The Cage that Keeps us from Living
by Matthew Roethel
Remember the first time you met your future in-laws? You spent hours asking your partner questions about them so that you could dress right, say the right thing, and you hoped that if you were the slightest bit lucky, Mom and Dad In-law wouldn’t think that their kid was a total idiot for wanting to marry you. Do you remember anything about the evening? Or were you so wrapped up in making sure that you lived up to the image that you created that you were not able to pay attention to anything going on around you. You leave the party, turn to your partner and say, “Can you tell me what happened tonight? I can’t remember a thing!”
It was the same thing when you went to that job interview, gave that big presentation at work, took your first big customer out for dinner. Do you remember the moments or does it all seem like a blur? Oh, and that image you presented to the in-laws – does it match the one you show your boss? Does it even match the one you show to your partner?
Have you ever signed up for an Internet dating site? That’s kind of fun – you get to create an image of yourself when you fill out your profile. If anyone has tried it, aren’t you amazed at the wide variety of body types that fit the description of “average”? I have a friend who signed up with several sites at the same time. He had to keep a set of 3 x 5 cards with him when he went on dates so he could remember what he had said about himself on the site where he met that night’s date.
There is not a single human being on the planet, now or ever, who has not created an image of what they should be and tried to live up to it. It is simply the way things work – as a child, we need acceptance, approval and love. To get these things, we try to be what we think our parents, teachers, friends and everyone else wants us to be so that our needs will be met. What ends up happening is that we are so busy maintaining our image that we forget to live life.
This is a true story – when I was in high school, I wanted to throw a party for my friends. I planned everything out, carefully picked out who to invite, got just the right food and drink. Just before the party was to start, one of my friends called and asked if he could bring along these three girls that he knew. I said no. Why? Because that wasn’t planned for in my image of the party. Of course, he ended up not coming, along with half the other kids. All that was left was me and a couple of my dorky friends sitting around staring at each other for three hours. Image. Wonderful.
Okay – now we know the issue, what do we do about it? First, I had to admit that I was not fooling anyone. Do you have friends that try to maintain carefully crafted images of themselves? Are they fooling you? Think about it. What makes you think you are fooling anyone? If you are feeling really brave, and have a friend that you trust, do this exercise: write down two things that you like about yourself, and two things that you don’t like but think that you keep hidden from everyone. Ask your friend to do the same – about you. Compare the lists. Are you fooling anyone? What are you going to gain by maintaining the image?
Once you decide to let it go, how do you get rid of it? At K2’s Ascension Workshop, we did a death and rebirth process where we left all of our baggage behind and started life over with a clean slate. Many spiritual paths have similar processes. You can do it alone, or you can make it very powerful by doing it in a group with common intent. Once you are reborn, no more image, all that is left is Self. You are free to be. You are free to live. (And yes, it really is that simple. The hard part, for me anyway, was getting over the fear that if I let go of my image, there would be nothing left.)
Then what happens? You begin to experience life. I spent an afternoon hanging out with friends with no conversations in my head. I was relaxed and natural, and they responded. We spent a lot of time smiling and laughing. For the first time in years (the first time that I can remember), I was able to look up and say, “I’m happy” with nothing attached to it. Let go of your self-image, and see how much better you feel.
Love and Light,