On Fragmentation & Wholeness

To be fragmented means to break into pieces, crack open, shatter, splinter, fracture, disintegrate, fall to pieces, to fall apart. I believe that humans, like a flower vase that falls to the floor, can become fragmented…but from themselves.

The fragmentation process is essentially a process of forgetting one’s self. The process can begin as early as the womb, where the mother or father begin to impose conditions on the child’s existence such as sex, height, occupation etc. As a child grows, the process of fragmentation may continue to unfurl as the child encounters a barrage of societal, cultural, and familial expectations.

Society may ask that the child puts away their art in order to eventually get a stable job and commute 2 hours a day to an office.

Culture may ask that a child abandons their standards of  love in order to fit in with the  hook up culture status-quo.

Family may ask that the child hide his or her emotions so as not to upset the ego of the parents, and the child rejects or becomes a stranger to their own thoughts and feelings on certain subjects, situations and circumstances.

Implicit in these  societal, cultural, and familial expectations is the notion that the person, as they are, are not acceptable and must change and become the  expression of the expectation. Whether and the degree to which someone abandons parts of themselves to become the expression of the expectation depends also on how strong someone feels the need to be accepted.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. And we begin this battle.” E.E Cummings

The need for acceptance can be a strong one, and it is an understandable one. We come into this world helpless and reliant on our caregivers, and we move through this world as part of a particular society and culture which may require a certain form of behavior if one is to fit in and in some circumstances, survive. E.E Cummings  understood this well and put it this way: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. And we begin this battle.”

With fragmentation, someone may start out fighting the battle but eventually, piece by piece, put away parts of their armour. They relinquish their helmet and find it difficult to differentiate between their thoughts and feelings, and the thoughts and feelings of others. They put away their breastplate and don’t guard their heart from the undeserving. They surrender their gorget (this is pretty much a medieval neck brace) and loose their ability to speak up for themselves and to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others. With every lost piece of armour, the person begins to forget themselves and to lose their connection to themselves and are in a sense, fragmented: they find it hard to make decisions for themselves, to say no, to know what’s in their heart and vitally, to have the courage to follow it.

Conversely, wholeness is defined as comprising the full quantity, amount, extent, or number without diminution or exception, to be entire, to be full or to be total. Wholeness, in the context of the self, is to live from a place of  connectedness to yourself. This may require an awakening of sorts where the beliefs and expectations from family, culture and society come up for examination. The awakening can happen in many forms, and it can require a reshuffling of one’s entire life. It can also be deathly uncomfortable as one is required to say no where they easily said yes, to speak where they were once silent, and to be lonely where they used to shroud themselves in company that is inconsistent with their values and beliefs.  Living from a place where you listen to yourself, respect yourself and honor yourself sounds valiant and honourable, but yes, it is not always an easy journey.

But the journey to wholeness is always a worthwhile one. It is our protection against lying on our deathbed with the unfortunate realization that we have lived, alongside with the masses, a life of quiet desperation (credit to Thoreau).  It is our protection against hurting ourselves by filtering life through a lense of our personal standards for how we ought to be treated and how we want to live our life.  It may not be easy, but it is always, always worthwhile to accept the dare to be you.








Signs that Life is Asking You to Change

Life, be it the life within you or life around you, is speaking to you all the time. If we want to hear what it has to tell us, we just need to pay attention to the things going on outside of us, and to inquire into what’s going on within ourselves.

One of the messages that life can relay to us is the message of letting us know that it’s time for a change. Below, I’ve listed one example of how the externalities of our life may be forcing a change (particularly where we’ve stalled on our mission on our mission in life!), and one example of how the life  breathing within us is asking us to change.

  1. Life is forcing you out of situations by uprooting major parts of your life

Although we can do our best to control our circumstances, sometimes s-h-i-t happens. Before we can dance is the summer of our lives, there can be a winter period where all major aspects get shaken up and  uprooted. For instance, you may spontaneously lose your job, experience the loss of an important figure in your life, go through a profound struggle with your health, or wake up to a major issue with your current home that forces you to move. When major parts of your life start to get uprooted, especially all at once, this can be a sign that life is removing once familiar aspects of your life to make way for the new.

