One of the best parts of my work is helping people realize that many of the beliefs and values they think are 'theirs', are not. That we 'take on' or 'introject' beliefs, values, behaviors as small children. We take these on as a mechanism to survive. If you live in a family where you are not seen for who you are, if you are devalued as a child and not shown any respect, in order to survive a child must align with caretakers/parents. Aligning means safety. Aligning means survival.
However, I know personally that it feels as if the beliefs, the values, the attitudes, even the behaviors are mine. In therapy I have had to confront, or be confronted kindly with the question: is that your belief about yourself or about the world? Is that a behavior that was learned? Whose voice is that you hear when you are acting in that way? And how old is that voice? That behavior?
During sessions if a client talks about depression, deep grief, loneliness, despair I might ask the same as above: whose voice is it that you hear? Who else in your family - even going back a generation or two - had those same beliefs? Those same attitudes and behaviors? And how old is that part of you that is clinging to those things which are not yours? That you 'took on' or introjected as a child trying to be safe and stay alive?
It is a sobering experience. I remember. And it takes time and compassion, kindness to slowly recognize the voices, the behaviors, the attitudes. The beliefs. It reminds me of this poem by Mary Oliver.
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice--
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug at your ankles.
"Mend my life!" each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen
branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do
the only thing you could do-- determined to save
the only life you could save.
It is a remarkable thing, a true gift to be able to help people stop listening to those old voices, slowly pry those stiff fingers away and stride 'deeper and deeper into the world'.
It is a remarkable thing to assist others in saving their own lives.