They come with great public awareness from airplanes hurtling into the towers of the World Trade Center, or the winds and floods of Katrina or Sandy. Or they may be private, like the death of a loved one or a betrayal of trust. Events far from our control come unbidden into all of our lives with consequences we never intended and do not know how to deal with.
What the events from the outside mean to us on the inside will play an important role in how we deal with them. The disasters within are as unique as each and everyone of us are. Some of us recover sooner and stronger while others of us become demoralized and never again feel the sheer joy of being alive. What makes the difference? One overlooked key to recovery from truly hard times is the beliefs we live by. These beliefs change every day as we experience new events, consider new ideas, come to new conclusions. They form the belief systems we live by. Whether we are aware of it or not, these beliefs tell us what to choose, what to fear, what to get angry about, even what dreams we dare to have.
Some of the beliefs we form when life is at its most challenging, and then continue to live by, can limit us in so many ways. These, usually hidden beliefs, limit our creativity, and our ability to receive help and experience love.
Years ago, when I first moved to California, I began to confront some of my own disasters within with the help of Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I heard people talk about what it was like to grow up with that wild card of alcohol or drugs always ready to play itself in their family life. Memories of the violent alcoholic father I hardly knew came back vividly and painfully. But with them gradually came new insight and strength too.
I had already been working with belief systems for a long time, but only then did I begin to find and change the beliefs I had formed as a child that I still lived by. Beliefs that had made it almost impossible to ask anyone for anything. Beliefs that caused me to isolate myself just when I most needed love and support. Beliefs that caused me to try to please people I should have steered clear of.
I was so excited about these ideas and experiences, I put together a workshop called “Beyond the Past.” The insights people shared, the stories they told and the power of the exercises we did formed the basis of “Travelling Free: How to Recover from the Past by Changing Your Beliefs,” I get moving letters from people whom it has helped to recover from painful events and move toward what they really want in life.
I wish everyone who would find it helpful could read it and do the exercises, especially these two exerpts, “Exploring the Hard Part” and “The Pain Is In the Meaning”. They may be useful to you or to someone you know.
Exploring the Hard Part
Choose one thing that has been hard for you in your life and write it down.
Make sure it could end in “________ was hard for me” Writing your responses in that way will help you to work with them. Sometimes you’ll get a phrase, sometimes a paragraph. Keep it simple.
Here are some examples people have used in workshops: “Being overweight was hard for me.” “When I was a kid, I’d try to help my father when he worked on stuff. And you know, you loved him so much. Sometimes he’d haul off and hit me so hard I’d pee in my pants. That was hard for me.” “When my father left for war and never came back was hard for me.” “My daughter was raped and there was nothing I could do to change it or help her. That was hard for me.” “Always trying to be safe was hard for me.”
Ask: “What was hard for you about that?” Dare to question the obvious. The answers may not be so obvious. People sometimes look at me, aghast when I ask, “What was hard for you about that?” referring to the suicide of a mother or the loss of a job. On occasion an agitated person blurts out, “How can you ask such a stupid question?!” I Ask because even though such an event might be difficult for anyone, it means something different to each one of us. The question is not intended to challenge you or your beliefs. It is meant to shed light in the corners where you never look.
Do at least 5 examples in order to see the relationship between what happened and what was hard for you about it more clearly.
The Pain Is In The Meaning
Take an example from your life that you’ve been exploring.
Use your sentence from the last exercise. It began: “_______ was hard for me.” Or “_______, that was hard for me.”
Ask: What did it mean to you then?
Ask What does it mean to you now?
Again take as much time as you like to be with this question. Let the question roam around in your consciousness, your memories, your body. Notice what you find. Write down the parts that will fit into words so that you can see them.
As we heal from the disaters within we free ourselves to create new realities.
To read the full text of “Travelling Free: How to Recover from the Past by Changing Your Beliefs” order here: http://mandyevans.com/archives/travelling-free/.