Nature knows instinctively when it’s time to let go and allow the leaves to fall away. There aren’t any loud noises that catch your attention; it’s a quiet thing. You might feel a little change in the weather and then look up and notice the familiar sight of leaves silently changing color. It’s as if Mother Nature has sent out her seasonal callback. A reminder to stop the hubbub, bring the gaze inward and start preparing for the winter. It’s the journey of returning home. Taking a cue from Mother Nature, October can be an opportunity to come back to yourself; a time to go within and bring awareness to negative repetitive stories you may be telling yourself. The stories arise from past conditioning and a need to make sense of something that may have been confusing, painful, and overwhelming.
When Robert came to therapy, he said he had been depressed for as long as he could remember and always struggled with low self-esteem. It was hard for him to feel confident around other people, so he tended to isolate and as a result, felt empty and lonely. He said he felt physically uncomfortable around people and his anxiety just couldn’t allow him to relax and enjoy himself. Robert grew up as an only child in a home with a depressed Mother and a Father who was always working. When he played with his friends in the neighborhood, he experienced their parents as being alive, involved and available. Robert said he felt like he was an outsider witnessing this wonderful interaction between his friends and their parents, but unable to be a part of it. Through the years of childhood neglect and emotional abandonment, Robert created an unconscious story. The story went like this: If I was smarter, better looking, and somebody else, my parents would love me. It’s all my fault. I’m just not good enough. Children blame themselves and not their parents, hoping they can fix the situation. They do this to protect their caretakers and the idea that the people whom they rely on to survive might not be up to the task. As a child, these stories helped Robert to survive horrendous circumstances. He protected his little soul from the truth of his painful situation. Well, it got him through a terrible childhood, but it doesn’t serve him now as an adult. The problem is that Robert has told himself this story for so long that he now believes it. He believes that he is unlovable and unworthy.
It is important to understand the powerful story you may be telling yourself in order not to mistake it for reality. In Robert’s case, when he would bump up against someone who was fighting their own inner battles and lashed out, he would take it personally and automatically go to the familiar conclusion that it was all his fault. Through Robert’s courageous inner work, he began to understand how the little boy inside of him thought he had done something wrong. He realized that he did not want to keep repeating the story and pattern of unworthiness and unlovability. He learned to recognize when the story written by the hurt little boy inside him would start to play out in his mind. This recognition helped him to differentiate his story from the reality of his present experience. With this awareness, Robert was able to shed the vulnerability of that hurt little boy which he had been carrying around inside of him for so many years. He learned to have compassion for the part of him that just wanted to be noticed, loved, valued and understood. Jack Kornfield puts it beautifully when he states, “Life is difficult and painful just by its nature, not because we’re doing it wrong. Our painful experience does not represent failure.”
My patients will often tell me, “Okay Bonnie, what am I supposed to do with all this knowledge?” After a while, they begin to answer their own question with, “I know, I know, sit with it.” Well, yes these are your experiences, your thoughts, but you need to get to understand them, not get rid of them. Think of them as your pearls of wisdom. When you understand your painful feelings, your awareness allows you to be present with them without getting lost in them. The best gift at the end of this journey is that you are able to transform your suffering into your healing. You will be able to let all those negative stories fall from you like the gentle golden leaves floating down off the branches in October. Letting go of what you no longer need, knowing that you are making room for a new growth soon to emerge with spring.
“We all carry within us our places of exile; our crimes, our ravages. Our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to transform them in ourselves and others.”
- Albert Camus
Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. One of her specialties is working with artists in the Entertainment Industry. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice,visit her website.Follow her on Twitter and Facebook
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.