Thursday, January 21, 2010

The ties that bind

This post is a continuation of the theme I explored 2 weeks ago in my post titled, “On letting go”.

I never make New Year’s resolutions, but I do decide on a theme for each year that will inform and inspire all my actions and decisions for that year. Last year (2009) my theme was “Freedom” and I certainly achieved a great deal of freedom from many things last year!

Below is just a small list of some of the things from which I freed myself in 2009:

Freedom from debt and concerns about money
Freedom from the competition, conflict and stress associated with a career in the corporate world
Freedom from my own expectations and the need to achieve, perform or prove myself
Freedom from a number of foods and other chemicals that were not beneficial to my body
Freedom from relationships, situations and possessions that had lost their meaning and value for me
Freedom from fear that expressing myself would lead to ridicule or censure
Freedom from demands to be anything other than my truest, highest self
Freedom and space to discover and express the authentic me

However, over the past few weeks, I have felt somewhat like Gulliver when he awakens only to discover that he is held captive by hundreds of tiny Lilliputian ropes! I suppose that I had, somewhat naively as it turns out, believed that freeing myself from my corporate job and the expectations of myself and others, would mean that I would finally “awaken” into a new life in which I would be free to follow my heart wherever it might lead me. What I now realize is that quitting my job was merely the beginning! There are so many other ties that bind me to the socially sanctioned life, the life that conforms to the expectations and the needs of others. It takes a whole lot of concerted effort to extricate oneself from the responsibilities we so blithely take on when we are striving to meet the expectations of society. I am gradually cutting these ties, one-by-one, but it is an ongoing task that is certainly not easy. In the process I have also discovered that society is definitely NOT going to reward me for showing it the big middle finger!

We are rewarded for buying in, not for cashing out.

Aside from the tangible ties that bind, from which a clearly identifiable process is required in order to release ourselves, there are other invisible, and far more insidious, ties that bind us. It is not always easy to recognise these ties and it is even more difficult to release ourselves from them. These are the ideas we have about ourselves; the roles that we choose to play.

Some of us have an idea that we have to play the role of provider or the role of the person who sacrifices themselves and their happiness for others. Others find their value in seeing themselves as the victim of circumstance or perhaps as the rescuer of others. These ideas and roles are immensely powerful traps that keep us tied to the status quo.

I keep discovering new layers of previously unexamined concepts of self and roles that I have subconsciously believed that I must play in order to be acceptable to myself and to society; in order to be “worthy” of love. These include the roles of being the person who’s always on top of everything and in control of her emotions, her finances, her whole world; the role of the person who is always reliable and who cleans up everyone else’s “mess”; the role of the rescuer and many, many others. Now, there may not, at first glance, appear to be a problem with any of these roles, as, after all, they might seem to be quite positive and affirming, not to mention, useful, roles to play. However, many of these roles may no longer be authentic for the person I am becoming and certainly several of these roles keep me very tightly bound to my old way of being. For someone wishing to find, and become, her most purposeful and highest self, it is appropriate to discard any self-limiting beliefs and ideas. It is also important to interrogate whether the “love”, affirmation and recognition one receives when playing these roles actually contributes to, or detracts from, one’s quest for meaning and purpose. I will explore this theme in a future post.

So, what is on the other side of this process? Hopefully the outcome will be a more authentic, fully actualised self; a person who has discarded fear and pain as motivators. I suppose I’m taking a leap of faith into the unknown with only the gentle guidance of my heart to show me the way. But, if I become still and listen to the quiet voice within, I actually have a sense of knowing about the outcome of this journey. In any case, I am acutely aware that there is really no turning back now.

And so the journey continues…

Next: Being Here Now

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