How I Learned to Stop Pulling the Lone Wolf Move

Hi reader, (psst, short on time? Scroll to the end for a quick synopsis.) I have always considered myself to be super independent. And I've framed it that way for a long time as a positive, but I've been doing some deeper dives lately as I progress on my own healing journey, and I have better lines connected to the sources of my independent behavior. Sure, I might partly be wired that way (I like taking action over sitting around), but there's another side to explore. It's a bit darker. It isn't for the reasons that people will sometimes outline “going it alone”. Sometimes people think that lone wolf types go it alone because it's all about them, their ego, and proving to the world that they can do something, or they're better, or whatever! But I'm not that lone wolf. I've been the lone wolf who's historically been terrified of letting someone down. Or taking over a process too much. Or being seen as arrogant and manipulative. Even if I do have confidence and leadership abilities, I haven't always been secure that other people see it that positive way. And so rather than possibly offend someone, I'd prefer to go it alone. Here's why. I'll note here, trigger warning, this describes mental/emotional abuse. Let me tell you the common refrains my Dad told me, often, while growing up. “You're arrogant.” “You're disrespectful." “You're manipulative.” “I love you because you're my daughter, but I hate the person who you are.” (I was 12, eating breakfast at the table, and basically crying into my cereal.) I did my first piano recital when I was 5. I remember because of where I was seated with the other students, I walked by the mother of another little girl first before getting to my parents after the recital. She said hello to me and I showed that little girl's mother my certificate and pin. When I got to my own parents, who had been watching me, my Dad lectured me for showing my things to someone other than family first. I was made to feel ashamed. My Dad always prided himself on not beating us with the belt like he was beaten, he always said he promised himself he'd never beat his kids (he did use spankings until we were 8 or 9 years old, but it still wasn't a belt or a paddle, which is how he said it was better.) He really didn't know about the impact of emotional abuse. The power of his words. When you say I love you and I hate you in the same sentence, there is actually no energetic frequency of love in that sentence. What was radiating out was his own anger and hatred (of himself, and towards us), but 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 24 and 32 year old me didn't understand that. My Dad didn't even know he was doing this. As an adult, I can see that when he felt threatened, or I exerted any ounce of my will in his direction, he considered it an affront to his supreme authority and he quickly cut me down. Recently he mentioned to me “You were a delightful child until you were 5 years old, then you started to talk back.” Ah. I heard these harmful phrases on a loop so much (and been disowned by him many times when I wasn't doing exactly as he wanted) that I am still working to unpack the internalized aspects of these statements.


There is, at times, energy in my body that thinks these things are true because my Dad said so. It's not true, but energy is tricky. My friends tell me upon reflection (we had some of those long catch up reminiscent Zoom convos over the pandemic) that I was the “perfect” daughter, that their parents wished I was a part of their family because I was so considerate, well-behaved, and kind. I was (above and beyond) respectful, and terrified to call them by their first names (my house was formal). I remember one parent telling me over and over it was okay to call her Teresa, but I was so scared about what my parents would say so I just said, “Yes Mrs. Cochran.” I was 7 in this memory. Being the “perfect kid” is sometimes the sign that a kid can't just be themselves. I played sports and did theater in high school, I got a job at 14 and always had one from then on. I babysat my neighbor who was wheelchair bound, non-verbal and had cerebral palsy, I volunteered in high school at Texas Children's Hospital delivering snow cones to kids and parents on the 6th floor, the pediatric cancer floor. I had good grades, and had friends that my Mom always really liked (my Dad didn't pay attention beyond the two or three who were over the most often, he was usually in his office anyway when we were all home.) When I got to college, I never went home. I had a summer job at Rocky Mountain National Park every single summer. When I graduated, I went to Brazil, then traveled parts of the U.S. then moved to Arizona and became a river guide. I never boomeranged back home. I was independent, and on my own. So, you know, on paper I'm a good person. I'm independent. I'm self-sufficient. I'm comfortable ranging in mountains, in canyons, on my own. And after therapy (off and on 2003 - 2016) and beginning in mindfulness based stress reduction (2009 and 2011) and meditation (2017 and onward) and energy tools (2017 and counting) and a personal healing journey to match any personal healing journey, I know I'm a good person. But sometimes the old programs kick in and make me want to retreat, hide, do things on my own, not be a bother, not fail anyone, and just be unseen. To have myself just disappear. Because still locked in there is the fear that I will let someone down (and get punished / abandoned), that I will be seen as manipulative or arrogant (and get punished / be abandoned).


