Break Free: Don't let anyone hold you back

Vintage-crab-illustration

I often say to people, “You are a free person, no one has the right to tell you what to do or to hold you back". But the problem is, a lot of people aren’t free because of the people they have chosen to have around them. They choose (yes, choose) to be around people who restrict them, kill their spirit, and stop them chasing their dreams. It’s like self-inflicted incarceration.

The thing is though, no matter how hard it is for you to get away, get away you must. No matter how hard it is to extract yourself from a situation, it is possible.  Cut yourself free.

I’d like to share this story with you:

An old fisherman had pulled his boat into port with a large basket filled to the brim with crabs. A young man was walking by along the dock and noticed the basket had no covering to secure the contents. He beckoned to the old Fisherman, “Why don’t you put a cover on the basket so that none of the crabs escape?” The old man answered quickly. ”It’s the strangest thing, every time one of them tries to climb out, three or four of the others grab its legs and pull it back in. It’s strange behaviour but at least I don’t have to worry about them escaping.”

Humans are much the same. Crab mentality, also known as crabs in a basket mentality, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase "If I can't have it, neither can you". While any one crab could easily escape, its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group's collective demise.

In humans, members of a group will attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, resentment, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, in order to stop their progress.

Be aware of this when it is happening to you.

Never let the attitude of those who don’t want to see you succeed hinder you from appreciating the other good and better things that this life has to offer.


Listen carefully

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Listening carefully to someone is the best way to show that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. When you listen to someone, not just with your mind, but with every fibre of your being, it sends them the message: ”I value your opinion” and it helps to forge a deep human connection. Very few of us are good at listening. Years ago I was involved with someone who hardly stopped talking. I could be with him for two hours listening to him talk and not once would he ask my opinion or listen to what I had to say (or tried to say). I realise now that people like him lack what scientists call ‘sensory acuity’ (an ability to pay attention to the cues around them) but also that they probably weren’t listened to much as they were growing up.


A symbol for healing

Oak

Symbols can play a powerful role in the process of healing and recovery. As humans, we have all had experiences of loss and trauma. We’ve experienced losing loved ones, maybe our health, or lost a much-needed job. It’s inevitable. Nothing in this world lasts forever. The problem is that we are never prepared when bad things happen and we struggle to process it. It certainly can’t be fixed by an hour-long therapy session or a weekend workshop.

If you find yourself stuck and unable to shift you need to move through the loss and distress and reconnect with your meaningful purpose. This requires symbolisation of the experience.

One way to symbolise your experiences is simply by talking about them. Telling your story to someone can be cathartic and healing. It can move the pain and trauma into a story that is unique to you. It makes your feelings and emotions about the experience conscious. You give the experience words, a name, and a description.

Another way to use symbolism for healing is to find a symbol that can pull you through an episode of distress. When you are in distress your psyche will naturally be attracted to a symbol that can heal you and move you forward. You cannot overcome serious psychological crises but you can outgrow them. This is the goal of the symbol. For some this solace can be found in nature or being with animals. It can be anything that transports you to another place, another time, and a different way of being that contains this magical elixir of healing. The symbol will help you to move beyond your current experience into the future.

If you have a traumatic event that you need to deal with, write in your journal about it, express how it made you feel and what emotion it still raises in you. Where does it lie in your body? How do you feel about yourself in relation to this experience?

Once you have finished reread it and create a symbol for your story.  First state your intent maybe about how you have learnt a lesson from the experience, how it was not your fault, or that you would not be who you are today had you not had that experience.

Next create a symbol of healing, letting go. First, fill yourself with a feeling of peace and acceptance. Then ask the universe/God/Nature/your higher self to give you a symbol of healing. It will appear instantly. Take the first thing that comes to you. Do not doubt it or try to change it. Write it down. It could be an object, a song, an animal even.

During the week reflect on your symbol. It should take the place of your traumatic memories. As the symbol contains both conscious and unconscious content, it is a far more powerful remedy for healing the psyche, because it takes into consideration the unconscious aspects of the trauma that you are not aware of.

Take time to reflect on how you feel about the event and the effect the symbol has on you.

When I did this exercise I received the oak tree as a symbol – tall, strong, and well-rooted.

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The Little Match Girl

Matchgirl

The story about the Little Match Girl is a familiar one. The story, at its core, describes what lack of nurture and lack of focus look like and what they lead to. The story is told in different forms too, sometimes with a man in the lead role such as the charcoal burner who uses his last coals while he dreams of times past, or the flower seller, a broken-hearted man who gazes wistfully into the centres of his last flowers and is spirited away from this life.

