Today’s times often ask for people to be “authentic.” Words like vulnerability, truth, love, soul, genuine: they are powerful words with very personal implications. “Truth” be told I’ve been slightly annoyed with the trend. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until this morning when my friend Kat sent me this quote:
"the more my heart expands, the less offended I feel by other people working out their particular stage of being human". -Unknown
It dawned on me that I have been annoyed by the lack of representation of the shadow of getting real, which has been part of my experience. Years ago, I sought therapy because my heart was hurting and I felt incapable of handling it. My life did not feel like a reflection of my nature, intention, or heart. Since, I’ve been lucky to connect with two therapists and work together for a period of time at different stages throughout this unwinding and effort to level-set. In working with them, I was asked (and showed up to) unpack difficult questions. What hurt was I dealing with that led me to make poor decisions in the area of relationships? When did this start? What happened? How did I get here?
I had to look at being jealous, cruel to myself, selfish, narrow-minded, lazy, childish, manipulative. I was asked to go back to a really sensitive and difficult time and re-live it to heal from it. Throughout the healing process, I was made aware of other negative behavior. I stayed in shitty relationship situations, at the expense of friendships and self-love. I saw how hurt was transferred but not recognized. I learned there were things that were not my fault and unfair. There was grief to let out. I lost touch with important people. I prioritized drinking over friendships. Perfection was more important than kindness. I tried to please other people so I didn't have to learn about myself. Darkness was hidden in pockets of my seemingly happy life.
As my grip softens, there is still work to do. My relationship with my body is ongoing and occasionally uphill. I can be stubborn and reactive. Self-pity shows up sometimes. Life can feel overwhelming and old patterns show up: control, drinking, acting out. Even in this simple reflection on being annoyed, it dwindles down to feeling unseen, the kid inside of me screams "it's not that easy!" Where is the guidebook to self-awareness! I want to do it perfectly! The shadow side of working through old hurt rears its ugly little head.
I share this because if you’ve seen the encouragement to be authentic and you’ve been brave to share, I wanted to offer kudos and advice. Be kind to yourself about what happens next: the space between showing up to get real and healing. This time of growth can be messy. My experience is there is an emotional aftermath to unintegrated hurt recognized, to “I am” statements that have gone ignored (I am unhappy), of simply finding the words and saying out loud “you hurt me.” I needed support from family and friends in order to be different and grow, from therapists to understand, and from my yoga practice to integrate. I learned this over time, and it will likely change and shift again. We’re lucky to live in a time that celebrates self-awareness, self-love, and being true to yourself. Along the way, you, like me, may find we all have work to do in this effort to be not only human but honest and kind. There is shadow and light to it all. I am grateful for reminders to open my heart just a touch wider when the darkness creeps in.
- Courtney, the work in progress