How is this possible.? How come we attract the exact opposite of what we want for ourselves? Why do we behave in ways that are counterproductive for us?
These behaviours cover a very wide range, but in general, they have a single cause. The root cause produces unconscious beliefs that govern our behaviours.
The root cause can be a single, life-shattering, traumatic event, or it can be an ongoing drip-feed of negative comments especially during childhood. But whatever the cause, the result is the same, and it’s responsible for our unconsciously controlled behaviours.
Do you ever put yourself down? Do you ever feel you’re not worth much? As babies and young children, we feel great and very important, but by the time we’re teenagers, we feel insecure and often worthless – everyone else is better looking, better dressed, smarter, more popular, picked first for the team, etc etc.
Where do these beliefs come from?
Usually from adults - our parents, teachers, the church and society in general. In fact ,from any authority figures.
Remember, that as a baby, your very survival depended on usually two giants, who supplied you with everything you needed to survive. You very quickly had to learn that these giants had to be appeased. You soon learned how to please them. You learned to interpret their body language. You learned how your behaviour affected them, and how their resulting behaviour affected you.
You hadn't yet developed the power of reason and logic. Your behaviour was instinctive; hard wired in your brain to ensure your survival. You denied your own desires more and more as you grew, and learned to conform to their rules.
“Adults matter - children don’t.”
‘Do as you are told.’ (which generally means - ‘Don’t do as I do - do as I tell you.’)
‘If you don’t share your toys, you’re selfish.’ ( Do your parents share theirs?)
‘You should love your Auntie. Go and give her a big kiss.’ (But Auntie may smell funny and have a moustache and a wart.) (And, by the way, you can’t ‘should love’ anybody)
There are many examples of these put-downs of kids, including of course, abuse in all its forms. As children, we learn to please the adults, to deny our own needs and feelings. We begin to feel unimportant, unloved. Self-doubt takes hold, and grows - so that by the teenage years, most young people feel they’re not worth much - that they don’t really matter. And many never outgrow this feeling – they never feel valued for who they are.
This produces stored confusion, anger, sadness, grief, all of which are stored in the body because we were not able to express these emotions, or to have our emotional needs met. This leads to various forms of illness, physical, mental, psychological and therefore spiritual. And I’m not just talking about minor conditions – I’m talking about the whole range of sickness, including life threatening conditions.
So - how can we deal with this? The answer is self-love.
Imagine owning something really, really special – a one-off.
Would you let anyone kick it around - mishandle it – mistreat it – damage it - abuse it ?? Of course you wouldn’t. But people allow others to abuse them. And even worse they abuse themselves, by not recognising their own true worth.
Could you say to someone you really care about?
‘I love you. I accept you as you are. I will never try to change you. I will support you, and give you room to grow, in whatever way you need, even if I don’t agree with what you are doing, even if that means that you grow away from me.’
Or to your child, perhaps a teenager, who has come up with a plan:
‘I think it’s a bad idea. (and explain why). But, if you decide to go down that road, I will support you, and if it all goes pear-shaped, I will never say ‘I told you so’, and I will be there to help you pick up the pieces.’
Not bad as definitions of ‘love’, unconditional love. But could you say these things to yourself???
You can only truly say these things to another human being, if you can say the same things to yourself. You see, you can’t love anyone until you love yourself. How can you give love if you feel worthless? - you’ve got nothing to give, because, if you’re worthless, then your love’s worthless. And, if you can’t give love, then you can’t receive it, because what would it be worth, if it’s given to a worthless person?
Another thing to say to children, when they do something you don’t like:
‘Hey, I love you to bits - you are wonderful - you are unique - you are special - and I will always love you - but that behaviour I won’t accept.’
You are separating the child - the child’s self-worth - from the behaviour. Children understand that - and are far more likely to behave better if they know that they’re valued.
Most people’s self-worth, or lack of, is based on other people’s opinions. But, because you’re unique, self-worth is already there - it’s yours, simply because you exist. But, self- worth is not the same as self-image. We have many self-images. For example - I’m English, a parent, a grandparent, a son, a teacher, a writer, etc etc., and for each one of those I have a different self-image, but, whatever hat I may be wearing, underneath them all is ME, and that is my self-worth.
When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see?
If you do, fine. Most people don’t. If you don’t - instead of saying something like: ‘I hate the way I look’, break it down into bits - some bits you like, some you don’t. Those bits that you don’t like, ask yourself a question. ‘Can I change it? If ‘Yes’, change it - if ‘No’, accept it.
Every day, in magazines, newspapers, on billboards and especially on TV, ‘they’ tell you, and show you, how you ought to look, dress, smell etc. The message is ‘You’re not OK’.
But you are OK - remember, you’re a one-off, unique and priceless. And the models they use spend hours in makeup and hairdressing, and even then the images are ‘touched up’ so that they’re perfect. And we’ve all seen photos of them when they’re not working – when they’re back to being real people.
And, what’s it all for. Trust me, it’s not to make you look good –it’s to make profits. Don’t buy into it.
In a future post we’ll begin to see how we can start to change our self image.