Step 3: Learned to let go of compulsive self-reliance by reaching out to our higher parent.
—The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children
For some of us, the messages of the COVID-19 precautions are reinforcing a painful message from our childhood that you must do it all by yourself. Compulsive self-reliance—feeling that you must be self-sufficient no matter the cost, and trusting only yourself—may be rearing its head, again in this time of world crisis.
As you hear the directives to socially distance, wear a mask, not leave your home, part of you may be saying, I’m good, I’ve prepared my whole life for this. I can handle this. There’s truth in this. You may know well how to function in a crisis—how to shut down your emotions, stop needing, become a group of only one, focus on enduring, and achieve some measure of safety. This is a skill you have, one that you can’t—and shouldn’t—deny. You know you are a survivor. Good.
But self-reliance tells only part of who you are. You are also a human and a member of a species that yearns for connection. And as skilled as you may be in handling a crisis, sustaining yourself alone in a crisis is another issue. So who can you turn to now that you are isolated? You can begin by reconnecting to your higher parent.
Reaching Out to Your Higher Parent
Your higher parent is that force beyond you that can give you comfort. Think of your higher parent as your personal spiritual first responder. This may be nature, as in Mother Nature, or perhaps you follow an organized religion and a belief in Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed. Perhaps your higher parent is the energy you feel in your recovery group. Connecting with your higher parent can help you not just get through this period, but also find ways of being okay with the circumstances in which you find yourself.
Giving Your Suffering Meaning
I remember being a young girl growing up in New York City, surprised by the random dandelions I would find growing in cement cracks in dark alleyways. They may have grown crooked, but they reached for the light, and they grew as yellow and perky as those that grew in the parks. Just like those dandelions, you can grow and thrive despite your own challenging circumstances. You don’t have to just endure.
By not just gritting through this and facing it alone, but by reflecting on the positive meaning this can have for you, you can grow now, just as you have done in the past during other very difficult periods.
One way to do this is to open yourself to learning the spiritual lessons contained in this, yet another painful experience in your life; and by doing so you give your suffering meaning. What can you learn from the isolation, the break in routine, the loneliness, from being cut off from what was productive and meaningful in your life? How can you give meaning to this pain that is real, and to which you may not see an end?
Hard Pain, Soft Pain
There are two types of pain:
Hard pain, the pain of resistance, the pain we feel when we fight our truth. This is the pain of fear. Hard pain builds a wall around us, making us bitter. We express hard pain through anger.
Soft pain is the pain of healing. This is the pain of mourning and acceptance. Soft pain frees us from the sorrow of our past so we can move forward to face the challenges of today. Soft pain releases our energy and our love. Some Native American groups feel that the highest form of prayer is to shed tears, which we do in accepting and expressing our soft pain.
Exercise for Today:
- You are in pain. Decide how you want to handle it. Do you want to soften your pain? What can you begin now to do this? Would reaching out to your higher parent help?
- Give your suffering meaning. What positive takeaways from your pain can you make now?
Add this practice to your gratitude list.
Make a note in your journal about what works for you, and feel free to share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you.
This is the third of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. I invite you to subscribe to receive updates to this blog—look for future series where I apply my existing work to dealing with the specifics of COVID-19 for those involved in or interested in aspects of recovery—a parenting series based on The Lowdown on Families Who Get High, then one for those dealing with trauma based on Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, followed by (of course) more on resiliency and girly thoughts.
More tips are available on my blog, The Powerful Woman.net, and in my books: Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children, and The Resilient Woman. Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at www.patriciaogorman.com.