Last week at the social after the class someone said that they had been interested in my comment in that week’s email about the change my mother saw in me as I went from a child into my teens – loosing some of my spontaneity and becoming more guarded and watchful. I thought this would be an interesting area to reflect on this week. I notice in myself a fear that in my core is something that is dark and wrong and that my self investigation will open me up to feeling this pain or fear or struggle. But looking back at photos of myself as a child I see a child full of energy, vitality and joy. Perhaps it is the adult who has learnt to look out at the world as a fearful place but deeper in me there is still this trusting, spontaneous energy just wanting to be able to express itself.
I’m currently reading ’10 smart Thing Gay Men Can do to Improve Their Lives’. In this the author, Dr. Joe Kort, references a book by Harville Hendrix, ‘Keeping the Love You Find: A Guide for Singles’. In this Hendrix describes how we develop a “fugitive self”, a part of us that has to go into hiding out of a belief that it it is not wanted by our parents or the society around us. If our parents give us the message we are loved as we are then we can express ourselves fully, but as we get messages from them or from our social circles or society that some things are not allowed then we send this part of ourselves into hiding. So much so that we may forget we ever felt it and it becomes the ‘fugitive self’. Through being denied it goes into the shadow and what was once a joyful vibrant energy may start only to be able to find expression in risky behaviour, breaking rules, or is projected out onto others in terms of what we admire or condemn. It’s often said that what we most dislike in others is what we have denied in ourselves or made wrong in ourselves. Perhaps some of our issues with Chem sex and risky sex is the child trying to find a way back out to play, to connect and be spontaneous, when it has been buried so deep we no longer live from that energy.
If you had asked me to describe myself as a young adult in my 20s I would have said I was introspective, anxious, lacked confidence, and was socially awkward. I could not start a conversation, was convinced people thought me boring and that I had nothing of any interest to say. I would stay silent in groups and not know how to join a conversation. Trying to dance or be spontaneous filled me with horror. I admired people who didn’t care what others thought, who could just speak their mind and be themselves. Yet I also found them annoying – their self confidence and ability not to care what others thought seemed conceited and arrogant.
Looking back I can see how as a teen I started not to trust myself to act spontaneously. I knew there was something about my attraction to the other boys at school that was not socially acceptable and I feared slipping up – allowing this part of me to be seen. So I put up a false front. I started acting the part of me rather than living as me. And so the spontaneous and joyful energy that was there as a child started to be controlled, edited, questioned. Rather than simply being, I would ask myself how should I be in this moment and then acted my part.
When I look back at these photos of myself I see a little boy full of fun and energy. I see a boy who was ready to play and even push the norms of social behaviour – getting my neighbour to dress up with me in my mum’s old evening dresses! I remember my mother telling me that his father was not happy about it but she felt it best that I get it out of my system now than be made to feel it was wrong. Whilst I’m grateful for not being shamed out of doing it this comment did still give me a message that it was alright to do now but was something I should grow out of.
By the time I was 11 this spontinatey had started to be replaced by a guardedness. It started to feel that I was only safe at home, where I could still let go and spend an afternoon dressing my step-sister as a Greek Goddess, but I could not let this self be seen outside at school, where I increasingly shut down and withdrew into myself. Fortunately my mum thought it was great and took this photograph out in the garden. But life was starting to be divided into my inner word where I felt safe and the outer world of school and society where I did not feel able to be ‘me’.
Perhaps it is not that I have to rescue the inner child, but that I need the inner child to rescue me! To welcome that joyful and spontaneous energy back into my life. And to be happy for it to be seen. Over the 10 years since I left the monastery this is what I’ve been exploring and recently I do feel so much happier and more able to let go.
The theme for the Summer is falling in love with yourself. For my meditation this week I’m going to be looking at these photographs and feeling the joy and spontaneity I see in them and welcoming that back. Perhaps if you have photographs of yourself as a child look to see what energy is there that you might want to connect back to, to love that part of yourself that may have been hidden at some point as the ‘fugitive self’ – release it from the mind made prison and remember that as Blake says “energy is eternal delight” and welcome that energy back into your life.
The video below is of a song my massage therapist played at the end of the first few sessions of energy healing work. It put me in touch with the feeling of loving the little me the took on so many messages from the word that he was wrong, or made himself wrong as a way to explain why his father was not there – “if I had been a good boy Dad would not have left me”. Instead I can see that this little life force was simply what he was, a beautiful expression of life energy. And this energy is still here, just wanting to play, to find expression, to be free.