Troubled reflections

Have you ever stopped for a minute to consider how much you do because of other people? Not for others, but because of them? There’s a difference, and it is a big one. Doing ‘for’ can have many motivations; love, duty, obligation, care, to name but a few… But what about the ‘because’? And how easy is it to separate the two? The lines between are often blurred and what we grumble that we have to do because of others, we may be doing for them… while things we think we do for others, or even for ourselves are often motivated by more subtle reasons.

I was discussing the question with Ani as I was tidying up today. She is an intelligent listener and a great leveller of ego. My housework always used to be done first thing in the morning… I’d get up early to make sure it was ready for the day before work, then tidy round before bed, plumping cushions and washing cups. These days it gets done… or it doesn’t… whenever I choose. Why should I bother if no-one is here and no-one is coming? Ani doesn’t care if I have polished today… in fact she would probably rather I didn’t because the polish makes her sneeze and as far as cushion plumping is concerned, there is little point as she immediately rearranges them to suit herself anyway.

But why did I do it? Was I always doing it for the family, to make them comfortable, or was it because I wanted it that way? Maybe I was motivated by the expectations or needs of others to live up to an accepted ideal … or maybe I wanted their tacit approval for being a good housewife. Maybe what I really wanted my own approval. Maybe I felt I was never good enough and had to make the outer show reflect and compensate for an inner need?

The same with getting dressed on a morning. If I am going from here, to my son’s and home again, do I need the hair and make-up immaculately done? Or if I am giving a presentation in public… would I turn up in my scruffs and unwashed? And who would really be behind the decision?

They are all such basic things, but serve as an everyday example of the way we are driven, coaxed and coerced by our own inner needs as much as the requirements of living and the needs of others. When we think we are doing things because of others, we may, in reality, have an underlying motive rooted in our own needs, insecurities or desires.

If I am having visitors I will clean, hoover and polish till the cows come home… I will cook and delight in the opportunity… I will dress better and the hair and make-up will be done. I even look different… oh yes, I made a point of checking that. When there is only me and the dog the masks come off, the barriers come down and the face I see in the mirror is not one many others will see. Only the very closest, the most trusted get to see our private face. Not through choice … it is an acquired habit of self-protection, a reaction to our experience of the world. And we are very good at hiding even from ourselves, whether we consciously want to or not. There is a part of us, the deepest part, however, that knows exactly who and what we are.

The public face we wear is seldom about who we really are, even when we are sincerely determined to be ourselves and have no barriers in place… they close in on us unawares and the presence of others makes us unconsciously assume a role; face, voice and demeanour adapt to how we want others to see us, how we think they want to see us… and critically how we want them to reflect our desired image of self back to us…and this is how we define the ‘rules’ of a relationship of any kind with others. We gravitate towards those who hold what we think is the ‘right’ mirror… until we have grown enough to see that sometimes the right one isn’t always comfortable and soothing. It is the one that does not lie to us.

Pretty much all we do is because of others, in some way, but we forget that we ourselves are ‘others’ also. We are multi-layered beings, from the innermost core to the faces we wear as masks to hide the inner child and all its fragile fears. ‘Not good enough’, ‘not worthy’, ‘could do better’, ‘you don’t deserve..’ the litany of fragility goes on in infinite variety, shaped by our individual and well camouflaged fears and this is the ‘other’ that motivates so much of what we do… The mirror of the soul does not lie, but it must cringe when it sees how many fears we succumb to, how many ways we find to barricade ourselves from the acceptance of the true self.

Fear is a paralysing emotion and stops us from doing so many things. Some fears are rooted in the need to avoid genuine dangers but most of the fears by which we live pertain only to a percieved threat to self.. to our image of self… and we guard ourselves in so many inventive ways that we end up being unable to express who we really are, or bring to life the gifts we have to share.

Yet, until we look, until we find the deep seated wound or canker that has shaped so much of how we try and project ourselves into the world how can we begin to heal it? Until we acknowledge what we already know is there on some level we will shy away from anything that may highlight it to consciousness… like a child with a grazed knee pulls away from the antiseptic that stings, avoiding the short, sharp pain that promotes healing.

We would not berate a child for being a child and afraid…we would teach it with love, understanding and patience, we would reassure it that though its fears were very real, the cause of them was not; the dark doesn’t hide vampires, and nothing lives under the bed that will bite its ankles and drag them under… But we still wouldn’t let a child  indulge in destructive or cruel behaviour unchecked, knowing that some constraints are needed for healthy development. If we look for the child within perhaps we can begin to understand ourselves with similar love and compassion… and apply a similar discipline to our reactions and fears, accepting that while we may fail sometimes, the ‘other’ within is worth everything we can give to help it grow.

