I recently heard from the mother of a newborn that her baby was considered underweight because her pediatrician’s statistic tables didn’t match her child’s reality. I joked that her child had her first opportunity to practice not living up to the expectations of others.
The mother returned the humor, asking where was I when she was growing up and I, at twice her age, responded that I’d only resolved the issue for myself a week ago and was now free to talk about it. In truth, I’m not sure I have completely purged that old training that I am responsible for the experience of others, but I’m definitely working the recovery steps.
As I write these words I am reflecting on my 1950’s childhood and the pervasive cultural messages. TV shows such as “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” projected the image of correct behavior, with unpleasant consequences (but eventual salvation) for straying off course. Religion declared me imperfect, asked for my time and money to perpetuate the message, and informed me that sacrificing myself for the benefit of others was the proper choice. Benefits to me seemed made of fuzzy promises without much clarification.
The weight of external expectations from parents, schools and peers was intensified by my belief that almost anyone carried more authority than I did, and like a well-trained soldier I delivered without questioning. This pattern of behavior continued into adulthood with me subduing my own senses for the sake of those who might feel challenged by a differing viewpoint, with conflict avoidance high on my list of personal priorities.
My journey has unique qualities to be sure, but many experiences are similar in our collective pasts, including the ways we learned to be someone for someone else. The repression of honest emotion and true expression creates a festering swirl in the dark corners of the unconscious, which eventually will demand attention. If not uncapped with awareness, the releases can be twisted and frightful. Many people recently became concerned that a virus would wreak havoc on humanity, but pandemic can also refer to a general large-scale fear. I’m thinking there are pandemics galore, unrecognized for their sheer numbers like missing the forest for the trees, and all that.
My path of healing has been a relatively gentle one, but these days we are witnessing more of what happens when the lid comes off without awareness. Our planet is undergoing a shift both expected and impossible to control. Healing (a restoration of wholeness) cannot take place while anything remains in the shadows, since all aspects of who we are must be included. What has been repressed is rising, and we sometimes see horrific actions as the fetid energies burst from their containment.
Fortunately, the shifts bring with them new potential. A change of consciousness opens an opportunity to re-frame meanings, because our perception shifts as a result of the change. For example, in the old story of living up to others’ expectations we were taught to be of service in a particular way, usually illustrated by giving of one’s energy for a cause. Give your time, give your money, give your life. To be clear, I am not speaking of voluntary actions that feed our souls, but rather the agendas born of systems that demand we set aside our beings for the sake of behaviors designed to support the system.
In the old story of duality, our consciousness gets split into self/other. The shift we are making is creating a new experience for us. In the old story, integrity is seen as how well we live up to expected moral or ethical principles decided by another. In the new story, integrity is about authentically expressing ourselves from the core of our true being. We may hold a memory of what this expression feels like from our experiences in the world of spirit, but we are now creating the possibility of such experiences in a material world. To me, that’s a magnificent achievement.
Service takes on a different meaning in the new story, because we are no longer focused on meeting external demands. It has been said that the greatest gift we can give is the gift of ourselves, and I would say that in the new reality that statement is precisely true. Perhaps the greatest service we can offer each other these days is to continue moving into greater alignment with our own souls and expressing the gift of ourselves into the world.