It’s whatever you want it to be.
Many of us, on a deep level, are afraid of success. On the surface, we declare that we are going for the gold, the Ph.D., our own business – be the best! That which actually manifests in our life may be something entirely different. What is certain is that our core beliefs will be expressed in our life regardless of what we say. When there is conflict between conscious wants and unconscious beliefs guess what manifests. The unconscious has the most powerful influence on the level of success evident in our lives.
During the 60s, thousands of young people rebelled against their parent’s definition of success. They declared the roles that parents and society imposed on them as “suffocating,” lacking in creative personal choice. The males denigrated their fathers choice of work, the “grey flannel suits” they wore as well as their leisure time activities. The females were against the traditional marital housewife roles, which included submissiveness to the husband, the “head of household.” Subsequently many were against the status quo, roles and rules; however, that is only half of the story. They were not free enough to be for something else, an individual model of success. The movement cracked many glass ceilings, however a new identity and sameness evolved. In order to be identified as a “free” person, one more or less wore the new uniform. This conformity consisted of long hair, beads, free flowing clothing and usually drugs and alcohol. Some young people went the required distance to create their own success.
Over the years, I have seen clinically many who gave up the search and returned “home,” to the bosom of safety of the familial way. One such client, I’ll call him Mike, had angrily left his father’s house right after high school graduation. Due to the likelihood of being drafted to go to Vietnam he considered going to Canada, but after drifting a while he ended up attending Woodstock in 1969. Being a self-described chameleon, he was unable to avoid the pressures of joining a group of heavy drugs users. He also “merged” with a girl who ignited a freedom and passion within him that he never dreamt possible.
After more wandering with the group, he found himself lacking resources and weakened from drug abuse. He called home requesting money and was urged to return. He was welcomed home as was the biblical prodigal son. He attended college, studied business and received a Vietnam deferment. After joining his father in the banking business, the inner gnawing started. He realized there was a steep price to pay for safety and security. He married another banker’s daughter, had children, and joined all the “right” clubs.
Mike was in his fifties when I saw him. He said he had never lived for himself and had pushed down his hopes and dreams. He remembers his good times on the road with a yearning. There were moments then when he could have created a life for himself, but did not. He said those moments of exuberance and freedom left a poignancy within him that never ceased.
Mike’s hobby, photography, became his passion. He was not only creative; he was also in great demand. It was when he started receiving opportunities to do “photo shoots” for a major magazine that he considered leaving the banking business and becoming a photojournalist. This time his family balked, not willing to change their lifestyle. His children were grown but continued to be dependent. His wife threatened divorce if he followed through with his desires. Mike gave up the country club and the mansion, and there was a divorce.
Do not expect family and friends to be supportive when venturing out to become successful on your own terms. They are more likely to be supportive when we are down and discouraged. When one member of a family seems to be getting ahead of the “tribe,” other tribal members may experience anxiety, anger or even jealousy because your gains create discomfort within them. Maybe they have not progressed in life as far as they had hoped. The situation creates enough uneasiness that support, and sometimes acceptance and love is withheld from the successful member. The covert message is, “conform, be like us, or be ostracized.”
The loyalty to the family’s social status, beliefs and acceptable behavior is so strong that success beyond their “place in society” is not possible. When one ventures beyond, to a different level of success, feelings of disloyalty and guilt often prevent enjoyment. More than a few of my clients, after achieving success, felt they had very little in common with their roots. Some reveled in the gains and were emotionally independent enough to push on, letting the process of adjustment with their families and friends take place. Others sabotaged their gains to feel once again “at home” because they could not handle the inner conflict their success had caused with family and friends.
Creating one’s own paradigm of success may mean discarding some of our family’s expectations. There are both positive and negative consequences to all changes. If things go wrong, we have to assume full responsibility for how we manifest success in our lives. Acceptance of consequences is quite difficult for many because the expectation that there will be someone to blame or bail us out is deeply rooted. After having made the decision to live life “your way,” you will be able to manifest success. Use the power of vision, and imagination your success as already having occurred. “Man can only receive what he sees himself receiving” – Shinn, The Game of Life
My last correspondence was a postcard from Alaska. Mike scribbled a postscript. “Much less money, but an overwhelming sense of peace and happiness – at last!”
This article was originally published at Laura B. Young. Reprinted with permission.
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