|Reaching (Photo credit: JoelMontes)|
At the time though, I remember taking it to mean that I couldn't ask for what I wanted. That the things I desired were out of my reach. That I didn't deserve them. That I was being a brat (like the spoilt and demanding Veruca Salt in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) or too greedy (fuelled by the continuing belief that I was both fat and clumsy). So the result was that I felt shamed and hurt - and usually cross. Because I was being denied, and because I felt so stupid for asking in the first place.
Funny, ain't it, how distance provides clarity? It's only looking back that I can recognise that sense of being 'not enough' was there way back in my early childhood. Yes, ok, it could be argued that there are completely understandable reasons why I would harbour such emotions at that time - and why I've subsequently worked so hard to come to terms with what happened in my formative years. I digress. Because my point is this - I reckon that my response back then is one that is shared by many others today when told that "I want" is something that rarely achieves the desired result.
This is an observation that has been the subject of countless lively discussions - in both my professional and personal life. Because I've come to understand that when people (myself included) wish to improve something about their life experience, our automatic statement tends to be "I want..." followed by whatever the desire may be - a new relationship, a new job, a better home, a happier life, or just to get out of this mess... whatever it is that we feel needs changing. I can't count the number of times in my past when I have cried out in utter despair "All I want is to be happy and to feel loved!" Now, I realise, this is precisely where I started to go wrong.
Why? Because far from bringing whatever the goal might be in to reality (although the desire was very real - excruciatingly real at times), that very statement of 'wanting' only heightened my personal experience of not having. I have read (and seen) countless motivational teachers telling their audience to focus on what it is they want. Encouraging them to state it loud and clear. To create passion around their wants. And then to make a plan to achieve it. Based on what I now understand, so far as I'm concerned all that does is create a whole heap of extra work - more work for the audience and more work for the motivational speaker (with my cynical hat on, I question whether this is perhaps deliberate in some cases). Because then people require guidance on how, exactly, to bring their goal in to fruition.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there's anything wrong in having goals - far from it. What I am saying is that the way we often go about it is flawed from the start. From bitter (and valuable) experience, I've realised that the more we get clear on what it is we want, the more we create the experience of not having. We surround ourselves with a series of wants, which only confirms them as the very things we don't have. And the more we have the experience of not having, the more we feel inadequate in some way shape or form. The more we feel inadequate, the more we diminish who we are and the less likely it is that we'll experience the contentment we desire through achieving whatever it is we are seeking... and so it becomes a vicious circle. In other words "a self-perpetuating process which returns to its starting point with no improvement from where it was begun" Am I beginning to make sense here...?
I don't profess to have the complete solution. But what I am saying right here, hand on heart, is that I believe a simple shift in the words we use can have a profound impact on our immediate internal response - and, therefore, an equally profound impact on the likelihood of achieving whatever it is we desire. No matter what that might be. It's taken me many years of frustration to reach this understanding.
When it suddenly clicked in to place, I remember feeling a huge sense of relief - so much so that I actually started to laugh. A weight lifted from my shoulders, and I suddenly felt a sense of freedom. Like so many great truths, it's so simple and yet so elusive at the same time.
I have learned that, rather than stating what it is I 'want' to happen (and therefore keeping whatever it is at arm's length - or even further away) it's much more helpful to link whatever it is to my present experience. It's about bringing the 'desire' in to current reality - in a way that is both supportive and authentic.
I'm not talking here about positive affirmations. Nope - it's more than that. Affirmations encourage us to shift whatever it is we want in to a statement that affirms we already have it using language that is positive, personal and present tense. For example "I want to lose weight" becomes "I am slim". Let me be clear here, I do believe there's a huge amount of value in affirmations. I used to work as a Louise Hay trainer, and affirmations have been (and continue to be) a great source of inspiration to me. But I also know from my own experience that merely stating something as a fact doesn't automatically mean that it's going to happen - because in many cases (well, certainly in my own case!) deep down we still don't actually believe it to be possible. So for me, the inner battle continued. It's fair to say that I've had a love/hate relationship with affirmations... more positive than negative I'd like to add, and I certainly acknowledge it as a methodology that has been hugely instrumental in my own development.
Because it was through that process it first dawned on me that a shift in the way I described something (to myself and others) gave me a different experience - immediately. I realised that I actually had far more control over the way I felt than I had previously acknowledged. I came to learn that I could indeed shape my world no matter what was happening - and it gave me an immense sense of liberation.
