An Excerpt from "The Vein of Gold" by Julia Cameron.
"Told that we are not gifted in certain areas, we are all too ready to believe it. Believing it, we repeat the damning words to ourselves and guarantee our own negative results. We parrot without exploring whether the lack is real or merely a part of our familial conditioning.
When I teach the concept of creative ceilings, I often talk about Chicago, a city filled with old buildings that feature wonderful high ornate pressed tin ceilings, ceilings often obscured by a lower "modern" Styrofoam ceiling. In many ways we are a lot like those buildings with artificially low ceilings. The hidden gifts we believe to be far above our creative capacities are often merely obscured from our view. A tiny whisper of the gift may remain, tapping at our consciousness. When we hear the whispered wish of that gift we say,"Oh, I could never do that! That is so far above my head."
Is it really?
Many people suffer from artificially low creative ceilings caused by what they've been told about themselves. Conditioned to believe they will fail they are either afraid to make a fledgling attempt or if they do, they judge that attempt so harshly that they abandon their efforts before they have a chance of success.
It is one of the ironies of my work that very often the phrases used to shame children actually single out the very finest parts of their creative DNA.
Gifted in many ways that our parents or teachers find threatening or disruptive, many of us have been called dreamers or other things as well.
As youngsters, when we were judged by outside authority we often take that judgement into ourselves. the choir teacher who makes fun of a quavering adolescent voice, may cause that child to lose that voice. The college professor who tells his students, "Your job is to convince me you are brilliant" (not to express yourself), may rob his students of their right to self expression.
In shamanic tradition, the loss of these parts of our self is called "soul loss." Any sever artistic shaming is sufficient to cause such self-displacement,, and the results can be catastrophic in terms of both identity and productivity. Some part of us is judged and then disowned. This disowned gift goes underground.
At best, the controlling descriptions issued to us as children are opinions. At worst, they are character assassination. "Get your head out of the clouds . . . You'll never amount to anything."
Because these negatives were often instilled before we were old enough to see through them or question the authority from which they came, we may still accept these shaming dictum's as fact.
Into the void of self-worth we insert the words we've been taught to use for ourselves. Our emotional or intellectually Achilles heel starts to throb as the old wound acts up again.
One of my favorite exercises when teaching a class is to have the class call out the words used to control them as children.
Head in the clouds
Out of your mind
Not feminine enough
Not masculine enough
Not in reality.
Please note that these are often contradictory. You may simultaneously stand accused of being too much and not enough. Unexpressed, unacknowledged, unesteemed our disowned gifts become shadow versions of themselves. Our good points become our bad points. Whatever it is that you were or are - It is wrong. You are wrong.
Wait a minute. Maybe they are wrong!"
Now this chapter hit home with me in unexpected ways. I am a rather creative person, by all accounts. It's one of the words I have heard over and over in my life cited when people say, "What do you know about Sayyadina?" Other words that have followed are "talented, loud, a reader, actress" etc.
And I realized while reading this chapter what some of my dross were. As a child, these were the things I was told, not only once, but many times in different situations. Rarely from my family, but always by someone who had the "authority" to tell me.
"You're too imaginative. You'll never be able to function in the real world."
"Being a mother is not a worthy life goal. Choose an occupation."
"You're too loud."
"You're too fat." (and this was WAY before I was fat!)
"You are not a dancer."
"You are not a soprano."
"You are not an alto."
"You don't have the attitude for a runner."
"You are not a runner."
"You read too much."
"You use over-large words. Speak like a person."
"Nothing like that could ever happen in real life."
"I can't finish a story."
"Your ending is weak."
"You have a bad memory."
Bad at sports
Inflexible (physically and time-management)
Lack of Priorities.
The list could go on. And last night, as I was writing these down I noticed one that I had always pushed aside as absolute truth and never challenged. "You don't have an attitude to be a runner." Followed by the belief that I was not a runner. I couldn't run. I was slow and clumsy.
So what did I do this morning?
Yeah, I did.
I went RUNNING!!!
I ran all up and down the cemetery above our house. Not only was the morning beautiful and fulfilling to all my senses, but I found out that I CAN run. I even like it. I really like it. I may be "bouncy", but I enjoy it. My body enjoys it. I enjoy coupling it with Yoga.
It makes me wonder what else I have a capacity for that I have not attempted in years because the thought of it was always followed by, "But I can't . . ."
What about you?