It feels like this week has lasted forever, so I’m going to compensate by keeping this blog post short. You’re welcome :). I’ve now written twelve blog posts and each one has forced me to dig deeper into myself. In doing so, I’ve uncovered beliefs that had gone previously undetected: aka “invisible truths”. It takes a while for these truths to present themselves, but I’m usually tipped off to their existence by the presence of a strong emotion like anxiety or fear.
That was the case this week as I reflected upon the comments some readers left on earlier blog posts. As I read through them, I noticed a tide of uneasiness and fear roll through me. It was triggerred whenever someone expressed sympathy, regret or sadness over parts of my story. There is nothing wrong with any of those expressions, yet they caused a strong reaction within me.
“Ben why would sympathy make you feel anxious?”
I’m glad you asked. As I began tracing my fear back, I noticed that it had to do with feelings of weakness. Whenever someone commented and expressed sympathy, I immediately wondered if they perceived my post as a cry for help. Again, seeking help isn’t a bad thing, so I sensed there was still some deeper messaging operating for me. As I continued to trace these emotions, I realized that on some subconscious level, I associate seeking out help with weakness.
“Gasp! Say it ain’t so Ben!”
I know…I know. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Whenever I’m struggling with and contemplate reaching out to people, this small but persistent voice in my head tells me that I should suck it up and handle it myself. It tells me I’m weak if I show my pain, and I’ll look pathetic if I ask for help. Deeper still, this voice is the guardian of two embedded beliefs that I’ve yet to uproot:
People will fail me.
Emotions are to be overcome, not indulged.
If you know me at all or have read any of my writing, neither of those will surprise you. I learned early on that people are unreliable. My step-dad and biological mom reinforced this lesson through years of neglect and abuse. This truth set in most deeply when my bio mom lost custody of us. She was the one constant in my life and once she was gone, I recognized that not only could people fail, but they could leave as well. This meant that if I depended upon anyone but myself, I ran the risk of being let down, disappointed or abandonded.
While my adoptive family helped me heal in many ways, there was one aspect of the family system which reinforced my emotional protectionism. Our unofficial family motto was “life sucks, move on”. Meaning you’ll have bad moments and days, but you can’t let them keep you down. Suck it up, and keep moving because there’s no time to wallow. While there is something to be said for grit, I don’t think this attitude placed enough emphasis on recognizing or exploring our emotions. This mindset strengthened my understanding of my feelings as obstacles to my goals rather than guides on my journey.
As a result, I tried my best not to rely on people and I suppressed my emotions. I built emotional walls so high they would make Donald Trump jealous. I had periods where I would see a counselor or occassionally talk to my parents about something that was deeply affecting me, but by and large I kept everything bottled up. It wasn’t until high school that I began loosening the lid on that bottle.
Despite nearly 15 years of work tearing down my walls and unerthing buried emotion, I still find those same lies influencing my thoughts. Here I am writing a blog about authenticity, and I still fear vulnerability on some deep level. While it won’t be easy, I’ve decided that its time to establish new embedded beliefs. If you also put up emotional walls or bury your feelings, you may find these new affirmations helpful as well.
People will fail me. I am worthy of love and support. Emotions are to be overcome, not indulged. Emotions are to be explored and accepted.
These two simple statements help me challenge the negative thinking that can cloud my judgement and pull me into destructive patterns. They seem fairly basic, but if I’m being honest, I still struggle to accept them, and I suspect I’m not alone in that. However, If I am indeed worthy of love and support then I need to seek out and accept both when they are offerred to me by people I trust. If my emotions need to be explored and accepted, I must create the time and space to do that work by myself and with the help of others. In short, if I’m living out both of these beliefs, I will actively ask for help.
My committment this week is to be more intentional about asking for what I need. As you move through this next week, I hope you do the same. The people you reach out to may feel honored that you trust them enough to ask, and you may feel encouraged that they care enough to help. By the way, “helping” doesn’t mean fixing the problem. It can be as simple as listening or even sitting in silence with someone. When in doubt, favor being over doing.
This blog has helped me continue the work of radical self-awareness which I believe is part of my purpose. I hope you’re getting as much from it as I am. Keep those comments coming my way because they’re clearly teaching me something. 🙂