From Chapter Seven, End Your Story, Begin Your Life

I am sensing something new, that it is the attachment to the stories that run me that is behind my suffering. I want to learn more about this.

Until we see them for what they are, the personal stories running us are many, and they are very deep-rooted. It takes time to ferret out our stories so we can see them for what they are: just stories, with corresponding emotional fallout in the body, but no substantial reality other than that.

There are stories of ambition and deprivation, need and want, desire and lust, greed and hunger, guilt and resentment, sadness and despair, hope and longing, friendship and betrayal, and so on.

These stories often have their origin in some form of personal trauma or abuse. It may be a psychological or emotional event which happened one or many times, or it may be a physical occurrence such as an illness, an accident, or some other calamity. Sometimes the psychological/emotional event also involves physical trauma. Either way, we fabricate a story (and a related ‘persona,’ the personality we project) about what happened to us, and we gradually shut down. Over many years, the story and the persona become “us,” become literally who we think we are.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the stories we tell ourselves, the stories keeping us separate from the flow of life, making us feel, to some degree, like victims of circumstance, or of life itself. Here they are, the bare-bones, stripped-down versions, without all the rationalization, justification, or personal narrative (which is just more “story”) which usually accompanies them:
I’m not worthy.

I am/was an abandoned, abused, wounded child.
Nobody would want to be with me.
Life is tough, unfair.
The only way you can get ahead is by ripping people off.
You can’t trust anyone.
I don’t manage money well.
I’d love to do such-and-such, but I won’t because I’m not sure I would succeed. He/she is my one chance for happiness.
I need/must have this or that (whatever the belief is) in order to be happy. I’m too busy to take time for self-reflection/meditation.
I can’t seem to get my mind to shut up.
I’m getting old. It sucks.
I really screwed up.
I’m confused/lonely/depressed/miserable.
I’m bored. I need something new and interesting to stimulate me.

The persona I spoke about above often becomes part of what psychologists call our “shadow self” because we have no conscious awareness of it. Only later, when we are triggered by something which reminds us of the original event, do we experience the drama associated with mental and emotional reactivity. We take offense, become angry, or feel any of the other sorts of human emotions: sadness, loneliness, depression, guilt, and so on.

How do we bring the shadow into light, into conscious awareness? It seems as though it would be necessary to live in the world with an authentic sense of freedom and openness.

The shadow, in Jungian terminology, represents the unconscious aspects of your behavior, the things driving you of which you are not even aware. The shadow rears its head in what are sometimes referred to as “demons.” Personal demons can manifest in many forms and guises, as I indicated above: fear, envy, jealousy, addictions, guilt, self-doubt, self-judgment, depression, despair, and phobias of various kinds.

The shadow is your disowned self. The more strongly you desire freedom, and the more closely you pay attention to your own thoughts, feelings, motives, and drives, the more you bring the shadow aspects into the light of awareness where you can see them. And it’s in the seeing, the perceptual shift, that the healing happens.

You see it—your anger, for example—and you look for the story you are telling yourself, such as “How dare this person say—or do—this to me!” Then you breathe into the feeling. You stay very present, intensely alert. You remember that your true nature is the pure, changeless consciousness which is looking at the story. Remain in this place of awareness, and you’ll find the images and feelings associated with anger dissolve, and a new energy of wholeness unfolds.

This is the secret of transformation: in this alert awareness, to know yourself as the consciousness, the field of timeless presence, which looks, sees, senses, feels, and creates. This is the shift in perception which leads to awakening.