I’ve got transformation on the brain since I just got back from week two of my AMAZING teacher training program with some of the most incredibly bad ass, creatively alive women on the planet.
My teacher training is divided up into four in-person retreats. And every week has a pretty predictable theme.
Week one is when the group first comes together and is introduced to the expressive arts/intuitive painting concepts and practices. We paint a LOT, get to know each other and begin the bonding process as a community.
It’s psychologically and emotionally intense and a tremendous amount of healing happens on the deepest soul level.
In terms of the hero(ines) journey, it’s the call to adventure. It’s the beginning of the journey, so it’s exciting. The wondrous vision and fantasy about what it means to be a teacher and facilitator pulls people joyfully towards this quest.
But week two is a whole different animal.
In week two the participants in the program are invited to make their dreams real. They are expected to move into a leadership position. They are asked to become more visible. To step more fully into the role of facilitator. To create a mini-workshop of their own design and present it to the rest of the group.
Now shit gets real. The rubber meets the road. The vision of themselves as teachers that was so appealing in week one hits the brick wall of reality in week two. And terror ensues.
You can’t skip week two. Week two is that part of the heroines journey where you realize there’s no way out. You’ve put yourself in a position where you HAVE to do the scariest thing possible. To show up in ways that make you want to throw up.
You can feel squeezed and trapped in week two. You’ve made this commitment so there’s no going back. If you don’t move forward you risk feeling not very good about yourself. There’s a lot on the line in terms of your self esteem and honoring your promises to YOU.
But if you DO go forward, you’re pretty convinced that you’re actually going to die. Taking this next step into being seen as the truly powerful being that you are is absolutely TERRIFYING. So going forward feels equally impossible.
The tension runs incredibly high. This is where the temptation to act out is almost unbearably irresistible. People create all kinds of distracting drama. With each other. With the food. The retreat center. The weather. With anything imaginable.
There is much plotting and scheming for how to make a break for it. Escape is on everyone’s mind.
The big problem is that you can’t take who you always were with you into week two. There’s no room for your old, often diminished, sense of yourself during this part of the process.
You go into week two seeing yourself in a certain way. It might not be a way that you like or that makes you happy. It might be a way that causes you suffering. But there’s also a deep familiarity with this vision of yourself. And with familiarity also comes a perverse sense of comfort.
Transformation is one of those words that gets used a lot in the personal growth arenas, but it’s not always clear what that really means.
The core process of transformation always, ALWAYS involves a shift in identity. Which means an old version of you needs to die so that a new you can be reborn. You can’t transform and be who you were before the transformation. Otherwise it’s not really transformation. Something has to give. Something has to go. And something that you are often DEEPLY attached to has to be released.
What needs to die in ANY transformational healing process is your identification with being not enough. Your smallness has to be relegated to the trash heap. Your sense of yourself as lacking has to be thrown out the window. Your shame and your belief in your powerlessness has to be given the boot.
For example, I see it in women when they are dealing with the issue of wanting to develop the capacity to have boundaries. The need to FINALLY say no or to have limits around their time or energy comes up in their lives. And it runs headlong into their current identity as a nice person. A generous person. A person who is always giving and available.
And the burning desire for this new behavior ( i.e. setting boundaries) is often in direct conflict with their equally burning desire to maintain the old identity.
Part of the motivation for wanting to try this new way of being is the realization that NOT having boundaries also makes them feel overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted. Which then leads to resentment. And to not being such a nice person.
So the ability to set boundaries requires a transformation into a new identity. This new identity looks like recognizing that they can’t be all things to all people. It means becoming someone who loves and respects themselves enough to be willing to protect their precious and finite energies. As someone who stands in their own power. As someone who puts their own needs first. As someone who values themselves enough to shepherd their internal resources.
Those predictable week two issues will show up any time you are ready to make a significant shift in how you see yourself and also in how you are ready to show up in the world.
Week two IS scary. That’s kind of a given. And the fear and anxiety that accompanies this kind of radical change is TOTALLY normal and something to be expected.
But it’s also a MAGICAL opportunity for you to stretch into a MUCH more expanded version of yourself. To claim more of who you are. And to open the door into the wildly creative and fabulously fulfilling life that is beckoning you from the other side of this risky threshold of dying to be reborn.