Take responsibility for yourself, your behaviors and your actions, even if others do not seem to support you, for nobody owes you anything. You alone must live your life and take it to fulfillment. Though others may seem to be distant know that such distance provides you with the energy you need to progress on your own. Distance offers the gift of detachment and in detaching you are free to make your way through life as you see fit without being burdened by the energy of others. Be proactive in your own life and rather than blame others for their lacks take up your own cause more fully, for the truth is, if you don’t who will? It is your life after all. Feel your sadnesses but embrace your joys and find contentment in all you have created—your self!
My father was a chronic worrier. He worried about everything! It drove me and my siblings crazy! He could not let anything go. He’d nag and natter about a thing he’d decided to worry about, usually something minor that he just could not let go of, until he’d spun it into a massive worry storm, leaving us all exasperated and exhausted.
Once, when I was in college, he called me at 3 in the morning, waking me and my roommates from a sound sleep to ask me if I had eaten. I had made an off-the-cuff remark about not having any food in the house as I headed home after a holiday visit, saying that I would have to shop once back in the city. He only heard the part about having no food in the house and his worrisome mind spun that tiny remark into a whole devastating story. By the time 3 AM came around he had decided that I was starving to death!
I was so angry at him that I didn’t speak to him for weeks, but during those weeks I could feel his worry hanging over me like a dark cloud, dragging me down. When I finally spoke to him about it we joked, but I talked honestly about how frustrated and drained I was by his constant attention on me. I told him to lighten up, that I could take care of myself, that I wanted to live my own life and to please leave me alone. His worry energy actually dampened my spirit and added a burden I didn’t need when I had so much else going on in my life.
I now understand this dynamic between parent and child as the archetypes of the parent/child relationship, the structures and dynamics that every parent and child must contend with as they go through life, as the child seeks to individuate and become independent, and as the parent seeks to let them go.
As a parent myself I have had to learn the lessons I tried to teach my father so many years ago. My own experiences with him have helped me to back off and let life take my children onward without me, but sometimes it can be very hard. When we see our children struggling our first reaction is to jump in and help, but that may not be the best course of action to take. The same can be said for any relationship.
To underscore the dilemma, I had a dream the other night. I was carrying large chunks of construction debris, huge lumps of concrete. I stood on the edge of a vast landfill, looking down into a vast pit filled with similar debris. A man stood on the opposite side of the landfill, a foreman. He yelled at me to throw the debris into the pit. I worried that it was wrong, that it would hurt the earth.
“Nah,” he said, “it’s how it’s done. Just throw it away!”
And then I wondered just what the heck I was doing. The concrete was clearly useless and clearly burdensome. It wasn’t toxic material either, it was just heavy, cumbersome old building material.
“Let it go!” I yelled, and then I threw it into the pit and walked away unburdened, lighter and freer than ever.
“What am I carrying around inside me?” I wondered when I woke up. “What concrete thing, idea, or issue am I attached to?
As the day went on the dream stayed with me. I thought about it, seeking to analyze its message and purpose. I determined it was not about memories. Those have all been recapitulated, so it was not anything from my past. I finally realized it was worry, the worries of everyday life, the worries about others, the kind of stuff that keeps you awake at night but is just empty chatter in your head, stuff you can’t do anything about and if you tried you’d have no luck at all.
As I thought about it I discovered that those worries had no real meaning or necessity in my life. They were not building blocks to something new but old construction materials that were no longer useful. I was right to chuck them into the landfill where they would soon be covered over, bulldozed into the earth to disintegrate and become part of the landscape.
Just as I had asked my father to let go of the burdensome archetypes of parent and child, so too did I have to let go of such archetypes within myself, along with the concrete ideas that I have to do and be the end-all for someone else. In letting go of the archetypes we are allowed to each grow and mature in our own ways, taking responsibility for ourselves and the decisions we make, for our present and future issues, and for our own joys and freedoms in life too.
Just because I might want to give advice, I realized, it isn’t always helpful or wanted. I have to take my own advice that I gave my father so many years ago and step back and let life resolve life. In the end, we have to let things go so things can proceed as they will and as they must.
I learned from my father that if you put your attention on another person they will sense you in some way, and you may actually be harming them, even if you think your worry is justified and you only want the best for them. The best for them is to send them positive, self-motivating, and loving energy that sends them off on their own journey through life under their own steam, rather than burdening them with your guilt, worry, regret, resentment, or good intentions. As I learned from my father, it’s just not fun having those kinds of energies hanging over you, having to bear another person’s unresolved issues while you are trying to figure out your own life on your own terms.
My father never did fully remove his worry energy from me. It followed me right into adulthood and he remained a solid worrier right up to the end of his life. But he taught me how not to do what he did, and as my dream points out it’s a lesson that never grows old.