These are all energies that aren't mine to have and to hold. But that I have learned and that I have and that I hold. That I still work to unkink from my system, to unlearn from my muscle memory. To release, bit by bit, to the ether, to the land beyond, to where it can't harm anyone else. I grow in relationship to others. Others can activate the sensitive spots that I avoid on my own, and in healthy friendships and relationships, I can make the time and space to say “oh, hello, there you are, old strange not-mine feeling that I should clear out.” I feel very grateful to have a very good group of people I can count on in my life. I am so fortunate that I was somehow wired to find good people to be in my life when I didn't have the support I always needed from my parents. I didn't always show up as a good friend (I was known for flakiness and commitment issues through my 20's), but I found good people who I was better with the more I took my own healing journey. And yea, sometimes those hard feelings still come up. I still have days and sometimes weeks where I struggle with my own feelings of self-worth. But I have built up enough practice in my own healing work, my own coaching tools, showing up bravely in this business for four years, and the help I've received from others to know how to bring myself back, and most importantly, to clear what isn't mine. I had one such opportunity last week.


In collaborating on a consulting project I was suddenly overwhelmed. I crutched into a phrase I've used to start to hide my fear of being abandoned, where I can fail and give them an out to leave with “my permission”. I said, “I'm so sorry - I don't want to fail you here” in our conversation. My collaborator was surprised, my reaction seemed heightened to what was merited in the conversation, where all we were doing was talking through possible approaches. But my body took over, I was in a stress response, I was having a mental argument with myself “you're stupid, you're worthless, you should quit, you can't do this.” While at the same time I was trying to focus on my collaborator and see that what they were talking about was insightful, poignant, and helpful for both of us to talk through. It was like a war in my head. I had to pause the conversation, and take deep breaths to keep from crying. My collaborator felt badly, thinking they had caused my duress, but it wasn't the conversation, it was my body taking a small cue from something in my mind being set off related but unrelated to the context that then took everything over so that I couldn't focus. And I had to work my tools, all of them, to reground, center, get back into my body and my mind, to be able to wrap up the conversation. To see that my urge to quit and go lone wolf was not acceptable. But was in fact the trauma response I've been living through for a lot of my life. A final note on my Dad. He had a harsh and traumatic childhood. Self-loathing, self-hatred, depression, workaholism and perfectionism are the things that he has carried his entire life. He has operated from his wounds more than I'd ever wish on anyone. It's affected him, his relationships, and his life greatly. More than he might consider. Years into my knowing my Dad as an adult, and years into being where I am in my journey, I stand here loving him, unconditionally. I have a picture of him when he was about 2, bright and smiling.


