Responsibility was a concept I was not able to deal with. I did not know myself, and I did not know whom to be responsible to. When my mind was obsessed by pain and addiction, my life was largely dictated by people around me and by the circumstances I lived in. There was no real me, or he was unknown. I wanted to do many things, but they originated somewhere outside of me. I really wanted to commit myself to issues larger than life, and I had beautiful dreams about what to do and how to build this world to a better place. I committed myself to these tasks with deep desire and with a burning heart, but they did not last for long. They became a burden and I felt they became issues I had to fight against and not for. I wanted to be responsible and trustworthy, but often I failed.
When I began to recover, I learned that I was a people-pleaser and did many things because other people expected me to do them. My choices were largely based on guilt or shame. I decided to stop doing every single thing that I did due to guilt, only to notice that nothing remained. I was awe-struck. Nothing remained. I had nothing that I could truly call my own. I had lived my whole live fulfilling the expectations of other people. I cried much, and I kept asking, "How could I find something, just anything, that I want just because of my own sake?" It took a long time, and finally I found one thing: I wanted to collect all CDs a certain band had recorded. When I found it, I cried even more, for two reasons: firstly, I finally found something just for me, and secondly, what I found was so unimportant and so meaningless. I felt much joy and much sadness. I found a small part of me, and the part was nothing. I still cry when I remember it. It was a start of a long journey as my heart gradually began to unfold and my inner child began to express himself weakly and silently. I learned to respect his shy and helpless voice as he began to wish for something. He was used to give up his wishes and be beaten if he dared to ask for anything just for himself.
We can be responsible only if there is someone who can be responsible and someone to be responsible to. If we donít know who we are, there is no one who can be responsible. If we donít have our own dreams, there is no one to be responsible to, except other people, but we can not own the dreams of other people if our hearts are empty. ĎOurí dreams will then merely be a burden to us. When our commitments spring from our own dreams, responsibility becomes a joy, and we live a life that truly satisfies us.
My life did not have much structure either. When I was alone, I drifted from one thing to another, and daily routines were almost non-existent. I did not know what I wanted, and what I wanted was often dictated by avoidance of pain. I was restless, and began to do something in the hope that it would be enjoyable. After engaging myself in an activity for an hour or two, I was even more restless and I wanted to do something else. I drifted from an issue to another in the middle of unfinished projects. I was good at planning new projects, and I had long to-do lists which kept on growing all the time. Looking at the lists made me desperate, although most of the things on them were issues I wanted to do - and yet did not want to do. Looking back, the way I lived my life was dictated by pain, or avoidance of it. Nothing was at rest inside the person that I was. There was no way to impose pleasant structure or responsibility in my life, since I had no internal structure.
When I began to heal, my life lost even the insignificant structure it previously had. I decided to avoid many responsibilities and just be there for myself. For more than a year, I did not want to make commitments, expect those related to therapy and healing. All I knew was my pain, my sorrows and my healing to be. I began to live for myself, although at that time it was also dictated by pain. I drifted from an issue to another one, crying and being desperate. Yet, in the middle of sorrows I felt the awakening of a new life within. My self began to awaken and I experienced life inside my heart. At the moment I am at rest in most of the tasks I do, and I can peacefully surrender myself to whatever I am doing. There is no anxious need to be somewhere else, doing something else and experiencing something else. There is someone inside me who wants to be responsible, and someone who can be responsible.
For us, the first steps of responsibility may be to commit ourselves to healing and to detach from external issues. We need to realize that addictive relief harms us and prevents us from healing. Instead of escaping our pain to a relief, we need to learn to face it. We also need to learn to forgive ourselves if we fail, and we must learn to cut the cords that bind us to self-pity or shame if we fail. We need to learn to sit still with our pain in order to let go of it. We must talk about our pain as much as we need to. We need to learn new ways of handling our pain, like drawing, talking, writing, creating web-sites and feeling our feelings. We also need to learn to avoid circumstances that would provoke our search for relief, until we become healed and can safely live in them. We should educate ourselves concerning recovery and human nature in general. All this is necessary, and enough - in the beginning.
