Call your abandoned self home
you're not too big, too loud, too much, too late, too quiet, too old, too ... anything
I’m working on a book proposal - which means, for me, that I’m circling around two questions:
What’s uniquely my own? What do I have to say that arises from my own experience, my own story and insight?
What do I want to say? What do I need to say? And how do I want to say it?
The other question on my mind is, why now? The timing of this project - out of left field just as I was really opening up my memoir project - is suspicious. So, I’m listening.
I am listening for my book.
Listening for its shape, its center and its name.
I am listening, the way that little me (pictured below) listened - eager, open, willing to hear what is asking to be heard.
I am scanning the oceanic everything I might offer with my spirit eye, watching aspects of my work dolphin up and present themselves. Are you the one?
(Photo: Little me, by a friend tree. Probably at camp at Lake Tiorati, near Harriman State Park. NY)
Here’s this week’s post:
You may have seen a shorter version of this is on my Facebook page. I brought it over here to explore it further with you.
People who've grown up being told they are too big, too loud, too much, too… anything, learn early how to pretend to be .... something else.
If you're told you're too slow, you speed up. If you’re told you’re too big, you shrink yourself. Too loud, you go quiet. Too much, you spent your days comparing - measuring, trying not to take up more than your allotment of space, of conversation, of life.
When you’re too much (or not enough) you grow up with the sense that something is wrong with you. "I'm just slow...." This colors your sense of self every step of the way - in school, at work, in relationships.
At some point, you feel bad enough about yourself that you seek help, sharing your concerns with a friend or a well-meaning coach who tells you: “Just be yourself.”
But by then, 'your self' is out of reach, hidden deep inside where no one will be bothered by it.
This self is one of the first things I notice when I’m working with a client. I sense it calling to me - and to the client - in myriad ways. That nagging sense that something is missing, some part of themselves, some experience they sense they could be having if only that … something was where it should be. It’s like a missing puzzle piece, a blank spot in a photograph.
And something is missing - the natural, unfettered self. The part that we shut down or hid away when we believed it was too much or not enough: the rejected, abandoned self.
When I was growing up, I received two messages about what was wrong with me. I was too smart, too intuitive, too clever for my own good and I took up too much space.
In my childhood home, 'Too Smart Amy” would share an idea and, rather than acknowledging her, my father did this kind of switcheroo where he took her idea and made it his own. It might be something Too Smart Amy had observed, something from her own experience, her own body, her own intuition. It might be something she’d read in a book or figured out for herself. Sources didn’t matter because nothing Too Smart Amy said was acknowledged. Instead Dad (almost always) said, “Oh, yes, Alan Watts said that” or “Oh yes, that’s from the (some man’s name) school of psychology or philosophy. There were many versions of this, including the one where, the next night at the dinner table, Dad shared Too Smart Amy’s idea word for word as if it was his own.
There was another Amy who got plenty of praise: Compliant, Nice/Sweet Amy. If Too Smart Amy dared to claim ownership of her own ideas, she was shamed with some version of, “What do you know?” or “Don’t be so big for your britches.” That’s when Compliant/ Nice/Sweet Amy showed up. She didn’t risk sharing her idea. She was just the right size for her britches.
With my mother, my ‘too bigness’ manifested as, “Your demand’ (sic: your need) overwhelms me.” Your need for mothering, for approval, for listening, for holding, or even, for food, is too much for me. Tone it down.
From this, I learned that my needs overwhelmed people. In fact, at age 65, I still have trouble sensing my needs - and often, my body expresses them when my mind doesn’t make the connection. For example, I may get a headache when what I really needed (two hours ago) was water or sleep or a walk around the farm. If I have an emotional need - someone to listen, someone to hold me - it is still almost always preceded by shame or followed by guilt (or both) because, remember: my needs overwhelm people.
One of my only childhood memories is the time when I was so filled with feeling (rage, sadness, fear) that I began to expand like a huge balloon until I filled the entire room. In this memory, I became buoyant, a huge inflated balloon me who floated up to the ceiling. In reality, I was a little girl who didn’t know how to self-regulate (how to contain and express her emotions). A child of (probably) 8, who needed her mother to hold her and tell her it was okay to feel mad, okay to feel … anything. Instead, in this memory/dream, her mother collapsed on the floor and crawled away from the big scary Amy monster, crying, “Don’t hurt me!”
Looking back, I’m guessing this was a dream - and I’m guessing it followed an incident where little me expressed some big feeling. I doubt that my mother, who rarely showed her feelings, actually collapsed on the floor. And I certainly didn’t inflate like a balloon and float off the floor. What matters is that it felt like that happened. What matters is what little Amy learned from this experience.
She learned that she was “bigger than” her mother and more powerful. She learned that her big feelings hurt her mother. She learned that it was her job to keep herself small and quiet so that didn’t happen again.
From my mother, I got a version of, “Your power overwhelms me.”
From my father, I got, “Your wisdom is invisible to me but it’s handy when I need to inflate myself.”
