I’ve been in a fairly steady process of deep change for quite a while now and can honestly say that even though this has been heavy duty and sometimes painful work, I have experienced remarkable and transformational change. I’ve reflected on and analyzed the processes that I needed to go through in order to make these changes and I came up with a name for it and with identifiable stages that occurred. I call it Move into Flow.
I’m going to write about each of these stages over the next few weeks and I hope that my experience resonates with you.
Awareness: The First Stage
You know the feeling – that internal pang – that momentary flush that only you can feel. It signals guilt, or shame or embarrassment or something you can’t quite put your finger on. If it’s related to guilt, healthy shame or embarrassment, you know the source. If it’s about someone else or some event outside of yourself, it’s clear, but if it’s something illusive and coming from within, it’s easy to dismiss – unless it keeps happening.
This is how the awareness that something needs to change begins. There’s a felt internal dissonance or even a sense of something lacking that can’t be described. When this keeps happening, it can be uncomfortable and disconcerting. Those of us who are more enlightened, pay attention to the discomfort and try to understand it, or, if you’re like I was thirteen years ago, you assume it means nothing, or you try to avoid it, push it away, or distract or numb yourself.
I’m amazed how long it took me to pay attention. Years and years, actually. I’ve learned a lot since I became aware of these discordant feelings and I’ve also learned that my avoidance was solidly rooted in fear. Fear, that there was something terribly wrong with me. A fear that I’d never live up to everyone’s expectations, or that I wasn’t likeable or lovable, or that I just didn’t fit in. A carried and unhealthy shame permeated my being, reinforcing all of my fears.
Awareness is an early signal. It’s an early sign of things to come – sometimes, good and exciting things but most likely things that send us into retreat because acting on these signals might open up the proverbial Pandora’s Box, and who wants to do that? I remember feeling this way and knowing that if I opened that box, nothing would ever be the same and what would that future look like? I preferred living the life that I had and with what I knew, even though it was dismal and even though I felt as if I was simply enduring my life. The future was an unknown and something that I couldn’t control or predict. Fear kept me cemented in place.
These uncomfortable feelings continued and grew in intensity for me, and thankfully, I finally paid attention. I was afraid, I was unhappy and even angry about all of the personal work that I needed to do but when I chose to face my fears instead of avoiding them, I was able to begin the process of moving into flow – living in harmony rather than in resistance.
Pay attention, be present, listen to your inner most thoughts and be honest with yourself – that’s the mantra. I think Gloria Steinem’s famous variant of this quote from the Bible, John 8:32, is very appropriate here: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”