Hi! Welcome back to Transform.
How did you do with making the commitment to yourself and your journey?
Did you identify what you want more of in your life and what you are willing to release in order to there? Maybe you are ready to release negative self-talk, so you can have more self-acceptance? Maybe you are ready to release your lid of alcohol so you can have more clarity in your thoughts? Whatever it is for you, be sure to jot it down in your journal, so you know where you are going and remember why you are doing this effortful work.
How'd you do identifying your ANTs? Are you starting to hear your automatic negative self-talk? Again, get those ANTs out of your head and heart and get them on to your journal. They lose some power when you start identifying them for what they are, your fear side's way of keeping you 'safe' by keeping you small. The ANTs mean well, but they are misguided. You are learning a new way.
Ready to dig in for more learning and growth? Let’s get going.
Your pit and lids
One of the first things I want to teach you is my model for treatment. It applies to everyone, to all of us. It’s the backbone for all the other work we will do together. It’s all about your pit and lids. We all have a pit. A deep, dark place inside of us that holds all the things we don’t like to think about. Anything we don’t like about ourselves, any history of abuse, trauma, neglect, all the negative thoughts we hold about ourselves, all the wounds we received in our family of origin and our childhood, all the self- judgement and criticism, they all live in our pit. ‘I’m ugly, I’m fat, I’m too dramatic’,’ I’m too emotional, too sensitive, not smart enough’, 'I deserved that abuse', ‘I’m not like everyone else, I’m not good enough’. ‘I don’t matter’. ’I’m too much’. These are just a few examples of the negative thoughts about ourselves that run rampant in our pit and that we do everything we can to avoid, escape, and deny. Remember those ANTs? They live in our pit, having a feast on all that is wrong with us. They rule the domain.
Per definition, the things that live in our pit are not things we want to deal with, we are scared of them, we don’t like them, we want to avoid them at all costs. So, we shove them in our pit. Makes good sense, right? We are survivalists. Unconsciously, we do what we think we need to do to survive. So, if these thoughts feel overwhelming and we fear they will take us down if we let them out, we’ll keep shoving them down. We’ll deny them, ignore them, avoid them at all costs. This is a closed-system. Things happen to us, we can’t deal with them, we shove them in our pit. Don’t want to deal with that, shove it down. Can’t handle that, shove it down. That feeling hurts, shove it down. We keep shoving stuff into our pit until it is bursting at the seams. The way we keep all those cruddy thoughts in our pit is by putting a lid on it. Lids can be all kinds of things. A lid can be anything that helps you avoid what’s in your pit.
Lids keep the crud down, for awhile
People use different things for their lids. Some folks use drugs and alcohol, exercise, sex, electronics, being overly busy, focusing on others, the kids, social media, people pleasing, food, obsession with control. There are others, but you get the idea. Anything that helps you avoid what’s in your pit can be a lid. It’s not so much what you are doing, but why you are doing it. I call this the function of the behavior, why you are doing what you are doing. What function does the behavior serve? The answer helps you identify if the behavior is being used as a lid. In and of themselves, these things aren’t always negative. Sex, pretty good. Exercise, good too. When they are being used as a lid, the function of the behavior is to avoid, deny, check out, or escape. When these things are being used as a lid, they are usually done to the extreme, become overkill, and are done to excess. They are not being done to authentically enjoy the experience, but to avoid, deny, and escape. When using these as a lid, they have a tendency to become an addiction. It’s overkill, right? Too much of even a good thing is too much.
When I was a newbie therapist, I would spend my time with my clients focusing on the crud in the pit and try and help them explore their history, look at all the stuff they didn’t like about themselves, talk all about it, use different techniques to address it, and wonder why folks weren’t getting better. Well, in hindsight, we were just sitting in the muck of the pit. Not a great place to be for sure. Definitely not a place where the sun shines. We don’t feel good about ourselves in our pit. No wonder no one was getting better. And, the lids? I’d give my clients all kinds of advice of how to stop the behavior and explain how it wasn’t good for them, blah blah blah. And wonder why they weren’t just changing the behavior. It’s not good for you, so just stop it, right? Not. It’s not so easy to change old patterns and face what we’ve been avoiding all these years. If it was easy, they would have already done it. They were struggling because it was hard. Remember, I was a newbie.
