Emotional Vomit (or Purge on a Page)

Gosh, I could talk for months about emotions. In fact, Rob and I have been doing just that. I usually have a pretty well-thought-out idea of what I want to say when I start writing, but when it comes to this subject my mind goes all over the place and I can’t nail down what it is that I actually want to say. So this time I’m rambling.

One thing I’ve been working on recently might seem small and petty, but that has helped me tremendously. It’s this:

I’ve riddled myself …my entire life…with substantially overusing the phrases I SHOULD do this. I SHOULD be like this. WE SHOULD. THEY SHOULD. IT SHOULD be this way. Also, I NEED to do this. I NEED to be like this. WE NEED. THEY NEED. IT NEEDS to be this way.

You get the picture.

I’ve come to realize how damaging this has been to my psyche/spirit, because when I say those things I’m not giving myself (or others) any wiggle room, any acceptance, any consideration, any way to ever be anything but an impossible, optimized version of what I deem to be “perfect”. 
I used to tell myself I was just an optimizer and if I wasn’t doing my best ALL the time then I wasn’t good enough. The problem is…not only is no one perfect (which I did already knew), but it’s not even possible to try my hardest to be as perfect as possible all the time (which I didn’t already know). In other words, I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I thought I had to try SO HARD to be as perfect as I could be all of the time.

Trying so hard…because I SHOULD be and I NEED to…is exhausting. And painful.

One day I just woke up to what I was saying and realized how unnecessary, how untrue, and how damaging saying those seemingly little phrases over and over again have been to myself and others. I started changing those two tiny little awful words to I COULD do this. They COULD. It COULD be this way. Also, I WANT to do this. I WOULD LIKE it to be this way. It WOULD be nice if.

Doing that slight little shift has opened my eyes and heart to other possible answers and solutions. It has taken so much pressure off of me to always do the perfect thing or to be the perfect way. 

What am I getting at? I don’t know, honestly. There are a thousand other things I could type about.

Honestly, this last year of emotional growth has been an amazingly eye-opening experience for me and Rob, one that has brought so many answers to so many questions regarding:

  • Who we have been
  • Why we have been who we have been
  • Who we really are
  • How to be who we really are 

After all the emotional turmoil Rob and I have both been working through together we’ve learned so much more about ourselves than we ever thought possible. I mean, it was freakishly crazy when one moment we thought we really, deeply knew ourselves and each other…and then suddenly realize that we have to start all over from scratch. We abruptly came to find out that a lot of who we thought we as individuals were, is not really who we are, but a “part” or a “character” we’ve been playing to help us get through life.

We used to think to ourselves, “This is my just my personality.” Or, “This is just who I am.” As it turns out, there are reasons we have certain personality traits and they have more to do with coping mechanisms rather than the true person we actually are at the core.

Sure, maybe we’ve gone our whole lives thinking we are “like this” but what if we don’t want to be “like this” anymore? Guess what? We can figure out why we are the way we are and be honest to ourselves about how our life circumstances have affected us. Once we clear out those closets, we can hit reset. And breathe.

It’s been a miracle to finally realize that just because “I’ve always been…” doesn’t mean “I always have to be…” There’s a surprising amount of freedom we have found in finding out about, and learning how to let go of, the parts of ourselves that don’t accurately reflect who we are and who we want to be. 

