Self-Reflective Practice: Recognizing Patterns of Self-Protection

Sometimes I’m amazed at new insights about myself, especially at my age.

One I just discovered was so deeply rooted, I thought it was just my personality.

This pattern’s motive is for one single use—the holy grail of psychological mechanisms: self-protection.

Here it is: if I am quiet and shut down around someone or in an environment—it is because for one reason or another- I do not feel safe.

I am not shut down and quiet because I am:

a) an introvert

b) weird

c) anti-social.

I am shut down and quiet because actually…….

I LOVE MYSELF. I CARE ABOUT MYSELF.

What I needed in order to see this pattern: to—finally—be with people who, and in environments that, create a sense of safety and worthiness.

When I was a little girl, I was just quiet. I kept to myself. The more quiet and to myself, the more isolated and therefore, weird I thought I was. But, recently when I noticed myself being shut down and quiet around certain people, I also noticed the story I was telling about myself: you’re weird and everyone thinks you’re weird. And then the berating: what is wrong with you? Why can’t you just talk to people? Do you think you are better than they are…? (Well, I mean yes, sometimes I do).

But— a stream of high-level consciousness broke through. I connected this adult moment in real time with my child self. I saw my child self do exactly what grown up self is doing and realized: I AM NOT WEIRD. I may not even be an introvert. My little kid self who shut down to stay safe did so because she loved her self.

A-fucking-ha!

“It is in the homes and in childhood that the wreckage of human life begins.” 
~Katherine Tingley

Self-Reflective Practice

This week, and quite honestly from now on, consider your personality traits, that you think you are just stuck with or maybe even like, could be deeply ingrained self-protective mechanisms. For many of us, in our childhoods, conditions were harsh. These harsh conditions showed up in our childhood homes, in the schools we attended and in the world we lived in. Harsh doesn’t have to mean abuse. It can just mean unkind or not hospitable to the souls and spirits that we are.

To protect ourselves from harshness our wisdom created mechanisms to keep us safe and protected. Mine was to shut down. What was/is yours?

Once you discover it, pay attention to it. Where does it show up? Consider why. Do you have to hang on to it to keep you safe or can you start to let it go? Could it be that you are more than what you think your personality is? Now that you are a grown up, is it possible to be safe even when around unsafe people?

Finding our self-protective patterns can be a tedious task. And some are buried more deeply than others. I am 47, and just discovered my deeply ingrained pattern. But you know, now that I have, I feel lighter. I feel freer. I feel more myself. And, I know I have worked to build or perhaps, uncover, the foundation within myself— a foundation I stand safely on— even in the harshest conditions.

As usual, reach out if needed. I am here to hold space for your stories, your challenges, your process.

To learn more about me and my services, click here. To reach me for questions or to share, click here or email me at thesoulreporter@gmail.com 

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~The Soul Reporter

Gaining and Keeping Perspective

At middle-age, which is where I am, I have been at the edge of the unknown a few times. I have taken myself there deliberately, and I have been mysteriously taken there without warning. I am at the edge of the unknown again. I am going through the shift of no longer being a woman who can conceive. I am going through the shift of no longer being a mother whose duties are nearly every minute of my existence. I am going through the shift of who I am as a wife, and realizing I want to be a partner, not a role. I am going through the shift of being full-time mom, to full-time student, to do-I-want-to-be-a-full-time-employee when really all I want to do is go-deeper-into-my-authentic-nature-and-immerse-in-whatever-is-my-soul’s-intent.

The possibilities of this time of life seem endless. The freedom of this new space sometimes takes my breath away. It’s a time of great unknown and seemingly instability where I don’t know how or where my next steps will unfold.  It is also a time I know and trust myself more than ever before— and that is proving to be everything.

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The Journey is not far. It’s expansive.

Moss: one of my favorite things. Had I known I could have made a career…-2

(1) Tangled

The journey is not far. It is expansive.

Moss: one of my favorite things. Had I known I could have made a career…-4

(2) The Return

I went for a forest walk this morning. I entered, expectant. Further along, afraid.  What twists and turns might I face? As a woman, would a man try and hurt me? As a human in mid-life, more feelings of loss? As a spiritual being, enlightenment? The wondering passed and my feet on the path continued. The journey felt far, and at times I felt tangled within it with no escape, like that branch above (1). As the path turned I found a paved path. It led where I began. The return was so close, and had always been (2). 

 

Nature can be used as a metaphor for our personal/spiritual journeys. It can be symbolic of our relationships with ourselves and others. Today for me, feeling entangled in the forest, and then to find the paved path to where I began, was a metaphor of my journey. Within the journey are many twists and turns, moments of being snared and entangled, to then being pushed into a clear open space. There is darkness. There is light. There is mess, debris and branches and old leaves everywhere (3). All of this tricks the mind that I have gone too far from myself, from where I began, and will not make it to where I am trying to go. But— my feet continue to step. The path leads to where I began and I see I was never far away, I was really never far at all, ever, and will not be again.

