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How To Discover Your Core Gifts In Your Most Challenging Qualities
How to handle those parts of ourselves that get us in trouble again and again in our lives? Stay tuned to this episode where you’ll learn how to work with those parts of yourself and discover the gift that lies at their core.
Hello and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page. I’m a psychotherapist. I’m the author of the book Deeper Dating and the Cofounder of DeeperDating.com, a new way for people to meet online that is based on values of kindness, decency, and respect. Today in this episode, I’m going to talk about how you can discover your deepest core gifts right in the heart of your biggest personal challenges. This week and every week, I’m going to share with you the greatest tools that I know to help you find love, and keep it flourishing, and heal your life in the process, because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of intimacy. Those are the greatest skills of all for a happy and rich life.
If you want to learn more about the deeper dating path to real intimacy, just go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com and you can sign on for my mailing list, or go to DeeperDating.com if you’re single and interested in looking for a relationship in a much healthier way. I also want to say that everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It’s not medical or psychiatric advice or treatment. Finally, if you like what you’re hearing and learning here, I’d love it if you could subscribe and leave me a review. Thank you so much and let’s jump in.
Gifts Deep In Our Core
In this very early part of our new year, I want to share a counterintuitive approach to change that I find tremendously exciting. Here’s the central idea – It’s that our deepest wounds, and bewilderments, and complications spring from our deepest gifts. Gifts that we have not learned how to handle and bare their power and their sensitivity as fully as we need to. By acknowledging these gifts, taking time to name them, and learning to treasure them and honor them, we can speed and deepen our own healing, and definitely our search for love.
Our deepest wounds, bewilderments, and complications spring from our deepest gifts.CLICK TO TWEETIn these podcast episodes, in my book Deeper Dating, and in my course, I talk about the concept of Core Gifts. Those are the places of deepest sensitivity, tenderness, passion, and meaning within us. They’re the places where we have the greatest capacity to love and to create. They are also the places where most of us have been profoundly hurt. They are the places that we tend to either suppress our real self or act out our real self and get in trouble. These are our trigger spots because they are a place of deepest sensitivity. They are the places where the nerve endings of our being are the richest and most full. They are incredibly important.
I really believe that more than almost anything else, it’s our relationship to these Core Gifts that determines what our life looks like, and what our relationships look like, and what we can create in the world in all of those arenas. In my six-month intensives, we spend almost half of the intensive focusing on being able to name our Core Gifts, discover our Core Gifts, and celebrate and dignify them. I think it’s an incredibly rich subject because these Core Gifts speak to the very DNA of your being.
When we are in the right relationship with our essential self, we do so much better in choosing partners and in maintaining relationships and growing. Our Core Gifts are strands of potential greatness within us. When we express them, we feel most alive and empowered, or most frighteningly vulnerable and raw. Core Gifts are not the same as strengths and they’re not the same as talents. In fact, a lot of time they feel like our greatest weaknesses because there’s such vulnerability around them. Because their power can be so great, that it takes a lifetime of work to learn how to handle these gifts to help them grow up, mature in the world, get legs, act and fulfill their mission, and learn the skills that are needed. Like with any greatness or any genius, there’s a great deal of skill-building that needs to happen.
This is a question that I have asked before. I’d like you to think about this for a minute. Which of your own sensitivities and passions have more often felt like a curse than a gift to you? That is a sign of a Core Gift, or another question, “What tender parts of you have often been really misunderstood in the world or taken advantage of?” Those are other signs. What positive experiences in your life touch the heart of what matters most to you? It’s another sign. Because in pain or in joy, the great marker of a Core Gift is the depth of meaning that lies there. It’s the sense of our humanity.
The closer we feel to the beating heart of our own or another’s humanity and meaning, the closer we are to our own deepest gifts. As a psychotherapist or as a coach, when I try to understand my client’s deepest conundrums, struggles, and challenges, I lean into it in this way. What is the Core Gift that’s trying to express itself in the heart of this struggle? Often, the answer just can’t be reduced to a word or a phrase or anything like that. It’s often just a deep feeling. Often, we need the insight of other people to help us decipher our own gifts, and that is really true.
