How to ACCEPT all of Your Self: Part 4 of 6
Learning to see ourselves is a never ending journey as we continue to evolve into a self-correcting and self-accepting human being. We best serve ourselves when approaching this growth with an attitude of curiosity over a dogmatic “This is me, and I won’t change”, blind to the damage we cause ourselves, others or our environment.
The intention is not so much to change, as to see and accept who we are and how we behave so that we can integrate, evolve and transcend this identity in order to make conscious decisions for enhanced life experiences. When making decisions from this awakened space, we can access all of who we are, our light and our dark, to transcend even painful moments of suffering.
Bringing attention to your triggers and your projections can be scary and even painful. Your triggers are merely a reflection of your humanness, of parts of yourself that lie dormant in you that you still need to see, accept and love. Many of us instinctively reject this notion. This rejection is your shadow keeping you locked in fear. We all suffer our shadow and with courage, we can all transcend it.
The beauty of completely accessing your dark side from a conscious space allows you to bring about effective movement when challenged in life.
I found this part of the journey extremely hard as I had to examine an angry and aggressive part of me that hid in my shadow. This dark part of me is unkind and yet it was a part of me I had to learn to see, accept and love!
From this non-judgmental space, I could notice that whenever I lost my temper I would look for justification for my own unkind behavior. I would either justify my temper via a blame story by saying something like, “Well that person deserved it as they were unkind to me, they were wrong and they caused me to lose my temper”; or via a guilt story where I would apologize for losing my temper to reestablish order, but I would not change; or via a shame story where I would hide silently in denial alone with my pain.
Each of these stories is a feeding ground for our inner critics and brings our unhealthy ego to the fore as we judge and justify. In conflict situations, we will each have a different experience as we unconsciously project and reflect our darkness onto each other in unkind and disconnected ways.
So in times of conflict (either internally with ourselves or externally with others), how do we stay connected, see ourselves, accept the situation at hand, self-correct and still retain a sense of safety as we move forward in our lives?
In my case I needed to first acknowledge that this unkind and angry part of “who I am” is as much a part of me as the loving, kind and generous part of “who I am”. Next, I accessed courage to see and accept that these ways of being (kind and unkind) are always available to all human beings. None of us can avoid having to confront our dark side at some stage in our life, be it alone or with another.
But what triggers our dark side?
In my case, my father’s drunken or sober verbal attacks were a huge trigger for me, as were my mother’s submissive denials of his behind closed doors behavior. I carried these triggers into adult life, along with my unconscious responses. I had to finally access the courage to see how negatively this story of mine was playing out in my life, as I desperately wanted to change my way of being.
I undertook many daring exercises to widen the space between stimulus and response so that I could access courage for conscious responses. As you undertake your own exercises on this daring journey, you will learn to see what triggers you, how to open space to notice your beliefs, thoughts, feelings and felt senses before taking self-correcting ways of being when responding.
Let me share a story which will show you how when triggered you can access your dark to serve a situation, and ensure you avoid the suffering of an old pain story.
At the moment I am living in a rented house which I love for many reasons. Our landlord is a successful man with a constant negative narrative. I
noticed that my refusing to engage in his negativity appeared to trigger him.
The first time he shouted me over the phone, I was in such disbelief I remained submissive. The second time he shouted at me in person, I reacted in an overly caring way and tried to calm him down.
I was pleased I had reached a point of not being triggered by an old pain story to the point of an unhealthy response. However, my inner voice came to the fore reminding me that it was unacceptable for someone to be so abusive towards me.
Sadly, tension in the relationship grew as more items in the house needed maintenance. Each time he complained, I reminded him this was general wear and tear maintenance and no fault of ours. This response infuriated him.
And then our hot water cylinder acted up, and I had to call him yet again.
Angrily he agreed to call the plumber and said he would meet him at the house. Failing to return my greeting on arrival he said, ”Jacqui, I don’t need these problems in my life! I hope you’re not going to be calling me again with any other repairs!”
Again I reminded him it was general wear and tear over which I had no control. The plumber had not yet arrived, so I asked if he could look at a plug point in my office that had stopped working the day before. He said he would attend to it but only after dealing with the plumber. I thought this fair and told him I would be in my office as I had a few meetings.
A while later, as I was about to go into a Skype meeting with my marketing team he walked into my office and said he would now work on the plug. I asked if he could please give me 30 min so I could finish my appointment. He left the room, and I connected to my call. A few minutes later he entered my office with the gardener to move the TV so that he could get to the plug point. He spoke loudly, which I considered impolite, but I chose to ignore it.
Then he started drilling. I could not hear a thing. I paused my meeting, turned to him and asked him again to please hold back the repair until I had finished my meeting. I attempted to finish my meeting and he continued drilling. A second later he blew the plugs and all connection was lost. “Mike,” I said, “I was in a meeting with a service provider whom I am paying. Respectfully, I am now asking you to please leave my office so that I can finish my appointment.”
He disappeared into the house, and I reconnected to my call. Ten minutes later I went to find him to let him know I had finished my meeting. On finding him I said, “Mike, sorry if I appeared firm, but I had made that appointment over a week ago and it was important, I hope you can appreciate this as you have been here for nearly two hours.”
I never saw his attack coming.
He started to scream at me so loudly I felt completely violated. I breathed deeply to witness my felt senses, my feelings, and my thoughts before reacting. I noticed I was shaking, just as I had as a child when my father shouted at me. As if in slow motion I watched him rant and I noticed the reaction of the people around us. At first I tried to calm him down, but that just made him shout louder. I knew then I needed to consciously call on my dark side to protect myself and bring this abusive behavior to an end.
