I grew up in a system that, whether intentional or not, praised only perfection and joyful emotions. When I was very young I was aware of this system. Somehow I knew I had to put away the parts of me that made mistakes, were hurt, angry or scared. I don’t remember consciously doing this but it became a way of life for me. I thought I was normal. I thought people who expressed anger, sadness or fear were out of balance. I thought it was normal to be disconnected. I would not have used that word, but that’s what it was. I went along merrily this way until I was about 36. Then, I had an affair. The disconnected part of me could do this. At times I would come into the feeling place and realize what I was doing was horrible on many levels. But I didn’t stay in that place and would bob back down into the disconnected place. After my “perfectly disconnected” life fell completely apart, I went to counseling. I worked with a variety of counselors and coaches over the next few years. Each one was part of healing and weaving together all the parts of me: the scared parts, the angry parts, the sad parts and the joyful parts.
I am not as tidy anymore. That seems strange. I was tidy before and I thought that was better. Now, when I am not tidy, I feel a bit uncomfortable. In the earlier stages of my healing I would feel really uncomfortable as I let out the real me. In the earlier stages I needed to get used to really feeling, even if it was super messy. It helped to experience messiness and learn to be ok with it. When we shut down parts of ourselves, when we are unwilling to be vulnerable, we are only partly present. Our relationships are only partial relationships, our connection with and enjoyment of this world is only partly connected and enjoyed.
It’s scary to connect with all of who we are because there can be some really painful stuff inside. I recommend if you haven’t felt all your parts…if you identify with being disconnected, find a good therapist or coach who can help you navigate the waters of feeling. A few recommendations are Shadow Work (shadowwork.com), EMDR (emdria.org), Henry Cloud and John Townsend books: “Hiding from Love,” “Changes that Heal” and “Boundaries” are just a few (cloudtownsend.com). I learned and processed a ton in the Cloud and Townsend Ultimate Leadership Intensive (their definition of a leader is very loose). I attended a recovery group for co-dependency. Mine was at my church (celebraterecovery.com) but you can also attend a CODA group or any recovery group similar to AA (coda.org and aa.org). I read Melody Beattie’s “Codependent No More” and continue to read “The Language of Letting Go”. I’m sure many other helpful ideas are out there. This is just a short list of options. These were the tools I used in my recovery journey. Yours will be unique to you.
In my messiness, I now have fabulous connections with other messy people. They welcome all the parts of me. We are vulnerable with one another, we encourage one another to continue on our journey, and most of all, we accept one another. That was my biggest fear as a child, that all of who I am wasn’t acceptable and loved. That’s why I hid away my parts, the ones I thought weren’t acceptable and lovable. Surround yourself with people who accept and love all of who you are and are willing to journey with you as you knit back together.
A note on this acceptance piece. Parts of me need refinement. I can be harsh in my delivery sometimes. While that is a real part of me that I choose not to put in hiding, the people who love and accept me speak truth into my life (with a heavy dose of grace!). They encourage me to delve into why I am harsh at times, to work on softening my edges. That’s just one part of me that needs refinement. I can be highly critical, shaming, jealous, greedy… I want and need those parts to be accepted and loved but not condoned. This is tricky. We often assume if someone points out a part in us that needs refinement they are not accepting us. This isn’t necessarily true. Listen to the words of others; allow them to speak into your life, process through the words. Are you being given a gift of finding out “what it’s like to be on the other side of you”? That’s a John Townsend quote that I love! If the person is just being mean, don’t take that on. Put a lot of weight on who the messenger is. Is this someone you trust, someone who has your best interest in mind? If so, listen to and process what you have heard. Use the information for your good and continue on your journey of staying connected.
PS There is so much more I want to say on this subject. Especially how our disconnected selves affect the productive parts of ourselves, like our creativity and interests. I try to keep my posts short and to the point. This one is already longer than I would like so, I will write my next post on the connection between disconnect and productivity.