The voices within us can seem relentless, nudging us that we need to do more, need to be more. Implicitly woven into those messages is the suggestion we are not enough. Much of it has to do with our relationships with others as well as God that come from our core relational beliefs that begin in infancy.
Much of that information that lays down the foundation and framework for our beliefs is in our implicit memory. These are the memories that we may not have a conscious recall for, but are very significant as we develop.
How our primary caregivers respond to us from the day we are born begins to form our responses to stress, needs, and wants. Research actually finds that how we trust or mistrust others occurs in us by the time we are one year old. Some of you may wonder how that can be?
In God Attachment by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Joshua Straub tell us,
“Trust is developed as a child associates crying with being comforted, or develops mistrust when its needs expressed in crying are met with a parent’s anger and rejection. The parents’ response to the child is imprinted onto mirror neurons, and later in life, the child is likely to automatically, almost instinctively, and without awareness, respond to his or her own emotions and behaviors in a manner that reflects the way the parents responded.”
These are very powerful influences on us and perhaps even more important than our explicit memories that we use to recall facts in real time about our relationship with our parents.
To form our stories about our lives, we use these memories stored in key parts of our brains. The implicit memories are emotionally charged and continue to affect us the rest of our lives.
Those of us who write often talk about our stories and the value and importance of them. Telling our stories has been a part of who we are as humans since God created Adam and Eve.
“The very essence of secure attachment with others and with God is the ability to understand our lives. It’s a coherent story that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, events and integrates them into an understanding of why we are the way we are” according to Clinton and Straub in God Attachment.
This complex set of connections and interconnections help to develop those internal voices that sometimes can be very destructive by criticism and shaming. In addition to our first caregivers, we then pick up things from teachers and others in our lives that help us to confirm those beliefs about others and ourselves.
These things form the soil that influences how we seek to affirm and confirm ourselves that then propels us to respond to expectations as well as demands which nudge us to be busy to hide those parts of us we deem are not good enough, competent enough, or that cause us shame. It can push us into perfectionism as well.
Usually we extend very little (if any) compassion toward ourselves for not reaching the goal or grade that others expected or what we expected of ourselves. This often kicks up our striving into more drivenness.
If we could learn to be compassionate toward ourselves, we would less likely become so perfectionistic.
Chuck DeGroat speaks to this in Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self.
“Self compassion allows us to give ourselves the gift of being adequate at many things instead of exceptional at everything.”
If we silence any attempt at self-compassion, we will be much more likely to become exhausted, reactive and divided, losing track of our hearts. And why is our heart so important? It is because that is where the Lord lives if we know Him and it’s the empty spot waiting to be filled by Him if we don’t yet know Him.
That internal world is crucial to our relational, emotional, and spiritual life. Can it be any surprise that the enemy of our souls tries to develop a belief very early in life to distrust, dismiss, and ignore our longings and yearnings and focus instead on those external goals and appearances. Those adjustments result in more fragmentation as we develop our external persona that most people in our lives know as us.
John Eldredge and Brent Curtis tell us in The Sacred Romance that “the inner life, the story of our heart, is the life of the deep places within us, our passions and our dreams, our fears and our deepest wounds…it cannot be managed like a corporation. The heart does not respond to principles and programs; it seeks not efficiency, but passion.”
Is it any wonder that our heart becomes a battleground? Can you see how that very battleground can be a powerful weapon used against us to stop us from discovering the truth about ourselves, the gifts He has placed inside us, and then how our doing more and more exhausts us with our heart more constricted than ever?
I think that is why I often rebel against lists of things to do or be in order to “fix me”. They do not take into account my heart.
In his great book Waking the Dead by John Eldredge we can see an illustration of what happens:
“The Enemy knows how vital the heart is, even if we do not, and all his forces are fixed upon its destruction. For if he can disable or deaden your heart, then he has effectively foiled the plan of God, which was to create a world where love reigns. By taking out your heart, the Enemy takes out you, and you are essential to the Story.”
To discover the truth our hearts are trying to tell us about who we were created to be and designed to do, we cannot be rushing about, always driven, and never finding the truth.
As I have listened to my heart, I have begun to reclaim pieces that were broken off, hidden, and placed on a shelf. I have also grown in letting others see the real me.
To hear more about that and what I have learned, join me here for my next post.