Now, after doing this work for a lot of years, with a lot of folks, I’ve found a much more effective way to deal with the pit and lids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to look at our history and to understand how we came to be at the place we are at now. It’s important to become aware of why you are doing your lid behaviors, to realize the impact they are having on you, and understand how the muck in your pit is driving your train. But, we don’t need to stay there and sink into the darkness. You can do that all on your own, successfully stomping around in your pit, criticizing yourself every step of the way, and hiding out behind one, two, or seven lids. You know how to do all that. You’ve been doing it for years. There is a much more effective way to extinguish the need for lids and uproot the weeds in your pit. Instead of focusing on what they don’t want, I help my clients get what they do want, what they really need to not live in the
doom of their pit and hide behind their lids, even if they don’t know it yet. I’ve found it’s much more powerful to go under the pit and develop what isn’t there, what you didn’t get in childhood and what you so desperately want, to not have a pit of ANTs, and a need to cover all that pit stuff up with lids.
• Take a minute to think on what might be in your pit and what kinds of lids you use. Get out your journal and, without judging yourself, see what comes up when you think on what you don’t like about yourself and how you try and avoid painful thoughts and feelings.
Example journal entry: The things that are in my pit are: I’m too dramatic. My mom always told me I’m too much and to just be quiet. So, I guess I think I talk too much. My nose is definitely too big. My thighs are too fat. I’m broke and can’t manage money. I can’t keep a boyfriend around for longer than a month. I’m boring. I’m sure the people at work think I’m stupid and ask too many questions. How do I avoid my feelings? I eat. And eat. And eat. That’s it. Oh, and I shop.
Getting under the bottom of your pit
Remember the closed system that keeps the lid on the pit? Something happens to you, can’t deal with it, shove it down. You feel upset and can’t deal with it, shove it down. Someone is mad at you, you don’t feel like you can handle it, shove it down. You are a burden, a disappointment, a waste of space? Shove it down. Closed system. What we really want is an open system. Things happen to you, process them, and let them out. In and out the thoughts go, without you having to attach to them and let them define you. In order to have this type of an open system, you need two things, self-love and self-trust. If you have self-love and self-trust, then you know you can deal with whatever comes up. You know your worth and value. You trust yourself to handle your business, your thoughts, your reality, without needing to hide from anything with destructive lids.
Unfortunately, most of us weren’t raised in households that helped us develop self-love and self-trust. We’ll get to why we weren’t afforded these basic needs in a bit, but suffice to say for now, we didn’t get them in our family of origin and we suffered as a result. We ended up wounded because we didn’t get our needs met and typically we take over-responsibility for those wounds. We learned to criticize ourselves, to judge ourselves from a negative lens, to hate instead of love on ourselves. We learned shame, blame and criticism. Ugh. All that goes right in our pit and forms all the crud.
The fertile soil at the bottom of the pit
Imagine that you are planting a garden and want to grow some healthy plants. You’d put a seed in healthy soil, give it air, water, attention, maybe even some organic fertilizer. You’d do what it took to grow up a healthy seed, to have a successful garden full of robust plants. When a seed started to grow into a stalk, you wouldn’t beat it back down for not being a flower yet. No. You’d be excited that a stalk was growing. You’d be psyched about the growth and give it more of the healthy attention you had been giving it to grow. But, what do we do to ourselves? We beat ourselves down at every point. ‘I did this wrong’, ‘I screwed that up’, ‘I’m to blame for this, that, and the other’. We beat ourselves down and wonder why we aren’t growing up. Contrary to old school beliefs, no one grows and flourishes off the negative. Beating myself down
doesn’t make me want to grow up, it just makes me want to cower off to the side and hide and then I have even more things to hate on myself for and put in my pit. What we want and so desperately need is to learn to love and trust ourselves. To know, at the core of our being, that we are enough, that we got this, that we can handle what life brings us. But, most of us weren’t taught these skills. We just weren’t. We were taught the shame, blame, and criticism game. Ineffective at the least and soul damaging at the core.
At this point in my explanation of all this, my clients are usually looking at me cross-eyed, with a bit of anger and frustration, tossed in with an eye roll. ‘That’s great Kim’, they are thinking. ‘I’ve got this huge pit, I cover it up with all these lids. My ANTs are scurrying around like they are at a house party. I’ve got none of this self-love and self-trust you are going on about, and I’m doing the only things I know how to do, blame, shame, and criticize. Woo hoo’. Yea, it can look pretty grim, if we were to stop here. But we aren’t, we are going to move on to how you can start developing your healthy soil and learn how to really support your inner plant as it grows. Now that’s something to get jazzed about. Do not fear, there is another way! We’ve got a garden to grow.
The 1, 2, 3 process
I’ve broken the development of self-love and self-trust down into a 1, 2, 3 process. We will relate everything else we are doing back to the this three step process. I’m giving you the overview here, just so you have a birds eye view of what we are going to learn throughout the rest of the Transform series and what the Journeyers will keep
practicing in the Journeyers Club. The expectation isn’t that you are going to ‘get it’ right off the bat and run with it. I’m not a newbie anymore. I know this is all new, pretty foreign, and takes practice and support to incorporate into your way of being, to really make change stick. For now, just be open to seeing the bigger picture of what we are going to do together. Let a little hope in that there’s another way, that you can change how you feel about yourself and feel good in your skin. In the 1, 2, 3 process, the first step is awareness, the second is acceptance without judgement, and the third is choice.
In the first bunch of sessions, my clients raise their awareness by sharing their history, identifying what’s in their pit and their go-to lids, the coping mechanisms they’ve learned to use that aren’t working for them anymore, and how that is all impacting them in such a way that they are struggling more than they are thriving. In the telling, they become more aware of their own patterns. This might take a bit because we are so used to covering up, being in denial and just plain avoidance, that it’s a process to become aware, to become more conscious of all you’ve been unconsciously avoiding for years. It’s not automatic to know what you’ve been avoiding and denying and how you’ve been doing it. Its unconscious avoidance and denial after all, meant to be hidden from plain sight. Avoidance and denial keep us safe, briefly, by not having to deal with things that we think will overwhelm us. We don’t realize that they are actually causing more problems than they are solving. So, this step takes a little bit. We start off slow and slowly ramp up speed. After we get all this out on the table, when you become more aware of what is on your plate, we start to move into acceptance without judgement.
Acceptance without Judgement, what’s that?
Once you have a pretty good understanding of your patterns and history, you move into acceptance without judgement. I used to teach just acceptance. It is what it is, this is your history, this is how you were taught to act, you just have to accept it. But, I soon realized that my folks were accepting it, but still beating themselves up for it. ‘Yea, that happened to me but it’s because I deserved it’ or ‘Yea, this happened, but it’s because I’m bad or not good enough or too much’. Old habits die hard. So I spend a good amount of time teaching how to accept the past, without judgement, and with a healthy dose of compassion. It is what it is, without beating yourself up for it. You didn’t learn how to love on yourself, not because you were bad but because your family of origin probably didn’t know any better way to grow you up. They were as wounded as they raised you. You learn to take yourself out of the equation and see things for what they are, without being the root cause of all the badness. Now, I’m gonna be honest, this step takes a while. It’s a whole new way of being, of operating in the world, of thinking about yourself and your past. The whole compassion concept is super foreign. It’s a learned process to accept yourself without judgement and with compassion.
I’m sure this all seems great, but unachievable, if you are listening to your ANTs. It probably seems pretty different from your current way of being and operating in the world. That’s good though, right? You want to be doing things differently than you’ve done before, so you can get different results and live a life of fulfillment instead of
depletion. Try not to get overwhelmed. I’m going to break the specifics of how to achieve all this down for you step by step. Right now I’m just trying to give you an overview. Bird’s eye view, remember?
Choice, of what?
After you have really sat with this concept of acceptance without judgement, and practiced applying it, you move into choice. You are aware of your patterns and
history, you accept them without judgement, it is what it is, you learn to have compassion for yourself and others. I truly believe we are all doing the best we can with the skills we have in a given time period. If you were wounded by your parents, it had much more to do with them and their wounds than you. You were impacted by their wounding, you got wounded, but were not the reason for it. They couldn’t do any better than the limited skills they had. Now, this isn’t to say that their best is good enough to not hurt you or continue to rewound you, but it isn’t necessarily because of you. An intriguing thought, right?
Once you really wrap your head and heart around this new way of thinking and feeling about yourself, understanding how and why you came out of your family system so wounded, that you are doing the best you can with the skills you were taught, as were they, then you get to move into choice. You get to ask yourself, are these things I’m now aware of and accept without judgement, working for me or working me? Is beating myself up helping or hurting me? Is holding a grudge about my childhood and feeling like a victim working for me or working me? If you’ve found your way to this book, it’s a pretty good guess that your ways of operating in the world, denouncing
your worth and value and constantly beating yourself down and taking ownership for everything bad in your life, is ‘working you’. It’s just not working for you. It feels crappy and you have little hope that things can be different. But here’s the exciting part, once you realize your way of being in the world and relating to yourself negatively are working you, you get the opportunity to truly change your way of being. You are taking a different train and this one works for you and will get you where we want to go, a higher quality of life. You learn you have the power of choice and actualize it. Woo hoo!
Change is possible; it’s a real thing
Many folks don’t realize we have choice in how we think, feel, and act. Your present doesn’t have to be dictated by your past. Choice is the step of more direct action. It’s about living consciously instead of unconsciously. You realize the way you’ve been functioning in the world isn’t working for you, it’s working you, and you are ready to change your operating system. You are ready for a system update. This step is actually not that hard. It’s the logistics of change. It’s the specific steps you take to start thinking, feeling, and acting differently. This is the fun stuff. You get to start living the life you want to live. You get to develop new ways of thinking about yourself that let the light shine into your pit. You actually learn how to get rid of your pit altogether. How amazing is that? But, here’s the catch, you can only get to step 3, once you have successfully passed through the other two. The first two steps are about rallying your motivation for change, believing you are worth making the change, and owning that you are capable of change. The last step is about bringing it all together and really
living all that self-love and self-trust you have been developing. Don’t let the ANTs derail you. You’ll get there, one baby step at a time.
At this point, my clients eyes are no longer crossed, they are pretty much glazed over. They aren’t sure what to make of my approach, of me. They have some serious doubts that any of this is achievable for them. For others, maybe. But for them, nope. Which makes good sense, since at this point they are still being driven by their old ways of thinking, their ANTs are enjoying their picnic feast, and they have zero belief in their ability to make any kind of change in their lives. They are living by the credos that got them to me in the first place. ‘I’m not good enough. I’m a loser’. That’s okay. I don’t let that dissuade me. I’ve seen it before. I’m not shocked. I get it. And, I know there’s a different way, that change is possible, because I’ve lived it myself and I’ve lived it with my clients all these years. I have enough hope and belief in the power of change for the both of us. I carry the torch for them, until they are ready to proudly carry it for themselves. I’m carrying it for you now too.
Act on it:
Let the new information sink in. I’m giving you a whole new way to start thinking about things, so give it some time to percolate.
Draw your own pit and lid. Fill in as much as you can, meaning, identify your lids and what might be in your pit, your negative thoughts about yourself that might be keeping you stuck.
As we are moving forward, realize you are learning a whole new way of thinking right now. By following the blog and practicing the skills, you are affording yourself a new way of understanding yourself, your history, and how you operate in the world. Try and be curious instead of judgmental. Be open to the awareness you are raising within yourself. Step 1 of our 1, 2, 3 process, right? Keep raising your awareness and give yourself room to acclimate to all the new information you are taking in.
Have a good, effortful week on your journey. Till next time.....k