I know what it’s like to be feeling a deep sense of inner turmoil inside, as if there’s a battle being waged inside of you that you don't know how to stop.
I know what it’s like to have a part of you longing for something more for your life and your relationships, another part of you that feels guilty and judges the first part for not being more grateful for what you have, and yet another frustrated part that wishes all those messy feelings to please go away.
And I want to share a story about a path I've found to navigate that turmoil to find more acceptance and inner peace.
The story takes place two years ago — that’s when I first connected with him in a deep way. I was on a three-hour drive to Soulplay, a heart-centered dance and connection festival in the forest, about an hour outside of Yosemite, when he showed up.
He was cowering, head down, arms around his knees, afraid.
It was June 2019, two months after I had left my 17-year-long relationship and 8-year-long marriage. My ex-wife and I had been college sweethearts. And she’d been the only person I’d ever dated in my life.
The idea of dating, of following my desire and attraction, felt frightening. I carried with me a virginal energy — inexperienced and timid.
Just a week before, I had frozen on the dance floor, unable to walk over to a cute girl, let alone even summon the courage to ask her to dance. I felt so defeated.
Being frozen by fear wasn’t acceptable. And I knew that overcoming my fear would be a critical step toward freedom, toward creating the life I wanted.
It was on that solo drive that he — my three-year-old self — showed up. When he appeared in my mind, I realized that he was scared shitless. He wanted to play in his sandbox, not pursue women. He had no clue what to do with desire and attraction.
Society often tells men that they need to “man up” or “be a man,“ to show toughness and power through a challenge or difficult situation — especially when it comes to women.
That version of masculinity didn’t resonate or seem healthy to me.
I’d spent the past few years up to that point slowly rediscovering and nourishing my inner child. I’d explored The Artist’s Way and went on artist play dates with myself to cultivate my creative self. I’d tapped into a childlike sense of inner joy while dancing in Bali.
And the idea of throwing all that away and suppressing him to re-claim my masculinity felt confusing and saddening. And yet, while the little one inside was lovable, I also knew the kid inside wasn’t equipped to approach the women I felt attracted to.
As I pictured him in my mind, alone and afraid, I saw my adult self hold his hand. I told him that it was okay to be afraid. Of course he was afraid.
I let him know that he could play in his sandbox whenever he felt scared during the festival. I let him know that another part of me – the warrior inside me – would take care of going out and pursuing my attraction and desire for women.
And magically, after that internal dialogue, I felt a sudden internal shift. A sense of peace washed over my chest, a softening inside me, as if a warring tension inside me had finally relaxed and subsided. The child and the warrior could co-exist. It wasn’t just one or the other.
It’s only in recent years that I’ve deepened my understanding that we all have different parts within ourselves — the child and the warrior are just two of them. Inside me is also a king, a mage, a lover, and many more.
I now recognize that softening sensation as the feeling of integration — of having come to acceptance with something that was previously at odds within myself.
When we feel an uncomfortable emotion, our first reaction is often to try to get rid of it as quickly as possible. We judge the emotion as not being okay. And, in doing so, we reject a part of ourselves. That rejection actually extends the discomfort and inner turmoil we feel.
The faster and more helpful path is actually through the emotion, not around it. And that starts with allowing and accepting that anything we feel is okay, and finding the stillness to feel whatever sensations show up in our body.
That allows us to love the part of ourselves that feel that way. And that’s the path that takes us on a journey toward more self-love and self-acceptance.
I’m starting to notice more and more when I’m resisting an uncomfortable emotion. And I choose more and more to instead feel the sensations of that emotion in my body — rather than avoid them — and to love the part of me that feels that way.
I notice the times when I’m tracking, “Where do I fit in? Where do I belong?” I'm starting to sit in the discomfort of not knowing and not needing to get out of it. I can love the little boy inside who feels like he’s not sure where he belongs.
I notice the times when I’m detached from a group conversation and wanting to be included but not knowing how to. I can love the inner child inside who wants be included.
I notice the times when I’m wanting attention and an opportunity to be known, seen, and heard. I can love the little boy inside who wants attention.
I notice the times when when I just go along with the group and bypass tuning into what I want. I can love the little boy who just enjoys and cherishes connection so much that he sometimes does it at the expense of other things he wants.
Now, every time I feel fear or disappointment or alone, I check in with the little one inside. And any time, I give him a little more love for what he’s feeling, I tap into a deeper sense of peace inside.
What situation in your life feels the most difficult for you to accept right now? Take a moment to picture in your mind the little one inside. How is he feeling right now? What does he need? Let that little one know that it’s okay to feel however he’s feeling. How might you take a moment to give that little one what he needs — whether it’s reassurance, safety, acceptance, attention, or something else?
Any time a part of us is searching for something externally, it’s something that our higher selves can give to that part of ourselves. And that’s what I’m wishing for you right now.
Thanks to Henry Kimsey-House and Brian Basham for reading early drafts of this post.