08. The value of self-worth

A developmental perspective

The issue of self-worth is so important to me. For years I understood it was my primary karma and the sole reason I came here to this lifetime. It took me a very long time to work that out because as a child I learned that I had absolutely no worth at all. I was told over and over again what a dreadful child I was. How my being born had ruined my mother’s life. How much she wished I had never been born. I was actively instructed to be seen and not heard, to speak only when spoken to. Transgressions were handled with physical punishment and emotional abuse. In order to keep myself safe, I learned to adopt a silent, invisible demeanour. My dad’s approach was anything for a quiet life. If that meant throwing the children under the bus to appease mother’s anger or righteous indignation then so be it. Many an afternoon I was put to bed in my nightgown as punishment for something I had done to displease her and as soon as my dad came home from work he was instructed to “go in and give her what for”. The smack had to be real and it had to leave marks, she would check. I grew up with no sense of self-worth at all.

To present a balanced picture of my upbringing it is important to tell you that my mother suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness and was plagued by auditory hallucinations coupled with a massive persecution complex. We only found out when she was in her eighties that she had a condition called paraphrenia. The symptoms had started the day I was born in dramatic fashion during an emergency situation. In her mind, my arrival signalled the end of life as she knew it and her hallucinations drove her to punish me as much as she could get away with, without attracting too much attention from outside the home. It took me decades of introspection and journey work to achieve that understanding and to chip away the scars and the damage that situation caused. I do believe she did the absolute best she could in her limited capacity and I have completely made my peace with her. It was necessary to do so to find my own sense of worth.

So, what is this self-worth and why is it so important? Quite simply self-worth is a sense of your own value.  This is not to be confused with self-value which is more about how you act in accordance with that worth. There is also self-esteem, which is thinking well of yourself. Someone with a healthy self-worth will know without a doubt that they have value, that they are loveable, that they are a necessary part of life and, most importantly they do not need external validation to support that knowing.

How does one acquire a sense of self-worth? From our primary caretakers. If for some reason our primitive needs as an infant are not adequately or sufficiently met, we are left feeling vulnerable or perhaps fearful. Self-worth is decreased in the face of childhood trauma and fear, and this leads to a fundamental misunderstanding about who we are. Smothering love can have the same effect on a child who may feel like since they are never allowed to, they can do nothing for themselves. This leaves them feeling unworthy or unsure of their own value. All of this happens unconsciously at a time in life when we are developmentally unable to discern for ourselves what is what.

Let’s take a look at the development of the brain to understand this better. The most primitive aspect of our brain, the reptilian brain, is part of our subconcious mind.  It controls the body’s vital autonomic such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the brainstem and the cerebellum. It is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive. It will therefore imprint trauma with a permanence that will dominate its future. It understands images rather than language, which is why visualisation is such a useful tool for dealing with problems rooted in this area. This part of the brain dominates at birth.

The limbic brain is involved in learning, memory and emotion. Its records memories of behaviours that resulted in either agreeable or disagreeable experiences. This is why repetition is such a powerful tool when teaching children, or indeed any age group. A positive experience repeated often, will create a positive record. The same is true of a negative or disagreeable experience. The limbic brain is responsible for us feeling emotions such as excitement, pleasure, anger, fear, sadness, joy, disgust, shame and so on. The main structures of the limbic brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus. The limbic brain is the seat of our values and exerts a strong influence on our behaviour.

The neocortex with its two large cerebral hemispheres, is where we process conscious thought and self-awareness. It is also where we develop language, abstract thought, imagination, and problem solving. It has an almost infinite learning ability. Logical thinking though, is not apparent until around the age of six or seven. This is why you will never win an argument with a toddler. They simply lack the cognitive ability to reason and they will hit you with a wall of emotion (limbic response) to make their position known to you.

If we experience an occasional trauma, our brain will trigger an emotional response that in essence releases or minimises the effects of the trauma. Tears are a good way of releasing trauma. Ongoing painful experiences though, can actually engrave new circuits in the brain. When this happens, we become primed to feel trauma in response to something that another person might not even notice. This hypersensitivity can be dangerous, but it does support the theory that once a core wound is set up in childhood, it creates an overly sensitive filter, shaping subsequent events. If we are harbouring a childhood wound and we experience something similar as an adult, both the new and the childhood responses are triggered, thus magnifying the experience. If we do not work with our original trauma, because we are either unaware it is there, or we have been taught to inhibit ourselves to be found acceptable to our caretakers or teachers, we learn to numb out or bury the response. This unresolved emotion that cannot be expressed as, for example, grief, might well lead to acting out or acting in, and the accompanying behavioural problems. We are set up for a lifetime of over-reacting to triggers that to an emotionally healthy person may in fact be totally insignificant. Since energy cannot be destroyed, and we have not allowed this energy (these emotions) to be transmuted to understanding, they are repressed and stored safely for us by our shadow self.

