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Rooted in Our Own Identity

Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” — Oscar Wilde

I often write about stories in this blog, how stories of the past can seep into the present, how our own and other’s stories can inspire an illuminating insight or keep us frozen in place, how these stories can be re-written. Lately the “old stories” and the accompanying old emotions have been popping up more than usual (friends and clients report the same).

What I’ve been observing in myself, when two old stories collide and become a heated discussion, is that what brings clarity, resolve, and open conversation is staying rooted in the moment and…

1. Being willing to listen to the other person’s side of things (however hard that may be);

2. Acknowledging them for their current situation/feelings/viewpoint, AND acknowledging myself by telling my view of what is going on (what I call the Double Acknowledgment tool), and perhaps most importantly, asking myself;

3.”Where do I live within myself that is large enough to hold my truth, stories and values, AND another person’s, while staying connected to both? “

The roots of the word evaluate come from the French verb évaluer: ”to find the value of.” Only when my value comes from within am I rooted, able to stand firmly and responsibly in my own knowing alongside a generous flexibility and compassion. This identity emerges from many sources, among them the rethinking of our stories with our whole-body brain; our intellect, our heartfelt sense, and our intuitive “gut” sense.

By asking this question, then listening to, and having a conversation with myself, I’ve found a great deal of this clarifying “work” with myself is to disengage my identity from another’s stories and perspectives, and step fully into my own, known-at-the-core identity, complete with my stories, values, and ways of seeing and being in the world. It is a reality check and constant conversation that grows stronger over time, requiring a fierce, vigilant evaluation of who I truly am, often in the midst of stormy emotions.

Lively, sometimes heated discussions that are creative, inspiring, and where everyone is heard and considered are one thing, yet too often the need to be exclusively right leads to disconnection, defensiveness, and misunderstanding, all of which can all too often turn into resentment and stalemate (the US government is providing a brilliantly devastating example at this moment). To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, do I want to be the right one or do I want to be happy? According to the Latin American saying ‘Cada cabeza es un mundo’ (each head is a world), having the only correct perspective at any one time is statistically improbable, if not impossible.

I’ve noticed this “practice” of being rooted within myself allows me to sometimes become more than the sum of all my parts, a presence that is felt by those around me (and myself) as a calmness and acceptance in the face of what is, a palpable spaciousness that allows for possibilities not yet in existence. The poet W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) described this state as making “our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life, because of our quiet.”

Those still waters of an owned identity are in essence an unwavering adaptability, a liquid state, flowing and ever-emerging, even as it continues to be an ongoing challenge. Able to withstand those occasional emotional storms with a bit more rooted grace, I’m becoming more skilled at circumventing others (fascinatingly enough the Spanish word for storm is tormenta) as I become more aware of, and quicker, to choose connection and compassion.


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