I love stories.
The Little Mermaid? Cinderella? The Three Little Pigs?
Stories like that will stick with me forever.
We all heard ‘em as kids, right?
Remember The Lion King and how traumatized you felt when Mufasa died?
Or when the flying monkeys dragged Dorothy and Toto off to the Wicked Witch’s castle?
Admit it. It still gets ya, doesn’t it? It does me.
Those stories made you feel something that facts and figures could never do. And you never forgot it.
Did you know that when you hear a story, your brain reacts like you’re experiencing it yourself? Like it’s real.
Your brain puts you inside the story.
No wonder you vividly remember stories and the emotions they trigger!
The ones you hear.
The ones you tell.
Especially, the ones you tell to yourself.
Again and again.
All day long.
All life long.
Ahh yes. The stories you’re using to avoid painful emotions. The ones you’re so used to burying that you can’t even see yourself doing it.
Feel rejection? It’s his fault. He’s an asshole. Here’s what he did …
Feel incompetent? It’s their fault. Here’s how they messed everything up …
Feel abandoned? Here’s what I’ll do to scotch tape that relationship back together.
It’s what you’ve done your whole life. You think you’re good at it.
… something in your life comes crashing down.
Something that’s so painful, the stories don’t work anymore.
In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, actor Viola Davis talked about how her fear and frustration were strangling any feelings of joy and satisfaction, despite all her success. The fairy tale she’d planned on was tanking. Her biggest discovery?
“If you’re really trying to become your ideal self, you’re going to meet the part of yourself that you don’t want to be.
You have two choices at that point.
You can just stay there and be swallowed
Or you can move on.”
Where do you even start?
Viola’s answer? “The only thing I could think of to do was to go back to the beginning of my story.” She realized she had to unpack the trauma she’d experienced earlier in order to move forward now.
She called it going back to her childhood.
I call it doing the work. Same thing …
… when you explore, identify, and clear held emotional charges and misunderstandings so you can live your life more in a juicier, more joyful way.
And yes, it’s called work rather than play for a reason.
Most people don’t want the truth. They just want constant reassurance that what they believe is the truth. They want their stories.
That’s not doing the work. Not even close. So what’s it look like?
The best way I can explain it is to share MY story.
At 20 years old, I was newly married and steeped in being a “good girl.”
I believed that IF everyone around me was happy THEN I could be happy.
So, that’s what I did – made it my job to make other people happy.
In truth, I was using THEM to validate ME.
But did I know it?
Not. At. All.
It was a deep misunderstanding. But I was innocent. It’s what I was taught as a child. I had no idea how to value my own desires and needs. (Can you relate?)
So, naturally, as an adult, I focused on what I thought my then husband wanted or needed. Later on, I did the same with my kids. 😡
It didn’t work.
My once-upon-a-time was crumbling.
It was dysfunction all over the place.
I was living in an emotional sinkhole.
Time for cleanup in aisle me.
So, I went to a self-development workshop. That led to my first exposure to Reiki (a Japanese form of healing energy), and soon I began to discover the incredible power of energy work.
My ability to know my heart and ask for what I needed was shaky at first.
But as I looked inward, I began to see my stories – patterns in my life that I’d never seen before.
I learned to:
- Feel into the emotions I carried from childhood (even though it was super painful at times).
- Spend time with my inner child (whose woundedness surprised me).
- Give that little girl love and compassion (so hard to do at first).
I had sea legs as I tried to be authentically me – to even know who I was. And I’d often fail. No wonder! I was just learning to build a loving relationship with myself.
As I became conscious of the bullshit stories I’d lived with all my life, I was able to create new ones based in truth!
Step by step, I started to see what it meant to be authentic and loving to others and myself.
- As I became more aware of the things that didn’t work, I got more clear on the things that did – my actions, thoughts and even the words I used. I spoke up more and named what was and what wasn’t working for me.
- I began to release blocks to loving myself. For example, I stopped making myself wrong and began forgiving myself.
- I stopped desperately trying to get my ex-husband to hear me, see me, or to love me.
Wow, did my stories reveal some messy shit! In awareness, I began to see all the ways I was deceiving myself.
I became acutely aware of:
- observing my triggers
- questioning where those triggers were coming from inside of me
- what I needed to do to heal that part of myself.
It became clear that any time I was triggered, something was up for ME to heal … even when the other person was being an asshole. With that awareness, I began to take personal responsibility for my emotions.
As I became more aware of my own needs, I realized that many of those choices weren’t in alignment with what I wanted for myself. 😖
It wasn’t always pretty. I experienced layers of terror as I felt into lifelong fears of being abandoned or rejected. (There you are again, childhood.)
