We hear the word ‘surrender’ and the admonishment to ‘live in the moment’ all of the time in spiritual circles – even ‘Let go and let God’ – However, for many of us, this is not only a challenge, but it often feels impossible as we’ve been so conditioned to ask – ‘and after that?’.
If you were asked to do too much too soon, take on too much responsibility at a young age, either physical responsibility such as household chores and emotional responsibility – caring for siblings, a sick parent or feeling responsible for an emotionally needy parent, then you have most likely learnt how to be very capable indeed. You can handle anything, you can cope with stress, you don’t suffer fools gladly, and you can get it all done and usually alone. Indeed, usually alone.
When we’ve been asked to do too much too soon we can hunger for the simple ability to be able to say ‘please hold me’, and at times it can be a big enough challenge to even recognize and admit to ourselves that we have needs. For example, the early death of one parent or a divorce can place us as children in the very uncertain position of becoming the friend and emotional support for the single parent, or the parent who is either unhappily married or coping with long term illness. What happens in such cases is that we learn to feel ashamed of our needs and to see them as weaknesses. When we cover our most basic need for affection with shame we are often deeply triggered by those we perceive to either be ‘weak’ or ‘needy’ whilst at the same time coveting the ability to simply surrendering to love.
Often as we approach the precipice of asking, our greatest fear arises – in surrendering to our need to be held, we may be rendered helpless, which in the midst of our fear translates into ‘incapable’ and when we’re ‘incapable’, our world is in danger of falling apart. This fear together with shame cripples us and very often the only way we can ever get our needs met is in an emergency situation or through direct or passive control of others.
This is such a desolate and lonesome state of affairs and our usual response is to avoid the feelings as much as possible, tuck them away somewhere so that we can remain functional and very capable. Our energies are projected outwards, we almost always have a project on the go, someone to help, something to solve, we may even be busy in a personal development program, doing therapy, healing or be on some other road to inner discovery. However, very often all of this can leave us empty handed, even disillusioned as it does not resolve the inner place of aloneness and the feeling of ‘I must do it all alone’ or ‘if I stop, I will crumble’.
The invitation here is to simply ask yourself ‘What would happen if I stopped?’, ‘What would happen if I allowed myself to be incapable?’
Very often when we’ve been asked to do too much too soon as children then our need to be capable can be stalked by deep seated feelings of worthlessness. The invitation again is simply to be present with it, to stop running and ask yourself ‘What if I am worthless?’ When we face our deepest fear it begins to lose power, it is no longer the big bad monster we think it to be. When we feel stalked by worthlessness, the ever present voice of doubt that often belies deeply hidden despair, it behooves us to stop, turn and look at it face on – this is where the magic happens. Terror can give way to tears, and tears can give way to laughter, and laughter can give way to the peace you’ve been looking for. We make the choice not to continue investing most of our life force energy keeping our deepest fear in place, we become liberated beyond measure.
So what happened?
Each and every person on the planet can struggle to surrender, be vulnerable and to allow themselves to be held. However, this is especially true you if one or more of following circumstances existed in early life:
– One of your parents died at an early age
– You were raised with a disabled or sick sibling
– You were given the responsibility to care for siblings
– You were given the responsibility to earn an income as a child
– One or both parents were alcoholics or had other substance abuse issues
– One parent was unhappily married and formed a friendship with you
– You are the survivor of physical, emotional, sexual or religious abuse
– You were forced to leave home at a young age
– You have an emotionally needy parent
– Your mother is your ‘best friend’
– You are adopted
What can I do?
The first big step is to recognize that this is what happened and that the cycle of denial, fear and shame regarding having deeper needs is very real and applies to you. The second step is to put all blame to one side, including any blame you will have placed on yourself. The third step is to actually ask yourself ‘what do I need?’
Very often ask we first ask ‘What do I need?’ our instant and habitual response is to retort with ‘But there is no-one here to give anything to me’. This is the big bad trap and it is the one trap that will keep this cycle of fear, shame, worthlessness and denial going until the next time we fall to our knees, burn out, or are motivated do everything in our power to cover up the specter of loneliness.
You can start by asking for help. That help can come in different forms. Help with chores, duties and other practical things – if there is someone there, ask them, if there is no-one there, can you afford to hire help? Can you afford not to? Delegate and disclose. This may be a challenge at first, it may even seem hopeless as perhaps even your friends cannot see your deeper needs. They may have become so accustomed to your capability it may take a major shift in their perception of you for them to be able to even hear that you have a need – even after you’ve stated it. We all have a tendency to view life and other people through our habitual filters. If you’ve spent a decade or two presenting yourself as being very capable on not needing help, this image may be a tough one to shift in your circle of friends. Without blaming yourself or others, make peace with the fact that you’ve played a big part in creating this lens that others are seeing you through and slowly and repeatedly let them know that in fact you are vulnerable and that you do have deeper needs.
The Courage to Face it All
The ‘L’ word that no-one ever really wants to name, let alone face, is loneliness. When we’re too capable to surrender and therefore too capable for love, loneliness plays a big part in our day to day existence. When we look at it for what it is we soon realize that our loneliness has little to do with the amount of people in our lives but that the feeling of emptiness has been with us for a very long time, likely from childhood or teenage years. When we were asked to do too much too soon it means that we missed out of an integral part of our development and were not filled with the love of a parent or guardian and that our essence was neither seen nor acknowledged. When we face this place of emptiness we can begin to reclaim the parts of us that have been lost in grief, despair or feelings of worthlessness. You start today with nurturing yourself and making peace with your lack of perfection and follow that through with simply asking for what you need.
Shavasti is a spiritual teacher, author and workshop leader with two decades of experience in the field of Personal Development and Healing. He is the author of four books under his pen name, John L. Payne, is a Shamanic practitioner, Energy Healer and expert in the field of Family Constellations and Ancestral Healing. www.shavasti.com
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