When Leonard Cohen spoke for the 'unworthy' parts of us

    by Anna Mini Jos

"When you are not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned."

- Sisters of Mercy, Leonard Cohen


Children absorb messages from their environment. As they interact with others, they perceive the faint disappointment in their mother's gaze as she looks at them, the subtle disdain in their teacher's voice, or the masked heaviness in their father's stride. Their gaze turned inward, they internalise that the suffering of the their caregiver is their fault, their shortcoming. In those moments they feel less than, removed from their sense of self, diminished in their ability to be in their body and to be with their breath. As Leonard Cohen puts it, they feel un(w)holy.


Children need their parents' presence to ensure safety and survival, both physically and emotionally. Internalizing these environmental cues ensures acceptance of the adult's perspective and with it, continued care. They adopt beliefs that echo that they're unlovable, inferior, unworthy, or inadequate. These beliefs endure throughout their lives, guiding emotions and choices, often fostering relationships that reignite the same feelings of 'not good enough' or 'unworthiness'. 


Yet, the veracity of these limiting beliefs can be brought into question later in life. Sometimes this happens from being good enough in someone else's eyes - being loved, respected, seen, and heard. This disorients the parts that knew otherwise. In a see-saw journey between familiarity and novel beliefs, parts gradually stabilise at a new juncture. Hopefully they imbibe a knowing that they are, at least at times, good enough.


Another way for these beliefs to be healed is by finding some distance between one's sense of self and the belief itself. Perhaps a psychedelic experience or a therapeutic session allowed a little bit of space to see the belief as separate from one's own identification of oneself. This can then allow one to experience, even for a fraction of time, how it feels to exist without this limiting thought. And to let go of the grief of having to embody this belief for so very long. To thank the elements in them that kept these beliefs so that younger versions of them could keep going. To breathe in, and breathe out. To learn new beliefs, like I'm worthy. I'm respectable. I'm lovable. I'm seen. I'm heard. I matter. I'm okay. I'm good enough.


This journey, whether prompted by a lover's gaze or self-reflections, allows one to reclaim a sense of wholeness.