Focusing Tip #499
“What would happen was a tensing in my body accompanied by the thought, “I hate myself.”
In these Weekly Tips, I’ve often told you about the Treasure Maps to the Soul process (also called Untangling™) created by Barbara McGavin and myself to apply Focusing to the most “tangled” life issues.
I’m always looking for good examples of how you might put this process to practical use, and recently a friend who took a Treasure Maps retreat wrote us about his experience transforming self-hatred. It’s long but I want to share it with you.
What would happen was a tensing in my body accompanied by the thought, “I hate myself.” It was not even clear exactly what the stimulus was for this reaction. It would grip me from time to time; in the beginning, it would grip me fairly often.
I experimented with saying: “something in me hates myself.” As I stayed with “something in me that hates myself,” I gradually sensed the quality of something that was “hating” myself.
It was a step forward to sense that it was tense and to stay with that tense feeling in my body. I needed to return to this feeling over and over again for months. The idea that it was not actually “I” that hated myself was difficult to shake. It seemed very much to be “I” that hated “me.” That felt true.
Gradually, however, I was able to experience enough separation or distance from “It” to sense that it was a part of me. The ideas that I received from Treasure Maps training led me to hypothesize that “something in me that hates myself” was a scared part. But it only became a transforming insight when I felt that it was anxious and even scared. Then I could see that the fear was actually more fundamental than the hatred. It hated “me” because it didn’t like being afraid, scared. There was something, still unclear what, that it was afraid of.
I began to be curious about the “me” that this part hated. Clearly, this “me” that it hated was not the Self-in-Presence that listened to it compassionately. There was another “me” that it hated.
Following the Treasure Maps method, I posited that the hating part of me hated “something else in me,” and I became curious what that might be. This part was very much in the shadows, but once I hypothesized its existence I was able to locate it. It was a “me” that the hating part of me was afraid was going to get “us” (“me,” “it”) into trouble. I realized that the hating part of me feared a spontaneous, at times impulsively self-expressive, part of me, an authentic and creative part of me that the hating part of me was convinced it was very dangerous to let come out of hiding and show itself.
This was immensely liberating and eye-opening. Now I understood why it hated me. And now I understood what “it” was and what the “me” was that it hated! It all made perfect sense!
But there was more. As I listened further, from Self-in-Presence, to the hating part, which now became more of a scared part than a hating part, I began to sense what it was (is) afraid of. It is afraid of rejection (or what it experiences as rejection), hurt, abandonment, being left without love, support, companionship, care and, in some profound way, even death — an infant without care, dies. That was what it was afraid of, even terrified of. That is what it didn’t want.
So…what did the part of me that (says) “I hate myself” want? It was obvious on an intellectual level: It wanted love, care, and acceptance. To know this theoretically was not enough. I had to sense, to feel, what it wants and needs.
As I stayed present to it, it dawned on me as a fresh awareness that the part of me that says “I hate myself,” actually wants me, indeed longs for me, to be loved, cared for, accepted! Who would have thought!
Well, to those who know Treasure Maps, this may not come as a complete surprise! But experiencing it, rather than just “knowing” it, is transformative. And to experience it took months and even years of Focusing with these parts of me.
I would not say that this process is entirely completed, but moments in which I am gripped with a tense feeling in my body that comes with the thought “I hate myself,” are quite rare now, and when they do occur, I almost welcome them, because I can turn toward that tension, sense the fear, and touch the richness that opens up as I do that. New channels of experiencing are now available to me.
And for that, and for the Treasure Maps practices that Ann and Barbara have developed, I am deeply indebted.