We are all heroes, though dormancy does settle in now and again. Waiting dreamily, many of us, for something to rouse us from our slumber so that we may fully awaken into our Hero’s Journey. That moment can be now. Adversaries will be easy to find, as will allies, if you know how to look. Adversaries usually take a form starkly similar to our own, and are driven by a similar, yet slightly jilted, force. Our allies, unexpectedly, may seem foreign, because the truth that our allies often show us is shocking and unlike anything we have stood up to in the past. Our enemies await us in hard-to-reach places. That is where the Kraken, the Grendel, and the Minotaur make their nests. In dark mazes, far beyond the comforts of what we know. Our allies and friends and trusted advisors are usually right here. Always closer than you think.
The Hero of Our Own Lives
We all, every one of us, have an innate destiny to be the HERO of our own lives. Waking up and breaking through to a newer understanding of who we are and who we choose to become. And yes, there will likely be many Hero’s Journeys once we get the hang of it. Each one brimming with new meaning and vistas and friends. Sometimes the journey ends badly. Too often, the hero never reaches the point of defeating her nemesis. Many times, the hero gets lost in the labyrinth or the dark forest and he is never seen or heard from again. Sometimes the hero takes the wrong advice and ends up lost before they ever had a chance to find.
The Mission of Barn Life Recovery
On the other hand, sometimes, against insurmountable odds and uncanny turns, the hero penetrates deep within and vanquishes the darkness around them. Our wish, hope and, practice at Barn Life Recovery is to improve the likelihood of this far too rare outcome. Everyone is the hero of their life. We are all on a journey of self-discovery and “meaning-making”. We all stand at the brink of transforming our lives and mental health forever. We’re here at Barn Life to help each other and support one another in this noblest of human endeavors: to do better, to feel better, and to be better. Even if it’s just a little bit better.
Cultivating the Hero Within
What makes a hero? Is it what heroes say that makes them different or what they do? Are heroes defined by their actions? What aspects or characteristics do most heroes share? Is there a way to cultivate heroic qualities in ourselves? Joseph Campbell is a good place to start when talking about the significance of heroes. Also exploring the world of Marvel and DC comics, who have created many of the modern-day archetypes for superheroes, is a good place to explore. The mirror is a good starting point too. Who were your first heroes? Who were your last?
Sometimes you hear a pull to return Like a fish out of water hears the waves Or a falcon hears the wind “Come back, come back” And return to the life You are meant to live And remember There is no shame In uprooting yourself From the garden That shunts your bloom To return to a garden That nurtures your roots
Rooting Your Self in Your Goals
The theme for this week is “Return.” I can relate to the need to uproot myself from what is familiar to try something unknown. Fourteen years ago, I packed up my truck and took a solo journey from Northern Michigan to Long Beach, California. And because I felt safe and supported in my new home, I stayed and allowed my roots to continue to grow. I’ve felt like I’m returning to something forgotten by coming to work at the Barn this year. Although it’s been unfamiliar and unknown, I’m beginning to recognize where my roots can grow.
This has taken me time, lots of observation, making sure coping strategies are accessible, and connecting with a sense of safety. Every time I took a risk to seek out something better, grounding exercises have been helpful to remind me that I am rooted in my goals to support people who are seeking support. Laying down new roots in a place that is nurturing has helped me face the unknown.
Grounding Your Self in the Present
Some of us will have the desire to return to old patterns as the holiday and new year approaches. It’s enticing to come back to what is familiar even if it is hurtful or destructive. And returning to something forgotten is uncomfortable and uncertain. So where can we return to if the old calls to us and the new scares us? We can return to self, to the present, to breath, to our own sense of home. Maybe your new home is a quiet place where you can be yourself. Alternatively, it can be taking some time to enjoy new connections you’ve made. Noticing these places, breathing, and remembering your purpose might help your return to the unknown feel easier. And soon it can feel as natural as a fish in water, a bird in flight, or a tree in earth.
Tools for Your Journey
Whether you will be returning to familiar places or returning to something new, it’s helpful to have accessible tools to get you through. Here are 30 grounding exercises to quiet distressing thoughts and return to the present.
Family – a word that can carry such pain and yearning yet also warmth and purpose. Barn Life practices the value of “family.” Our actions are guided by this value often. “Accept everyone!” is our beautiful marching tune. We want everyone who walks through the gates to be treated as if they deserve a place at our table. No one should be invisible. This is part of the Barn Life magic. Part of caring about someone is holding them accountable. Holding them to the notion that we see more for them than what’s in front of them right now, and that we believe they are capable and deserving of a better life and sense of being. We remind them of their goals for joining the Barn Life client family.
Listening with an Open Heart
We want them to get the most out of being here and being “a part of” because they are deserving of it. None of us act as islands at Barn Life. In a healthy family dynamic, we must channel humility and openness when considering one another’s feedback. We are an eclectic bunch of unique, intelligent, and strong individuals who need others just like everyone else. Families either turn toward and unite in chaos or they turn away or even against each other. Let us all strive to continue turning toward.
Meeting the Needs of Others – and Our Own
For most of us, there are many things we’d leave behind with our families or like to change about them. However, we must not allow that to dictate our narratives or roles in our chosen families. We now have a chance to meet the needs of others in a healthy way. Additionally, we are permitted the opportunity to get our own needs met – needs which we wish our families had dutifully provided us – for security, for belonging, for intimacy, and overall, for safety. We have choices now! We didn’t as children. Let the pain of what never was turn into a dull ache. You’ll feel it sometimes, but not all of the time. It no longer needs to dictate your life or your identity. You can get your own needs met and invite people into your life who are actually capable of meeting your needs.
