Mar 14, 2021
Experiencing my Mother’s death was a profound experience for me.
For almost 18 months I prayed that I would be able to be with her when she passed away. I thought it was what I wanted.
And then it happened. At 2:42am on November 15th, I was the only one at Mom’s bedside when she slipped away.
I went and woke my sister. Then she woke our brothers, who were sleeping in various locations around the house we grew up in. As we all stood around our dear Mother’s bed, I was suddenly hit with guilt. Why?
I didn’t feel worthy or capable of receiving such a powerful experience. I really did want it, but it was extremely uncomfortable to me when I got what I wanted.
I’ve been working on myself for the past 4 months to understand why my brain made this such a HUGE problem. I tried doing it on my own at first, but 6 weeks ago I hired an Emotions Coach.
It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion. Every week I understand more; Most interesting is the pattern my brain has developed over the years, likely since childhood. Often I take action toward something meaningful, and then fall into a pattern of inadequacy, fear of rejection, and ending with great sadness.
When Mom died my emotions followed that pattern. I didn’t feel worthy of the experience (inadequacy), I was afraid my siblings would be upset with me (fear of rejection), and rather than being grateful for getting what I asked for, I felt great sadness, not just from the grief of losing my sweet mother, but from not accepting myself as being worthy of it.
My coach taught me that this isn’t a problem, just a pattern.
Isn’t that beautiful news? My brain created this pattern, probably across many years, because I had thoughts that supported these emotions. Then, in order to conserve energy, it just filed them away into an automated neural pathway. I am very comfortable sharing this personal experience with you because I no longer consider it a problem, just a pattern that I’m working on redirecting to create something much more useful to me. And I hope, useful to you.
See, the brain loves repetition and familiarity, even though it might be making us miserable. It’s not really aware that it’s making us miserable, it just thinks it’s keeping us safe and saving energy. When we experience a new emotion, for me it was experiencing my mother’s death (even though that’s what I had wanted), our brain goes to familiar territory in order to protect us.
The REAL problem with this is the missed-out-on experience of growth. If I continued believing that I wasn’t worthy of this experience, like I’d done something wrong, I would feel doomed for the rest of my life. No thank you!
When we are aware of our pattern, and observe it instead of indulging in it, we cross over into GROWTH. Yes, please!!
Funny thing is, our brains also love growth. Because when we are in growth we feel like healthier, better versions of ourselves.
So our brains love familiarity AND growth. HOW?
Think of it this way (thanks to my amazing coach for this analogy): We can want chocolate AND we can want our pants to fit. Our brain wants the emotion it thinks both will bring to us. Feelings of security from the chocolate, and confidence from pants that fit.
But when we believe chocolate and fitting pants create our emotions, we end up feeling powerless against the chocolate and depressed when the pants don’t fit. It’s like letting go of the steering wheel and letting our emotions drive. We feel relaxed in the moment (chocolate please), but it feels horrible when we arrive at an unwanted destination (pants don’t fit).
How do we know when our situation is just a pattern our brain has created? We have a lot of mental noise.
Like: I thought I wanted to be with my Mom when she passed away but I feel horrible about getting what I wanted.
That mental noise is a clue to look inside. Observe our thoughts and feelings, not judge them. Notice patterns and call them out. Get back in the driver’s seat and steer with a clear picture of what our destination is.
There is a spiritual side to this story as well. I will say simply that after doing this work I can accept that I got what I wanted because God heard my many prayers, that He felt I was worthy to receive what I had asked for. With that realization, I’m now grateful that I got what I wanted – and that I wanted it in the first place.
That feels like growth and that feels amazing.
P.S. I recently started a FaceBook group, Building The Sandwich, where I’m creating a community for Caregivers in the Sandwich Generation. My purpose is to help you not just cope with your caregiving role, but to be strengthened by it. Follow this link to join our community, and please share it with those you know who could benefit from it. https://www.facebook.com/groups/308190686872459