In exercise 4 we will be exploring ways to SEE your unconscious stories of suffering.
What do I mean by ‘Unconscious Stories of Suffering’?
This is best understood through a story.
A few years ago I was working with Susan (not her real name), a single mother of 2 children. During our coaching sessions Susan kept coming back to unexplained sadness. Her deep pain was real and arose whenever she spoke of an incident where a child, unknown to her was abducted and not found, or dying of a terminal illness. The simple act of relaying this to me brought Susan to tears. Susan wanted to understand why this caused her so much unexplained pain. She had after all 2 healthy, happy children. It didn’t make sense.
What Susan also revealed to me during her coaching sessions was that she held onto her children too tightly. She would feel anxious when they spent weekends with her ex as she “didn’t know how they were doing all of the time”. Even when they were with her, she suffered fear; never letting them out of her sight or allowing them to travel in a friend’s car. Susan realized this was unhealthy pain and fear, but she couldn’t help wanting to ensure her children were always safe. Susan wanted to change her way of being.
I realized that Susan needed to support her body and soul, away from her pain story in the mind, so she could access her own internal wisdom for understanding.
First, I dared to ask a hard question to examine her “mind’s” beliefs.
Did Susan feel the same when she thought of children in war-torn territories or famine regions?
Susan seemed surprised that while this made her sad, in contrast it did not distress her the same way. Susan immediately judged herself and asked, “Does that make me a bad person?” Only one of these stories had an emotional attachment that was causing her to suffer. Susan could see the difference.
Susan had a strong prayer practice, so as a starting point I invited Susan to meditate as a way to hear herself and quieten down her mind and her body’s anxiety. The more Susan meditated and prayed, the more she softened.
During one session I noticed Susan was feeling very sad, so I asked her if any story was pressing that seemed to have no connection to her life. She broke down and cried and said, “Jacqui it makes no sense, my children are all healthy and safe, but I know my child was sick and taken from me. We never found her. I just know it.” I asked Susan to close her eyes, trust the story and let it flow. With her eyes closed she described every detail of the story. For Susan it was real. While I could witness her pain and know that her pain was real, I also knew that in this life she hadn’t ever experienced such an event, so I asked, “Is it possible that your soul has experienced this as parental or societal narrative, or even a previous life, thereby making your emotional attachment to this story real for you?”
We explored the possibility of this being true for her. While we accepted that in this life neither of us would have any physical evidence that this was true, I asked Susan to sit with it for a few weeks as she continued to learn to trust her inner voice.
As time went by Susan deepened her mediation and prayer practices and noticed that she started to feel less anxious, even loosening her tight grip on her children. Susan reported that her children expressed pleasure at this experience and that their mom seemed lighter and happier.
In a later session Susan then revealed the following to me, saying that is did not matter if she had evidence or not, when she listened to her heart it all made sense to her. In accessing this internal voice of her soul, she allowed herself to mourn this child. Susan no longer felt shame for these feelings or the need to deny the pain attached to an unconscious story. Susan also let go of guilt for not suffering in the same way about other children in different distress. Susan acknowledged, owned and allowed herself to feel all of her emotions, without judgment of herself now she had brought this once unconscious story to the surface.
In learning to see herself, Susan had learnt how to trust herself, finding relief from an unconscious pain story. Susan was able to develop a healthy relationship with her emotions, free from the suffering of some future fear story, thereby improving her relationship with the children.
By learning to see herself, Susan had found “purpose in her suffering” and released herself from “suffering for purpose”. A courageous woman indeed.
Are you daring enough to explore and uncover your unconscious stories of suffering?
Exercise 4 – Facing Your Unconscious Stories of Suffering
Intended outcome of this exercise:
- To cultivate an awareness of your unconscious stories of suffering.
- To identify the emotions that come up for you, or to notice if you suppress or hide your emotions when bringing these unexplained pain or fear stories of suffering to the surface.
- To identify how these emotions or the suppression of them impact negatively on your life.
Over the next 2 weeks undertake the exercise below.
Once again, when journaling, let the thoughts flow onto the paper as fast as they come out of you, with no attention to spelling or grammar. Remember there are no right or wrong answers, only a process of self-discovery and understanding.
Unconscious suffering with pain or fear experiences:
- Write in your journal about one or two stories which cause you suffering even though there is no direct or rational relationship with your current life. Sum up the unexplained pain or fear that you feel in one or two short sentences, for example:
- I suffer inexplicable pain when I think about animal abuse, even if it is a reenactment on TV.
