We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

There are times, even now, when I still feel disconnected from the world. I find that I seem to be peering through the same glass window I looked through growing up.

It’s a difficult thing to get rid of. It sometimes feels like I am alone– that I am different. We are convinced that because of our negative life experiences, we are damaged. We are uncomfortable in crowds. We fear new situations. We feel unworthy of happiness or success because we have been so badly wounded. We live our life in the background or in the shadows. We have a shadow life. It is like Peter Pan. pixie Our shadow life seems to be unshakable. It is our constant companion. It is sewn to our psyche just like Peter Pan’s shadow, and it follows us where ever we go. It is part of who we are.  I think the original story of Peter Pan is valuable to have in every home library.  Our girls need to hear it for we do have to grow up sometime.  Wendy is a good role model.

We keep our silence. We remember the times we were diminished, punished, abused, and humiliated. For many of us we feel our lives are empty. But, if you stop and look deep inside you will find a small spark waiting to be nurtured into a blazing fire. hag La Loba holds that spark in her hands, waiting for us to rescue it. She protects it from being destroyed by the world. She raps it in her tattered cloak and places it upon a shelf in her hovel until the day you sing over the bones.

Have you ever heard of the saying, “You are your own worst enemy?” Inside us is a malignant enemy that strives to trip us up at every turn. How many times have you talked yourself right out of something simply because you were afraid? How many times have you looked in the mirror and said to yourself, “Boy, are you stupid! I hate my nose. I’m always making mistakes. nobody likes me…etc. It brings to mind the cartoon where the angel sits on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Each vies for control. The angel whispers, “don’t do it”. The devil whispers, “do it, do it”. Who wins out? Which one is stronger?

Some will say that we are influenced by the Christian idea of a “Satan”. That he is continually bombarding us with negative whisperings that impress our psyche with all kinds of negative thoughts and feelings. It is felt that he is trying to win us over to the dark side. Others feel that we are all born with this malignant side of ourselves and no matter how hard we try, it is there, trying to destroy our joy.

When we are born we are perfect. Our psyche is pure. As we experience life we are affected by things that are done to us or things that we don’t get–even a predisposition inherited by our genetic makeup. Each experience affects us and helps to create who we become. The perpetual question many psychologists and criminologists try to answer is: “are we born or are we made?” I think it is a combination of both.

Just like being predisposed to getting diabetes or heart disease, we may very well inherit a genetic trait that puts us in a category where we are less able to make good decisions. Perhaps our hard wiring has created difficulties in problem solving. Perhaps our ability to read body language or understand how we are impacted by the actions of others is our cross to bear. And then, it may just be that we grew up in a lousy home without proper parenting, so social concepts that help us get along in society were never handed down to us. No matter what the problem, we have the ability to over come it. It takes hard work and a commitment, but it is definitely possible because we were all born with the spark. The Universe wants us to be happy. It even provides us with a way to be happy. For some of us, being happy is harder than for others.

We often envy those who seem happy. They seem to have the perfect family, the perfect friends, the perfect job, the perfect life. I can remember one such revelation in my life when I was 18. I experienced two graduations that year. One was my High School graduation. The other was my Seminary graduation.

I was the only one in my family who attended church. I was the only one in my family that wanted it. There was such contrast between the two graduation ceremonies. My parents came to my High School graduation. They didn’t come to my Seminary graduation. Let me explain further.

I had to ride to the Seminary graduation ceremony with a friend’s family. I sat with them and then, after the ceremony was over, I stood for a moment, not knowing what to do next. I had no one to celebrate this important accomplishment in my life with. It had taken me four years of my high school life to meet the requirements for Seminary graduation. This should have been a joyous day to remember. It wasn’t.

This one memory haunts me to this very day. I have carried this moment in my psyche for over 42 years. Let me continue. I made my way to the parking lot where the lights barely illuminated the area. It was dark. It was lonely. It was dismal. I watched the other families gather around their graduate, slapping them on the back, shaking their hands, smiling, chatting, celebrating their accomplishment. At that moment I was standing outside looking in through the glass window at the merriment. I was alone. I can honestly say that it was almost the worst moment of my life. I had one more moment that overshadowed this one, but for a very long time, this one moment in time was the pinnacle of pain for me. sad It effected me the rest of my life. I was unworthy of being acknowledged. I was unworthy of having their support. I was unworthy of their joy in my success. I was not worthy of their love. What parents doesn’t love their child? I must be a terrible person and unwanted. It has scarred me and though the wound is scabbed over, it is there, waiting for it to be reopened. I will have to battle it the rest of my life.

Negative self talk can destroy our dreams. Yet, we do it. When no one else steps up to kick us in the shin we are very ready and willing to inflict that pain upon ourselves. We hear our parents’ criticism of us from our childhood, or feel the absents or neglect. We hear the taunts and painful words of our classmates. We actually believe it all. We are a misfits, damaged, useless… Hold right on there, camper! Enough already. This is where the journey starts.

We are our own worst enemy. We believe what the world tells us we are. We believe all the programming. We don’t realize that we are being programed by others to fit into a particular role that makes their world work for them. I was programmed to be responsible for everyone’s happiness. I was programmed to be responsible for everyone’s problems. I was the sacrificial lamb. I was the scape goat. Because I was a child, I had no other reference point to compare it with, so I internalized it. It became who I was. But it never made sense to me. There was something not quite right about it. Pretty soon, we begin to doubt our own truth. We must be going mad. How could all these people be wrong? There must be something wrong with me that I am so unlovable? they must be right about me.

