From Pain to Passion
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t…you’re right. —Henry Ford
The Surprising Power of Beliefs
Our beliefs have an amazing amount of power, and if we are not careful, they can actually keep us from fully knowing and experiencing who we really are. In this article, I’m going to walk you through a very personal example of how I unconsciously adopted a limiting and disempowering belief that shaped the way I showed up for over 40 years, and a little of how I gradually woke up to my choice and was able to re-shape my life.
Setting the Stage
Suppose you are sharing an intimate and quiet space with someone you love and admire. This person might be your best friend, or perhaps your lover or your wife or husband, or anyone else you can think of who is really close to you. Imagine you are feeling deeply connected to this person, open and vulnerable, knowing you are totally safe, sharing your deepest truth. Now, suppose for some reason this person says the following words to you:
I know you better than you know yourself.
Just notice how that statement lands on you; notice how you react, how you feel.
I’m guessing that, as a mature and consciously aware adult, this probably doesn’t land very well on you at all. I’m guessing that, at the very least, you disagree with those words. You may have a very strong reaction to them; you may experience some resistance, and may even find yourself wanting to argue with those words. If so, good for you! Such a reaction suggests that you have a very good idea of who you are, and that you already recognize that no-one knows you better than you know yourself.
Now let’s take the scenario a little deeper. Take a moment to go back in time, back to a time when you were two or three years old. Once again, imagine yourself in a safe and quiet space with someone you love and admire. But this time, imagine the person as a primary adult in your life, a primary caregiver—most likely your mother or your father, but possibly someone else—someone who loved you and took care of you and helped you get your needs met. Now hear those words again, but this time from that primary caregiver:
I know you better than you know yourself.
How does the statement land this time? I imagine your reaction probably feels quite different.
A Taste of My Reality
As it happens, I heard those exact words from my mother when I was maybe three years old. I don’t remember the circumstances when those words hit me; I don’t remember what was going on at the time, but I do remember that the statement just kind of stopped me cold in my tracks. I just stopped whatever it was I was doing, and I vaguely remember thinking “Wow!”, as I marveled at the words.
My mother had had an air of calm certainty about her, so I wasn’t at all resistant. I didn’t have any argument about this. In fact, if anything, I was completely open and accepting to what she said. In my adult mind of today, I’m imagining that at the time I was probably going through a thought process that went something like this:
Well, of course! You’re my mom, and you know me better than anybody else does! You take care of me, you make sure all my needs are met, and I know you love me. And of course, I know you would never lie to me. So it must be true: you must know me better than I know myself.
Now, try to imagine what kind of impact a decision like that can have on a 3-year old kid. I can tell you this: it affected me for the next 40-something years of my life, but I didn’t realize it, because I had completely forgotten about that event very shortly after it happened. But I had accepted my mother’s words as true, I had made a decision without realizing it, and from that point forward, I was living my life according to that belief.
The Impact of My Unconscious Choice
Now let’s jump forward to June 30, 1995. My three children, my ex-wife-to-be and I are all in the car, and we’re driving to the Edmonton International Airport. This is the day that marks the final step in my decision that broke my family apart.
For the five or so years leading up to that day, I had been really noticing how unhappy and dissatisfied I was. A lot of anger, resentment and rage had grown quietly and steadily inside me (quite unbeknownst to me—or so I prefer to believe!), and some of it had begun seeping out and hurting my kids. I was really starting to get scared about this.
One day, in fact, about two years or so before I made the decision to leave, I remember an interaction that happened with my oldest son. He was six or seven, or maybe eight years old at the time. He was doing something—no doubt a typical seven-year-old kind of activity—and, for whatever reason, it irritated me. When my son “ignored” my command to stop what he was doing, my anger got the better of me, and I just hauled off and whacked him across the side of the head with the back of my hand. The force of my blow was enough to knock him down, and I’m sure he felt some pain from it. But what really got me about that was how he just sat there, saying nothing, fighting back his tears, rubbing his head, and just glowering at me. He had this look of hatred and venom in his eyes.
In that moment, something really painful shifted inside of me. I realized,
I’ve got to do something about this. Something has to change because I don’t want to experience that look from any of my kids ever again.
During the next couple of years, as I started to become more and more aware of the pain I had been creating in my life, I tried looking outside of myself for solutions, for answers…for salvation. Not surprisingly, my church just wanted me to put my faith in Jesus, and other religions seemed to have much the same agenda. My friends didn’t really understand what was going on for me. Couples therapy merely increased my perception and belief that there was something wrong with me, that I was broken or defective in some way. In my mind, it became obvious that I had no other choice but to get out, or else risk really hurting someone. Since suicide was out of the question—at least according to the teachings of my church—my only other option was to escape. So that’s what I did.
There we were, June 30, 1995, driving to the airport, the kids were crying, everyone was upset. I was struggling to explain to them,
This is really not your fault, this is something I need to do, and I’m sorry, and I love you.
