Brooke Sprowl

The parts of ourselves we left behind

As someone who has devoted my personal and professional life to deep self-inquiry, I am often surprised by the degree to which I can still become estranged from parts of myself, even in the midst of my steadfast and diligent pursuit of self-exploration.

Life is funny that way.

For the better part of a year now, I’ve committed to shifting my efforts away from doing and into being, focusing on who I want to be more than what I want to accomplish.

But after all of the books and meditations designed to cultivate kindness, presence, and unconditional love, I found I had made little progress in terms of embodying the values to which I was aspiring.

I couldn’t figure out why I was so blocked.

What was going on?

It wasn’t until a series of crises began to strip away many of the comfortable habits I had known, revealing walls I had no idea were there and bringing so many of my blindspots into sudden and painful focus.

I realized that in developing all of my spiritual and psychological practices to expand and grow, I had somehow lost sight of one of the most important things of all: my own vulnerability.

I was shocked. In all of my daily contemplations, conversations, and practices of self-discovery, how had I missed this?

As someone who has a deep commitment to living soulfully, how had I lost my way?

Trying to make sense of it all, I began reflecting on how this had happened, and I slowly began putting the puzzle pieces together.

As I scoured my inner landscape for answers, I became aware that my body was still carrying elements of the trauma of my mood disorder.

Before I received therapy and medication, my mood disorder wreaked havoc on my inner and outer life.

At times, I couldn’t trust my perception of myself or others.

I often felt dependent on my relationships with others to feel safe because I didn’t feel safe within myself—which often only pushed people away or created codependent and insecure attachments.

At the time, I was undiagnosed, and I had no idea that this wasn’t normal and that others didn’t experience life this way.

During that period, creative expression through art, music, and poetry helped me feel grounded and helped me process my often confusing and tumultuous inner experience.

I would transform my vulnerability into creativity. This was a sort of transmutation that was really empowering and redemptive in many ways.

But as I began to heal and gain a more conscious understanding of what I was experiencing, I began to associate this creative self-expression and vulnerability with being unwell.

I developed a smattering of therapeutic and spiritual modalities to help me gain more mastery over my nervous system, regulate my emotional states, and develop more meaningful and healthy relationships.

And as I gained greater self-mastery, I got better and better at self-regulating and facing difficult emotions while my sense of confidence, self-esteem, and empowerment grew.

My relationships, career, and external circumstances seemed to follow suit and blossom along with these newfound capacities.

As I channeled my creativity into building my business and focusing on elements of my life that were controllable, I didn’t realize I was leaving behind precious and essential parts of who I was: my vulnerability and creative connection.

That is, until this series of traumatic events hit me like a ton of bricks, shattering my view of myself and causing me to question my worldview.

I realized that in the process of healing and developing greater mastery, I’d been protecting myself from allowing myself to feel the full expanse of my inner landscape: because feeling deeply was previously associated with trauma.

I became afraid of my own vulnerability, believing it could destabilize me and thrust me back into the tumult I’d worked so hard to overcome.

So I began to overdevelop the parts of myself that felt controllable, strong, and predictable, slowly letting my more soulful, tender, and creative self erode.

For years, I stopped writing poetry, singing, and listening to music because my creative expression had unconsciously become associated with depression.

But in doing so, I lost connection with the truest part of my soul.

And I realized that, however terrifying, I needed to face this tender and deep-feeling part of me if I was going to embody my values and become who I wanted to be.

While I knew I needed to reclaim my creativity and vulnerability as a vehicle of healing, as I imagined dipping my toes in the water and writing a poem, I felt my chest tighten, and my heart began to flutter.

A rush of fear and sadness washed over me.

I couldn’t believe that I had become so afraid of parts of me that were once such a refuge and a central aspect of who I was.

I took a few deep breaths, braced myself, and picked up my pen.

For the first time in years, I wrote a poem to process some of the pain I was experiencing.

While writing, I pulled up Spotify and put on this beautiful, old Tori Amos piano album I used to love in high school that stirred up so much emotion and longing.

Reconnecting with my poetry and music brought up a deep sense of vulnerability and tenderness.

I felt exposed.

But in this process, a newfound vitality and soulfulness emerged: a connection to my essential self.

I finally understood why I was so blocked: because vulnerability is at the heart of presence, kindness, and love.

As life chips away at us with its various demands and blows, most of us begin to let parts of ourselves die to buffer ourselves from pain.

But there is a robust tenderness inside of each of us that we must protect and cultivate at all times––and it is the source of our vitality, presence, and childlike wonder.

By protecting ourselves from pain and vulnerability, we close the door to deep aliveness.

And many of us accept this Faustian trade because opening ourselves up to the tender and precious part of ourselves is deeply painful and scary.

But without allowing ourselves to feel our own vulnerability––to open ourselves up to all of the beauty and pain of existence––we become estranged from our most essential selves.

We chalk it up to getting older and convince ourselves this is just the way things are.

But meanwhile, in the deepest recesses of our being, these parts of us cry out to be heard, felt, and expressed.

While on some level we know there are people who carry an almost magical vitality and youthfulness into their eldership, we often bat the awareness away, afraid to open our hearts and let the world break us open.

But these parts of us, however quiet and exiled, know on the deepest level that this way of being is possible for us, too.

And we must gradually attune ourselves to listen to and reclaim these disowned parts because they hold the key to our vitality, awakening, and liberation.

Paradoxically, it is not steeling ourselves against life’s vicissitudes that makes us strong.

It’s allowing ourselves to feel all of the complexities of existence deeply and whole-heartedly that ultimately allows us to experience deep resilience and unconditional freedom.

When we learn to welcome and hold all experiences within us, without fighting against them or identifying with them, truly nothing can threaten us.

Writer Bio

Brooke Sprowl is the Founder of My LA Therapy, a concierge therapy practice, and My Truest North, a cross-disciplinary coaching and consultancy firm specializing in mission-driven entrepreneurs seeking greater integrity, spiritual awakening, and deeper ways to actualizing their higher purpose through collective service. With 15 years of clinical experience as an individual, couples, and family therapist, she is trained in a wide-range of approaches, from evidence-based therapy practices to peak performance and flow neuroscience techniques. Brooke is also the host of the podcast, Waking Up with Brooke Sprowl. She is passionate about writing, cognitive science, philosophy, integrity, spirituality, effective altruism, personal and collective healing, and curating luxury, transformational retreat experiences for people who are committed to self-discovery and using their unique gifts in service of the world.

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