Some people might say these stories are superficial and overly emotional but it would be a mistake to dismiss them lightly. Stories like this are, at their base, profound expressions of the human soul being negatively mesmerised to the point that real life begins to die in spirit.

The version I am most familiar with is adapted from the story by Hans Christian Anderson. The message behind the story is that soft dreams under hard conditions are no good, in tough times we must have tough dreams, real dreams, dreams that if we work hard enough and believe in enough will come true.

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL

It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. Evening came on, the last evening of the year. In the cold and gloom a poor little girl, bareheaded and barefoot, was walking through the streets. Of course, when she had left her house in the woods she'd had slippers on, but what good had they been? They were very big slippers, way too big for her, for they belonged to her mother. The little girl had lost them running across the road, where two carriages had rattled by terribly fast. One slipper she'd not been able to find again, and a boy had run off with the other, saying he could use it very well as a cradle some day when he had children of his own. And so the little girl walked on her naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. In an old apron, she carried several packages of matches, and she held a box of them in her hand. She wandered the streets and begged strangers, would they please buy matches from her? But no one stopped and no one paid her any attention.

Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along, a picture of misery, the poor little girl. The snowflakes fell on her long fair hair, which hung in pretty curls over her neck. In all the windows lights were shining, and there was a wonderful smell of roast goose, for it was New Year's Eve. Yes, she thought of that!

In a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected farther out into the street than the other, she sat down and drew up her little feet under her. She was getting colder and colder, but did not dare to go home, for she had sold no matches, nor earned a single cent, and her father would surely beat her. Besides, it was cold at home, the house in the woods on the edge of the town had been built out of clay and branches the wind whistled even though the biggest gaps had been stuffed with straw and rags.

Her hands were almost dead with cold. Oh, how much one little match might warm her! If she could only take one from the box and rub it against the wall and warm her hands, she thought. She drew one out. R-r-ratch! How it sputtered and burned! It made a warm, bright flame, like a little candle, as she held her hands over it; but it gave a strange light! It really seemed to the little girl as if she were sitting before a great iron stove with shining brass knobs and a brass cover. How wonderfully the fire burned! How comfortable it was! The youngster stretched out her feet to warm them too; then the little flame went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the burnt match in her hand.

She struck another match against the wall. It burned brightly, and when the light fell upon the wall it became transparent like a thin veil, and she could see through it into a room. On the table a snow-white cloth was spread, and on it stood a shining dinner service. The roast dinner steamed gloriously, spreading the wonderful aroma of the delicious food. Then the match went out, and she could see only the thick, cold wall. She lighted another match. Then she was sitting under the most beautiful Christmas tree. It was much larger and much more beautiful than the one she had seen last Christmas through the glass door at the rich merchant's home. Thousands of candles burned on the green branches, and coloured pictures like those in the printshops looked down at her. The little girl reached both her hands toward them. Then the match went out. But the Christmas lights mounted higher. She saw them now as bright stars in the sky. One of them fell down, forming a long line of fire.

"Now someone is dying," thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star fell down a soul went up to God.

She rubbed another match against the wall. It became bright again, and in the glow, the old grandmother stood clear and shining, kind and lovely.

"Grandmother!" cried the child. "Oh, take me with you! I know you will disappear when the match is burned out. You will vanish like the warm stove, the wonderful roast dinner, and the beautiful big Christmas tree!"

And she quickly struck the whole bundle of matches, for she wished to keep her grandmother with her. And the matches burned with such a glow that it became brighter than daylight. Grandmother had never been so grand and beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and both of them flew in brightness and joy above the earth, very, very high, and up there was neither cold, nor hunger, nor fear, nor pain.

And in the morning, between the houses, the child was found still and gone.

"She wanted to warm herself," the people said. No one imagined what beautiful things she had seen, and how happily she had gone with her old grandmother into the bright New Year.

The Little Match Girl lived in an environment where people did not care for her. If you live in an environment like this, get out. I found myself in this predicament and I walked away. You should too.  

The child has matches, little fires on sticks, the beginnings of all sorts of creative possibilities, but what she has to offer is not valued. She is in a situation where she has few options. She has resigned herself to ‘her place’ in life. If this has happened to you, as it did to me, be strong, unresign yourself and walk away.

