Are you ready? Ready to learn to let go of all those old ways of being that no longer serve you? Are you ready to live the life you’ve always wanted to live? And is that life one in which you treat your body with respect and admiration, and nourish it with healthy food, exercise and perhaps even mindful meditation to soothe your soul? At Motivation, we help you to learn what is blocking you (through our monthly mental weight reports). We have seen clients who, at first, have serious mental blocks – built up over a lifetime – move forwards and, by becoming aware, set them free. For us, awareness is everything. It is the moment when we open our eyes to our true selves and our potential.
A Caged Animal
I’m inspired by a one-day course I recently attended, aptly named ‘Escape your Cage’ and it was all about just that – stepping away from old beliefs that have kept you stifled and trapped, and stepping into a new, freer life. These are ways of being that we were compelled to choose in order to be loved as children – defenses such as perfectionism, people-pleasing, guilt, imposter syndrome and so on. These are things that keep us small and limit our full development to be all that we can be. They are also ways of being that often keep people stuck in bad habits and underpin the reason for a weight problem, or other addictions.
One of my favourite quotes about this is from the most widely read inspirational and self-help authors, Og Mandino. He said: “…Most of us build prisons for ourselves and after we occupy them for a period of time we become accustomed to their walls and accept the false premise that we are incarcerated for life. As soon as that belief takes hold of us we abandon hope of ever doing more with our lives and of ever giving our dreams a chance to be fulfilled. We become puppets and begin to suffer living deaths. It may be praiseworthy and noble to sacrifice your life to a cause or a business or the happiness of others, but if you are miserable and unfulfilled in that lifestyle, and know it, then to remain in it is a hypocrisy, a lie, and a rejection of the faith placed in you by your creator.”
Those ‘rules’ or core beliefs, become stored in the automatic part of our brain, where they fester and keep us caged. They are unconscious. It isn’t often until a crisis, such as anxiety, depression or a serious weight problem or addiction, that someone does something about it. The key is to bring these defenses to consciousness, and then to let them go. For many people, therapy is crucial in helping to do this. Alternatively, there are some suggested books listed below as a good start.
So What Needs to Die?
This is the question asked by the speaker, Elzaan Marnane, Principal Clinical Psychologist at Core Clinical in Dublin. What ways of being or thinking or feeling do we need to kill off now in order to thrive in the next part of our lives? This reminds me of a phrase used in fiction writing ‘Kill your darlings’, the term coined by Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner. They are ‘darlings’ because they were created for a purpose – they were defenses that we used to ensure that we were loved as children. To not use them meant we risked rejection so, in a way, they served us – but only in childhood. Now it’s time to let them go.
This is where the fun part came. Elzaan gave us cardboard black coffins and pieces of paper. On the paper we were to write a few defenses that needed to die. For me, the major one was perfectionism and this notion that I must never make mistakes. Also I put down that I was to stop blaming myself for everything – it’s not all my fault! Sometime things are outside my control, and I must remember that I am always just trying to do my best. Sometimes ‘good enough’ is where it has to be. This exercise was brilliant in that it is something that I will return to in my head (and heart) time and time again in order to release old ways that are keeping me stuck.
Elzaan reminded us, however, that the old ‘zombies’ will keep jumping back at us, so that this is a continual process. We need to keep putting those zombies back in the coffin where they belong. Consciousness is required as part of this – what this means, to me, is to stop acting, feeling or responding automatically and to become more aware of my ways of being. Now I can say – hopefully without judgement – ‘Ah, I can see I’m being defensive there. I can see the old zombies popping up. I’m self-blaming again. That’s interesting. Why am I doing that? And what can I do to let that go?”.
What was fascinating for me was Elzaan’s statement about major change. According to her, and other psychologists, it is sometimes when we are on the brink of a major shift or life change that the zombies will be at their strongest. But this is often a sign that you are on the verge of something big. For instance, what could feel like a ‘mid-life crisis’ might, in fact, be what Brene Brown calls ‘A mid-life breakthrough’. This could be the breakthrough you’ve been trying to achieve for years. And it could change everything.
Learning to Learn to Let Go (videos and books)
Judgement Detox: Release the Beliefs that Hold you Back from Living a Better Life by Gabby Bernstein
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis