I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. – Michelangelo
I was once given a great tip when I told a dear friend I was going to see a counsellor about a certain issue I was dealing with in my life. It was clear and sound advice that I have never forgotten. She said to me, “Often counselling or therapy can be expensive. You should get really clear before your session on what you need help with. Most people don’t prepare before a session and expect all the ‘magic’ to happen in those fifty minutes. If you really want value and swift realisations and results, do your self-inquiry work before you go in.”
Of course, I didn’t have much clue as to what she was talking about until I was well into my third session. Then I understood that a lot of my time in the sessions were spent giving context, in essence, I was just regurgitating the he said she said story. It wasn’t until session four that we really hit what my therapist called a core wound – the nuts and bolts of the issue. The kryptonite of the problem.
I didn’t know how to help myself fast-track this process. I didn’t have the tools to start this process of self-inquiry. I called her and asked for some guidance. She kindly revealed what she does a good few days before each session with her therapist. She gave me four keys to truly help me –
- You don’t need fixing. You’re perfect just as you are. You pursue self-inquiry and therapy like a great sculptor. You start with a large granite stone. You know the angel is in there. You just have to chip away at what’s protecting it. Then you can arrive and stand proud … all your beautiful qualities radiating in the light. Get fascinated in uncovering the angel inside: not what’s protecting it.
- In order to take full responsibility for your inner-harmony, you need to take this seriously. Being self-responsible in your actions takes commitment. Are you willing to do the work?
- Give up the need to be right.
- Don’t ask if you are selfish, greedy, jealous, insensitive etc. These are all qualities of the human condition. You are comprised of all of them. The more self-satisfying questions are; When and how am I selfish? When and how am I greedy (jealous, insensitive etc).
I was not deterred by these keys. In some ways, they excited me. I felt I had heard truth and clarity from my friend. I also noticed that she was the one friend who I had never argued with. She had clear boundaries and I always felt I could trust her integrity of word. When I thought about it, she was the one friend that seemed to never have any issues with anyone. Now this got me curious. Someone who practised what she preached.
Opening the Doors
Key 1 for sure made me feel safe and even a little warm and fuzzy. It was the perfect entry point for me. I was always busy trying to fix myself. Seeing what’s wrong in myself and others. Previously I’d told myself that I wasn’t going to waste my time and money talking about everything that was working in my life and how great I was at this, that and the other. But this key shifted my acute focus. Focussing on what’s wrong was like strapping a ball and chain to my leg with the problem etched on it. I was giving myself a slow start. Just changing my mindset to think about getting to that angel made me feel a whole lot lighter.
I looked at key 2 and I felt tired of my old ways. I felt done with how I kept showing up in life in the same old way and getting the same old stale results. I made a promise to myself there and then to ramp this up a notch. To make a solid commitment to take this seriously. To take full responsibility for my behaviours in thoughts and deeds. I said loud and proud, YES, I am willing to work hard for this. I felt this strange unsettling in my stomach. As if I had hired a witness to keep me in check. A guardian angel who would keep me accountable. And in short, I had. This felt exhilarating and scary because all my excuses and victim behaviour were threatened. Then there was a knot in my stomach when I realised that I would truly have to show up, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Key 3 felt like a puzzle. I kept saying it over and over again. “Give up the need to be right.” It was as if a warehouse of argumentative fireworks had gone off in my head. There were a hundred or more voices all taking a stance here, or there, or opposite, or aligning with, praising me, pulling me down. And in the end, I burst out laughing at the final chorus of those voices who sang out, “You are not always right … but hell, you are never wrong.” It landed somewhere within me deep inside. It’s the need to be right that causes all the trouble. Not being right or wrong. It’s the need that would show me all the answers. The tension and liberation in that dynamic. It was the core wound of the, he said she said story. I took a deep breath out and realised so many things. I had been ridiculed as a child for getting things wrong. It was part of the culture I grew up in. It was encouraged more by the men – to try and toughen me up for a hard world. But for me, it was crushing. It kept me small and unadventurous. I chose to stay safe, play safe, in all the arenas where I knew I was right. Or rather, in all the arenas where I would not have to feel humiliation. I stopped taking risks. I stopped growing. This realisation knocked me sideways and simultaneously I felt that if I kept unravelling this key, I would find liberation.
Key 4 was scary for me. I did not want to see myself as anything but good. Sure, I needed some rough edges rounded off but on the whole, I was a good person. A valued and admired member of my community. I was generally well-liked and included. I spoke to my friend about this. And she said, ‘Then what do you need my help or a therapist’s help for? I’m pretty sure I blushed. She continued, “I’m serious, tell me!” I confessed, “I have so much complaint inside of me about pretty much everything and everyone. Sometimes it’s just so small it’s hardly worth mentioning and the complaint subsides quickly. But sometimes there are full-blown arguments or imaginary fights that go on for days, sometimes even longer.” Then she asked the golden question, “And how does that make you feel?” For me it was clear, I felt ashamed. And I couldn’t get past that. Her eyes lit up like Catherine Wheels and she said, “Bingo! There’s one of your core wounds you can take to therapy – Shame.”
So that is what I did. I went to my next session with no story or great dramatic drama of what had just happened in my life. I sat there with my willingness to be right or wrong and with my self-compassion while looking for my angel inside. But most of all, I lead with my humility in knowing I was capable of all aspects of the human condition – the good, the bad and the ugly. Starting from this place, by telling the truth to myself, about myself and having that witnessed, made me feel that I had a chance. A chance to see and cherish my own angel. A chance to see and cherish the angels in others. A chance to stop believing I was broken.
The greatest artist has no conception which a single block of white marble does not potentially contain within its mass, but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image. – Michelangelo
Let us know how and when your angel shines. Let us know when you can see the angel in another even when they’ve forgotten who they truly are. Let us know if these keys can help you when you’re struggling to see yourself as whole and born of the one true light. Let us know that you can feel our love.
We appreciate your love so very much.
Paul and Team UPLIFT