Lost and Found
An important aspect of inner work is bringing to light the unconscious beliefs that shape the way we see ourselves, others, and the world. We carry our beliefs as an inner narrative, an internal conversation that has roots in the very earliest development of our brain and nervous system. In our attempts to find meaning in early relational experiences, in an effort to connect with our caregivers, to give and receive love, we formulated a sense of self that could and would survive the limitations in our environment. If our earliest relationships with caregivers did not provide adequate holding nor sufficient space in which we could rest in unstructured states of being - if our unique perspective, emotional experience, and basic goodness was not effectively mirrored back to us – it was just too psychically unsafe to see this lack of mirroring as a lack of capacity in those around us. So we blamed ourselves. We came to believe, in an attempt to make sense of our experience, that we were just not worthy of attention, affection, love, and attunement.
As painful as this realization may be, perhaps it provides some temporary refuge from overwhelming anxiety. Chronic shame seems to have its origins in the lack of empathic attunement, where there was no adequate holding or loving container in which sacred little nervous systems could unfold, rest, and explore in a way that would foster true self-love. The inner dialogue of the unworthy self is rooted in such a young version of who you are. That old shaming narrative is deeply embedded at every level of dvelopment: cognitive, emotional, neurobiological, somatic, and behavioral. Quickly, now, while you are reading this . . . send breath, awareness, and love into each of these areas. Tell these tired, aching lonely parts that you are aware of them and listening; that you intend to untangle these past wounds of the body and the heart from the souls journey through the present. In the moment, it may feel like it’s too much to ask, like it can never be healed or resolved. So, it’s important for anyone of us who have witnessed the possibility of change or have participated in processes of transformation ourselves to remind those who are suffering that it is possible, that there is hope.
The inner narrative of shame and unworthiness can feel SO entrenched - and the corresponding feelings can be so intense and overwhelmingly lonely, as they are potent reminders of the long-ago dark night. And STILL, the traumatic narrative can be revised, new meaning can be discovered. New life can be found. New breath can be breathed. We can come to discover that even in the core of the most profound hopelessness, a small light of hope is buried there, the flame is still alive.
The past cannot be erased, but we can update the meanings we made and get more clarity about the truth of what we were then and what we are now. A more cohesive, real-time, accurate, integrated story can be told, an inner dialogue in which you are not a victim, but a holy, bright, autonomous intelligence. From this clarity a new dream can be dreamed. New cloth can be woven. It is possible. I have been honored to witness this movement in the lives of many courageous men and woman over the years. It is not easy work and asks everything of us. This is not some Pollyanna or overly romantic, positivistic fantasy. And of course, it is impossible for me to know if everyone can heal, transform, and find some relief, or even a new way. The truth is I do not, cannot know. But I can share my own experience, which is that I have seen the outrageous intelligence and bravery of the broken human heart. It is a force greater than exploding stars. Together, we can share our journeys. We can listen carefully to each other, holding the experiences of others and our own, as utterly valid, honorable, and intelligent, exactly as those experiences are arising. We can set aside the need to fix and cure ourselves or each other. And in some way – while fully honoring the pain and the devastation of the dark night – also remember the very unique light that was buried back then, and can be found, only there.