After getting all that “bad boss” stuff off my chest, I’ve been thinking about the ways I break my own spirit. Spirit breaking can come from external sources, like from “bad boss” or from anyone who is in a position to abuse power. I’m realizing it can also come from internal sources – me. I don’t like to think about this but I can look back over my life and see how I’ve played a role in breaking my own spirit.
Maybe we should talk about what a “spirit” is before we make too many assumptions. I think of it this way – body, mind, spirit. We can see and touch and smell our bodies. We know they are there. We are obsessed with our minds, so whether we understand our mind or know how to use it, we don’t quibble over its existence. But our spirit? What is that? For me it’s is a source of energy. It is a spark that lights a fire. It is a supernatural resource of energy we each have available to us and if we learn how to take care of it and use it, we can evoke that energy (Think quantum physics–this is where spirit gets a nod even though it’s referred to as something else.)
For me, my soul is one thing – sort of like a bottomless eternal pool of clear dark water that floats between my chest and my belly button. My spirit is different. It is more like a bird that can soar hourlessly with enormous strength and endurance. This may not be too far from how others have described spirit over the ages. For example, one of the ways Biblical writers refer to the spirit is to liken it to a dove, or like the wind.
When my spirit feels broken, it feels like the little bird has broken wings and try as it might it just can lift itself off the ground of my soul. It needs rest. It needs to be nurtured and fed new hope to be able to soar again.
While the little bird has enormous strength, it is also very sensitive. It cannot tolerate negativity for very long and when I insist on ruminating on negative subjects its wings begin to break. And this is exactly how I break my own spirit. Let me give an example.
When we were beginning our former organization, we had so much hope and so many dreams for the people we were serving. We held high expectations for them and they rose to the occasion. People who had been on case management for years and who’s medical charts and records were littered with poor prognoses came to life when they got a whiff of hope and could see new possibilities of working, owning a car, buying a home on their horizons. When obstacles arose that threatened to crush these dreams, I was often taken out by them. When case mangers couldn’t see the vision of recovery; when licensing agencies balked at letting us design recovery-friendly facilities; when funders refused to fund programs that promoted recovery and instead insisted on worn-out and ineffective services, I often melted down. I could pull myself together and get back into the fray, but I lost a lot of ground by being knocked out by the barriers. As I look back, I didn’t need to go through those wipe-outs. I could have trusted myself and my ability to move beyond barriers. But for some reason I chose to let those barriers break my spirit. Time after time my wings were broken and it took a lot of effort to get back up.
Maybe there is something to the phrase, “strong in broken places” because I think I got over the habit of breaking my own wings by watching myself get back up so many times. Maybe I needed to see that I had something so say about being broken and I didn’t need to give in to it. I didn’t need to break so easily and I didn’t need to break at all.
A few months ago I had a very legitimate reason to break my own spirit. More about this later…..