November 30, 2008
Robert Alter wrote a chapter that I quote from his book “The Transformative Power of Crisis”. Here it goes.
Imagine a hurricane on a weather map. Let’s call that ‘Hurricane You’. Hurricane You has 3 parts. The outermost part is a ring of moving energy in the form of circling wind and rain. The middle part is another ring of circling wind and rain. the innermost part is the eye where all is calm and still.
This your very own hurricane. Your outermost ring is your life: the ever-moving, ever-changing, often unpredictable and seemingly random series of events and experiences that happen to you in your life. Some are big, some are small; some are pleasant and some are unpleasant. These events and experiences started happening to you at birth, are happening to you right this moment and will continue to happen to you until you die.
The middle ring of Hurricane You is the ring of your thoughts and feeling and moods and inner states. From the moment you wake upto the moment you fall asleep, these circle around and succeed each other, morning to night, cradle to grave.
Sometimes the inner ring of our thoughts and feelings is connected to the outer ring of events and experiences, and the 2 rings circle together for a while. For example, when we get a raise of a hug or a new car or a new friend on the outer ring, on the inner ring we feel happy, we like life, we have pleasant thoughts and a pleasant inner state. Then we get fired of we get snubbed or we get sick or get a scratch on the new car and we feel sad, upset angry at life and have unpleasant thoughts and an unpleasant inner state. Our thoughts and feelings are in sync with external events.
And sometimes we have thoughts and feelings and moods and inner states that are totally independent of the events and experiences circling around sus at the time. For example, we might be sitting with out beloved on a beach on Aruba and still be in the darkest and foulest of moods ever seen in the Caribbean. The two rings may circle at different speeds, even on different axes.
For most people, the two circling rings are all there is, and they live their lives spinning along with them, and they die. Some people however hear about the immermost part of the hurricane, the eye and they start doing things in their lives in order to get to the eye. They learn how to go to a part of the storm that is not stormy, where they can just watch the storm, totally undisturbed by it, in a state of perfect peace and unmodified awareness. This is where the consciousness, awareness, the knower, the innter witness resides.
After reaching this inner state of just observing, there do come questions…
questions like why…??
Nature balances itself out through karmic processes as the ones we’ve just witnessed. You are just the observer until it is your turn to live out a traumatic experience yourself. Someday Shakespeare’s line will make sense, ‘All the world’s at stage’, but till then play your part with gumption. I will play my part of the insensitive asshole.
July 31, 2008
(this is a personal account of what we went through and still striving to achieve as a couple)
I want to start off by resonating with a silent echo that’s been around for generations; i.e. A “healthy self esteem” is the most sought after emotional state for every person aiming to be self confident. Some have successfully achieved authentic self esteem through painful life experiences; some through wise parental guidance but most folks still stand tall on false bottoms – a false sense of self esteem. Unfortunately, a false sense of self esteem spares no one, neither the rich nor the successful. It’s known to be prevalent in CEOs, actors, rap stars, narcissists and even psychologists themselves. It is clearly prevalent in drug addicts, addicts in general, criminals, abusers and the like.
My story spans thirty years during which my emotional baggage got heavier and I constantly duct taped together a false bottom. My wife, a victim of suppressive parenting, was no exception to this psychological handicap. For eight years in our marriage I found on many occasions I bickered, blamed & regretted. I caused her a lot of guilt and shame for not being what I wanted her to be. We couldn’t even be honest and respectful in a relationship. She could not accept constructive criticism and neither could I. Eventually anything she would do was never good enough for me and nothing I did was enough to make her happy. For every step she took, no matter which direction, I guess I ended up saying “you suck!”. I called her parents suppressive and here I was no different.
It took a devastating turn in my life to notice my junk emotional baggage. I went suicidal in my thoughts. But on the advice of a very good friend and a failing marriage I attempted therapy. She tried it too.
The first thing the therapist signed me up for was self esteem in group therapy. As I walked out of her office, I told myself that I don’t need this and that I have great self esteem. This was my male ego reassuring that the false bottom could withstand an 8.0 earthquake! During my first session, they circulated study material on self esteem. I was taken aback when I found some of the symptoms of low self esteem were the symptoms I had (outlined some of it below). It took a while but when I finally accepted it, I asked my wife to experience this paradigm shift. She didn’t understand it and preferred her existing way of life. Even though I didn’t see the end of the tunnel for us, I didn’t want to give up. But first I needed to fix myself. I immediately understood that if I had great self esteem I would not have cheated.
Here are some of the symptoms of Low Self Esteem that I had:
I noticed that I was a perfectionist with low tolerance for anything less. (This was only towards people I can take for granted, like my wife).
