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Sacred Psychology of Change
Life as a Voyage of Transformation
by Marilyn C. Barrick, Ph.D.
The Inner Journey of Endings and Beginnings
To dry one's eyes and laugh at a fall,
And baffled, get up and begin again.
Cycles of Change and Self Discovery:
Are You Living Your Life as an Echo?
Some people live a lot of their lives being echoes. Have you ever thought about that? They echo this, they echo that, they echo what they hear from this person, from that person, or on TV. We are not really happy and fulfilled as an echo.
Have you ever gone into a canyon and shouted and heard the echo coming back at you? I remember doing this for the first time as a child in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona and being startled that someone was shouting back at me! It certainly expanded my consciousness and curiosity about how everything works to realize my own voice had gone out into space and was echoing back to me. (This was also a good lesson to me in a spiritual sense, of how everything we send out returns to us. It was an early precursor to my understanding of the law of karma.)
Whether by ourselves or with others, we want to go beyond being the echo of what happened a minute ago. We want to be who we are in the present. From this perspective, aloneness is a gift. When we reach up to hold God’s hand and ask the angels to be with us in each of our life’s dramas, we have precious moments of inner discovery and transformation as we pass through the cycles of change.
When you really think about it, every cycle of change and period of individuation is about self-discovery. It is an opportunity to reflect, to integrate the past and to allow ourselves to grow a little more. Of course, if we shut down when changes come, we don’t grow. And life is all about growing; life is about becoming more and more of who we are and creating more and more of who we can become.
Creation is an ongoing process. Even our physical bodies form and reform over time. As Dr. Margaret Wheatley puts it:
“Although we experience ourselves as a stable form, our body changes frequently. As physician Deepak Chopra likes to explain, our skin is new every month, our liver every six weeks; and even our brain, with all those valuable cells storing acquired knowledge, changes its content of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen about every twelve months. Day after day, as we inhale and exhale, we give off what were our cells, and take in elements from other organisms to create new cells. ‘All of us,’ observes Chopra, ‘are much more like a river than anything frozen in time and space’ (1990). In spite of this exchange, we remain rather constant, due to the organizing function of the information contained in our DNA.”
I believe that even as our cells change and renew on an ongoing basis, so do our souls have their own process of growth and renewal. To me, it’s all about God becoming more of God as life at every level of creation changes and evolves.
Letting go of the old and taking hold of the new is an integral part of living a fruitful and fulfilling life. When we hold on instead of letting go, we pay a big price. Mentally, emotionally and physically we tie ourselves to the past instead of living in the present. Our souls feel stifled and unhappy.
Alive and Well in the Present, We Can Let Go and Move On
I will always remember Natasha, a client of mine in the 1970s. She was in her mid-thirties and came in for therapy because of the overly dependent relationship she still had with her mother, who was a woman in her early sixties. Natasha told me she would not be able to bear it if anything happened to her mother. Her mother was actually in quite good health and was concerned about her daughter’s dependency on her.
Natasha had been separated from her mother as a small child of about six. This was in Europe during World War II, when they were fleeing out of Hungary to escape the Nazi troops. She remembered how terrified she was that she would never see her mother again. She wanted to cry but knew she had to keep on moving with the others or she would die. A kind woman who had been a neighbor took her under her wing, and they made it across the border to safety. Within a few days, Natasha was reunited with her mother, who had also managed to cross the border.
She grew up but remained attached to her mother in a way that was uncomfortable for both of them. She had never forgotten that terrible experience. It was a childhood terror that had dogged her life ever since. As a woman of 37, she came to me for therapy because she realized she had to resolve her past both for her own sake and her mother’s sake. She was still mourning the loss of her mother—who was actually alive and well.
In the course of therapy, Natasha came to realize that holding on to her fear of losing her mother had held her back from marrying and living a full life. I remember the day she made a major turnaround. We were doing inner-child work, and she went through that terrible childhood experience again. She discovered that her inner child still felt bereft and wanted to cling to her mother. Why? Because Natasha had not become the loving adult she needed to be to comfort and protect her own inner child.
