I spent years reading self-help books, trying to change, ignore or resist aspects of myself that made me shudder.
What a waste of money and time, says my regret, looking at my credit card statement filled with books promising the key to inner happiness and peace.
But another part of me says: There is no waste of time. Every emotional state holds its place in this life. Every aspect of your being, including those shadowy emotions, are what makes you the unique soul having a human experience.
We speak in parts when we are at odds with ourselves. We view this as a fault. All humans do it. The mind is constantly pushing and pulling itself from thought to thought. Maybe being human means being at odds with self.
Being human is messy.
Emotions are essentially energetic sensations moving through our body. Like the pulsations of blood moving through our veins, emotions move in and out of our physical and energetic bodies all day and night.
Emotions have a life-span. Some studies have found emotions — if felt fully, last anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. And yet why do some of us feel we hold onto a specific emotional state for years?
We don’t hold onto emotion, we hold onto thoughts. Thoughts can stop emotions from moving through our bodies. Like cholesterol blocks an artery, preventing blood flowing through, thoughts can stop feelings from moving through what yoga philosophy calls the emotional body or the chakras.
I did this. I held onto a negative perception of myself for years. I was depressed. I was unable to move through anger and sadness and pain. Some viewed me as sad. I felt judged. Feeling judged led me to feel I was flawed. I cursed myself for being imperfect and sought relief from the heaviness my perceived flaws.
Where do our faults come in?
If our souls are perfect expressions of light, then our human selves are flawed, imperfect expressions trying to find their way through this maze we call life. The way through the maze becomes challenging, if not nearly impossible when we don’t call on the light of the soul and ask it to hold our hands.
I think that’s where my years of struggle came from. I was trying to go it alone, as so many of us do. My younger self thought she knew the way. She thought by turning away from her shadowy aspects she could emanate more light and navigate the maze without the guidance of the soul.
Our guilt, regret, shame, jealousy, anger, and fear hold a truth — a power even. They push us into a humble place of surrender. When they get loud enough, those negative traits — our temper, our insecurity, our shyness, our distrust — they can make us fall to our knees and say, Help!
We wouldn’t be fully human without our faults.
Our faults make us more colorful and vibrant. They make us three dimensional. They give us character and shed deeper meaning on the human experience.
I first experienced the depth of my darkness in a romantic relationship. Jealousy and anger flailed their ugly heads and made me want to run from myself. I pushed my partner away because of the shock my whole being felt when a new, dark aspect of myself revealed itself. I wished I could have erased it, or, like a writer, have done a rewrite to that memory.
When a writer creates a character, the character comes most alive when they start to express their faults. Suddenly, there is more to their story than the good girl or good boy facade. Suddenly, they display darkness that speaks of past suffering and heartache. This is the three-dimensional stuff stories are made of.
Humanity craves three-dimensional characters.
We are drawn to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars because the inner war is a reality for all humans. We savor the darkness to light tales — the little human-self embracing the soul-self because we resonate with them. We are them.
The only self-help we need is that of embracing our shadows. Every feeling holds truth and contains unique energy. Our thoughts can help us embrace their truth, just as they can push us to resist them.
The key lies in acceptance.
I guess every self-help book I ever read was worth it after all. Thousands of words and many adjectives later, the core message was the same.
Therapy was worth it too. Hundreds of hours on a comfortable couch in the presence of a human being with a kind face and an open heart led me to realize: it’s all okay. Every feeling holds a purpose. And the purpose is not as complicated as I thought it was.
The purpose of our faults is to make us whole.
The core message of all self-help and therapeutic practices is this:
We’ve been whole all along, but haven’t realized it. Or maybe, just like those heroes and heroines of the tales we love to read about and watch on the big screen — the Harry and Luke and Frodo and more recently, Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time — we’ve suppressed or rejected or lost parts of ourselves along the way and we need to reconnect with them to become whole.
I was intrigued by Reese Witherspoon’s goddess-like character, Mrs. Whatsit in A Wrinkle in Time. Mrs. Whatsit gifted young heroine Meg Murray with her faults when she entered the land of the evil, universe-eating darkness, IT. Meg, like myself not too long ago, scoffs at the idea that her faults have an important purpose in her life. She especially balks at the idea that her faults could be so important that they could save her life and her brother’s life — but at the end (spoiler alert) they did.
Perception can save the world, and it starts with a thank you.
In my life, the day I first said, thank you to my anger, sadness and pain was the day I started to fall in love with my myself.
Therapy and self-help books have done for me, what any loving aspect of life may have done for you too: remind us to perceive ourselves through the eyes of our soul. To the soul, every human foible and flaw is seen as a necessary piece of the quilt of self.
To the soul, every aspect of self is worth a humble thank you.
To the soul, there are no faults — just a prism of expressions.
To the soul, every experience is golden. Every feeling is necessary.
When we start to perceive ourselves through the eye of the soul, what we feel and think about ourselves becomes sacred. Suddenly, others perceptions of us become background noise.
Look at the stories Hollywood spins. The Meg Murray character who, by saving her brother from the great darkness by embracing her faults, finds wholeness. Loving her faults makes her fall in love with herself.
In my journey, every drop of shame and ounce of sadness tinged with jealousy went from getting a fuck you to a thank you. That first thank you literally pulled me out of a deep depression, making my whole world more vibrant and loving. That thank you wasn’t superficial. It came from that humble voice. That little voice that I had forgotten to listen to for way too long.
Can you imagine a world where every human being looks at their faults with a namaste instead of a getaway?
Can you imagine a world where every human realizes they are already whole?
Perhaps this is the key to world peace. It starts in your heart and mine, one soft, humble inner thank you at a time.
Namaste, dear reader. (Thank you, from my soul to yours).
Daily Self Love Practice:
Now put your hands together in a reverse prayer position (called reverse Anjali mudra, as pictured above), and say thank you to your soul. Bow your head gently towards your heart and lift your heart slightly toward your head. Focus on your breath for about 10 cycles. Say thank you again and notice what you feel in your heart. Observe your thoughts and bodily sensations for another 10 breaths. Say thank you one more time. Breathe. Observe. Be.
Try this daily. It is a simple and sacred way to start to activate the soul’s voice and increase self-compassion.
This post was previously published on The Ascent and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: Sarah Theresa