I'll be posting various resources that I learn about that I think might be helpful, and of course I learn the most from my clients, so anything you'd like to share with me would be most appreciated.
Where does our sense of self come from? I believe that originally, it comes in part from the thousands of explicit and implicit messages we received every day from our environment about ourselves; that we are good or bad, smart, strong, pretty, handsome, skilled, successful--or not. This environmental feedback creates a story or narrative that to a large degree constructs an identity. Some people have a stronger sense of self that they develop and are in touch with regardless of, or despite this narrative. But this combination of nature and nurture variables gets internalized as the story of who we are, especially during critical, formative periods and experiences. Sometimes that story is a positive, accurate reflection of who we inherently are, and sometimes it is a distortion, due in large part to the dynamics of the primary nurturers. For where there is a narrative, there is a narrator, and so we must understand what was going on for the story-tellers in order to more fully understand the story.
Here is one stark example: I once worked with someone who was born one week after his brother tragically died in a pool accident. Clearly that family, and especially that mother, was in no place emotionally to receive, love, and nurture this new child. That fluke of circumstance to some degree forever defined this person's sense of self as being unreceived, unwelcome, an intruder, and an outsider in the world. We have to factor in our family and parent dynamics, our parents' personalities and mood states, when we seek to understand the environment and context for our own identity development.
By understanding what happened (cognitive process), and if necessary processing our feelings about what happened (affective process), we can begin to change it. We can question or challenge long-held assumptions or beliefs we might hold about ourselves: Am I really an introvert/extrovert? socially anxious? a poor athlete? unable to learn to speak publicly? to be a manager? to work with people/numbers/technology, etc.? Am I really a bad writer? unattractive? not good enough (in all the many ways we can feel not good enough)??
In essence, we can de-construct the old narrative, and tell a new story about ourselves. We can repair through re-parenting ourselves, in some ways creating and providing for ourselves some aspect of what we needed but did not receive (e.g., love, positive reinforcement and mirroring, emotional safety). I believe it is almost never too late to ask these questions, and do this kind of work creating a new sense of ourselves.
The truth is that I didn't really like the Mr. Rogers show when I was a kid, so I was a bit hesitant to see the film.
Go see it, it is wonderful. It is a bit of an antidote to the general anxiety and depression of this particular polarized period. I had no idea that I would relate so much to him, not only as a bit of a (functional!) obsessive-compulsive, but also in his persistently positive unconditional positive regard (a phrase reminiscent of another famous loving, accepting Rogers--Carl); and also in his fierce protection and advocacy for children.
Then you'll learn what the title of this post means also.
from a conversation today: What are we attached to? Looking at how attached we can get to our identities, our image, our narrative, to others' views of us; but also to things, things we want, feel we need, lust after, cling to, hoard. Or fear. We can get attached to success, to happiness, but also to pain, to suffering, as well as the future focus on those things: wishing and hoping for the former, and fearing the latter.
But it all just is, the good and the bad. If we can remove the added layers of attachment we have to our experiences that comes from this ever-present future lens of hope and fear, then we are left with what is right now. And the challenge to more fully experience it now, whatever it really is now, not what we hope or fear it will be. And that is a different experience, often far less bad than we fear, sometimes more good than we let ourselves experience.
There is often a developmental stage people get to in which they stop focusing on acquisition, and they start clearing out, cleansing, purging. It's a simple cycle, eventually going out with what we came in with, for that to be enough, for there to be a fullness in the things that are there for us, without having to hold them, the things that are there for us, now. Detachment, release, surrender, acceptance.
This is an incredible power we have: whatever we focus on, we amplify.
This phenomenon works for us both within ourselves, and interpersonally. And it works both negatively and positively.
When I am down, I see the world through a negative lens, and consequently find more to be down about. When I am actively looking for the positive, I see more positive. So when I did the 100 Days of Happiness project, taking a picture of something that made me happy 100 days in a row, I started to build awareness around those things, and so I started seeing them more. This is what Gratitude research is all about; when we log three things we are grateful for every day, we are honing our focus, building awareness, and so we start seeing more of what we focus on.
Interpersonally, when I get focused on what I judge as negative in you, I am showing you a frustrated, angry, withheld part of me, all hard edges and cold eyes, which of course makes you tense, self-conscious, and resentful (for example), guaranteed to bring out the worst in you. When I focus on the positive in you, and especially when I actively reinforce it, you feel the warmth and good energy, which helps you relax, be yourself, and respond in kind. So simple, yet so powerful.
To fully understand this dynamic is to recognize a profound power that we all have.
This video does an excellent job of addressing the issue of normalizing mental health problems that almost everyone has at one point or another in our lives. Check it out: