Branded for life?
Getting caught up in who we think we are
On our tour of the English countryside this summer, we came across many a fields littered with sheep and lambs. What soon became apparent was that color dye was being used on their wool as a means of distinguishing ownership.
It was when I came across a field of sheep whose owner had been a wee bit too generous with the application of the dye, however, that a parallel between the branding of the sheep and the branding of our psychological identities began to form in my mind.
In looking at the sheep, I could easily distinguish between what was dye and what was sheep. There was no confusion in my mind. The dye was separate from the sheep and represented a temporary state of appearance.
The same goes for our psychological states. We may be experiencing stress or sadness or worry, but those states are temporary in nature and are separate from who we ARE as a whole.
And yet, how many times do we innocently brand ourselves or others as 'stressed' or 'anxious' or 'depressed' as if that label represents a fixed identity?
I want to be careful here not to dismiss or detract from the very real feelings that all of these states can create within our minds and thus within our psychological experience.
What I want to suggest, however, is that we mistakenly and innocently identify with our temporary states of mind in such a way that we begin to believe that they are a fixed feature of our identity.
This is not true.
WE...are not our stress, any more than the sheep can be considered red. We are simply experiencing a stressful state of mind in the moment.
WE...are not our depression, any more than the sheep can be considered blue. We are simply experiencing a depressed state of mind in the moment.
WE...are not our anxiety, any more than the sheep can be considered orange. We are simply experiencing an anxious state of mind in the moment.
WE aren't the feelings we're experiencing, even though it may look as if we are and even though it may seem as if we've been experiencing such feelings for the whole of our lives.
When we realize that we need not brand ourselves with the dye of stress or depression or anxiety, we find the space and the freedom to discover who we really are beneath the dye.
Oh, and did you check out this week's podcast? Every week I sit down with Linda Pritcher and we ask women to share with us and our listeners how they used wisdom and inner guidance to recognize and navigate a life of meaning, and to discover and speak with their own authentic voice. We hope you will be inspired to listen in more deeply to that voice within you.