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While I Was Away.

June 19, 2010

So the reason I didn’t blog last week was because I was at this self-development retreat.  This is my second level that I’m taking.  It’s a 7 day challenge, and probably 7 of the most challenging days of my life.  We were called Team 497 and it comprised of 76 people from all different walks of life and all different goals but with one common intention in mind:  self discovery.  To discover parts of ourselves, whether haunting or enlightening, humorous or humiliating, strengths or weaknesses, and arrange or re-arrange those parts to make us one step closer towards our goal.

Looking back on the first day, I can only laugh now at how our first reactions were.  If only someone took a picture of how many of us looked when we got off the bus and saw the barn and housing.  It was priceless.  And then we went into the barn.  And just when we thought… WTF, we then met our facilitators.  And then it was a whole lotta WTF’s in day 1 & 2.  What a ride.  Then came day 3.  Kind of a blur to me.  Learning more about myself then I ever did.  Oh yeah, we did a bunch of group activities which I enjoyed.  By then I was getting the into the swing of things…feeling a bit more comfortable with some things but still dreading the lectures of the facilitators.  Day 4 was the day I was anxious about:  challenging my fear of heights only to discover it wasn’t so bad afterall.  Wow, were those activities revelatory.  Things I thought would happen didn’t and things I never knew would happen did.  Welcome to the story of my whole 7 days actually.

I can’t really disclose much as you can see.  And to all those cynics out there, it’s only because I don’t want to influence the people who havent gone and are planning on going.  All I can say is that it is life changing.  Not in the sense that the immediate part of your life, or the physical part of your life changes (although it may).  It’s more the change in the way you do things, or should I say, I do things.  There has certainly been a shift in my way of thinking.  For everyone the shift takes place differently.  And it was a whole bunch of epiphanal moments that created this shift.  For example, one of the biggest one for me (that I want to reveal) is my ability to show people my feelings.  I mean, I was aware that I didn’t really express my emotions much but I didn’t realize how bad it really was.

I always feel the need to contain myself.: a survival skill that worked for me til this day.  When I’m overly joyous, I feel like I need to contain myself.  When I’m angry I feel the need to contain myself.  When I’m hurt, sad, frustrated, nervous, fearful..  And by doing that, I have not allowed people to really be close to me.  And all this time I attributed my sense of solitariness to the idea that nobody can relate with me.  And that is partially true, but the reality is, I never allow people to relate with me fully.  Only to a certain level…to the level that felt comfortable for me.

And it just proves how powerful our past is; how much our childhood experiences influence us.  I didn’t have a horrible childhood.  My parents did what they knew to be the best parents they could be.  They also had their pasts influencing their beingness which in turn affected our beingness, which I can completely appreciate.  Nonetheless, every action (or lack thereof) that they had, influenced how I am now.  And all this time, I thought I had resolved it.  It was such a discovery for me, albeit a painful one.  I certainly hold no anger towards my parents for the past, but I was so surprised at how painful it still was when I really went deep into my feelings.  It was really difficult. 

The epiphany was in day 2.  I don’t recall how it came about.  What I do remember is realizing that as a child, when I did something “bad” (and that was alot), I got the chinese version of the whip.  For all of you out there who don’t know, it was the bamboo feather duster…needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.  Oh.. did it ever hurt.  When my dad was angry at me, he did not hold back.  When I cried, I was told to stop or the discipline would continue.  Again, I do not blame my dad for this at all.  This was the traditional way of discipline for many Asians in the past.  But as a child, I didn’t know why he had to hit me so hard and I couldn’t comprehend how the things I did was that bad that he can hit me so hard.  But being that young, I though it must have been that bad since it hurt so much.  Worst of all, I would get hit if I cried more.  And it’s hard to forget the gasping I experienced because I tried so hard to hold back those tears.  Eventually I learned not to cry from pain (interestingly enough, I never stopped being naughty).  And maybe extreme joy, fear and any other feelings are similar to pain.  Because they are all extreme emotions, and I just learned to shut down that part of me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still feel.  And I’m generally very happy.  But my first reaction when I feel this surge of emotions is to hold back.  Really, before Psi7, if I won the flippin’ lottery, I would still have been so contained and composed….I would have a smile on my face, but I wouldn’t have been jumping for joy.

Another thing I find really hard to do is to express my love or those warm-fuzzy feelings.  Hugging, and saying “I love you” was very foreign to me before.  It’s much easier for me now, although I still a struggle at times.  Its strange, but many Chinese families don’t ever do things like that.  Heck I have never said “I love you” to any member of my family.  I’ve never hugged them either.  It also did prevent me to fully express how I felt at times to others.  Even til this day, although I can express those feelings to friends and my husband, it’s still so morbidly uncomfortable for me to express them to my family.  It’s just not the chinese way, generally.  In fact, I don’t even think there’s an official word for love in chinese.  There’s a romantic word for love.  And there is a devotion/care type of word for love.  But I have never heard of an all-encompassing word, “love”, before.  Not anywhere, not even on chinese TV.  Speaking of which, I don’t even see much hugging on Chinese TV.  It’s almost as if hugging and saying “love” is such a faux pas.  And that’s what I’ve learned… that it must be wrong or a sign of weakness.  Whatever it is, til this day, it still holds me back somewhat.

There’s so much more that I’ve learned in this retreat.  And maybe I’ll discuss this a bit more later.  But for now, I’ll stick with one discovery.  And that discovery is, how much my past behaviors have really stuck with me til now.  Now that I have realized that, I know not to give that behavior or “program” any more energy.  I discovered that (mainly from my PSI buddy) that it’s ok to show that side and in fact, it only makes you stronger.  From now on, I will share my emotions, as extreme as they might be, and I will express my love and hugs to people.  Don’t worry to all you friends out there.  I’m not becoming this hyperactive, roller coaster of emotions, extreme hugging/loving sap.  But I made a pact to myself that I will be more honest with my emotions.  And I will not be afraid to show my vulnerability when it presents itself….I will allow the people that I care about to support me when times are tough and I will not fear their support.  So thank you in advance for being here for my first “exposure” to my vulnerability.

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people” – Virginia Woolf

Please click here for Part 2 of this post

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