Every behaviour has a purpose & every emotion tells us a story, about ourselves, about our needs. I know this, yet there are so many times I forgot this. When I forget this, I cannot listen to myself, deeply, honestly & authentically.
What I end up listening to are the numerous smokescreens I have built up over the years. One such smokescreen is ‘I am not working hard enough’. This is just the first layer of the smokescreen onion, if I may call it that. The real deal is ‘I am not enough’ and with that is the accompanying, utterly debilitating mortification which I feel in the pits of my stomach and sits like a big pulsating ball of iron on my chest. When I encounter these sensations, my knee-jerk reaction is panic. I hate, detest, absolutely loathe this feeling and believe me when I saw it, I will do anything to rid of it. Anything.
For the longest time, I would buy into the smokescreen that I am not doing enough and I would feel stupid and silly and keep working hard. Most likely I would give a mile of leeway to the others as a collateral gain. After all why should anyone suffer cos of my incompetence. That is completely unacceptable to me. What the other person brings to the table is of no consequence when I am buying into this layer of the onion. You may be thinking, ‘oh! Oh! This doesn’t sound good!’ You are much smarter than I am. It isn’t and I only realise that when the other has taken to liking the collateral gain and expected it as a routine part of our interaction. Once I realise this, I can’t really hold them responsible. So it again reinforces my smokescreen, it proves my stupidity right!
How anyone of you have had this feeling? Like you keep moving in circles and keep finding it tough to move out. I feel like Arjuna caught in the chakravyuh, though not as accomplished or for a cause!
So what’s the way out?
Listening. Really listening and tolerating my emotions, including the loathsome body sensations.
That is what I realised. When I wrestled with the shame and the panic, I bore with the risk of it never going away, of the risk that it will tell me really terrible takes about myself, of the risk that I may be the stupidest person ever, so on. As I focused on my chest and tried deep breathing, I picked up a pen to draw, right whatever caught my fancy and I scribbled for well over 15 minutes and then here is what came to me and magically the ball of iron dissipated as if it weighed nothing at all, nothing at all!
I realised I find it difficult to honour my needs in the face of another’s pain and hurt. I don’t believe I ought to listen to mine cos someone’s needs are more important than mine. As I say this, you and I both know it’s not true. We are all worthy just by the cause of being human. And I realised I need to learn the skill of stating my needs gently and sincerely in the face of someone’s pain. And that brings me relief cos that is doable. Cos that is a skill, cos no one is born knowing that, cos that means I am not the forever stupid, just a bit deskilled.
So why do such smokescreens come up?
Children believe due to the developmental mandate of believing that everything around them happens because of them. Most times this works well, it builds a sense of agenc, a belief that they can influence the world. But when repeated experiences leave them alone, without care and helpless, the smaw developmental mandate works the other way to hold them responsible for the bad things too, that’s where shame comes from and that’s where smokescreens are born.
So the next time, you have the urge to flee from a feeling, stay, breathe, play and listen, really listen to the needs.
They tell you what you are.
And you are worthy, always.