Yet I have been very aware that even now unless I consciously connect with my heart, if I do not smile and say “hello” to the world around me, I am in a grey space, the “background noise” of my life. At peace, but not happy or joyful. Also, from time to time I am the victim of a sneak attack by my ego-mind; nothing major that would alert me, but something subtle that snuck in that nevertheless did considerable damage.
Recently I read that what is necessary to heal the hurt we experience as a child is to open ourselves to experiencing the pain, not emotionally but through our mindfulness, our awareness. When I read that, I realized that when I had opened up my heart and embraced all my experiences, including the hurtful ones quite specifically, I had not felt the pain.
So when I meditated the other morning, that was what I was going to do. But what I found when I revisited those experiences, was that I didn’t feel any pain. The experiences were just there. I also remembered that when I asked my inner child what he was feeling, he didn’t say he was in pain; he just said he wanted to feel loved unconditionally and be free of guilt and shame. And then I realized that as far as I could remember, I never cried as a child in response to any of these experiences. I would imagine I was sad, but I remember going on with my life, not crying.
My initial reaction to this combination of experiences/awarenesses was that my ego-mind had built such an impenetrable wall between me and that pain, that even now I could not breach it; I could not access that pain, could not experience it. And so I thought I had to find some way to go deeper and penetrate that wall. After all, I thought, I must have experienced pain as a child.
But when I shared these thoughts with my friend, he said that when we experience a hurt, we may be sad but we usually move on. It’s the ego-mind that takes hold of that hurt and builds it into an emotion that causes us suffering.
I had been aware recently, as I wrote in a previous post, of the strength and wisdom my inner child must have had to enable me to survive the hurts I experienced and end up the good, compassionate person that I am. So when my friend spoke, I had a revelation.
I knew right then that the reason why I didn’t experience the pain of my youth when I sat with it, or why I don’t remember crying as a child or adolescent was not because my mind had set up an impenetrable wall, but because in fact I did not experience such pain. Yes I was hurt and was sad; and yes, the ego-mind turned that into various dysfunctional reactions that caused me great suffering. But the actual experiences did not cause me grief.
So the reality is that my childhood was not the terrible experience I had “remembered.” This was yet another trick of my ego-mind. I was undoubtedly somewhat sad because I felt unloved by my father. Which was itself again the story my mind created to explain certain experiences (despite his many actions that spoke of his love and admiration), and which I later learned was completely false. And the emotional reactions of my ego-mind to that perceived hurt certainly caused me great suffering. But despite these feelings I was strong and resilient both as a child and adult.
This has changed my understanding of my wounded inner child. It is indeed the avatar of my ego-mind. But it was not the totality of my childhood; an inner child co-existed with it that just soldiered through life as it was.
In fact throughout my life, although my ego-mind controlled aspects of my life and I suffered greatly, at the same time I went through my life purposefully and achieved much. I did not wallow in sadness or self-pity. I was a survivor.
I have written in the past that I was a contradiction as an adult. From the outside I appeared to have it all … professional success, a stable love relationship, loving friends … and yet inside I was in turmoil. I never understood why those wonderful things in my life didn’t carry more weight in my self-esteem. But I understand now that my ego-mind totally discounted all those positive aspects of my life; instead it continued the narrative that I was unloved, unworthy of love, not even liked. And so that was how I saw myself.
I understand now that my being as a child and adult was dichotomized. While I was generally not in touch with my true self (except when he whispered in my ear) I know now that I was not totally under the control of my ego-mind. I walked under a grey cloud and was the victim of considerable dysfunction, yet at the same time in many respects I led a valuable and productive life. I offered joy and made a difference in people’s lives. That was only possible in the face of such suffering because my true self gave me strength. That is the reality of my life.
This awareness of how my ego-mind robbed me of the feeling that I was loved and wanted all those years and of the self-esteem that would have provided me is powerful. I was aware rationally of the facts, that I seemed to be two people in one skin, but I could not use that awareness to counter the force of my ego-mind.
I have written previously that the ego-mind is the devil, (see my post, “Wounded, Our Ego-Mind Becomes the Devil). The awareness that I have come to, described in this post, is enough to make me cry.
When I had understood early in my practice that my ego-mind had formed and controlled me as I identified with it, I had said, “ok.” But somehow realizing that there was a self that persevered through my childhood and adult years, building a solid life, yet so hampered by the narrative of my ego-mind and robbed of the self-esteem of feeling loved and wanted is beyond sad. I just want to hug myself.
Part of me would like to say to this devil, “a pox on you,” or exorcise it. So much strife has it caused me. But my ego-mind is part of me and I have compassion for how it came to be. What this new knowledge does is strengthen my resolve to continue to defang it through the power of love, for myself and the world around me. By opening up my heart and embracing all aspects of my being and experience. By greeting myself and the world around me with a smile. And I can now rewrite, in the sense of reinterpret, the history of my life.