Celebrating All of Me

Lately, the idea of including has come into my perception in several arenas. So much so, that it is now something of a theme. I’ve become aware of a burning question: what parts of me am I not including in my sense of myself? Describing this process with kind language, I begin to notice how easy it is to dismiss or brush away aspects of my identity that I don’t particularly favor or like to perceive. Using more truthful language, there are parts of me that I hate, am afraid of, or am ashamed of, and parts that I downright reject. We might call these shadow aspects, or disowned parts (see Brené Brown for more on this). What’s Hiding in Your Basement? The more I do this work around self-awareness and presence, it dawns on me that these long worn and familiar (and seemingly successful!) strategies I’ve adopted of rejecting or burying these parts not only don’t serve, they actually don’t work. I am unintentionally dividing myself and putting stuff I don’t want to see in my own basement. These parts of me seem out of sight, but are actually in exile, accumulating mold and beginning to smell a bit… because they don’t see the light of day in my consciousness. And sometimes they leak out, revealing themselves in the ways I sometimes show up. Through the Systemic Constellation and Judy Wilkins-Smith’s work, I learned the most basic principle of a system is that everything has a right to belong in the system (family, organization, community, nation), and if that right is denied, if any parts are excluded, the dysfunctional patterns and results of those exclusions get bigger and louder, until the system is at some point able to balance itself, to come into harmony by including, in some way, that which, or those who, have been excluded. I could go in a big picture direction at this juncture, and talk about the environment, or politics, or economic disparities, but I’ll stick with the micro scale of us as humans. I offer my experience as a reflection of the bigger principle of including all parts of a system, and as a way to spark your own thinking on this topic for your clients and yourself. The Cost of Missing Pieces for You and Those You Coach What’s the cost of this habit of dissecting myself into parts, some of which are “acceptable” and some of which remain locked up and hidden (sometimes even from myself)?  I see that there is a big price to pay in aliveness, energy flow, creativity and expression. It’s like the hose of life force gets kinked within me, and not only do the buried parts stay stuck, life energy gets stuck, too. And I find myself enacting patterns like over functioning around work, reducing play and fun, and generally getting cranky towards my loved ones. Another way the cost of this habit can show up is in coaching:  when my client brings something to the conversation that feels uncomfortable…is it her? Is it me? Something the client is struggling with might remind me (even unconsciously) of a dis-owned part of myself. I notice I can feel suddenly defensive or shut down or start pointing to the client as the problem. When it actually might be my own undigested experience that is surfacing that I’m concurrently pushing away. And here’s another whole category of those “parts that shall not be named” (a la Harry Potter), that I’ve also discovered: the aspects of me that are generous, steady, courageous, present, able to handle a lot of ambiguity and grief, and continue forward for the sake of something bigger. I notice I push those parts out of my awareness just as easily, until a friend or colleague or client reminds me that I am offering these gifts to them in the moment. And I remember, oh yes, these are me, too. Two Practices to Help Reconnect Different Parts of Ourselves I’ve been in some recent practices that have been helpful in remembering to reconnect these disparate parts of myself. To include all of me (or as much as I can be aware of in the moment).  Here are two you might give a try.
  1. Pause and Take a Moment of Presence When I feel something arising in me that’s unfamiliar (or very familiar, yet unwanted), my practice is to pause and take a moment of presence, to sense in to who or what is trying to be known in some way within me. I’ve been interested to see my growing capacity to witness these various parts. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to have a little energy boost (freed up from having to keep that part hidden).
  2. Make Space for All Voices Another practice occurs when I’m under pressure, to notice in the moment the urge to distance myself from a certain aspect of myself. I am aware of having judgement about “her” as a potential derailer to the “all so important” task at hand. Instead of creating distance, I’ve been inviting and allowing space for that part of me to actually emerge more fully. Acknowledging her with kindness, compassion and love. It has been beneficial to at least to consider this additional view on the situation at hand. I am surprised at the wisdom available by giving these different perspectives some air time in my consciousness.  I can then choose what’s next with more awareness.
I Invite You to Shift Your Perspective Here’s a perspective shift:  let’s practice welcoming these hidden aspects of us we can now perceive and be in contact with. Even the sticky or scary ones, and especially the beautiful and talented ones. We might regard their emergence as information—as data—and wonder what we can now do with the energy and aliveness that becomes liberated—energy that they’ve been carrying all along. I invite you to take some time to reflect on what parts of you might be out of your awareness that are longing to find a home in you. What gifts are actually waiting to be claimed to take their rightful place at your table? For the sake of celebrating all of you, all of us, in our wholeness. Five questions to get you started:
  1. What’s your relationship to those parts of you that seem distasteful, or are not welcomed into your identity?
  2. How would you like this relationship to be?
  3. What parts of you (shadow or gift) might need a home within you now?
  4. What do you imagine would be some possible outcomes (both scary and enlivening!) from including more of you in your work, your life?
  5. How might including more of you serve your clients?
Feel free to share your answers to the questions above or your comments/thoughts.
Things we resist in others tend to be things that we have not yet resolved within ourselves. Specific traits we dislike in others are often those we dislike within ourselves. I am inviting you to discover and own parts of yourself that you might rather pretend were not there. It’s not easy. It will however open new doors to compassion for yourself and your clients. Doug Silsbee The Mindful Coach