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It seems that there is almost a universal message: As human beings, we share common ground when it comes to feelings of unworthiness and not being deserving of genuine joy and happiness. For me, the theme has become so common and widespread that whenever I witness suffering – whether of my own making or another’s – I automatically tend to wonder: Is the root pain simply a lack of worth? Is the suffering an old and familiar acquaintance dressed as Mara who beckons us to question our value? The answer is usually yes!
In nature, a seed is planted, roots sprout, and life springs forth. In a similar fashion, we plant the seed of human experience with our souls and all that is. Our lives sprout and grow as we inhabit human form. I think we are like nature. All that is, the divine, or whatever you choose to call it, sows the seed of unlimited potential in the finite of physical form. Most likely, the seed has no idea what it will grow to be, and the possibilities are endless.
As with humans, plants vary in shape and form. The trunk may be thick or thin, the leaves can be a diverse range of size and color, but the roots have the same goal. Anchor, soak in nutrients and provide the foundation for life above to reach its potential. In a similar fashion, the divine provides the seeds, our souls provide the roots, and our lives grow. The choices we make provide the sustenance that shapes the form our life path takes.
To me, one of the ultimate challenges of being human is trying to balance the duality of the infinite and finite. Within the flux of energy, ongoing change, and constant movement, is the reality of life and death. Nothing is permanent. Our bodies will decay and die, our lives will change, and whether we seek it or not, we will change. We can feed ourselves with light and embrace unlimited potential, or we can keep ourselves in the dark attempting to hide and avoid fears and doubts.
Many healers and spiritual masters have commented on how we will face a core fear as we progress on a path of awakening. At some point, growth will bring a terrifying sense of opening to our genuine selves, love, and light. A young sprout that is unaccustomed to direct sunlight can burn if it receives too much light. Maybe some aspect of us lacks confidence in our ability to stand in divine light? We convince ourselves that the light will burn and harm us, or that we are not strong enough to stand in it, so we stay in the dark instead. We put on our sunblock, hats, and dark glasses in order to dim our awareness of what is right in front of us: Opportunity. Not the new age “lesson” kind. The real opportunity is to open to the light of loving kindness that is offered regardless of whether we see it or not.
I have often wondered: Is there an aspect of soul awareness that is fearful of being separated from all that is? And, does the human experience represent a sort of separation due to the finite aspects of physical existence? If so, then perhaps the root of unworthiness is linked to a questioning of our ability to be enough, to be of value, when feeling separated from all that is.
Can we survive being buried in the finite instead of reaching to the infinite? Our souls and spirits may, but our physical existence will pay the price. In reality, we never really are separate and nothing is genuinely fixed. Even though we may feel alone sometimes, I do not think that it’s possible to separate from our interconnectedness.
I can only imagine that somehow we misinterpreted a sign from our soul along the way. Like markers on a highway, instead of steering us off road, they are meant to direct us on our way. Our doubts, fears, and lack of worth may simply be a guiding light to the source. When we question our worth or value as individual beings, it can be a chance to look at the map, expand our awareness, and navigate to our authentic selves.
If we dig down, we will find our roots. When we shine love and light on ourselves, we blossom. When we flourish, we support all life. A sense of separation vanishes as we embrace our genuine selves. We are all deserving of joy and happiness! It’s the illusionary finite that tells us we’re not deserving or good enough. The infinite knows better.
Blame is a sensitive issue for me. Not because I tend to blame others for my way of being and feeling. Judging others is not my strong suit. Judging myself on the other hand, I excel at that! The painful reality is that in the long run, there is very little difference between judging ourselves verses another. Whether we externalize or internalize blame, at the core is the same issue: feelings of inadequacy and lack of worth. Feelings that are born from questioning our value.
For a very long time, I held onto a fantasy. I thought that if I said the right thing in the best way and behaved in some magically appealing manner, that I would finally feel loved and accepted. The chains of oppression birthed from guilt and insecurities would drop away as I experienced unconditional love and well-being. Well, maybe it’s just me, but I’m well into my fifties and I’ve yet to see that happen. Eventually, I had to come to terms with reality: If I sit around waiting for some fairy godmother to grant me love and acceptance, I will die still hoping and waiting for that day to come.
Image by Rennett Stowe
So, I started down the yellow brick road to self acceptance. Understanding and accepting is the first step out of denial, right? But, my monkey mind is strong, my neuroses are not that easily calmed, and I had to admit that ultimately I would have to face the pain that I carried and kept buried deep down: Am I of value to the world in which I reside? Am I of value to myself? And, will I ever genuinely experience appreciation for my own being?
How does this relate to blame? It is our hidden desires (or maybe not so hidden for some) that drive us to hold another responsible for how we feel and our well-being. Maybe it’s life’s circumstances, other’s misconceptions of us, or a multitude of things. Excuses are easy to come by. The reaction can create suffering through denial, or encourage us to dig deeper, observe the root cause, and heal the pain. In other words, we can blame – internally or externally – or accept genuine responsibility for how we feel.
For me, blaming is a form of bullying. On some level, a bully feels inadequate, denies his or her feelings, and then attempts to bring others down in order to feel more equal and less inferior. Bullies push their own agenda of denial and suffering out and into the world. Blamers attempt to get others to take responsibility for their own pain and suffering by bullying others into believing that they cannot and do not create their own suffering.
In order for blaming to succeed as a means to run from pain, we need a scapegoat. Some one or thing that is readily available to assume and take on responsibility for the pain and suffering. When we bully and blame ourselves, the message may be centered in self talk: they must be right, there is something wrong with me, I deserve to be treated this way, and so on. When others are holding us responsible for how they feel, we are the target and means for their denials and defense mechanisms. Those who take on the culpability for another’s feelings are the yin to the blamer’s yang.
My weakness is internalizing blame by holding myself responsible for things that I am not. It’s silly really. I take offense if another assumes responsibility for how I feel. Yet, I have no problem thinking that I must have done something offensive and inappropriate to cause another’s unhappiness. Naturally, I would deny any influence if they were happy instead. It seems as though I have set myself up for a lifetime of pessimism towards myself and optimism towards others. Otherwise, I must be in denial since I can’t be trusted to honestly evaluate my own short comings. And the monkey swings on.
Yet, I know that none of my neuroses and doubts truly reflects my authentic being. I know because I center my life in an awareness of unlimited potential in all. After all, I can’t possibly be so special as to be the only one who does not deserve love and acceptance? In spite of my doubts and fears, I am quite certain that the greatest challenge of the human experience is this: self acceptance, self love, and self appreciation. Not the Disney kind, the real deal.
As I face a more genuine reality, I often find myself in a quandary. Instead of justifying my insecurities by taking on others blame, I must admit to my own tendency to blame and bully my own self. I am encouraged to own my ability to readily take on the role of scapegoat, codependent, and less than. As I become more visible to myself, I let go of attaching my identity to how others see me.
When we believe in our own value, we release the need to rely on others views of us as an indicator of our worth. The need for external gratification via approval and acceptance ceases to define who we are. We can help free and support ourselves – and in turn those around us – from the tyranny of blame. Space for compassion, empathy, and gentleness are expanded. As I allow for loving kindness to be expressed towards my own self, I increase my capacity to reflect the same to others.
A while ago I had a dream. In it, I was talking to someone about whether he wanted to make fear based choices. Then, I said how that can be tricky because most – maybe even 90% – of our fears are unconscious. I’ve been pondering this off an on since the dream. Maybe it’s because I rarely have dreams like that, so when I remember a meaningful one, I try to pay attention.
Life presents us with ongoing opportunities. Often, we are aware that we need to make a choice. Part of the process of making conscious choices involves evaluating and understanding what fears accompany our options. In times like these, I acknowledge my fears yet remain aware that I do not want to a make fear based decision. I try to separate out my neuroses from my intuition by recognizing that fear is not my soul response. Whatever the outcome, at least I know that I try to follow my spirit instead of running in avoidance.
What keeps floating through my awareness after the dream is: How we make choices all day long – both consciously and reflexively – and how often these choices can be fear based without our knowing it. I am learning more and more that it’s the small ongoing decisions that we make all day, everyday that make up our lives and create how we are. Major changes like jobs, homes, relationships, and so on have an impact on shaping our lives. Significant shifts are like the structural foundation of our life styles. It’s the day to day, smaller decisions that really bring the framework to life. The choices we make regarding how we move from moment to moment – what we fill up ourselves and our lives with – that add the paint, décor, and furnishings. It’s the details that transform a house into a home.
I don’t want to exaggerate the importance of every detail of my life. However, if I am to be authentic, then I must also acknowledge that I am making choices all day long that are not mindful. Whether it’s from habit, avoidance, healthy or unhealthy, it is too easy to simply do without being aware of what is driving the action. Underneath these choices may be unconscious fear. Even when I am aware, I can still choose the mindless path in order to avoid facing underlying fears. Fear of discomfort and insecurities that may be lurking in the shadows.
Image by szeke
Fear is similar to anger in that it’s what I call a blanket emotion. Both are a reaction to underlying pain. They are not the source. The source or root is found by looking under the covers and asking: What am I afraid of? Or, why am I angry?
It’s not the fear that is the problem. It’s our fear of fear. A fear of having to face some sense of inadequacy, lack of worth, feeling undeserving, and discomfort with that which is unfamiliar. It is so easy to convince ourselves to believe that fear is some horrible demon that is out to get us and presents a genuine threat to our well-being. I’m not talking about a genuine flight or flee response. I’m referring to the everyday, ongoing sense of threat that hides in our subconscious.
When we enable fear, rationalizing usually follows in the form of messages that are disempowering. I can’t do anything about that, it’s beyond my control, it’s just the way I am. The truth is: Not only can we do something about our state of being; we are the only ones that can. We create our fears, so we are the only ones who can tame them. We are stronger than our fears.
I think fear is a sign post to healing. Instead of feeling threatening and out of control, we can empower ourselves by creating space for healing. When we allow fear to be seen and heard, we can go to the root cause. The need to create ongoing suffering born from defense mechanisms that send us off to distraction diminishes. We can bring our awareness into the present. We gather our energy and step into genuine power.