I hold that image of him in my heart, because I know that's who he is, and I know that little boy did not get what he needed. Do I get upset at memories from time to time? Yes. Do I want to punish him and make him hurt? I used to, but not anymore. Over the past two years, I learned that though I “said” I'd forgiven him, I had actually been nursing a lot of resentment and anger. And yea, those things still pop up from time to time, but with my emotional release, my energy work, and my mindfulness and meditation practices, they are far more fleeting. I spin out for a few hours sometimes now, not days or weeks. Recently he and I have had good conversations. He read a book on psychology late last year and called to tell me he finally has common language to talk with me about all the feelings I'm always having. He knows he can't dump on me or attack me if he's in a bad mood. For the first time in my life, in the past 12 months, he has not been toxic to me, that is a record. I attribute it to the work I'm doing on myself, which is the work I've also done for myself with the help of others. I still like to be independent because it is how I feel the most safe, but I am learning to feel safer with more people, and that brings me a lot of warmth, love, and joy. I feel more and more and more these days that I can be at home in myself, wherever I am. And I know it's what people have always shared with me that I help them to do. You see, another product of my childhood is the hyper-empathy it created or enhanced, and I think it's a good thing. I loved working with youth with difficult backgrounds. When I worked as an educator in the late 2000's, I could see them quickly and clearly. I could see the ‘front’ they were wearing for armor, and the person they really were inside. One of these students, who I spent a LOT of time with while she couldn't be in class for whatever was going on, asked me to stand with her and speak for her at her high school graduation. Another one's parent found me at the end of the school year, she was holding a note I'd written her daughter. Which I'd written to her daughter after she'd been in a fight at school. She said her daughter had never been proud to share a note from a teacher with her before. I wrote to this student what I saw in her and what I believed about her. Her Mom said it made her daughter cry to be seen that way. She came to thank me. There are more students I had the privilege to support who found me over the years on social media who have affirmed for me that my ability to see them despite how the world had pigeon-holed them was a gift. So I'm grateful. I can see pain and how to support it's alleviation from a mile away. I understand the need to be seen and held in the space to give time for breath and healing. I'm not a therapist or a trauma counselor, but my life has given me the tools to see quickly and clearly how to help, hold, and support in a transformational journey. It's why I coach, consult and work with energy today. It's everything to me. A few other things my Dad would say to me, at those times when he was in integrity, things he'd say to me when seeing me in relationship to other people, not to him: “You're a natural leader” “You're creative, you really can figure things out.” “I'm so proud of you.” When he took his wounded self out of the equation, he could really see me for who I was, who I am. I hold on to these things the best I can.


It's complicated, and sometimes it's hard, but I believe in his belief in me, when he sees me clearly. I hope all the time for my Dad to forgive himself and find his own ways to heal. I hope for him to leave his own lone wolf (he left his family of origin before I was born and changed his last name) and to reconnect to people for healing. It seems like he's doing that little by little in his own way. I'm glad.


In working with a healer, I learned a forgiveness prayer that I think is a part of my healing process with my Dad. Since engaging with the forgiveness prayer, energy has continued to shift. It's prompted me to dive in more to ancestor work. I always thought I would start with my mother's lineage first, but it's my father's line that's been calling first.


I don't view it as my job to heal him or anyone else, but that it's my job to heal myself, and that this can be a healing to all I'm connected to. -- The takeaway: This week is all about how sometimes it's not just for ego-inflation that people go it alone. Sometimes it's working through trauma until you can be with others in healthy ways to grow and heal.


--

A loving/kindness mindfulness meditation invitation:


Pick a person you've had a challenge with in your life. Maybe not the worst challenge, but a challenge. Then identify someone you love dearly and hold close, this could also be a pet or animal or place you love if people are difficult. Then think of someone more neutral, maybe it's the Uber Eats driver, or your mail delivery person.


First, thinking of your loved one/pet/animal/place, say the following in your mind to them:


May you be at ease.

May you be content in life.

May you be joyful.

May you be safe and secure.


Next, thinking of your neutral person, say the following in your mind to them:


May you be at ease.

May you be content in life.

May you be joyful.

May you be safe and secure.


Then, thinking of your challenge person, best you can with integrity, say the following in your mind, to them:

May you be at ease.

May you be content in life.

May you be joyful.

May you be safe and secure.


And finally, thinking of yourself, best you can with integrity, say the following out loud, to yourself:

May you be at ease.

May you be content in life.

May you be joyful.

May you be safe and secure.


--

A note on the power of loving/kindness:


In the years before my grandmother passed (my mother's mother) in 2016, I would frequently include her as my loved one in this mindfulness meditation. I noticed discernible improvement in her mood and countenance when I would talk with her on the phone if I had just recently included her in my loving/kindness meditation. It's a hard thing to prove, and many grandparents love and are happy to hear from their grandchildren, but my grandmother was often depressed and conveyed it on the phone. I do believe this meditation had an impact, on more than one occasion, I could feel a wellspring of different energy in her when we spoke after my meditation.

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