“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa
If the title of this article called to you, know that your stories are not who you are. They do not define the person you are, rather they are vital understandings we must experience in life.
When we come here we arrive in a family that has already its own story, so we grew up believing that those are our own too and we keep adding life experiences, like they were blanket layers in which we can wrap up, whenever we feel the world is too hard to handle.
Spending your lifetime hiding behind your stories can become a comfort place to be in! But when you dwell on this habit you become a victim! And that’s when your stories start working against you!
I’m 37 years old and the first part of my life was an erratic and hectic one that would become the foundation of a stronger Self: because I chose it to be so!
Not without help and doubt and despair but in the end I chose the path to take!
I was born in Portugal at the end of a dictatorship, had an alcoholic father and a depressive mother that died when I was 12. I was born in a family that has tons of limiting beliefs such as lack. After my mother’s death I had to go live with my sister and after that my aunt.
Because we had no money I could not go to college and I could not stay at my aunt’s house any longer.
So, at the age of 18, with nothing more than 40 dollars in my pocket and a train ticket, I was “forced” to leave my country where I couldn’t find a job and had to go work abroad as a room maid for a Swiss hotel, a country I didn’t knew anything about not even the language!
During that period of time, my life was a daily struggle but I followed along as that was all I could do.
I was living on autopilot mode!
Very naturally, the Persona had started its implementation in me in order to help with survival. It was not my Self what others saw in me, and I believed it was.
Confusion started by living a life that wasn’t my own.
Ego had placed a death trap underneath my feet and I had fallen into it! I became embittered, irascible but also resigned.
Everything in my life was other people’s fault and because I was born in the wrong family!
I lacked money, lacked a rewarding job, lacked a family, lacked a country, lacked a fulfilling relationship, lacked, lacked and lacked…
Later on, I changed countries again and decided that the next experiences of my life would have France for a background. Chic, right?
Once more I didn’t spoke the language but it was a new start…
Meanwhile I met my husband and my life started to feel like a quiet stream. Finally!
That’s when everything came knocking at my door; I thought I was living a balanced life but my stories were ready to demolish me once more!
I went through a 3 year period of what I like to call now the “dark night of the soul”: depression and distress about who I was and what was the meaning of it all!
Not accepting my shadow was tearing my life apart: I lost my job, started having psychosomatic illnesses that would not leave me alone, panic attacks, anxiety, agoraphobia, pain all over my body, issues in my marriage, I even had a surgery that I didn’t need it…
Visited every therapist and counselor I could and fortunately they showed me tools in order for me to start asking myself the right questions.
I started studying Jung, Frankl, Alan Watts, etc., and some more of the one’s I knew since a teenager such as astrology, tarot and different life philosophies.
The path to healing was mine to take and the result was in what I was willing to do, to recognize it.
I had to learn how to integrate every part of me that I couldn’t bear; that I was hiding behind the mask.
Individuation is a slow process of metamorphosis but once you have been inwards and discovered that you are more than what your Ego tells you, it will shift your perspective and no longer you’ll be able to live the way you have.
There’s a before and after! It will become too small to blossom; it will become resilience!
And, on my way through individuation, I:
1. Made an inventory
I started by making an inventory of my past; written down everything about all the different stories that belong to me.
Understood that to re-start again, I needed to address them, and then recycle the one’s that could be good compost for new seeds.
Stories are not me but they belong to me. That’s all!
The importance is for you to disentangle the I (the control) from the Me (limited view); both live in the Self (who you truly are) and from the situation (meaning you made of it).
2. Read other’s stories
Everyone has a different story to tell, I started reading memoirs, biographies, testimonials and also fiction in order to find parts of me that I had forgotten; like trying to find repair through archetypal figures that could have lived my stories.
So, start to see clearly in the fog and consent that you are not alone and that all that you live has indeed a purpose.
3. Embraced my fears
Carl Jung said “What you resist, persist” and this can’t be more true.
When you blind yourself from what you feel, you will always, always be forced to face it again and again.
That’s why what we haven’t accepted or acknowledged will come back like a crazy boomerang we have to deal with until it becomes part of our DNA.
4. Was patient
Accepted the place I was at and remembered that nothing lasts forever.
Be grateful for understanding where you are now because if you are where you are, it’s maybe because, for now, you would not be able to cope with something else!
Love who you are; with all the dark and light inside you!
5. Connected with my essence
The answer that came to the question “who am I?” was that I am the essence that outlasts within me; the essence of all things. In other words; I am love.
It is that essence that the stillness of the moment offers us all! You must be ready to listen to it!
To experience love for yourself, for someone, for something is to know who you are.
So, you love, you have an ideal in your heart, you breathe, you are healthy, you are loved, you are alive, you are living in peace, you are helping others, you create, you eat, you ___________ (fill in the blank), etc.
Find a moment of love to define yourself today! Not yesterday or tomorrow! Today!
Sofia Barao is an Artist, Intuitive Facilitator and Reiki Master engaged in a path of Spiritual and Creative Empowerment Coaching. She works with women all over the world unveiling the woman that hides within, connecting them to their true Self!