Your Private Hell

By Ross Bishop

You know the place I am talking about. It is where you keep your sins. It is where you hold the self condemnation for your failures, your mistakes, your errors of judgment. It’s where you keep the pain from the people you’ve hurt and the lies you’ve told. It’s a dark, smelly, unpleasant place.

I want you to read the next sentence carefully: Every person you will ever meet has the same sort of smelly, dark internal hell you do,  and they feel the same way about it that you do. . . .

Got that?

No one gets a “Get Out of Jail Free” card when it comes to their personal hell. We are all run by fear and anxiety from time to time. We all have places where we are afraid and where we are reluctant to risk. We can be needy and we all have buttons that can be pushed.

We all struggle with pangs of guilt and anxiety regarding what we have done. And you do not have a monopoly on screwing up. We have all done essentially the same dumb things you have. We have done them in our individual ways to be sure, but fear and anxiety sometimes run our lives too.

The dark place feels uniquely personal, and it is, but it is not as exclusive as you think. We all really are in the same boat. Consider your childhood. We could put any one of a million other children in your place, and guess how they would have turned out? Any child placed in your family situation was going to come out thinking and feeling much the same as you did. Do you really think that some other kid, subjected to the same stuff you were, was going to turn out much different? Get real!

Siblings, by the way, are a different consideration because of birth order issues and inter-family dynamics, so they do not provide a reliable basis for comparison, yet sometimes you can look at them and see how, in their own way, they have also struggled as you have.

You assume that your childhood failings were uniquely yours. And you believe, at least in part, that they were your fault. Clinging to this assumption has created most of the problems you have experienced in life.

You could not  possibly have been responsible for the problems in your family. A child does not have the power to create the kinds of situations we are speaking of here. The dysfunctionality was in the situation, it was not in you.

It is extremely difficult for a child to step outside the family situation to gain an objective view of what is going on. Even then, it may not make much difference. Talya was born into a very difficult family situation. Her father was a drunk and her mother, as Talya would learn later, was a certifiable schizophrenic. Imagine, for just a moment, what her home life was like. Talya’s mother, driven by her illness, ripped the child to pieces and her father was of no help. The severe criticism and outright condemnation pushed Talya beyond what any child should have to endure.

How did she respond? Could she sit there and say, “Well, my mom’s crazy, and this problem isn’t mine,” and walk away without scars? Of course not. Like most children, Talya took the burden on as her fault.The dysfunctionality of the situation, even as exteme as her mother’s behavior was, was beyond Talya’s ability to grasp what was really happening, and it wrecked her sense of self. Talya had become the carrier of the dysfunctionality that was in the family. It was the situation, not Talya, that was dysfunctional. BUT, Talya walked out of that environment absolutely convinced that she was a defective person. So did you.

Let’s take the discussion to another level. You came into this life with things to learn, mostly about self-worth and learning to love yourself. (Why this is so is for another discussion.) Needing to learn these things, your family situation was created so that you would believe the lie that you were in some regards unlovable and unworthy. After some years you would eventually come to know the truth. That is how life works. The circumstances were uniquely yours, but any other child would have responded much as you did!

So let’s talk about your “failings” and your “screw-ups.” Remember that you believed the lie. That meant that for a while, (in many cases a long while), when presented with a life situation, you were going to respond from fear, anxiety and/or neediness and ultimately create a train wreck. That is what believing in the lie does. It steers us onto the “wrong” track.

Living the lie is like living inside a balloon. The false beliefs create a self-contained little world where everything you touch gets contaminated with your fear. Life is a constant struggle, there is a good deal of pain and many regrets. It seems like a cliche’ to say this, but it is hell inside the balloon. Actually, that is the definition of hell.

As unfortunate as conditions inside the balloon are, so long as you hold your beliefs, especially the negative beliefs about yourself, you are essentially screwed. I am not trying to excuse crumy behavior, and you can work on managing the ways you are in the world to limit the damage and the pain, but so long as the beliefs are there, they lurk like crocodiles under the surface, waiting to pounce. And until you resolve them, they are going to cause pain – pain to the people in your life to be sure, but especially pain to yourself.