I said all the things that I thought I should to be saying. Of course, I was also trying to crack a few bad jokes because I was uncomfortable with the situation—everybody was uncomfortable—and I was just trying to get us to move on to some other subject.
At the airport, we went through a very tearful farewell, and at long last I found myself on a plane bound for San Francisco. In my mind, I was thinking
Everything is going to be okay now. I’m moving away, my kids aren’t going to have to be affected by my anger any more. They’re going to be safe. Everything’s going to be fine.
But deep down in my heart, I knew that I was running away from something from which there really was no escape.
Coming Out the Other Side
Now aside from the fact that Silicon Valley was the place to be for someone in search of an exciting high-tech job, I didn’t really know what drew me to California—notwithstanding the irony that I had felt the need to run some 1700 miles away from my family in order to protect them from my anger.
As it happens, this was probably the best decision I could have made.
Even though I went through probably the deepest depression of my life in the first few months of my time in my new home, I soon became aware of all the healing energies and modalities available in the Bay Area, and I started to take advantage of them, and in the following years, the raising of my consciousness and the healing of my heart simply took off in a very big way. Many workshops and seminars and many hours of therapy helped me to release my anger and rage in safe and healthy ways, and I overcame a lot of my shame and self-loathing as a result.
Retrospective Leads to Understanding
After I had done all that work and begun my healing process, I was able to look at the deeper question of “How did I get that way in the first place?” I mean, I wasn’t born angry; I wasn’t born resentful; I wasn’t born full of rage. What had happened? Where had all that charged energy come from? And it took me a while. It took a lot of introspection, it took a lot of therapy, it took a lot of asking the right questions, but somewhere along the way, the memory lit up like a neon sign in my head, and it hit me:
I know you better than you know yourself.
I’m clear that my mother wasn’t trying to be malicious or mean; she wasn’t trying to be abusive; she wasn’t trying to hurt me in any way that I know of. But she had said those words and I had accepted them as true. And because I had accepted it as fact that she knew me better than I knew myself, I had unconsciously agreed to a kind of strange co-dependent relationship with my mother in which she would tell me what I wanted or needed and then I would wait for her to take care of it! Well, that carried over into other areas of my life as well. I started counting on other people to tell me what I wanted and needed; I unconsciously relied on friends to make decisions for me.
Because I had allowed myself to do that, because I had made the unconscious choice to give my power of choice away to other people, I had grown angry and resentful. That dark energy slowly built up over time—kind of like ugly sediment filling every available crack and crevice inside me—to the point where it eventually came out and started hurting my kids.
Amazing! All because of eight simple words.
Side-Effects of My Unconscious Choice
Those eight words changed my life and turned me into a pretty nasty parody of myself. In fact, who I really am got completely lost in the shuffle! I was spending all my time trying to please other people, trying to satisfy their idea of the way I was supposed to be. But, of course, that strategy didn’t work at all! All it did was create a lot of pain for me, and a lot of pain for the people I cared about.
Because of a simple (and, I’m sure, relatively innocent) statement my mother had made to me when I was young, I took on a single disempowering belief—propped up by lots of worldly “evidence” and supported by plenty of “authority figures” who were willing to help me anchor that belief as I grew up—that I was supposed to look to others for the truth of who I am. In essence, I had abandoned my own truth in favor of someone else’s—no, everyone else’s—image of me. I had abdicated my own sovereign power, and it took me over 40 years to realize it, and another 15 or more years to unravel the twisted mess I had created inside myself.
The Lesson and the Gift
Well, thank God I have gotten through that now. Because I found a safe way to release the pent up anger and resentment inside, I have re-connected to the joy and the love and the gentleness that is deep within me, and I’ve re-written my belief systems in a way that empowers me in the world. I’ve gone back and cleaned up most of what has happened with my children. And I’ve cleaned up a lot of stuff with other people in my life too.
I have learned a great many things about personal growth and conscious self-creation, and I am committed to sharing all of them. But for the purposes of this article, one big lesson I’ve learned as a result of my amazing journey is that my beliefs have a huge amount of power, and if I’m not careful, they can hold me back from knowing and experiencing who I really am. I’ve also learned that I don’t want the world to be a mess because of the way I show up, I don’t want to damage people around me, I don’t want to create pain and suffering because of what I believe. What I do want is to create unconditional love in the world, and I know it’s there, it’s within me.
Sharing What I’ve Learned
I’ve also become very aware of the kind of damage that can be created by people who are under the spell of their unconscious disempowering beliefs. It’s become vitally important to me that we all learn how to deconstruct our limiting beliefs and re-connect to the truth of who we really are. I’ve done a lot of work on myself since 1995, and I’ve learned many powerful skills, and one of the things I’m really good at now is helping people figure out what’s true for themselves, so that they can declare themselves for who they really are, and express and experience themselves fully, so that they can reclaim their authenticity, stand in their power and not let anything else shake them from who they really are.
That’s what I do now.
That’s my passion.
And that’s what I want to help YOU with.