How to Find Out If Your Past Is Affecting Your Present
Welcome back to my series on fulfilling your heart’s desires. If you are just starting with it today, you may wish to take a moment and read back to last week’s blog post. I am so happy to have you here with me.
I love the quote by Rumi, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
If we are to create the life we want, we must look within and understand our early childhood tendencies that stay with us until we learn different behaviour. When we explore how we felt as children, we tend to see patterns present in how we related to our mother and father. Our relationship with our mother generally shapes our patterns towards our inner world, the world of love, nurturing, self-care and sustenance. Our relationship with our father usually sets the stage for our relationship with our career and outer, social life.
Sometimes, we may want to believe that we don’t carry any tendencies shaped by our childhood experiences. We may feel far enough from our childhood that we think it could not possibly be a part of our lives now. We may feel it was great, or we may feel that we have done the necessary work to process it all. However, the way we perceived (and therefore responded to) our parents or primary caregivers plays a much larger role in the shaping of our psyche than we may at first realize.
When we take a look at what went on in our childhood, how we felt in relationship to each of our parents, we can see the initial impulses that go on to drive the unconscious choices creating our current life. For example, we may have felt abandoned by our mother, so we tend to recreate, unconsciously, situations in which we do not feel supported or nurtured. Maybe we felt threatened or even attacked by our father, so we tend to attract work or society situations that are dissonant with who we are or even abusive. Or maybe we just feel unwelcome in our work environment, and become an overachiever or workaholic. On the other hand, we may have come to believe that being successful makes us too visible to a hostile parent, so we sabotage ourselves from living our full potential, with a deep-down sense that even though failure doesn’t feel good, at least it feels safe.
It is important when exploring our childhood development to not blame our parents for how we have grown. Who you are today is not your parents’ fault, but your responsibility. No two people will see a situation in the same way. Two siblings for example would have the same parents, but may perceive their behaviour and choices completely differently. It empowers us to make courageous steps towards healing when we remember that our perceptions are exactly that – our own. We see any given situation through the lens of our accumulated past tendencies, the karmic baggage we are born into this life carrying. That was not given to us by our parents. They may have triggered or even exacerbated it. But it is ours to understand, heal and release.
If you feel you want to look at aspects of your early childhood, I found personal therapy very useful. Finding a skilled therapist is like finding a torch to help illuminate our path. They do not do the work for us. We do our own work. But when we go into our inner basement, it is useful to walk with someone who has done their own inner work and can help shed light on our findings so we may integrate, forgive and grow.
I found a couple of books in particular helped me touch places in my psyche’s basement that I hardly knew existed. One is Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child. She suggests that many children tend to develop aspects of their personality in reaction to their environment, and as such, lose aspects of their true selves. Because we want to please mommy or daddy, we do something that is not in alignment with our highest self and develop tendencies that eventually sabotage our deepest joys. The book suggests steps to move towards understanding, grieving and healing.
I also feel a lot of respect and love for Wayne Muller’s Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood. Muller suggests a gentle and mindful approach to uncovering our hidden scars, from which we may find spiritual strength. This book is more spiritually driven, unlike Alice Miller’s more psychological approach.
If you grew up around any kind of addiction or dysfunction, consider attending Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. Friends and clients tell me that the deeply spiritual and transformative twelve-step process can help you to recognize the way your childhood may still be playing out in your life. You will find yourself in meeting rooms with people who have undertaken their own journeys of understanding, witnessing and releasing their childhood patterning.
In order for you to make decisions that will inspire lasting change, you must understand the unconscious tendencies that affect your choices and bring them to the light. So find a quiet place, where you feel safe to go within. Take a pen and paper with you, or your favorite journal, and ask yourself:
– What are my unconscious tendencies that may be blocking my joy?
– Do I easily feel like a victim?
– Do I feel unworthy?
– Do I feel thwarted by life so that I feel the need to fight back?
– Do I quickly give up or do I hang on past a healthy end-by date?
What drives your choices?
Looking at our early tendencies will reveal our inner saboteur, the aspect of our shadow that stands in the way of our fullest joy. Next week, we will look at this inner saboteur and I will share a powerful exercise I use every day to help realize my own dreams.
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.