Admittedly, it’s been an awkward and even a downright hard transition at times. Fortunately, we’ve both been entirely committed to working through it together. Two or our true personality traits are commitment and hard work. Thankfully we’ve both still got those pieces firmly in place. 
I’m fairly certain that every single marriage goes through a period of tear down and regrowth. If not, then there are probably some serious issues that haven’t been admitted or allowed to surface. Because…when you marry (especially when you’re both so young when it happens) how can you possibly expect either one of you to remain the same person throughout decades of life? If you do expect that, then there is obviously some emotional maturation that needs to take place. 
Emotional maturity. Gosh. I thought I had it. Rob thought he had it. Turns out, neither of us had a clue. But…now we do have a few clues along with a few tools that we are learning how to use. And you know what? It feels right. It feels real. It feels like we are finally learning how to really care about ourselves and each other in healthy, genuine ways. 
Yes, these last 9 months have been growing months for sure. Uncomfortable. Scary. Selfish. Maddening. Sorrowful. 
These last 9 months have also been incredible. Tender. Honest. Loving. Selfless. Healing. Forgiving.
Over my lifetime I’ve heard, thousands of times, people saying they’re grateful for and stronger from their trials and that they’d never trade them for anything. When I’d hear that, I’d always want to raise my hand high and shout, “I don’t believe you! I’m JUST fine just the way I am. I’ll grow on my own without needing any prodding from trials. I can make that growth happen all by myself and save myself from hard things, so I’d rather not test out that theory, thank-you-very-much!”
Well. Now I finally understand what everyone is talking about. My eyes have been opened to how God uses our own failures and shortcomings as opportunities to bestow bounteous blessings upon us. The stuff people say about being grateful for the lessons learned from trials is all true. At least, it can be if you’re committed, hard working, and humble. (I can also see how easily it would all go awry, depending on specific situations.) 
I’m not trying to get at anything here. I’m not necessarily trying to make a point and wrap this up all pretty. I don’t have any final words of advice or motivational quotes or helpful tidbits. Just rambling…for my own sake. Just getting these chaotic thoughts out so I can think and feel more clearly.
This is my emotional vomit, my purge on a page…because sometimes we’ve just got to let it out.

Honesty with Self

A few weeks ago I was asked to talk in Sacrament Meeting about the topic Honesty with Self.

I was so nervous of crying in front of everyone that I forced myself to keep my focus on the page in front of me rather than on the congregation and I put forth a lot of effort maintaining a steady voice. Therefore, I’m afraid that I wasn’t the best orator…but I didn’t care. I was just so happy to have gotten through it without a major breakdown!

Studying for this talk (as always, it seems) was a blessing.

This is not a full transcript of my talk but it’s mostly intact. I’m not going to take the time to rewrite it for reading, but you’ll get the idea.

Honesty with Self

There were a few times the last two weeks where I was this close to backing out but decided that being asked to talk on this subject wasn’t mere coincidence and that I needed to go through with it.

I have to admit that not many of the following words are not mine. I ended up using about 8 different conference talks and gospel doctrine lessons.

The Issue is Truth

How can we be honest with others if we aren’t honest with ourselves?? Is it even possible?

Satan is the father of all lies. ALL lies. Not just the big lies. Not just the lies we tell others. But Satan is even the father of the lies that we tell ourselves.

The Savior constantly rebuked those who professed one thing publicly but lived differently in their hearts.

Wars in the inner self that are fought subconsciously, leading to defeats or overreactions, which also hurt us subconsciously.

Subconscious DEFEATS are reflected in our conscious life as a lack of self-confidence, lack of happiness, lack of faith.

Subconscious OVERREACTIONS lead to pride, arrogance, indecency, or cruelty. Our minds can play tricks of reason to impress others, to get gain, to intimidate, or to manipulate. These are the vain results of deceit.

In contrast…

Christ often spoke of blessing us with answers, gifts, faith, and other spiritual gifts if we but have an honest heart.

The only way to find truth is through uncompromising self-education…to see the “real me,” the child of God, in its innocence and potential.

Howard W. Hunter said that when we promote an honest, earnest integrity within ourselves, it will be one of the greatest accomplishments of our lives.

5 Categories of Self-Honesty

So how do we find our true nature? How do we self-educate ourselves to find the level of our self-awareness?

I thought of five categories of self-honesty that we can contemplate on and answer in order to truly know ourselves and thus find the “Real Me,” The Child of God.

1- We Must Be Honest with Ourselves About Our Own Feelings

Repressing and controlling our feelings is a form of self-manipulation that we all, at times, perform in an effort to control others people’s responses to us. We could be seeking responses of approval…or…we could be trying to protect ourselves from their hurt, anger, or displeasure with us.

When we choose to deny our feelings, inevitably our life and relationships with others begin to feel unfulfilling and superficial. This is the price that we pay when we are more committed to avoiding upsets than we are to living and interacting with authenticity and integrity.

