She lay on the floor, struggling to move. As she sobbed, her body jerked and gasped for breath—the heartbreak and hurt told me that she was expressing a full-body scream. I looked at her eyes that were yearning to speak of what she felt. To reach for ease. Yet looking at her, I felt nothing. Not an inch of familiarity. No feeling in my chest. Just an emptiness.
That lady laying on the floor was representing me. The part of me that didn’t tolerate joy with like-kind, and felt dead to the hope of having things be any better than they are. This is the same part of me that struggles to enjoy a holiday, take time off, have a few drinks and laughter, and simply feel childlike.
The joy I have in life goes about as far as lots of laughs in a short period of time, before getting serious and down to business. Duty and discipline, while painstakingly tiring, came with a positive feeling of doing the right thing.
So how is it that I left that big part of me that wanted lasting joy, to such a fate? To leave him in a place outside time and space; forgotten, unwanted, dis-acknowledged, and ignored for the joy he desired to express–the connections he so desired to make …
Well, through the personal change work I have learned, and the observations I have made after working with clients, I now know the answer.
The best way to not have to see something, is to identify with it and become it. It forms the basis of your identity. For me, it was this part of me that I abandoned. The one that felt isolated, and whose dreams of joy were crushed.
I abandoned this part of me at a very early age (likely before I was born), and then as a very young child (2/3 years old). There are two components to this collapse process, which will become clearer by the time you finish reading this piece. The two components include; belonging, and safety. Belonging, as in demonstrating my love to my kin (father, mother, and ancestors). Safety, as in stabilizing my experience as a young child, in an unfamiliar world.
The first component, was taking on my ancestor’s pain in an attempt to belong and stay innocent. When you are doing “right” by your ancestors by being like them, agreeing to the way they are or have been, and having your life experiences mirror that–it comes with a hugely compelling feeling of loving innocence. The problem arises when we want our lives to be better than those that preceded us. Because when we think of, or seek to act in accordance with moving towards what we want–we are confronted with a yucky feeling of guilt. It feels like we are betraying our ancestors. And because human beings will only ever choose the best option available on their life’s menu–it is not often that we choose the guilt over innocence.
Gladly, not just for others, but for me too, there is a style of work that offers resolution to this. The work that covers and addresses this is called Family Constellations. What’s a family constellation? It involves having representatives for different parts of you, your life, and your experience of life. They have an interaction in front of you, and it helps unveil the hidden dynamics that are governing painful or unwanted experiences in life. In particular, the pains or struggles of my ancestors that we unknowingly (but wilfully) reached for in an attempt to make things better for them, or be just like them (belong).
Unfortunately, being in pain doesn’t take away someone else’s pain. But as a child in the womb, I didn’t know that. In fact, as children, we all didn’t know that. We love so fully, and we love so strongly, and without the wisdom of an adult–we often reach to heal that which is not ours to heal. It is an inappropriate way to love.
As a Marin-Style practitioner, and someone who strongly subscribes to self-unification as a path to lasting change and satisfaction in life—I often desire to take my own medicine. So I signed up for a family constellation to be carried out on me! And if you haven’t already guessed, the lady lying on the floor, represented the excluded part of me, was part of my constellation.
So there I was, looking at my representative lying on the floor. Suffering in silence, but wanting to scream. Months later, I realize why she was so exhausted, heartbroken, and lying down. She was just over it. But most of all, I was just glad to have seen this part of me that I had shunned. But once it is seen, acknowledged, and re-included—anything that is stuck has an easier opportunity to move on.
To give you some context …
My grandfather Wan Swee, built a big-big-big construction empire in Malaysia. And he was always a man of duty. He never had much time for recreation or fun. My constellation revealed how he had cut of the consciousness that had anything to do with creative expression and lasting joy. This extreme form of separation, was a fracture in his system. So much that in the constellation, there were two representatives for Wan Swee—“Jon’s grandfather”, and “The rest of Jon’s grandfather …”
I inherited a strong work-ethic from both sides of my family. And I also inherited their pride. Especially my paternal grandfather’s (Liew Wan Swee). I identified with the torn aspect of grandpa, and decided to suppress the part of me that wanted lasting joy and full creative expression. In a loving attempt to belong, I said something to the likes of, “If you can’t have that part of you. I won’t have that part of me too. I promise.”
As a direct result, my work defined me for most my life. It was a gift in one sense, because it made my work quality and style distinct in a noisy marketplace. But this duty, this work-ethic, is something that also limited my capacity to enjoy other important aspects of life that enrich it. Such as; travel, recreation, and being with a tribe of like-minded and like-hearted people to share my journey called human. I spent most my time being dutiful, dignified, and on purpose.
The second component that stabilized my collapse, was crying all night as a baby (2 years old), hours on end, hoping for my mum and dad to come hold me. This reaching was an attempt to feel safe. To be mirrored by my parents. But they didn’t respond. So as my best attempt to avoid dying from a hurt and broken heart—I abandoned the part of me that wanted to lean on support from like-kind. The best option I had for survival, was to cut myself off from it entirely. To not feel. To not see it. To close my eyes and hope for better. And so it collapsed in on me. I of course, survived it. But survival now came with a condition–being alone, feeling nothing, and shunning like-kind.
As a child who spoke the language of “drool”, it’s no surprise that I didn’t have a spiritual advisor, life coach, or access to self-help material at the time. All my decisions were governed by the need for safety. This is true for almost anyone who is human. The problem is, our reptilian brains, from an early age, determine that the experiences we survive become the conditions which continued survival depends. “You survived? Great! Let’s continue that.” And often these experiences are traumatic, whether physical and emotional. As children, finding our place in this strange world involves dealing with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and feelings. It is sensory overwhelm.
So for me, the experience of abandonment was a solution to my experience of heartbreak. This was a protection mechanism or sequence. Subsequently it became a recurring pattern. The yogis refer to this as Samskaras (impressions/imprints), that determine a set of actions and experiences (Karma).
So I spent most my years in life, making friends, breaking friends, then moving on to a new crowd. I would do it all over again through my years. I attended two high schools, had two sets of university friends, worked for and left three organizations (even though I felt very loyal to them at first, and thought I would stay for the long-term), and three strong business communities which would have helped me become a millionaire by now! But before anything large could eventuate, I would leave. Each time I did, I felt I had to start from scratch. Build relationships from scratch. Only to end up leaving, feeling like I was left to dry, forgotten about … that was my identity. It was the basis of most my life’s decisions till the age of 30.
But having this stabilized identity was not so bad. I learnt to be charismatic, sociable, intelligent, and independent. It gave me an equal amount of resources despite appearing to deprive me from having sustained joy with like-kind. But after so much effort to build connection and have to re-build connection, I decided, it was time for a change. Because deep inside, there was always the voice, “Please, don’t leave me. I really don’t want to be alone …”
To summarize, the elements of belonging and safety stabilized my whole life’s experience:
- Belonging—the Suffering contract of love to my grandfather, “Because I love you, I will be just like you. My life will be no better than you have had it. I promise.”
- Safety—better to be abandoned than die of crushing heartbreak!
… Just shoot me!?!
To think that those two amazing elements of my incarnation defined 30 years of my life! It is curious that I sought such an experience in this incarnation. Initially, I was in regret. I often wondered how things would have been different, better even, had I not had that experience. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts; anger, sadness, grief, laughter … hopelessness.
Eventually, this all settled into a space of appreciation. One of respecting my incarnation. Because guess what? The third professional group I moved on to, that I mentioned before, happened to be Marin NLP. A community of change facilitators who have transformed people’s lives consistently and reliably for over 38 years. It led me to my instructors Carl Buchheit, Carla Camou, and Michelle Masters. I wanted to be with this community for a long-time. And it compelled me to look at what was preventing me from having sustained joy with like-kind. And poetically, their curriculum and facilitators also offered me the re-solution …
The re-solution, that involved a re-inclusion of what I had abandoned.
My life’s work is to take all my training, in all disciplines, and preserve and progress the art-form of facilitating lasting change in people’s lives. With the focus on helping clients come into deeper levels of rapport with Self, other-selves, and Life itself.