Dear Reader, Today I want to discuss in depth something that I haven't seen addressed in many places which advertise the power of optimism and positive thinking.
The little-discussed fact is this: when you engage in profound optimism, turning up all those bright lights allows you to see your shadows much more clearly.
In other words, when I'm practicing my Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism and my hops and great things are starting to happen in my life (or I'm even just starting to feel better) I notice that I begin to more sensitively perceive the old messages and patterns which are out of accord with my new vision. They stick out more clearly because they contrast with all the light and joy I'm bringing into my mind through positive virtualization.
I think this is a wonderful side-effect of optimism, and needs to be responsibly addressed.
Falsely Feeling "Wrong"
As my life today expands in awesomeness at a rapid rate, some old messages I once received about how I don't deserve to be trusted and about how speaking my truth is dangerous are rearing up again.
These messages and the behavior patterns they cause me to enact when I'm unconsciously responding to them can prevent me from realizing my authentic preferences. It's crucial that as I become conscious of them, I am honest about what happened to me and I work to deal with the distortions those happenings caused.
What happened was that my truth and my innocence were invalidated by someone I trusted. I spoke out about being abused and the person I trusted with this sensitive fact told me that I was wrong, I had made it all up, and I had better get quiet about it again or else.
The effect of this invalidation and threat were almost more damaging to me than the initial abuse. I accepted my confidant's unfair version of reality-- that I was wrong, a liar, and that my truth was dangerous.
My naive acceptance of this false evaluation led me deep into confusion and depression as a teenager. I didn't want to be me, and I didn't feel safe contacting my own knowledge. I saw myself as the false confidant saw me-- as a threat, a problem, a trouble-maker. I lost sight of who I really was-- kind, honorable, magic.
The Innocence Process
In order to deal with these shadows, I practice a specific kind of work which reconnects me to my full perception of my real goodness and innocence.
I find this work to be deeply powerful because it alters my self-image-- but not in a fake, pumped-up way. It alters my self-image by taking strength away from the distorted self-perceptions I acquired when I accepted the false projections of others and by restoring to me the innocent, positive truth I knew about myself as a child. This self-image is an image of who I authentically am.
Today, I want to share this work process with you. I recommend that you don't undertake it, though, unless you have supportive people in your life who know your story and who know how you're trying to change. In other words, if you don't yet have loving friends or a good therapist or life coach to help you through traumatic stuff from your past, wait until you do before undertaking this process.
1. Go some place safe and relax. Become aware of the false messages your brain is offering, or the troubled patterns your life is evidencing. Ask, "When did I first think that or do that?"
For me, it's not just that my mind sometimes tells me that I don't deserve to be trusted or that my truth isn't worth hearing, it's that I also have repetitive patterns of doubting and second-guessing myself. When I got really still and asked myself, "When did I first start doubting myself?" the scene of me being invalidated when sharing the story of my abuse came to my mind.
2. Mentally go back to the scene wherein you received the false messages about you and your worth.
This can be difficult and disturbing to do, which is why I don't suggest doing it unless you have a loving and wonderful person to call if the scene gets to be too much for you.
3. Imaginatively insert yourself back into that scene with your present-day knowledge, and loudly and repeatedly assert the real truth within that scene. For example, I assert: "I do not deserve to be disbelieved and threatened. I do deserve to be heard, loved, and protected."
Do this again and again until you can feel its truth. For me, I start to feel my heart expand. I start to relax as I declare this truth. What you're doing is insisting on a real and healthy self-perception instead of the distorted perception that the person who mistreated you projected upon you.
4. Also in the mental scene, loudly and repeatedly assert to the person who mistreated you: "I will not be controlled any more by your view of me. The truth is I am not a liar or a threat [or whatever false thing it is they communicated to you back then]. The truth is I am honorable and honest."
In asserting this, you are continuing to distance yourself from their negative view and reclaiming your positive attributes. This is so important because the negative view of myself that I formed when I was mistreated as a child will continue to skew my perceptions of my life today, creating for me the same painful situations over and over.
For example, until I do this work, I find myself drawn to form friendships with people who invalidate me and attempt to make me feel guilty and wrong. These friendships feel "right" to me because they accord with the negative vision of myself and how I deserve to be treated that I acquired when very young.
5. Now imagine the scene again-- except this time you're interacting with someone else-- not a person who's mistreating you, but a person who is respecting and connecting with you. In my example, I imagine someone who's very emotionally present and open hearing me tell the story of my abuse, honoring me, and taking steps to protect me.
This step, like the others, is something I need to do mentally over and over to help it sink in. As I do this, I'm forming new neural connections which rewire me for new experiences. For example, the more I imagine being heard and honored as a child telling a difficult truth, the more I am able in the present day to be intuitively drawn to people who are willing and capable of receiving what my essential self has to give. I become much less attracted to people who want to invalidate and guilt me.
6. Continue to vividly imagine yourself being treated well and totally adored by someone sane, happy, and loving. Practice seeing your child-self as someone sane, happy, and loving would see you.
The more I do this step, the more I am able to get in touch with and remember all the really cool things about myself as a child which my learned sense of falseness and worthlessness caused me to forget: I remember that I was extravagantly kind to all the other little kids I met; I remember that I was everyone's favorite story teller; I remember that I loved every one I saw; and I remember that I would effortlessly would build complex and lovely sculptures out of foam. In short, I was generous, tremendously sweet and very creative. I absolutely deserved to be honored and treated well.
In doing this I begin to see myself again from the perspective of my own inner truth rather than from the perspective of the confused and hurting adult who abused and invalidated me.
I begin to feel much more free and light, and to see ways in which my optimistic visions for the future can come true.
I stop feeling suspicious of myself and start feeling more at one with my heart.
I wish the same for you.