Foundations of freedom – freedom to stop

 

ID-100179203.Stuart MilesYou may have thought from my last post that I was ready to move on to bigger and better things such as solving world poverty or finding world peace. However, I have decided this week it was just time to stop for a while. I have taken some time out to bring a little normality into my life by doing such things as having my hair cut, reading, spending some time sitting in the sunshine (even though it is winter here, it is sunny today) and generally doing nothing.

I have the freedom to do that.

Having said that, I do bear in mind the thoughts of a great mind:

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” Nelson Mandela.

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Foundations of freedom – freedom from constraints

 

ID-100150920.Toa55 I embarked on a series of posts on foundations of comfort and in my last post ended up with freedom. The change was more than a subtle change in my thought process. It was profound. In thinking through what I require for security, I realized how much security constrains my freedom. Then I learned that freedom is not a thought process. It is a feeling. I know because that wondrous feeling swept over me when I was not expecting it and yet I recognized it as my long-lost friend and welcomed it in as part of my being.

There are three aspects to my freedom: freedom from constraints; freedom to act; and freedom of capacity. Think of me as a bird in a cage. In order to fly I need to be let out of the cage, I need to want to fly and I need to have the capacity or ability to fly. Without those three things, I cannot fly. I cannot be completely free. Today I will discuss the first aspect.

Freedom from constraints

To be free to fulfill my purposeful life I need the absence of constraints imposed upon me. Those of captivity; coercion; obligations; moral codes; guilt; mental turmoil; fear of danger, harm or pain; financial impediments; influence of other people; rules; restricted access; and attachments.

Some things on this list are not imposed upon me, they are imposed by me. I impose some of my own restraints. As long as I impose them myself, I can also remove them. I cannot enslave myself. The issue comes down to my ability to remove them. That ties in with the freedom of capacity which I will deal with in another post. For now, I will put aside impediments to my freedom imposed by guilt, mental turmoil, financial capacity and some of my own moral codes, and look only at restraints imposed by others or by my situation.

To be free, I need the absence from

I need to be free from fear of danger or harm. I am fortunate to live in Australia, a nation free from slavery, tyranny and oppression. Putting aside the political argument that for some that may not be completely true, I myself feel relatively safe.

I need to be free from pain. In order to be truly free I need the absence of this divorce process (my captivity), the business (my obligation) and the moral code of doing the right thing by others ahead of myself. These are factors blocking my total freedom at the moment. I am working on them.

I need to be free from the restriction of my own requirement for certainty. Only then will I be free to find my new creative self.

On the other hand, now being single, I am enjoying freedoms that I never had before, because -

I am now free from

I am free from the coercion to do things I do not really want to do. Previously I would not have called it coercion, I would have called it compromise. Whatever it is called, that obligation to fit in with another person all the time is now gone.

I am free from the influence of others blocking my ideas, opinions and beliefs.

I am as free as I can be from the control by others.

I am free from restrictions in the use of my space. I have free access to the whole house whereas previously other members of the family claimed that space as their own.

I am free from imposed limits on my free time. (Except when I impose them myself, which does not count because I can lift those limits if I want to. Note to self: stop restricting your own free time by finding more ‘must do’ duties.)

I am free from attachments. Now here is the turnaround. The first twelve months after separation I was grieving the loss of my relationship, my most precious attachment. Now I can see that the absence from that attachment will allow me the freedom to become my authentic me.

That is truly liberating.

 

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Foundations of freedom – my sanctuary

 

ID-100241522In the process of revisiting my needs, with the aim of moving from my vulnerable fragile childlike ‘I need to be comforted’ mindset, to the stronger adult ‘I need to be doing and giving’ mindset, I became distracted with my revival identity and a vision for my future. Miraculously my pain disappeared and I instantly had more energy.

Not knowing how long the energy would last, I spent a few weekends doing some tidying projects that had mounted up including resurrecting my old home-office. This room had previously been used for our business management when I was at home with the children, but over the last two years had become a grotesque junk room.

I decided this room would make a new life for me.

