This morning I heard someone say that extreme self-reliance is actually a trauma response that prevents us asking for help. It’s linked to early life trauma that tells the sufferer that asking anyone else for anything is dangerous: emotionally, physically, psychologically.
Aren’t our brains amazing though, that they rewire themselves to protect us from that trauma happening again? Problem is, when we’re out of the traumatic situation, an extreme self-reliant response no longer serves us and can cause more harm than good – especially for ourselves. In fact, as much as we who have suffered from this affliction may try to tell ourselves it’s a sign of strength, it’s the opposite. Our disconnection to others and telling ourselves that it’s us against the world corrode us from within.
How then, do we develop the ability to rely on others for support in a way that empowers and strengthens us and them?
It’s hard when we’re stuck telling anyone who asks whether we’re okay that: “I’m fine”. At our most vulnerable our egos are fragile, so asking for help may make us feel like failures, helpless or worse – we may run the risk of asking for help and someone refuses! What then?!
It explains why we’re least likely to ask for the very support we need when we’re like this. Can you imagine how many people went through this very experience over the last two years? More than a handful, I’ll wager! Myself included.
For me it’s something inspired by my darling friend Mei: remembering and releasing.
Remembering that we’re all connected to one another and to something greater than ourselves strengthens us from the inside out. That’s the strength I want to talk about here, because it’s something that anyone can build with practice. Strength that’s enduring and able to be replenished because its source is indefatigable. All I need to do is remember to plug in for my top up.
How do we do that though?
First, let me explain what I mean by something greater than ourselves. It might be a cause, a group of like-minded individuals, a spiritual belief, nature, our families…just something outside of ourselves that is greater than us. When we have that and we might have more than one, we can plug into that power source for the strength we need to be our best selves. We can go back out into the world replenished and nourished from the inside out.
It requires faith or trust in those people, entities, or things. It reminds us that we are part of something: it right sizes us so we’re not overstating or understating our individual importance. We have value and we are of value simply by being alive. And this is the power that sees us through tough times.
Being still, connecting to breath using meditation or prayer or intention enables us to also release or hand over the stuff we need to empty us out. What stuff? It might be my day, meetings, my business, my family, my relationships, my marriage, my health…whatever so that I feel that something has my back and is doing for me that which I can’t do for myself. Which doesn’t mean I sit around waiting! It just means I can do my part and the rest will be revealed the way it’s meant to.
My release practice is on waking, I imagine myself handing “stuff” over to an angel type image that scoops whatever I hand over into their wings and soaks it in golden light. I made it up but it works for me and it saves me from feeling overwhelmed and helpless.
But there have been times in my life (quite a few) when I haven’t had this connection. Before I found this practice, my son was my reason for getting out of bed in the morning, for working hard, for going without now in order to have in future.
And it worked for a while.
For years in fact.
While he may think of himself as a rock god now, he is a person with needs too and for me to be able to give him what he deserves, his mum needed a different energy source in order to have more to give.
Having something greater than ourselves to surrender to enables us to trust that life will be okay without us “running the show”. For many of us, we live our lives as if we’re the actor, the director, the lighting technician, the producer all at once. We’re trying to control all aspects and usually, not getting the results we’d like.
Control is an illusion.
While we have our part to play, that’s all we have – our part.
Knowing what that is and knowing what it isn’t is part of gaining strength. Others may call it humility. Being able to hand a problem, a situation, a relationship, an outcome to something greater than us in the faith that it will work out for the best means taking our hands off the wheel and letting something greater drive for a while.
Time to exhale and trust. And what a relief!
For many of us, meditation is our access to inner strength. Practicing being present and connecting to source energy/the universe/spirit/nature etc builds up an inner well of peace and calm that becomes our strength. Replenished daily, it’s a well we can continue to draw from and it changes our neurology in the process so that we handle challenges from a place of centredness, with quiet strength that can access our own wisdom and provide us with inspiration.
Inner strength when cultivated and deepened means that when all about us is going awry or going well, we remain solid internally. Like a blade of grass, we are able to bend when the wind is strong but we don’t break: we stay firmly rooted, yet flexible.
That is strength. I wish it for us all.