Transformation begins with one simple understanding: Everything is energy. If the way we’re thinking is stagnating and paralyzing, then something needs to change. In my work, when a person is agonizingly searching for “answers” or “solutions” but are stuck solid in their own frozen thought patterns, I have only one initial objective in helping them. (It’s definitely not a futile hunt for answers when they have no solid understanding of what their question even is.) In the beginning it’s all about opening up their energy field–that place of inner fire, inner spirit–so that new, more resourceful reasoning and cognitive processing can begin to churn. That’s the place from which all growth begins, and only from growth will we find the answers.
Trying to find creative solutions from a place of stagnation can sometimes lead to more stagnation. We’ve got to try to remedy the paralysis first, and then look for the big answers!
Transformation is defined as permanent change, but it’s not about becoming someone new. It’s about brushing off all the extraneous stuff that was never us to begin with. Transformation is a journey of authenticity. And the reason it’s permanent is because it’s who we truly are, and who we were always meant to be. Unthawing from the baron, frozen landscape of no movement requires truth (sometimes shocking truth), and courage. Specifically the courage to face the fact that how we’re being is directly responsible for what we’re doing (including oftentimes what life is supposedly doing to us, as victim mentality will try hard to convince us).
I find fascinating what CEO coach Robert Hargrove refers to as the five most common Rut to River stories we tell ourselves. These are patterns of thinking that act as virtual quicksand to everyone who overindulges in them. As with anything else, dose determines danger (dusting off an icky throw-back from my toxicology days!). Of course we all meander into the territory of unhealthy thinking every now and then. The question is, which of these stories are our chronic go-to’s, obstructing our progress? See if any of these feel familiar.
1.) The “I need other people’s approval” story. This is an insidious troublemaker and it generally takes place as a silent inner dialogue. With this story, we can’t bear to ruffle feathers. And we’d rather tell a person what they want to hear, rather than the heart-centered helpful truth. It’s hard to be authentic with this story, because the thought that a person may reject us from this place is too overwhelming to bear.
I have had to work very hard to overcome this story in my life. Especially with my work. I have two sides of me– a very logical-thinking, left-brain, structured processor, and then something completely different–a fairy-Godmother, magical thinking, intuitive, empathic, highly sensitive Unicorn! The battle between which one to present to the world has been a struggle at times, and will continue to be. I have come to understand that the merging of the two is where my power is. It’s not about allowing one to “win” or dominate the other. It has to be a balance, and only from that place do I find the strength to be 100% authentic. (And I’ve had to practice not caring so much when somebody disagrees with me.)
2.) The “I’m afraid to lose what I have” story. This is about risk aversion. It’s too scary to take that leap, because, shit, what if we fail? We’ll stay in agonizing, soul-killing repetition for years on end, because it’s what we know. And the thought of forging a new trail, blind to the outcome, is too terrifying to face.
So, this was me, dying of boredom and soul-crushing stagnancy after twenty years of allowing no right-brained, creative expression in my life. I had to remedy this, I had to save my life, by starting over at the age of 39. I left my career, jumped without a parachute into the abyss, having NO idea if I’d land intact or not. And you know what? I did land intact. In fact, I never could have dreamed of being so fulfilled. Had I been able to see eight years into the future when I was faced with that jump, it would have been a no-brainer. But life doesn’t work that way. It took trust and faith in myself, and it did take losing a lot of material stuff initially, but what I gained was a life that worked for me. And eventually, after I did the required work, greater financial prosperity than I personally would have ever had in veterinary medicine.
3.) The “artful victim” story. This is the woe is me, story. Look how unfair life is, look how everyone else has it so much easier, look how we deserve none of the drama that seems to follow us like flies to Charlie Brown’s friend, Pigpen. Look what that guy did to me! Look what that salesperson said to me! Byron Katie has built a controversial empire (like her or not) centered around this very story; it’s the most common of destructive thought patterns. And it is highly destructive. Because it’s not about what happens to us in life, it’s how we respond to things– one event at a time– that creates our own resiliency.
This has never been a go-to for me, and it’s incredibly difficult for me to stomach in others. I was virtually on my own at the age of 19. And I knew that if I was going to survive and make something of myself that I would have to find my inner warrior and waste no time on some dumb story about how the Universe had royally dumped on me. I developed a pattern early on of moving forward, finding the breadcrumbs of magic where I could, and thanking the Universe for taking pretty damn thorough care of me when it could have just as easily crushed me with its thumb. My thought patterns were what connected it to me as an ally, not luck or chance, and certainly not helpful resources (I had none).
4.) The tranquilizing story. This is the practice of weaving endless excuses and reasons to cover up our mistakes or injurious behaviors toward others in an effort to make us feel better about ourselves. (Narcissists are highly talented at this.) The consequence of this is that no learning occurs, because we refuse to acknowledge our faults or weaknesses. We become frozen in a life of no growth, because nobody is “smart enough” to enlighten us, or “talented enough” to get through to us.
In my twenties I struggled with this. I was so traumatized by my mother’s death and my father’s abandonment due to his descent into severe alcoholism, that I numbed out. I didn’t want to learn from people, I didn’t want to admit I had faults, I never wanted to say the words, “I’m sorry,” or “I messed up.” I just stumbled along, trying to be perfect, trying to create an infallible façade so ironclad I’d never have to see how broken I was. I discovered the pattern at around 28, about the same time I discovered Buddhism. I remember breaking the pattern by practicing saying, “I’m sorry, I was wrong,” every day, searching for opportunities to use it, no matter how small my transgression. It worked. Generally just seeing a hidden pattern is 80% of shifting it.
5.) The “Why bother” story. When we lose ourselves in this story we become so certain that there is no solution for us (which reflects a lack of innovation), no possibility for us to find another answer, that we lose the creativity required to envision something new. This is fueled by the energy of hopelessness, which causes a lack of vision, obstructing the connection to building possibilities and creating new options.
I tend to become charged by adversity. When things seem hopeless, I get some kind of positive jolt from hearing about other people who have navigated worse, or even succeeded wildly (adversity or not) because I feel a connection to them through their stories. If others have done it, I can do it. The truth is, people reinvent themselves everyday. But for those who do get stuck in this pattern, it’s one of the most heartbreaking to witness. A person can’t be pushed too hard from this place. They have to be loved, built up, and listened to. And when they are watered enough with that nourishing support, only then can they be convinced that they have greater vision that they give themselves credit for, more options than they have had the courage to consider before, and more resources to draw from (internal and external) than they realized.
As with any area of self-realization, articles like this are designed for one thing– to help trigger an understanding of subconscious processes. Oftentimes the realization alone is enough to launch us on a healing journey to turn the rut into the river, as Hargrove puts it, so we can finally flow the way our energy is designed to. If we’re going to get anywhere we have got to get out of these damn stories. But if you’ve tried, if you’ve known about patterns you’re stuck within and you can’t quite find a way out, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.