72 thoughts on “Troubled reflections

  1. Beautiful post, Sue. Ani gets to hear some lovely reflective wondering, doesn’t she? I love the idea of the inner child and have used it many times with myself and when counseling others professionally. There is a dramatic shift in perception when one recognizes the wounded child and becomes one’s own loving parent.

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  2. I suppose I am pretty lazy when it comes to dressing up. I own a posh frock bought for the wedding last July and 2 decent pairs of jeans. That’s it. I like to be clean and tidy when I go out, but I don’t do ‘fuss’. I haven’t worn makeup for almost 30 years, and my last professional haircut was May last year.
    We gave up living our lives for other people ten years ago. Now it’s for us. Housework gets done by either of us, though when we were working I’d hoover before I went to work so that Hubby always came home to a clean house.
    I know what you mean about the difference between For and Because though. Why ponce about for other people when nine times out of ten they either wouldn’t appreciate or notice it. With Hubby, it has always been what you see is what you get. Because of him, I have more confidence in myself, I am happier, and I know I can be me, warts on all because he loves me. I’m a lucky girl.

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  3. Wow, succinctly put Sue. And I had to laugh at how similar we are with our housekeeping. I used to be so anal about cleaning every day. Although never dirty, it can get quite messy around here while I might be in my pyjamas all day, only to get inspired to go on a power cleaning mission when company is coming. LOL 🙂 ❤

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    1. I can go whole days without touching a duster, these days… and I’m okay with that. I never thought I would be. It is still farly tidy and clean, but god forbid there’s a lurking cobweb if I have visitors coming 😉 xx

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  4. You bring up some very interesting points here. Just the past 24 hours I have been in a state where I have been examining my own feelings of inadequacy very deeply. Some come from wounded inner child states, some come from traumatic experiences when I was younger yet below all that I am feeling there is some kind of deep ancestral DNA imprint or karmic trends at work here. A lot of the energy feels to be lodged at the back of my base chakra. I am working at clearing this by focusing on light and imagining it flooding my body and dislodging these old negative patterns.
    As to which face we wear when we go out in the world, I think that once negative patterns are cleared healthy self worth can assert itself. Looking our best, keeping our house functionally neat (not but not obsessively so) etc. can be expressions of owning our personal power in a positive way.

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    1. It is always useful to take the time to look at ourselves honestly, seeing the patterns we have built up and tracing them back to teir roots. With the understanding that brings we can allow ourselves to grow and heal.
      I doubt if we ever fully lose the masks… though they become much closer reflections of reality, and far more comfortable, as we grow into ourselves. That includes the way we present ourselves and our homes… finding a comfortable balance and knowing the reasons behind what we do makes an awful lot of difference.

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          1. That’s very true. Thanks for sharing that insight. It really helps me with what I am processing this morning (it’s breakfast, morning pages then a scroll through the blogs time over here in Oz right now. )

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    2. One of the milestones in my healing from childhood traumas was suggested to me by a very good counselor/friend I never forgot. First he had me go out and buy a very special piggy bank, and I was to put even a penny if I had nothing more every day, and to let my inner child know that I was going to take care of her forever. And I also had to hug her at night when I went to bed and let her know that no one would ever hurt her again while I was there. You know, there is something very reassuring in recognizing our needs that perhaps we were not able to express adequately when we were children. I also began to come home from work and lay on the floor in my comfy clothes and color in a coloring book, or play with paper dolls, or one of the doll houses I found at garage sales. I had a lot of Raggedy Anns and Andys, and I came home to all those smiling faces and Ann’s nice candy heart, and I knew that I had changed my world. I realized I had never really gotten to be a real child with real child thoughts, and so I allowed myself to be that child to the fullest, playing for hours on end as children tend to do. Today I still have a couple of my favorite Raggedy Anns and Andys, but I no longer have my paper dolls, though I do so love coloring books and they are quite popular now too, and I no longer have my doll houses. But I do have that piggy bank that is a little house with a red roof and a little girl and her dog out front. I pick it up and shake it now and then, for it still holds those pennies and more, and it holds a key to my own self-healing. I know now that I have always been a child of value in this world. And I know too that I am smart, and can do whatever I make up my mind to do if I REALLY want to do it. Yes, we can change ourselves and the world around us that affects us the most. We just have to want to do it, and then get busy and do it. Nothing magic in that. Or is there . . .

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        1. So many of those old inner wounds we have been healing may live on in some manner or other forever because they are good signposts to keep us from going there again. I think of all the traumas I have lived through, and I can look at myself with eyes wide open, and say “Here I am, 76 going on 77, and still standing strong.” And yes, I really am. Now I look at those traumas differently, for in my mind, all of the challenges and traumas we live through are gifts, even though they seem like the last thing from that in the world. Once we have been through something, we will not need to go back and revisit it because it is no longer in reality an issue that we have to suffer through. We have changed from what and who we were when those things happened. They are memories but that is all they are. They have no power over us anymore. Those people, those things are long gone from our lives.

          My mother, for all that she was not, gave me some great little momsayings to live with. One of them was “There’s no such word as ‘can’t’ in the English dictionary.” It is so true. I sure didn’t find it. And another one I really liked was ‘Take the bull by the horns.’ I made an art quilt with a little cowgirl lassoing a huge bull, and the bull has a very worried look on his face. With little more than these things and absolutely no “atta’ girl” or “you can do it” in my world, I went forward on my own, without a lot of money or other assistance, and I accomplished a lot of things that I feel good about in the world. They are not earth-shaking, but they meant something when no one else believed in me or encouraged me. And so today, I may have some distance to go before I sleep, but I have come far, and those childhood traumas are nothing more than memories. It is as if I read a story with little innocent children who, like Hansel and Gretel, are led into a world where there are all kinds of monsters. But remember that they did not fall victim to the witch. They found their way again, just as I found mine. I am capable of loving another person and I am capable and worthy of being loved. When I say worthy, I don’t mean that I have to earn love, but that I have transformed into a lovable person.

          You know, this transformation we go through is like the alchemy we are learning about in our studies. Strangely enough, my most recent published book is called Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating. I worked for a number of years with a group of such women, many of them with ongoing major physical challenges, in a small nonprofit I started and ran for some 10 years. The Alchemy is involved with their processes and beliefs, for they have elected to transcend their challenges and create beautiful and significant art that touches the lives of others, and to not allow themselves to go backwards when their physical challenges worsen. Instead, they transform one form of media and art into something new, and a number of them have done that numerous times. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

          Every day is a brand new day, and every minute I am a brand new person, as we are all. Thank you kindly. Anne

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          1. Your book sounds very interesting. Is it available in hard copy? I like your idea that the transformation involved in creating mixed media and fibre art pieces correlates with inner transformation. You are quite right, it is an alchemic process or, rather, a process that allows for alchemic transformations to occur. Thank you very much for sharing that wisdom with me. – Suzanne

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            1. Hi Suzanne, It is available in paperback and Ebook from Amazon.com, Smashwords.com (only Ebook) and CreateSpace.com. Thank you kindly. And yes, it is a process that allows for alchemic transformations to take place. I love that image. These people don’t just have emotional challenges to overcome, but also physical challenges that they really cannot control in almost all instances. It is sort of like the Special Olympics. I love seeing the people trying so hard to achieve in a world that believes they are “dis” abled, or without ability. That is why I do not like to use that word. Challenges, yes, but challenges implies that something can be achieved. Our words are very important in forming our thoughts. It is sort of like the allegory of the Boogeyman. No one really tells us specifically what a Boogeyman looks like in most instances, but we form him from our innermost fears, and most of the time we do not know what those fears are, but they become the Boogeyman we choose to invent. I suspect if you asked every child what the Boogeyman looked like, you would get a different image.

              With people who have challenges, they have to not only overcome their own perceptions of what effect their challenges will have on them, but how they will be perceived by the general public. A lot of physically challenged people will not leave their homes except for the things they absolutely have to do because they don’t wish to have to deal with the public. People will look at them, point to them, and even talk to them as if they are deaf or mentally challenged when their challenge has nothing to do with those conditions. And there is a lot more they have to deal with in society too. My friend who is a paraplegic from being shot point blank years ago went to the dentist, and was told that unless she could get out of her chair, she could not receive treatment. So how many people is this happening to?

              So yes, alchemic transformations definitely happen with these people, who in many instances take the most unlikely substances and create amazing things that many people with no challenges cannot do. It is truly an inspiration for me.

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              1. Thanks Anne. Your book sounds very interesting. Your work sounds very rewarding and inspiring. Thank you for your detailed account. Two of my grandsons have special needs so the subject of disability is very close to my heart.

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                1. Thanks Suzanne. I am especially fond of children with special needs. It has been a real joy to work with them all of these years. I have learned more from them than I am sure they could have learned for me.

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        2. I am always glad to share what I have learned, sometimes even if it might not be true for others. I don’t think it hurts, and may open up a new avenue of thought for us.

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  5. A good and thoughtful post, Sue. I have ‘let myself go’ a lot more than I did when I was younger, but perhaps I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I was. I still have to clean the house for company, though. If someone drops by unexpectedly, they’ll get an eyeful, however!

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    1. Same here, Eliza…and for the same reasons too, perhaps. I know full well that any friend who calls here cares little whether the place is spotless and I am perfectly coiffed (not that ‘coiffed’ ever really happened!) …so why should I worry?

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  6. I agree we do more “for company,” but I think it’s more pride and wanting to show off our “place” at its best. These days, I find I do what I do because I feel more mentally settled if things are clean. Not spotless because I don’t think I could make this house spotless even if I spent every minute of every day cleaning … but it’s nice to have the kitchen floor not covered in muddy paw print or the carpet entirely covered in dog hair. Dusting? Well … mostly, I dust when I’m taking pictures and realize all the items in the picture are fuzzy with dust.

    Does this represent some kind of issue with impressing other people or preventing some kind of humiliation? It might have done … a long time ago … but this is one of those things that time seems to have dealt with. Possibly because I’m physically not up to the made cleaning fits of my youth. Can’t do it so I don’t.

    On the other hand … no one wants their house to be the kind of place other people want to clean before they feel it’s safe to eat. We all need a middle ground. But the older I gets, the bigger my middle ground seems to get.

    As for books. Oy vay. I don’t think I’ve dusted the books … um … ever? I guess you could say I dust when I’m looking at it and the amount of visible dust is obscuring the item. That’s pretty bad I guess.

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    1. I dust the books occasionally… when I get the hoover out. If I remember. It has this little nozzle that sort of does it for me.

      As to the rest, yes… I like the place clean and tidy before I can really settle too, but I’m getting less demanding of myself. And to be fair, I don’t make much mess. It is usually just dog hair, paw prints and Ani’s toys that need sorting.

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  7. Hi Sue, I was mesmerised by this piece, drawn form word to word, as I saw bits of myself dragged out into the open, and I felt yes you are right, how much time and energy we spend trying to gain others approval, and for what? I am always working, helping doing, to such an extent that I am always tired, because there is little time for sleep and play, so now I think I must evolve, though I don’t think I will turn to make up! I think this is so great I will reblog it and share it. Best wishes and blessings, Charles.

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    1. No, the make-up might not be a good look, Charles 😉
      We do so much for the approval of others…or our own idea of what they would approve of. Yet really, all we want is for those we know to like us for who we really are. It makes it awkward for anyone to do so if we never show them thta true face, doesn’t it?

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      1. Sorry to be answering this so late, but I was just to tired last night. It is amazing how easily one gets sucked into this. I have always had a huge knowledge and interest in things, but perhaps this was not necessary. I was very dyslectic when at school, and was teased a lot, which was one of many factors that gave me a very poor self image, and I used knowledge and sharing it as a way to be liked by more people. It gave me a sense of power within myself. I then realised that many people suffered from this, so I moved towards helping others, becoming a librarian, and presenting free creativity classes to others, and helping them find their inner power and being. I still have urges to help people for nothing and use my knowledge for others, but am beginning to realise after all these years, that yes one can make some money from this, and not be bad. More and more I have my own look and way, not being a slave to fashion and fashionable ideas. So yes I believe that you are absolutely correct. Best wishes and blessings, Charles.

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  8. Oh, I like this, Sue! I often feel like this. I have tried to be better this year at making an effort to keep up with appearances with things at home and out and about but the truth is, a lot of times I simply don’t care or have the time.

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  9. There was something in this post that reminded me – I know, it was about looking under our beds for monsters.

    I wrote a little article called “Summoning Forth the Boogeyman,” and it is about how as we are children, we always look in the closets, behind furniture, and even under the rugs sometimes. We go from thing to thing in our bedrooms, reassuring ourselves that there is no boogeyman awaiting us with intent to do something to us (we don’t really know what that is, but it is scary – we have no idea of what the boogeyman looks like, how big he is, or what sort of mischief he will do to us, but we are sure that he exists). As we grow older, we begin to sense that the boogeyman is not going to come – not tonight, not tomorrow night, and not again. But we always retain that power that we can summon forth that boogeyman, even as adults, when we need him to come. And so we grow beyond the boogeyman and we know as adults that we can deal with him if he ever shows up. It is one of the cool ways we have used to empower ourselves as children, and most of us grow to be adults without even realizing how truly powerful we really are when we want to be.

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    1. Not everyone outgrows the monster under the bed, sadly… and for many the monsters are real and seem to follow them through life. But you are right, we do have the power to banish them, if we allow ourselves to believe that we can.

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  10. Thanks so much, Sue. Yes, my monsters under the bed lasted well into adulthood, and it took me a long time to stop looking for them. And when I did finally, I realized that I had control over the monsters – more than I have ever given myself credit for.

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      1. I think you are absolutely right, Sue. What a great way to think of them. I know they did in Gilgamesh for sure. There are so many different things to learn in that story. Every time I go back and re-examine parts of it, I find something new I had not realized before.

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