From both of my parents, I got a confusing mix of powerlessness.
This inflation: I am so big, too big and I need to hide that or I will hurt/overwhelm you.
This deflation: Nothing I say matters.
All of this hampers my ability to fully show up. When I try to shine, my inner gatekeepers activate. Little Amy warns me I could hurt someone and Smart Amy comforts me with: Why bother? No one will listen to you anyway.
We all carry versions of this too much/not enough in our energy body. What has helped me and my clients is to bring the lost and abandoned aspects of ourselves back home. And give them some love.
Most of our lost selves are children - 3 or 4, 5 or 6. If we welcome our younger selves and we listen to them, we learn so much about our own needs - then and now.
Imagine your younger self climbing up on your lap. Hold them in your arms and soothe any fears or tears. Ask them questions about themselves. Imagine yourself listening to what they share. Allow yourself to feel with them. Notice if what they share has relevance in your present life and circumstances. Ask them to remind you when you’re not taking care of yourself, when you are ‘masking’ - pretending to be stronger than you are, for example, or, as in my story, when I’m pretending to be less intelligent or less powerful than I am.
I’ve noticed, as I listen to these inner children, that, almost always, they want to talk about the same four things:
Approval - I need to know that I am welcome.
Space - I need more space (physical space, emotional space, space in the conversation)
Attention - I need to be listened to
Permission and Safety - I need to know that it’s safe and that I’m allowed to express myself and to be who I really am, to need what I really need.
These are the things you can listen for as you work with one of these inner children - and be ready to offer to them. You can say things like:
You are always welcome here.
You are allowed to take up as much space as you need.
I am here for you ,and willing to listen (to your creative idea, your question or your sadness.)
Your sadness (or other emotion) is not too much for me. I can handle it. I am here for you.
Know that, as you work this way, you are actively engaging an aspect of your own self image: a part of you that was rejected, silenced, repressed or hurt is emerging and asking to reintegrate. As these ‘parts’ come home, your sense of self will change. You will see yourself and experience yourself differently. As the ‘parts’ are witnessed, honored and heart, they will quiet down. You will feel more quiet inside - less reactive.
The world of self-finding is a form of soul retreival. Doing it changed and illuminated my life. My younger selves show up in dreams, talking to me (usually as other young people - but I know who they are). They show up in my waking life - offering reminders to take care of myself.
Welcome yourself home. Every part of you.
If I could offer you one piece of advice, it would be: Go and find the parts of yourself that you rejected as too fast, too loud, too quiet, too much, not enough, too big, too small, too young, too old, too … anything and call them home. You're the only person who can offer the acceptance, approval, love and attention they need. The only one who can welcome them home. When you do, they’ll bring all the gifts you forgot you had: your smarts, your strength, your sense of humor. Gifts that will brighten your world now - and into the future.
A final thought: You’re not too anything. Nothing is wrong with you - and if your fullness causes someone to squash you, know that they are struggling inside their own ‘too’ something. They are letting you know how uncomfortable THEY feel and how powerless to change. They’re trying to perfect the world (and you) so they can feel better - but their discomfort isn’t yours to fix or solve or carry. It’s theirs. Give it back to them with love.
At the bottom of it all, your heart wants to integrate and welcome every part of you. Every deep, wide, big, smart, beautiful expression of self. Your heart is ready at any time to welcome all of you home.
(originally posted on Facebook)
Talk with me. One-on-one, on a sliding scale.
When the ground is trembly, we need to hold one another in blessing. This is one of the ways I do my blessing work. Here’s a link to my appointment calendar. I invite you to ask me questions about my work. If my rates are outside your range, I invite you to work with me at the rate you can afford without hardship.
Listen to my (kind of a) Podcast
in which, I read and comment on my work
I imagine you listening as you drive, as you make dinner or sort the laundry.
Here’s the link to the “kind of a podcasts” I’ve done so far.
Read my unpublished Chapters
a quiet secret stash of my memoir work
It’s quiet cuz I’m just getting brave enough to share it. It’s secret cuz… same reason. I’m getting more comfy there so keep checking back. I’m adding new memoir notes, new chapters now. As I add one, the next is already tugging at my sleeve, asking to be shared with you.
Take an online workshop
Spiral Journey 2023 begins in December
A year of weekly zoom calls. The power of a small group. The interweaving of stories. The emergence of your wisdom. The sharing of your medicine. This is soul work where all receive the blessing of the circle. Guided meditation, journaling and, lots of discussion. Shoot me an email to get on the waiting list.
Sunday Sanctuary returns this fall
Sundays at noon. Guided meditation. No discussion.
Join for free or make a donation of your choice to support the work.
Registration required. Join here.
Soul Caller Salon is opening in 2023
A series of shorter workshops, including:
The Gift of Imagery
The way of Radiance
The Pose of Perfect Love
If you’re interested in any of these offerings, respond to this email with any questions or if you wanna be on the mailing list.
may you enjoy these last days of summer,
may you get out into these emerging days of fall.
Becoming Real. Notes from the field. is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.