I Will Not Die an Unlived Life
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
This poem, by Dawna Markova, has been my motto. The line, 'I will not die an unlived life' has carried me to locations in Canada and the US, in order to discover exactly what my unlived life is, and how I might live it. My big motivation is that I didn't want my kids to inherit my unlived life, and that's actually what happens when we don't do our own work.
Carl Jung, the father of Psychotherapy, said, “The greatest burden on a child is the unlived life of the parents”. What we fail to live, burdens our kids.
Or another quote, to get spiritual all on you, is from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas,
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Ok, so there it is, we need to heal what's inside us, figure out what part of ourselves we aren't living and live ourselves fully into the world.
So, why don't we do it?
Enter our Escapists and our Addicts.
If our Loyal Soldier (see previous blog post), through it's 'acting small' strategies, didn't sufficiently protect us from things that would psychologically devastate us, our psyche still has a back up plan....
The strategy preferred by the Escapist/Addict of our sub-personalities, is to rise above our traumatic emotions and circumstances, to avoid distressing challenges or responsibilities and to do this through addictions, obsessions, self-numbing, escapist fantasies or through social maneuvers such as vanishing acts, delinquency, recklessness, flightiness, flippancy and mischievousness.
That's actually a lot of options. Our Escapist can extract us from situations that we find threatening to our self-image or to situations that we find emotionally or physically overwhelming.
It's motto is get up and out!
They can do this physically or they can also do this by helping us not remember, register or fully feel a traumatic event(s).
It's important to always remember that at one time, we needed the strategies of our fragmented sub-personalities. They have served us and served us well. The problem is that as an adult, those same strategies keep us from having meaningful conversations, because there could be conflict, or from stepping out in social situations, we might look foolish or be rejected, from having deep relationships, because our addictions keep us from fully showing up; our Escapist 'protects' us from socially risky situations, situations where we might actually grow and colludes with our Loyal Soldier or Wounded Child (more on that in another post) to keep us small and safe. It's great to survive by learning that sticking your neck out will get you killed as a child, but what if, as an adult, that same strategy, keeps you from having a job you would actually love, or a relationship that would be meaningful. Or, what if your addiction gives you a pseudo type of 'bliss' but you never experience the real deal just by being on the earth or by being in relationship with people you love or even by thriving inside your amazing body.
There's a great book by Robert Agustus Masters, called Spiritual Bypassing. I think that, ultimately, that's what your Escapist does...bypass, and we can use ANYTHING to do it. We can use our spiritual practices to avoid going deeper, to avoid facing our pain, we can use positive thinking, negative thinking, busyness, religion, TV, sports...you name it, we can use it. It will even operate under our radar so we don't know we're doing it...usually, we will re-frame what we do so we don't question our own behaviour and in fact, call it noble. For example, maybe I pat myself on the back for being a good listener or for always being there for others, but really, my strategy is actually to keep people from seeing me...heck, I don't even want to see or acknowledge my own pain, why would I want others to? Or, maybe I'm addicted to my own anger but it's really a defence against my own pain but spewing my anger is easer than feeling my brokenness. You might even call it justified. Perhaps I use God as a cover and am seen as very devout. Everything will work out...no need to think about pain, I'm going to heaven...it's all good. Or, maybe, just like Peter Pan, I refuse to grow up and accept any responsibility for myself, instead believing life consists of one adventure after another – I like to think I'm just fun!
Our options are endless, we are just that good.
So, what do we do?
Well, first we acknowledge that we are using our Escapist strategy, identify what it is and how it serves me. Acknowledge what the price has been, how it's affected your relationships, job or health. Also, it's important to acknowledge that this has been a fantastic Escapist STRATEGY, used by you, but it is not who you are. It's important to remember that at one point we needed these strategies but that we have paid a high price for their service. Chances are that the others around us have also paid a high price for our Escapist strategies and we may have to make amends. There is also, now, some element of choice involved. If you know what your strategies are, choose to do otherwise. If you are not at that place in your journey, you may need some help with that part.
Like when working with our Loyal Soldier, we thank our Escapist for the job it did in helping get up and out. We needed it's services. Now, however, we are cultivating access to our Whole Self, we are using our resources both inside and out. We are moving towards our pain, not away from it...at least that's what our hope is. It is also helpful to do something to get us more into our bodies since that is usually the place our Escapist helped us flee, so bodywork that helps you discover and stay with bodily sensations, learning to allow our present experience and yoga are some examples of getting us back into our bodies. Also, cultivating presence, mindfulness and awareness are in direct opposition to escaping....escaping is OUT of the present moment, presence, meditation and mindfulness are helping us stay IN the present moment.
I think, ultimately, in order to get at our unlived life, we have to recognize what strategies we are using to avoid it. Living our unlived life means, to me, actually processing stuck emotions and memories, uncovering where I am stuck and why, releasing trauma from my body, and using my Whole Self to heal my fragments so I can show up fully and be the me I was meant to be on this earth. This is the job of every human being, not just some.
We all have unprocessed, un-metabolized emotions, we all have parts in us that need to be heard, healed and loved to maturity, we all have ways of being that are not serving us any more. We owe it to ourselves and to the ones that come after us, to live as fully as freely and as embodied as we can.
Don't die an unlived life.