Guest blogger C. Ellori Hart contributes a moving piece about how a myriad of anxieties can mask the real source of our uneasiness. It’s only when we get to the actual reason for being anxious that we can heal, she says.
“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
I did not wake up one day and decide that I was going to search for the truth. I wish it were that poignant but it was not. It was a host or anxieties that led me to intentionally seek the truth; anxieties that would kidnap me and keep my mind busy with many fears…medical issues, our children’s safety to the point of ridiculous control, highway driving, keeping everyone around me happy.
These fears did a beautiful job of protecting me. Instead of looking at the pain that was hiding inside of me, I could ruminate on getting to the next town on back roads, making soup for my depressed friend or improving my immune system so I could avoid a doctor’s office. I say this seriously: I am profoundly grateful to these fears for helping to manage the chaos inside that I was not able to manage myself.
But there came a time when these fears got in the way. Maybe that is when I began to get stronger. Or maybe I just had more space in my life to do the work. But whatever it was, I realized I couldn’t keep living in such a way that I kept growing my fears because of how well I fed them. And so began the painful process of removing these wonderful, well meaning protective layers of fear. Beneath them, I found that I had a story. A painful one that was not nearly as lovely as the one I had falsely lived into for so many years.
You see, I didn’t really know I wasn’t telling the truth to myself. But something in me did know. It kept nudging me as I suffered and sweated the on ramps of highways or the headaches whose origin could only be cancerous. I was lucky to have wonderful people walk this jagged and confusing terrain with me. Eventually, I was able to see the truth inside was not any different than the stories of so many, but it was my story and one that needed my fullest attention. And you know what? It set me free. Or at least I am free-er. I knew the darkness inside and no longer needed to be enslaved to those fears that threatened to snuff out whatever light was left in me. Their job was done.
I am a therapist now and many times a day I am reminded how the truth sets us free because I see it happen 5, 6, 7 times a day. It is wonderful work I do, to be able to sit so humbly in the presence of this reality. Recently, I met with a parent and child. The child had some hard things to say to the parent. The parent, with wisdom, was able to sit and receive all that the child had to say with patience and acceptance and without defense. It was a powerful moment for me as I realized that the kind of presence the parent engaged with the child, is how we need to be with ourselves in order to coax the truth out of hiding.
The truth is respectful; it will not show up unless we invite it. And the truth is a pacifist; it does not respond to the kind of inner violence we do to ourselves when we don’t like what we see. Witnessing to these painful truths requires patience and acceptance. It asks that we be with it without defense.
Every one of us has a story. Maybe it does not contain the violence of abuse or the bitter pain of broken families or any number of horrific things that we experience as part of our human experience, but we do each have our own story. When I could clearly see my story, I no longer had to work so hard to cover it up. And it was not until I could see clearly that I could learn to be fully present in this experience called Life. And that feels a lot like freedom.