I’ve shared somewhere in another blog one of the most healing comments I have read in a book somewhere else by John Bradshaw, he reminds us that we are human beings not human doings, and so, just by reason of our existence we are valuable. Our value does not rest on what we do but on who we are. If you have a strong sense of healthy self esteem you will value yourself, not by your outer accomplishments but by your inner self of being valuable and worthwhile just for being you, when you seem to make a mistake you will be far more forgiving of yourself than someone who does not have this sense of self value.
How many of us can say that this is true? There are some of us who learn to survive the lack of affirmation, attention and support in our childhood or other traumas by becoming accommodators or people pleasers. We probably learned while very young that we may not get much attention unless we oriented ourselves around other people and their will and needs. We learned to turn our antenna outwards, we may have had to be hyper-vigilant too to escape stress, abuse or attack, we may have a fine hair trigger and radar for danger which we expect to come to us by reason of what we have endured in the past. We find it hard to relax and we may develop compulsions, needing to keep busy unconsciously because we fear feeling the feelings we may need to feel if we just sit still.
I identify myself very much as an accommodator, due to the trauma of my past I can also be what Darlene Lancer calls a bystander, someone who sits on the sidelines and watches, fearing intense emotional involvement due to trauma of the past. Keeping separate so as not to be too drawn into other’s dramas. And I do think that a need to detach is so essential for those of us on the path of recovery who as accommodators have in the past been drawn by unconscious patterning to more powerful people around us who then can manipulate us, drawing on our sensitive nature and over caring.
Today as I was contemplating recent events in my family some words of T.S. Eliot came to me :
Teach me to care, and not to care
I know I would most certainly not be my most true self if didn’t have empathy and respond to other’s pain with a sense of sensitivity, I also know it is counter productive for me at times to identify too strongly with another person’s pain and suffering to the point where I get completely sucked in and lose myself. There is a time when caring too much can be very counterproductive for me. I can then judge myself for detaching and stepping back when in fact that might be the most sane response in that particular situation. I am not entirely sure who I think is judging me in this kind of scenario, I just feel an intense anxiety accompanied with all kinds of shaming voices which try to pull me back to the old pattern.
In her writing on co-dependency recovery, Melodie Beattie addresses the issue of “after burn”, its a painful feeling of intense fear or anxiety which we encounter when we change a formerly co-dependent response with someone. Part of our healing may mean staying with the afterburn, containing and not reacting from that intense experience of anxiety. After we do this a few times we become stronger.
I had my own experience of afterburn on the weekend. I shared about it in an earlier blog today. I am still knee deep in the process of learning to care and not to care. Its a new experience for me. I know Saturn hitting my Neptune again by transit which squares all my personal planets is currently driving this lesson home to me. I don’t want to seem like the tough nut who walks away when others are suffering or in pain. But sometimes, a lot of the time that pain and suffering is something they have to go through. It could contain an essential lesson which will be lost if I step in and act from my own anxiety.
Stepping back gives me a place to rest. It gives me time to be, to relax. Lately I’m finding it easier to just sit still in the silence and listen to the beating of my own heart.
Today while gardening the following message came to me
Stay close to the ground
I did sit on the ground then and just felt the earth supporting me. I was no longer in my head, my thoughts churning I was present with this precious moment, conscious of my body, in touch with my breath. In that moment I felt myself to be a human being at one with the earth for just this present moment and it was enough.