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Many moons ago, I wrote a list of 12 Principles that were the basis of my under­stand­ing, both of my life and of my coun­selling prac­tice. I’ve been think­ing about pulling them together into a small book that I could give to new clients.

I’ve decided that I’d, at least for now, tackle each of the topics here, in the blog. We’ll see how it goes.


9 . My “I-am-ness” is limited only as I choose to limit myself. If I iden­tify with “good/bad,” right/wrong lists, or with what others think or what others want, my “I-am-ness” becomes a small, tight box. I must real­ize that I am not a noun. I am a verb. The ques­tion, then, is this: how much of my “I-am-ing” will I bring into conscious­ness, and how much will I choose to live?


swirl

One partic­u­larly inter­est­ing way to look at ourselves as human beings is to explore our free-flowing-ness versus our rigid­ity.

As with every­thing else we’ve talked about, where you are on this scale is totally your choice. In other words, we choose between rigid­ity and flex­i­bil­ity.

And, equally impor­tant, who I am is absolutely and totally demon­strated by what I do.

There is often a vast difference between who I am

and how I iden­tify myself (who I say I am.)

While there’s no doubt that infants are born as blank slates, it’s also true that each infant has has a vast array of inborn talents and abil­i­ties. Material is often repressed, so most of us cart around piles of subcon­scious and uncon­scious mate­r­ial. This “stuff” might be unex­plored, but it has its ways of getting our atten­tion. Dreams, strange inspi­ra­tions, unex­plained desires — these things have their roots in the unknown mate­r­ial.

Most of you know that Darbella teaches grades seven and eight in what could be described as a middle school — a school just for seventh and eighth-graders. In her almost 30 years at the school, two things remain the same — the kids enter as imma­ture chil­dren and exit as some­what mature teens, and more impor­tant, all but the strongest are forced into compli­ance through peer pres­sure.

whoopie

Rebellion! In groups!!

It’s quite ironic. It’s predictable that teens think they are stretch­ing their wings, rebelling against parental norms, and stand­ing on their own two feet, when all that’s really happen­ing is that they are exchang­ing parental rules for the stan­dards of their peers.

When you think about it, this is actually the process of all aspects of our socialization.

We get the first of it from our parents, the next part from our tribes (reli­gious groups, neigh­bors, rela­tives, etc.) and the third part from our peers. One researcher, Steven Pinker, suggests the ratio is 10% genet­ics, 40% parents, and 50% peers, as far as influ­ence goes. What happens, and it only differs in degree, is that more or less of our free­dom, our “I-am-ness,” is locked away behind the prison walls of soci­etal norms.

The walls, the defenses, serve a twofold purpose: to keep the world at bay, and to keep ourselves in check. In other words, we feel threat­ened by “the great out there,” and fear­ful of the power of our own passion.

It thus seems safer to hide behind the rigid walls of our own making.

This often comes out when clients blame others for their reluc­tance to make changes. I hear a lot of, “What can I do? I have kids. I can’t leave.” Or, “I chose this, and now I’m stuck with it — my father told me I make my bed and now I have to lie in it.” Or, “I want to do my life differ­ently but my [parents, siblings, chil­dren, part­ner,] won’t let me.” And on and on. Many are the excuses, the evasions, the equiv­o­ca­tions — all of which add up to a deathly fear of living life fully.

For most, self responsible living is entirely too self responsible.

character armor

The resis­tance is twofold:

1) people resist by over think­ing — over analyz­ing — as opposed to acting, and

2) people resist by tight­en­ing up their bodies, and through shal­low breath­ing. They thus create a person locked inside their own walls, some­thing Wilhelm Reich called char­ac­ter armor.

Our approach, in a sense, is to knock loudly on the walls. It’s not my job, as a ther­a­pist, to knock someone’s walls down. That’s an inside job.

In a sense, I’m sort of like a consul­tant on a home reno­va­tion project. I can tell you how to do it, and I will likely pick up the hammer and give you a demon­stra­tion, but the rest of the job, the hard slog­ging part, is up to you.

My refusal to do the job for you is a real problem — until you become self responsible.

For all your life, some­one has done the hard slog­ging for you. Or more likely, people have left you because you demanded that they do your work for you, and you’re still running around look­ing for some­one to save you. At the end of the day, however, you built the walls — and you conformed. It does not matter that you didn’t know what you were doing.

The way through the walls is to pay attention — to your dreams, to your hopes, to your aspirations — to the things that arise from inside.

Open the door to the full possi­bil­i­ties of you. Explore your grow­ing edges, your passions, your block­ages, the hidden recesses that contain the things you really want to do and be. Also, find your­self a Bodyworker or a deep tissue massage ther­a­pist to help you break through the char­ac­ter armor.

It’s the work of a lifetime to dismantle the walls that you have built up since you were born.

This work requires constant vigi­lance, a sense of humor, and a will­ing­ness to get your hands dirty. It also requires enact­ing, in the real world, what you learn about your­self. It may require dras­ti­cally chang­ing or leav­ing rela­tion­ships, chang­ing careers, or even moving to a new loca­tion or find­ing a new commu­nity. There is noth­ing simple, easy, or quick about any of this.

What you gain in self knowing, in “I-am-ness,” is decidedly worth the effort.

After all, walk­ing around encased in armor, bear­ing the burden of the walls soci­ety and you have wrapped around you, means that being in the world is very hard indeed.

With dedi­cated effort, with focus, and with the help of the commu­nity of fellow walk­ers, true free­dom, true relax­ation, and true depth can be yours.

It’s what the world cries for.


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So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

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