The War Zone Versus the Soft PlaceBy Phyllis Stein, Ph.D.
December 31, 2006
In this article, Phyllis discusses the difference between taking care of herself from her wounded self - with an emotional machine gun to protect her - and taking care of herself from her loving Adult. She shares how she is learning to be both soft and powerful.
I discovered that I grew up in a war zone, on a battlefield. My parents had machine guns and they blasted me with shame and blame. It was all I could do to survive, and I did, badly damaged. Eventually, I got a pop gun and tried to shoot back with my own shame and blame (they called it "being so defensive"), but I always knew I was hopelessly outgunned.
Eventually, when I grew up, as I had hoped, I got my own machine gun. I thought that would make me safe, although sometimes I would still be outgunned. Here is what I suddenly understood: simply being in the war zone, being in the place where that energy resides, is inherently unsafe for my little girl, even when I am "winning." I cannot ever keep her safe in that place because the energy itself is bad. I need to take her out of there to the place where the energy is soft and she can really be safe.
Now, when I realize that I have picked up my machine gun (still easy to do), I can simply stop and say to myself "I don't want to do this", which may consist of simply stopping speaking and then getting my girl out of there. If someone else is machine gunning me, I can refuse to allow them to continue. This happened yesterday with [a friend] and I was feeling so desperate. After all, I had screwed up (kept him waiting) so he had the right to machine gun me, didn't he? That's what we were taught when we were little; if you are "bad" you give up your rights and you have to let them machine gun you. I suddenly realized that he really did NOT have that right and I said, "I refuse to continue this discussion at this time." I cannot tell you how relieved and happy my little girl was that I had done that.
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Today, embrace all mistakes as learning experiences, rather than as expressions of your inadequacy. Making it okay to fail opens the door to loving action. Failure becomes just another learning experience when it does not define your worth or adequacy.
By Dr. Margaret Paul