How do we handle the parts of ourselves that get us in trouble again and again in our lives? In this episode, you’ll learn a much more powerful way to work with them, and you’ll also discover the gift that lies at their core.CLICK TO TWEETIt’s almost impossible to understand the beauty, the power, the value, the preciousness of our gifts if people don’t reflect back to us what they are, and how to see them. This is an amazing starvation that occurs in this world, is that people don’t tell each other the gifts that they see in each other in a direct, clear way, using their wisdom and their insight to do that. When I do workshops and when I do classes and I do courses, that’s always a part of it. Because I think we need to be instructed into the value of our gifts and the quality of our gifts. We often need to be instructed. We’re not going to figure it out ourselves. We won’t understand it fully. We won’t have that moment of realization of how we’ve impacted people’s lives.
That honoring of the gifts is so much at the heart of this, and I’ll get to that in a couple of minutes. I want to say that learning to bear the passion, the vulnerability, the sensitivity, the originality, and coming from all different directions in ways that we can’t really easily understand. These parts of ourselves, these core gifts, it’s a task of a lifetime to be able to make space for them, to honor them, to see their treasure, and to learn their language. I’m going to share a personal example of that. The experience of guilt has been a lifelong burden for me, a core wound for me. I’ve made a lot of progress, but I still am prone to guilt. It’s a weight that I carry to one degree or another, frequently. It used to be constantly. Now, it’s frequently.
I feel responsible in some ways for way too much, way too often. Knowing what I know, I approach that guilt wound on my good days in a new way. I look for the Core Gift in it. I’ve been reminded to do this by people who know me and love me, and see the gift there because I’d get lost in that guilt myself, and I do. The minute I do that, the minute I look for the Core Gift, things become clear, and it’s empathy. It’s a deep empathy, care, and concern, which doesn’t mean that I can’t be selfish and lots of other things.
It means that that empathy is a deep quality in my being, that I experienced a lot of pain around when I feel like I haven’t done something right, or even a deeper, more generic kind of pain. That’s the gift that led me to become a therapist. It’s the gift that fuels a fierce protectiveness I have for the people I love, for my children, for my partner, for my family, for the children that were separated and put in cages at the border.
It’s a gift that somehow in a strange way, also leaves me feeling responsible, like feeling responsible for my parent’s suffering at the hands of Hitler or my son’s ancestors’ horrors in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. This guilt is not perfectly healthy for sure, but it’s part of my genius. It’s roots spring from the depths of what makes me who I am, my fierce protectiveness, my compassion, my caring. I’m not saying that I’m this perfect embodiment of that or anywhere near it, because I have a lot of other parts too. That part of me is very real. That guilt that weighs me down has its roots in my very ability to love.
Unleashing The Undomesticated Genius
How does that awareness lead to healing for me, for us? How could we use this knowledge to heal our wounds and liberate the gifts trapped inside them? The first thing is to understand the gifts that lie there, that come out in convulsive, and immature, and imperfect ways, but something is coming out. Something is trying to be spoken, known and seen, and understood. We have to find what that is. You might want to take a minute right now and think about a quality in your being, in your personality that has this intensity that maybe you’ve wondered, is it too intense? Is it too sensitive? Is it too tender? Is it too demanding?
I would say that the task is to find the Core Gift that lies there. Maybe it’s a quality of not enough, like, “I’m too quiet, I’m too tender, I’m too passive.” In those cases as well, there is a gift that lies there. For example, qualities of passion have this “something really matters to you”, and we want to find what that is, what that thing is that mattered to you in that situation so much again and again. Maybe it’s truth. Maybe it’s a connection. Those are some of the things that we can get really passionate about.
Maybe it’s needing space. Maybe it’s needing freedom, but if these things come up again and again, there is a Core Gift. There is a germ, a seed of something that is aching to be expressed and probably has not been fully honored. What does it work for all those reasons is simple willpower. Telling ourselves that we have to stop, that we have to become more mature. For me, that I have to get more adult and realistic about where my responsibility ends.
As seductive as that simple approach seems, use your willpower, use your smarts, use your logic. I have found that it has very little leverage. It’s one of the weakest tools that there is. This is what I’ve come to see as the step that is the most important. This quality of yours that you thought of, what if each of us in these arenas sees the humanity at the heart of the wound? What it was we were aching for? What it was that hurt us? What it was that we needed?
