One thing I have found to be a true blessing, along with spiritual faith, is self-awareness. It is one of the most important things we need to achieve growth and inner peace in this life, and something I write about often.
I have lately been thinking about those who may not have as much self-awareness as others, about those people who haven’t changed much over the years, and are still stuck in the same old patterns they have always been.
I read a little something recently, it said:
“If you are the same person, with the same perspective you had a decade ago; then you have just wasted ten years of your life!”
Before I gained some Godly self-awareness, I thought I was self-aware. I thought I was a ‘good person’. I prided myself on having good intentions and wisdom. My heart was in the right place (or so I thought), I knew the difference between right and wrong (or so I thought), and I was a good friend and family member (or so I thought).
Back then I had no regrets, I had no lingering, self-conscious guilt, because I always had a very good explanation for my actions. It was usually something like, “I meant well”, “I felt ….”, “I’m only human”, or “I had no choice” (because of what someone else did first).
I had little or no remorse for my own actions, (unless of course I got hurt in the fallout). I never set out to hurt anyone, and if I did hurt someone else, I found a way to believe I was right, and that made it ok with me. I saw no reason to change, I was onto it (or so I thought). I used my excuses, and understanding to stay in my own spiraling cycle.
When I became aware of how God saw things, it smacked me in the face and it hurt!
I was SELFISH! I saw things from my way and didn’t consider that perhaps there was a better way. Sure I was always rushing to help people, I was thoughtful and did kind deeds all the time. I tried to find ways to show my affection for others so that they would know how much I thought of them. But I didn’t realise that I was really only doing it to be seen as a good person, not because I was actually a good person. I couldn’t admit the truth to myself so I figured all the trials of life were not lessons I had to learn, just tests to see if I was strong enough and if I could keep my faith through them.
Life will do it’s best to help us become aware of ourselves, and if we stop avoiding it we will be amazed by the realisation. And while it is a challenge to work hard and break the cycles you have been stuck in your whole life, it is definately worth it.
In a recent therapy session we were discussing the downfalls of having no self-awareness. My therapist put it this way “If you don’t regret your actions that affected yourself or others in a negative way, then you avoid the reasoning to need to repair the situation, and refuse to take a realistic look at yourself and make necessary changes.” In other words, these people can’t apologise without explaining why they aren’t really to blame, and they don’t see the need to alter the way they handle things.
He also said that “People who excuse their own actions and don’t own up to the pain they caused another, will continue to hurt others and will usually end up very lonely, they will also wonder why”.
How sad is that! Out of a lack of self-awareness we can damage our relationships so badly, and some will never find the inner peace of growth, or a new perspective and the truth about themselves. It may leave them without a clue as to why they feel isolated from others. We can easily blame everyone else yet we refuse to accept blame ourselves, it would simply be more productive if we swallowed our pride and took a good look in the mirror. That is the only area of our lives that we can bring about a true transformation.
The serenity prayer is one commonly found in households all over the world. It aims to tackle this self-awareness problem. We need the courage to face ourselves head on, to see the truth about ourselves and make the adjustments necessary to bring about a change in our lives, one we will never regret.
“God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I never thought it could happen…… Not to me!
The first time it happened, I found I simply had nothing nice to say, everything seemed bleak and I didn’t want to drag down those around me. All my jokes, extended stories, quick comebacks, deep philosophies and laughter had left me. So rather than forcing out anything, just for the sake of speaking, I became quiet. Needless to say, everyone could tell something was wrong and hassled me relentlessly about my melancholy reservedness.
It has been many years since my deep depression, and with a lot of therapy and some big life changes, those faithful old friends ‘words’ came back with a vengeance. I sang them, I spoke them, I thought them, I wrote them, I kept them, I shared them….
“Welcome back wonderful words, how I missed you!” – I felt like ME again.
However, recently I have noticed moments of wordlessness appearing here and there.
I’ve forced out a few drafts of posts, but they simply don’t have that genuine passion resonating through them, so I have not been content enough to hit publish.