So what should the Little Match Girl have done? If her instincts had been intact she would have had many choices. She could have walked to another town, hidden in an outhouse, or offered to do some work in exchange for warmth and food.  But the Little Match Girl had lost touch with her inner wild spirit. She was freezing and hungry and all that was left was a person wandering around in a trance.

Being with real people who value us, who warm us, and encourage our creativity is essential for a fulfilled and happy life. Otherwise we freeze to death in the coldness of empty relationships and lives. Nurture comes from within and without. You need to believe in yourself and also to be with people who notice the state of your inner being, encourage it, and, if necessary, comfort it. Friends are important - we all need at least one or two who can see our value.

When we are left out in the cold, we tend to live on fantasies instead of action. This sort of fantasy is like anaesthetic.  People like this – men and women - have great talent as artists, storytellers, or in some special craft, but they are isolated or feel disenfranchised in some way. They are shy, which is often a sign that they lack motivation because their inner being is being starved. They have difficulty gaining a sense that they are being supported from within, or by friends, family, community.

To avoid being the Little Match Girl (or Boy) there is one major action that you must take. You must recognise that anyone who does not support your art, your life, your beliefs, is not worth your time. Walk away. It sounds harsh but it is true. If you don’t you will be dressed in the rags of the Little Match Girl (as I was for many years) and you will be compelled to live a quarter-life that freezes all thought, hope, gifts, art, creativity, music, and dancing.

Warmth should have been the major pursuit of the Little Match Girl. But in the story, it is not. Instead, she tries to sell the matches, her source of warmth. She is selling her soul. Doing so leaves her no warmer, no wiser, and no further forward in life.

The Match Girl is not in an environment where she can thrive. There is no warmth, no kindling, no firewood. If we were in her position what should we do? Firstly we should ignore the fantasy of finding warmth by lighting the matches. There are three kinds of fantasies: Firstly there is the pleasure fantasy such as daydreams; secondly intentional imaging. This kind of fantasy is like a planning session. It is like a vehicle that will take us forward into action. All successes, whether spiritual, financial, psychological, or creative, begin with fantasies of this nature. The third kind of fantasy is the type that hinders and brings everything to a halt. It is the kind of fantasy that stops us from taking the right action at critical times. Unfortunately, this is the fantasy that kept the Little Match Girl trapped. It is a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality. It has to do with the feeling that nothing can be done, or that something is too hard to do, so one might as well just drift into idle fantasy. Sometimes it is just in the mind or it might come in the form of a bottle of wine every evening, or a needle – or lack of one. Or it may take the form of regrettable secret relationships with someone they think will ‘save’ them. Women – and men – in these situations play out the Little Match Girl scenario every day and every night, waking up dead and frozen every daybreak. There are many ways that we can lose our intent, lose our focus.

So what will reverse this pattern and restore our self-esteem? We have to find something that is very different to what the Little Match Girl had. We have to take our ideas to a place where we will find support for them. This can involve an enormous step such as walking away and seeking a new life. Our focus should be on finding nurture. Very few of us can create solely under our own steam. We need all the help we can get.

Most of the time creative people have wonderful ideas: I’m going to get a picture of the sunrise from the top of Mount Snowdon; I’m going to paint a picture and sell it; I’m going to design a garden and win the best Show Case Garden award at the Chelsea Flower Show. I’m going to start this, do that, travel, clean up my act, be a community stalwart. This used to be me. Is it you?

The thing is that those kinds of projects need nurture, vital support, from warm people. Are you tattered like the Little Match Girl? Are you, like in the old song, “she’s been down so long it looks like up to her.” No one can thrive at that level. We need to get ourselves into a position, like the seedling in the woods that finds a gap in the canopy and grows towards the sun. But there has to be a sun. To get ourselves into the right position we have to move, not just sit there. We have to do something that makes our situation different. If we don’t we are just back on the streets selling matches.

I was lucky enough to have friends that loved me, friends who had warmth for my creative life. They are the best suns in the world.  A woman like the Little Match Girl who has no friends can become frozen with anguish or even by anger. Also, one may have friends that are not suns. They may give comfort instead of informing you of your increasingly frozen circumstances.  They may comfort instead of nurture.

You may have a plant that you put in the coal house and say kind words to it –that is comfort. Taking the plant out of the coal house, putting it in the sun, watering it, feeding it, talking to it - that is nurture.

Frozen people without nurture have a lot of “What if” daydreams. If you are in the frozen condtion you must refuse the comforting fantasy. It will kill you. You know how they go: “Some day…” and “If only I had…” and “He will change…”

The Little Match Girl would have benefitted more if her internal grandmother had shouted at her to “Wake up!” and find warmth instead of whisking her off into a fantasy land.