Symptoms of low self-worth can be anything from people pleasing to overt aggression; extreme shyness to excessively controlling behaviours; feeling numb to experiencing out of control emotions; anxiety, fearfulness, cutting, substance abuse, sexual deviance, bullying, avoidance behaviours… anything really that shows up as a struggle in your life. Anyone with a reduced sense of their own worth or value would be well advised to explore their relationship with their past to find out at what point they took on the thinking that they were not enough or were too much; that they were too big or too small for the life they were born into. We will discuss this in much greater detail in due course.

As always, I offer you my understanding of things. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I’m always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:

“We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another”.

So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but know that bullying or shaming are not acceptable in my world. I truly believe that only once we learn to celebrate our differences, can we fully embrace our similarities.

Listen with EMpathy,
and EMbolden yourself to dream.
As you EMerge from your learned way of being,
celebrate as you EMbrace your full potential.
As you EMancipate yourself from your limitations,
you EMpower yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!

Until next time when I shall introduce you to the shadow self, be kind to one another and honour yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are

© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed

07. So who’s running the show?

Conscious lifestyle management

Welcome back to EM. Last time we had a look at the word consciousness and I shared insights from my life’s experience. The energy of the word is incredibly powerful and leads us, well it certainly did for me, to examine our beliefs and our understanding of who we are and what life is really all about. That led me quite seamlessly to question whether consciousness and spirituality were one and the same thing which segued straight into the question: “So what about religion?”

We have spoken about being mindful in our lives and taking responsibility for our actions. We’ve explored meditation as a way of quietening our minds and practicing self-care. We’ve discussed consciousness and the fact that we are unique souls in our own right, and then we’ve looked at spirituality as the acceptance of infinite possibility. Everything in life is part of a web of energy with varying vibrational frequencies. All of that leads me to my next question being, “So who’s running the show”? Who is in charge of that infinite possibility and how does it relate to me in my life?

I remember when I started school at the tender age of four being laughed at by all the children when the teacher asked me, “where do all the people live?” and I answered, “the universe”. She was looking for the world, but on some level, I think I was onto something. I believe that our world is but a small spec of a planet in the vast cosmos of the universe. It is a planet where souls come to explore the concept of humanity. I believe that we need to master all aspects of humanity to finally exit this reality. Further to that, I believe there are other levels of existence out there that we cannot perceive. I don’t engage in conversations about aliens and spaceships as I know nothing of that beyond a podcast I once watched about something called The Galactic Federation of Light. The concept was so alien to me, pardon the pun, that cognitive dissonance kicked in and I onboarded nothing other than the title. However, I am quite content for that to remain my reality. That does not mean I deny the possibility of the existence of alien life forces, I’m simply far too preoccupied with the complexities of the human existence to incorporate anything else… right now.

My limited experience with various religions seems to suggest that whoever each of their particular version of a deity is, is the head honcho, the ‘big guy in the sky’, the all-knowing, all wise, all that is. Our job in our limited single lifetime is to live a life of grace and to seek out our spirituality in order to gain access to the higher realms and thereby achieve enlightenment. By submitting our wills to that particular deity, we will attain eternal rest on high.

I have personally experienced many past life regressions and have read plentiful books and listened to many people who believe in so much more than that. My personal experiences have convinced me that we have many lifetimes here on earth experiencing all the various aspects of humanity. We have each been beggars and thieves, kings and courtesans, perpetrators and victims, bad guys and good guys… there are so many different aspects to humanity it is simply not feasible to imagine that they could all be mastered in one go. But that is a subject for another day.

My own personal philosophy has developed over time as I unravelled the tangled mess of who I had been told I was, in order to discover the wonder of who I really am. It is a simple philosophy and differs in one important aspect from what I was taught. I believe we are not humans seeking spiritual enlightenment through the intercession of a deity, but rather:

“We are spiritual beings, living a human existence, through the medium of love.”

I believe that to be a solid framework for the human experience. Love is a many facetted medium and there are as many distortions of love as there are people to distort it; lack of love, conditional love, suffocating love, absence of love, fear of love…

We come from the greater cosmos to master humanity, (Earth is the planet where that is handled) and we keep working at it until we master all aspects of it, at which point we reach that state called enlightenment. Then we return home (Upstairs) and no longer need to incarnate as human. We have many lifetimes available to us and often spend more than one on the same lesson or aspect of humanity. To me that accounts for the vastly different levels of human experience on earth; how some people appear to be so enlightened and others steeped in ignorant bliss. What happens to us after that enlightenment is achieved however, is beyond the scope of my understanding and I wait to see one day when I have finally attained enlightenment. I’m not sure when that will be because I have been told by numerous psychics and mediums that I am many lifetimes deep working on the particular aspect I came here to master – self-worth. Knowing what my mission in life is, has helped me to begin to make sense of all the trauma and horror I have experienced. Every time I was unloved or unvalidated, it was an opportunity for me to find my own worth. Because I was living unconsciously with no concept of myself as a soul, I lived for far too long in the no-man’s land of denial and invisibility, acting like a commodity. Consequently, I spent longer in misery and solitude than I needed to.

