I’ve made my decision. Now how do I stop breaking my own heart?
I’ve talked about heartbreak before, using the analogy my therapist gave me. It’s like waves crashing onto the shore, and then being taken back into the ocean. It can happen over and over, and the ocean is always strong enough to take it back.
What about self-imposed heartbreak? What about when I know what I am about, I am clear on my intentions, and set in my decisions and commitments; and I break my own heart?
This goes back to the old unworthiness/virtue lie I came from. If I’m unworthy, then my decisions can be superseded by any whim of a situation or person – because the unworthiness/virtue lie says that everyone is better than I am and I don’t deserve to fulfill my intentions.
If I’m unworthy, then my decisions waver. If I’m unworthy, then my own ethics are meaningless. If I’m unworthy, then being terribly unkind to myself through self-talk and stress and (until very recently) eating foods that are designed to actually shorten my lifespan – these actions are all a sign that I recognize my true unworthiness.
Other signs that I believe that unworthiness equals virtue: I respond to others as if they have ultimate power over my feelings and actions. I determine that I deserve to be put aside, and I feel terribly surprised when I am not. I put myself into positions where I can find evidence of being put aside, however difficult it may be to find that evidence.
This is such an inside job. I would love to lay it all out in my external life and assign a cast to play various parts, and I just direct it until the play ends with me feeling fulfilled and happy. But I’m learning that this is not at all how it works. Nor does my upbringing and societal conditioning help at all. There is no one path to follow that will bring greater happiness. I find my own way, from inside of myself. It’s that simple. And that peaceful. And that scary.
I have done the right things religiously. I have done the right things societally. I have done the right things over and over and over. And I have combined doing the right things with seeking unworthiness as a state of being, so that I can be constantly rescued from it and then left in it again.
But it will kill me. It will absolutely and truly kill me. In the months since I’ve cleaned up my eating, I have learned that as others use alcohol or drugs to mask deep pain, I have used junk food, especially sugar and preservative-laden foods, to do the same thing. Now that I have removed those foods-that-functioned-as-drugs, all I have left is me.
And the battle that rages in me to assert unworthiness as the dominant mindframe and guiding impulse in all things – it is huge. That dragon does not want to leave. And it seems so simple – just think positive thoughts about myself, respect my own decisions and commitments, and proceed on down the yellow brick road.
But it is not simple, not inside. The sugar and the junk food propped me up and kept me numb. Now I feel it. At church they would have called it the battle for my soul. It’s possible that on some level they were right, though I’m very iffy on the concept of a literal soul these days. But they had it backwards. The unworthiness that wants to eat me alive, raise my blood pressure, destroy my newly discovered capacity to love, wreck my peace of mind, turn me into a worrisome and cantankerous person in my professional life – it’s loud. It shouts. It grabs my gut and twists it in pain. It screams, “SEE? I TOLD YOU! LOOK AT THAT! THERE IS NOTHING HERE FOR YOU! YOU DON’T DESERVE THIS! STOP TRYING TO BE PART OF IT!”
But it’s kind of too late, because a deeper part of me already made a decision to be a part of whatever the unworthiness dragon is screaming and twisting my gut about. And so the battle rages, with me barely breathing inside as I go about my daily life, pelted constantly with internal messages that I absolutely do not deserve my own decisions, intentions, and commitments.
And I find myself getting mad at situations outside of myself that seem, in any given moment, to be playing the part the unworthiness assigned to them. And I find myself neglecting to appreciate, even minutely, the evidence that my own ethics, decisions, and personal integrity have brought about great things inside and outside of me.
So I hear people tell me that I seem calm – but it’s because I’m so busy listening to what’s going on inside my head and my body that I can’t focus on being anything other than neutral on the outside.
As I write this, I’m realizing that the unworthiness that wants to be so dominant, that is, still, so dominant, holds me in a way that kind of makes me thankful I was able to simply drown my pain in sugar and junk food, and not something even more life-threatening. And now that those things are gone from my body, the unworthiness screams loudly and brings such pain, physical pain, that it’s almost too much to bear.
The thing is, that’s where the unworthiness trips up. Because that’s when I start questioning it. Can you be real, if you hurt me so badly? I mean, can you be telling me the truth about myself, if all you ever do is cause such pain that I would not wish this on anyone? Can you be tearing apart my deepest truth, my deepest decisions, my growing sense of personal ethics, my blossoming understanding of love, and all of the ways I am learning to show these things? Can you?
I don’t know the path forward. I used to know the path forward. It was set for me in concrete terms. I knew, in advance, the stages of my life. I knew how it was going to go. It was set. Now, I am creating the path as I go. And I am creating the path by decisions and commitments I make internally, without reference to any conventional pathways through life.
After a life spent in camouflage, I find myself living in ways that surprise even me. I didn’t know I could do this. I didn’t know I could feel my way to a decision that would seem and feel right to me regardless of what the unworthiness said to me.
But I want to stop fighting it. It hurts so bad, so physically, when it attacks. When it attacks, I feel as if I’ve been sucker-punched, and I barely function through my daily activities as the fight rages inside me, with my gut twisted from pain. I want to find a way out of the fight.
I want to just stop breaking my own heart, I think. I want to respond to the sucker punches by staying down, rather than getting up to fight. Because this unworthiness thing? It’s not my fight to win or lose. It was someone else’s, put on me long ago. And I don’t have to fight the battle for anyone else. It’s really not my fight.
If I just look at me, and my decisions and my commitments and my ethics and my sense of what I believe and what I want, this thing isn’t that complicated. I feel my heart coming back together. None of this depends on anything except my own inner truth. And discovering my own inner truth is a journey only I can take. And unworthiness coming in and trashing the place like a bully and beating me up (you can’t see the bruises, but my doctor can tell you they are there in the form of high blood pressure at the very least – fortunately controlled now with diet and medication) – unworthiness is not a guest I know how to turn away. Unworthiness is there, bashing me, before I know how to neutralize it.
I think next time I feel it bashing me (which will be either sometime before I go to sleep or sometime early next morning, I’m realizing it’s nearly constant), I will just look at it and shrug and say “OK.” And I’ll see what happens.
I’ve sat through people (notably a family member) having psychotic breaks, and I realize I’ve internalized that capacity to try to take that irrational hostility and turn it on myself, just to neutralize it in the moment. But I don’t need unworthiness to come and have a psychotic break in my head every time I discover something new about my inner truth, or my ethics, or what I want. So I’m just gonna, as soon as I recognize what’s happening, say, “OK,” and move on. My truth still stands. So far unworthiness hasn’t done more than twist me in pain. My truth still holds.
I’m not sure, really, what’s next. But I want to give my energy to my own truths, rather than to battling unworthiness. It just really is not my fight.