How often in life are we blessed with those moments of absolute clarity, those moments when a beautiful truth emerges to release us from an old hurtful way of thinking? ‘Aha’ moments are moments when true healing takes place, when a human being is transformed for the better, and the energy in the world is lifted just that little bit more. It is always wonderful to look back at the journey we have taken and see how far we’ve come, and today I’m going to do just that and share some of my ‘aha’ moments with you.
We were living and working in Turkey at the time. I had started reading the book The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and had got to the part where the narrator began telling of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. I was horrified that anyone would write of such an experience. Growing up, after undergoing childhood sexual abuse over a four year period, I had sworn to myself that I would never tell a soul, not even the man I married. Slowly, as I held the book, it dawned on me. People who had suffered abuse wrote about these things because the shame wasn’t theirs. The shame belonged to someone else. I leapt off the bed, and ran around the apartment clutching the book and shouting ‘oh my God, oh my God’. I threw down the book and ran to the typewriter in our small office. Every horrible experience that had been locked up inside of me started to pour out into my first ever book, one that I eventually burned in a ritual of letting go.
The moment I realized I could change my life
When I first started dating Lance (now my husband), I went to his house and met his parents. The family dynamic was so different to mine, I was shocked. His parents were focussed on their children, and at that time cared how they felt. It was a harmonious household, where people were happy, laughed a lot and everyone liked each other’s company. Over the months I watched how Lance’s mother interacted with the family. One day, as she spoke to Lance and the others, I found myself wishing I could be like her. In a split second, the ‘aha’ lights flashed on. Why shouldn’t I be like her? I knew I was a defensive person, I was withdrawn and very suspicious of everyone; there was a lot of things I didn’t like about my own personality traits. In that moment, I promised myself I would spend my life improving on my negatives, and that no matter what it took, I would become like her. It was a long journey of transformation, and today, I can honestly say that I like who I am. My mother-in-law didn’t turn out to be perfect, but in those days she was perfect enough to catalyze important change in me.
The moment I realized that I didn’t need approval from anyone
I used to be very insecure about my own decision-making abilities, and while I would be sure a particular avenue was a good one to pursue, I would always ask the opinion of everyone around me, only making a decision when enough people agreed with me, or taking another route if too many didn’t agree. The day I woke up to my sense of inadequacy was when I received three unsolicited, very different, very firm opinions from extremely arrogant people who had no clue about my area of expertise. I realized then how I had always denied my own talent, second-guessed my own judgements, and had allowed myself to become a follower because of my lack of self-esteem. Now, while I value the input of experts in a field, I will always make my own decisions about where I go with something, and I always base it on my intuition.
The moment I learned not to follow the crowd
I was at a community fair having fun when I found myself desperate to go to the toilet. As usual, the crowds from the ladies toilets wound around the block, while the men walked in and out of their toilets with no waiting time whatsoever. Standing in the queue, my legs tightly crossed, pain in my bladder, and with what looked like a ten-minute wait, I suddenly woke up to our human conditioning. We shared the toilet at home, so why not here? Fuelled by my new awakening, I marched to the men’s loos, ignored the guys peeing up against the latrine walls, and ventured into one of their cubicles. To this day, no man ever challenges me when I use the toilets with ‘Men’ tacked up on the door. I get some funny looks, that’s for sure, but I’ve never had to wait in line ever again since the day of the fair!
The moment I saw my father as a damaged soul
I’d always felt hurt by my childhood abuse, and held a lot of resentment about the way I was brought up. One day, I watched a program on TV in which men who had abused their families were interviewed by psychologists. In those men, I saw my father, and the lights went on for me. I looked back on the stories he had told me about his childhood, and began to see a picture emerge. He had been shoved into a juvenile detention centre-like boarding school when he was six years old, where the rape of children was rife. His father would often beat his mother and put a gun in her mouth in front of their children. My grandfather was hardly ever present for his children and when he was, it was to beat them within an inch of their lives. The horror stories were told by my father with some amusement, and on this day of enlightenment I realized that his emotions were frozen. He was not in touch with his childhood pain and in shutting off his feelings, he could not feel for others. I stopped seeing him as a horrible man, and saw him instead as someone to be pitied. It changed our whole relationship, and over the years, we shared a spiritual journey in which much within him changed.
