I had a thing about visibility that was laid down very deeply when I was 12-years old. In the years that followed that day I would return to ‘the Story’ repeatedly in my reflections of childhood experience but as the years began to add up my internal travels took me less and less frequently to that place and time. What I realise now on starting my own work on childhood story is that the old internal narrative that was created that day had been travelling with me and was very much alive and kicking when I was in high stakes. A complex and confusing reaction to ‘please see me’ and ‘don’t look at me’ situations that have confounded and blocked me for years. At times; like being inside a hall of mirrors where it is impossible to trust anything – tall then short, fat then thin, sharp then fuzzy; visible and invisible.
What’s really interesting for me is how quickly this Story surfaced when I really dared to look because the childhood story I have been telling myself was not this one. The ‘other’ story is real but is a safer and more comfortable one with an old internal narrative that I have, over many years, successfully over-written with a much better new internal narrative. Job done?
So, it turns out that going deeper is the thing and, I think, if it feels too easy then the chances are I have only reached the protective measures my mind has put in place to shield that old internal narrative it thinks serves me still. Which, of course, it probably stopped doing a long time ago. I am, in this, reminded of a favourite book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz in which the Author tells us;
…everything that is in the Book of Law has to be true, anything that challenges what you believe is going to make you feel unsafe. Even if the Book of Law is wrong, it makes you feel safe.
When I really dared to go deep to discover my own ‘Book of Law’ it felt anything but safe and the darkest inner chambers of my mind threw everything at me to keep me out. But, as a very wise new friend said, ‘You have to go in to get out.’ My reward for going in was a profound connection with an old internal narrative that triggered a kaleidoscope of memories of me in high stakes. I could clearly see my inner child ‘opposing’ as I confronted anything that felt like the twin demons of that terrible day. ‘Protecting’ myself from the hurt of being invisible and the potential cruelty that comes with being seen. The reality is, of course, that this old ‘truth’ served me well for a very limited time but not letting it go sooner was no reason to hold onto to it still. That old internal narrative does not own me or define me, that’s my job and it’s not a passive role.
I fully appreciate now that it’s never too late to let go of the old internal narrative and write a new one. I’m not saying that it is easy but, just as neural pathways lay down the old internal narrative and route us there subconsciously, so too can NEW pathways be laid down and new internal narratives be offered up to replace the old.
There is no ‘ah hah’ moment that can overwrite a neural pathway that is the minds equivalent of the Grand Canyon. This bit takes repetition, reminding, reinforcement and a keen eye for our attempts at retrenchment. It takes faith in the process and a belief that we do not have to live out our days in the shadow of long spent reason. We can reason a new and more adult relationship with our childhood story and come into the light – better and stronger for having met, without judgement, who we are in the dark.
So, in the grip of my new internal narrative on the subject of my visibility, I offered myself to this Blog. Has there been retrenchment as fear of ridicule and anger at my stupidity for thinking I could do this tried to wrestle me to safety? Of course. Yet here I am before you, grateful to those who, with love for a fellow traveller, bore witness and helped me give life to a new internal narrative.
See me. I am courageous, smart and unapologetic.
Executive Coach and Story Guide