Life was dysfunctional for me as a kid.
I had some good friends, but I wasn’t in the popular group at school, and like anyone who isn’t quite the jock, I got picked on a little.
One day at school one of the cool tough kids randomly called me ‘Meathead’ & even though I didn’t feel upset by it at the time, (enter denial) unfortunately the name stuck, and before long even my own friends were calling me this.
I also remember spending a lot of time running from the neighbourhood kids who were out to get me for some reason, so I became a good runner, but not from my fondness for Athletics.
On top of this, my own home wasn’t much of a refuge from the local bullies either.
My father had become a bully himself, as the result of severe alcoholism.
If you think ‘Meathead’ is bad, you should have heard some of the names that came from my Dad’s mouth. I’ll take Meathead any day!
You know the famous saying; “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me”…
Names hurt… Deeply!
And names that you embrace graft themselves into your identity.
By age 12 I was emotionally defeated (not that I was aware of it) and my Dad was so out of control we moved interstate.
I couldn’t wait to leave.
A fresh start…
An opportunity to re-invent myself!
I can now be whoever I want to be!
I’ll be the cool tough kid, like the one I wasn’t…
I’ll be the bad boy, the rebel.
I’ll smoke weed, drink & steal stuff.
I’ll pretend that I don’t give a rip!
You know that kid.
Fast forward 30 years…
In so many ways life had panned out great for me, so much better than I would have anticipated.
I have an incredible family, a good income, a vocation that I love and a great community of friends.
However, a few years ago, deep inside my inner being, evidence was emerging that there was a war going on.
An internal war…
Slowly I discovered a monster inside of me that’d taken control and was destroying my life from the inside out.
So once upon a time… (as told by novelist Mary Shelley)
Victor Frankenstein, a well to do science major with a fascination for the ‘Elixir of Life’ creates an 8 foot tall super human. He plays ‘god’, and as a result, things get a little out of hand.
As good as Victor’s intentions were, it turns out that the very creature he creates, turns against him and begins to destroy him.
By the time Victor has the revelation and quotes the now famous line; “What have I done?”, it’s too late.
Frankenstein has become more powerful than Victor.
So it took me a truckload of time to realise that the monster inside me, was my own creation. Created from a place of deep woundedness as a defense against pain.
My own Frankenstein was a highly sophisticated, well developed persona, who’s self sufficient, bulletproof, in control, arrogant, and emotionally distant.
The lines had become so blurred that I didn’t even know who was who anymore.
My mask had morphed into my skin…
As Michele Rosenthal, founder of HealMyPTSD.com says; “Without your consent trauma changes you, often into a person you’d rather not be.”
I reckon there comes a time in everyone’s life that they must face themselves and examine the good, the bad, and especially the ugly.
This season of life is more often than not brought about by some form of massive failure, devastating loss, or other unwelcomed change. There’s a whole host of reasons, but whatever they are, deep down there’s an unrelenting invitation to enter a whole new arena that we know we must accept.
Some enter this season willing and eager to grow and develop, others come kicking and screaming.
I think I was somewhere in the middle.
Equally curious and afraid…
What I did know was that my Frankenstein had taken me as far in life as he could, and it was becoming obvious that where I wanted to go, he couldn’t come with me.
As John Eldredge says; “The real journey begins when the false self fails”
More often than not, as humans, we don’t enjoy the uncertainty that’s inescapable in these moments of personal change and transformation, but we don’t have the comfort of certainty if we want what’s on the other side. Catch 22
As I nervously began the journey of deconstruction, untangling the web of false self, I was disturbed by the fact that I knew so much more about my own Frankenstein than I knew about who I really was apart from him.
To uncover my true identity I had no choice but to go back to my childhood, to where this monster inside me was created.
And I dare say, so will you…
It’s strange how random memories from childhood just seem to pop up out of nowhere.(Personally, I don’t think it’s strange, I think it’s God, but I can’t prove it)
I began to remember that as a kid I was gentle, kind, affectionate, merciful, loving, peaceful & soft hearted.
However, those traits were deemed and treated as weaknesses, the prime hunting ground for bullies, and others who carried a disdain for what was considered weakness.
The world I grew up in punished apparent weaknesses, so I buried what I thought mine were, hoping never to see them again.
Now 30 years on I find myself in a place where these long forgotten personality traits are back on the table again, exclaiming their innocence, asking for an explanation for their long imprisonment in the emotional dungeon.
What was I supposed to do when gentleness, kindness, affection, mercy, peace and love looked me in the eye from deep within saying; “James, we are your strengths, not your weaknesses. Let us out.”
From the distance I can hear Victor; “What have I done?”
It’s been a few years now and the civil war certainly isn’t over, but I’m finally connecting to my true self, and bringing my ‘A game’ to the front line of battle.
I’m a better soldier now.
I can honestly say that I’ve learnt more in the last five years than any other time in my life. I’ve come to love the process of emotional healing, even though it still scares me, because it’s so powerful.
Me and uncertainty actually get along quite well now too.
My enthusiasm has caused me to be known as some kind of ‘evangelist’ for the healing journey. I wish everyone would do it, but I also know that just like me, everyone has their own time and season that’s right for them.
Only you will know when it’s time to face your Frankenstein.
If you’re interested, I’ve written extensive material based on my own story, and also from my observation of others in their season of healing, which has led to the organic development of various courses I facilitate called Tree of Life.
It’s a group based course where we all process our stuff together in an environment of trust and safety, along with the odd dose of humour tossed in to keep joy in the process. We have a blast together as people increase in courage and authenticity week by week.
If you want to find out more about Tree of Life click here.