How to Hold onto Your Self and Still Fit In
By Eva Angvert Harren, Core Coach and Educator
What is it about relationships that’s so hard to get?
I know that “everybody” has challenges with relationships. However, when you are also on the autism spectrum or suffer from PTSD, and on top of that are socially blind, the odds against you are just so much greater.
How can we keep friendships going without losing ourselves?
We can lose ourselves by people-pleasing or feeling forced to behave in a way that does not feel good to us.
How can we learn to put our Self first – our sense of self, our feelings of integrity and self-truth? How can we feel intact in who we want to be and still have room for a friend or two? How do we do that?
In my early life, I was overwhelmed with fear and shame, unable to see how those feelings affected my behavior.
Fear is debilitating and seems to come in a hundred forms. And when I take a look at those feelings, and follow the thread to their root cause, it always boils down to two things. As they say in the twelve-step programs: I am either afraid of not getting what I want, or I am afraid of losing what I have. Bottom line!
I am afraid of not getting love, approval, protection, respect and other such supports to my self-esteem. Or, I fear that I will lose love, approval, protection, respect, or maybe a loved one, a job, a business opportunity, or the like.
How can we learn to feel good enough about ourselves so that we do not need to run on the fuels of fear and shame?
How can we learn to develop self-love and use that as fuel for how we show up and move in the world?
I have learned to respect my Self through a lot of coaching and spiritual mentoring. It didn’t come easy for me.
My feeling of being waste material stuck to my soul early in life, and it’s been my biggest challenge to release that sense of worthlessness. And that sense of worthlessness influenced my behavior. It has been a struggle to crawl out of the emotional gutter of shame, guilt, and fear and recognize that I experienced those feelings as if they were my identity – for years!
I got so used to those feelings, I didn’t even recognize that I was actually comfortable being wrong, guilty, and worthless; it was just who I was. There is something weirdly comforting about sitting in the warm, icky, but familiar, fuzzy feeling of “I’m not worth it. That’s not for me. I just don’t matter.”
If you relate to these sentences, I can help you get out of that comfort zone!
In my last training with the esteemed Dr. Peter Levine, I was fortunate to receive a session. My issue was shame. In the session I said things such as “I don’t deserve that” as if that were true.
Dr. Levine pointed out this habit to me and told me to say, instead, “I have a thought that says, ‘I don’t deserve that.’”
Oh, wow! This little shift in perspective put space between me and the feeling of “I don’t deserve that.” I could find the neutral space inside where I could recognize that it was a thought; that was all it was – a thought!
Now, how old am I? 58 years of age. And I have worked on my Self for 26+ years. I know this stuff; I tell my clients this stuff.
However, when I say that I feel as though I don’t deserve that, I feeeeeel it personally and it becomes true. Then my behavior will ripple out from the standpoint of “I don’t deserve…” I give the feeling too much power.
But, when I feel the feeling – remember it’s just a feeling – “I don’t deserve that,” and say “I have a thought that says that I don’t deserve that,” it becomes just that, and nothing more – a thought.
Now there’s enough space between me and the thought AND the feeling so that I can allow the old feeling to surface and dissipate while I hold the thought at a distance. I look at the feeling and think, “Wow! There it is again, that feeling.” I feel the sensations that bubble up – that old, nasty-tasting tension. Sometimes it feels like throwing up a hairball. Still, I just let it surface and then let it go.
Shame used to feel as if it had a taste and smell to it. “I’m not worth it” smelled like a skunk that was living inside my house, spraying me daily. I couldn’t even breathe without getting that nasty taste in my mouth, “I’m just not worth it.”
And other people’s looks seemed to say that they could “smell” me.
Now, after many sessions and exercises, my experience is more like this: I know there was a skunk living here; I remember the taste, smell, and feeling. And once in a while I get a whiff of it. Then I can say, “I have a thought that says __________.”
And, I’m free! I’m free to be . . . me!