When I married, I lost myself in my husband and my family. That was not something that (in marriage) I would have resented as the benefits of my marriage out-weighed losing myself. However, when my marriage collapsed I felt I had nothing left because, in losing my marriage, I also felt I had lost me. When my ex-husband left me I began to slowly revel in the freedom of doing things my way. After a time, I realized I was doing our things my way and still not doing my things. For example, even though initially it was great to watch what I wanted on TV, and attend or hold parties only when I wanted to, I soon discovered that I actually did not like watching TV at all and, likewise, I disliked loud parties immensely, preferring small casual gatherings. So it also went for the previous frenetic fast-paced activities for leisure and experiential pastimes. These were not my preference. My preference is for calm relaxation. Now I could live like that all the time, the way I want to.

Back to my room-

Over the past two years I have written about creating security and stability through routine revolving around my home; basking in the glory of it being a peaceful sanctuary of comfort. Yet here was this room that was a mess, neither peaceful or comforting. I got to work.

I cleared out the mess of accumulated business and divorce files and records, moving them elsewhere. I archived or burned mountains of papers. Then I rearranged the space. I upgraded my computer and bought a good quality scanner to begin copying the family photos. I halved the number of books. When I had finished last weekend, I sat down at my desk. I had a view outside to the tree in the court-yard; my favorite photos are displayed nearby; a whiteboard and favorite books are within easy reach; there are empty drawers, empty shelves, a clean and tidy desk, good lighting, time to myself, peace and quiet.

Then I suddenly realized. This is something that I have wanted my entire life.

As I looked around my new room, it finally sunk in that I now had no-one else I needed to think about ahead of myself. I could choose to do exactly as I wanted to do. This room would have a greater purpose than simply a place for quiet reflection. It would become a greater provider than mere comfort. This is where I would begin to move up the levels of my needs from a ‘comfort’ level to a ‘doing’ level; albeit doing quiet solitary activities. This will become a new haven for me – a writing and project room. This quiet solitary space will allow my creative abilities to flourish. That part of me that has been locked away for 40 years will now make herself known.

An incredible feeling of warmth and excitement arose within me.

And I realized that I was in seventh heaven right here on earth.

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On the way to revival

 

ID-100127822.africaIn the creation of my revival identity, the second point I outlined was ‘my thirst for knowledge and learning will give me the courage to improve and grow’. I thought that would be a great place for me to start – hence all the books.

I suppose I have been doing that all along. In the beginning I did a lot of reading about how other people had survived divorce and other catastrophes. Then I moved on to what professionals recommend and how philosophical theories originated.

Now my focus has changed. I am reading to improve my own knowledge base and, as background for a possible ‘late-life’ career, I have signed up for two courses. Suddenly my intent has changed from healing to growing. It is an exciting place to be.

 

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Not quite at the crossroads

“Those held in highest esteem… are neither the great artists nor the great scientists, neither the great statesmen nor the great sports figures, but those who master a hard lot with their heads held high”. Viktor Frankl

ID-100152029. artur84In his classic book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ about hope from the Holocaust , Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, describes three phases for those who survived the concentration camps. The first period was the shock of losses and admission to the camps. The second period was the daily life in the concentration camp. The third period was after liberation. Frankl goes on to describe that, rather than love or achievement, people’s main drive in life is having meaning and that he believed those who survived the ‘second phase’ were those who could find meaning in their bleak situation. His own vision and meaning was that he pictured himself after the war helping people find meaning in their lives.

Whilst a divorce is nowhere near the horror of the holocaust, I have found the concept of there being a middle ‘nowhere’ phase as liberating. I have found much divorce advice focuses on getting ‘over’ the loss (phase one – shock) or making changes to your life (phase three – liberation) and there is little help at accepting life in a transition situation; or of making a good life for yourself out of a traumatic situation even while you are still living within that situation. Involved in a lengthy property settlement as I am, it is not only that my life is caught between past and future, I am confronted by the ongoing turmoil of the process itself with little triggers on a nearly daily basis that keep throwing me back into a constant state of trauma and sometimes confrontation.