So, who is in charge? Well, I don’t much mind what or who you consider it to be. God, Hashem, Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Shiva…, the list is long and varied, but I refer to this concept as Upstairs. That is a construct of my religious learnings as a child where we spoke about God on high and we always lifted our eyes to the heavens, so Up seemed to be the right direction. Given that our human experience is played out in a binary construct, we have Us and Them. They are Upstairs and we are here on Earth. They are all knowing and we are the seekers. I firmly believe that energy matters are wholly non-denominational and whilst I completely embrace the need for religious instruction and order, I believe that the evolution of a soul is a very personal matter and is far beyond the submission of a person’s will and the following of the guidelines for living with grace that seem to be the domain of the religious texts that I have encountered.

Energy neither recognises nor denies the existence of any deity, but rather encompasses all under the collective term (at least in my interpretation of matters), Upstairs. Far be it from me to suggest that what you believe in is wrong, but there are so many variations of rightness in our world all claiming to the only right way to be, that a collective noun just seemed the simplest option to me. I levy no disrespect in this regard, I merely wish to simplify matters for the purposes of writing. I trust that you will afford me the same courtesy. Everything I wish to discuss with you relates to the human experience and I cannot muddy the waters by including or excluding any sect, religious belief, doctrine or dogma, and so Upstairs it is when I speak about the greater cosmos and the source of all that is. The aetheists and agnostics, if there are any of you here, please allow my concept of Upstairs as a holding place for the information and do not feel pressured to either accept or deny it. Be where you are at and own your position.

When it comes to who is in charge of your life however, things get a whole lot simpler. There is only you. You are in control of every single response you make to every single event or occurrence in your life, and the subsequent result of those choices. There is so much I wish to share with you on this subject, but in the interests of brevity and allowing for some cogitation and thinking space about what, to some of you, may seem like very weird ideas, I will keep it to bite sized chunks and leave it there for today. A wise woman once taught me that if someone believes something to be true, then that is their truth. No one else has the right to dissuade them of that truth unless they are seeking additional information and wish to change or expand their understanding or reality.

As always, I offer you my understanding of things. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I’m always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:

“We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another”.

So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but know that bullying or shaming are not acceptable in my world. I truly believe that only once we learn to celebrate our differences, can we fully embrace our similarities.

Aim to always listen with EMpathy,
and EMbolden yourself to dream.
As you EMerge from your learned way of being,
celebrate as you EMbrace your full potential.
EMancipating yourself from your limitations,
EMpowers you to live with greater clarity and joy!

Until next time when I will discuss the importance of self-worth, be kind to one another and honour yourself as the unique and special soul that you are.

© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed

06. Mindfulness and how it can impact your life

Why we need mindfulness in our lives

Hello, a warm EM welcome to anyone joining us for the first time and welcome back to everyone else as we continue on this journey.

Last time I shared with you my interpretation of consciousness as being a simple wakefulness, one’s sense of selfhood or soul, that is explored by looking within; and spirituality as the acknowledgement of the infinite potential inherent in each soul which is beyond our cognition and perception, and the connection of that soul to all that is; this too is explored by looking within.

I have one more concept that I’d like to explore before we dive in deeper and figure out how to start this looking within, and that is Mindfulness. This word that has been bandied about extensively for the past few years. I have attended mindfulness workshops and classes and yet somehow I never really understood what it was or how it applied to me. It is defined thus:

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment.

After much thought and introspection, I have come to understand that when we are living mindfully, we are fully aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings. This allows us to live in the present moment and not be subject to the distractions of outside stimuli such as other people’s needs, past learning or ingrained impulse responses.

Let me see if I can explain it in the simplest of terms. Imagine that you are in a children’s playground. As the children are playing, the parents or guardians can be heard calling out, “be careful.” What they are actually saying, often without even knowing it is, “be mindful. Think about what you’re are doing before you do it. Make sure that you won’t get hurt.” Simple and clear — check in with yourself, think before you act. This is, of course, not a reasonable request of a small child who is developmentally not wired for that degree of self-awareness or self-control. This why you’ll often find children crying in playgrounds having been bashed into by a flying swing, run over by someone leaping off the roundabout, or having slipped and fallen off the jungle gym whilst distracted by a playmate’s entreaty to “Look at me, look at me!”

