Over the past few months, one of the most difficult realizations I’ve had to come to is that I am worthy of good things in life. I never actively thought that I was unworthy of anything, but through a lot of soul searching and meditation, what I found is that I have an ingrained unconscious idea that I don’t deserve anything. I am not wealthy and I struggle for almost everything that I have. At some deep level, I did think that I reaped what I sowed. That there was something wrong with me that kept me from success and that I was the architect of that failure.
I was correct about being the architect of my own failure, but not because I was inherently unworthy of anything. My early childhood was spent struggling with illness and bullying. I internalized both of these things and they became a part of my early psyche. I believed that it was my lot in life to struggle as the outsider. I didn’t believe that I’d ever be accepted because I had poor physical coordination and I didn’t always understand what someone was trying to teach me due to my learning disabilities. My mother went above and beyond to find help for me — for which I am eternally grateful — but even that left me with the notion that I was a bother. Just dealing with me was to be put upon in my mind. I was embarrassed by that. I spent so much time trying to hide from the fact that I needed help, because I feared that I was too much of a burden. Every time I had to go for physical therapy or cognitive therapy for my learning disabilities, I felt extreme anxiety. My childhood and teen years were rife with internal feedback loops of negative thought energy.
One cannot simply breakout of these feedback loops without doing shadow work (perhaps the theme of my next blog entry). In short, our shadow selves are all the things we repress from our conscious minds because they represent our dark selves; the things we don’t like to acknowledge in ourselves or share with the rest of the world. It’s not always bad that we keep these things about who we are quiet (for instance, if one is filled with thoughts of violent behavior). However, it’s not a good thing to be unaware of our shadow. By being aware of the shadow side, we can actually confront it and deal with it constructively. We can incorporate it in ways that are useful to us. When we keep this side repressed, it will bubble forward in unexpected and (typically) unintended ways.
My shadow side can be rather nasty. When I feel cornered, I can lash out in incoherent anger and frustration. So often in the middle of an outburst I can literally hear my mind screaming, “STOP! What are you saying?!” I am not quick to anger, but I do bottle things up so that explosions are the only outlet I have. I’ve learned through shadow work that I bottle things up because I feel that to express myself openly about – anything really – is to bother someone. It is due to feeling nullified in my past. Shadow work is helping me to find small outlets for expression so that I cease the endless loop of suppression and explosion.
But those explosions were part of my problem of a deep seated unconscious belief that I am unworthy of happiness and a good life. Other things like the fact that I move slower and I’m more prone to physical illnesses because of my compromised immune system, have left me with an internalized feeling that I don’t work hard enough and that is why I am struggling so hard.
I’ve started to be conscious of how I physically feel whenever I start to think that I am lazy and just don’t want to do something. Sometimes I am actually being lazy. But about 75% of the time, I am now aware that what is causing me to avoid a task is the physical pain or discomfort I am in due to real physical constraints. It’s difficult for me to admit the real mental and physical reality I live with every day, because I so thoroughly internalized those early childhood bullies (not always other kids, but also many adults). This will be a struggle for me. Just yesterday I slipped back into the thought, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this when everyone else can!?” My wonderful partner caught me and brought it to my attention, and I was able to correct the thought before it started to turn itself on me in a more significant way.
I am worthy of a good life and good things flowing into my life. I believe we all are. But we have to be open to it. We have to allow it to flow into us. I’m not pretending that there aren’t external obstacles to our happiness. There are, and they can be insurmountable depending on one’s circumstance. The external world can be unrelenting and swallow us whole, which is also another blog entry for a different time. But often, WE are the obstacle. We don’t believe we’re worthy of goodness and good things. The internalization of our demons keeps up down and we begin to believe, consciously and unconsciously, that we are undeserving. It follows us.