Those of us who were raised in an environment of emotional stress often felt the need to protect ourselves from our painful childhood as we matured. As children, we craved unconditional love and acceptance, but we were often pressured to look and act a certain way in order to earn the love we so desperately needed. We were fraught with insecurities but weren’t given the voice or the platform to express them.
A visit to the dentist taught us that a shot of Novocain would numb the pain of the drill, and we applied that lesson to our emotions. We learned to hide and deny the ugly parts of ourselves to survive and avoid rejection. We learned from others how to turn off the bad feelings by turning on our phones, computers and other distractions.
In school, we were taught to be good boys and girls who sat nicely and always smiled. We learned that jealousy, anger and dissatisfaction with our lot was tantamount to weakness and even a lack of faith. We were left torn between the reality of what we were, and the ideal of what we were taught that we should be.
As we got older, these emotions could no longer be ignored, and they began to emerge from the unconscious. We found that we had trouble sleeping. We developed anxiety and panic attacks. We now needed higher doses of “Novocain” to drown out the pain that was trying to resurface. We once again made an effort to express ourselves, but again our feelings were met with apathy or even criticism by family and friends. We learned that expressing our pain would only make the pain worse, so we eventually learned to push it back down into the unconscious. The pain was temporarily subdued, but we continued to lose faith in our ability to cope.
Parents and teachers started to notice a hollow look in our eyes. It seemed that we now wanted only to sleep or stare at our phones. Baffled that this promising child from such a fine home wasn’t pursuing the successes they believed we deserved, they medicated us in an attempt to ‘fix’ the problem, or they sent us to therapy to be ‘healed’ and to undo a situation that they themselves helped to create.
The therapists themselves were also focused on solving our ‘problem’ so we could get back to doing and accomplishing. The hope being that once we started ‘succeeding’, we would finally be happy.
Unfortunately, the therapy has not helped. The issue was never an inability to ‘do’, rather an inability to BE. What was taken away from us at a young age was the freedom to BE like human BEINGS. All the accomplishments in the world can’t affect this deepest desire to just be accepted and allowed to BE who we are.
One may ask, how is one meant to change if he accepts and loves himself as he is? What is the motivation for movement and growth in such a paradigm?
When we interact with ourselves from a place of acceptance and understanding, we give ourselves permission to be human. We understand that, like all humans, we can be both flawed and wonderful at the same time. We begin to appreciate and make room for the darker parts of our personalities, allowing ourselves opportunities to learn to cope with them. Instead of operating from desperation, we operate from inspiration. We are no longer needy; we can enjoy and share ourselves with the world without the need for approval and validation. This acceptance frees up the energy we had been expending on proving ourselves and is redirected to developing who we truly are.
In my experience, when we are given space to be genuinely human, this initiates the healing process. There is now emotional energy to revisit the pain that was suppressed for so long, and expressing our deepest fears becomes easier. This method of ‘allowance’ begins the process of reconnecting with our true selves. In so doing, we build the emotional strength needed for true growth and success in our lives.
As a therapist, my practice is based on mindful self-acceptance and human allowance. I spend time with my clients cultivating a deep respect for the truths of their own reality. We create space together to explore, understand, and express feelings that were never allowed to be witnessed or heard. The disowned parts of themselves that were once shunned are now given the attention they deserve—making way to learn who they truly are—an experience they have so desperately craved.
About the Author
Judah Katz is a Jerusalem-based therapist who empowers clients to process life’s challenges through self-acceptance and mindfulness utilizing a holistic approach to psychotherapy.
To set an appointment or to join a mindfulness group contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 052-312-6021.