How we develop the idea that we’re not enough
A few days ago I held a newborn infant and gazed into eyes of wonder and innocence, still connected, it seemed, to the mystery of his origin.
The openness of the child’s gaze left me reflecting on just what happens to that wonder and sense of connection as we progress through life.
New research shows that up to about the age of eight, children don’t possess the ability to fully differentiate between themselves and their mother or father. If Mom withdrawals under the stress of a rough day, the young child does not see that “Mom is just having a hard time”. He or she concludes that there must be something wrong with me to have caused the situation. The connection to Mom or Dad has been compromised – and it is the young child’s fault.
In this age of single parenting and isolated nuclear families, small but repetitive slights to a young child’s sense of connection, get internalized as a deficiency – a feeling of lack – that lies beneath the surface of conscious awareness.
This is in no way to blame parents, but to acknowledge just how far we have moved from our tribal past when Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles plus countless cousins were on-hand if parents were unavailable. In these cases the child’s sense of safety and connection to caring adults was maintained.
Today the “not enoughness” takes many shapes and forms, and is mirrored back to us by the society we live in. There is “not enough” time,”not enough” money, “not enough” love and attention, and for some, “not enough“ safety and security.
This underlying feeling of lack can lead in extreme cases to Trump-like displays of grandiosity, wealth and power, all in an attempt to fill an empty place inside. The hidden template of lack gets played out as busyness – the more I do the better I’ll feel about myself – it gets expressed as self judgement – I’m never good enough. and an underlying sense of dis-ease or dissonance that our culture offers us myriad forms of distraction not to feel.
It is a paradox that as we turn toward the “not enoughness” in ourselves, and instead of judging it, or wall papering it over, bring our conscious care and attention to the very places in ourselves where this lack lives – the places something begins to change.
It’s as if we give ourselves in those moments, the very presence that was missing in our past. We become the ‘good enough parent’ of our own experience. We rewrite the script and change the source code with our own presence – allowing us to move forward with more gratitude for what life has to offer.
As the Sufi mystic Jelaluddin Rumi said so simply 800 years ago, It’s all about loving and not loving.
The truth is that it’s hard to truly love ourselves or another, when we are operating from a place of lack.
For those of you who wish to explore these themes in a deeper way, I invite you to take a look at The Hero’s Journey, a six day retreat I will be leading during the last week in September.
And due to such a positive response in the spring, Yogita Bouchard and Sharon Abbondanza will be once again be offering the five day woman’s retreat, A Woman’s Way of Being, Sept 16th – 21st. This is both a profound reset for the central nervous system and a deep dive into the wisdom available within.