Below are the images and metaphors from my forest walk. Tip: if you’re feeling stuck creatively or worried about where you are on the journey, take your own nature walk. See what you see, how it reflects where you are and how it can be used to provide you with some expression and guidance.

Moss: one of my favorite things. Had I known I could have made a career…-3

This instantly brought tears to my eyes. I see two trees meeting together at the root, joined at the heart and growing individually as one.

Moss: one of my favorite things. Had I known I could have made a career…-5

Change & the touch of Autumn

Moss: one of my favorite things. Had I known I could have made a career…-7

(3) The mess of the forest and as it should be: as it is.

Moss: one of my favorite things. Had I known I could have made a career…

Moss: how I love thee. Had I known I could have made a career studying moss I might have changed my major. Seems to me studying moss may be more enjoyable than the study of people and relationships. #IAmASocialWorker

Moss: one of my favorite things. Had I known I could have made a career…-6

Moss: one of my favorite things. Had I known I could have made a career…-1

Remnant of summer, still reaching toward the sun.

The Soul Reporter.

The Time of the In-Between

3-4 minute read

What’s Your Expression of Change?

Hello September! It is the time of the In-Between. Have you noticed where you are in your life often aligns with the seasons of the year, and the transitions between them? Do you pay attention to the signs in nature that a season change is coming? What about you— what are your signs that change is coming? What’s your expression of change?

 Signs of the In-Between

 

mums

Yesterday, I planted mums while my hibiscus still bloomed. I hung the fall wreath on the door, added the fall lawn ornaments outside, and decorated the inside with ceramic pumpkins. I did this while the air outside was hot and muggy. This is the time of the In-Between.

Here, in the Midwest, where the signs of the new season peak through and life continues to exist in the season that is leaving, can be quite vivid. The first sign I notice are the sounds during the day of the Cicada, the Locust and the Cricket. It occurs to me this is their final chorus before the air turns cold. In the In-Between, there are days that require a sweater or a light jacket and then back in shorts and a tank top. When the heat returns, there is an abundance of bugs: bees, boxelder and lady bugs— their final jaunt before the cold is here to stay.

It is the time when the deep, green leaves fade. Some begin to turn to their autumn color, and others dry up and fall to the ground. The grass does not grow as quickly, the sun does not shine as brightly, yet still brings warmth on one side of the body while the wind feels cool on the other. The days grow shorter, which initiates a sadness of the summer that is ending and the dread of a long winter. But before this happens, there is the excitement of fall and all that it brings: back to school, pumpkin spice lattes, walks in the woods— stopping to take pictures of the colorful leaves, taking a tag off a sweater that was too warm to wear in the summer, a trip to the apple orchard and making apple crisp, and the anticipation of the holidays that follow.

wreath

I am in the In-Between in my life. I am middle-aged. I am transitioning from a life of homemaking to a life of working outside my home. I graduated from college. After 3 months, I did find a job, but it is a temporary job. I am working, but also not for long. I am married, but I have changed. He has changed. We have changed. We find ourselves in the same bed at night, but little else is shared. It’s enough to still be welcomed to our in-laws, and enough to have a short fight. But it’s not enough to feel as in love, or as connected and fully together as we once did. We are in the In-Between.

The In-Between is difficult, and full of possibility. The In-Between means change. The activity of the squirrels, who run through the grass and up the trees, remind me it is also the time to prepare for the changes ahead. The squirrels understand the necessity of storing their food in various places to be retrieved in the winter. The In-Between cannot last, but sometimes it can feel like it will never end. Sooner or later, new life does unfold. The changes we desire and the ones we fear do occur. Our body and soul know this. They also know if we are prepared for the changes or not.

If you feel like your life mimics the time of the In-Between we are in, take a moment to tune in to your body, to your self, your soul, your life. Are there changes you want for yourself? Are there changes you fear coming? What does this feel like in your body? Do the changes, the unknown of this time in the In-Between, make you feel anxious? Excited? Calm? Do you feel you are prepared? If not, how might you prepare?

My Expression of Change

 

scarecrow

I have been anxious during this time. I feel the anxiety in my belly. I experience myself gripping and clinging, as if I’m trying to stop the changes from happening. I notice my thoughts, which try to control and analyze what is occurring. I also know these patterns. I have been here before. I know change is coming, and it’s coming fast. I know letting go and allowing is the antidote to the clinging and gripping, the controlling and analyzing. I know the transition is happening as it should and soon I will be in new territory. I take deep breaths, get still and consider some of my anxiety could be an indicator more preparation is needed, that I must gather my nourishment for the winter to come. I then begin to seek and gather this nourishment to prepare.

Soon the sounds of the Cicada and Locust and Cricket will fade. The landscape will be less green, and instead flourish with gold, brown, red and orange. Fall will be here. I will gain knowledge and new understanding. I will find resources through relationship and experience that will awaken and strengthen me in this new space. The nourishment I gather will be plenty. Eventually, I will thrive. Just as the snow will accumulate in January, so will my confidence. And in the Spring, change will come again.