Some Things to Think About
Ask for the hug from the warm father figure. Receive soothing words of encouragement from the mother figure. Let them ground you in calm security. Tell yourself you will be okay. Fearing and trying to predict and control are all old blankets that are unnecessary now. Thank the family member who was a responsible constant in your life. Express appreciation for those around you and allow yourself to be seen. You can and will create a new sense of family for yourself.
What are basic human necessities? Some include food, water, air, and shelter. These things we quite literally cannot live without. What if we told you self-love was a basic human necessity? Shocking, right? What is shocking about it is that individuals have difficulty with holding self-love to the same standard or importance as food and air. Why is self-love so difficult to attain? It’s said that loving yourself comes with facing what you may hate the most about yourself. A person very close to me once said “every morning when you look in the mirror, ask yourself ‘who am I going to make happy today?’” The answer is you!
Kindness Towards Ourselves
It is difficult to make “you” happy because we believe it all comes down to negativity bias. Many of us have received the message that life comes with struggles and we don’t all deserve happiness. We could receive this message due to neglect or abuse, someone telling us, or just a negative belief we have about ourselves. Plato wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. So why not be kind to yourself? Who hasn’t dealt with betrayal, difficulties, or losses? Our belief is that Plato was not referring to others only. When he said everyone he was including yourself, too. Plato was on to something. He was highlighting that individuals growing up without enough acceptance or kindness would hold onto failures, mistakes, or shortcomings. Again, we ask the question why?
Finding Strength and Resiliency
Research says that our ancestors had an innate response and survival to avoid danger. Because of this, there was little value or survival in stopping to smell the roses. This all goes to say that we truly deserve happiness, through the lens of self-love. This is not an easy feat though because happiness is not entitled. We must create it. We can create it by finding fulfillment through finding the connection with our inner peace and happiness. Once we find that connection, we can then cultivate compassion towards ourselves. Someone may argue “but I take a bubble bath once a week and go for massages sometimes.” Although these things may help, the inner work of finding strength and resiliency is what is needed to have self-love.
How to Achieve Self-Love
Another key piece to this puzzle is feeling. In order to have self-love, one must feel the full range of emotions entitled to human beings. That’s a scary thought because that means the individual must face the music, feel the feelings and sit with their emotions. Is that okay? YES! That is taking the necessary steps towards self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-love. Last question, how do I achieve this? Look to the following scenarios and skills to support the journey of self-love.
Next time you feel sad, hurt, or embarrassed, try taking a few slow breathes and notice the feeling. Allow your body to have an emotion and just simply notice the feeling.
Seek out professional help.
Stop comparing yourself to others. The only person you can be is yourself.
Don’t worry about others’ opinions. Remember that opinions are neither true nor false. They are someone’s thoughts and perceptions.
Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. You’re only human.
Don’t be afraid to let go of people that are not good for you.
Value comes from within. The way you look does not determine your value.
Process what you fear.
Take every opportunity life presents to you.
Put yourself first.
Do the things you enjoy.
See the beauty in the simple things.
Be kind to yourself.
Be patient with yourself.
We hope your takeaway from all of this is being motivated, empowered, and ready to start your self-love journey or continue on your path. Remember that you have survived this far and you will continue to thrive.
Forgiveness is not giving up nor is it admitting defeat. Forgiveness is about taking power back. Making a conscious decision to let go of resentments, pain, and anger. Some people are not ready to forgive and rightly so. What about victims of sexual assault and violence as well as people who have suffered physical, emotional abuse, and unearned shame? Is it not appropriate to feel rage or become victimized due to events that have happened directly or indirectly to us?
The Perils of Resentment
We can let suffering consume us. Suffering and resentments can control our whole worldview including our biases and attitude. When we look objectively at how our resentments have power over us, we can see how we engage in belittling ourselves. This can, in turn, increase our own self-loathing and even convince us we deserve it. Additionally, we act upon anger and allow it to dominate our actions and perceptions of the world.
Making a Personal Decision
Forgiveness can begin the process of emotionally disconnecting ourselves from the events and pain that we have used to define us. Forgiveness is not about forgetting. Nor is it about believing that what happened to create our resentments is acceptable. It is about making a personal decision that one does not want to be emotionally controlled by the events, memories, and perception of self that resentments manifest.
How Do We Forgive?
Some of us are ready to forgive. There are many ways to forgive and the least of all is giving the incomplete advice of “Just let this go.” Well, how? How do people “let go”? How do people forgive? For some it is a mere acknowledging that the incident(s) occurred, facing the emotions that arise, and stating forgiveness. Others need rituals or prayer to assist in maintaining the intention of forgiveness. Forgiveness can act like the tide of the ocean or the changing moon. Furthermore, our resentments can creep back in, even after we have made the conscious decision to forgive. In this case, one needs to repeat the action of forgiveness. Take a little more power back until the resentment has eventually been drained and the individual is free from that resentment.
It is our job to help foster forgiveness. More importantly, to help our clients answer the question of how to forgive. It is also not our job to push someone to forgive when they are not ready as those individuals may still need to be further defined or come to a better understanding or acknowledge lessons to be learned from the experience before they become willing and ready to forgive. Even if that lesson is to realize how much damage and influence these resentments have had in our lives, and then we can pose the question “Are you ready to let this go?”
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