Saturday, October 11, 2014

Courage ....Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

Have you ever read one of those books that you want to read each sentence twice to extract all the meaning from it - one of those books where you want to highlight important points  and end up highlighting whole pages - one of those books that makes so much sense that you wonder why - when they put a man on the moon four decades ago - are they only just understanding this stuff?
I am taking about Brenee Brown's book Daring Greatly. Brenee studies human connection, the ability to belong, to love and to empathise. The book is about vulnerability, authenticity, courage and shame. It is mind blowingly honest! Her name was mentioned at a meeting that I attended about my coaching work and I came home and did what we all do when our interest is piqued - I googled her, It was late but I was too fascinated by what I read to sleep and I stayed up deep into the night  - by 3am I had watched both of her TedCasts -  here is the link to one of them. Downloaded two of her books - read one and I am now half way through another. Her work resonates deep inside my soul - It excites me, it enrages me, it saddens me and it makes so much sense with my own struggles in my life to accept my journey and my choices.
Five years ago I reached a point in my work, as a facilitator of learning and growth for others, when I thought that I can't do this any more - I love what I do - but the price is too high - It takes too much out of me! I had spent over a decade working hard to deliver training programmes to groups of adults, I gave it my whole heart and I loved it  and I was good at it (my feedback was consistently excellent) but I was constantly under pressure  ,,,,,,,,,,,and that pressure was coming from ME!
I went to talk to a well recommended psychologist and the result was that I decided to stop what I do - to give it up. as it was consuming me. I did this and was OK for a little while but although my life was easier,,,, I was unfulfilled,,,,,I was content but I wasn't engaged - something was missing from my life.
I know now that I had disconnected from my purpose, I am here for a reason and I had lost sight of that reason -  I had to find a way to reconnect to what I loved to do without harming myself - HOW?  I went back to doing what I love most and the cycle started repeating itself!   About this time I was having coffee with a friend who had just been for hypnotherapy to help her sleep and I thought - Let me try this, so off I went - really not knowing what to say to this person and if they could help me. I had a real problem just telling them what my problem was - My health is good, I sleep like a baby, I am happily married, my kids are successful and happy, I have no money issues or debt, I have work that I love, is interesting, flexible, reasonably lucrative and I am stressed! He looked at me like I had two heads!
In that first session the hypnotherapist changed my life - Hypnotherapy is therapy that takes place in a state of deep relaxation that takes the patient back to experiences that are hidden deep in their subconscious. In that first session, I was taken back to my first negative experience at school.
I am four and a half years old, I am in a classroom and everything is small. I am playing in sand and water at my primary school, I could describe the classroom, the children, what I was doing - I saw everything clearly and could even smell the metal containers on legs that held the water and sand. I could see myself in my sage green dress with my cardigan sleeves rolled up, I am happy, I am chatting, I am laughing - and then I am in TROUBLE! My teacher is shouting at me and I don't know why. I don't know what to do. I am confused and I am still laughing - I think its funny! The more she shouts - the more I laugh, I don't know why I am laughing and I don't know why my teacher is so angry with me. Suddenly I am plucked out of the sand trough and I am placed by a cupboard. I have to stand there  - I could describe that cupboard in detail - the colour, paint chips - the stickers that were on it. I am not laughing any more - I am embarrassed because everyone is looking at me - I am at the front of the class and I am ASHAMED! I stand there for a long time and class ends - I am still there - forgotten as everyone leaves the classroom - I am alone - no one has said I can leave that space and I am frightened now to do anything else wrong. Gingerly I leave the cupboard corner and crawl under a table and there I hide - afraid and alone.I feel BAD. I stay there for a long time - I see myself, alone, frightened and cowering under the table too embarrassed to go back to my class. This is a vivid description of my first experience of shame.
When I came out of my deeply relaxed state - I was amazed, I was amazed that I could remember all this and amazed by something else - In my recollection of that experience I am amazed about how pretty I looked. I had the most beautiful skin - pale gold and like a peach, my eyes were the loveliest turquoise colour and I had beautiful golden blond curly hair neatly clipped to one side with a large white ribbon attached to that hair clip - I was beautiful! So powerful was this image that all I could talk about that evening was what a pretty child I was. I even felt compelled to phone my sister in the UK and ask her if I was such a pretty child. The vivid image of me as a bubbly, laughing, chattering girl surrounded by friends and enjoying play stayed with me for several days and I can recollect that memory in detail now. I can also recollect in great detail the feeling of shame when I was hoisted to the front of the class and everyone was looking at me. My hypnotherapy had highlighted for me why I feel so much stress when I am 'in front' when I am leading, when I am being looked at in a classroom situation. This forgotten childhood experience was the source of all the pressure and discomfort that I experienced when I facilitated. I understood both my desire to connect with others as a experiential facilitator and my school conditioned thinking that it was wrong to be at the front of the classroom or boardroom.
How sad is that! I had been daring greatly all my life and didn't know it.
I decided that day to stop trying harder, to stop over analysing my feedback from training, to accept that after twenty odd years of doing what I do that I know my stuff but that I will never know everything - I am wise but I am not an oracle- I am enough! I surrendered to my purpose and find joy in my work. I am vulnerable, I am courageous and I am worthy.
So the work of Brenee Brown is worth exploring - its insightful and it will teach you how we are all flawed in some way and that its OK. That society is cruel and conditions us in ways that don't serve our purpose. It will help you to understand connection and empathy and that none of us are perfect as society demands us to be - but we are enough. We are pretty enough, thin enough, happy enough and we have done our best to be what we are capable of. Her studies have highlighted the struggles of not accepting our vulnerability and the chapter on men and vulnerability will make you weep.
Read it - Watch her - It will change the way you view yourself and others!

Watch more here  Listening to Shame.

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