I used to beat myself up about my neurosis. I guess in some respects, I still do. Although at this point in my life, it is easier to catch myself. I have to make a conscious effort to stop. What I have learned over the years is one very important truth, we all come upon our neurosis honestly.
It is hard enough growing up in a world where expectations are so often unattainable; each day we must deal with society and each day there is a new obstacle.
We live with judgment for having fallen short.
We live with fear for having lost.
We struggle with honesty for fear of being rejected if seen for who we really are.
All of these things escort us into adulthood with a whole bucket of neurotic tendencies that often times, are hard to own and even harder to break. In avoiding either of these, we set ourselves up to not get the things in life that we want. This is true in our intimate relationships, in our work or the community at large.
Last week I touched on our baggage. Here is the good news. If you continually clean out the suitcase, over time you can downsize. I started with a steamer trunk and have moved down to an overnight bag, but I don’t beat myself up anymore about having that on account of what I said earlier, we come by our neurosis honestly. In order to downsize we have to own who we are. We have to take inventory of that suitcase and accept what is in it. If we just open it and see things we don’t want to deal with or acknowledge are there and shut it, the downsizing will never occur.
In my book, Relax, It’s Just Life! I refer to the baggage as “core beliefs.” In order not to have these things affect us, we need to own them. If we can own them, we can respond to them in a healthy way rather than have an emotional reaction to situations that make us feel threatened. In essence, we beat the world to the punch. When attacked, we know what is true and what is not.
For example, I was at a social function not too long ago and for whatever reason, one of the attendees decided it would be perfectly acceptable to verbally assault me. In ear shot of more than a few people, he proceeded to call me a “fat fucking lazy faggot.” Needless to say, all eyes were on me. I looked at my accuser and simply said, “I’m not lazy.” Everyone started laughing and in a situation where I could have lowered myself to their level, I was able to appear strong and in control. One might ask why I appeared strong and in control and it is because I know who I am and I own it. I beat him to the punch, and I am all right with what he said. It’s true and it has no bearing on what I can do in my life if I choose to do so.
In summary, if you want to lighten your load; you must do an inventory. You have to be honest about what is in your suitcase and you can’t beat yourself up about it, because it is what it is. It’s like looking at pictures from the ’80s and wondering what you were thinking when you put on those clothes or cut your hair that way. What you were thinking was, “I look damned hot in these parachute pants and high tops!” So embrace it and move on. In doing so, you may feel sadness, shame, or regret. That’s OK! Those are all part of the grieving process we go through every time we let go of anything.
So, go open up that suitcase and do an inventory. Don’t avoid identifying what is in it because it might make you feel bad. If I cheated, I’m a cheater. If I lied, I’m a liar. If I stole, I’m a thief. It just is what it is and no one can change that. All we can do is own what we have done and who we are and choose to act differently. After all, what I do is the only thing on this earth I have control over.