We also have to understand that there is much more to do than merely let go of our pain and to become free from the bindings to our past hurts. We have to learn to live in a new way that builds a healthy life for us. We need to learn to take care of our physical, mental and spiritual needs. We have relieved our child within from his prison, and he is about to step out of it. We should not just leave him standing there looking at the world when it passes him by. We need to own our power to live, and it means being responsible for ourselves. We need to take a look at our finances, our friends, our work, our hobbies, our education and the whole world around us. Where does it lead to? If we merely detach without forming new, healthy bonds, we will become isolated. If we tear down the old structures without building and renovating, our lives will look like abandoned cities. We need to build new buildings, plant new parks and turn our lives into attractive places. We can do this when we respect the city and consider it worth of good care.
We have rejected and neglected ourselves for a long time, and taking good care of ourselves may feel strange. Our life was dictated by avoidance of pain and looking for relief, but what do we do now when the pain ceases? The answer may be that we donít know. I did not know. I had many thoughts, but to actually do them felt strange. It was strange. I did not do it before, and I had to learn. Facing my pain was somehow natural and familiar, since I was used to pain. Letting go was natural since I was used to loss, and feeling pain made me feel alive. I knew that I existed when I felt pain and cried. My inner world changed and I stepped into another world. Now I was in front of a totally unknown task of building a life, a real life. I had spent much of my life in fallacy, living somewhere else than in the reality of life. What is life? How should I react to it? How do I live in a painless world? What on earth do I do? These were tough questions, and I had no answers. I guess this is why I began to build a website and to write this book. I did not know other ways to live. My life was still revolving around my past, and in order to leave the circles I had to find something new.
When I let go of pain, guilt and shame, my life lost much of its driving power. Why should I do anything? Why bother? There were some pleasant things to do, but not many, and they would not considerably advance my life. There was no reason to advance it. I was at rest and enjoyed the quietness of just being me. It was a good time and I deserved to rest after all the years in restlessness. Life kept pushing and pulling, but I thought, "Why bother?" It is good to be here, and to be still. I rested. Gradually I began to enjoy new things and I began to dream. I began to think that I deserved something. Not just simple things, but something Great. I deserved to be respected, not because of what I do or donít do, but because I am me. I deserved my own respect. I understood that letting go of pain does not grant me a new life. It grants me a possibility for a new life. I had much to learn, and I still do.
We are responsible for ourselves and to ourselves, but we are not responsible for other people. We are responsible to them, and they may be responsible to us for their commitments. If we are responsible for other people, we are responsible for correcting their mistakes, and preventing them from living as free and responsible persons. We will introduce dependency, and we will become codependents - which we are used to. If we are responsible to others, we own our place as people who are free to choose their involvements with others. We decide what we want to do and then stick with it. We are also free to change our involvements, and not to endure due to guilt. We are free, and other people are free. Other people are responsible to us for their commitments, and nothing else. To love is to be responsible, but not to control, manipulate or please in ways that undermine responsibility and introduce dependency. To love is also to be compassionate and understanding, but in ways that respect the dignity of other people, and in ways that show that we believe in their own ability to take care of themselves - whether they want to take care of themselves or not. We cannot command them to want to take care of themselves, and if we enable them to live a dysfunctional life, we bring in dependency and codependency. If we try to be responsible for others, we introduce irresponsibility. Our efforts are then not only wasted time and energy, but also harmful to all partakers. It is also impossible to truly listen to other people as long as we intend to control or direct them. We can listen to them without raising our defenses only when we restfully accept them, and we can hear them only when we donít have hidden expectations or plans. If we want to commit ourselves to love other people, our responsibility is to become healed so that we can lower our defenses and love people as they are, and not as we think they should be. We become safe persons by owning our responsibility for ourselves.
