Tag - unworthiness

A Closer Look at Unworthiness

by Joyce and Barry Vissell

Do you ever feel unworthy to receive good things in your life? It’s not an easy question to answer. Some of you are in touch with your feelings of not deserving. Some of you are not. I dare say that feelings of unworthiness are present in most of us, although we might not be aware of them. The first step in overcoming these feelings is to become aware of them. This can’t only be a mental process. Feelings of unworthiness need to be recognized and felt, before healing can happen.

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Joyce and I see many people in our counseling practice who deny any feelings of unworthiness. These same people show some of the classic signs of unworthiness: difficulty asking for what they need, most forms of procrastination, resistance to lifestyle improvement, not taking good enough care of themselves, or problems with addiction. There are perhaps many times when we resist something good simply because we don’t believe we deserve it.

Where do these feelings of unworthiness come from? Our childhood can hold some important clues. In a previous article, “How We Internalize Blame” (on our website, SharedHeart.org), I wrote about a violent act by my mother and the message given to me that her violence was my fault. I learned that I deserved violence … not helpful! But I very much needed to become aware of this feeling, before I could learn on a feeling level that no child deserves violence.

I also learned in my childhood that love was conditional. I needed to earn love by being extra good. So as an adult, and a doctor/psychotherapist, the more I helped people, the more good I did in the world, the more I deserved to be happy (or so I unconsciously thought). But this never worked because it was a flawed concept. Perhaps twenty years ago, at a couple’s retreat at Rowe Conference Center in Massachusetts, I vulnerably shared these feelings. Scott Kalechstein Grace, our musician and assistant, suggested I experiment with lying on one of the couches in the back of the room and completely letting go of leading the workshop. He said, “Don’t worry, Joyce and I can lead the workshop just fine.” Just then, an older man suggested I lie with my head in his lap so he could father me and keep giving me the message that I was perfectly worthy without having to do a thing, without having to prove my worthiness.

It was a fabulous experience! I really let go. Even though I only lay there for perhaps twenty minutes, I returned with a whole new feeling of worthiness that did not depend on doing anything. I became a human being rather than a human doing. It’s simply not possible to earn love or happiness. Love and happiness are our birthright.

The healing of unworthiness lies in understanding our dual nature. I’ve said this before but it’s worth saying again: we are both human beings having a spiritual experience AND we are spiritual beings having a human experience. If we identify with either one, and push away the other, we delay our healing of unworthiness. If we’re only human beings having a spiritual experience, we become too identified with our unworthiness, and so cannot let it go. If we’re only spiritual beings having a human experience, we risk minimizing or even denying our human feelings, including unworthiness.

Healing our unworthiness depends on our acceptance of our humanity and our divinity. Here’s an example. Many years ago, Ram Dass lived close to us and was an important teacher for us. He was writing a book about his guru, and had not spoken in public in many months. Then he received an invitation to speak at a local college, the University of California Santa Cruz. We saw him the day of the talk. He admitted to us that he felt more nervous than he had in many years. He felt unworthy to speak as a teacher to so many people. And he had been praying deeply for divine help.

Joyce and I went to the talk that evening. We told him later that it was the best talk he had ever given. He actually agreed. He said he was more in touch with his humanity … and his unworthiness … than ever before. As a result, he also opened more to his divinity and his need for divine help.

One of my heroes is Saint Francis, a man who was intimate with his unworthiness. He actually took unworthiness to a whole new level. He often stood in the Piazza del Comune, the village square in Assisi, dressed in rags and acting like a fool. Even now he is still referred to as the “Fool of God.” People called him names, spit at him. Children threw rocks at him. All the while, he thanked God for the bad treatment. He actually celebrated his unworthiness! Was he a masochist? Not at all. He felt so close to his beloved Jesus while he was being abused. He became completely identified with Christ who also suffered even worse abuse. As a result, Francis also rose into a spiritual ecstasy, into a true awareness of his divine worthiness, his full divinity.

Okay, maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to celebrate your unworthiness. But still you can accept these feelings as part of accepting your full human condition. Only then can you more fully accept your divine condition and open to your original worthiness. We have always been worthy. We are all divine beings too. Nothing we have ever done, or could ever do, can take away our inherent worthiness. Yes, we all make mistakes, some very big ones too. But we are not our mistakes. We are sparks of the one divine light. We deserve all the good the universe has to offer. When we know our worthiness, we are then free to give all of our love and make our dreams come true.

Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell:

Jul 16-21 Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR

Oct 11-17Assisi Retreat, Italy

Feb 4-11, 2018 Hawaii Couples Retreat on the Big Island

About the authors:

Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift.

Call 831-684-2299 or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.


Just What Is Worthiness?

by Lisa Greene

Everyone suffers from unworthiness to some degree or another. It is part of our culture, our conditioning and our heritage. The problem is it is a ”state of mind.” There is nothing real about unworthiness. How can an aspect of source be unworthy?

The real epidemic in our society is unworthiness. The Dalai Lama talks about how unworthiness has overtaken the West like nowhere else in the world. It is the first thing we must address in our quest for peace, happiness and awareness.

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Unworthiness is not something you are. It comes from your mind. It is a state of mind. We are all looking for ways to be okay, to be special because of the false belief that we aren’t. “I’ll make a lot of money. I’ll be a good girl. I will be a martyr or rescuer, all so I can be worthy.” Worthy of what? Unworthiness is simply a part of our programming. We are taught to go outside of ourselves for our happiness. Peace is never something we achieve. It is our true nature.

For me personally, religion added a lot to my feelings of unworthiness. I had to go through the priest to get to God. I would listen to the sermon: in one minute I was made in God’s image, in the next I was dirt. Which was it?

I went to a church school. Our teachers told us we must never say, “I am the Alpha and Omega.” Of course I said it immediately. I waited for about a week to be struck down by lightning. When it didn’t happen I began to feel like such a terrible person for sinning against God. I almost thought the lightning would have been better. I began to see how people who feel a sense of unworthiness are easy to control. We will do anything to feel okay, to be worthy.

As I watched and questioned my mind I realized that my deep sense of unworthiness was the driving support that kept my ego mind alive. Much of the ego mind developed to combat our sense of unworthiness. As unworthiness falls away so does ego.

The problem is the way the ego mind goes about trying to make us feel better. It is all done outside of us. “I’ll judge you so I feel better about myself; I’m smarter; I know so and so; or I’m prettier,” are all ways the ego mind compensates for unworthiness. The ego mind is trying to make us okay in the way it was programmed. Of course it doesn’t work and leaves us much worse off.

Unworthiness is not something we are, it is a state of mind. It often comes up as a reaction to a situation or other people. “I’m broke or they like her more so I must be unworthy.” Unworthiness is simply a part of our programming. Just like if we always get angry in certain situations, some situations will make us feel unworthy.

The ego mind knows nothing of our truth. It believes we are separate, we are only our story and our conditioning. This is fertile ground for unworthiness. The more we follow the mind’s program the more separate we feel. The more we question and look at the mind’s solution the more insane we realize it is. We are letting this insanity run our lives because everyone around us is doing it.

The mind really doesn’t have a clue, it always ends up a big mess. Unworthiness affects every aspect of our life: prosperity, marriage, children, work and self worth. We have practiced unworthiness enough that we are believing this role is who we are. Our thinking becomes our reality or karma and round and round it goes. Time to step off that merry go round.

We have been taught to distrust our true nature; but it is our true nature, not the ego mind, which will bring us home. For me, as I watched when unworthiness come up and put space around it I was then able to see it’s programming. Often I would feel terrible and I would hear in my mind, “I’m a piece of crap.” I learned not to react to it. I would watch and see what the program was reacting to, what it would say and what the mind would do to try to “fix it.”

I learned the “I’m a piece of crap” program came up around other people. I didn’t make them happy, they aren’t rescuing me or they don’t see me a certain way. For many of us unworthiness also comes up around money. Money is a good place to begin your work with unworthiness.

As we begin to see the unconscious workings of the ego mind we let go of our fear of unworthiness. We see it is a reaction or a state of mind. As we put light on it and give it space it begins to unravel itself.

About the author:

Lisa Greene, speaker, writer, and educator, has a background in psychology and biofeedback. But it was the eight months of lying on the bed watching every thought that led her to true peace. Go to www.UndoingUnhappiness.com to receive Lisa’s free, inspiring and educational report and mini course on Undoing Unhappiness.