To combat this damaging cycle, we must recognize and identify our feelings as they arise. We must let ourselves experience them. By doing so, we will be better able to honor ourselves and others through honest and productive communication and actions.

2- We Must Be honest with Ourselves About Our Own Desires

“For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts”

Notice that the Lord combines the two…works and desires. They inevitably go together, no matter how often we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

Neal A. Maxwell said, “Our desires profoundly affect the use of our moral agency…even when we do not really want the consequences of our desires.”

For good or for bad, “What we insistently desire is what we will eventually become because “God granteth unto men according to their desires.”
(Alma 29:4)

We must acknowledge our responsibility for our desires. Lukewarm desires cause apathy, melancholy. Righteous desires need to be relentless. We must know them and love them and allow them to move us forward, closer to Christ.

3- We Must Be Honest with Ourselves About Our Own Weaknesses

Larry R. Lawrence says we have to ask ourselves some difficult questions, like “What weakness needs strengthening?” “What is keeping me from progressing?”

The perfect time to ask ourselves these questions is when we take the sacrament and our hearts are turned toward heaven. This allows the Holy Ghost to gently and reverently tell us what we can do. “The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time.”

President Uchtdorf reminds us, “There is a difference between the sorrow for sin that leads to repentance and the sorrow that leads to despair.”

We should be persistent but never discouraged at our inability to reach perfection. In our mortal life, we are just meant to lay the foundation for the perfection we will obtain in the next life.

4- We Must Be Honest with Ourselves About Our Own Strengths

Just as the spirit can show us our weaknesses, he can also show us our strengths.

“For there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited.”
D&C 46:11-12

When we begin to examine our strengths and capabilities, we can’t get caught up in comparisons and recognitions. Those aren’t true measures of our gifts.

President Uchtdorf said, “We too easily and too often get caught up in seeking the honors of men rather than serving the Lord with all our might, mind, and strength. Individual recognition is rarely an indication of the value of our service.”  

He also said, “God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived…are the blessed, humble souls who emulate the Savior’s example and spend the days of their lives doing good.”

5- We Must Be Honest with Ourselves About Our Own Testimony

Our testimony is a knowledge of the truth, a knowledge that is felt in our heart even when our mind doesn’t know. Each of us will be tested, tempted, and tried on our testimonies…to find out if we will remain true.

Robert D. Hales said, “Doubts can be resolved when an honest desire to know the truth leads you to exercising moral, spiritual, and mental effort. Only after that can we gain a testimony of the TRUTHFULNESS of the Gospel through the Holy Ghost.”

“Having dropped all pride of your mental stature, having acknowledged before God your confusion, having subjected your egotism, and having surrendered yourself to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, you are ready to begin to learn.”

“Mere passive acceptance of the doctrines will not give the testimony.” You have to fight for a testimony and you have to keep fighting.

We must live and share our testimony. It will assist others who are searching for the truth and wanting to embrace the truth.

Spencer W. Kimball said, “The truth you seek is tied to the person you are. Light, spiritual answers, and heavenly direction are unalterably linked to your own honesty and truth.”

Enduring Truth

Once we reflect and ponder and pray about these truths of ourselves, then what? Do we compare our truths to someone else’s truths? Do we wallow in our shortcomings? Do we give up on our never-ending, unreachable path to perfection? Do we convince ourselves that it’s impossible to be 100% truthful in all things?

Enlightened by the Spirit of truth, we will then be able to pray for the increased ability to endure truth. In the depth of such a prayer, we may finally be led to that lonesome place where we suddenly see ourselves naked in all soberness. Gone are all the little lies of self-defense. We are shocked to see our many deficiencies.

But that’s good.

This is that place where true repentance is born. This is that place where conversion happens.

As the hymn goes,

More holiness give me,…
More patience in suff’ring
More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Savior
More tears for his sorrows
More pain at his grief
More meekness in trial
More praise for relief

When we allow ourselves to feel the truth in our feelings, our desires, our weaknesses, our strengths, and our testimony…this is the place where we suddenly see the heavens open… as we feel the full impact of the love of our Heavenly Father, which fills us with indescribable joy.

Truth is knowledge of ourselves as we were, as we are, and as we are to comeThe knowledge that we are each a Child of God.