Here’s a summary of the most important insights I have gained from my four decades of personal and spiritual growth work.
Key 1. In the early days, I searched for the right psychological and spiritual techniques to get rid of my emotional and physical pain. I participated in all kinds of therapies. I had two mentors who were masters of psychology and spirituality, and those relationships changed my life forever. Countless other teachers and counselors contributed to my growth. While there were some amazing transformations and one gigantic experience of enlightenment, I still got my feelings hurt. I still got angry. I still felt insecure at times. It was so frustrating. I thought I should be able to get rid of these feelings.
This is what I learned: If you think that you must get rid of uncomfortable feelings to be whole, you will never succeed. As long as you believe that you must be perfect to be a good enough person, it won’t work. You will never be able to develop enough perfection to consider yourself lovable all the time, or even most of the time.
Key 2. Embrace the good, bad and ugly.
When you shift your paradigm to accept all parts of yourself … the good, the bad and the ugly … then you will experience inner peace. Then you will accept yourself unconditionally, the way you wish other people would. You can be centered and grounded even amidst the chaos all around you. You will still experience the whole range of your emotions, but you will remove the judgment that some emotions are good and some are bad. You will learn that you can contain your emotional experiences and be OK. You can stop exploding or imploding. You will learn how to process difficult emotions in ways that are safe for you and safe for others. This is called shadow work.
As you learn to skillfully move into the eye of the storm, you will pass through all the turbulence of fear and doubt and shame and anger and rage and profound grief. You will promise yourself that your highest commitment is to stay present with yourself every step of the way and to stay close to God. You will learn how to ground yourself in your body and breathe deeply.
When your vulnerable emotions are experienced in the presence of profound love, your self-defeating patterns shift. You can stop the compensating strategies such as: being way too busy, helping people at the expense of your own health, or self-medicating with shopping, food, drugs or alcohol. You will learn how to be transparent and real. Your Authentic Self will emerge.
Key 3. Making peace with your inner family promotes peace in your outer world.
Refusing to abandon yourself any longer, you will call home all your lost parts and love them, just as you would love a troubled child. You love your children, but you don’t condone hurtful behavior. You will learn how to do that with yourself as well.
For example, your inner nurturing parent can learn how to truly connect with the heart of your wounded child. The inner child will finally feel understood, freeing her from the deep ache of feeling lonely and unseen. These sub-personalities and other inner family members live in your psyche. As you become aware of each one’s need, you will learn how to resolve the unconscious conflicts within you that cause you to not do the things you know you need to do for self-care.
You will experience more inner harmony without anyone outside of yourself needing to change to make things better for you. When you don’t need people to change, they often will change. You’ll feel the Holy Spirit flooding you with love, and it will settle deep into your bones because there’s finally a place for it to land: inside your body, inside your heart, inside your mind, inside your spirit.
This is what I call finding your way Home. This is the Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self. Your emotions and your whole body will relax and unwind. You’ll learn how to help your reactive emotions shift from a stormy ocean to gentle waves caressing the shore.
Key 4. When you let yourself have deep emotional experiences in the safety of a wise loving person or a well-trained therapist, the most profound transformations emerge.
In this place of unconditional love, you will understand your defense strategies thoroughly. Insights flood your mind, and compassion takes up residency in your whole being. The reactive patterns lose their hold because they no longer operate at an unconscious level.
You have a real choice for the first time to be different, to be who you really are … your Authentic Self … instead of all your past programming. The belief that you have to be perfect vanishes. You no longer have to please others so you can feel loveable and capable. Your need to rebel, distance, cling to or push against your loved ones melts. Your eyes soften and your heart opens. Pain often subsides.
You will come to understand that all human beings go through similar struggles. Some of us realize our predicament and some of us don’t. The ones who don’t will continue to feel like a puppet whose strings are pulled by an invisible puppeteer. While we long for true freedom and love, and we may think that we have it for a while, time and time again we will get pulled into the quicksand of reactive emotion and behaviors. Relationships will be injured. Successful careers will be based on manipulation. Slow drivers will be yelled at. Bodies will suffer from all the energy held hostage from denied insecurity …
until the time comes when we choose to develop the skill and courage to love ourselves and speak our truth from vulnerability and transparency.
Key 5. The shame you once carried for being less than perfect can be transformed.
From a new place of inner strength, you can learn how to let your walls down in safe places … with safe people. You can trot out your Authentic Self into the light of day and see who she or he is. Sometimes she is a wise old crone and sometimes an impish child. Sometimes a funny monkey swinging from trees, and sometimes the most somber recluse you could ever imagine, sitting high on top of a mountain all alone, happily basking in the solitude, intimately communing with the heart of the most Holy.
P.S. It helps to bring the person you love most to therapy with you so you both learn how to become a safe harbor in the midst of the storm. When your loved one is involved in therapy, the results double according to attachment theory research reported by Dr. Sue Johnson in her book Love Sense.