When Shrek told donkey that ogres were like onions he wasn’t wrong. We are all like onions we all have layers. No matter who you are on the surface today, there is layer beneath layer of your past and personality bubbling just under that surface. And sometimes these layers, these different versions of you, react to situations in your daily life without you even knowing it. Infact it’s often hard to know which you is responding to a situation.
This week I was fortunate to have a chance to peel back the layers in my life and wow did I get a shock. As I peeled back through different stories of my past I began to find parts of myself I thought long gone, were actually still there, large as life, and often influencing my reactions to people and situations in my now. It was an incredibly powerful experience and gave me a deeper understanding of myself and the way I interact with people. The biggest shock was although my grown up nearly 40 self thought I was in control it turns out that underneath the surface there is a frustrated teenager and a scared little girl who alternately react to the people in my life without me realising it. Once I recognised them it became so clear as to why I immediately begin to rage the minute a parental figure tries to interfere in my future plans and why it was that a person who represented consequences for me sparked off my insecurities. Completely unbeknown to me this little girl and teenager had been running a huge part of my adult life and my default reaction patterns came from me then not me now. Wow.
Now as you may know I am a big advocate of responding as opposed to reacting to things in life, consciously choosing rather than running on autopilot. So you can imagine my surprise at this new discovery. However it’s a great teaching, suddenly I am so much more aware of which me is trying to react to a situation, I can understand on a deeper level why things are affecting me emotionally and I feel so much more in control. It’s empowering.
Many of us have a struggle with reacting rather than responding. It’s partly due to our dna response fight or flight. However if we learn to peel back the layers and get to know the roles and dramas that lie inside of us, then we can learn to consciously take control of our emotional responses. With that knowledge we can begin to naturally respond to life’s curveballs. Obviously this is a HUGE journey of self discovery and cannot be covered by a quick how to guide. However if you would like to begin peeling back the layers of yourself then here are a few steps you can take to begin this journey.
Identify milestone versions of you
You need to look into your past and identify the main versions of you that are close to the surface. Look at how do you remember yourself as a child, a teenager, in your 20s, 30s, etc
Were there any significant events in your life that you remember effecting you. For me I had a specific photo as a little girl who embodies my memory of me as a child and an old beanie hat that reminds me of my very confused teenage self. Find these versions of you and give them a name.
Identify emotional characteristics of these versions of you
Now in a journal start to define these versions of you.Take each one and try to write some key words down emotions you associate with them. So for example my little girl was scared and desperately wanted to be good enough. My teenager was frustrated and angry, ready to defend herself at the drop of a hat. Write as many keys words or insights as you can for each of the versions of you that you have identified.
Investigate the triggers and reactions
Look at each version one at a time. Try to remember through free writing what triggers would be the catalyst for the emotional characteristics, and what response this version of you had to specific situations. So for example with my teenager I could identify that when she felt disapproval of her she would react defensively, angrily trying to justify her actions, usually resulting in arguments with loved ones. My little girl would get scared by arguments because she thought they were her fault and so she tried to be good enough. If you have identified a lonely little boy you might discover that he would tease his sister at home when he felt lonely at school. Try and find the triggers and reactions for these versions of you. Don’t worry if you can’t get them all at once, baby steps is definitely the way here.
Compare the triggers then and the triggers now
Ok this is a little harder but incredibly powerful. Take one version of you. Look at the triggers you identified and now try and find a similar situation or a similar emotional response on your life now. I found that when me Mr T asked me why I did something a particular way it actually kicked off the “I am not good enough” feelings of my little girl. It is amazing the more you look into these triggers and responses the more you will see patterns emerging.
So now you have all this information what to do with it? This is now a guideline for you. You can look at your emotional characteristics and response patterns of the past versions of you, if you have unhealthy patterns then start to work out strategies that are healthy. I am now working on discussing my frustrations with parental interference with them instead of exploding behind closed doors. You may have discovered some unhealed wounds that are too big for you to deal with alone, if that is the case then please do seek support. You may find that simply by having identified which you is responding to a situation that this makes you more conscious in your interactions with others. Each of us is different so what we do with this journey of self discovery is up to us.
As I said before this is a huge journey and much bigger than I can cover in one article. However I hope that this gives you some inspiration to begin to understand the layers you have within you. For me this journey has been a wonderful exploration of myself. It has raised my consciousness of self to another level and is bringing a sense of peace to my life in areas I didn’t know needed it. And that in itself is a powerful healing. I hope that you enjoy this discovery process as much as I did
Enjoy your journey<3