are so closed down to who we really are and what we really need that this task may seem like a chore or perhaps a “why bother?” Here’s my belief: we all have likes and dislikes. You may think you are so easy going that you don’t need anything in particular and take pride in going with the flow. I will challenge you to determine if you are a chameleon who is actually afraid of rejection if you show your true colors. Many of us are. I believe you were wired to be aware of your likes and dislikes. It’s part of understanding who you are, the aspects of your being that separate you from everyone else. We were not meant to be what we think others want us to be (oh what a hamster-wheel-life that is!). We were designed to walk through our lives allowing each circumstance to be an opportunity to find out who we are, what we think, and how we feel. No one else can answer those questions for you. That part of your journey must be forged on your own. You can seek the counsel of others in determining the answers, but those whom you seek cannot do the answering. This topic relates to our boundaries. I wrote a post on this, it might be worth reading if this is a new concept for you. May I also suggest the book, Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
To begin understanding your own needs, ask yourself about things you are doing, eating, saying, hearing…pretty much anything. Ask the question, “Do I like this?” You might not have an answer or you might answer quickly, “Yes!” If you say yes, ask yourself why. What do you like about it? If you say no, ask why. What is it about this thing that you don’t like it? If you don’t have an answer, explore that. Why don’t you have an answer? Are you too tired to think about it? Then get some rest and commit to asking yourself when you are in a better state to give it more time and effort. Maybe you’re not tired; you simply don’t like spending time thinking about these sorts of things. “It’s a waste of time,” you might say. Really? I suppose part of living your own life is deciding the things you want to spend time on, but how do you know what those things really are if you don’t take time to know who you are and the things that matter to you? I don’t believe we are shallow by nature. We get shallow when we shut ourselves off from knowing who we really are.
You may have shut yourself off from your needs to protect yourself somewhere along the way in your development. This is not unusual. Perhaps you had an alcoholic or abusive parent or caregiver and there was no space for your needs. Maybe your parents or caregivers were so preoccupied with something other than you that your needs were not heard or didn’t matter. These scenarios are quite common. Most of us put our needs aside in order to survive. You are an adult now and you get to decide if you and your needs have value. The fact that you are breathing tells me you have value. That part is a given, inherent in human life. It’s up to you to begin to believe that. Get around people who genuinely care about and support you in your growth. That is the ideal place to find healing. You may also enlist the help of a trained therapist/counselor/coach to guide you toward healing and wholeness.
Another reason I believe it’s important to know what we like and don’t like: it’s the one thing no one can take from us. It’s our essence, our choice to be who we are. Viktor Frankl survived a concentration camp during World War II. The thing that got him through the horrific experience of having all his rights taken away was that he never let the Nazi’s have his essence, who he is and his ability to choose how to respond to his circumstances. We live in relatively pleasant times, but you never know when that might change. The reality of today is often painful enough and you will face heartache. It is then that you will need to rely on your essence for survival. You’ll have a better time dealing with life’s challenges when you’ve figured out who you are.
Become a student of yourself. This quest will help you identify your needs. Play with this a bit. Practice asking yourself what you need in this moment. Do you need a break from reading? Step away from the computer for a bit. Are you looking out your window wishing you could feel the sun on your face? Step outside. What does that feel like? Are you hungry? Get something to eat. What do you notice about how you feel now that you have eaten? Are you lonely and want to hear a friendly voice? Call someone. Find out what you need then meet the need and notice what happens within you. Warning: needs in this context and in all posts from me must fall into a realm of legal and healthy. You may think you need Meth, but you really don’t. You may think you need to eat the entire chocolate cake or to scream at the annoying driver in front of you. You don’t need either. Check in with what you need, ask yourself if what you came up with is legal and healthy, then do what you can to meet your need.
Once you understand your needs, move on to the next step: communicating them, but you’ll have to wait until I post it 🙂