- I suffer the fear of ending up homeless even though I am educated and earn a healthy salary.
- Take time to reflect on these stories and then journal about your emotions or the suppression of your emotions with these stories of suffering, for example:
- I feel sad, cry and get angry when I think of animal abuse or see a reenactment on TV.
- I feel anxious and stressed at the thought of being homeless, even though I live in a lovely home and have a good income.
- Journal about the thoughts and behaviors which arise in the current moment of suffering that might cause you to behave in a negative way, for example:
- I want to get even with the people who hurt animals. I have bad thoughts of how I will do it. I then judge myself for these thoughts. This makes me tense around my family. I then judge myself for being short tempered with my family.
- When I am fearful at the thought of being homeless I am anxious and this affects how I treat myself and other people. I then give too much to other homeless people, exhausting myself.
Exploring unconscious detachment from the pain or fear stories or experiences of others:
- Next, dare to ask the hard question and write in your journal about a pain or a fear story of another that you can identify with in the mind, but which does not cause you to suffer. Sum up the story in one or two short sentences, for example:
- I feel compassion and sadness when I think of child abuse, but somehow I do not get as caught up in it emotionally the way I do when I think of animal abuse.
- I feel sorry for the once wealthy business man who lived next door who went bankrupt and lost everything, including his furniture. However, I notice that I do not get caught up in it emotionally the way I do when I think of myself as homeless or seeing homeless people on the street.
- Reflect on these stories and then journal about possible judgments towards yourself or others that might come up with these stories of suffering:
- Wow I really judge myself and feel like a bad person for not suffering as much as my friend Julie does when we talk about child abuse. She gets really upset and mad. Maybe I am a bad person, or maybe she should get a handle on her emotions.
- I guess he deserves to have lost his house and furniture as he was so full of himself when he had all that money. Maybe I am a bad person for thinking this.
- Now imagine yourself in the shoes of another who does suffer the above stories and write a sentence or two, from their point of view, for example:
- I was an abused child and while I acknowledge that not everyone will feel the same way about child abuse, I will allow myself to feel and own my pain while they deal with their own suffering.
- I have lost my entire net worth due to a down turn in the economy that I did not see coming and while I acknowledge that not everyone will feel the same way about my loss, I will allow myself to feel and own my pain while they deal with their own suffering.
Let’s get back to you and your story:
- Now get back to your story and own it fully. Try to own it in a way that excludes any self-judgments or judgments of others. Write a sentence or two something like this:
- I suffer excessively from the thought of animal abuse and while I am unsure why it affects me this deeply I am comfortable to no longer suppress my feelings or my story. I appreciate that not everyone will feel the same way about animal abuse as I do. They have their own suffering to deal with.
- I suffer deep fear from the thought of being homeless or when I see other homeless people and while I am unsure why it affects me this deeply I am comfortable to no longer suppress my feelings or my story. I appreciate that not everyone will feel the same way about being homelessness as I do. They have their own suffering to deal with.
- Lastly journal about what you could be doing to lessen the suffering in the world that affects you. In other words, think of how you can find purpose in your story. For example:
- I could sign up as a volunteer at an animal shelter.
- I love what I do for a living and will enjoy each precious moment that I have, while being grateful for all my creature comforts. I can occasionally help out others less fortunate then me, but I will be sure to maintain boundaries to protect myself in future.
For those of you who are working with a friend or a group, this is a good time to catch up and share what you have learnt about yourself. Click here for the link on how to go about this sharing with the group.
For those of you working on your own, this is good time to listen to what you have learnt about yourself. Click here for the link on how to go about this sharing with yourself.
Then once again, when you have finished this last exercise sing, dance, have a glass of wine, but undertake a ritual that you enjoy, alone or with your group, to celebrate and honor the courage it takes not to deny any part of your life and your way of being, as you learn to SEE yourself.
Then rest and don’t take yourself too seriously until we meet again in two weeks when I’ll be talking about FORGIVENESS: How to forgive and why.
In the interim if you have questions on this topic, either submit your question in the comments section below or here (link) or on FB (link). Likewise, if you have a story you would like to share about your unconscious stories, then please do so on the same links above.
I love you all for your courage.
As always, warm love and regards
If you have missed out on Part 1 to 3 of How to SEE Your Hidden Self, the click here to read How to SEE Your Hidden Self: Part 1 of 6.