In order to find rest, to see our dreams come true, and to love, we need to do our best in the following areas: self-awareness, self-realization and letting go of ourselves. They are delicately intertwined and necessary in order to live a gratifying life. Whenever we lose one of them, we lose much of our life. They hold up each other, and eventually we should see progress in all three areas. Yet, we can not realize ourselves if we are not aware of ourselves. In this case self-realization would be other-realization. We can not let go of ourselves if we experience pain or fears, since they cause us to protect ourselves, leading to selfish behavior. We can let go of ourselves only when it is a conscious part of our self-realization. Letting go of ourselves is not self-sacrifice, but an essential aspect of loving, which we choose to do in order to serve and authenticate other people. The one who loves is the willing servant and not the sacrificial martyr. The willing servant brings and experiences joy and happiness, but the self-sacrificing martyr makes other people feel miserable, and he knows no joy.
Self-awareness means that we are aware of our internal messages, especially feelings and goals. Our feelings inform us about our personal relationship with the reality and other people. They are our own property, and probably we feel a unique combination of feelings, which nobody else experiences. Our feelings are a significant part of our uniqueness. Our opinions, our actions and our goals as such are more objective, and other people can analyze them with some objectiveness. They could even say that some of them are 'right' or 'wrong', which can not be said about feelings. Our feelings tell us whether we are doing well or not, unlike our goals or opinions. Our behavior can be considered as appropriate or inappropriate, but our feelings are always appropriate. Our behavior may also tell us something about ourselves, but only when we look at it carefully, listening to our feelings and expectations. Our goals can be our own authentic choices, or they can be externally induced. Some of them may be compensatory, some due to guilt, and some even externally enforced. We will learn to know our goals when we listen to feelings associated with them.
The next list emphasizes the importance of self-awareness /Lessons in Loving, Philip St. Romain/: You are in danger of becoming an addict if your lifestyle exhibits the following characteristics.
Chapter 3 dealt with listening to ourselves, especially to our painful feelings and memories. We need to learn to listen to the joyful messages with same attention, since they tell us about issues we like. We will find our joy and our dreams when we listen to our joyful messages. We ask the same questions that we asked when we dealt with painful messages, and we learn what brings us joy, and why. We learn to know our joyful side, and the joyful side of the reality - not by merely feeling joy when it comes up, but by finding our dreams through our joys.
Daily writing has become one of my best ways to get to know myself. Actually, I don't write every day, but 3-5 times per week. I begin with my feelings, or any thought that is on top of the list. I try to write without pausing, but I don't consider it as a rule. I write what comes out naturally, and without analyzing it. I let my writing guide itself. Sometimes I may write only a few sentences, at other times many pages. Whenever I feel myself uncomfortable, I write. Many times, in the middle of writing whatever comes out of my mind, I have felt that what I just wrote, was extremely important. At times, I have felt a cold shudder in my back when I discovered what I wrote. I have learned many lessons, and they have produced much joy. When writing, I don't have to try to 'dig' into experiencing anxiety or any other feeling as I used to. I have learned that the issues giving birth to unpleasant feelings can surface with much less pain during writing.
We learn to know ourselves also through mirroring of other people. However, this requires that we can lower our defenses and have an attitude of openness and learning. Before we can do it, we need to feel ourselves safe and to be able to truly listen to other people - not just their words, but their whole personality. We need to be able to let go of ourselves, our fixed expectations and assumptions of what people say. We need to let go of ourselves. Sometimes I write also after a meaningful encountering, whether it was pleasant or not. I try to think it over, especially in terms of attitudes, feelings, expectations and assumptions - and what the other person really communicated and what I really communicated; not just what I tried to communicate. People see our behavior and they hear our words, but they do not read our mind. Did I communicate what I thought? Did the other person really communicate what I thought, or did I assume something? Many times I have noticed that I had fixed assumptions. By learning to know my assumptions, I have become open to getting to know other people. When we are not aware of our interpretations and assumptions, we take them for granted and learn nothing new.