But that wasn't enough. Because, as I said earlier, the internal battle would often continue - no matter how many times or with how much conviction I would state my own affirmation "I am loved and I am enough!" it was, quite simply, a bridge too far. So I sought to find another solution. I explored belief change processes with NLP. I had a go with Breathwork techniques. I studied Reiki. I played with Hypnosis. I became a student of firewalking. And I loved every new practice I learned along the way - every one of which continues to add substance to what I do today.
And through it all I discovered the resounding truth that the answer was here all along - within me. Yep. All those years of looking outside for the answer brought me right back to the place of origin - in the words of Joan Armatrading: Me, Myself, I
Over time I've learned to listen to myself and take note of what I now acknowledge to be my internal guidance system. Rather than fight it or stubbornly affirm truths that aren't yet real truths, I've found a way to gently accept whatever it is that I 'want' by taking note of what's going on inside rather than observing what's happening outside.
Because what I've learned, is that I can bring my desires in to reality much more easily - simply by becoming conscious of the way I talk about them. I've learned that it's about consciously finding a 'link' between the actual and the desired reality. It's about already accepting what it is I think I'd like to be, do or have - in a way that feels smooth, easy and natural. In other words, in a way that is accepted and believed by the whole of who I am, conscious and subconscious. Light and dark. Yin and yang.... however we choose to describe the richness of our human existence!
The key, I've found, is in replacing "want" (along with "need" "have to" "should" "must" and any number of other such demanding expressions) with a word that is both neutral and supportive. From there, I can get clear on what is important. I found a great starting point is the verb "choose" because it fits the bill in the vast majority of cases. It maintains connection and there can be no subconscious argument. For example "I want to get a better job" becomes instead "I choose to get a better job" (rather than "I have a better job" as would be the case in an affirmation, which I would of course have fought against) just as "I want to feel loved" becomes instead "I choose to feel loved". And wooo hooo... there it was! That simple linking word gave me the experience, the possibility, the probability that in actual fact it could be mine... because I suddenly felt it to be true. Somewhere deep within me I felt the innocence of curiosity - because suddenly I knew that I did indeed have the choice.
Putting in the word "choose" rather than "want" gave me the freedom to feel it right there and then... and decide whether or not it really was something I 'wanted'. The weird thing has been, though, that quite often whatever the 'thing' was that I thought I wanted so much, actually became much less pressing as soon as it became linked to what I already am. Hence, as I said earlier, the sense of freedom and relief. Because from that point I came to understand that I really could choose - I could differentiate between what was really important and what was just mind-chatter. And if whatever it was still felt as important to me, then my next question became "so how can I experience more of this" by building on what I was already feeling. Very different from the task-driven step-by-step process to achieve a "want" goal that by definition I could never experience until it's achieved - so I could have no clarity in judging whether it was really something I'd like to have in my life, until I'd put in the hard work! Whereas "choose" goals suddenly allowed me the opportunity to experience the possibility and then develop solutions - a bit like those "try before you buy" mini paintpots, allowing you to check whether you're really going to like the effect at home before committing yourself to the colour you think you like in the shop.
So my wise mother, as usual, was right all those years ago. I want doesn't get - it's so very true. But "I choose" can make all things possible, in ways that are safe, supportive, and real.
And this is a technique that is oh so important to me right now. Why? Because the past few months have been a relentless roller-coaster of experiences and emotions - some of which I've already written about, others I will write about when the time is right. It's fair to say that I've had high highs and low lows, riding the waves and rolling with the punches. Now it's time for me to rest and regroup while things take their natural course. In past times I may well have resorted to the affirmation "I'm full of energy and all is well!" which, at a core level is absolutely the case. But I've also learned, that in moments when I'm feeling less than vibrant, it's perfectly ok to be that way. After all, the times when my son told me he was feeling unwell or tired, did I tell him to pull himself together and get on with it? Of course not. Well, these days the same goes for me.
So while I might be feeling a little bruised and battle-weary, it's perfectly ok. I am choosing to look after myself - knowing that I am indeed loved and that I am (and always was) already enough. I'm choosing to let myself be, in whatever way is right for me right now - because that, it's true to say, is all that counts. And so it is that I 'want' for nothing, because I already am.
Thanks, mum, for all the love and wisdom you gave me.