The moment I realized the power of our assumptions
A woman came into the pharmacy where I worked, and was very rude and off-hand during our exchange. I was extremely irritated by her and let it bother me all day. I rehearsed the speech I was going to give her the next day, when I knew I would see her again. She arrived this time with a prescription for pills. Before I had a chance to express my anger, she apologized for her rudeness and explained that she had cancer, was in dreadful pain the previous day and could hardly think straight. I was mortified. The pills she was prescribed verified this as truth. That day I thought back on how I would become so miserable with the stories I told myself about other people’s behaviour. If someone didn’t call me when they said they would, I’d assume I’d done something wrong and tie myself up in knots about it. By the time they called with a perfectly sound reason for not contacting me earlier, I’d lost a whole lot of energy for absolutely nothing. I’d had a near-miss a few days earlier. I was about to verbally attack someone who turned out to be a completely innocent ‘offender’ whose ‘offense’ I based on very ‘obvious evidence’. Luckily, I’d discovered the truth before I’d been able to destroy the friendship. That day with the cancer lady, I began to look at all the assumptions I made in every situation. Consequently, I learned not to make any judgment at all until I knew the full facts surrounding a situation. Now, I listen with amusement as people around me get so upset about things for which they have not yet discovered the whole story.
The moment I realized I was capable of excellence
I’d started a job in the training department of an airline company. As part of the induction process we had to do a basic Introduction to the Aviation Industry course, which lasted five days. All newcomers were informed of the pass rates and the marks that would gain a coveted ‘Distinction’. My first thought was to hope against hope I would at least get a pass mark. At school I was an unremarkable student in every subject except English Language and Literature. My family was so dysfunctional, any chance of academic success was shot to pieces by my father’s attitudes and my parents’ constant fighting. I had grown in confidence over the years, gaining qualifications in pharmacy and then in teaching, but I hadn’t yet gained the courage to reach for the stars. As the Aviation instructor spoke, I got goose-bumps from the sudden realization that I was going to throw all my fears to the wind and go for broke. I would get that ‘Distinction’, and for once in my life, shine. At the end of the five days, I broke the cycle of mediocrity in my achievements. I received my ‘Distinction’. It wasn’t a significant certificate by any means, and I’ve lost it somewhere along the way, but the change of attitude that it heralded changed my approach to all my challenges in my life.
The moment I learned that everyone is afraid.
I used to envy aggressive people, those who were able to say what they felt, take what they wanted and never worry what people thought about their character. I actually thought that there existed people in this world who were not afraid of anything. Then one day, after taking a course in which we dealt with the four basic human personality types, I began to see how human thinking is based on fear. I began to realize how each personality type is based on a different type of fearful perception of the world, and that our characteristics are shaped by those ideas. I learned that aggressive people are the way they are because they are so afraid of their deep vulnerability being exposed – when they intimidate they feel in control of a situation. A loud voice or big muscles really speaks about a deeper fear. I also saw that soft, gentle, helpful people aren’t so much nice people as they are frightened people, and feel that to meet their needs and to be accepted, they have to serve others and act in a subservient way. The third type of personality type is intellectual and cold, afraid that emotion creates chaos in the world and that logical thinking, structure and organization is the be all and end all. The last type is the social party animal, frightened to death of loneliness, characterizing their fear by being everyone’s friend, and making a party out of every situation. In finding everyone to be afraid, I learned not to be scared of anyone. I now know how to identify these types, and address them in ways that don’t make them feel fearful and defensive. This helps in many of life’s interactions.
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