It’s hard to do that when we’re upset at ourselves. It’s hard to do it when we’re upset at someone else who didn’t treat us right. The act of saying, “This makes emotional sense. This is what I was trying to do. Not well, imperfectly, but this is what I was trying to do.” A dignifying of that Core Gift, to me, is what I think the first step, the most important step. For example for me, the care that fuels my guilt is what’s best about me. Even though my guilt creates like whole slews of problems, it’s still the size of my caring that gets me in trouble.
As much as I might want to manage to reduce that caring to a simpler, easier, more handleable level, that will never work. I can’t amputate my soul. Our Core Gifts spring from a source more profound and more essential than anything that we can control. If we shift, if you think about what is the core gift in that pain, in that sensitivity, in that passion that you experience again and again, whatever it is that you’re picking up. Maybe you could think of it as like, “This is the thing that gets me in trouble in my relationships.” I, fill in the blank. The task here is to feel the humanity behind what that is and to name it, and to see the gift in it.
Until we cherish the gift at the heart of our flaws, we’re going to live in knots and miss out on the magic that makes us who we are.CLICK TO TWEETWhen we do that, when we say it makes sense, maybe it doesn’t make the perfect logical sense, but it makes sense in terms of who I am and what matters to me, and my wounds, and all the different parts of me. It makes sense that this made me feel that way. When we can do that, we dignify those feelings. We’re much more likely to avoid the two great dangers at a moment like that. One is suppression of what our needs are because we feel ashamed, or our feelings are because we feel ashamed. The other is acting out, expressing those things in a way that is unkind or doesn’t have empathy, or doesn’t take the other person into account, or forgets how much this person loves us and cares about us, and all that they’ve done for us. Those are two ways that we can get stuck. When we begin by saying, “Yeah, this is a treasure,” all of a sudden, we are holding it like the parents that we wish we had.
When we begin by feeling the mystery and the humanity in our gifts, something different happens. When we name the gift and we honor it, and find the inner logic, worth, sense, and truth of it, something else happens. We become more human, more balanced, and more chill. Finally, whole new doorways of possibilities begin to unfold. I want to say here too, as much as I might want to embrace my gifts of empathy, for example, as much as we might want to fully embrace our gifts, often we can’t because our Core Gifts, there could be so much pain there, so much longing, even so much joy and so much meaning. There’s a fierceness. There’s a depth. They touch the very marrow of our being.
That’s where they come from, the very core of our being. It stands to reason that their humanity would be hard to bear. I think of those qualities not as attributes but as portals. I think of them as portals to something so vast, something so mysterious, in my opinion, something so holy because I wouldn’t care that much if it wasn’t. This way of looking at the world, this way of looking at conflict and argument and confusion is so much kinder. It allows space. It gives us that kind of core where we can move around and be more agile in handling the complexities and pains that come up, when we hold it with that kind of kindness.
How do we do this though? If these feelings are so hard to bear, I think that what we need to do is gradually over years, practice exposing ourselves to our Core Gift in small doses with a sense of treasure and dignity. Gradually increase our tolerance for their beauty, their bigness, their tenderness, and all the challenges that they give us. How do you live in the world with this much empathy? How do you live in the world with this much caring? How do you live in the world with this much fierce sense of justice?
Whatever for you these qualities are, I think that the key is to acknowledge that there’s a treasure in you, that is a mystery that you will be unfolding and unfurling and discovering for your whole life, but that it is the fuel of the life that you want, and the richness that you want. Our deepest gifts can definitely grow. They can mature and they need to mature. When we do this, we can finally parent them. It’s like parenting a fiercely gifted child, but those gifts can never be domesticated. They will never fit into the small and safe and well-mannered boxes that we think we’re supposed to create for them.
They’re going to continue to get us in trouble. They’re going to cajole us to the edge of authenticity. They’re going to cause tears that we don’t understand. They’re going to shock us with their truths because genius domesticated is genius lost. Genius has fire and challenge, and that’s a gift. We spend so much time trying to get these Core Gifts to listen to us, to behave correctly, and to line up in a nice row, to do what we tell them. Guess who loses that battle again and again? Until we cherish the gift at the heart of our flaws, we’re going to live in knots.
More importantly, we’re going to miss out on the magic that makes us who we are and which allows the precious people who are made for us to finally discover where we are. This new year, my wish is that all of you, and that I, get to feel more deeply and treasure more kindly and fully the deep gifts living at the heart of our struggles. That we allow ourselves an answerless awe at their mystery, their beauty, and their humanity. Thank you so much for joining me in this episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode