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Stepping Out of the Shadows/[Re]Connecting With
Your Life's Journey

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Healing Your Wounds

By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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Rearranging Our Priorities

In the midst of winter, I discovered an invincible summer.
-Albert Camus

We will experience a shift in the relationship
we have with ourselves when we start healing
our insides rather than trying to change who
we are on the outside.

My grandfather loved to tell us stories when we were growing up. He was one of those guys that thought that everything should have a lesson to it and he was the one who was going to teach us those lessons. Every story had a moral to it that he wanted us to learn, so he would lecture us for hours on end after telling us one of his stories.

This is a story he once told about a young girl who possessed great joy and beauty. She lived on a small farm in a simple house. Several times a week she would go to town to buy food for the family.

Every time she came to town people spoke to her. Her spirit had an unusual way of attracting people.

For example, the woman who worked at the market often would say to her, “My dear, your eyes are so pretty today, they glimmer with a natural beauty. I was saying to Mrs. Hobbs next-door just this morning, that you may soon catch a husband without ever enhancing your eyes with shadow at all. Of course, can you imagine how much more attractive you might appear to a man if you put on a beautiful shadow?”

The young girl would nod her appreciation and leave.

The next time the girl would come to the market, the woman might comment on her hair. For instance she would ask, “Is it difficult to braid your hair? Your hair seems so course and stained by the rays of the sun. I have noticed that the times you tie your hair with a ribbon and bow, large curls form as it falls around your shoulders. I was thinking that such conditions might make your hair unmanageable and difficult to control. Is that true?”

“Not really. I just let it be what it will be,” the girl replied.

“Of course you do, dear,” said the woman. “I imagine that will change when you want to show the world who you really are. When you want more from life.”

“Why would it change?” asked the girl.

“Because you will want to be really beautiful!” said the woman. “Everyone knows that beauty comes from appealing to what others want. When you are ready, come to my house, then I will make you beautiful.”

The girl spent the evening thinking about what the woman from the market said to her. Never before had she looked outside herself to find beauty, but what if there was a special secret that she did not know. After all, she was still single and lived with her parents while most of the women of the town had been married with homes of their own.

After thinking about the market woman’s offer for several months, the girl finally relented and went to the woman to ask that she make herself beautiful.

The woman gathered all her friends and together they set out to make the girl beautiful. She instructed her friends, “Her hair has to be parted and pulled back tight.”

Then it was decided to lace the girl’s hair with vines and dried flowers.

Feeling that the job was not just right, the woman added a small stuffed bird.

Next they went to work on her face. Now the instructions were, “Her face should be painted white with powder and then red on the cheeks to stimulate the golden rays of the sun. Finally, we must cover her in perfume that will attract men and at the same time repel things like bees.”

When the girl returned home later her mother had a fit. Her brother laughed. Her father was silent with shock.

Unable to clean away the make-up and dilute the smell of the perfume, the girl avoided going into town over the winter months. Finally, by spring most of the make-up had worn away.

On going into town for the first time, the woman at the market greeted her with shock.

“My dear, what has happened to you? When I last saw you, you were beautiful, the way we had made you up. Now you are only a simple farm girl again.”

The girl replied, “I can only be who I am. Everything I add to try and change myself, only takes something away. I appreciate your help. Your intentions were good, but I have learned that to change so much I have to forfeit who I am.

“As I lived through this winter season, I thought to myself how complex this change really was. The outside is where it began, but I felt like I would have to lose myself on the inside in order to be able to keep the masquerade going.

“I would need to change my attitudes and feelings until soon they were not mine at all, but rather attitudes and feelings of someone else. In the end, by changing myself on the outside I would not be me on the inside, just an imitation of someone else.

“This winter taught me to be happy with who I am on the inside and leave the outside alone.”

With that the woman in the market never said another word to the girl. She merely sold her goods and watched as she came and went.

The girl did quite well on her own.

Now this is one of the oldest messages in the world. But, for how many of us is this one of the oldest traps in the world as well? We are inundated everyday with messages for products who profess to hold the magic to our physical and emotional well-being. There’s just no escaping them.

But the truth of the matter is, no matter how much we toy with the externals, it’s our insides that we need to bring honor to. Without the proper appreciation for who we are and what we are becoming, there’s nothing that can free us from the shadows.

Much of the work we’ve done to this point has really focused on that very point. Awakening. Liberating. Honoring. Reclaiming. Transforming. All means at our disposal for one thing and one thing only.

Celebrating who we are, rather than abandoning our very essence. Claiming the Truth about ourselves rather than turning to prescriptions to bury that Truth. Embracing a path of forgiveness and acceptance rather than clinging to our critical and judgmental ways. 

There’s an important point to all of these experiences. To experience the sense of wonder and joy that lives within ourselves. But more importantly, those things can only be created by ourselves.

When I talk about our need to experience a shift in the relationship we have with ourselves, that shift will occur only when we turn our gaze inward. Not only turn inward, but celebrate what we discover about ourselves as well.

Let’s end this section on a positive note of encouragement and hope. It’s important to connect with those parts of yourself that need to be recognized and honored. Too often we spend our time focused on those parts of ourselves that we don’t cherish, those parts we believe we have to fix or make disappear. The way I do this is regularly writing a Letter of Thanks.

That’s right, I express my gratitude to those parts of myself that have shown themselves to me. I honor those parts for who they are, how they appear in my life, and how wonderfully they serve me. Perhaps my courage has gotten me through a difficult project. Or my anger has protected me from something that was frightening me. Or my playfulness has rescued me from too much work. Perhaps my sense of humor has brought sanity to an otherwise crazy situation. Perhaps my ability to love has brought care and comfort to somebody else.

My point is, how often do we take the time to express gratitude to ourselves for who we are? This exercise is a way of providing equal time for all the air play we give to our critical voice inside.

This is one of those exercises whose power picks up steam the more it’s done. Give this one some thought, for many of us may not be used to exercising our thoughts about ourselves in such a way. However, the more time you give to this exercise, the more automatic it will become in your day-to-day life.

That’s the secret to this tip. Inward celebration. When I mention this in the Relationship Bridge-Building groups, people roll their eyes at me, but it works, I know it works, most importantly they have discovered that it works. Quite simply, we all need to develop an attitude of gratitude.

How best to live the attitude of gratitude? Discover the majesty of who you are rather than search for temporary solutions for the things that you are not.



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


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