Yesterday evening I was lucky enough to interview a Shaman for the magazine that I work for. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had. I won’t go into detail here (I’ll save those for the article I’m writing), but one of the things that stood out about our conversation was his focus on personal positivity and releasing negative energy. After my hour with the Shaman, I felt energised and positive (and slightly overwhelmed) and determined to take a look at my attitude to myself.
The Shaman I spoke to has described self-criticism as like ‘drinking poison’, which absolutely makes sense to me. Whilst I am generally forgiving of other people, one of the things that I am very guilty of is sabotaging myself with negative thoughts and often quite vitriolic self-criticism. On bad days (and even on good days, if I’m honest) I tell myself that E had affairs because I was too fat, too unattractive, too critical, too busy with the kids, too difficult to live with and too inattentive to his needs. I loathe myself if I eat too much and I torture myself daily over the fact that I ‘should’ be slimmer, eat more healthily, do more exercise, be more organised, and generally be ‘better’ and be ‘more’ than I am. When the kids are upset about their Dad, I worry that it’s my fault – that I’ve made their pain worse by being too negative about him – that maybe I should have done more to ensure they could have a relationship with him. I even blame myself for the fact that E and my split has been so difficult – other people manage to speak like grown-ups when they split up, maybe it’s my fault that E and I communicate by email only? If I drop a cup, it’s because I’m ‘fat and clumsy.’ If I make a mistake at work, it’s because I’m ‘not good enough’. Every day, in so many little, and not so little ways, I put myself down, make myself feel bad about myself, sabotage myself.
Frankly, if I overhead someone talking to someone I cared about (or even a total stranger), in the way I talk to myself I’d be horrified and would be wading in to defend them. I’m beginning to realise that, perhaps, I need to be as kind in my attitude towards myself as I try to be towards other people. I’ve been pondering on this for a while, but my conversation with the Shaman made it crystal clear to me that I’ve sort of been poisoning my own well. I’m surrounded by people that love me, but the primary resource I have is myself, the only thing that I have to fall back on is me, so that’s the one thing I should be nurturing and appreciating. It will be a hard habit to break, but I’m determined to start being kinder to and more accepting of myself – to give myself a break.
A lot of my negativity towards myself manifests itself in my dreams. My dreams are horrendous. They are hugely stressful – in them I’m always trying to find my way home, or find a safe, secure, place and I encounter obstacle after obstacle and unfairness after unfairness. There are deaths, threats and constant danger and confusion. I wake frequently and when I wake, I’m grateful to be out of the dream world I was in. I try to shake the dream, and then drift off again into another exhausting dream. There are mornings when I feel like I’ve been running an emotional and physical marathon in my sleep.
There is one particular dream that really upsets me, it recurs regularly and always leaves me exhausted. In this dream someone I thought loved me turns on me and hates me for some reason (it’s usually E, occasionally it’s my parents) and is turning everyone who cares about me against me. Everything in the dream is unfair, I’ve done nothing wrong and I keep trying and trying to explain, but nobody will listen and everyone is increasingly nasty to me. I end up crying and shouting and protesting my innocence to a crowd of people who just won’t listen, who hate me who think I’m the most despicable person in the world. I usually wake up from this dream with tears streaming down my face and it can take me most of the following morning to shake the feeling it leaves me with.
Now, I don’t know if this is a result of my conversation with the Shaman, but last night I had this dream again and (ignoring for a moment that in this version of the dream E and P had a baby girl that they called Theresa), in it I took control and turned the tables on the person being nasty to me. As per previous dreams everyone was still against me, but now instead of crying and trying to convince people of my innocence, I ignored them and I hit right back at E.
I was amazing! I was so eloquent. I told E carefully and clearly (and a bit shoutily) how glad I was that he was gone. I told him how wonderful my life was without him. I told him how compete I was now. I told him I didn’t bloody well care what he said or what he thought. I told him what a complete and utter tosser he was and that it was an absolute bloody mystery to everyone who’d met him how someone with his complete lack of looks and personality had pulled anyone, let alone someone as brilliant as me. I told him that he should be grateful to me that his kids had anything to do with him and that their acceptance of P and Theresa (!!) was entirely down to me. I then totally shut down P (who tried to interrupt and defend E) by telling her that she’d been lied to and needed to wake up to herself and to the person she was with. I then walked off with my head held high.
Frankly, Dream Me rocked.
I woke up feeling strangely empowered and decided I needed to channel a bit more Dream Me in real life (I also wondered if I should have a quiet word with the kids about baby names, just in case P ever changes her mind about having children).
I’m not sure that shouting at other people in my dreams is quite the way the Shaman would recommend releasing the negative energy that I’ve let build up in myself (I’m guessing he would recommend a more peaceful approach), but it was definitely a start – even if it was only in a dream.