Another important component of self-awareness is reading. When we read, we can weigh our opinions and perceptions against the ideas of other people - and not just anyone, but people who have important thoughts and ideas. I read much, and often I read the same texts or books many times. It is wonderful to notice that many things I have read and wanted to own, have become a part of me. I also understand texts I have read long ago in new and deeper ways, and it gives me much joy to see the progress I have made.
We should commit ourselves to learning to know ourselves. All feelings have good reasons to be there, and as long as we don't know why they appear, we don't know ourselves or our personal relationship with the world. To become restfully aware of ourselves is our most important responsibility to ourselves and to people around us. When we are contented with ourselves and accept ourselves and our place, people close to us will see something they would like to own, too. They will feel themselves accepted and they can rest with us. We will love with healing love merely by being present as ourselves.
Self-awareness requires work, at least exercise, until it becomes a natural attitude. We have spent a long time unconsciously reacting to other people and life - actually reacting to our unconscious feelings, memories and expectations. We did not know that we actually reacted to our unaware mind, doing whatever it presented to us. We can become the masters of our mind first by healing the pain within, and then learning to know what happens inside ourselves. Letting go of pain makes our life much easier, but it does not grant us self-awareness. Listening to ourselves and giving us what we need leads to a joyous life and to new adventures each day. One of the greatest joys I have come to know is the joy of being me; and it can not be taken away.
Self-realization can be spontaneous or intended. The more we become integrated into a single peaceful whole, the more they will point to the same direction: bringing our personality and purpose to fruition. We can see our wholeness or lack of it by putting our spontaneous and planned self-realization side by side. The more we get to know our needs, dreams and expectations, the more our whole conduct becomes a harmonious entity, leading us towards the fulfillment of our life. Yet, purposeful self-realization is not a guaranteed outcome of self-awareness. Self-awareness without self-realization leaves us knowing what we want, but it does not grant us what we want. We need to start moving, but not motivated by anxiety or impatience. Planned self-realization is directed by goals, but we can not realize our goals directly. We can plan our moves and our actions, but seldom do they guarantee the desired outcome. We can not control, but we can influence. We can restfully move forwards when we accept the difference between controlling and influencing.
Since we can not assure the consequences of our actions, taking actions means risking. This is especially true in issues where other people are involved. When we take risks, we need faith and trust, and willingness - or at least readiness - to accept outcomes different from our expectations. We can be prepared for unexpected outcomes when we understand that our goals are not the primary issue; it is our needs or dreams. We may learn that in order to see our goals become fulfilled, we need to acquire new attitudes, new knowledge or new skills. We do not merely reach our goals - our goals shape us, were they conscious or not. Actually, this is true for every issue in our life. Marshall McLuhan has written an excellent book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, which I recommend to everyone interested in becoming more aware on how our environment affects us. When we are aware on the signals we receive from our everyday environment, we can choose to accept or reject the values behind them.
Our spontaneous actions tell us much about our personality. One of the greatest joys is to see our spontaneous actions becoming integrated with our dreams, since it demonstrates that healing has taken place. We can not change our spontaneous self-realization by willful forcing, since it would mean that we are not spontaneous, but controlling ourselves. Self-awareness is the key to changing our spontaneous side, but it does not come easily. Lessons in Loving by Philip St. Romain is a good example of a workbook, and it has been important to me in becoming more aware of myself and in changing my spontaneous self-realization. Again, the keyword here is surrender, and not controlling. To be free to love spontaneously, without fears, is a joy worth of striving for. Letting go of controlling, and healing the shame and fears that give rise to need to control ourselves, opens a new, happy, joyous and free life to us.