The person I was told I was seemed to be in constant conflict with who I felt I was. I knew deep down that I was not that person my parents and siblings said I was. They put on me feelings and actions that didn’t correlate with what I was in my soul. Because of this conflict I sunk into a deep hole of confusion and self loathing. How could I get these people to see the real me? How could I get them to accept the real me? No matter what I did, they saw what they wanted to see because it worked for them.

It worked for them because they created a world that made their life OK, even though it wasn’t. They would not, or could not take responsibility for their short comings so they dumped all the crap on me. As a result, no matter how hard I tried, or how successful I was, or even how high I jumped when they shouted,”jump”, it was never enough. I always said that I could have been Mother Teresa standing on my head in a corner and they would find fault with me. It was a no win proposition. I would never be able to meet their unrealistic expectations. I was not programmed to meet them. If I did, the rules would change and the carrot would be dangled farther from my reach. In fact, they knew that my only weakness was my need for their unconditional acceptance and support. Because they knew this, they withheld it. They always maintained control even at my own expense. They always set the goals higher than any mortal could accomplish. And in doing so, they ignored my God given gift of music.

I could sing like a bird. In the third grade I sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic Acappella. The other parents were impressed. My mother never supported or acknowledged my talent and so it was never nurtured. I could never use it to its fullest because I was too afraid to branch out and pursue it on my own. It was just too much for me without a support system. I have regrets to this day and wonder, “what if?’ Eventually, because I didn’t use my talent for song, I abused the instrument just long enough to lose the gift.

I started smoking, not until I was in my 20’s. I didn’t smoke for long, but it was long enough to ruin my voice. Today, I have an emotional hole where that gift once was and I feel the loss each time our church choir sings. It is a high price to pay for being so stupid and so self destructive as to not honor the gift by taking care of the instrument that provided me with so much joy. But then, I was not of value. No one else cared about me, why should I?

However, when a door is shut, God opens a window. He gave me many other talents and gifts that I would find later in my life only after I stopped sabotaging myself. I was 50 years old when I discovered my gift for painting murals. At age 58 I painted my very first public mural on a wall in the Activity Room at the local YMCA. I can’t tell you how much joy I got from that. It took me a month, but I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment. It was never stressful. It was never work. It was pure joy. I hope you don’t have to wait so long. You could be enjoying your gifts and talents now, if you choose to do so.

We don’t mean to neglect ourselves. We know somewhere down deep in the desert of our psyche that we are a victim, but that malignant side of us whispers to us from the past. It undermines our self esteem. We want so badly to be loved that we feel we are somehow contributing to it. And, in a way we are. We are allowing it.

It may be that we didn’t have parents who protected and loved us. It may be that the adults in our life were less than patient or kind or understanding. It may be that for some reason our mother was emotionally unavailable and our father worked long hours and was seldom home. It may be that we were abused, ignored, and even abandoned by those who should have taken care of us. What ever our past, today we must now sing over the bones. Today we discover that we have been living a shadow life–half a life.

We are adults now. We need to embrace the child within and parent that child until the child begins to grow up. We need to provide all that he/she did not get as a child. We must accept her, honor her, love her, hold her next to us and understand that we can do that for her now because we have grown into an adult. We can learn to separate the child feelings from the adult ones. We can look at things through adult eyes rather from the point of view of the child. The wounded child needs us to nurture her until she is healed. She needs to be placed in a special place in our psyche where she can be safe. La Loba has her protected, laying on a shelf in her hovel waiting for you to rescue her. It is time to stop being our own worst enemy. It is time to stop the negative talk. It is time to reject the programming that has led us to such unhappiness.

Today it is time to sing over the bones. Today it is time to make a stand. You have value! You deserve to be happy! You are entitled to live and breathe. You have the right to personal freedom, happiness, and success! You have the right to breathe the air and be acknowledged.

Taking this step is frightening. It definitely is not easy. There will be resistance–from others, and from ourself. However, we can start small. We must start with what we can control–us.

I want you to look into the mirror and find something you like about yourself. It can be the color of your eyes or the way your eyebrows are shaped. It can be the curve of your lips or your small ears. It can be the way your nose wrinkles up when you smile or the straight teeth the universe gave you. Then, write it down in your journal. I want you to do this each day, expanding on it as you look at your reflection looking back at you.

Then, I want you to write down something you like about your personality. Are you kind, loving, funny, loyal, smart, trustworthy, thrifty, articulate, etc. Keep writing in your journal. You might be surprised at what you discover about yourself. It doesn’t matter what others thin of you. This is you, looking at you and acknowledging your own talents and uniqueness. No one has to agree with you. It isn’t about them. It’s about what you think of you. Then I want you to become a people watcher. I want you to notice how others treat each other. I want you to be able to see with your heart, your mind, and your soul. I want you to see that you don’t deserve to be treated badly. You deserve dignity and respect. But it has to start with how you treat yourself. Journalize those observations until you finally see the truth.

Let me now how this works for you and what you discover!



~ by womenstudycenter on January 15, 2009.

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