Hiding from Ourselves

Why do we get so upset when an old painful inner-story or outer-experience pops up again in our lives?

We often feel that we have already ‘dealt with it’ and we don’t understand why it keeps coming up over and over again. While we think we have handled the situation, if we look a little deeper we can see our behavior may have been hiding something deeper.

Often, we think we expand and grow in a linear fashion, yet the truth is that we grow and expand in a spiral-fashion, not a linear one and it is natural to unearth an old belief or behavior in layers as they unwind and release.

For example, several of my clients have stopped drinking or using other substances on a regular basis with the hope that once they stop the destructive behavior they will feel great and their lives would work out. Yet, it doesn’t happen that way. What they may not have realized is that the old behavior was hiding something deeper that they have not yet dealt with. I used to smoke cigarettes, and when my father quit, I also quit and realized that smoking kept me connected to my father and when he stopped, it no longer did the trick.

One that I’ve been unwinding most of my life is being ‘overly responsible’ for situations that are not mine to own. While I see myself as trying to be helpful, the other person shuts down or pushes back from the feeling that my ‘helping’ was making them feel less than or wrong about what they were doing and how they were doing it. Instead of allowing others to figure things out on their own or ask for help when THEY felt they need it, I would offer help when ‘I’ thought they needed it.

Recently I found myself over-helping my husband, and while he was game at first to receive my help, he became disenchanted early on with my ongoing instructions.  Unable to responsibly communicate how he felt, he got frustrated and nasty which in-turn triggered my old feelings of anger as it reminded me of my mother who used to do the same thing. I saw myself as being helpful and him being ungrateful. A stuck place indeed!

In order to help me shift the energy of this anger, I allowed myself to feel and express these feelings with two amazing friends who could be fully present with me. As I spoke about my anger, the hidden feelings of grief began to surface and, I realized that my ‘helping’ has been a way to hide myself from the grief. My grief is about wanting things to be different/better/the old way between my husband and I and hoped my ‘helping’ would make him feel good about himself, so we could be ‘us’ again. It was the same ego-strategy I used with my mom. If I could make her feel OK, then things would be calm at home and OK between us. Now I can see how that is not true and never works.

Allowing my own anger to be expressed, enabled the hidden grief to surface, be owned and accepted by me. It’s OK that I feel this grief and want something that I think has been lost or unrecoverable. There is nothing wrong with my feelings. It is such a relief to realize that my helping in this way is not really helpful – to me or my husband. Being honest, authentic and loving about how it is for me and what I am doing differently to take of myself going forward is key. I’m paying very close attention now to my inner motivation in being ‘helpful’ asking myself; am I doing this because I am simply inspired to give, or do I have a hidden agenda in here? I’m grateful to be able to use this new awareness to make new choices as each new situation unfolds in my life.

How will you let yourself see what is ‘hidden’ inside today?


Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.

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  1. Congratulations Wendy-very insightful and conscious of you to connect the reason behind the behavior-really resonates with my historical relationships and current ones as well. It’s not always so simple to see and change but thank you so much for your examples, so appreciated your article.

    • Hi Carol. No, it’s not easy to see or change. And I’m so grateful for the conscious and loving people in my life that help me to see it when I don’t, and then support me to change it. I’ve found that it gets easier and easier now that I’ve emptied out the old emotions that get triggered by the old story. Now, when things come up, I’m calmer and can move into a more neutral place inside. I’m’ glad the examples were helpful and I greatly appreciate you sharing your own experiences in your comment. Thank you!

  2. Most relationships falter over one expecting the other to take responsibility for their happiness in some way, or someone feeling the need to take responsibility for the well being of others. How we behave and communicate is a reflection of what we feel about ourselves, or more specifically, the talk in our heads. Needing to help everyone whether they want it or not, may stem from a deep need to make sure other people are happy or that nobody is ever angry with you. “I’ll look after it and then you’ll love me so much!” That’s co-dependence at its best.It could also be an indication of serious control issues. Your annoyed partner may find you bossy, interfering and ego crushing, which is just a reflection of that person’s inner dialogue. “I can do it myself. I am not stupid or inept.” A less ego driven person would appreciate the help and not find it insulting in any way. You know better than I do what’s going on inside your own mind. Regardless of your deepest thoughts, it is critical to change the talk in your head. We are all responsible for our own happiness. My bad mood or insecurity is my responsibility and someone else’s insecurity or mood is their responsibility. We each have the ability to move our thinking from an unhealthy place to a better feeling place. All of the emotional baggage we carry around is based on flawed thinking. We are not the sum of our mistakes or our negative experiences. We are only affected by them. How we let those experiences affect us is entirely our choice.

    • Hi Renee and thank you for you insightful comments. Yes, we are all responsible for out own thoughts and feelings and owning them, not projecting them on to others. And while we are in the process unraveling all that, of turning over every stone within, and loving all of our parts, shadow and light, it can be a little messy. ❤️🙏🦋. On a personal note, I’m grateful to say that coming out of hiding and my husband coming out of hiding has created a beautiful new connection between us. Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience!

  3. Wendy, as I read your article, I see somewhat of myself there. The little girl inside has been hidden for a long time, but with the help of my faith and my belief in so many good things God has given me, I have managed to slowly come down from the shelf of where I often hid. Continue to reach those who come across your path. Thank you

  4. Thank you, Wendy, for your share and the honest and integral way you opened up. You are so right that our life evolves and revolves in a ‘spiral’ fashion because life’s twists and turns preclude linearity. Reaching out to help others is no easy task no matter how sensitive, generous and kind one may be for there are so many factors and issues involved in different personalities, moods and circumstances/reactions to circumstances. Apart from the realisation that we need to heal ourselves before we can even consider helping other, we also need to accept things we cannot change. In addition, we have to let go of any hint of power games and give personal space to render our love unconditional.

  5. Interesting article Wendy. I believe we all have issues buried deep inside. Some are meant to be reconciled, others are not. I’ve found that when we press certain issues, things only get worse and spill over the side. We’re all human. We can’t keep everything contained in need little containers. We’re messy, and we adapt to a messy life. Other people influence us and we in turn pay it forward, be it negative or positive. The only thing we can do is ensure our own navigation is working properly. I can’t honestly help others until I know I’m healthy… all systems go… and if that other person is resistant, pushing will only serve to push them over. Many kind blessings, I hope you and your husband figure things out. It’s just stuff…

    • Hi Aaron and thank you for your thoughtful comment! I’m a big believer of turning over every stone that is un-examined in our life as a path to freedom. Of course, that is just my way in life and everyone is finding their own balance in their own way. The good news is that releasing this old perspective created new possibilities and space between my husband and I. It has led to some amazing healing for him and we are reconnecting in lovely and new ways. It is just STUFF and as it moves, the magic continues!