I would be embarrassed about the color of my skin or the natural discoloration in my teeth. But if you like my skin color, I like it too!
I had very defensive behavior and used to take everything personally (seriously insecure).
I felt a void and I wanted someone to fill it in for me – extra marital affair.
I wanted a hot looking wife to feel important, a little trophy. I didn’t realize I used them. Many a times (thanks to my culture), I saw them as objects for my own happiness instead of human beings with emotions of their own.
I always wanted to please others at the cost of my own time or money in return for compliments & appreciation.
I wanted everyone to like me and I tried to please everyone. Many a times I ignored the people that mattered because they weren’t that important to my social appearance.
I treated everyone special and lied to them about how great they were so they don’t think any low of me. It was about me, not about them.
At times, I would settle for second best or nothing at all because I thought I didn’t deserve the best and that it was a ‘sacrifice’ well worth it.
I remained a workaholic to prove to everyone how good I was.
I was unable to easily forgive or forget.
I had a superficial outlook.
I wanted to dress well & drive an expensive car to impress others.
I could not say the word “I” with confidence. I would say “we” or use third person reference while trying to refer to myself.
I was always defensive and in denial.
During my search for answers, I concluded that I had low self esteem. To my surprise and from various sources, I realized that even criminals, alcohol abusers, drug abusers, gamblers, every form of addiction – sex offenders, video game addiction, internet chat addicts, internet addicts, blog addicts, bullies and even something as common as depression source from low self esteem. I’ve read that dysfunctional families (like mine) lacked social integrity. They too lacked self esteem. This explains how the examples they (parents) set for me became an integral part of my life. I’m reluctant to say this (might be taken out of context) but most of the families I know are dysfunctional and there have been very few that I can commend.
Helping my Wife – Low to healthy self esteem:
Over the years I fixed myself pretty good and am finally seeing the end of the tunnel for my wife. I had to take the help of a story to find the patience and endurance to make it work for her. Check this out. It really helped me!
And with my wife, I watched the false bottom she stood on give away. It took much longer than I expected but I stood below it to cushion her. Therapy didn’t help her at all. There were times I tried to break the false bottom myself, but it just caused us more pain with no result.
Then one fine day she woke up depressed and said, “I’ve lost all my confidence.” This happened right after she discovered that most of her “friends” were using her. They never really liked her to begin with. All that false praise and pretense faded away leaving her emotionally vulnerable.
“I lost my friends & lost my confidence Evans. Am I that bad a person?” She went on.
I listened as she poured her heart out and then calmly replied, “I’m glad you lost those so called friends. I’m even happier that you lost that confidence.”
Stunned as she was, I continued. “What kind of confidence is it when it comes with your friends and leaves with them? I’d rather you start fresh and build it from within. Look at yourself today. You can achieve anything anywhere anyhow and no one can take that away from you. The real confidence comes from knowing that you are very capable if you choose to. Don’t let others remote control how you feel.” And this is where we are today.
Here’s a few epiphanies I’ve encountered the hard way:
I have realized that being a good listener is the same as making it half way across the bridge.
Clarity, kindness and reassurance in communication is the next most important piece.
I always mention intent when things go wrong. i.e. “My intent was good, but I couldn’t control the outcome. I’m sorry.”
Its a marathon; building higher tolerance, patience and strength to withstand emotional trauma. I had to push constantly to have her do things for herself.
I realized that I have to fix and finish the job her parents left half way, and that’s a marriage.
Here’s why we ended up the way we were!
We had lack of constant encouragement and support from parents.
We were children not being loved or accepted unconditionally either at home, at school or in the community.
We were always or occasionally compared to other kids.
Our parents were a product of a dysfunctional family themselves where authoritative behaviors glorified.
One of us came from workaholic parents who were absolutely unaware of its effects.
We were in an environment where feelings were not openly expressed, experienced or welcome.
We had to deal with fearful or anxiety driven parents who tend to suppress the freedom of growth and expression
Since Recovery Process isn’t easy:
Coming out of low self esteem in an adult life is a lot of work. See link.
If this is important to your life you will need to take the trouble to Google or Yahoo seach “low self esteem”, “self esteem issues” etc. One of the best books I found was ‘The Transformative Power of Crisis‘ by the Alter Family. I highly recommend a copy of it (its out of print, I bought a used copy!).
Good Luck & Peace.
Article where scientists highlight the effects of low self esteem on a consumer
For those who want to help their spouses with low self esteem, hope this story (http://www.lightyourfire.com/my-girlfriend-has-low-self-esteem.htm) enlightens you.