Some time ago I had a transformative session with a man I've referred to as "Matthew" in these posts. We had been working together for quite some time and had uncovered layer upon layer of false beliefs that were contributing to his unhappiness. But in this particular session we uncovered what appeared to be the core belief that was keeping him stuck.
I began as I always do, helping him drop down into his emotional body and encouraging him to take several deep breaths into his solar plexus. With eyes closed, I asked him to sit with whatever arose from that emotional place. Immediately a wave of sadness emerged. I asked if the sadness was past or present and he said "present." Then I asked, "Are there any thoughts that are creating this sadness?" To which he responded, "Just the same one; that I'm in not in love with my bride."
Now, I help my clients work with this thought every day. It's one of the core false beliefs that needs to be replaced before people can accept their relationship and continue to move toward marriage. I've written extensively about the difference between real love and infatuation and have dedicated an entire lesson to it in my Conscious Weddings E-Course. And Matthew and I had talked about it in nearly every session we had had over the previous 18 months. But there was a deeper layer to the belief that emerged in our session, a tenor in his voice that led me to inquire further. With clarity and firmness, I said to him, "Your commitment to this thought indicates that you believe that someone else is responsible for your pain and joy. The belief that your pain means that you don't love her points to the fact that you haven't assumed full responsibility for your well-being."
He took a deep breath. His breath quivered as he inhaled and exhaled again. He didn't say a word. He just breathed this way for several minutes. At last he said, "Yes, that's true. I don't know how to take responsibility for my happiness. It's always come from someone else: approval from my parents, teachers, or bosses, the high of a new romance, the first 18 months with my bride. I don't know how to do it."
He was right; he didn't know how to do it. Matthew had been so dependent on others' approval for his sense of self-worth that he had failed to develop a healthy, adult and a spiritual connection that would provide him with his own internally derived sense of well-being. We worked each week to help him with this aspect of his growth, but the work was slow and difficult. It was like growing a whole new self while simultaneously extracting the wounded self by the roots. The process was made more challenging because Matthew is a very smart, left-brained thinker who feels almost completely disconnected from his spiritual self. In making others' responsible for igniting his inner spark and without the spiritual connection, he often felt adrift and lonely.
Still, there's always hope. He faithfully showed up at our weekly appointment with good will and a desire to heal. He was open to trying to connect to his own source of inner wisdom which he envisioned as a "Wise Man" or a lightening bolt. He understood what needed to occur and he knew that no one -- not his parents, his boss, and certainly not his partner -- could ignite the spark that would make him feel alive and purposeful.
Just after that session I read a poem that reminded me of Matthew -- and many others who find their way to my work and are attached to the belief that someone else can "make me happy" (which, again, often comes in the form of, "I'm not in love", which really means "If I was with a different partner, I would feel more alive, less anxious, more passionate.") Poetry can often express more succinctly and truthfully what prose cannot, so I would like to share it with you today. Perhaps it will help guide you back to trusting in your capacity to ignite your inner spark:
That he might find his flint
lost years ago;
slipped from his pocket
when he climbed into the limbs
of the great oak
to meet his first love.
He did not miss it then.
Her light was enough.
And he could not have known
that he couldn't warm herself
at the fire of another forever;
or that standing in her light
he would cast so large a shadow.
It was the sorrowing season that brought him to his knees.
Even the oak bowed low
beneath the weight of that winter.
Some of its limbs broken
and his own heart,
fenced behind its icicled cage of ribs,
twisted like a bow drill between his frozen fingers.
Twisting, twisting and still no spark.
This is my prayer then:
that he bend his face to the frosted ground,
his falling tears
the first spring thaw,
unearthing what he's thought he's lost
from its muddled sleep.
This is my prayer:
That he might find his flint.
Strike it against steel.
Burst into Holy Flame.
- J. Esme Jel'enedra
Postscript: Matthew has been happily married for over a year now, and he and his wife are expecting their first child. While he still struggles with his addiction to approval, he's much more adept at pulling the projection off of his wife and taking responsibility for his own happiness or unhappiness.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her e-courses and her website. She has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, "Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes", visit her website at http://conscious-transitions.com. And if you're suffering from relationship anxiety - whether dating, engaged, or married - give yourself the gift of the Conscious Weddings E-Course: From Anxiety to Serenity.