Natasha worked hard on staying centered in her loving adult so she could comfort and reassure her inner child. At the end of several sessions, she began to realize that she was capable of mothering herself, that she did not need to continue to mourn the possibility of losing her mother.
She began to practice standing on her own two feet emotionally and making decisions without consulting her mother. As she made progress, her fear began to wane, and she started feeling excited about doing things on her own.
Several months later, Natasha’s mother, Eva, came in for a follow-up session with her daughter. Eva was delighted at the progress Natasha had made. In that session it was as if the shroud that had covered their relationship suddenly disappeared. Natasha hugged her mother and told her how much she loved her and that she was ready to get on with her own life.
Eva hugged her back and heaved a huge sigh of relief. She said, “Little one, you will always be precious to me, but I am so glad you are growing up. I have worried about how attached you have been to me because I will not always be here. And that needs to be all right with you.
“I will always love you as my sweet child, but I have also looked forward to our having an adult friendship. Now it looks like we are going to make that happen. As to the future, I trust God and know that whatever is to come, both of us will be safe in His loving arms. Hasn’t God always looked out for us and protected us?”
Natasha agreed, “Yes, I trust God, and I’m beginning to trust myself. I don’t know what took me so long, but I’m determined to become a whole person. I am going to get on with my life.” Her mother smiled and gave her another hug. Natasha was finally letting go.
Shortly after completing therapy, she married and in quick succession had two children of her own. She laughingly told me, “I am making up for lost time!” She also told me that her relationship with her mother was good and she no longer feared her mother dying. She knew she would miss her mother when she passed on, but she no longer anticipated the return of the terror and despair of her childhood.
She made a very touching comment: “It is so wonderful to be who I am as an adult. I love my husband and children so much. And they love me. Can you imagine that I remained a child of six for thirty years? Please tell anyone else who’s stuck like I was that they can let go and move on. God will help them.”
Is there any element of this life story that is yours as well? How often we perceive an old situation of scary loss as our present reality. When the mother is nowhere to be found, a little child definitely perceives himself or herself as abandoned, lost, all alone. Yet, as adults we can choose to let go of these childhood experiences and resolve the trauma of loss. We can leave the past behind, embrace the present and get on with our life.
Scenarios of Endings and Beginnings in the Whirl of Change
Today people everywhere in the world, particularly in scientific, corporate and high-tech arenas are experiencing the whirl of beginnings and endings. Our mobile society often necessitates leaving friends behind and making new ones. New discoveries push us to let go of old ways of thinking and doing. Many people have gone through a restructuring or reengineering of their job. Endings and beginnings seem to occur more often in our fast-paced societies. Facing change is not easy, but we grow from our experiences as we learn our lessons, look ahead and move on.
Have any of the above scenarios happened to you in the past few years? If so, how did you handle your feelings? It is important to look back on these times and remember what provided you a safety net that helped you stay afloat and the lessons you learned that strengthened you.
Are you claiming a new beginning and feeling good about yourself today? If not, what is holding you back?
If there is a cycle of change, ending or beginning, occurring in your life right now, I suggest that you take a good look at it and try to come to resolution with any underlying feelings. Otherwise, they may drain your energy even as you determine to move forward.
Ask yourself, What aspect of this situation do I still need to resolve? What are my feelings about it? Why is it bothering me? Is there a lesson I need to learn? Is holding on to the past keeping me from embracing today with the full gusto of my passion and capabilities? If so, am I willing and ready to let it go?
Check it out. Maybe you are lonely or disheartened after the breakup of a relationship or upset or discouraged about losing a job or a comfortable way of life. Perhaps you are feeling apprehensive about moving to a new location, saying goodbye to old friends and reaching out to new
people. Or Perhaps you are concerned about future financial stability. Most importantly, maybe you feel you haven’t been true to yourself or you have somehow lost contact with your center.
You may be aware of only a nagging feeling, uncomfortable thought, or sense of unrest in your body that seems related to an ending or beginning in your life—past or present. Whatever has come to mind as you think about these possible scenarios is important to focus on as we continue to explore life as a voyage of transformation.
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