I haven’t touched my novel in months.
I have even found myself sitting in company, quietly, actually thinking to myself “come on, you must have something to say, think!”.
Have you guessed? I am not a fan of uncomfortable silences!
So I ask questions, to break the silence. I hear their stories, however long or short…
Am I becoming a listener?
It is something I have prayed for many years to become better at. It’s not that I don’t listen, I hear what is being said, but perhaps I don’t let others know, or feel, that I am truly listening. Maybe I am not patient enough to allow others get it all off their chest. I always have some response to share during their stories.
Some have complained that I talk too much, I admit that much of the time I do, and in the past I have become self-condemning about it. At times I have prayed, begged, pleaded for God to SHUT MY MOUTH! Even if a change came, it did not last for long, as soon as the darkness lifted, I felt like myself again and so did my overactive mouth. I dearly hope to find the ability to be in a really good mood and yet stay quiet..but it has eluded me for all my life.
What a strange change…
Perhaps this is just another episode? The low after many weeks of manic moods and excessive mind wandering? In any case I intend to use the quiet to my advantage. To pursue growth.
Has the Lord has opened up a space for meditation while in the company of others? Something I have not often felt able to practice in the past. Really being there and not lost in a sea of my own thoughts and words.
My therapist gave me some great pointers on how to experience deep listening. He based these tips around the mantra “to be present but without self“.
The first time we practiced this, I was surprised how much I had to concentrate on what was being said while shutting down my own thought reactions, reactions that related their story back to me and my feelings about it. To only try to understand their feelings and leave mine out of it.
This is pretty tough for me, my ego is quite a self-centred bully at times. However, I found this whole thing much easier once I understood what I needed to do in order to achieve deep listening skills. It will take effort, awareness and practice, but you know me, I am always up for a challenge of self (or lack of self as the case may be) 😉
So if things have been a little quiet around here lately, now you know why…
I’m here…. I’m listening….I’m growing…
I have come across many people who hide from themselves, they resist the pursuit of finding themselves, and miss out on growing into the happiest possible version of themselves.
Have you learned how to be happy and accept who you are, and ignore the opinions of those who set out to change or criticise you? Have you stopped the force of influence from people who you do not aspire to be like?
Are you authentically true to yourself?
Does your life and character reflect who YOU really want to be?
There are some important steps to pursuing the authentic, untainted version of you! Steps towards learning how to become the You, that YOU really want to be.
I have found these steps to be the foundation of what I have gained during over 6years of honest therapy, with a few different psychologists.
Sometimes, often even, a stigma can follow an announcement of seeing a psychologist. Those who have not had therapy, or not understood the need for it, may vastly misjudge those of us who go regularly, and wonder what is ‘wrong’ with us. Some may avoid therapy even if they think they need it, because this stigma covers them with shame. Sure, the most extreme cases of ‘crazy’ are treated in therapy, and so are a variety of mild to severe mental illnesses, mood disorders and psychological conditions. However I don’t feel you have to have a severe problem to benefit from regular therapy. In fact I think everyone would benefit from seeing a good therapist, even just once in a while.
I have found that a good therapist is a sounding board, a place to express your own thoughts, feelings, desires and concerns about who you are and how your life is going. It is place to escape the onslaught of voices from those who have taught us their own rules of good & bad, right & wrong, should & should not. It can become a place where you get to investigate and choose which rules YOU agree with, which ones you want to alter, and which to delete entirely.
A good therapist will not tell you what they think you should or should not do, but will empower you to eliminate those toxic, unhealthy influences and rules you are not benefited by. Those you have adopted through exposure during your lives, which do not improve your sense of fulfillment and self-acceptance.
Have you spent time digging through your beliefs, choices, actions and habits and figured out what makes you tick? I recommend we question everything we were ever taught and test it against what we have learned in our own experiences. What was true for our parents and teachers may not be true for us. What we teach our children is based on our own perceptions and may not be true for them as they grow into their true selves.