I shouted at him, asking him to stop. He shouted even louder, verbally attacking me and my partner. I took a deep breath and screamed so loudly I’m convinced people 10 miles away could hear me. “Mike, stop screaming at me and shut the fuck up!”
He nearly fell over from the shock. I then said firmly, “Do you hear how loudly I have to shout so that you can hear me above your own screams?”
With this he leaned in and physically intimidated me, leaving only a few inches between our faces. I have seen this behavior before and I felt secure that like my father, he did not want to hurt me physically. I stood on my toes to reach him and brought my face within a single inch and said, “Mike I have heard you verbally abuse others and that they are scared of you, but I am not. While you have shouted at me before, know that today is different, as today I have witnesses. So if you ever shout at me again, know only I will shout just as loudly as I did today and throw you out of this house.” I sensed my direct message in front of witnesses brought new awareness to him. I stepped back and reminded him how much I loved living in his house and asked if we could have a kind and respectful relationship going forward. He appeared to soften.
The essence of this story is that I sincerely do have compassion for this man as in these moments, his shadow is out if control and his ability to be kind is unavailable to him. I have been there; I get him. We all disconnect from kindness at times, openly or covertly, consciously or unconsciously.
I had accessed the darkest part of my shadow from a space of courage, to protect myself and bring an unkind interaction to an end. While I got it right this time, I know I will get it wrong again. However, the more I practice being integrated in mind, body and soul, the more chance I have of bringing forth a healthy way of being, silencing my inner critic so that it has no access to the old pain stories in my shadow.
The more you suppress or deny your dark side, the more it will control your unconscious and wreak havoc when disconnected. Worse still, your unhealthy ego will come out to defend your actions through a story of guilt, shame or blame.
So are you ready to explore your triggers and go into the darkest part of yourself? Are you ready to bring your darkness to the fore so that you can see how it impacts your ways of being?
I know you can do this as you have been preparing yourself for this awakening through exercise 1 to 9.Your second exercise with acceptance is aimed at getting you to be aware of all of who you are so that you can start to practice transcending judgments and projections. (In Step 3 of the Dare to Ask Journey, you will be exploring what it means to love all of who you are.)
Exercise 10 – Learning to accept all that is unknown (hidden in your shadow) so far in your journey
Intended outcome of this exercise:
- To access courage to become aware of your triggers.
- To witness your ability to shift your judgments and projections.
- To contemplate the gift of your dark side.
Over the next 2 weeks undertake the exercise below. Download your journal pages for exercise 10 here.
What triggers you and why?
Think of someone who currently annoys or frustrates you. Now answer the following daring questions in your journal:
- Write down 8 to 10 words or short sentences detailing what you don’t like or what annoys about this individual.
- Now take each of these points and write a sentence or two justifying your dislike or annoyance.
- Record any beliefs (e.g. what they are doing is wrong), thoughts (e.g. how can she wear that?), feelings (e.g. jealousy, disdain) or felt senses (e.g. physical irritation, tensing in the body) that support your justification.
How does this relate to you and your story?
Now think of a time when you have been unkind to another.
- Can you access the courage to find the connection between the points recorded above and your behavior? If not, go deeper.
- Can you see that these judgments are projections onto others of your darkest side, as they mirror back your dark? If not, go deeper.
- Can you fully open to the idea that anything that annoys you in others is merely a reflection of your humanness, of parts of yourself that lie dormant in you that you still need to see, accept and love? If not, go deeper.
- Notice and record if you instinctively use a justification for your unkind way of being. Do you lean towards a blame, shame or guilt story?
Write a short story, half a page or more in which you:
- Imagine yourself self-correcting when triggered. Contemplate how this dark part of you can serve you in your responses, or;
- Write about an incident, without justifying, of a time when you did self-correct when triggered, and how this served your response or the situation.
- Lastly, access courage once more and write a sentence or two as you imagine the life story of the person above who triggers you. Write an imaginary pain story for them and what possibly triggers them. See if you can find compassion not to judge them or their way of being. I know this exercise is hard, but can you open to the compassion of their humanness and the possibility of their pain story that lies hidden in their shadow?
Every day over the next two weeks, record an incident when someone or something triggers you, be it a family member, colleague or a stranger in traffic:
- What judgment comes up for you? Examples: How can they do that, why do they do that, how dare they do that, they are wrong.
- What feelings do you have? Examples: Frustration, anger, jealousy.
- What felt senses are activated? Examples: Clenching fists, shaking, holding your breath.
- What story do you tell yourself or others to justify your judgments?
- Think about how you respond when triggered by another. Do you react quickly and respond defensively or unkindly; do you justify your judgments and responses to yourself; do you hide your feelings and silently fume inside; do you run to a friend and offload the story of how wrong or annoying the other person is?
Deepening your awareness practices:
- Continue with 10 to 20 minutes of silent meditation practice over the next 2 weeks, merely focusing on your breathing and inviting any thoughts that arrive during your silence, to leave.
Now celebrate how much you have moved forward and continue to bring a curious mind to each day. In the interim have fun until we meet again in a few weeks for exercise 11, which will deal with the Truth of all that you are, as you shine your Light on your Light.
If you have questions about your triggers or your dark side, either submit your question in the comments section below or in a private note here (link). Likewise, I’d love it if you shared what your personal triggers are – reading about others can help us to recognize ourselves and our own story. You can share on the same links above.
I love you all for your courage.
As always, warm love and regards
Note: Just like you and me, Mike has a ton of goodness in him. Since this falling out we have both accessed the courageous spaces in between for a relationship built on kindness.