Personal Growth

The Janus Effect

I am juxtaposed between the different versions of myself: who I was and have been, who I desperately desire to be, who I am, and who I’m becoming.

There is also this dichotomy of perception about who I am:

Perception 1) selfish, self-absorbed, weak, whiny, manipulative, lazy, willing victim in an abusive relationship, looking for others to fix my problems, flaky, unreliable, a deceiver of self and others, unstable and unsafe; not to be trusted or relied upon; an emotional and psychological vampire best kept at a safe distance in denial of my own nature.

Perception 2) strong, courageous, inspiring, motivating, transparent, and real.

The truth of the matter is that I have been all the things in the first viewpoint, for such a long time that I hurt and wounded several people – one of the most important people in the world – and regardless of any word or deed on my part, this is the filter through which I will be seen and evaluated. Because of who I was, they don’t know who I am and don’t trust the changes I write about, believing that consciously or not, I am manipulating perceptions by only presenting an edited version of me. This perception, which I earned by my own actions and decisions, is no longer about who I am, but about who they are and believe me to be. It will change, or not, according to their choices.

Those who have the secondary viewpoint are primarily those who do not know me in person and/or have not lived through being in relationship with me for any length of time – mainly those of you who read and follow this blog and whom I interact with on social media. There are a few, whose job it is to be encouraging and supportive and know me in the context of their role as a social service provider, therapeutic practitioner, educator, or pastoral care provider. If they have any leanings toward the first perception, they keep it under wraps and only share implications of the second perception.

I do my best to be real and honest about who I’ve been, the struggles of character and inner dis-ease I have, my flaws, foibles and character defects. I’m not deliberately subsuming or obfuscating those things about myself. I’m just doing what I can to understand where they come from and what drives them, so I can make real changes that will last. I’m striving to become the person I want to be by focusing on the qualities and actions which create that reality.

Honestly, in my deepest self, I find it much easier to believe the things in the first viewpoint and battle against the inertia to follow that mold. As twisted and sick as it may seem, that place is my comfort zone. I don’t want it as my comfort default, but that’s what it is. Rather, that is what it has been.

Something interesting is happening though. As I step out of that negative comfort zone more and more and do the difficult things like exercising through the pain and fatigue, set aside my worry and fear to truly listen to the worries and fears of another, do what I am able and let go of self-criticism/blame/judgment for not doing more, I find that I’m less comfortable in that old comfort zone.

I don’t have a new one yet.

Each time I get the positive feedback, it is accompanied with an electric shock of pain and I want to push it away and reject it. Knowing the damage I’ve done and the pain I’ve caused, my past lies and manipulations cause me to downplay the supportive, encouraging, and complimentary things people are saying to me – at least in my own mind. Then, I realize I’m working hard to do and create a new person within.

I am not the person I was, though all of that is foundational to the person I am. I still have a long way to go to become the person I want to be. The good news is that I’ve come farther in the last year than I did in the previous 20 and I’m much closer to who I want to be than who I used to be.

According to Encyclopedia Mythica:

Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors (ianua), beginnings and endings, and hence represented with a double-faced head, each looking in opposite directions. He was worshipped at the beginning of the harvest time, planting, marriage, birth, and other types of beginnings, especially the beginnings of important events in a person’s life. Janus also represents the transition between primitive life and civilization, between the countryside and the city, peace and war, and the growing-up of young people.

I am a transitional being moving through the gate of my past, entering through the door to my future. I am in the in the threshold between the two: gazing back to understand what I need in order to keep moving forward. I am living the Janus effect.

Attitude: Minimization or Amplification? How does your attitude affect your life?

There are a lot of quotes and conversations floating around “out there” about attitude and it’s impact on our lives.

I had the opportunity to watch two different Google Hangouts where the role of attitude came up. The first was a conversation between Robert Kennedy III and Julia Neiman, “What Success Looks Like.”  The second hangout, with Marc Schelske and friends, looks at, “The role of attitude in spiritual growth.” 

At 10:20 into the conversation with Julia Neiman, Robert asked, “What do you do daily to encourage or inspire yourself?”

Julia referred to a daily practice she has, “The 10/10 List,” where she spends time every morning going over ten things she’s grateful for, as part of entering into a daily, “Attitude of Gratitude” for the rest of her day:

“If you are in an attitude of gratitude, you are in the zone. And you cannot help but feel happy if you are grateful. When you’re feeling grateful and in an attitude of gratitude . . . things come to you, when you are grateful for what you have.”

I used to hear this kind of thing while I was busy being anxious, depressed, stressed, and miserable. The only things I could focus on that I had, were my troubles and difficulties. The disruption, pain, and chaos from my past, which had come to define who I was and was an ever present part of my existence.

“So, I’m supposed to be grateful for ______?!?” Fill in the blank with the problem du jour, and you have a pretty good representation of my attitude: incredulity, disbelief, disgust, and bewilderment. I couldn’t see the value in being grateful for the painful, difficult, unjust, and downright ridiculous issues I had dealt with most of my life.

I know a lot of people like this. I’ve known them in all eras of my life. People who hold onto their pain, contempt, disdain, and offended sense of everything that is wrong with the world, their lives, and the people around them. The critics, the victims, and the ones we tend to carelessly, however justified, label as manipulative, crazy, and hateful.

I had a conversation with my oldest daughter the other day about such a person. A woman who is my age, and the mother of a couple of my daughter’s friends. Apparently this woman uses, manipulates, and abuses anyone and everyone she comes into contact with. During a text conversation where she was threatening and abusive toward my daughter, she sent screen shots of the conversation to one of her daughters. When our daughters met up, the friend said something like, “She was completely in the wrong for doing that. But you know how it is, it’s my mom. It will blow over and she’ll be okay.”

She was really frustrated and bewildered because she couldn’t understand how this woman’s behavior could be excused or accepted in any way, shape, or form. She’s convinced that because everyone around her lets her get away with the behavior, that she’s never going to change or be different and that it’s the fault of those who put up with it and accept it.

I suggested that it sounds as if this woman might have some mental/emotional health issues and a personality disorder or two. Her response was rather explosive. The idea that people who have these kind of challenges being allowed to have a “pass” on disruptive, destructive, and devastating behavior, simply because they have a mental/emotional health problem and everyone else just has to be okay with it, is one which my daughter finds distinctly unpalatable.

For me, this all hits me in tender areas in my heart and mind, spirit and soul.

Matthew 7 3 5

Matthew 7:3-5
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
3 Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you have the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye!

I’ve been this kind of person in the lives of others at various times in my history, in various ways. Every single person I’m related to and whom I love, have had these kinds of things show up in their actions towards myself and others.

How do I condemn another for something I can recognize inside of myself? How do I hold them accountable and not hold myself accountable? By what measure do I determine where to draw the line?

The position, or attitude, that focuses on the wrongs of others and external things as the source of our misery or happiness is one that minimizes the role we play and the effect we have on our own lives through our choices based on thoughts, beliefs, and experiences.

Like the overwhelmingly strong and powerful adult elephant in the circus who is kept docile and harmless by a braided rope, we are kept limited in our effectiveness, by the experiences and beliefs we gained from them when we were younger, weaker, less knowledgeable, and under the care and responsibility of those who may not have had our best interest at heart.

Sovann Pe on spiritual growth

We have the ability to do some self-examination and self-reflection to identify where our own limitations and boundaries are false beliefs limiting us, creating and attracting all the negatives we perceive as keeping us down in our lives. When we are ready to stop focusing on everything and everyone else, when we become willing to look at the log in our own eyes, that is when our attitudes and the things that form them can begin to change.

I know this because it is the path I’m on now. I am discovering that the more I adopt an attitude of acceptance, self-awareness, forgiveness, and trust the more powerfully I am able to accomplish constructive and positive things in my life and the more I am surrounded by others who are engaged in similar journeys.

What attitudes may or may not be working well in your life?

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