An important issue concerning self-realization is rest. There will be times when we have to do more than our part, but in the long run we can not live a healthy life if we exhaust ourselves mentally, physically or spiritually. In some cases we may have to set limits to other people and their demands, and also to our own expectations. It requires humility to admit that we can not do everything that we are asked to do, or even everything we would like to do. The more we learn to know ourselves and are able to detach from external issues, the more we can peacefully rest. We can rest only when our mind is peaceful and free from addictive quest for relief. A relief does not give us rest. There are different ways to rest, and for different purposes. Being still and just relaxing is a very effective way to rest. There are also times when we can not merely be still, and then e.g. watching a good movie or participating in any other meaningful activity can help to forget the busy world for a while. Yet, they are not a substitute for merely letting go and being there. If we can not be still with ourselves, it may be a sign of an anxiety that needs to be released. We rest when our mind rests and when our body rests. As long as they are driven by uneasiness, we can not truly rest.
There will be times when we need much rest, and times when we can work hard for long periods of time. When we are aware of ourselves - our body and mind, we can rest when necessary, and then we will have power to do what is necessary. If we are tired, we can not see things clearly, we do our tasks less carefully, and the end result will be less gratifying life. Few things are so important that they are worth of sacrificing rest. Whatever we want, we can not be happy with it if we are exhausted, but we can be happy without many things when we are at rest. If we constantly feel ourselves tired or anxious, it might be a good reason to look at our life with the eyes of detaching. How do we define ourselves? Do we really need the things we strive for? Would we be happy with lower levels of perfection? Wouldnít it be fun just to let go and relax? Who am I? If we can not be happy without something, we may not be able to be happy when we have it. After having strived for something for a long time, we may learn that it did not grant us what we wanted, and we have wasted our life running after delusions. If we have rested and enjoyed simple life, we have experienced something very basic of being alive, and we will not regret it. Life is an experience all along the way, and not only at the end of it, when we have collected everything we ever dreamt of. At the time of death, it would be awful to realize that we did not live. Besides, we donít know when the time of eternal goodbyes is at hand. If we donít rest and enjoy the present moment, there is no one else to blame. We can rest only when we own our power to be ourselves, and when we do not define ourselves according to external issues.
When doing something, our basic attitude should be "Whatever you do, do it well". This concerns also rest. When we do something that we donít want to do well, we should ask if it is worth of doing at all. There may be some externally induced goals or tasks we have to do, for example related to work, but why would we want to do them poorly? More often than not, the answer is that we are not in peace with ourselves. Then our main concern is to find inner peace, and not to do our job poorly. We might need to take some time for ourselves, in order to do our part well. This is a matter of self-awareness, and of asking ourselves, "What is my concern right now?" When we find inner peace, we can peacefully surrender to everything we are doing, and we want to take good care of it. In the end, we will see ourselves realized and incarnated in everything we do, even when washing the floors, sitting in meetings, or saying Ďhelloí. When we are peaceful, there is no anxious need to be somewhere else, to do something else and to experience something else. We are, and we are truly present in whatever we do, and we are happy.
As long as our self-realization springs from love, we don't have to worry about it. Love towards ourselves and love towards other people will lead us to do the right things at the right time. We will have much to learn, and I have noticed that the more I desire to love, the more I understand that I am a novice of love. This causes twofold feelings: Happiness in understanding that I am growing in love, and some kind of peaceful, yet troubled realization that I have so much to learn. I know my life will be an adventure in learning to love. What amazes me most is the experience that I can love. Yet, at the same time I know I have much to learn in how to love, but it brings me much joy since I know I can learn.
Self-love is the opposite of selfishness. When we love ourselves, we take time for healing and for handling our pains and fears. Unless we do so, they will control us and we have to raise our defenses, which leads to selfish behavior. Selfishness is driven by hate, contempt, fears and shame, - in short by shadows and darkness. There is no love in it. When we have faced our shadows, and when we are not afraid of bringing any potential hidden shadows to the light, we are free to love. For us, there will be nothing that would make us raise our defenses, and nothing that would change our attitude towards other people or ourselves. When we admit that every tiny detail of our life can be brought to the service of love, everything will lead us towards love. Everything that we have gone through has then been surrendered to our Higher Power, and he will use our whole history to love other people. We don't have to worry about it. When we wish to surrender to love, however weakly, love will take care of the rest. But if we wish to surrender to love, we will learn that our life will not be easy. We will face our incompleteness, many sorrows and tears, since it is not possible to love without learning, growing and suffering. Love by definition is giving ourselves away, and it does not come easily. Yet, there is no joy comparable to it. It will leave us in our place in the deepest possible way, and we will know what belonging is. When we love, we are one with the spirit of the universe and one with the reality of the most beautiful poems and songs of the humankind.
