Our life and spiritual path in the modern world has many branches. You can dive into the realm of non-dualistic awareness and merge with the absolute, buy whatever you want on credit or deeply devote yourself to the love of God in many forms. Regardless of what moves your spiritual heart, there is a wound in humanity that has distanced us from the natural world and our true inner communion with the sacred forces of life.
I witness the intimate challenges of humanity in my coaching and couples work and believe that relationship is the ultimate proving ground of our spiritual maturity. One of the least understood or recognized issues that we all face is a feeling of core unworthiness.
Core unworthiness is the deep-seated experience that we are existentially, now and forevermore, unworthy of love. This can also be experienced as never ending self-criticism, a willingness to give love but not receive it, or as a profound sense of being disconnected from life. Modern psychology and its offshoots are laying down the pathways for this quest, but the understanding and healing of core-unworthiness is still in its infancy stages.
Is it possible that many spiritual teachers and seekers throughout history have bypassed the dark and incestuous exploration of core unworthiness and only focused on the more transpersonal aspects of spiritual development?
In my own life, I’ve not experienced anything more difficult than feeling and facing my own shadow of core-unworthiness. I can meditate for hours and experience ecstatic states of aliveness, only to lose my footing in a moment of stink eye from an angry Hawaiian brother while surfing. Or when my sexual prowess is low for a week and I don’t feel the fire to ravish my gorgeous partner and the thoughts come in of what is wrong with me or…. I should not have this issue, what am I not doing right??? An so on….
These moments make contact to a deep-seated place in me that can feel insecure and unworthy. And I know, from working with many people over the years, that I am not alone in the throws of feeling inadequate or unworthy. These feelings can be like a dormant autoimmune disease that waits for the opportune moments to come to the surface.
There are three primary reasons that I believe core unworthiness is difficult to truly transform.
First of all, core unworthiness is hidden deeply within our subconscious mind. It is much deeper than self-esteem issues, being self-critical or not feeling good enough.
Secondly, it is connected to and comes with utter terror. Many people keep a very safe distance from feeling this terror, yet it just gets buried under mental busyness or some form of self-medicating.
The third difficulty, in facing core unworthiness, is that it’s not a one-time deal. As a conditioned belief system, its roots go deep and have many offshoots, more like wild blackberry vines than a single tree. To uproot it, I have to remember and remind my clients to return to self-love, as an experiential way of being, that we cultivate from moment to moment.
I believe that one of the shadows of many organized religions is the act of eliciting people’s deepest fear; that they are unworthy, and using it to bring them into their organizational program. They proclaim that we are, in fact, unworthy by nature and that the Only Way out of this unworthiness is to accept their method of worshiping God in order to find salvation. Is it possible that by simply believing this, whatever made us unworthy is forgiven and we thus become worthy?
A more digestible truth for me that is at the core of many spiritual traditions is that we are now, always have been, and always will be loved and loveable. And no matter what form of God or Spirit we believe in, loving one’s self is the only way of dismantling core unworthiness and the illusionary belief that we aren’t lovable.
Being willing to be with and fully feel the buried terror of unworthiness is the first stage of coming out of core un-worthiness. The second stage is choosing to let self-love or love from others into us and feel it as fully as possible. This is tricky. Surrendering to love again and again is not that big a deal for a lot us. But surrendering to love while feeling the terror of core unworthiness is another thing altogether! But that is what healing core unworthiness requires!
This may explain why so many religious and spiritual leaders fall from the lofty ideals that they teach. They may have connected to the higher realms of non-duality or religious devotion but if they haven’t dealt with their own core unworthiness, they are likely to recycle some kind of sex, power or money scandal. When their actions are made public, and everyone is saying how terrible they are instead of how great they are, they have easier access to their own hidden thoughts of how terrible they are. If they are willing to learn from their fall and witness their own self-loathing, they have a greater chance of coming into deep, humble, self-love because they are in the bottom of their fall rather than at the top of their game.
On the level of the absolute, there is no core-unworthiness. It’s only conditioned thoughts tied up with intense, deep emotions. On the level of the relative, facing core unworthiness is spectacularly difficult.
Here is where relationship has the potential to be the most effective way to heal core unworthiness. Through understanding, compassion and unwavering love the walls of separation and isolation come down.
Relationship can be a place where we can share undivided attention and consistent love over time. Our core belief about whether or not we are worthy to be loved will eventually surface. But it will surface slowly without a need for it to be eliminated or processed. When this resistance to love comes up safely and slowly like this, AND we are willing to feel it, the resistance to love can, itself be loved. Core unworthiness becomes the portal into a greater experience of love. When we love our resistance to self-love the dance truly begins!
Empowered Loving is the practice of healing the past through how we show up in every situation NOW. Anything that arises and interrupts our capacity to accept our loved ones, or our self, has roots in the past. It is not necessary or even possible to know exactly where our pain comes from. What is possible is to choose in any moment to move toward and through what is surfacing with our loved ones in the moment. All we have is each moment to truly create what we long for and desire.
My invitation to you, is to stay in the fire, to breath more deeply into the moments that you are contracting… To see beyond your beloveds reactivity, into the heart of who they truly are beneath the surface of his/her anger, protection or pain. To invite one another to move closer, to be the ally and friend that you long for when you are hurting.
I believe this is the gateway to our maturation and the healing of humanity one being and relationship at a time until we spread love as powerfully as we spread fear around the world.