One of my favourite movies as a kid was King Kong. That old black and white movie made me cry. I can still remember vividly the point in the movie when my eyes watered up. It was the part where King Kong was climbing the empire state building. Having finally reached the top of the building, the warplanes arrived to shoot him down and rescue the girl. I felt every bullet that hit Kong. I felt his pain. I felt his sense of being wronged. I felt his sense of being misunderstood. I felt his sense of loss.
Looking back at my childhood reaction to that movie scene, it seems that something deeper was going on. The world is one big mirror and our responses are actually reflections. What was being reflected back to that younger version of me was that Kong symbolised the loss of innocence. You see, I always felt that Kong was innocent. His innocence was taken from him when he was abducted from his homeland and forced to live a life of captivity. If that was Kong’s story it is also the story of so many human beings today. How many of us are forced to abandon the homeland of who we really are and live a life of captivity? Living lives that are completely incongruent with who we really are, is it any wonder that we have this never-ending sense of loss?
Once upon a time, we were all innocent children but life seems to knock that innocence out of us with its cruel slings and arrows. The most lethal and soul destroying of those arrows is shame. Shame creates the fertile conditions for guilt, the opposite of innocence, to flourish. Projecting our sense of guilt onto the world we live the guilty life but always with the hidden hope of been found innocent one day. As we grow up and away from ourselves we become more and more unconscious of the great loss. We forget who we really are and live the life of selective amnesia, selecting only that which reinforces our sense of guilt. We become the judge and jury of our lives forever judging others and constantly finding the defendant guilty.
When we make the commitment to become more consciously aware, we begin to see that the world is one big mirror and is always reflecting back to us what we have lost. The unconscious part of our psyche is always wise and will seek out the people and places that mirror what we have lost in the hope that we will finally reclaim what is rightfully ours. You see, our unconscious is always aspirational. The hope is that we will reflect on the reflection of loss and take conscious action to uncover what we have hidden up to now. Of course, the truth is that nothing has actually been lost. It's just that it has been submerged out of awareness until we have the maturity to respond to the action that is required.
When my kids were younger I used to volunteer to help out at their swimming lessons by supervising the kids in the changing rooms. One particular day, I had a deeply poignant experience and was enveloped with an immense sadness as I watched the children laughing and joking without a care in the world. I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me and thought I was going mad. However, as I sat with this debilitating sadness and felt it instead of running from it, the mirror that was once blurred now began to clear. What was been reflected back to me that morning was something that I have been longing for all my life. That something was the childlike innocence that was once mine. Like those kids that morning, I too was an innocent kid once upon a time. I used to love swimming so much. It was the highlight of my week. I too used to be happy, innocent and carefree yet over the years I accumulated the baggage of unhappiness, guilt and caution.
Reflections of loss are everywhere when we tune into them. The challenge is to reflect on what is been reflected. Nelson Mandela is a person I admire greatly. Again, he is reflecting something that I sense that I have lost over the years. When he was finally released from captivity he said: “As I walked out the gate toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison”. I think they are some of the most profound words that I have ever read. Nelson Mandela reflected back to me how much of my true self I have lost over the years. He was the epitome of compassion, forgiveness and love and the epitome of what I needed to find in myself. Hidden behind the walls of bitterness and hatred, so many of us remain unconscious of the goodness and compassion that dwell behind our fortifications of fear. Essentially, Mandela reflected back to me the loss of love and how both literally and metaphorically he freed himself from his fortifications.
Every person we encounter is reflecting something back to us. The more people we hate then the more of ourselves that we have lost. When we hate others what are we hating anyway? When we say we hate someone don’t we mean we hate something that they have done or are doing? Maybe we hate others because we hate who we have become ourselves. Maybe we hate the reflection. If so, then it’s time for reflection. Maybe we hate who we have become because we know it’s an artificial construction built upon the shaky foundations of loss. Operating from loss we never feel fulfilled and spend our lives searching. Sadly, our lives mimic an accountants profit and loss account where we endlessly try to balance the books by seeking outer profit to offset inner loss. Some of us cook the books but all we are doing is robbing ourselves and deep down we know it.
‘Sorry for your loss’ is what we say here in Ireland when we go to offer our condolences at a funeral. “Sorry for your loss” is what we need to say to ourselves starting from now because now is the magic moment and the place where we have our 'aha' moments. Imagine you are standing at your own grave and it is only then that you realise how much of your life you left unlived, how much of your potential you were too afraid to express and how much of your power you hid in order to fit in. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today, you can choose a different ending because you are the author of your book. Today, you can offer yourself your condolences and begin excavating everything that has been buried under the cold clay of conformity.
Mark Twain said it well when he said that twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. The thing that most of us don’t do is re-appoint with ourselves when we have the chance. The way I see it, the meaning of life is the re-appointment with self. Life is the great adventure of 'lost and found' yet sadly most of us are never found. We disappoint ourselves by dis-appointing from ourselves, know it deep down, and carry that burden of loss for years. If most of us go all the way to the death bed without ever re-appointing, few of us heed the message of our lifelong pain and take the conscious action that our pain demands.
What are your reflections of loss? What needs to emerge?
It's food 4 thought,
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