I wish you wisdom and serenity during the changes in your life and in your self.

If you feel a need to have assistance and guidance during your time of transition, please contact me @ nikki@nikkidivirgilio.com. Together, we will create a space of support and a plan toward greater awareness and understanding. For a list of services, visit here.

The Soul Reporter.

You Belong. You Exist.

You belong. You exist.

This is important to say. You belong. You exist. Exist means: to have actual being.

Very often we don’t receive these messages as children. You belong. You exist. The yearning to belong and exist is deep, deep within us. I might argue this yearning creates everything we have experienced in our lives so far. There comes a point, if we are reaching for it, where we realize we actually do belong, we do exist. This occurrence happens even if our experiences have shown us the opposite.

I just had this experience. I was listening to Day 5 of Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation, Experiencing, Creating Peace from the Inside Out. Oprah said, “If it is intimacy and connection you resist, it is love you crave most.” This struck a chord and is a theme that’s been surfacing lately.

Moving into the meditation, the centering thought for Day 5 was, I only feel a need to connect. Instead of closing my eyes as I normally would, I looked up at a picture of me, probably 4 or 5 years of age, sitting at on a chair at my grandmother’s house. I’m wearing light bluish-green pants, a dark blue-green turtle neck and what look like Buster Brown shoes. My hands are folded in my lap, my shoulders are hunched over and my head is slightly tilted to the side. My eyes are bright, yet distant, I have a soft smile and I envy my thick, wavy hair. I think: this little girl only feels a need to connect.

I cannot hold back what’s inside of me. Pain and hurt for the yearning of this little girl. I began to speak to her. You are not rejected. You aren’t rejectable. You are sacred. You are connected. You are loved. You are safe.

I cried throughout the meditation and continued to speak to her. I imagined myself holding her to my heart, giving her a kiss on that thick, wavy head of hair. After the meditation I picked up the framed picture and kissed her face and held her image to my chest and said, “You belong. You exist.”

The word exist felt like truth ringing inside of my being. I made the connection to my pattern of hiding to this fear I don’t exist. I keep this pattern going by continuing to hide. But, now, I know~

littlenikkiI do belong. I do exist. I don’t need to hide anymore.

I look at her now, and smile.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

Making A Difference

Perhaps it is middle-age—that time where we reflect upon our lives and know we haven’t as much time to do what we want to do—that caused my current bout of dissatisfaction. I realize what I truly want is to affect change, to be a change agent in my own life and the lives of others—and I want to see the changes and know I had a part. I also realize this is partly ambition and ego. Yet, it is also a real ache to feel and know the reason I am here.

In my mind I don’t think I have done enough to express this desire to be a change agent. And maybe it is I also don’t acknowledge the influence I have had on affecting change in myself and others. But, since realizing this about myself I am starting to notice how I am  of service, and also how I might of more service to affect change.*

I work at a school. My job is to assist students in the classroom to stay on task, redirect behavior and provide academic support. However, I find there is another kind of support some students are in need of.

Yesterday I knew I would be unable to perform my job in the classroom with a particular student. I knew there would be no work that would get done. Instead she needed to leave the room. She wanted to show me something. She lead me to the front doors, and I had hoped she wouldn’t try and leave. She stopped at the doors and looked out. She wanted to watch the snow fall.

As we both sat and watched, she began talking. I listened and asked some questions. A part of my mind was also rambling about how I should get her back in class and at least look productive. Yet, the wiser part knew this moment, watching the snow fall while she shared what was on her mind, was also productive—in an even greater way perhaps, than learning about weight and gravity in Science class.

Before her next class she took me to another window to look at the snow. I told her she needed to get to class and she did oblige. I sensed she needs more moments looking out a window with someone willing to listen. Today, another student wanted to show me pictures her father drew and a picture of him. She has only met him twice. The envelope with the pictures was from a correctional facility. I told her I would love to look at them as soon as she did her work, which she did and I thanked her for sharing this part of her with me.

Later in class, the student who needed time to look at the snow wrote my full name on a piece of paper in her diary. By each letter she wrote something nice about me beginning with the letter. The words she chose for me brought tears to my eyes— words like Divine, Real, Kind, Ordinary. Phrases such as like a kid (because I understand kids, she said).

If you recall my previous post, I was seeking a connection to someone (or myself or God) who knew me— who saw me for who I am. I never thought it would come in the form of an 11-year old girl. I plan to ask her for a copy so I can remember.

This list and the trust these two young girls have with me— sharing their thoughts and pictures of and from their father lets me see in small and ordinary ways I am making a difference.

Here is a woman I recently read about making a difference in a simple, yet profound way by giving hugs: http://amma.org/

Nikki

*What I mean by change is having the courage to go against the current norms of our culture and connect with a richer, truer part of ourselves.  It is not necessarily change as much as it is turing toward something that is always within us, that is real and lasting. This is the movement I choose to be part of for myself and others.