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The Bondage of Belief




 I like to share this story with people in order to illustrate the extent to which our pre-conditioned, destructive beliefs manifest themselves as habits in our lives.

Many of our experiences as children leave mental footprints. Those footprints take the shape of assumptions or beliefs that we carry on into our adult lives. The acting out of these beliefs, which is often quite unconscious, shapes our relationships with others and our own sense of who we are.

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my parents got divorced. At that time, it was not quite as common to have estranged parents as it is nowadays. I didn't realize it but I had a strong sense that, somehow, I might have been responsible for the break-up. I recognize now the absurdity of such a belief but at the time I was quite unaware that I had assumed responsibility for an event that had absolutely nothing to do with me or my actions.

My mother left my father (for a number of complex reasons far beyond the comprehension of a small child) but I interpreted that as she didn't love me any more. So, what happened as a consequence was that I took on a very subtle belief that I could not be loved by anyone, ever. I won't go into the whys and wherefores but this was the crux of my internalization of the events.

This belief promoted a sense of distrust of those that might show me love or affection, particularly with girlfriends as I grew older.

I’ll describe the basic pattern that continued to manifest until I was able to clearly see the belief itself and the untruth of the belief.

I would meet a girl that I liked. If I was lucky, she’d like me too. We would start to spend more time together until we were what might be deemed boyfriend and girlfriend. Life was good. Lost in one another, what more could I possibly want?

However, this honeymoon period never lasted very long before the little monster in my head would start to remind me that I could not be loved. It’d cause a sense of doubt about the motives of the girl in question, which in turn would cause an even bigger doubt about my ability to be loved. Maybe she would see through my facade and leave me. Maybe someone 'better' would come along and sweep her off her feet, leaving me high and dry once again.

The little voice would taunt me, question everything, remind me of all my shortfalls, my inadequacies. My confidence would be shaken and, with that, my overall behaviour would begin to shift. It would slowly become paranoid, fearful, clingy, possessive. I’d begin to exhibit all those wonderfully destructive traits that women dream of in a man, and vice versa (haha). I would inquire about who she was hanging out with. The mention of a male work colleague would make me shudder with jealousy and fear.

I could feel my desperate grip on the relationship was squeezing the life out of it. The intention was simple: to not be hurt. To protect my vulnerable heart. To not return to that place I discovered when I was 8 years old.

As time passed, and the relationship became increasingly strained, I would tell myself that it was only a matter of time before she left me. My actions took the form of a deliberate pushing away.

Eventually, and understandably, she would inform me of her desire to be with someone else, someone less 'intense' or 'possessive'. I would take the stand of being utterly surprised and bewildered, as if this news had come as a bolt from the blue. Deep down, though, the monster in my head was rubbing its hand with delight that once again, it was right. It had been right all along; she did leave me, as predicted. She was yet another example of the 'fact' that I could not be loved. Once again, in an attempt to protect myself, I would close up to the possibility of experiencing love and intimacy with other people. My solace was in being right about who I thought I was.

Now, it is obvious to me that I’m not inherently unlovable. What, in fact, was happening was nothing more than a self fulfilling prophecy that I orchestrated in order to prove myself right. Unhappy, but right. And being right was almost of more importance than my own happiness. It concretized the image I held of myself. It reinforced the idea I had of 'Michael' being this or that. Only years later, through investigation and contemplation, was I able to see directly through this belief, and in doing so, reduce the ability for it to unconsciously manifest itself in my life as a supposed aspect of who I am. I simply realized that it was untrue. I entertained the possibility that I might be entirely wrong about what I believed to be so.

Until such beliefs are brought into the light, they will have free rein to express themselves through you, and seemingly 'as' you. Many of our assumptions about life are misplaced. Much of what remains unobserved is able to use you as a conduit for expression. What remains in the darkness is able to run amok, and we remain blind to the cause of the effects we experience.

Our beliefs run deep. Most of us never think to question what seems an obvious fact. Our basic assumptions about life, or who we think we are. In investigating we find a freedom. We find a freedom in discovering the extent of our own delusion. We cultivate the ability to turn the light inwards and ask the questions that need to be asked.

While we continue to hold dear to our beliefs they will continue to rule our lives.
And we will be left to pick up the pieces once again.





by Michael McCaffrey - February 2015

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