The day I left Italy, just before going through airport security, I waved at my little brother, 13 years old at the time, and I remember those big brown wide-open eyes looking at me, but he never waved back. I knew I was his hero, but in the excitement of leaving, I forgot to have a goodbye talk with him. That day at the airport, I experienced a small death; I don’t know if he was mad or shocked, but I knew I was not going to be his hero anymore. I had enjoyed that role and had invested a lot of my identity in it, but that part of my life was gone forever. The pain was really intense, I couldn’t breathe. And this was what triggered my transformation.
In many books that I have read about self-development, some written only a few years ago and some from the last century, I have found the same concept explained in different ways. The authors claim that a major positive transformation in someone’s life often happens after the individual goes through a tremendous pain caused by some intense trauma.
That intense trauma can be the loss of a parent or a child, a sudden substantial loss of money or belongings, a long painful illness, any form of physical violence, etc.; basically, anything that makes someone feel that his/her life is over or drastically altered. But this can be the door to radical transformation.
Unfortunately, most people don’t go through that door, and, stuck in the belief that feeling pain is not good and should be avoided, they spend their entire life on the door’s threshold, living it in a dangerously safe mode: safe in the sense that it doesn´t threaten them with change, but dangerous in the sense that it doesn´t offer them the possibility of change.
These wise authors basically describe how allowing yourself to experience the intense pain of the trauma is basically a form of dying.
The dying caused by losing all our belongings, our spouse or our reputation makes us feel like we have lost our identity; we feel like we have lost who we are. So what is left after this “death”? Our true “being”! The reset button has been pushed and all of a sudden nothing matters anymore, no fears, no limiting beliefs, we have nothing to lose anymore: we have experienced the death of who we thought we were and brought to life who we truly are, “the caterpillar that after intense discomfort dies and becomes a butterfly”.
I find it hard to imagine anybody that has lived or is living a 360-degree successful and inspiring life who has not experienced a tremendous pain, conflict or trauma before starting their success process, and if you think about the people you greatly admire, they have experienced this too.
At this point, you want to know what this has to do with us immigrants.
As mentioned in my previous article https://www.empowerimmigrants.com/culture-compromising-immigration/, when we attach our identity to a role or an idea, for example in the immigrant’s case saying “I am Italian!” or “I am Indian!”, we automatically close our mind to everything that is not in sync with that part of our identity. If “I am Italian” is the dominant part of who I am, it means that most likely I won’t accept my Canadian-born son wanting to play American Football and I will subconsciously push him to play soccer; I am limiting both myself and my son! This is definitely an example of how immigration can dis-empower instead of empower. Being aware of this is really the first potential step towards a gradual, yet painless transformation.
In this article, however, we are talking about the other way to transformation:
The fast, yet painful transformation. This is violent and traumatic. The deeper the discomfort, the emptiness, the trauma and the pain that leaving our families and friends, our habits, our food and traditions, our wonderful beaches, mountains or lakes have caused, the better the reset button will work!
I have met immigrants who have immigrated totally against their will: they did not want to leave their country, they did it with tears and an internal kicking and screaming, they did it to follow their loved ones, but with a load of unbearable pain!
That same pain can become the door to the traumatic letting go of all the conditioning, all the personal attachment to old beliefs, and hence the beginning of the transformation.
The sense of emptiness is so strong that surrender to the pain seems like the only thing to do.
Allowing the pain to go through every cell of our body, just like bleach goes through every molecule of a white fabric, purifies our being from every programmed behavioral pattern, every limiting belief….
And this is when, as immigrants, we become aware of new beauties, new opportunities, new ideas, our curiosity is enhanced, our tolerance is unlimited: we are attached to nothing and open to everything!
I wish I could say that we are destined as immigrants to experience transformation one way or the other, gradually or suddenly, painlessly or painfully: the sad truth is that most of us will not be able to do it at all, neither one way nor the other.
Most of us are incapable of detaching our identity from our culture (the gradual, yet painless transformation). But instead of allowing ourselves to feel the pain from the forced physical detachment caused by immigration and take advantage of it (the sudden, painful transformation), we prefer to ignore it! We are afraid of suffering and stop on the threshold of the door, the only door left for our transformation. We don’t use either of the two ways and we stay stuck…
I have personally experienced my transformation through both ways, but what really started it was definitely pain: I have lived with the guilt of leaving my young brother without preparing him; I have lived with the loneliness and disconnection from the people around me, missing everything about my family and my native country, just like many of you. The difference was that I have always allowed myself to shed my tears, to shout and kick, and so expressing my vulnerability, my being in pain, made it happen. I have never pretended I liked everything about Canada, I have never pretended that I was perfectly happy from day one, and this is what left me free to be anything I wanted to be.
Halleluja!!! Now you know that the more you allow yourself to be sad, hurt, annoyed and in pain, and are honest with yourself about it, the more likely you will one day see yourself acting in a new way, thinking differently, seeing yourself unlimited and open to try new things, and able to see your colleague, neighbour or customer in a totally different light.