As a teen and young adult, I felt fairly fearless in my daily life. I surfed big waves...or tried to, but still, they were very big cold waves, I traveled and worked as an editorial photographer in countries of high conflict, naively thinking if my passion and faith were strong enough for the work, I would be safe from harm. I was proven wrong. I ventured into risky relationships--the kind I knew would break my heart but I did it anyway. I threw caution to the wind and sometimes happily and foolishly courted disaster to experience adventure and to feel alive and awake.
Other than a few crappy relationships, some hard lessons in learning boundaries and self-respect and several slices of humble pie, I don't regret my thrill seeking past. I liked living out of a backpack, traveling the globe with camera in hand, I felt comfortable on the road and I didn't hold a lot of fear in my life at that point.
However, much of my fearless spirit abandoned me when I came back to the states and settled into my new home in Colorado and gave birth to two amazing children in my third decade of life. As soon as my baby's little foot kicked the inside of my womb, a fear like I'd never imagined took hold and ruled. Once the children were born, thoughts and images of disaster preoccupied my mind and I found myself deliberating which route to drive to the store that would least likely have traffic or deer to avoid a crash and killing my son or daughter.
In therapy, we call this awfulization--making the worst-case scenario out of any event, real or imagined. I don't think my fear was entirely abnormal. Many new parents grapple with the angst and vulnerability felt for their new family. Problem was, my fear didn't go away, instead it mutated into an overwhelming sense of unreasonable responsibility to save my children and every child and adult on this earth from pain and suffering.
Some of this herculean desire to help humanity was modeled by my do-gooder parents but other than that, a lot of it didn't make sense. My father used to tell me I became a counselor at the age of seven by the way I listened to the problems of my family and friends. Recalling my childhood, I see now how I had concern for others at a very young age, as many children do. But in my concern was a need to be the hero, saving people like Superman. My imaginary world was filled with magic rings and capes that turned villains into angels, preserving the village from ruin and mayhem.
I thought my inspiration was born from compassion and pure intention to heal, but in reality, the thrusting energy behind my motivation was plain and simple: Fear. I thought if I could help fix someone's problem I would be a better individual and they would live a happier life. On some level I thought the more people I assisted, the more worthy I would become--like Creator would give me a brownie point for each person I helped. Cognitively I knew my actions were a drop in the ocean but I believed my passion to heal could create tsunamis. If I created tidal waves of positive change than I wouldn't fear the oblivion of worthlessness.
My fear of unworthiness did not stem from a compromised childhood or lack of parental love. I was born with it and like fire expanding in air, my angst expanded in the experiences of this lifetime. Giving birth to my children was the kick-starter of an already mounting pressure.
The courage and passion that I had as a young adult I took with me into my healing career by working with difficult populations. Once again, I thought my passion would protect and save me. Old patterns die hard.
You see, my fear-driven-over-responsible-energy resonated with the heavy energy of deep trauma; that energy mixed with my desire to deliver people from pain made counseling highly traumatized clients seem easy and while I helped a lot of people, I certainly didn't help myself. A caseload with a percentage of traumatized clients is normal in the healing practice but a full caseload of only complex traumatized clients is not. Such caseloads are not healthy for the counselor. I took home a lot of heavy energy and carried the weight like it was my own. But that was my karmic release--my lesson was in releasing a responsibility that wasn't mine to hold and with that the tie to worthiness. Could I learn to love myself for just being me, healing or no healing? Could I accept myself as is without ever helping anyone again, that being me as I am is worthy of infinite love? No f------ way, I thought.
This unrealistic and unhealthy belief of omniscient responsibility needed to be released. Call me slow, stubborn minded and resistant, I learned the hard way in releasing the energy. Something I'd like to help you avoid doing, whether you carry over-responsibility, anxiety, guilt, anger or loss, you can release karmic energy easily and gently. First, you need to identify the karmic energy, debt or karmic pattern within you, which is not always obvious and then make the effort to release it.
Looking back at the beginning of my healing practice, I realized I did a lot of heavy lifting in my client-counselor role. There were many clients, especially kids who courageously entered into their healing work like true warriors but some clients sat back and allowed me to do their work. I don't blame them. I blame my fear. In my desire to prevent them from feeling pain, I buffered their experience and possibly mitigated their growth and evolvement. My mentor at the time told me that pain was necessary, that we wouldn't evolve and learn compassion without it; that all the types of pain, be it physical or emotional, eventually will bring us progress and compassion.
At first, I resisted her nugget of truth because it collided with my fear and created spiritual resistance. She was right though. Now after fifteen years of being in the healing arts, I can honestly say there is nothing like the efficacy of pain. This is so hard to witness in a young person such as your child, a teen client, or a friend. Feeling pain drives home a lesson or experience as well as increasing empathy and compassion. How many times have you given sound advise to a child, partner or friend, only to be ignored. I bet ten to one, your loved ones learned what they needed to perhaps battered and bruised but always growing.
I have friends and clients who through their pain become less judgmental, gentler and more compassionate human beings. I'm sorry for their pain but not their growth. With time, they get over the pain but their evolvement plays out in every move of their life. Their change is inspiring and beautiful to be a part of.
It took many years of heavy lifting in relationships, not just my client- relationships but my personal relationships, as well as getting sick before I decided my way of helping maybe wasn't the best way for my clients or me. I had to find a way to release this responsibility and accept myself in the process. By taking care of myself, doing the healing work and taking the time to facilitate self-love, I've let go of my heavy burden. While I still hold compassion and empathy in my heart, my intention for my work is more clear and clean. I still care a heck of a lot how my clients are doing but in a way that enables them to hold accountability for themselves and when they do, they are empowered to make positive change. I now WANT to heal, instead of feeling like I HAVE to heal. When your motivation is driven by HAVE instead of WANT, than that might be a clue your desire is karmic driven, which is not a bad thing. When you feel compelled to partake in something, you are giving yourself the opportunity to release and learn something new about yourself and to feel more peace.
When your major karmic debts are released then you are left asking, "What do I really want to do? What is me and not debt?" This in itself can be challenging because you're no longer driven by a needling energy. You get the chance to know yourself in a deeper way and that can feel like being lost at sea for a while until you figure things out. But when you do, you know your desire is unwavering and pure in this time and moment.
I can also say from my experience I can help people locate their karmic pattern and facilitate release. There are many protocols that are offered by so many amazing healers that enable karmic release such as Thetahealing, hypnotherapy, EMDR, meditation, and often, just knowing the who, what, where and why of karmic patterns can help release it. In future posts I will give examples of what karmic patterns look like and how they were released in case studies.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
And amidst the chaos
Keep Peace within your soul-Max Ehrman
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