I have had to remind myself to remove my worries about my own kids’ lives countless times, so as not to burden them with a cloud of my worries hanging over their heads! After being the lifelong subject of someone else’s worries, whether justified or not, I know that it’s just not a nice thing to do to someone! Even if I may want to give valuable but unasked for advice, I also know that the best advice I can give myself is to remember my young adult self telling my father to just step back and let me live my own life.
Life itself is the best guide. We all have to go out into the world and learn how it really works. It’s how we learn and how we grow. The happiest people in the world seem to be those who have had to work hard for what they have, and there is no greater satisfaction than having done it on their own. And no worries either!
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries
To be special warms the heart; to be special tears us apart. Why this contradiction?
Both Carlos Castaneda and his teacher, don Juan Matus, who’s lineage stemmed directly from the Shamans of Ancient Mexico, taught with both humour and piercing seriousness that the greatest scourge of humankind was the need to be special. They pointed to the internal dialogue we all experience that constantly judges everyone and everything, particularly the self, which is judged as either less than or better than everyone else.
From an adaptive perspective those shamans speculated that our ability to make these rapid judgements serves well our ability to survive as we navigate our predatory world. Less benevolently they point to the lion’s share of personal energy that all humans spend grooming and protecting their self importance. This energy is then lost to the evolving human potential, which to access requires a shutting down of the overarching investment we make in feeling and being judged as special.
And yet, feeling genuinely special is thought to be one of the most necessary prerequisites to feeling worthy enough to be in this world and to feeling secure enough to partake of its bountiful opportunities. Hence, the field of mental health places a premium on attachment and the quality of care in foundational relationships in childhood.
Unarguably, the quality of attention children receive in childhood places a powerful imprint on the incessant internal dialogue they will repeat to themselves as they form an identity and strategy for living. A neglected child might become the adult whose internal dialogue incessantly reminds them that they are not worthy to live other than to serve the needs of others and that they should be grateful that they are even tolerated by others.
The overly valued child might constantly be reminded by their internal dialogue that they are superior, really of royalty, entitled to the adoration and respect of the mere mortals that surround them.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico would argue that the true culprit here is the internal dialogue itself that channels our energy into defining and upholding our self importance, good or bad, for the better part of our lives. Rather than focus on challenging the message of the internal dialogue those shamans encourage eliminating the dialogue itself, which then frees our energy to explore our true innate potential, unbiased by the judgements that usually limit our sense of self.
From this perspective there is no advantage to having had a special versus neglected childhood. Either way we are saddled with the limiting judgements that steal away our vital energy for life. The real culprit is the internal dialogue, the true dungeon master of our lives. Rich and poor alike are saddled with the same enslavement. In fact, it could be argued that a neglected childhood may offer the advantage of seeking versus merely indulging in life.
The question of specialness is at the forefront of our current world fixation. Our world leaders express entitlement for their special interests and needs over and above the needs of others. Truthfully, persons of different cultures and religions share the same attachment to their own specialness over the needs of competing or just plain other groups.
Family, the foundation of a society, is perhaps the greatest perpetrator of specialness. “Blood is thicker than water” is the adage that summarizes this fixation of the internal dialogue. The Shamans of Ancient Mexico considered it crucial to break this fixation in order to free the trapped energy spent upholding it, to then have it available to be employed in the full realization of selfhood beyond the border of specialness.
Their methods to achieve this coup may sound severe, but they actually coalesce with the Buddhist practice of detachment. The shamans call their practice “erasing personal history.” The practice is to separate the special significance afforded family and loved ones, merely because of their family ranking and role, as well as to reduce emotional attachments. While not denying any of the truths of these relationships, the goal is to reduce them to the level of all human experiences, all entitlements removed.
Thus if someone has failed me, I fully face my feelings, but by removing the pressure of my entitlement, due to familial bonds, I am freed to see all my family and neighbors equally. A world where all is viewed equally is the template for the world we are evolving into, despite current appearances!
Freedom from the constraint of specialness is the practice that readies us for a world built on true universal love. Override the internal dialogue that creates hierarchy and special groupings with universal compassion for all beings.
You may have attained some wisdom. You may have attained a certain age and had certain experiences and feel entitled to express what you have learned, to teach others the ways of life, but in the end a wise person knows that you cannot teach the lessons of life, for they must be learned firsthand. And so, though a wise person may speak of what has made them wise, a wise person also says to others, “Go live! Experience what it means to be alive. Life is all about becoming wise in your own way, through your own life experiences. Go learn how to live and become wise too!” In this manner a wise person passes on wisdom to a new generation of wise ones.
Sometimes you can’t change things. You just have to stand by and wait for change to occur, knowing that it will, naturally. Sometimes the only thing you can do is stand still with the knowledge that all things change and that this time too shall pass. Sometimes a situation calls for patience and detachment. Doing nothing can often be the most difficult tactic but the only right one. Sometimes the only action is inaction as nature takes its course. Sometimes nature is the only answer. Let nature do its work. Stand certain that nature will get it right. Keep that certainty centered in your loving heart.