The Match Girl has a trade-off, an ill-conceived sense of commerce when she sells off the matches – the only thing she has to keep her warm. It is like being on a subsidence diet with the outside world,  just eking out a life, taking the barest of nourishment then returning every day to whence you began, over and over.

It is hard to awaken to a life with a future because it is like you are trapped in a wretched life, hanging yourself on a hook daily that you cannot get down from. But get down you must. You need transitional movement and action that will set you on a new path. Get out. Seek friends who will nurture and help you, but even if you don’t have friends you must still escape, for as you start to glow inside you will find people who will nurture you and you will find a life that warms you inside.

If you want to change your situation and live a happier and more successful life I have just three spaces available currently on my Unlimited Conscious Living Mentoring course. For more information follow this link.


Why it’s better to ask in person

LetsTalk

“Almost nothing need be said when you have eyes.” Tarjei Vesaas.

When we need to ask a favour of someone it’s so easy to just send an email and wait for a response. It can save us the embarrassment of face-to-face pleading but, unfortunately, we can’t expect the same results.

Two studies I recently read show that most people think that emails will be just as effective as asking face-to-face.

In the first study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45 participants were told they would have to ask 10 strangers, either in person or via email, to complete a survey for no pay. The people in both groups said that they expected one in two strangers to agree, and both were wildly wrong. Whilst more than 70% of people approached in person complied, among those who received emails, only 2% responded.

In another study, people were recruited to complete a paid survey via email or in person. Before they began the paid survey, they were offered the chance to complete a second unpaid one. Canvassers again underestimated how many people asked personally would comply, and overestimated the response they expected from the email requests to complete the unpaid survey.

The emailers had an overinflated idea of how much people trusted them and how much empathy they garnered. In order to get a better response, the researchers suggest including more personal information in the emails to facilitate building initial trust.

What about asking a friend or colleague a favour? Face-to-face is still the best, preliminary data suggests. Consider if a friend comes to you and asks a favour in person. It means that either they are in serious need or they respect you enough to pay a visit.


Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story

Joan Crawford

We all wear masks and often without realising it we sell ourselves by how we appear.

Carl Jung called this mask the ‘persona’ and it is the ‘mask’ we show in society to please others. We need this mask because it helps us to function, but when we understand who we truly are, the persona becomes more pliable. Then we can be aware that we are wearing the mask, but at the same time, respect the boundaries and ways in which we all must act to function well in society and in different situations.

Problems occur when we lose sight of the delicate balance between our real ‘Self’ and our Persona. This is when we can come across as ‘fake’ and disconnected or lacking self-awareness. When we identify too much with the mask, it becomes a habit and we believe we are the face we put on. This limits our potential.

It is impossible, undesirable even, not to wear a mask because it is a defence against intuition and manipulation, but this does not mean that mask-wearing is always appropriate. If we identify solely with a certain persona/mask, it is to live in an illusion. We are labelling ourselves in a certain way because masks are labels. Humans though are always more than the label they give themselves. When people identify too much with their persona it results in a lack of emotional connection in their work and private lives, a lack of feeling they are contributing to something larger, a lack of drive and connection.

Besides protecting us, the persona also serves us as our personality, the social adaptation that we as individuals must make to society as a whole.

The Japanese say you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.

Our persona is like a role in a play. We create our first persona to please our parents and peers. Then we may have another persona to fit in with our job.

There is a psychic danger, a potential trap for the ego-consciousness because the persona is created to serve the ego. If the persona is especially successful in its effect upon the world, then the ego may so identify with it that it winds up serving the persona, the master becomes the slave.

I was the little girl with the narcissist father. A narcissist feels superior, they have illusions of grandeur – they need other people to become smaller. I developed approval addiction and an inferiority complex otherwise known as ‘Make Yourself Smaller Syndrome’.

If you have a superiority complex or an inferiority complex, you need other people around. As I grew up it was as if I needed to be found out that I wasn’t good enough so I ended up in relationships with narcissists. I played the role well and the mask stuck until I was in a car crash and the mask began to slip and I found myself on a journey towards finding the real me.

When you figure out how to be yourself it’s an incredibly liberating way to go through life.

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Image: Joan Crawford holding a mask Wikimedia Commons


You can choose to stay trapped, or you can choose to soar

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I was like a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web. It was a dark place and I felt death was imminent.

