“Happiness is not numbing yourself from pain. It is the opposite.
It is opening yourself to feeling all that you are.
It is pursuing your deeper self and living more.”
- Judith Wright
We are the key to our own happiness. While all of us want to change something about some aspect of our lives (be it about ourselves, our homes, our families, our work etc.) sometimes we want to change things for the wrong reasons or in order to please someone or something else.
In my practice I have found that usually when a client wants to make a dramatic change in their lives or is in a hurry with something to change it is best to slow down and look within first. We do that by asking ourselves, “Who are we actually trying to please?”
Are we trying to please ourselves, and if so, what is that pleasing about? Are we feeling uncomfortable with something about ourselves? If we are trying to change something to please another, who are we being loyal to? Being able to answer these questions is important as in doing so we become empowered and we begin to accept ourselves. In accepting ourselves we also accept who and what we are relating to. This self acceptance then encourages growth and an inner picture which matches our outer desires; to live a happy, successful and vital life!
I had a client whose life – on the surface – seemed fine, but she knew something was wrong. She was married with no children and had been married for about nine years. In our sessions we discovered she had a hidden fear that if she did well and shined in her own right it would mean she wasn’t there for her husband 24/7. And if she wasn’t there for him then everything would fall apart. She loved her husband and didn’t want to leave him and yet she didn’t want things to continue the way they had been. She wanted change. Yet another part of her was afraid of change. So she did what many people in this circumstance do – nothing while she continued to try to please her husband rather than herself.
During one of our sessions when we looked at her parent’s and grandparent’s lives we unraveled a story with strong undercurrents and themes of death, manslaughter, abandonment, and grief. In our work together she realized that when she was little she got her needs met by being what her mother wanted and by pleasing her mother. She knew that if she pleased her mother she also pleased her father. But pleasing her mother took its toll because while outwardly successful in the world’s eyes, at home my client’s mother would fall apart very easily. My client’s mother stayed with her husband because she was afraid that if she divorced him her children would not forgive her.
When we looked back another generation we saw that when my client’s mother was a child she lost her father and had to go and live with her grandparents while her own mother got her life together. Her grandmother had lost her husband to suicide and continued to raise two children, run a farm, start a school district and outwardly looked like she was thriving. In our sessions together we untangled her family of origin’s story and saw how all of their themes were weaving into my client’s current life story and choices.
My client spent her youth pleasing her mother and father. Then she spent her adulthood pleasing her husband. Underneath it all was a belief that if she were to shine and do what makes her feel good (and therefore able to love and accept herself) she would lose her husband and everything would fall apart. As time progressed she realized she had married a man who in many ways is a lot like her mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
This is where the Power of Acceptance is a critical Body Presencing Key if we are to unlock the secrets to health, wholeness, and vitality. Familial patterns repeat until we can learn to accept ourselves and those in generations past. This kind of acceptance requires unconditional love because it must transcend the things that people did and the situations created through those people’s actions.
In working with this client we looked at and talked about these repeating patterns. And while she could acknowledge all of this in her head, she didn’t feel the connection to her heart and her soul. When she tried to make that connection all she felt was anxiousness. So we spent time talking about where she felt the anxiety, what the anxiety made her feel like doing, what it prevented her from doing, and oddly enough, what it protected her from.
She realized the pattern in her family was “to do in order to keep from feeling” because lots of tragedies occurred and they seemed too big and too much to feel. When my client took time to feel, she felt the anxiety for all those who couldn’t. She was holding anxiety not only for herself, but for her mother, her mother’s mother, and for her great grandmother. In our work together she came to understand that feeling those feelings allowed her to honor her ancestors because she was able to do something they couldn’t. By doing so, it allowed the whole energy to shift to one of feeling instead of just doing and pleasing others.
This particular client is an example of something we all struggle with at different times. From the time we are little we want to please our parents, maybe our siblings, our friends, our teachers, and our partners. If the pleasing matches who we are inside for the most part and we don’t give up much of our important selves and soul, we do ok. This pleasing comes from a desire to belong and be loved.
But we are the only ones who can truly love ourselves and create a life of belonging that we then share with others. You can guess where I am going with this: it all begins with loving ourselves and by accepting ourselves for who we are, where we came from, and even the struggles that have made us who we are. No amount of pleasing others can gift us with this. Only we can give ourselves the gift of acceptance. This is where our inner work begins: learning to love and please ourselves, for then we are truly living our lives with our whole heart and soul.
Shift Your Story: Guided Visualization/Meditation
An exercise I find helpful is to take a piece of paper. Make four columns on this paper. On one column write what I like/love about myself. In the next column write what I don’t like/love about myself. In the third column write what I like about my mother, and in the fourth column write what I don’t like about my mother. If it is appropriate you can also make two more columns: one for what you like about your father, and what you don’t like about your father.
Write down all you can think of without censoring yourself. Give yourself time and feel free to jump from one list to the other as you think of things. When you are finished, take a look and see what you have written. Are there any patterns you recognize? Do you dislike a similar thing you dislike in your mom or in your dad? And then ask the opposite: Do you like similar things in you as in them? Then ask yourself, do I do anything to please them, to get them to like/love me that compromises me in any way? Take your time with this exercise, and go back to it a few times in the next couple of weeks. You might find that other important ideas come up for you.
Go to my web site www.bodypresencing.com. Click on the Services page and scroll down to audio subscriptions. These audio sessions are designed to help take you through a 20 minute consult by phone and then a 20 minute audio I make just for you to help you move through things like pleasing and giving up, to being your true and vital self. These sessions are also based on the Family Constellation work. While you are at my website check out the Family Constellations page to learn more. Here is a toast to pleasing, accepting, and being your lovely true and vital selves!