A disruption to major parts of your life can be a challenging, scary, and unsettling experience. However, a wise artist by the name of Picasso once said “every act of creation was first an act of destruction”. Your life, seemingly in destruction, is also the point of a brand new creation. Although it may be tempting to fixate and focus on how unfair the situation is, be brave and  choose to focus on and visualise the new which want to build now that the old is being swept away.

And be honest with yourself. Did you enjoy your now crumbling former life? If there If there was a seething, underlying discontentment in your life prior to these events and/or you felt disconnected from your true self and hence, your purpose (which I believe is to be the full expression of yourself in this world), this is your chance to build a life aligned with who you really are. Doing some self inquiry and getting to know who you really are will put you in touch with your purpose. Build the new from that place.

  1. You are running a pattern that is hurting you

 Do you ever notice that some situations, behaviors, habits, or relationships leave you uplifted while others leave you feeling depleted or terrible about yourself?

For instance, you may have a pattern of choosing emotionally unavailable men or women to date, and find yourself contintuously hurt and disheartened by your romatic choices.

Or you may give into drinking and staying out late every weekend, even though you know you know you need the rest, would rather workout the next day, or simply can’t handle the physical effects of being hungover.

Or you may impusively say yes to everything, only to end up resentful and overscheduled.

Or, you may give to others indiscriminately and in excess, without assessing whether the give-take in the relationship is equal,  only to end up resentful and feeling not good enough.

If there is a “hangover” effect to a repetitive behavior or pattern, then that is your inner life telling you that you’re hurting yourself. That is the point of power, and at that point, you should ask yourself if you want to keep hurting yourself in this way. Sometimes it may take a few rounds for us to fully comprehend that a certain behavior, situation or circumstance is hurting us, and that’s ok. However, once we realise it, it’s important to respect ourselves by consciously choosing to not hurt ourselves.

One helpful tip is to write a list of all the ways in which you feel AFTER you engage in the behavior, and to keep this list with you. Be detailed, and make it clear on the list that this was written directly after engaging in this behaviour.

For example, let’s say Sally and Bob are friends (great names btw, very original lol). Sally routinely invites Bob over, and often has dinner or snacks ready. Bob is affectionate, but distant in his communication when Sally and Bob are apart. Sally often finds herself reaching out to Bob, and routinely receives late responses. Sally is starting to feel that she is not appreciated by Bob and that he only reaches out to her when its convenient for him.  One day, Sally invites Bob over and cooks him a fabulous dinner and ends the evening with homemade brownies (obvi, Sally is a bomb ass chick). Sally and Bob have a great evening together, but when Bob leaves, Sally feels terrible the rest of the night and for most of the next day. She feels used and taken for granted, despite having communicated her feelings to Bob in the past.

It is clear in this situation that Sally has a pattern with Bob (and likely others) of over giving without assessing whether she is receiving her worth in return. Having communicated her feelings to Bob and now seeing no change in his behaviour, Sally wants to change her behaviour so that she learns to receive first before over giving from a place of hoping to be loved back in proportion to what she gives. Sally pulls out a piece of paper and writes a heading “How I Feel After I Over Give to Bob”. She writes a list of the ways she feels after feeding the impulse to give. She ends the list with “Please read anything you feel urged to give; wait for him to give first from now on” .

A few days later, Sally feels a tugging at her to reach out to Bob and to give to him by way of her attention, fully knowing that he will be distant and dismissive. Before reaching out to him, Sally pulls out her list and reads it. She stops herself in her tracks, and effectively listens to the life within her asking her to stop hurting herself. Good job, Sally.

Anytime you feel tempted to stray off your desired path of change, read your list. This list, ripe with the memories of the “hangover” will act as a “sober second thought” before you go down on the path of hurting yourself again.  This is one way of making it clear to yourself that the pay-off of engaging in these behaviors, circumstances, or habits is no longer worth the cost. Putting pen to paper, we are more apt to heed the call of our inner life when it is there in your own words on paper.

I hope you enjoyed these two examples. I know Sally did.  There are likely many more examples where your inner or outer life is begging for change, and I encourage you to look at your  own life and  ask yourself how your inner or outer life may be siginalling to you that its time to change things up.

Are You Using Others As Your Mirror?

I did not see and accept myself as I am, in all my beauty, and so I sought to be seen and verified by others. My interactions with others- and by others, I mean mainly men- weren’t purely with “them” as they are. They were with them acting as a mirror. They, as they mirror, would reflect back to me what I hoped to see – my beauty, my intelligence, my strength, my value and more generally, my worth as a human.

