During transitions, our false beliefs and ineffectual core habits are often revealed. This can take us by surprise, especially around transitions like getting married or having a baby where the cultural belief tells us that we’re supposed to feel only happiness and excitement. When we find ourselves consumed by fear and anxiety and overwhelmed by the running commentary in our mind that is constantly nit-picking our partner or obsessing over practical details, we wonder: “Am I making a mistake?” or “Maybe I don’t really want to become a mother?” or, in the case of a starting a new job or moving, “Maybe I should stay at my old job (or house or city).”
As I’ve said repeatedly, unless there are red-flag issues in the relationship (physical or emotional abuse), chances are very high that you’re not making a mistake. The fears and questions that arise during pregnancy and early motherhood about your adequacy as a mother are one hundred percent normal. The doubts that surface during all major life transition are a part of any thinking person’s process of letting go of the old and adjusting to something new. It can be challenging to believe that these “negative” feelings are normal when everything in our society says otherwise. What is required is a cultural revolution in our thinking about transitions, not a denial of the feelings themselves.
For embedded in the difficult feelings are often kernals of truth that, when attended to and worked with consciously and diligently, can transform from grains of sand to pearls of wisdom and healing. I’ll give you an example based on yesterday’s post about a man I’ve been working with for about a year on the issues that were triggered three months before his wedding. Through our work with dialoguing, we were quickly able to identify the core belief that caused him to shut his heart down to his then-fiance (they’re now married). The belief for my client was: “I’m not good enough.”
Slowly, over the last ten months, we’ve been working to excavate this belief by the roots. My client, who I’ve called Matthew, has been able to connect with the ten year old and fourteen old parts of him that believed that he needed others’ approval to feel good about himself. In other words, his self-worth was inextricably tied to receiving validation and approval from his parents, friends, teachers, co-workers, bosses, and girls. When he was rejected or didn’t measure up in someone’s eyes, he formed the belief of, “I’m not good enough.”
He spent the next twenty years operating from that belief. Like many people, he developed a pattern with women that went like this: He felt excited about a girl for a few dates, then lost interest. For the girls that lasted beyond a few dates, he would feel open and available up to a point, and then he would shut down. If the girl broke up with him, his interest was piqued and his heart would open again only to shut down again once the relationship resumed.
He seemed to escape this pattern for the first eighteen months of his relationship with “Donna.” He was soaring on the wings of love, totally open and ready to commit to her for the rest of his life. Then, three months before his wedding, a series of events avalanched to activate his core belief of, “I’m not good enough” and he shut down his heart. We’ve been working with the various aspects and offshoots of this belief, like “Donna isn’t safe and if I open to her she’ll reject or disappoint me” ever since.
Sometimes the work of excavating a false belief needs to progress slowly. Matthew is so fused with this belief that it’s like a tenacious weed that has wrapped itself around his core self: if he pulled out the weed by the root too quickly, it would feel like his core self was collapsing. Since he’s lived with this belief for so long (and I would hypothesize that the belief began much earlier than age ten), it’s part of the internal structure or building block of his psyche. Like a gentle gardener, the work has to be slow and methodical, perhaps pulling out the top portion of the unwanted weedy vine before carefully digging into the ground to unearth the root.
Here’s how the work goes: Together, we remove a small portion of the belief, and he grieves. When we go too quickly, he starts to panic and has a hard time catching his breath. I bring him back into his body and help him find his breath. Through a simple dialogue process, I help him dialogue with this scared part that believes he’s not good enough. I encourage him to invite his internal Wise Man into the dialogue so he can access the truth. He practices on his own between sessions and when we speak again, we work side by side to remove another segment of the false belief and replace it with the truth. He doesn’t feel safe to open his heart to his wife again, but when he truly knows that his lack of safety is caused by his fusion with this false belief, he will be able to make the choice to open again, and thus feel the love that’s been blocked for over a year.
Healing is, in itself, a process of transition. We identify the thoughts, beliefs, and actions that are no longer serving us and actively work to release them and replace them with the truth and new, loving behavior. But like all transitions, it’s so rarely a linear process that we can complete in a couple of weeks and tie up with nice, pretty bow. It’s dirty, messy, and scary. It is, in fact, a hero’s journey, where we must descend into the underworld of our psyches, facing our deepest fears and the false structures on which we’ve predicated our identities before returning to the light of day with the pearly gifts of a new version of ourselves in hand.