We all sometimes become stuck.
We all experience this sense of being stuck, as it seems to be an everyday occurrence and a part of the human condition. We seem to constantly battle the mantra one part of us wants one thing while another part of us wants another thing (Riemersma, 2020).
“I want to be fit, but I can’t seem to walk through the front door of a gym.”
“I want to love my spouse well, but I keep blowing up in anger.”
“I want to nurture my inner life, but I neglect my spiritual practices.”
“I want close friendships, but my shame keeps me from being vulnerable with others.”
Clearly, overcoming becoming stuck is part of the human condition. However, trying to change and not fall back into these all-too-familiar patterns is our most significant battle.
If you are anything like me, you will relate when I say numerous thoughts and actions occur from this place of feeling stuck with various thoughts and desires. I may try to white-knuckle my way into perfection because “If I just try harder, it must result in some type of change, right?”, but as I quickly realize, white-knuckling only results in the message of shame: “If I don’t stop it….I must be a failure. And if I can’t stop it, then I must be a bad person” Inevitably, my attempts to white-knuckle my way into perfection turn into messages of shame.
Or I may try to acquire more information; I think: “If I just simply knew more, I could improve myself.” This, of course, assumes I know too little, and I perfectly well know what I want to do, but somehow I can’t seem to do it. And if knowing enough can’t transform me, only the transformation of the heart will (emphasis added), then something must be wrong with me, right?
To be truthful, sometimes these methods of “white-knuckling” and “gaining more knowledge” actually work…but only for a while. That is why these options seem so appealing to us. And if these options that seem so appealing fail. Well, we just simply give up on ourselves and call it quits. We say to ourselves, “I’ve tried everything, but nothing is working. It’s not worth it anymore. I’m not worth it anymore.”
What if there was a better way to understand our struggles, our sources of pain and hurt, rather than white-knuckling, shaming ourselves into perfection, and gathering more knowledge? What if we could gently go internally and speak directly to the parts of us that feel stuck with humility, gentleness, and understanding? Over the past year, I’ve been diving deep into my own personal places where I feel “stuck” with this approach called Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS Therapy) which understands all humans being comprised of a core self associated with many different parts (Managers, Firefighters, and Exiles). IFS Therapy has helped me move towards myself with self-compassion and has helped spark healing from the unhelpful patterns where I’ve experienced the same internal friction as you do. IFS Therapy has shown me healthier ways to meet my own needs so I can best show up in the lives of those that mean the most to me.
Leading with Love rather than Shame.
When we do so, we provide for ourselves internally what Jesus provided externally for all. When we lead with Love rather than Shame, we are showing ourselves the Love that Jesus called us to and modeled for us, interanlly. A kind of Love meant to be shown to others AND ourselves too. Jesus didn’t come to judge or condemn us (John 3:17). He showed up to save us through an unimaginable act of Love. Jesus moved toward people with compassion and grace. He embraced children, the sick, the outcast, the unlovable, the thieves, and the tax collectors. Even those who crucified Him. Jesus’ way of bringing about change in their hearts was through Love.
Why would we think the internal transformation we all long for would look any different?
As we travel into this Christmas season and the New Year, I invite you to meet yourself more compassionately. To enact this radical Love modeled for us by Jesus, internally, towards our hearts. To lead with Love rather than Shame.
Grace and Peace,
Andrew M. Forbeck MA, PLPC, SATP