The peeling of an onion is often used as a metaphor for peeling back the layers of someone to get to know them better or peeling back our own layers to see who we are, but what is meant by our many layers? What are we learning by peeling back the layers and do we throw away the layers as we peel them somehow revealing our best layer and now not needing the others?
I actually love onions. If you cut one open and leave it on the counter it absorbs left over smells from the evenings dinner or some other possible bad smell. If we stick with ourselves being like an onion, I would like to think that when I am wide open, or should I say fully aware, I absorb so much too.
So why do we need to be open or look at our layers? Well, for me, in doing this examining I not only forgive myself when I act like an ass but I am able to look at others and see that they too are more than just one layer (the acting like an ass layer). I mean, lets face it, when someone pushes your buttons or is mean to you, it's hard not to focus on that. We have to protect ourselves of course, so that if someone is really awful we remove ourselves from that person asap, but in the case of someone you have to work with every day or a family member you have to deal with over the holidays or when your child is in their teen years, we can stay and examine ALL of their layers as a way to get past our frustrations and anger towards them. We can focus on other parts of them that ARE good and it may help us ease up and accept where they are in each moment.
When my adopted son Keydell was first with us, he was in a rough place personally. He had a lot of adjusting to do after an early childhood of trauma. He often would meltdown in raging fits for hours on end, day after day due to his attachment disorder. This was hard to take! I had never seen anyone behave in this way, didn't understand it and rarely knew how to help him calm down. I mainly had to work on myself and how I handled it all so that I wouldn't loose my sanity. So, I practiced looking at all of Keydell's layers and not just the obvious one that sat on the surface. Yes, his layer of anger was thick but as I peeled back and looked carefully at him, I also focused on his layer of kindness, innocence, pain, dis-connection, playfulness, smarts, talent and his layer of desire to belong. When I shifted my focus to those layers it enabled me to see all the good under the layer of anger and take in how amazing this young boy was underneath his outer shell. It helped me to bond with him and love him as I began to understand that he was so much more than what he was showing us. And like an onion, I did keep peeling back and got to the part of him that was open and aware and he began to absorb all the love we had for him.
During this process I too was peeling back my own layers finding ones I didn't even know I had. My outer layer ( self defined ) was one of calmness, good parenting, peace and kindness, but I began to discover layers of anger, frustration, control and extreme desire for things to change. So I had some work to do but I also knew that my thicker layers were the ones I mentioned first and I could call on them at any time. I just had to remember that I had them and not throw them in the trash once I peeled them back. I also had to let go of self judgement around the negative layers and see they were a part of me but did not define who I was. They were a part of me but not all of me and once I was aware of how those layers negatively impacted me I was able to work with them.
So we examine our layers as a way to grow. In peeling back we reveal our many parts of who we are and often find we are more capable than we thought. My layers of frustration motivated me to keep seeking help for Keydell. My layer of desire for things to change caused me a lot of suffering and I learned to loosen that grasping and understand that I had to accept my son no matter what, yet that layer also drove me to keep loving him, showing him his good sides and helping him to open up wide and absorb all of who he was in all of his amazing wonderful human self. So I needed those layers as much as the others.
We need all of our onion layers but keep working on the ones that serve you, that guide you towards peace and connection and maybe someday you CAN throw away the unwanted layers or use them in a positive way to open you up wide so you too can absorb and be in a place of greater awareness.