Today’s article was inspired by a post by Respite From Sociopathic Behaviour. Stating a fact I believe to be absolutely true, the post says:
“After narcissistic abuse there is light, life and love. Do not live in fear of the past – it didn’t last. YOU did!”
It made me smile – because these days I absolutely know this to be true. Believe me, there have been countless times when I could never even have imagined I would be able to experience any of those things again. The dark times have been overwhelming – not only after I escaped and realised the truth about my relationship, but also, as I now recognize, during the times I thought I was happy living with my ex.
In those days, though, I had no idea what I was dealing with. Then again, as I now realize, in those days I also had no idea who I was myself. In those days I saw myself as a caring soul whose job it was to put others before myself. To fight their battles. To rescue them. To care for them. To nurture them in the way that I would so like to have been nurtured myself. Don’t get me wrong, I think that in may ways I still am that sort of a person. But there’s a difference now. And that difference is that I now know how to look after me first.
The Perfect Target
When I was first introduced to that concept my instant reaction was to pooh-pooh it as a self-centered approach to life. It was back in 1997 when I was studying to become a Louise Hay Trainer. The main theme of her work is to teach us to love ourselves – exactly as we are. Yes, including the wrinkles, dimples, failings, and bad stuff… all of it. Despite my immediate recoil about the idea, I came to understand that far from it being a selfish way of thinking, once we truly focus first on loving ourselves, then we can be even more loving and authentic with others. So, OK Louise, I agreed back then, and I still agree today.
Those were the days before my ex had even entered my life. Those were the days when I felt I was on top of my emotional and spiritual game. I was confident. I was grounded. I believed that I’d worked through all of my issues. I liked myself and I was proud of who I had become. The thing was, though, I reckon I still hadn’t quite “got it” when it came to putting myself first. Still driven by the overriding notion that I could give more to others by loving myself more, you see I was still placing my goal externally.
“I’ll be nice to myself so that…” Yes, the whole concept made perfect sense to me, but somehow (as I have only come to realize over the past couple of years) I had managed to skew it to fit my still not wholly resolved perspective about my own self-worth. Hmmm… yes, just as my ex used a text-book sociopathic approach with me, I was also the text-book perfect target.
Carry On Regardless
You see, in the process of loving myself only so that I could give more to others, I had no real notion of how to measure my own well-being. So I didn’t heed the signs when my energy levels were depleted – instead I would just keep going regardless. I didn’t notice when my needs were no longer met – instead I would just keep going regardless. I had no idea that my chains were tightening in a deadly cycle of emotional abuse – instead I would just keep going regardless.
Having the strength to keep going regardless of the situation is, I believe, a great skill to have in your toolbox. But as with any tool, it must be used with care and intention. Yes, with intention. Because it’s our focus that will determine the result of our efforts – no matter how finely tuned the instrument we use to achieve it.
What I’ve learned since becoming free from my ex, is that the place to focus – in actual fact the only place to focus – is on what is happening within myself at any given moment, and how it aligns with the core of my being. What do I mean by the core? Well, in a nutshell, it’s the very essence of who I am – it’s the good stuff that makes me tick. It’s what drives me. It’s my soul, if you like, and despite all my years of training, it’s only recently that I’ve fully understood what that means.
For me, my soul’s ambition is all about experiencing more joy in my life. It’s about growing my internal “joy bubble of light” and thereby achieving every other goal that is important to me. Giving and receiving love, sharing with others, playing my part, adding to the greater good of us and the planet. These are all “sub-goals” that must, by default, be achieved if I focus on my own core driver.
It still means that I gain huge satisfaction from helping others. It still means that I am focused on developing my skills so that I can continue to work with other people. It still means that I am devoted to caring for others. None of that has changed. But the manner in which I approach these areas has most certainly changed – and the results have, interestingly, improved ten-fold.
Because the more I focus on growing my own light from within, the more able I am to shine for others. The more I check whether my joy-bubble is growing or shrinking in any situation, the more I can choose healthful circumstances that are authentic both to me and other people. The more I tune in to what is happening for me, the more I have to offer to the world. And now, finally, I believe I understand on a cellular level exactly what Louise Hay was teaching me all those years ago.
Just Because I Can
Finally I have woken up to the idea that I have an internal guidance system – an emotional and spiritual Sat Nav if you like. And you know what? It’s been there all the time – I just hadn’t noticed it and I certainly hadn’t switched it on! The more I tune in to it, the better I’m able to guide myself through everyday living. If my joy is shrinking, it is a sign that I need to do something different – move away from a person or situation, stop doing something, or start doing something. It doesn’t tell me what to do, it just warns me that there is something else I can do to improve my experience.
My internal Sat Nav has also resulted in a much more freedom – because I’ve taken off the restrictions that used to bind me. Restrictions or negative thinking, I’ve found, are just one of the things that can cause my internal light to diminish.
So these days I allow myself to choose to do things for no other reason other than “just because I can”. If I fancy going for a walk in the middle of the afternoon, then I will do it – just because I can. It means I come back to my work happier, refreshed, and of course more able to perform. If I fancy a long bath of an evening, I’ll shut out the world by locking the front door and turning off the phone – just because I can. It means that when I’m done, I can give my full, happily relaxed focus to anyone who may have called while I was soaking in the tub.
I’ve learned that there doesn’t even have to be a good excuse for doing things that make me feel good. I don’t have to “earn” something that enhances my feelings of joy. Neither does there need to be any nagging feelings of guilt.
I thoroughly believe that every single one of us has this light within us – we just may not have noticed. I also believe that our light, our joy, our sunshine, our soul – whatever you want to call it – is so pure and so filled with love and kindness, that by nurturing our light we can only ever achieve loving results. For ourselves and for others.
Just yesterday, my great friend Judi sent me an email that made me giggle. She’d just received some good news out of the blue and decided she’d do something to celebrate.
“So I opened a bottle of wine” she wrote “and I never do that at lunchtime! But today I have – because I can. And what’s more, I have a glass beside me right now!”
Cheers! Here’s to all of us. Here’s to healing. Here’s to freedom. Here’s to life. Let’s grab all of it with both hands – Just because we can!