I never knew what a happy, healthy family model looked like. When I started my own family, I led based only on what I learned growing up that happiness at home is earned through hard work, and being accomplished through the day. I remember growing up, there was a small wooden wall decor in our kitchen that read, “One should be rewarded by his deeds, not his needs.”Continue reading “Loving an Emotionally Unavailable Mother”
The healing journey can sometimes feel ever so daunting. The dance of taking two steps forward, one step back, or ten steps forward, eleven steps back can feel like you’re spinning in circles with no end in sight. At the beginning of each session with my therapist, she proudly encourages me to look how far I’ve come along. And she’s right.
It wasn’t too long ago that I had no clue what mental health, healing and self-compassion meant. The words energy or blockage was all woo-woo lingo to me. Law of attraction and manifestations only existed in sci-fi movies. And shadow work had no place in my vocabulary. Yes, I’ve come a long ways.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung coined the terms shadow work, which in lay person’s term is accepting all traits of oneself. There’s no good, nor bad parts to us, just One. When we are whole, we love and accept what many would see as negative traits. For most of us who experienced a form of childhood trauma, fear, insecurity and doubt, are undoubtedly going to exist in our lives. I’ve learned that the hard way of struggling to accept my past. But when we accept that these are parts of us, we liberate ourselves from feeling shame. For myself, accepting that I can be afraid, I can be insecure and I can have doubts hasn’t been easy. The world sees those traits as negative or bad. They can be, if we act on them. But we can own them by being responsible for those feelings. Whenever we get that twitch of discomfort (aka resistance), we can say to ourselves, I’m feeling fear again! Or yes, it’s seems silly, but I am feeling insecure.
What many of us are afraid of is judgement when we own these parts of us. The truth is, everyone feels a level of insecurity. Everyone feels a level of fear. For those who deny it, are in fact disowning their shadow.
For those who experienced trauma, we might have the belief system that subconsciously says I don’t matter. I had a lightbulb moment that I worked on with my therapist this past year. I have an addiction to the belief that I don’t matter. It sounds strange to have an addiction to a negative belief system, but it’s true. With my childhood experiences of not experiencing a consistent, loving and safe home and being bullied, it was inevitible that I would generate the belief that I don’t matter. As an adult, that belief is my default thought because it’s what I’ve always known about myself. Ironically, it feels familiar, comforting and safe. Thus, I’ve been addicted to the feeling of familiarity, comfort and safety, which is linked to that pesky belief that I don’t matter.
Whenever I feel a trigger, I work extra hard to remind myself that I’m addicted to the belief that I don’t matter. (Triggers are a positive sign to remind myself to turn inward and evaluate my shadow). This gives me some extra time to process what my shadow is telling me, and that I need to own that part of me (whether I’m feeling insecure, fearful, upset, hurt, etc).
We cannot get rid of our shadow. That’s not the goal. The objective is to accept all parts of ourselves, and integrate it as part of who we are. I’ve struggled in my life. I grew up in an abusive home growing up, I was bullied and shamed. I grew up and generated a lot of fear inside me, self-doubt, and insecurities. But, that’s OK! That’s the reality of my life and I must love all parts of myself, and realize none of it was ever my fault. Yet, I lead a fulfilling life today as a blogger, author and mental health speaker, and happily in a relationship with a lovely woman who is accepting, loyal and kind. When I struggle at times in the relationship with my insecurities (which does happen!), I need to reset myself and turn inwards to my shadow and ask myself, do I believe that I don’t matter?
My therapist asked me a very powerful and deep question the other day. She asked, What if your purpose was to go through everything you’ve gone through, in order to learn what you’ve learned (because you’ve learned A LOT!) and to share it with the World?
I sat there, floored and speechless. What if all of us who experienced trauma are supposed to learn and share our wisdom of self to the World?
She could very well be right.