Focusing on the trauma, unfairness or injustice of the past or the trauma-triggers in my current daily life plunges me into darkness or anxiety. Likewise wishing for my future to come with an ‘I wish this process was over’ attitude sets me up for suffering.

What has helped me most to alleviate my suffering through this process has been instead to focus on:

(1) Creating a vision for my future with a purpose that can give me meaning for my life today. My vision of ‘finding my voice and promote human welfare’ whilst a vision for my future, gives meaning to my current situation. In my future role I will be more able to empathise with others because of where I am today and I see myself in a role alleviating suffering.

(2) Re-framing my transition as steps towards my future; has helped give me meaning to the thankless administrative processes I previously viewed as ‘mud-trudging’.

(3) Understanding and acknowledging my self-worth and significance; has enabled me to appreciate the good in what I am doing right here and now.

(4) Creating a revival identity including conviction to core values has enabled me to reinvent myself right here and now as someone who I can be proud of in my future.

Other techniques that have helped in the more traumatic periods of discomfort have been building foundations of comfort and stability to create certainty in my world of uncertainty, breaking down my list of overwhelming tasks into manageable steps, enlisting help when needed, and making difficult decisions based on core values.

In summary, what has helped me through on a daily basis is acknowledging I cannot force things to happen faster. I cannot bypass the pain of the process. I cannot fast forward to my future. But I can learn to find a place of quiet, not allow myself to get dragged down by the negatives of the situation, and be content with where I am and who I am right here in this present moment. At the same time, I can still hold on to my dreams.

While I am not quite at the crossroads to my new life, I am finding ways of making joy in my present situation, appreciating who I am and what I am capable of, while still working behind the scenes at my dreams for my future, where I want to be for my long-term happiness, and continually striving for a better tomorrow.

 

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You may also want to read:
Lauren Between Fear and Love. Stop, breathe, reframe.
Louise at Dare Boldly, holding onto your dreams. And Dream Big

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Creating my revival identity

 

ID-100129640.africa

When I was swept off course and thrown into a hole, it took every ounce of effort to simply survive. I refused to call myself a victim and instead I became a survivor.

A victim sees something has been done to them beyond their control. Someone else is to blame. The situation is unfair. A victim’s reactions are that of flight, fight or freeze (running away, retaliating, or doing nothing). Although these reactions are normal in the heat of a crisis, there is the danger of the mistreatment becoming part of you and seeing yourself identified with bad treatment, brokenness and weakness. This is victim identity.

As these flight, fight, freeze reactions are accompanied by intensely painful feelings of guilt, anger and fear that I wanted to avoid at all costs; an alternative response that worked for me was survival. In other words I focussed on self-protection. I did not want to see myself as a victim and so I channelled my energies into making sure that I never became one again. I created my survival identity of building up courage, stability and comfort.

Some time ago I read that the term ‘survivor’ is simply another label for ‘victim’. If you identify yourself as a survivor, you are still focussing on the event that happened rather than focussing on how to get out of the hole, heal and recover. Despite my brave stance at seeing myself as a survivor, not a victim, I was still seeing everything through the hurt inflicted upon me and trying to avoid more pain.

Over the past six months, I have been working through a process in a book (see below) which describes breaking away from victim or survivor thinking by creating a healing identity. To create a healing identity, you focus on your strengths, your values, your modes of resilience and a desire to improve your life. By creating a healing identity you overcome victim reactions of blame, retaliation and resentment. Many of the techniques suggested in the book have truly worked for me and especially looking beneath my pain to my unmet needs and striving to find new ways of fulfilling them.

One of the lingering aspects hard to overcome has been my survival comforts that I have used to ground me and protect me from further hurt. When I try to break out of my comfort zone I often go into panic zone and retreat.

Recently I read a blog-post by Ian from Leading Essentially that described how the two zones of comfort and panic can lock you out of expanding your horizons. He described one technique to break free from this mentality is to develop an understanding of your unique capabilities that you may draw on when you get out of your comfort zone. I took that to mean strengths and attributes that have aided me in past achievements, or resilience factors in weathering past adversities. In other words I could venture out from my comfort zone knowing that I had those attributes to fall back on, if needed. I decided to work on this by really thinking about my strengths and my resilience attitudes.

