I’ve always valued authentic and full expression and have done my best to communicate accordingly, at least most of the time. From the time I was young, I held the role in my family and friend groups as a “truth teller,” often enthusiastically taking the hand (or in this case the trunk) of whichever elephant remained unacknowledged in the room. With age and experience, I’ve developed more skill and discernment on how, what and when something is shared…. but still, I usually favor risking too much transparency over the possibility of anything being left in the closet.
Lately however, I’ve been discovering some closet contents I didn’t even know existed. It’s as though my soul is leading me down a hallway to dusty old psyche storage units. Inside I’m discovering a whole range of thoughts and emotions that I’d almost wholly disconnected from. Little waves of annoyance, anger, impatience, frustration, pettiness and coveting have emerged right alongside huge stores of repressed desire, unexpressed joy and liberating permission to be in my fullness.
Our psyche will do all in it’s power to keep our experience consistent with our ideas of ourselves and the world. Since having too many needs did not fit into my conditioned model of relationships, younger versions of myself simply packed up any desires, wants or needs that seemed like too much or in any way selfish into one of these far away storage containers. Since experiencing any thought or emotion considered “negative” was deemed as toxic and ungodly, most of those got packed away too.
Moments of not especially liking someone I loved?
Waves of sadness without a “justifiable” reason?
Challenges that just felt challenging, without a clear gift or deeper meaning in them?
Aliveness triggered when I felt attracted to someone other than my partner?
Disappointment that I wasn’t getting what I wanted, and judgment/jealousy toward those who seemed to be?
… All neatly and mostly unconsciously regulated to the shadowed corners of my being.
This social survival strategy has had it’s wisdom of course. It allowed me to fit into the expectations of my family and culture and the “self” I knew myself to be…. not to mention diverting any threat to all my more beloved parts that are hopeful, expansive and trusting. But the strategy, like so many we adopt early, is outdated and the reconnection with these forgotten parts, although a bit scary and unsettling to my sense of self, is also awakening a freedom and authenticity that is far more enlivening. Not to mention how much better my shoulders, neck and upper body feel. Repression is bad for our backs.
The deeper I go on the path of a Soul Oriented Life, the more I recognize the freedom of simply being with whatever arises, as it is. The frustration, annoyance and anger show me where I need to speak up, rearrange or simply give myself permission to take more space… the unexpressed joy show me where more courage and commitment is being called on.
When I can welcome all the parts of me that didn’t appear to “fit”, my sense of self and container for what’s allowed, expands. Instead of feeling less myself, I become more of myself. Instead of being paralyzed with fear that life as I know it will crumble, I can allow the dismantling as the start of remodeling what is possible.
The thing about all these avoided parts is that they aren’t actually void. They are ruling us behind the scenes, often in toxic or distorted ways. When we welcome them a-void becomes a-voice. And that voice can be heard along with the chorus of all your parts for whatever wisdom it has.
I invite you play with the Soul Oriented Exercise listed below as a way to initiate and support your own unpacking process… and in this next month, consider the possibility that every single part of you has a voice that can’t serve you nearly as well in a void.
SOUL ORIENTED EXERCISE
“From A Void To A Voice”
Our conditioning around what is appropriate and safe runs deep in our system. All of us have inner guardians, doing their best to keep our thoughts, actions and life consistent with these ideas. But after awhile these paths of logic become pathological and keep us from expressing and experiencing the fullness of ourselves. Below is an exercise to start to explore the parts of yourself that have been avoided, in order to gain the wisdom of their voices. The purpose is not to “fix” this part, but to get the deeper wisdom behind it, in order to integrate an express yourself with more clarity and alignment with your truest intentions.
1. Make a list of qualities you see in others that are somehow “out of bounds” to you
They could be qualities that strongly repel or attract you, but namely that you don’t feel like you currently possess, for better or worse. Examples: selfish, arrogant, cruel, irreverent, loud, loose, bold, cunning, permissive, free, self-assured etc…. try to be general and concise… rather than describing the specific behavior, use the word that “sums” up the behavior in a qualitative way
2. Go back through and choose one quality that is most triggering or feels furthest from you in this moment.
Any quality that carries an emotional charge will serve as fertile soil for this exercise.
3. On a blank piece of paper draw a picture that represents this quality.
It may be representative of how this part would look personified, or just any colors, images, markings that come out when you feel into this part of the human experience. There’s no need for it to be pretty or even obviously representative.
4. Pretend that for a moment that you have fully embodied this quality/persona and write a letter in their voice.
The letter could include what this part believes… is desiring… feels like they are getting or not getting… deserves or doesn’t deserve…. etc. If you find yourself judging what’s coming out, rather than editing, try to amplify this quality that feels “wrong” – keep going with it until you’ve exhausted all that this part may be wanting to say.
5. Reread the letter and then pause and notice what’s coming up in your body and then place your hands on any place that feels uncomfortable, nauseous, unsettled or otherwise activated.
If nothing is feeling obvious now, place your hands somewhere you’ve noticed tension or discomfort lately. Now take a few breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth into this place and then say out loud
“Sometimes I am ____(fill in the blank with whatever quality you choose)___”
and continue to breathe into this part, notice what’s happening.
6. Explore this part of your body gently, and let this part of you “speak”
Gentle let your hands gently traction up, down, right and left, while you continue to breathe and make the sound of the place. You can’t get it wrong… any sound works… if nothing is coming, just make the sound of the frustration that nothing is coming.
7. Make an out loud acknowledgment to this part
It may be something like “I’m sorry I’ve ignored you” or “I’m listening now” and then take a few more gentle breaths, continuing with any sounds.
8. With your hands still on this part of your body, ask (out loud) “What do you need?”
Then for at least a few breaths, just listen, noticing if anything arises (could be words, images, or just a sense of what this part of your is really needed to feel heard and integrated.
9. Acknowledge what you experienced, heard, etc. and thank yourself of exploring and playing in this way.
If you sensed an answer to the “what do you need?” write it down somewhere and practice looking for ways to give yourself more of this in the next month.