Come meet me virtually during my upcoming free event at the Surrey Public Library:
Wednesday Sept 15, 2021 (6 – 7pm PST)
To learn more about Shadow Work, here’s a great video by a Shadow Work therapist, Tess Mcmechan:
It’s been four years since Living with the Dragon was published and I’m both delighted and honored to be invited to share my stories and inspirations behind my best-selling book. On Wednesday September 15, 2021 from 6 – 7pm (PST), I’ll take the time to also reflect back on my book and contrast it to where I’m at today, with some excerpts both from LwtD and my second book, Living with the Cat.
Registration is required via the Surrey Public library.
The event is free and will be online via MS Teams.
When I was a young boy growing up, I used to think my parents were old. They, along with their friends, my aunts and uncles were all old to me. I looked at them as people who were on a different playing field than me. They were serious and no fun. They laughed at things I didn’t think were funny at all. They’d sit together in the livingroom and talk about old people stuff, like what “so-and-so” was up to these days, World news or work. Dad would be always trading tips with his best friend Lewis about fixing cars and patch up work for our homes. Boring stuff to me. I had bigger fish to fry, and way more important things to think about like what my Saturday morning cartoon lineup was going to be and what I was going to build with my Lego set this week; a shopping mall? a school? a skyscraper? Oh, Life’s big decisions.
Just yesterday, I went out with my good friend Melba. That’s not her real name, but I’m sort of guessing you figured that out already. I’ve known Melba for about 12 years now. We went for nice hike yesterday and ended the evening on a patio at a local pub, catching up on our lives and latest aspirations. She cooly reminded me how in a matter of weeks, she would be turning 40. I flinched, while sipping on my Pinot Grigio and retorted, How did that happen?
In the 12 years of knowing Melba, I’ve experienced many fun memories with her. She’s been my activity partner in those dozen years, and her quirky sense of humor’s always been a welcomed bonus to our friendship. We’ve taken long roadtrips together, exploring off the beaten path towns and visiting States along the West Coast. We’ve done so many activities together that I can’t help but reflect back on: snowboarding, hiking, backcountry camping, dining, and tennis. We’ve watched musicals and attended live hockey games together, cheering on our favorite teams and making silly bets which I would lose more often times than not. We played basketball together and were a part of a ball hockey league entering in tournaments for several years. Heck, we even tried sandboarding on the Oregon coast once. I’d get the text from Melba, Hey Jason, what are you up to tomorrow? Wanna try…
It was a friendship that I knew would last the test of time. One built on respect and admiration.
So when she told me she was turning 40 in a few weeks, not only did I flinch, but I also said to myself, that’s not old at all! I’m inching to half a century in a couple of years and likewise, I don’t think of myself as old, and the way I used to think of my parents. We sat on the patio last night chatting like we did a dozen years ago, and I’m watching her polish off her beef dip, fries and pint of beer, whilst still managing her slender frame. Ya, though time’s passed, things haven’t changed.
Time is inconsequential, and as I reflect on many of my other friendships over the years, most of them have remained strong. We pick up where we last left off, even if it’s been a long time of not seeing each other. I got together with an old high school buddy of mine last week as well, and likewise, I could still feel the nostaligia of our bond. I could still feel the two of us playing NHL hockey on his Sega Genesis gaming console in his bedroom when we were in high school. I could still remember and feel the warmth and inviting feelings of dropping by his house, always greeted by his sweet mother, who’d offer me cake every time I visited.
In this last thaw of the pandemic, I look forward with excitement in getting together again with my other friends. They’ve been an important part of me, prior to Covid and to be honest, I’ve missed them. And I look forward to catching up with them, reminiscing about our friendships together, and how so much time has passed, yet it feels like we were all just in our twenties and thirties again. We don’t feel old at all.
And in the words of Jon Bon Jovi, I’m not old, just older.