But then someone said to me, “Jane, you are a free person, no one has the right to control you or trap you. You are free.”

They were probably the most powerful words ever spoken to me.

I realised I could break free if I tried hard enough. In reality, I just had to flap my wings and fly. So I did.

There are a few threads of the web still attached to my wings but they are falling off fast.

And I am starting to soar.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to
choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Vicktor E. Frankl.

Have you heard the story about the elephants?

The elephants in the circus were held by thin ropes around their ankles.  It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break free from the ropes that held them, but for some reason, they did not. So why did these beautiful, magnificent animals just stand there, and make no attempt to escape?

Captured when they were very young and much smaller they were tethered with chains. They couldn’t break free.  As they grew up, they were simply conditioned to believe they could not escape. Even though now, much bigger and stronger, and tethered with just a rope, they believed the rope could still hold them. If they tried to break free, as soon as they felt the slightest resistance they stopped. They gave up. These powerful animals could at any time escape from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t…they couldn’t.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it before?

How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? How many of us have avoided trying something new because of a limiting belief? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else’s limiting beliefs?

We are all more powerful than we realise.

We can choose to stay stuck or we can choose not to accept the false boundaries and limitations created by our past or other people.

“No one outside ourselves can rule us inwardly. When we know this, we become free”. Buddha.

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Why losing control can be a good thing

Horses

I’ve always enjoyed horse riding. When I was younger I particularly enjoyed pony trekking when we would ride all day. In the summer there would often be forty or more of us saddled up and heading into the Berwyn Mountains.

One day, when I was a teenager, there was a shortage of guides. The owner of the farm asked me if I would lead that day’s trek.

“But I won’t be able to remember the way,” I replied, worried about leading all the other riders astray. Although I had ridden it many times before, I had not memorised the route and was afraid of going the wrong way.

“That doesn’t matter,” he said, “The horse knows the way. There will be two points where he will hesitate and when he does, the first time guide him to the left, the second time guide him to the right.”

Sure enough, the horse hesitated at two intersections and I simply guided him the right way.

I often think back to that day and think how easily we can create problems that aren’t there and make life far more complicated than it needs to be.

The great hypnotherapist Milton Erickson once shared a story about a horse that wandered into his family’s yard when he was a young man.

The horse had no identifying marks. Erickson offered to return the horse to its owners. In order to accomplish this, he simply mounted the horse, led it to the road, and let the horse decide which way it wanted to go. He intervened only when the horse left the road to graze or wander into a field. When the horse finally arrived at the yard of a neighbour, several miles down the road, the neighbour asked Erickson, “How did you know that horse came from here and was our horse?”

Erickson said, “I didn’t know- but the horse knew. All I did was keep him on the road.”         

From: My Voice Will Go with You: Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson

Erickson became a famous psychotherapist and he liked to tell this story to his students, telling them that therapy was a lot like riding that horse. In beginning a course of therapy it is often helpful to go back to the beginning of the real road. Whatever ideas you have about the best path for your client to take, you stand more chance of success if you tap into the wisdom of the unconscious mind – both the client’s and your own. “You can trust the unconscious,” he used to say. He would encourage his students to let go of their preconceptions – about therapy, about clients, about human nature – and to trust their unconscious mind to come up with creative solutions to their problems.

I’m not saying there isn’t any value in making plans and applying what you know. You have to start somewhere.

But whenever you set out to do something extraordinary, there comes a point where, like Erickson on the horse, you have to choose between trying to control everything – or letting go and getting carried away by something bigger and more powerful than yourself.

 

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My Invisible Friend

Connollyparking

I have an invisible friend. His name is Norman. His job is to help me do things I might struggle to do myself. For example, I’m in my car and driving into town. It’s busy and it could be difficult to park. But, I never have any problem getting a parking space because I send Norman ahead and he has a space cleared for me by the time I get there.

One Saturday just before Christmas, as we headed towards a busy car park, I was telling my daughters about Norman. They thought I was mad. I assured them that I had sent Norman ahead and he had saved me a space in the second lane from the end, four spaces down on the right. As we drove up the lane in the car park all the spaces were taken. My daughters laughed and one said “Perhaps it’s because you drive too fast…maybe he walked” and “You’re crazy Mum”. As I got in front of ‘my space’ the lights flashed on the black Range Rover parked there, I reversed, the Range Rover pulled out and the lady driving put her hand up and smiled. I smiled, raised my hand in return, and pulled into the space. “Who on earth was that?” asked my daughter. “Oh, that must be Norman’s wife. He must’ve been held up and asked her to come instead” I said. Inside the car was silent. However, now whenever we are going somewhere they always say “ask Norman where to park”.

