Typically we hold too tightly to our stories. Resolutely hiding our truths. Acting as though we are okay and doing fine. Seeking to appear normal we end up hiding behind masks, feeling alone and disconnected.
We are afraid to disclose our stories because we have attached to them feelings of shame, embarrassment, or weakness. These feelings stem from the irrational idea that we should have it all together, all of the time, in every area of our lives. We have bought into the belief that life should be like Hollywood or Disneyland, a world consistently smooth, productive, easy, successful, and “happy ever after”.
This perception is supported when everyone else seems to be enjoying happy, easy and successful lives. This is actually quite tragic. Because what we are observing is not the reality of their lives but only the images they choose to present. Aspects of their stories are being concealed because they are also afraid to share their hardships, betrayals, breakdowns, worries, mis-steps, and disappointments. The misguided hope is that wearing masks will protect against potential criticism, judgment, rejection and hurt. Sadly, these fears prevent us from stepping into the simple humanity of our lives.
In “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”, Peter Scazzero uses the Iceberg Model to describe this phenomenon of burying our truths. He suggests we are like an iceberg when we allow only about 10% of our true selves to be seen and keep the other 90% of our life deeply hidden.
Scazzero suggests that in order to be emotionally healthy we must respect our full humanity. This means we need to acknowledge our physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual and social dimensions. Honestly and openly confronting how we are doing in each of these five dimensions helps us to deal with our issues and to effect positive change and growth. Sczazzero states, “We can’t change – or better said, invite God to change us – when we are unaware and do not see the truth”.
The brilliant thing is that when we hold our stories more loosely, sharing them with trusted companions, our true self is allowed to emerge. We start to appreciate our own unique beauty.
We no longer see our stories as defining us. Rather, we are able to discover personal strengths, courage and determination in even the most challenging of our stories. Instead of the condemnation we anticipated we receive nourishment and empathy. We learn our stories matter.
Being authentic allows us to find solace in the care and love provided by others. Love reaches into our stories and dispels the darkness with light and hope.
Burdens are lightened when they are shared. As we release our worries and heartaches it feels like we have let the air pressure out of a balloon. Energy that has been used to repress and conceal can be now used in positive, affirming ways.
Contrary to what we tell ourselves, friendships will flourish. When we take the risk to become authentic and transparent we become known to each other. Speaking our truths, with love and grace, allows healthy foundations to be built and deep friendships to be forged.
We discover that others have similar experiences, thoughts and feelings. Validation happens when we get a sense of “you too?”
Keeping our stories in the dark allows our imaginations to embellish them, spinning them to be more intimidating, frightening, or insurmountable. But once our stories are brought into the open we are able to gain greater clarity and objectivity. Things begin to seem more manageable.
Dr. Gabor Mate in his book, When the Body Says No, The Cost of Hidden Stress, discusses the link between repressing our emotions and our physical health. He states, “repression is a major cause of stress and a significant contributor to illness.” So when we remove ourselves from the “civil war inside the body” by allowing our repressed feelings and thoughts to surface we are more likely to experience better physical health.
Talking about our stories allows us to tease out the parts in each story that are ours to own. When we face our contributions we can start to take responsibility for them. Dr. Mate states, “There is no true responsibility without awareness.” So once we become aware, assuming responsibility for an error, offense, or hurt it allows us to change that behavior and to make amends.
Scazzero suggests we can only become emotionally and spiritually mature when we begin to live authentic lives and “respect our full humanity.” Living authentically means bolding searching below the surface and acknowledging even the most difficult aspects of our stories.
Sharing our stories, in all their fullness, frees us to celebrate our unique, complex, particular beauty. We begin to construct honest, healthy relationships with self, others and God. And instead of wandering fearfully through life, we boldly and assuredly walk, more able to fully contribute to the kingdom in our own unique and powerful ways.