At a tender age of seven years old, my parents decided it was time for our family to move from our cozy two bedroom house in East Vancouver to a bigger one in the more affluent neighborhood of North Burnaby. In my short while living in East Van, I made some amazing best friends and still remember the playdates with Anna, Amy, Galton and Suzanna. I was extremely heartbroken and shattered after learning we were going to move away and I would have to say goodbye to my only friends.
When we moved to our new home in April of that year, I was excited for the sheer size of the house, but that was it. Any sense of excitement was overshadowed by fear and confusion. I was still confused by the entire move and never really understood why my family wanted to move away from where we were so comfortable, and I was fearful of what was going to show up in the next few months. All I remembered was telling my mom how I desperatly didn’t want to go to the new school, but I obviously didn’t have a choice.
With only three months left to the school year, I was the awkward new kid, the foreigner and the one who was different. That’s exactly how the remainder of the year played out for me, however, things got worse.
I didn’t know a single student there and I had a really tough time making new friends, being a naturally shy kid to begin with. When I was introduced in front of the class, my hands were pushed into my front pockets and my eyes gazed down to the floor. Those three remaining months to the year felt like an eternity. I had no friends to begin with. No one wanted to play with me during recess and lunch time, and no one even wanted to talk to me. Each day after school, I would go home crying to my mom. Each morning, I fought and argued with every ounce of energy I had to my mom, pleading her not to make me go back. Until one day out of frustration she brought me to school and had a talk with my Grade 1 teacher Ms Brown. She was an extremely strict teacher and I even heard rumors she used to punish students by hitting their hands with a wooden ruler for not doing their homework.
That morning after my mom explained to her how I didn’t want to go to school, Ms Brown started the day by hauling me to the front of the classroom. Sternly, she hollared out loud to the entire class, Who here likes Jason?
Perplexed by her question, some of the grade one students raised their hands, while others didn’t. Meanwhile my mom stood to the side of the room watching. Standing alone in front of the class, I whimpered, ready to cry and kept my hands pushed tightly into my front pockets, eyes pasted to the floor. Ms Brown angrily shouted, Get your hands out of your pockets! You’re a big boy now! See! There ARE kids who like you!
I kept my hurt buried deep inside and sat at my desk, pushing through the rest of the school year alone. I was the lonely little boy sitting by himself on the teeter totter.
Everytime the other kids didn’t invite me to play, I felt: hurt, sadness, shame, judgement, loneliness, isolated, excluded, stupid (for not knowing their rules), lost, confused, humiliated, embarrassed, rejected, envious of them having a good time, awkward, unlikeable, angry at them and at myself, and resentful at them and myself.
In my adult years now, I’m starting to trace back some of my fears and anxieties to this young childhood experience when I was seven. I find myself struggling when I can’t do things well that others can. For example, when D plays a killer game of golf with others, while I’m hitting nothing but grass, I feel the same feelings come up again: shame, exclusion, envy, humiliation, isolation, judgement, stupidity, resentment and anger. Though, I often unjustly externalize these feelings, the truth is, it’s an internal thing I’m challenged with. The root of these feelings are in fact directed at myself.
I sat on my couch this evening, meditating and reflecting back on my experience in grade one, and an amazing memory surfaced. During those several months of suffering, I remembered this little girl in my class who sat behind me. Her name was Julia and she was the only student in my class that welcomed me with acceptance. I remembered her brown long hair, tied into pony tails and her tanned complexion. I even remembered her missing tooth when she smiled. She was the only one who wanted to play with me. She spoke to me. She laughed with me. She included me and reminded me, I was not alone. She accepted me and made me feel an ounce of safety during those lonely days at school. In a funny way, I sort of remember her being like my Jenny in the movie Forrest Gump.
As I work through a lot of these experiences with my counsellor about the feelings that’s surfacing during my current relationship, I need to hang onto the albeit small, positive experiences that helped get me through those difficult times, such as my friend Julia. And today, that friend is D and she’s my best friend who helps to remind me, I am safe and I am present. I am not my past and I am determined to heal from my wounds, and become stronger than ever.