In my 20s my life was in crisis through alcoholism, co-dependency and suicide attempts. I hit an emotional rock bottom. Then I began to seek help. Many of the helpers on my recovery journey suggested that my problems were rooted in what would now be called ACEs: Adverse Childhood Events. The narrative was that I had been emotionally ‘damaged’ by these and would have to work hard for the rest of my life to be almost OK. And I bought it. For 20 years I had a secret side-gig of working on my problems. Yet somehow I was still struggling. Two decades on I had periods of stress, burnout and overwhelm, despite all the therapy, meditation, writing, trainings, support groups etc.
Then it began to dawn on me that not only was the ‘treatment’ not working, it had actually become the problem.
Around this time I stumbled upon a very different understanding of mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing called the 3 Principles paradigm or the Inside-out understanding.
One of the first things I heard, which struck me with the force of a train was, ‘You are not broken.’ This is not denial or a suggestion that the abuse or neglect of children is unimportant. Rather it is pointing to the fact that within each of us there is a core, an essence that is undamaged and unbreakable. This is the case no matter what has happened to us. Or what we have done. Within each of us is a wellspring of resourcefulness, creativity and resilience. Actually I had observed this in thousands of people over the years, in my journey through recovery but hadn’t fully appreciated the fact. That is because I was so focussed on our defects and damage.
It seems to me that the single most effective way of obscuring these inner resources is holding onto the mistaken belief that ‘I am broken.’ The good news is that the moment any of us open to this inner wellspring, fresh thinking, peace of mind and creativity start to flow.
Since I first stumbled across this radical, new understanding, I have experienced the quality of life I was always hoping for. During that time I’ve had my ups and downs and life events have had their ups and downs too. I’ve discovered that circumstances and personal experience are two separate things. It’s possible to be at peace in the face of challenge or in a low mood despite everything going well. And neither is pathological. This is simply the ebb and flow of being human.
Today I work with others who are stuck or suffering or in need of support. Although nothing is ‘off the table’ in our conversations, the focus is seldom on the past. Not only is it gone and beyond our power to change, but focus on the past can obscure the immense power available right now. The more any one gets a sense of who and what they really are, the more resilience and resourcefulness are uncovered.
If you want to discover more about your own inner resources, google 3 Principles paradigm or the Inside-out understanding. Or get in touch with me.
You may also enjoy this video where psychotherapist Barbara Sarah Smith joined me in conversation and we touched on some of these issues: