Being Tested, Part 1

When we step off the conventional path to follow our heart, our commitment will be tested.

 

Greetings Friends!

I haven’t written in a while so I thought I would share the latest from my professional reinvention. I’m sharing this not because I think you are especially interested in the details of my life, but I’m hoping that in my story you might find some insights into your own journey of change, however that is unfolding in your life.

AND, since we are collectively in the midst of massive upheaval and desperately in need of positive change-makers with a clear vision and strong heart, I hope something that you read here will bolster your conviction that a different world is possible and give you the courage to create it!

This summer has been a time of deep inner challenges, frankly, so this is not a conventional “success story”—just an honest account of the process of fundamentally changing one’s world. I know it’s on the long side for this kind of post, but I hope you will forgive me since I only post every few months lol. For ease of reading and processing, I will post my account in 2 parts, one today and one tomorrow.

When I last wrote in January, I was exploring the void that comes when we let go of our former life, the vulnerability of starting over, and the creative awakening that was starting to arise in me. In this post and my next, I will share about my ongoing process of inner transformation.

One of the reasons why we keep creating the same struggles over and over (maybe you have a friend who keeps having the same dysfunctional romantic relationship again and again, just with different people…) is because we haven’t shifted our inner landscape. My former life arose out of my former sense of self and belief system; in order to create a sustainable new life, I need to cultivate new beliefs about myself and the world around me.

Fortunately, the extreme astrological energies we have been in for the last month are all about bringing up our wounds, limiting beliefs, and dysfunctional programming so that we have an opportunity to shed them as we move into the next stage of our evolution, personally and collectively.

 

“Something has changed within me, something is not the same

I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game

Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep

It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!”

(“Defying Gravity” from Wicked)

Wicked logo

 

Here are the next 3 steps of change that I will be talking about. I invite you to think about how they apply to your own life.

  1. Deprogramming:

As you no doubt have seen in your own life, just because we move away from our families, religious institutions, or workplaces doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t still carry their unhelpful values and frameworks with us, generally unconsciously. It can be difficult work to bring those unconscious attitudes into the light for examination—and it can feel scary to allow ourselves to confront and reject them, as they have been standards by which we have been measured and so our sense of our own worth is often tied up with them. And they have often made us feel wounded and unworthy.

What standards and attitudes have you internalized from your environment that might be getting in the way of your happiness? What deprogramming are you needing from harmful values and beliefs (especially about yourself) that aren’t true or aren’t yours?

  1. The Test:

As I mentioned last time, the leap of faith that initiates a big change in our lives is only the first step. The scary leap can feel more exciting than the tedious hard work of building the foundation for our new lives. When the pressure of the void begins to assert itself, and the uncertainty of our new life feels overwhelming, our commitment often starts to waver.

Rather than facing the discomfort and pushing forward, everything in us wants to turn back (we see this constantly in our political environment), to cling to the familiar, and we can be filled with regret for having initiated the change (whether that’s ending a relationship, leaving a job, moving to a new city, going back to school, even having a baby or trying to eat healthier).

At this time of self-doubt, we might be given a test of our commitment: are we really determined to have our heart’s desire and stick with it until we see results or are we tempted to jump ship and go back to the comfort of our old ways?

What’s your test currently and what tools do you need to face and overcome it? Perhaps it’s courage or support or solitude or conviction or faith or determination. How can you summon these inner resources and/or ask for help?

  1. New Paradigm:

After you have confronted and purged the values and beliefs about yourself and about life that has been your programming (from your family, from the media, from your education, from all the institutions of your society), what are the values and beliefs you want to choose instead? What will replace your old unhelpful beliefs and what values do you want your new life to be built on (whether personally or collectively)? Being clear about this can give you the drive needed to bust through the obstacles (inner and external) that you might face on the journey of change.

What’s your new paradigm—the life that you are wanting on the other side of the change process based on your own/better values and beliefs?

I encourage you to take a moment to jot down your answers to these 3 questions. They can be a helpful reference point that you can explore more deeply in your own personal work—but, even if you do nothing but quickly make a list of the first things that come to mind, simply identifying them can be all you need to create a profound shift!

Case in point: during a recent time of emotional distress, I simply drew a messy map of all the various feelings and thoughts floating around tormenting me. It was super helpful just putting them down on paper—getting them out of my head and in front of my eyes where I could see their connections and understand that they are not me, they are just feelings and thoughts that I’m having.

I’d planned to unpack each one further—do some journaling about each—but found that simply writing them down was enough to catapult me out of that inner experience. When I returned to my messy map a couple days later, I was shocked to find not only that I was no longer feeling that way, but I made a list of my current beliefs and they were almost the exact opposite of all the ones that had been tormenting me just days prior!

If you are struggling to answer any or all of these questions, I can help. I assist my students and my counseling clients with this type of work constantly. Shoot me an email (Sam.Bullington@colorado.edu) and I can give you some further suggestions—or consider booking a session with me (we can Skype if you are not local) if you want to dive in in earnest. 😊

 

Where I’m stuck…

At the core of my current challenges is my lack of belief that there is really a place for me in life. As a non-binary trans person in a gender binary world, I’m confronted every day with a sense of existential erasure—all the ways that the world tells me that I simply don’t exist and am not welcome. When I look out at the world, I just don’t see a space for me. And so that has been my block professionally as well.

When I graduated from college and looked at all the various life paths to choose from, I simply didn’t see mine there—although I didn’t know exactly what mine was, none of the available options felt right for me. It felt too overwhelming as a 21 year old to contemplate creating my own path, given the ways my material survival was tied to this dilemma. So I chose the best match I could find at the time: university life.

School had always been a refuge for me and, growing up without a peer group (since those are organized by gender), teachers were my friends and peer group—so it is not surprising that I chose to be one myself. I knew how much teachers had profoundly changed my life, so I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my life energy than having that kind of impact on students.

However, when I found my partner, who is my soul mate, and decided to go on hormones, I began to realize what a right match for me felt like—and sadly recognized that my academic career was only a partial match. Though I loved campus life, being surrounded by cutting edge ideas, teaching, and being part of student transformation, all this took place in a toxic bureaucratic institution whose values were antithetical to my own.

I really wanted our relationship to work so I stretched and changed myself as much as I could to accommodate the environment. When that didn’t work, I tried shifting my position within it—I removed myself from the tenure track to distance myself from the bureaucratic structure and sought less rewarded positions that would allow me to focus my energies on teaching, as I believe that students are where the possibility for transformation lies within universities.

While this worked for a while, and the joy of teaching carried me through the challenges, eventually the bureaucratic structure kept encroaching and my ability to do the work of transformation became more and more at my own expense. Eventually I could no longer absorb the damaging costs of that arrangement and sadly found myself in the position of needing to leave the relationship entirely. Perhaps you have found yourself in this unfortunate position somewhere in your life as well.

Facing this loss only reinforced my core belief that there is simply not a place for me in life. My work in the world and how I feel inwardly led to go about it simply doesn’t match up anywhere with the values and operations of capitalism, so the intensity of that core belief has only grown since leaving the refuge of the university. In order to access my next steps professionally and find my rightful place in life, I first need to believe that I have a place and that it’s possible to find it.

 

Here’s how I’m doing it!

I hope my introduction to these concepts has been helpful for you. If you are interested in learning how this process plays out in specifics in someone’s life, I encourage you to read on about my journey. You will find that posted tomorrow!

Feel free to pass this on to anyone you think might benefit from it.

Blessings upon your journey,

Sam

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