Old Ghosts

Photo by Daniel Schwabe

Life events big and small occur without provocation.

One day you’re at the top of the mountain, another day, you’re arm-wrestling with an Octopus and the next you’re grappling with the shadows of yesteryear.

Those shadows can play havoc with your sense of self and your well-being in the present moment.

We all have people who never saw us for who we truly are or fought against exactly that, having wanted us to fit their image. And when we didn’t, when we walked away or they did, we believed it was done.

Maybe it was physically over, but what about emotionally? What about the exes? Whether they were a friend, spouse or some other significant relationship, did you heal?

You could be over it; you don’t really think of the person at all, unless you have kids, relatives or common friends with them. And that could make them a constant reminder of what “went wrong.”

You run in to them, or someone mentions a conversation in which you were the subject; it’s like yesterday is today AGAIN. You listen and “boom” it grips you; that emotional jackhammer! You feel the anger, pain, frustration, hatred or a strong emotion, and it can surprise you!

You thought this person had no more influence over your emotional state than an ant, BUT whether it’s for a minute or days later, you still react to them.

I don’t care how much therapy, meditation, electro-shock therapy or coaching you may have had…you’ve been side-swiped.

This person knows just how to upset you or make you feel off-kilter. They push your buttons; say things about you, which have nothing to really do with WHO YOU ARE in its entirety or they bring out some deep hidden desire inside of you for re-acquaintance.

It seems they knew a different you.

The “you” who was in relation to them. That part of you, they knew, they figured was the whole you.

But, it wasn’t.

It was just a part of you in reaction to them or the only part you felt safe showing to this person. It could be the role you took on in the past, liar, cheater, caretaker, victim, rescuer, lover, fighter, etc… and this person brings back that memory of those pieces of you.

Not the whole picture, just the parts they interacted with and “believed” you to be, their perception, which has stayed unchanged by time or growth.

The time warp of emotions that stopped a long time ago, may have just been in a deep freeze, especially if they are related to shame, frustration, insecurity or any other of the dark parts we try to shield.

I was married in my twenties. I was married to an alcoholic.

When I met him, we were both having a great time, partying and being responsible (yes, not irresponsible; two work-a-holics makes for an interesting combo). I mention this, because it took me a long time to understand how I ended up there and why. Even when I left, it wasn’t because of his “ism,” it was because I had lost myself; I had a big empty emotional hole and I was never seen for who I truly was as a person.

I couldn’t even see me, or understand on the deeper levels, what I required and how to break through my own walls, because they had always been there…so how would I know  to break through?

It took years for me to understand, how I had been seeking “emotionally unavailable,” men, because I was too.

I liked being independent and deluded myself into believing all sorts of reasons as to why.

And when I got real with myself, understanding the attraction, another thing happened, what had been “abnormal,” but I had made appear “normal,” really never was okay with me.

And so, when I hear things pertaining to a warped idea or derogatory remark from the past, I look at the context it was made in and why. I look for the harm it causes, not to me, but to the self-infliction, the children, friends and other family members.

Yet, my first reaction, is the same one I had years ago; the one in which I was never seen for “me” and instead, myopically distorted into a caricature.

And what these ghosts show us, is our perceived limitations, our lack of trust in our authenticity, the fears of vulnerability, which meant accepting our darker parts. Not through the eyes of another, it isn’t about defending oneself.

When old feelings emerge,it’s an opportunity to empower the darkness we want to run from. Giving light to the shadows and admitting how we hid, put up with, punished, suffered or any other self-induced pain we believed we deserved at the time.

Have we grown in self-acceptance?

Can we discern if a statement truly fits who we are RIGHT now?

And discard it by realizing, it’s someone else’s perception.

There is no fight or reason to change it; we never had to take it personally.

If you want to defend or prove you are not who the past believes you to be, ask yourself “why” it matters? The discovery is no matter what someone else thinks or says….

There is always the choice.

Ghosts or present-tense, when you can open and BE you, all of you, there is no apology, excuse, shame, or blame. Just an acceptance that you are human and ghosts are fleeting,  just shine a little light on them and watch them dissipate.