Now, what Norman really does is he shuts down the voices in my head that say “It’s too busy!” “I’m never going to be able to park.” “It’s not worth trying.”

Beliefs can influence our actions in a way that makes those beliefs actually come true.

Years ago I owned a horticultural business and I would sell and deliver plants all over the country. I would often take brief directions over the phone, have a quick look at a map, and away I’d go. I thought nothing of driving to the north of Scotland, London, Spaghetti Junction, or anywhere else orders took me.  I very rarely got lost. Whenever anyone asked me how I did it I would tap Puggy’s steering wheel (Puggy was my Peugeot) and say, ”Oh, the car knows its way.”

More recently I was asked to do a seminar at Old Trafford in Manchester. Because it had been a while since I had driven through the city I decided to try using a sat nav. It got me close. I could see the venue but I was stuck in a dead-end on the edge of a housing estate. I should have trusted Norman (he was with me of course) when he told me to go right when the sat nav told me to go left.

Norman can help with all sorts of things.

Imagine, for example, you were going for an interview and you sent Norman ahead to tell the interview panel what a great person you are, how good you are at your job, and how worthy you would be of this position. Your feelings of not being good enough would dissipate.

I always know when someone doesn’t have a Norman to smooth the way for them. If someone comes to me to ask for something I can tell whether they think they will get it or not. It might be the way they walk, the way they look around, or their attempt to engage me in useless conversation…

It seems ironic to think that what we’re so afraid of or don’t want can become reality. However, at times our actions function as if they were calling them to happen.

Thank goodness I have Norman to help me.


The flame that never goes out

Internal Mother

Becoming conscious means showing up for ourselves daily, celebrating ourselves and our successes daily, and understanding that whatever we feel we need from others we have the power to give ourselves.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Warming the Stone Child, says that internally we all have a light that can never go out. There are many beliefs about this light, and one of the sayings is that any type of wood that is half burnt always has a spark or ember in it that can be fanned by a very small wind into a gigantic flame, and this is also true about the internal flame of those of us who lacked parental guidance as a child.

Even people who have endured terrible things must realise that surviving is not enough. We must learn to thrive. That is what the little flame inside us is all about. Fanning that flame into something that’s sturdy, something that doesn’t waver every time someone gives us a funny look, disapproves of us, or is angry with us. We can become resilient so that our flame burns brightly. 

In terribly unhealthy families children are damaged in many ways, including the destruction of the child’s belief that he has any purpose and value. Without that belief it is difficult to succeed, difficult to take risks. It may even seem foolish to them to take risks, 'knowing' as such people do, that they are not up to the task. Estes talks about how we can suffer from a syndrome she calls ‘collapsing’. When someone is angry with us we go into a psychic regression with feelings of being worthless, wishing to be invisible, collapsing instead of being adult and stable and present in the moment. This causes the flame to waver.

We can look back and try and analyse everything that has happened to us - the neglect, the put-downs etc - but that will not help fan the flame.

The tender, the keeper of that flame, is the internal mother and if things had happened properly to us as a child that flame would already be burning bright and stable.

In order to grow the internal mother, you have to be willing to be decent and good to yourself. You must be willing to accept self-love and self-respect. You must realise that the only things holding you back are the faulty illusions and beliefs from your past. Nothing can stop you so long as you believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are overweight, too thin, too short, too tall, it is all to do with caring about all the things that you are. That is what develops the internal mother. You can feel and see her grow before your very eyes if you are willing to develop your self-love, self-respect, and self-regard for yourself.

Many people who have this deep sense of being unmothered often feel that they are searching for love, that if they were just loved enough, everything would be so much better. But, it doesn’t matter how much love you have lavished on you, it won’t be enough. What will work, is to have the guidance of intuition, the guidance of consciousness, the guidance of common sense.

Consciously knowing what you are capable of, what your good points are, what your bad points are, and guiding yourself through life with that knowledge is the deepest internal mother that you can have. And if you are an unmothered child, that is what was missing in your upbringing.

Take heart, no matter what happened to you, that light still lives inside you.

Take the focus away from what you look like, take time to get to know yourself – both your strengths and your weaknesses. Know that whatever has happened to you, you are enough. Nourish your body as a celebration of all it does for you.

And, as we pour love into ourselves, that love will spill out into the rest of our lives.

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