There are many problems with relating to another human of the opposite sex in this fashion. But, the main flaw in this paradigm is that in each instance where what we had or could have had did not come to fruition the way I envisioned it, or they plain old treated me badly (hey, we have to learn how we want to be treated somehow), this reflected back to me that I was unattractive, unworthy and fundamentally unlovable.

As life would have it, I’ve lived just over a decade of unrequited love. The most common pattern seems to be one where there is interest from both parties, but then the man is emotionally unavailable for some reason, and although there is potential between us, it simply dies. As you could imagine, if you put a man in the position of being a mirror and  you experience repeated “failures” in love, it is inevitable that you will internalize these experiences as reflections of your “not being enough”: not beautiful enough, smart enough or whatever enough.

And so in placing men in the position of being the mirror for most of my life, and experiencing a slew of half baked romantic situations, I came to believe that there was a problem with me. And the more acute that this problem became to be through more romantic “failures”, the more I wanted to fix it. Of course, the male being the mirror, the way to fix it – or so I thought- was to get a guy to be with me and to tell me how wonderful I am through his words and conduct.

Like a fish in water, I was unable to see that this was what I was doing, and that it was deeply flawed. The chips started to show after life brought me a repeat of emotionally unavailable men that resulted in my latest episode of unrequited love. The pain I felt was so pronounced and disproportionate to the situation that I knew that there was more than just sadness over what could have been. This latest episode was more than just depression over the Sunday mornings we’d never share, or the candle lit dinners that never materialized. It was the searing pain of my tattered and sullied self-concept being run over and backed over for the hundredth time. Years of looking at others to be your mirror will do that. I was walking around with a blindfold on, so I couldn’t clearly see myself. I was asking others to see for me.

They say that the point of change comes when the pain of engaging in a certain behavior becomes greater than its pay off.  The pay-off of a compliment or two was no longer worth the months of agonizing over what was wrong with me, and so I decided to take the mirror out of their hands and put it in my own. I could reflect back to myself my own beauty, intelligence, lightness and adoration. I could be that source, and in doing so, I could keep my center and show up in a far more real and authentic way, as my worth was not at stake in every conversation and interaction.

I would cease wondering if you thought I was pretty. I would look in the mirror beyond my filters of judgement and ‘list of things to fix about myself’, and with eyes of acceptance and compassion, I would admire my beauty. I would cease pre-thinking what I would say so I could handcraft what I wanted you to think of me. I would just say what’s on my mind and be how I am. I would cease trying to be sexy and I would simply accept that I am sexy. I would cease seeking your attention as a sign that you cared about me. Instead, I would pay attention to myself with the understanding that since my attention is first and foremost on my relationship with myself,  I am always cared for, and I  will always be important, desired and worthy. I would cease imagining the times we would or could have had together. I would confirm to myself that I will have these moments with someone who is right for me. I would cease viewing their past relationships and lingering exes as a symbol of my inadequacy. I would confirm to myself that I am uniquely beautiful in my own way.  I would cease looking at happy couples walking hand in hand as a reflection of my own unworthiness. I would choose to be happy for them and what they have, and trust in the inevitability that I would have the same. I would cease wondering what you were doing and who you were with. I would rejoice in the richness of my own life, and if I felt that richness wasn’t there, I would find it. I would cease viewing my lack of “successful” relationships with men as a signpost of my unattractiveness, unworthiness and unlovability. I would choose to accept this as what simply was and understand that the mirror is now in my hands, not theirs.  I would effectively be an alchemist and transmute my pain into a never ending well of love for myself that would always be there, irrespective of the circumstances.

I am not suggesting that this task is easy. Change is never easy, but it begins in small ways.

It begins by walking down the street and noticing the demands you put on mere strangers walking past you. Do they think I’m [insert shallow judgement]? Gently remind yourself that it does not matter, because the mirror is in your hands.

It begins when you’re getting ready for a first date and wondering whether they will like what you’re wearing, or if you’ll meet their expectations. Gently ask yourself if you like what you’re wearing, and to look for whether they meet your expectations.

Does showing up in the world this way make you selfish? No, it makes you more real, more relatable, a better communicator, a better lover, and a better human because you can never have the full depth of the experience of being in this world and relating to another human when all of your interactions are set up just to be mirrors.

Remember, the mirror is in your hands.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