But I also started to see how much I had tried to manipulate others into being happy. To keep them from abandoning me so I could feel valued and safe.
But really, I was the one who was abandoning and rejecting myself.
So, I began to challenge my old patterns and limitations. And you know what?
As I faced each layer, I experienced more freedom. My close relationships began to reflect those changes. Some instantly better. And some, well..
Let’s just say it wasn’t always that rosy ending you get in a 30-minute episode of Leave It To Beaver. 😂😂😂
People around me weren’t always happy when the co-dependent ways we’d endlessly played out started to change.
Take my relationship with Dad, for example.
One weekend, 30 minutes after arriving at my parents home for an out-of-town visit, Dad suddenly exploded with his typical, dominating shit show.
I was done walking on good-girl eggshells around him and was finally ready to stomp all over them.
I looked him in the eye and said, “If you keep this up, I’m leaving right now.”
It wasn’t a threat. Simply the truth. And Dad knew it. I guess he wanted me to stay cuz he immediately changed his attitude and was Mr. Prince Charming the rest of the weekend. It was great.
When he saw that his demeaning and controlling ways weren’t working like they used to, he stopped being such an arrogant asshole. He still tested me time after time just to make sure I still meant it. But as he figured out I wasn’t into being treated like ass like I was in our past, our relationship got better.
Ironic isn’t it? It required me growing to love and respect myself before I could have a new experience with my Dad.
I finally realized: We teach people how to treat us.
That life-changing awareness ultimately led to healing with my then partner as well.
But not like I expected.
Good Girl Rita had always taken it as my job to make him happy.
As I began to see truth, I would name it.
Oh boy. Angry and defensive, my then husband would try to shut me down.
I was asking him to lean into his fears and grow through them. But he was in a completely different place.
I was changing. It was scary for him. And he was fighting hard to go back to the familiar roles we were used to playing.
He was living out the same stories in our marriage that he had witnessed his parents do. (Oh the power of our subconscious minds. See how the bullshit goes on for generations?)
Finally, after four marriage counseling sessions, he broke down and said, “I haven’t wanted to be married for years. I just stayed because I was worried about finances and you walking out on me.”
Whoosh! A wave of relief washed over me. 🌊
All of his actions had told me a million ways that he didn’t want to be in this relationship. Finally, his words matched his actions.
From this place of truth we both could finally figure out how to disentangle and heal.
All of your relationships are a reflection of your relationship with yourself.
And yet, you’re not taught how to have healthy connections in your relationships. Instead you mimic what your parents did. And they do the same with their parents. And the patterns go on and on ad nauseum.
Learning a new way means paying attention to what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You like it? Keep going. Or does it feel like you’ve been walking barefoot on broken glass for the last 5 miles?
With awareness you FINALLY get to learn and live out new stories.
And to do that, you have to do the work.
When you’re afraid, you may be blind to the truth.
Of course you want other people to change so you don’t have to. You just don’t feel ready to face it.
As journalist and feminist Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.”
That’s often how it feels when you start doing your work.
But I’m here to tell you, by doing it, and sticking to it, I went from clueless to awareness.
No, it wasn’t easy.
Yes, there were times when it was scary, difficult, and at times frustrating.
But here’s what I learned.
It’s the only way to find real connection with yourself and others. And that’s what we’ve all always wanted.
Remember Viola Davis’ story?
Growing up, her home life was impoverished, often violent and sexual abusive. She was tormented by classmates who harassed her, hit her, demeaned her, and told her she was ugly.
By doing her work, Viola realized 50 years later that she’d never stopped running from those classmates – or from a traumatic home life.
That damaged little girl had gone through life feeling shame and the belief that she was ugly, not enough.
As an adult, she just covered those emotions up by putting on a mask of confidence and unbreakable strength. She was invincible but hollow.
All those years, she’d been letting that story define her.
We all have our stories.
We just don’t know it.
Until we do.
And that’s when the healing begins.
Ready. Set. Go.
What’s your story?
Does it feel almost impossible to see the truth behind your pain?
That’s because you’re like a fish that doesn’t know what water is. You’re so busy living your stories that you can’t see them for the lies they are. You need help.
It’s why I created the Journey to Your Center community – to help women like you see their stories and unpack them so they don’t have to stay stuck in pain and limitation forever.
A lot of how you think is unconscious, which makes it hard getting to the truth of your story – and real healing – on your own.
Inside Journey to Your Center, our members are making MASSIVE shifts in their lives. They’re unpacking decades worth of codependency and creating new relationships with their spouses, healing from major physical illnesses, and learning to be happy even when their bank account dips below $1000.
Join us. Or try it out with Essentials — the membership where you can independently explore new talks and meditations from Rita each month.