Here we completely identify with our wounds and can't see past them. This is a time in life where life has completely fallen apart, a time so painful that you just want it to stop. What makes this pain worse is that our shame / shadow self compounds the pain because of negative beliefs / scripts we believe during this stage in life. But if we have people loving on us, believing in us, carrying hope for us, we can ultimately experience our wounds differently.
It is during this stage that we must face our wounds and shame. We have to begin to address / name them because if we don't, we will not progress. Our shame can be understood as negative beliefs we have picked up along the way that are specific to our own story and experiences. These shame scripts can look like the following: I'm bad, I'm too much, I'm a failure, I'm permanently damaged, I'm not lovable, I'm not good enough, I don't belong, and I should have done something.
But the wound is our doorway...or really a trap door where we ultimately fall down into the next stage. This is the time in our lives, if we can allow ourself (smaller self) to get out of the way, that real transformation begins to take place. This has to happen below the surface, in ways we do not understand nor see. If we could see what was happening, we would try to block / run from it entirely or change it to fit our limited viewpoint. Gerald May in his book Dark Night of the Soul highlights a saying from Saint John of the Cross which states "God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness, because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery/transformation/God/grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.
To move forward and out of this stage will require two things. First, we have to see and name our shadow self. Secondly, and this goes against our nature, we have to be loved by others and stop our own striving. We need others holding up the loving light that we only see partially, from a our viewpoint of shame, because of our distorted view. Our shame seems real and is real to us, but it is not Real. We must have others loving on us in a way that is no longer performance based. What we need is to be loved for who we are, not what we do, nor what we think.
It is from these few people that we get to feel the Radical love of God. It usually comes from only a few people throughout our life. For me personally, I can count on one hand these individuals that loved me in such a profound way that you feel loves lasting impression. It feels both embarrassing and comforting at the same time. For they see all of you and what it is that you are becoming. They actually see you and call forth the truths that are within you, like seeds in the beginning stages of germination. I remember a moment a few years ago that so marks this stage. It was while sitting with my own therapist...that all I could do was look down and hold my hands over my eyes in an attempt to hide. Then this dear person looks at me so graciously and tells me she sees me and that what she sees is something opposite of my shame scripts. What she saw was the real and authentic me and I realized I was ok just as I am. This "seeing" was the beginning a new experience and new version to an old story.
In Robert Bly's wonderful book Iron John he describes this experience by the following...
"I think we can regard therapy, when it is good, as a waiting by the pond. Each time we dip our wound into that water, we get nourishment, and the strength to go on further in the process. Initiation, then, does not mean ascending above the wound, nor remaining numbly inside it; but the process lies in knowing how or when, in the presence of the mentor, to dip it in the water. The wound that hurts us so much we "involuntarily" dip it in water, we have to regard as a gift. How would the boy in our story have found out about his genius if he had not been wounded? Those with no wounds are the unluckiest of all. Our story...says that where a man's [woman's] wound is, that is where his [her] genius will be...that is precisely the place for which we will give our major gift to the community."
Life lived authentically, in the shadowlands, begins to open us to a something much bigger...a much Larger Self. A Self that has always resided in us. It is that ever still small voice that we begin to ever so faintly hear. It is that ever still small voice that we begin to hear louder and louder. It is one that we will so begin to trust but we must let go any remaining outside attachments. We must experience one last stage of dying before it takes place. We begin to start to accept our emptiness and powerlessness. But we will not able to fully accept until we enter and live in the next stage of "I am powerless" which will be discussed in the next blog.