“Let’s sweep it under the rug,” This is what my mother would say whenever I wanted to know a truth she didn’t want to deal with. I can’t recall the exact instances causing this response, but I remember that whatever subject we were discussing always involved a complication or conflict she didn’t want to address.
My mother’s steely demeanor and hasty dismissal meant the conversation was over. She would not deal with the information, and so I let it go. Sweeping seemed to work.
Another target she swept away were negative feelings. Whenever I felt sorry for myself, angry with my brother, or humiliated by my friends, my mother would cart me off to one of the charitable agencies she volunteered to work at. Impressing me with how much better off I was than many other children got me in touch with how giving to others seemed to improve the pain, but I never confronted the pain.
For example, at twelve, I was taken to New York City to have an operation to correct a birth defect. Two nerves on the lid of my left eye were crossed and caused my eyelid to go-up-and-down every time I moved my jaw. The condition is called Marcus Gunn, and because it is such a rare disorder, and because this was a teaching hospital, several rounds of doctors, residents, and students would come to my bedside each day to gape and gawk at the eye.
I felt defenseless. All that mattered to those men was my eye. I did not differ from the goldfish in the bowl I stared at on the counter of the nurses’ station. Like the goldfish, I was being exposed to whoever saw me having nowhere to hide.
Feeling sorry for myself, my mother dealt with my remorse the same way she always had. She offered a man with both eyes bandaged to have me read to him. This time, though, her way of helping me feel better didn’t. It only caused me to want to avoid any circumstance that would expose me to the truth that I was vulnerable.
An infection after the operation caused my left lid, the one that used to go up and down when I moved my jaw, to freeze in a stay-open position. I could close it by mentally causing the eye to close, but the eye now looked much larger than the other one.
The way I found to deal with a “bad eye” was to become an observer. I would watch other people’s reactions to my eye while feeling separate from the experience. That allowed me to not have to be the one being judged and to not have to feel vulnerable. I had felt a sense of power instead of being a victim.
However, as I grew older, complications from having swept away circumstances and feelings cropped up. The more I tried to stay safe from feeling vulnerable, the more complex they became.
If you keep sweeping things under the rug, you’ll trip over it and fall flat on your face. Don’t ignore problems, fix them!
Not sharing my emotions kept me from ever being authentic. I lived in a constant state of acting, pretending, and doing anything that would obscure the fact that I was different. And when my actions failed to keep me safe, I suffered.
Because I had become motivated to be a person others wanted to be with — my way of coping with a defect — I began doing and being what I thought would impress others instead of feeling free to be me. This tactic kept me from ever being able to express my truths, further burying them from sight. Relationships failed because of my holding myself back. I became depressed, not knowing why.
If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, Addiction, Rage, Blame, Resentment, and Inexplicable Grief.
Then I became rebellious at forty-three. Rather than feel guilty for not having the strength and courage to face the truth that I had a “bad eye”, I began blaming and judging those people I had previously tried to make like me. Separating myself from them, they had now become my reason for my unhappiness.
I moved away and saw a Jungian psychotherapist who specialized in dream therapy. That was when I had a dream that changed everything.
In the dream, I am walking down a long hall towards a banquet room. Judging from the long wooden tables adorned with table settings of metal, and the dress of the other guests at the banquet, I guess the time we’re in to be the period of King Arthur’s court. A lot of noise and laughter is resounding in the huge room as I find a place at the table to sit. Not long after getting settled, I notice someone approaches the dining hall. It’s someone I don’t want to see me, so I duck down under the table to hide. Feeling bored, I fidget with a rug underneath the table. Rolling the rug from the end, my curiosity is leading me to examine what is underneath. Suddenly, all kinds of stuff spewed out from under the rug. All shapes and sizes of things, the mass and vast array of so many objects startles me.
How could so much stuff hide for so long in such a small space?
I had an Aha! moment. This was all my stuff! This was the stuff I’d swept under the carpet during my whole lifetime.
“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”
C. JoyBell C.
I knew I had no recourse but to face whatever I feared seeing. This sign wasn’t some random event. It was a warning to me.
Digging through a giant mound of unwanted, crammed, disposed-of stuff is a daunting task. It requires taking one step forward, only to find that you can’t move forward until you take the next step. It causes that you discover the truth, what caused this part of the stuff to be swept away. It can’t be done in a day, so you distract yourself towards more fun, rewarding things to do. But the pull to grow becomes stronger.
There’s a saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”. That’s why bringing buried fears to the light is so hard. Trust and allow for life to bring you the circumstances or relationships to trigger each one. When you dedicate to being a better you, and if you are persistent, that motivation will bring you the happiness you desire.
“Be your authentic self. Your authentic self is who you are when you have no fear of judgment, or before the world pushes you around telling you who you’re supposed to be. Your fictional self is who you are when you have a social mask on to please everyone else. Give yourself permission to be your authentic self.”
I wanted to feel the freedom I’d suppressed more than I feared what the truth was. It took me years to uncover most of the stuff I’d buried. Each time I succeeded, I felt lighter, and that inspired me to dig deeper. Now that I feel freer, I am having fun being me. I love who I am, and that love attracts more love to me.
Don’t be afraid of the truth. Remember, “The truth will set you free.”
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’