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Letting Go of Bad: Self-Image Transformation

June 16, 2013

You look at your parent and sometimes they don’t match the expectation you held of them as a parent. Over the years, you needed to break away from the way they did things and it took everything you had and then some. You didn’t and don’t like the way they did things and so you made and make every effort to do things a different way. One day, you awaken to realize it didn’t matter, despite all that effort you’re still behaving like the parent behaved.

But, wait . . . look closer and lean in. Rather than going away from the behavior you dislike, get closer to it so you can feel it, smell it, taste it, and hear it. What does it mean to have this behavior. How did your parent acquire it? How did they not avoid it? Could they have? Was their parent also of the same behavior?

My father has been re-processing and re-examining his life, a natural process for someone of his age who’s just had a stroke. He is making sense of his efforts of decades of trying to undo the influence of his parents. Just a few weeks ago, the insight came that he’d been thinking of himself as bad for behaving as he has and does. He now knows himself to be good, but the old memories and patterns of being bad have been stronger than the image of being good.

As he processed this with me, I felt so glad I was here in the moment to see it and understand how deep it goes. Of course, it makes perfect sense. And, it’s the reason our family holds him in a certain light. We are all thinking of him in the image of who he was and not who he is now.

It’s important to note, this is the same process that any of us goes through in letting go of pain or discomfort and any suffering.

First, we have to see the behavior we want to let go of (the bad). We have to get to know it and understand it and what brings it on, in excruciating detail. And then, we have to be willing to let it go. We have to open our thinking and our behavior to another way of doing the thing so we can bring in what we want (the good).

Maybe we get stuck in immediately reaching for the good and telling ourselves we don’t have any bad? Or, because we don’t want to acknowledge the bad, we ignore the obvious ways the bad causes us problems? We refuse to see that we are clinging to what we think of as familiar and comfortable even if it is hurting us.

My father’s insight was about his thinking, but it might as well have been about his physical pain. Now that he has a picture in his mind of himself as other than he was as a child and younger man, he has a sense of who he is that is more current, more applicable. He isn’t who he was then, any more than any of us are who we were when we suffered hurt or hurt someone else. We just think we are and so we drag that old image of ourselves around as if it’s who we are now.

In the simplest way of thinking about it, we have to be willing to let the bad go. Let the clinging to the past go. Let the sureness of who we think ourselves to be go. Only then will we move toward the who we really are. Perhaps, a person without pain. Perhaps, a person who moves freely and easily, lovingly and confidently.

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2 Comments
  1. Stephanie permalink

    Thank You!

  2. Kim permalink

    What a very special way to celibrate Fathers Day with your Dad (-: Looking closer, leaning in…..

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