I see this as creating my revival identity as a bridge between surviving and thriving, whilst still in the process of some healing. Here are some attributes of my revival identity -

My education and life experiences provide a stable base for future achievements.
My thirst for knowledge and learning will give me the courage to improve and grow.
I am creative and inventive.
I can draw on my analytical and problem solving skills to get me through any challenge.
I will live by my core values of courage, fairness and kindness.
I will act only for protection, connection, contribution, and appreciation.
I have a new purpose to find my voice and promote human welfare.

While focussing on creating my revival identity, getting ready for my new life, some remarkable things happened.

I stopped thinking about the hole I was supposedly in.
I stopped thinking about being wronged.
I stopped thinking about the pain I was suffering.
The pain stopped.

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You may want to read ‘Living & Loving after Betrayal: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity and Chronic Resentment’ by Steven Stosny

Contribution and finding my new bike

 

ID-100176056.nongpimmyPersonal roles

Having spent 37 years pouring my heart and soul into being the very best wife and mother that I could possibly be, my purpose in life seemed to end with the ending of my marriage. This happened at a time when my younger two children were spreading their wings. My main two roles in life and the driving forces of my being were suddenly gone.

Work roles

With my world crumbling at my feet, I found that getting up every day for work gave me a sense of purpose. Having meaningful work to do everyday helped sustain my sanity the first year after separation. It also provided me with my sense of normality, as a link to my previous world, and the comfort of a regular routine.

About a year ago I had an epiphany. I realised in that instant the real meaning behind my work had been to provide for my family and that was gone. I resolved that I would change the direction of my life. The drawback to that decision was that it would take some time to logistically change directions and for a while it became a plodding painful process to keep getting up to go into work as my work no longer held meaning for me.

That turned around when I re-framed this current period as my ‘transition to my new life’ and set myself some goals for my transition. One of my transition goals became ‘dignified management of our business’ while-ever it was retained. In that change of focus my daily work shifted sharply from being something that provided me with comfort and stability to one that provided me with an avenue of contribution. Without realising it at the time, my own needs had moved up from the self-focussed ‘I need protection and comfort’ to ‘I need to contribute and give back to society’. In the period since, I have channelled my days at work into being a fair, kind and balanced leader. In return I have received a feeling of accomplishment and contribution.

Community roles

Prior to my marriage ending I had been active in the community by voluntary involvement in an environment group. In my distraught state after my husband left me, I resigned from the group and not not returned. During my cocooning period of reflection when reviewing my beliefs, my mind drew a blank when I reached world affairs I had previously been vocal about. I became concerned my underlying beliefs had disintegrated and I was apathetic and uncaring. I now understand that in my state of crisis, I had to focus on my own survival as a priority. I had to heal myself before I could again begin to help other people.

About a year ago, I found that I had begun again to read articles about national and world issues. It was a defining moment for me. Gradually that moved to reading books, exploring websites and contributing by making comments on other’s blogs. That gave me a feeling of making a contribution, even in a small way. This has fed a growing strength inside me of my need to ‘give’ shifting slowly away from my basic need to ‘receive’ comforts.

My new role

One of my prime instincts within me is a need to care for others. This need was satisfied in my roles as wife and mother. The hole left for my nurturing instincts by my marriage collapsing was deep and painful. I felt my very purpose in life had disintegrated. Whilst I have since channelled those caring instincts into being the best mother, grand-mother, daughter, sister, friend and leader that I can be; I know that is not enough. I know that I have to move on to helping people less fortunate than myself.

Last post I wrote “With the best of intentions of picking myself up, fixing myself up and getting back on the bike; I have come to realise that it is not me that needs fixing, it is the bike.”

My old bike (my drive) was being the best wife and mother that I could possibly be.

My new drive will be to find my voice and promote human welfare.

That will become my new bike.

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