I refer to the first 35 years of my life as “the Great Repression.” I suffered greatly because the Readers Digest condensed version of me showed up in all my relationships.
I remember a moment when I was 7, when my best friend announced her favorite color was pink and I told her, “Mine too,” because I wanted her to like me. Truthfully, I didn’t know my favorite color, so this was easy—it didn’t feel like a fib.
I was pleasing people early, yet the people-pleasing wasn’t what bothers me in this story. What’s more disturbing to me now is the idea that a 7-year-old girl didn’t know her favorite color.
If you know children, most (not all, and don’t worry if your child doesn’t) hold many opinions about the world, and colors are usually at the top of the list.
This is what repression often looks like from the inside. We never feel that we’re lying or hiding things from people because we never develop self-interests. Curiously, we don’t think about our likes and dislikes. People-pleasing is easier and having relationships sometimes seems easier.
Repression is defined as the process of suppressing a thought or desire so that it remains unconscious. People repressing their authentic desires don’t realize they are repressing, yet somehow their lives are not turning out the way they’ve intended.
Repression often begins very early because the school or home culture doesn’t feel safe enough to share our personal opinions or simply doesn’t encourage them.
Repression is a sign of spiritually hiding the authentic self, and when we do it long enough we become depressed, angry, or physically ill. Yet we are each uniquely important.
Allow me be the first person who doesn’t work for Disney—the best teachers on this topic—to suggest we each have a destiny linked with our unique interests and desires. This design is the universal win-win, and why I keep insisting that we live in a benevolent universe.
Each of us came here to serve the planet in a unique way, and it will be the thing we want to do most and is also effortless for us to do. It will feel like a gift no one else has. It’s that deeply moving desire we feel in quiet moments if we are repressing purpose. It feels as if something’s missing. It is.
Your authentic purpose is also linked with your spiritual, physical, and monetary abundance, which is why you get depressed and ill if you’re not living purposefully.
Repression manifests itself differently in each of us, especially during this self-reflective time of year we may be extra angry or sad. The good news is that this is the best time to realign our journey as well. Sometimes we must reach this spiritual tipping point to make bold changes.
Our meditation this week and through the new year is: Are you getting along in your culture doing exactly what is expected of you, yet angry at everyone around you?
Often, if we were repressed as children, we carry it into adulthood and choose mates who enable us to continue our childhood culture so that we can keep hiding. If your suffering (anger and resentment in your personal relationships) has intensified since childhood, or you feel blah and nothing is fun or interesting to you, it may be a sign that you are repressed.
The good news is that being you is the easiest thing you will learn to do. The hard part of awakening authentic desires is challenging the culture you’ve created so that it’s been easy to hide.
Awakening doesn’t have to be difficult. It starts by practicing curiosity with self and gentle boldness with others. We don’t have to agree with each other to love each other. This idea could be what got us in this mess to begin with, right? We chose and created a cultural environment of people who “get us,” where we feel like who we are isn’t constantly being challenged so that we can continue to hide.
To be me or not be me. That’s the only question. That’s the only choice.
All suffering occurs when we make the “not me” choice. When we make the choice to repress or hide our truth so that others can be happy, we diminish everyone involved. They can handle you or not. But that’s not your choice, although it can be scary to think about.
My experience is that when we gently ask people to make room for us and give them space and time, we discover how loved and valued we are.