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?
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.
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.
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.