Once you have figured out which rules you want to keep and apply, establishing some boundaries will protect your belief system. Developing your own boundaries in a healthy productive way, gives strength and stability to your choices. Good therapists will help with this. The instability from past attempts at boundaries, I have found, resulted because they were actually walls put up reactively, out of anger and resentment etc. These unhealthy walls will probably crumble at the first sign of challenge, or cause even more of the bitterness and anger that first created them.
A healthy proactive boundary will bring a sense of peace, it does not need to be pushed onto anyone else, but when challenged can be gently, or firmly, reinforced exactly where you have comfortably placed it. It gives assurance of the ‘You’ who you want to be, because when challenged, you won’t allow someone you did not permit to influence your beliefs and your sense of the authentic YOU!
In a panicked tone I say to my 7yr old daughter. “Put that down, don’t touch, you will break something!” I’m holding up a canvas with a painted flower on it, rocking the pram cradling my sleeping baby, with my other hand. My head is spinning, my chest is tight, and my heart racing as I hurriedly try to finish off my Christmas shopping. All the requirements to survive Christmas in an acceptable manner hang heavily over my head, but I’m not paying enough attention to notice how heavy they are. I am completely lost in the whirlwind of meeting everyone’s expectations and the ticking clock. I believe I am capable, I know if I push myself really hard I can outrun any possible guilt of failing to impress.
A million questions buzz around the racetrack in my mind, it’s anybody’s guess which one I will ponder long enough to be satisfied with the answer… if at all. ‘What do people really want for Christmas?’ ‘How can the gift appear worth something without blowing the budget?’ ‘What haven’t they already got?’ ‘Maybe I could make something?’ What if I run out of time and don’t finish it?’, ‘What if it’s not good enough?’, ‘What if I’m not good enough?’ ‘What if I ruin the meal and everyone will be left unsatisfied?’ ‘What if it falls apart and my facade drops and the quivering failure inside is revealed for all to see?’ ….
“I will just keep going, I have no choice, I will push harder, I won’t fail”… I will just smile and make it feel like a Merry Christmas!
That was me before my car accident…. There were moments I let myself enjoy the company of family and friends, of gifts and carols. There were times of joy, only they were tainted with deep insecurity that creeped it’s way into so many areas of my life.
After my accident I spent the next few Christmases, trying to stay sane inside a mind that didn’t want to play fair, trying desperately to resist the list of unmet expectations. I spent those years numb and defensive against the world with it’s mountain of pressure, which I could no longer push myself to climb. I clung frantically to my faith, begging the Lord to drag me out of bed and into the Christmas spirit. I was crumbling under constant migraines, anxiety, exhaustion, shoulder pain and self-condemnation, drowning in a sea of judgement and depression. Eventually I withdrew, I folded into the smallest version of myself, hoping I could fly under the radar so that no one would notice how useless I was. I took Valium and I slept….a lot.
To add insult to injury, smack bang in the middle of a grueling compensation law suit, and right before Christmas, my Dad lost his battle with cancer. He hadn’t been sick long enough for us to be truly prepared. We knew it would be quick, but even though we thought we were ready, we were kidding ourselves. So many chapters of the book left open and only half read. It sent shock waves through the family and I drowned my sorrows at a wake that lasted for weeks. The weight of his passing distracted me from finding true Christmas joy, so I fed it Vodka and sang carols loudly to the Lord, and I took photos of children opening gifts, like any good Mummy does. Each year has gotten a little easier, yet still carries a sense of dread.
And so here we are…. Has a change really come?…
This is the first Christmas since I began blogging, and the therapeutic evidence it has had over me is overflowing into my life. I have had a number of breakthroughs and a strange sense of peace surrounds me this year. I don’t feel as burdened with the grief of Dad’s passing because I feel him with me so much more since I began sharing our history with others online. I arranged all the extended family’s presents and sent them off early this month. I have taken some extra time off work so I can just relax with my girls and am looking forward to their company of cuddles and conversation. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the back-to-back gatherings and actually feel present rather than distracted, which is becoming a more regular, blessed experience for me.