I found some video footage recently of my eldest daughter at around 4 years of age. She had climbed to the top of the mast while playing on a pirate ship model. She was far too high for me to reach her and when she began to feel unsafe and called out to me to help her. I heard myself telling her, “You can do this, think yourself down”. I watched the video with my heart in my throat, and I saw her pause, think long and hard, weigh up the situation, decide she could handle it, check her fear and nimbly scramble down landing on the deck feeling very proud of herself. Without even knowing it, I was teaching her to be mindful. She could have created a scene and panicked necessitating me to call in reinforcements. She could have stayed up there refusing to budge with the same outcome. She could have been angry with me for not rescuing her. But she chose to pause and work out how she felt about all of those options, and to make a decision for herself how to deal with the problem… and then she took action.

Mindfulness isn’t just about pausing and maintaining focus though, rather it’s a complete awareness, with you at the centre, with no distractions. Living a mindful life entails taking the time to be still, to think through and understand how you feel, and also to consider the consequences of your actions — before you commit to them. This leads you to consciousness and hopefully the choosing of actions that won’t harm either yourself or others. It consciously puts you and your needs to the forefront of the equation as well as in command of your actions and your subsequent imprint in the world. This affords you complete responsibility for the consequences of those actions. The energy of mindfulness is one of consideration, choice and decision making, which is really empowering. Without mindfulness one might feel as though life is simply happening to you.

Much of my life was lived with no mind at all to how my actions would impact me. I had been taught in life by a mentally ill mother that I was all but irrelevant in the equation. My only purpose was to serve without question and that led to massive resentment and frustration and a build-up of internal anger that threatened to consume me. All of that was happening without my knowledge or consent because I had no idea that I was even allowed to have an opinion or to question my status in life. This led to extreme victim mentality. I was a slave to my impulses and my overt emotional triggers. Nothing felt fair to me and I felt really put-upon and used. Often I experienced great overwhelm and I started to mentally check out. I sometimes found that I would drive somewhere and arrive with no recollection of the journey. I was fast asleep at the wheel in my own life, living the complete opposite of mindfulness.

One last thought on this matter; being mindful is not about analysis paralysis where you get stuck, frozen in an agony of indecision, afraid to make any choice lest you offend someone or make waves. It is much more subtle that than. It’s really just about pausing and considering for a moment what you are about to do and how you truly feel about it before you mindfully commit yourself. A child who has been taught mindfulness may want to leap off the swing at its highest apex, but first they will do a couple of practice swings to make sure they feel ok with the risk. There’s a possibility they might sprain their ankle if they land wrong (yes the thrill is worth the risk, or perhaps, no it isn’t); They will also scan their immediate surroundings to make sure they won’t land on anyone else if they do leap off.

On the most basic level, imagine you’re having breakfast. You really want another slice of toast. Pause. you’ve had two already. You realise that you’ re acting on impulse. How do you feel about saying no? How do you feel about saying yes? Yes feels better to you than no, you acknowledge that since you are carrying a few extra pounds that you would prefer to shed, you may need to take the stairs at the office instead of the elevator to work off the extra calories, so more toast it is. Done and dusted in two seconds flat. The alternative is to simply act on impulse, eat the third slice of toast and then find yourself afterwards berating yourself for your lack of willpower and struggling to love your overweight body which could easily spiral into a cycle of self-loathing and comfort eating and you’ll probably be feeling so disheartened you take the elevator without thinking about it. Sounds extreme? I think millions of people struggling with their self-image face this sort of simple dilemma every day. In and of itself it isn’t a catastrophic life-event, but it is a clear symptom of not living mindfully. Far easier to enjoy the toast, take the stairs and embrace your day guilt free without self-loathing or limiting thoughts. 

Mindfulness is a basic and fundamental concept that puts you in charge of your actions and the consequences thereof. That way you won’t do as I did and bumble along making a hash of things and end up wondering what the heck happened and how you ended up where you are in a place that is uncomfortable and unsustainable. Far better to mindfully put yourself at the centre of your own life and consider your needs, feelings, requirements, goals, hopes and dreams first and foremost.

As always, I offer you my understanding of these concepts and how they have applied to my life. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I’m always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:

We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another

So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but know that bullying, shaming or disrespect on any level violates a hard and fast boundary for me.

I encourage you to listen with EMpathy and EMbolden yourself to dream. As you EMerge from your learned way of being, celebrate as you EMbrace your full potential. By EMancipating yourself from your limitations you EMpower yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!

Until next time when I shall take a look at So, Who’s Running the Show? be kind to one another and honour yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are

© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed

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