We don’t generally set out to hurt others. The pain we cause is the collateral damage from our fear and self doubt. We cause others pain because we are scared or angry and feel pushed into a corner. And with hindsight, your behavior may have been regrettable, but at the time it was about the only thing you could do. It is one of the consequences of living in a self-contained balloon, your options are fairly limited.

Each life situation offers us the opportunity to either move to compassion or be defensive and hide out in our ego. In other words, to stay in the balloon and live in hell, or to transition to another way of being.

Transitioning presents a significant challenge. It means leaving behind what is familiar, even though it has not served us well. It also means feeling naked and exposed for a while (like we felt as children when we got hurt), until we learn new ways to be in the world.

Truthfully, few people simply accept the challenge, burst their balloon and move into a new way of being. Most people cling tenaciously to their old beliefs until the pain becomes so intense that they cannot remain that way any longer. Consider this, and please excuse my language, but a balloon can only hold so much crap before it bursts. So, full of fear and uncertain about the future, these people burst out onto the surface, not so much from choice, but out of desperation. If you will accept another metaphor, it is like being born – getting shoved out into a cold, alien world, whether you feel ready for it or not.

Life situations are created to give you the opportunity to safely break out of your balloon. You are encouraged in every instance to leave your false beliefs and the world of ego and move into the realm of compassion. Life asks you in every moment to make a choice between heaven and hell, between living in the balloon with your crap or moving into the God Space. It is not an easy thing to do.That is why you are given so many opportunities.

If you refuse to work with what is being brought to you and instead just gut-react from fear, you will continue to create the same undesirable outcomes you have had in the past. This is how we create hell for ourselves. Although sometimes it feels like punishment, it isn’t. It is not about punishment at all, it’s about consequences.

How do you get out of the balloon? The concept is simple: listen to your pain. Pain comes from being out of harmony with The Universe. Each time you act out of fear and ego (live inside the balloon) there will be pain. When you hurt, know that some belief, some untruth, is causing you to act in disharmony. Otherwise, there would be no pain!

If you chose to listen to your pain and work with it, it will tell you when you are out of alignment. That is it’s job. One of the great secrets to life is to learn to use your pain to grow out of the beliefs that put you in pain in the first place. Unfortunately, most people try to ignore their pain. Pain, stored as stress in the body causes the organs and tissues begin to break down. We experience physical problems. The deterioration will escalate until we are forced to face the same beliefs we refused to address in the past. So, listen to your pain and work to shed your old beliefs. It will save you a great deal of trouble in the future.

So, what do you do about the collateral damage and the guilt you feel until you get your act together? You can’t hide under a rock, because then you wouldn’t learn anything. That is the problem with isolation. But what about the people you have hurt and the things you said and did that caused others pain? And what about the guilt and the shame? What do you do with the bad feelings you have about yourself?

The first thing is to take responsibility for your actions. Apologize when you hurt someone – and mean it! Make amends! You cannot put the genie back in the bottle, but a sincere apology can go a long way toward mending fences, and you will feel a lot better about yourself for doing it.

The second thing is to work your tail off not to do it again. Look into your fear and find out why it was that you reacted so strongly and treated the other person so poorly. Who inside is hurting so badly that she had to react out of defensiveness or neediness? What are her beliefs? What are her fears?

You have probably heard about Alcoholics Anonymous being a “12 Step” program. Whether you have a substance abuse problem or not,there some parts of AA that anyone can use. The Fourth Step is a rigorous self inventory that uncovers “the attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, fears, actions, behaviors, and the behavior patterns – that have been blocking us, causing us problems and causing our failure.”

The Fourth Step does not provide answers, but it is a rigorous inventory focusing on 4 areas: Resentments, Fears, Sexual Conduct and Harm To Others. It is a very good process, and worth doing. You can find  a good deal of information on how to do the step on the internet. Here is a particularly good site. A good set of worksheets for the Fourth Step can be found at After you have done the inventory, then  consider working on some of the issues it raises.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2016

Leave a Reply