Self Hate: A deeply debilitating condition

I always believed that I couldn’t give my opinion or assert myself with others because it would cause conflict. That I have no place (perhaps as a woman), to speak out and therefore whenever I did speak out, I did so from a place of resistance and anxiety. This was pretty much always badly received and often did cause conflict. This then drove the belief that I must be a awful person who was always in the wrong. And this, caused me to deeply despise myself. 

This despising of self was the engine that drove this vicious cycle, the self despising meaning I could never speak from an empowered stand point and so the cycle begins again. That despising, a land mine within my belly, hidden by a fire blanket of shame. 

The only solution available being to bend over backwards to be nice to people and avoiding asserting myself, and if I did, doing so in an apologetic way. Which just leaves one open to abuse and bullying. 

I’m telling this story because since uncovering this in myself, I suddenly see the same thing going on for others, especially women. This seems to be the disempowered state that many people live in. But it also means we walk around with a load of suppressed anger at our inability to have a voice.

This cycle of disempowerment has until very recently been my reality. It took a perfect shit storm of consequences for me to be able to see it. It took an extraordinary amount of courage to hold myself in enough awareness for that perfect storm not to sink me. Enough awareness to allow myself to see the shame and then the despising of self that lay below it. And then the self compassion to realise that this is not who I am, but the conditioning that I live by. Conditioning laid down in childhood. A story who’s sell by date is long gone. 

In the thick of all this I was lucky enough to have the council of an elder. Who simply said, well, if you speak from a place of resistance within yourself, it will always be resisted by those who receive it and, yes, that will cause conflict. She said that the only way out of this was to find my voice and speak from an empowered place within me. That then people would be happy to accept what I say. My god! Was it really that simple. Could it possibly be true that I wasn’t the monster I thought I was. That I didn’t need to hide under shame anymore?

I have lived my whole life in this vicious cycle of self hate and now for the first time I am starting to experience life after self hate. Before, life felt like a war zone, everyone and every situation a potential trigger to feeling like I was a terrible person. Now a new calmness has arisen, the world isn’t such a terrifying place, the war it seems is over. 

Having said that, I’m still finding out how to speak from an empowered place. One thing I am learning is that when anxiety is there, that I speak of that first. To let the other person know, this is scary for me. To allow myself to be vulnerable in that way, for it is only from a place of vulnerability, my elder assures me, that true power can arise. 

The self hate and shame, thank goodness has gone. We can, glory be to the goddess, rewrite the conditioned self. This does take skill though, which must be learnt. This, the skill of allowing ourselves to fully be in, embody, the agonising pain of negative self beliefs while holding the knowledge that they are not who we are. In that holding we create a window of possibility because the human body carries a wild intelligence, which if we let it will purify the most deadly of poisons and bring us to the land of true freedom.

A call to Curiosity: How we approach the world… is everything

I have recently been at the sharp end of someone else’s agenda and it has been extraordinary to see what chaos and conflict we create for ourselves and others when we approach the world in this way.

Have you ever stopped to think about this? I hadn’t. Western culture teaches us to always have an agenda, it teaches us to go and get what we want. It’s an obligation if we are to fulfil the capitalist definition of success. We have some moral structure around this in order to try and negate the fallout it creates, but fallout is inevitable, unavoidable. When we have an agenda, someone or something is inevitably in our way, and it becomes very difficult to treat that person or thing (such as our earth) with our full humanity. When we have an agenda we ‘other’ people, we project and transfer a story onto them and we loose our curiosity about them. This is the ground of conflict. This is the ground of colonialism. This is the ground of oppression.

But do we need to approach our lives with an agenda? Or do our agendas actually prevent us from coming to know who we really are and grow as human beings? I say yes, absolutely!

Have you ever fallen in love and started fantasising about how the relationship might pan out? Suddenly you find yourself superimposing a story of the future upon that person, entirely without their knowledge or permission. What happens in that moment is our curiosity about that person is eclipsed by our agenda. This might be a subconscious agenda but it is an agenda no less. In that moment we have stopped allowing life to unfold and we have imposed an idea upon it, and this will come to erode the relationship because agendas create controlling behaviours, agendas are our attempt to control life. But life doesn’t want to be controlled. Life in fact when we stop trying to control it becomes the most extraordinary adventure beyond our wildest dreams. But we don’t know this, because we tend to live from our fears and hide behind our agendas, and our fears create plenty of subconscious agendas!

There is much to rail against in ourselves with this, for not having an agenda in the modern world is frowned upon. “What are you going to do with your life?!” But this is all part of the power-over paradigm as Pat MacCabe calls it, that is causing such destruction in our world. We are so engrained in this agenda led paradigm that we never think to stop and ask, what does life want to do with me? We are unable to find the stillness to be curious, even about ourselves, about who we might be, beyond the bounds of our conditioning.

Curiosity is one of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves, the world and each other, while agendas engrain implicit biases. There are startling examples of this in colonialism. I recently read Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe about pre-colonial agriculture in Australia, taken from first settler accounts. It is clear from these accounts that the Aboriginal peoples of Australia had very sophisticated forms of agriculture and the soils were rich and healthy. But despite the evidence in-front of their eyes and in their very own journal writings of grain production, hay stoops, etc, the settlers chose to continue to see these peoples as savage hunter-gatherers.

In my explorations of trying to live a soul-led, rather than mind-led life, I find that curiosity is key. Vision-fast guides Bill Plotkin and Geneen Maria Haugen teach that wandering in the world with wonder, curiosity and awe is of the highest order. This helps us start to experience the world other than through the lenses of the mind. The extraordinary thing is that the world responds in kind, curiosity it seems, invites curiosity. Animals and birds are unthreatened by us when we are once more like the innocent child, full of wonder, and other beings often approach us expressing their curiosity. 

From this start point, it has been my experience, that a whole new world unfolds. Another dimension to life opens up. This is because the mind can only interpret the world. Through the mind we can only experience life as an interpretation, like watching a film. However approaching the world from a fully embodied state, as curiosity fosters, brings us back to the ground of primary experience. We are no longer watching the film but we are in it. We then have the possibility to experience life and the world around us with a greater intensity and depth of sensory perception. The intelligence of each and every cell is awoken and the body becomes like a satellite receiver, picking up on the subtle influxes that previously we were not able to perceive.

Like surfing a wave, there is no possibility to control how the wave behaves, only the possibility to catch the wave and ride it. And so it is with life, curiosity is the first step towards letting life live us, rather than us living life. This is a baby step towards a way of being more akin to the indigenous cultures of the world who know/knew how to live in harmony with each other and the planet. They know/knew how to hear the wild other through their bodies and therefore know themselves in the context of their world.