Love respects the dignity and freedom of other people. Love respects the dignity and freedom of ourselves. Whenever we lose our freedom in codependency, in pleasing other people, or in controlling them, we cease to love, since we become the focus of our attention. We can do our own part, but we let go of the outcome. We respect other people, and they are free to choose what they do with it, but we donít waste our time and efforts in doing something that leads nowhere. We may continue even if something does not seem to produce the results we hoped for, if it springs from the wholeness of our heart and dreams, since reaching the unreachable takes time. Many issues can not be accomplished in one generation, but they can never be accomplished without dreamers and without people who believe in what seems to be impossible. Each of us has his own dreams, his own self-awareness and self-realization. Each of us will find his dreams, and the ways to struggle towards them. What we know now will be surpassed by what we know tomorrow. No dream is too heroic if Life has given it in our heart. If it feels too grand for us, let us admit that our Higher Power knows us better than we do, and let us pursue towards what seems to be unachievable at the moment. Each of us has his unique combinations of gifts and talents, which we can use to love other people and to make this world a better place for all of us. This requires that we know ourselves. We are as weak as our greatest weakness, but we are as strong as our greatest strength. When we love humbly with our weaknesses, and boldly with our strengths, we live a life destined to heal the wounds of the world.
Detach. Detach from the people you love, since they do not define you. Give them your heart, but not your soul. Detach from your self-awareness, since it does not define you. Detach from your self-realization, since it does not define you. You are defined by your self, and it is much greater than your self-consciousness or your works.
We can learn to know ourselves, and we can learn to love in ways that make people feel themselves loved. But we can not plan our actions beforehand. Love listens to people in order to be with them, and it touches them with a healing touch. Who can plan it beforehand? We do not have fixed solutions that we could prepare in advance to be handed out at appropriate moments. We stand in front of another soul, living and acting in a now-moment. Unless we forget our aspirations, we can not be fully present in the now. Unless we forget ourselves, we can not truly hear what the other person discloses. We can not have prepared answers. Is there even a question? If not, an answer may not be appropriate.
We love the world when we enjoy it, we love ourselves when we enjoy ourselves, and we love other people when we enjoy being with them. We may have our wounds, and we may hurt other people and ourselves. Other people may have their wounds, and they may hurt us or themselves. Yet we can not live without risking. We are incomplete, and other people are incomplete. Forgiveness paves the way to living fully. We may meet people who forgive, and people who donít forgive. Even so, no one is our enemy but worth of great love. When we pursue towards our dreams, we can not control how they unfold or disappear. Every dream is worth of its life. Some dreams may die or they may find a new expression. Others will stay. Life may call us to do one thing today and another thing tomorrow. Even the vanished dreams are still alive if they touched the life of no more than one person. They changed at least us. We do not know when a seed we sowed begins to grow and bear fruit. All we need to do is to sow the best seeds we can. When we are too tired to sow, we rest and pray for the seeds we sowed.
Life is not in our hands, but we are in the hands of life. Whatever comes on our way, was destined for us - joy or sorrow, love or pain. They are our lessons in loving. They are a manifestation of the love of our Higher Power as he so greatly shares his wisdom and goodness. Sometimes we may need to cross dark forests to arrive at open pastures. We will know. Our heart will know, and it will lead us the right way towards our dreams.
I guess I have written what I wanted. If I ever write another book, I hope it will be about love. Yet, I donít know, and I am happy to leave it open. I close this book with the following prayer:
May your life be filled with dreams
and your eyes with tears of joy.
May your sorrows cleanse you heart
and your losses reveal what is priceless.
May you rest in the love of God
and be proud of yourself.
Out of Pain