Christmas has developed a reputation of chaos and anguish, at a time of year when a light might shine on forgiveness, love, acceptance and peace. There are going to be times when these things are overlooked, yet it is possible to discover a change at Christmas, the closer we get to our true selves and learn to put the expectations aside, to strip back the hoopla and reflect on the birth of our King.
I send up prayers for all to experience some peace on earth this Christmas, to focus on being present rather than getting presents, and to feel truly grateful and blessed for the gift of Christ to us, a gift of salvation to a world in desperate need of saving.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
I started this blog for a number of reasons. I have a strong desire to share with others how to recognise and overcome our inner enemies. I hoped my experiences would prevent others from being captives of lies and destruction in their lives. Yet recently the Lord allowed me to come face-to-face with a new level of my own inner war.
I had known for a few weeks that a trial was coming in the form of a get-together. I knew that my forgiveness and trust would be challenged. I won’t lie and tell you I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t afraid of who may come at me, I was concerned about how I may react if my boundaries were challenged and the situation turned ugly. I still don’t trust myself or my reactions when faced with inner enemies from my past. I know I need to keep my boundaries strong when they are shot at and stomped upon, but strong boundaries are a relatively new practice for me and I have yet to test them properly against the ‘big guns’ in my life, not enough to feel secure in them anyway.
I decided to go on a 3 day fast, and to pray for God to hold me in His safe grip. I reminded myself that all is in God’s hands and to be prepared, rather than taken unaware, if the situation turned down an ugly path.
The shock factor is what sends me into an uncontrollable spiral, so I try to avoid being shocked if at all possible.
I sensed the spiritual pressure building a day or two before the test, my reactions were aggressive and volatile. I kept praying, and filling myself with the word of God, apologising to all around me for my prickly nature. The trial came and went without drama, but it was when I relaxed in the aftermath that my inner enemies saw fit to sink their claws into me and my old insecurities. This was an onslaught from left field and I was entirely shocked!
For the following 3days I was completely overwhelmed with spiritual attack, I believed the lies they were feeding me, and allowed them to control my reactions and emotions. No matter how much I prayed or read my Bible, I couldn’t lift my head out from the murkiness to see clearly. I truly believed every lying thought in my head. My attack opened the door, inviting itself into my home. Arguments and tears flooded the rooms, harsh words and discord became rampant. Love, joy, peace and truth were nowhere to be found!
On the fourth day the curse was broken and I saw….
My enemies had been telling me I was failing God, that I would never complete His request of me to write His novel. That my Husband didn’t really support my writing, or understand me, or love me for all my uniqueness, lies provoking thoughts that all my blessings were a moment from collapse. No matter how hard I tried to explain, hoping someone would convince me differently, I was left hanging over the abyss with only lies to keep me company.
In my usual analytical fashion I assessed myself trying figure out what had inspired this attack. Besides the fact that I am usually spiritually challenged around a full moon, and had the lingering residual pressure from the get-together. I was also facing strong emotions as I cleaned out old boxes, ones which had belonged to my Dad and had been sitting in my garage, since he passed.
As I sit here and reflect on it all, I feel so weak for allowing my old insecurities to rise up and cause dysfunction in my family. I’ve confessed, I’ve praised, I’ve sobbed for my Dad, wishing him to be here to pray for me, like he used to, when times like this arise and I am left exposed and vulnerable.
Yet I can’t help but understand that something huge happened in the spiritual realm as a result of all this. Plus of course my own massive realisations. New levels of self-awareness, humility and growth. Renewed faith and confidence in God’s strength to still pull me out of all the dark times, and all in His perfect timing and not mine.
I would love for all my posts to be filled with encouragement from my accomplished victories, rather than wallowing in despondent self-assessment. Yet I refuse to hide from the truth of my weakness, and will give glory for the only strength that gets me through. His!