Well, I got my ass kicked, again.
That phrase was often used by a therapist we used as a married couple. Her name was Sarah Rubin and she used to go off on retreats to learn more about herself. Invariably, she would come back and say either, “Feh. That was useless” or, more frequently, “THAT really kicked my ass.”
If you’re far along on the path of The Work, you begin to see and address the real issues that may have been hidden in Shadow. These shadow pieces are the ones holding us back and preventing us from being at our best in relationships and careers. They may be the reason we have low self-worth or why we’re abusive to people we love. In other words – the stuff that kicks our ass.
So what happened, Scott?
I have been writing some new songs. One of them was about a family who had moved through gender non-conformity with their child and come out the other side stronger, happier and well-adjusted. The lyrics were loosely based on a true story and I was ready to move on to the music.
Then I stopped. A voice inside of me said, “send it out to a couple of friends and Beth,” so I guess that I harbored some doubts about the quality of the lyric. Or maybe I was looking for some head-patting (the opposite of ass-kicking).
One of my colleagues, Peter, told me that the lyric needed a lot of work, in his opinion. And as soon as we started pulling it apart I acknowledged two things in quick succession: 1) he was right – it needed work, and 2) I felt embarrassed. In fact, Peter asked me to wait until an idea was a little further along before sending him stuff in the future. Wow! That man knows how to kick some ass!
It’s not easy to receive criticism, constructive or otherwise if we are protecting our egos.
The ego, according to psychologists, is something that we create in childhood to protect ourselves. It’s also related to self-esteem, the positive self-talk that got most of us through our teenage years with inner-directed comments like “I’m special” or “I am free to be me.” These crutches work just fine, but they are meant to be temporary until we get to the real work of adulthood.
In my experience, most adults have fragile egos – especially artists! We walk around looking for pats on the head, hoping that people will like us. There is nothing wrong with this. I loved receiving support then (and now) from my peers. But to move beyond “people-pleasing”, we need to strike out into the unfamiliar and riskier terrain where one might get bitten by a rattlesnake. Our work might not be received well every time and, surprise, that’s good! We grow when our spouses, children, bosses or clients say, “No. That’s not what I want. I don’t like it.”
Back to the song… I set up three interviews with parents who have gone through gender issues with their children. I’m doing what poet, Danna Faulds, calls going IN and IN. Instead of pulling back into my protective, egoic shell, I’m sticking my neck out further.
Make no mistake – every single time I enter into this space I run the risk of feeling embarrassed, angry or sad. If I’m not careful, I can let that turn into internal messages of low self-worth and wonder if I’m a good enough songwriter to pick up a pen. This is the downward spiral of depression that causes many of us to play life in our comfort zone.
You may wonder, then, why I do it? Here’s what I believe…
I’m a soul inhabiting a physical body. What I’ve described above is my Work on the planet during this lifetime. Your Work may be different because your soul came here to take another course in soul-evolution. I don’t pretend to understand that stuff, but it feels right to me. I don’t need to understand it to accept it. Maybe, in time, I’ll get a clearer picture and share it with you!
In the meantime, I wish for you a mix of pleasant days and growth opportunities that will grow your soul. May you be safe enough to step forward, loving enough to take rest and forgiving enough to know that there’s no rush and it’s very normal to fall – even necessary. And when you’re ready? Be open to a good ass-kicking, now and then.