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Break The Cycle
"Education is the way to freedom," said Oprah, as she addressed the 75 young women from her first graduating class in South Africa who fondly call her "Mom Oprah." Bright-eyed and thirsty for higher education, these beautiful girls are about to take another significant step - college. I wish that was all that was needed to lead a successful life. Get A's and B's, graduate top of your class, keep your head in the books is what we tell our children. Despite tragedies, traumas and heinous crimes of abuse and neglect, we think academic excellence means they are going to be okay. We applaud proudly as our kids cross stage and think the worst is over.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news: the world is full of A students with F's in relationships. Maybe I was the only person that while rejoicing in the opportunities these absolutely amazing young ladies were given was crying as I pondered how the rapes, the deaths, the brutality and poverty of their everyday lives could play out in their adult lives. "The worst is over," you might argue. Sadly, I don't think so.
We've seen it. Our caring and sensitive children turn into out-of-control teenagers, often angry about something that happened that we thought they had gotten over. A divorce, a molestation, a death, bullying or some other traumatic event doesn't just go away. Oftentimes, the pain gets acted out later in love relationships. We see it almost everytime we turn on the television. A celebrity with looks, money and brains has yet another breakup and before the ink is dry on the divorce, she or he is with a new love interest and in a couple of months they are engaged.
On December 6, 2006, I published an article entitled, "Dating: A Good Man Is Easy to Find If You're A Good Woman." Admittedly, a lot has happened in my life in the almost six years since. I am still inclined to believe nonetheless that you attract to yourself what you think you deserve. It's the energy that you put out despite all the accolades you might receive from the many accomplishments in your life.
Using my own life as an example, I was puzzled that I, a "good woman," was having such difficulty in love. In my mind, my resume was impressive: I was a born again Christian. I was popular. I had a good job. I knew how to cook and take care of a home. I was attractive, funny and smart. Again, I must stress the in my mind part for if I were to look back over my dating life and my married life, I was a willing participant in one unsatisfying relationship after another.
Does this mean I wasn't a good woman? That's a sobering question. I looked the part. I had grown up with a great role model in my mother, still, I was functionally wounded. I could hold down a job, I could be a great friend, I could take care of myself but I could not do relationships. What I didn't understand was great relationships require intimacy. I was emotionally fragmented. So it's no wonder that I was impulsive, compulsive and limping around looking for validation.
I had spent a lifetime doing all I could to avoid my pain. To dress it up. To compensate for it. To press pass it. I thought I was helping myself. I wasn't. There was no deep conviction about my worth. I was either extremely needy or extremely detached. No middle ground. Symptoms took me to a therapist's couch and stuff was dealt with but the root of feeling like I wasn't enough remained.
I submit to you that I didn't become good relationship material until I went for what was at the root of my struggles. I stopped giving myself a pass for being ignorant. I stopped justifying abandoning myself, betraying myself and thereby rendering the crying child within as not worth my time. I stopped expecting others to do for me what they wouldn't or couldn't do.
How do we break the cycle of that perpetual pain that not only threatens us but those who are attached to us?
"Call a thing a thing, people!," Iyanla passionately says to people on her show, Iyanla Fix My Life. That is the first key to breaking the cycle. Without censorship, excuse, justification or blame, tell the truth. Your wounded self is waiting for you to do it. To stop the denial and call a thing a thing. The icy fingers and breath of being violated doesn't go away just because you have a Harvard degree, get married or, in the case of Oprah's graduating class, have Momma Oprah in your corner. It doesn't just go away because you have book knowledge or a lot of zeroes on your paycheck. The school of life requires soul work.
Another key is you have to make your healing your priority. This means no longer taking your heart into risky situations. I don't care how cute he is or how much attention she gives you, if they are married, they are OFF LIMITS. They'll be a liability to you in the long run. When a person is hemorrhaging, you might not pick up on it in the beginning, but it will show up. The wounded party will react to their internal pain and bring crazy into your life.
No matter where you are in life, it is never too late. Your soul is very forgiving. When it feels the warmth of your regard for it, it will begin to flourish. You'll feel it. You'll start trusting yourself. You'll stop fearing the reaction of others and start celebrating the fact that you are treating yourself well.
Your soul will thrive in proportion to the kindness you give it. You'll no longer override your intuition and then kick yourself afterwards when disappointed yet again. Instead, you'll celebrate every gain no matter how small it seems. I'm not going to say it's easy. It's not. It may virtually be the hardest thing you've had to do. I had to get help. There's no shame in that. I needed accountability and my life coach provided that for me. She helped to clarify and demystify the distorted beliefs and thoughts that kept drawing me into dysfunctional cycles.
These keys: calling a thing a thing, making your healing your priority and having accountability nourish the ground upon which good relationships are built and changes the energy you give out to the world. It will not happen overnight. It will take patience, courage and determination, but with time, you can break the cycle and begin to not only heal your own heart but the hearts of those you influence.