But it is indeed the choices we make after we manage to leap out of the traumatic frying pans of our families of origin and into the fire of our own kindling. Sure enough, years of observing our caregiving models—and learning thereby what it means to be nurtured--will teach us to nurture ourselves in the same way. If we learned that perfection is the only success, or that blind obedience trumps creativity, or that love or respect or dignity are only granted when arbitrary and unilateral conditions are met, then that can be how we are inclined to treat ourselves. And we will expect no less from the others we encounter within the greater humanity. Small wonder that misanthropy begets misanthropes.
There may be periods when we can distract ourselves from the self-imposed torture. There may be months or even years outside the nest when we feel as though we have escaped the soul-crushing cages of our youth; when we allow ourselves to explore and think and feel, more or less unencumbered by the twisted values we were inculcated with. But there is often a fall from this lofty perch of twenty-something exploration. For distraction cannot be sustained indefinitely. Eventually, we have to look inward and see that those muddy parental footprints still mark our path.
Wayne Dyer, therapist, lecturer, and renowned author of Your Erroneous Zones and many other books about self-work, would surely say it all comes down to perspective, attitude, and will. Here are three Dyer quotes that relate to our discussion of self-imposed emotional conditions (be they positive or negative):
if you like the person you're alone with.
you define yourself.
Hostile people live in a hostile world.
I had a client say to me today, "Tell me about self-love. What is that?" She was not the first. Not only have many of us been deprived of the things all mammals need from their parents: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and Allowing, we have been deprived of the knowledge that we must have these things in abundance at all cost if we are to live fulfilling lives. And we can't go back in time and get them from our emotionally stunted parents, or from the teachers who thought discipline has nothing to do with leadership, or from role models who were just as deprived as we were. We can get some of these thing, these "5 A's of Attachment," from those special individuals who have an abundance of love to share. One problem is that the only way to access this love is to show that we are lovable and the only way to show that we are lovable is to show that we love ourselves. How can we do that if we don't know how? Yes, that is the ultimate problem.
Let's look again at those three colorful quotes above. In the first, we are admonished to like ourselves. But what's to like? If you don't know the answer to this question, ask your friends. If you don't have friends, then ask yourself. Start small. If you can't think of anything, call me. I may not know you, but I already know what is likable about you. Hell, I even know what's lovable! If you can figure out how to like yourself, then to love yourself, you're halfway to enlightenment. Halfway to heaven. Halfway to making the world a better place.
The third quote sums up the whole perspective/attitude/will formula for psychic success. But this sentiment, this advice, was said in a slightly different way back around 1930 by French poet, Paul Éluard: “There is another world and it is this one.”
This week, can we see things differently? Can we see ourselves differently? Can we treat ourselves differently? Can we treat the world differently? Is there a difference between how we treat the world, and how we treat ourselves? Will better treatment impose better outcomes? You tell me.