Cageology is a system that brings you back into soul alignment: a creative and vibrant life on your terms, not one defined for you by another. We dive deep to uncover what we’re passionate about to live a life we love. Before you know it you are a cage buster and truly alive rather than buying your time each week for a 48-hour reprieve.
You may now be saying, that sounds great Sherrie, but what does that actually mean???
Perhaps you are already familiar with the golden cage. Like golden handcuffs, it involves crushing our souls in jobs and relationships we hate to have enough money to buy things we think we will die without only to have them bring us a fleeting moment of happiness. The golden cage is a prison we build for ourselves so that others will look at our possessions and coo at us how lucky we are. Only it is not just the possessions that create the jail cell in our minds.
It is the entire way we have allowed our identities to be built. We spend our lives building a life that projects to the outside world how great everything on the inside is. We do so fully convinced that this devotion to building outwards rather than inwards will bring us happiness. That is the golden cage. We are so busy chasing things that create the image of happiness rather than that which actually brings it. Then we are left wondering why our insides never match up with the outside. It is because we spend all our time shining our cages rather than merely opening the door and stepping outside of them. Busting out of your cage means you stop building a life designed for others to tell you how lucky you are and instead build one where you feel actual joy.
Cageology is about understanding how and why we create these cages, what they bring us and what they keep us from, and how we can bust free from them to live the life we desire and deserve.
Although if it was so simple as merely declaring what we want and going for it we would all be much happier as a society. Cage building is insidious like that. We have spent so long being groomed to shine our cage for outside approval that many of us no longer know who we truly are. That is where Cageology comes in. You get to know your freedom thieves so you can break out of that cage.
How do you see the bars of your own golden cage? Think about the life you have versus the one you want. What do you believe is the reason that you cannot break out of your cage and into that life? Even simpler, when you get dressed in the morning, whose voice do you hear? Hint: It’s rarely our own telling us how beautiful we look. Normally it’s a parent’s, partner’s or friend’s voice we have internalized as our own. And it rarely is full of praise or why today, like everyday, is one that will rock. Instead we hear
“You’re too fat”
“Your hair is too scraggly”
“Who do you think YOU are?”
“They are all going to laugh at you”
“When you fall flat on your face (and you will!) there will be a party to celebrate it.”
“Better not to try at all, humiliation is far worse than the quiet desperation of survival mode.”
Or any number of other horrific statements that we like to use to beat ourselves up and keep ourselves small and never outside of our comfort zones.
Why do we talk to ourselves that way? We would never speak like that to a friend.
Although maybe we would talk like that about a friend.
The fear of what others will say, especially if we say it about others, can keep us locked in “our place” for our entire lives. This is the most powerful tool of our freedom thieves, that they can use judgment of ourselves and others to keep us in line.
Beating ourselves up keep us small. Yet, small is safe. Or so we tell ourselves. Our brains like to kill us to keep us safe.
It convinces us that by shining up our golden cage it will protect us. It allows us not to be truly seen yes, but that means also not truly heard. The cage can take everyone’s gaze and they pass judgement on it. But not truly upon us. This is still an issue, however, as we identify with our cage. We like our reputation as someone who is successful even if what we do to achieve that reputation kills our souls.
Changing this means doing the dirty work. The scary work. It is sitting with ourselves and within and seeing things we may not like to admit about ourselves and our lives. The bars will try and convince you to stay where you are. It is our job to probe them and see what we truly want.
My favorite quote is “perfection is static and I’m in full motion” by Anais Nin. It gives me permission to be free. I want to be in full motion!
I felt the joy of that as I let myself explore the world first by backpack and then by motorcycle.
But I gagged on it when I held my tiny baby and felt the enormity of imperfection weighing down upon me.
Yet most of the best memories of my life didn’t involve picture-perfect wonder designed to inspire envy from social media but rather me soaking wet and cold and thinking “this was worth the blood sweat and tears. I love this. ME. And no one else needs too!”
We often lie to ourselves about the power of the shiny bars. I still do. The difference is that I often catch myself sooner shining up my cage.
I am not about to tell you it will always be easy.
And I refuse to tell you that there won’t be times you will want to give up.
Some of you should. Not on life! Just on whatever version of success you have grasped in your fingers. You could be crushing your dream just by refusing to open up your fingers and breathing a little around it.
And yet I get it, we have been pushed our entire lives by other people to live up to what they think will bring happiness to us. It is no surprise that we no longer know what we want. Or that we think we want something that is wrong for us. Knowing if it is our head talking or our heart can be hard to decipher. I like to refer to the head’s desires, or our ego/sense of pride, as freedom thieves. Our heart represents who we are stripped from the need for external validation. The reason it is so hard to know if it is a freedom thief or our heart talking is that sometimes the freedom thief makes a lot of sense.
Not just in a firmly rooted in culture kind of sense, but close enough to what the heart wants to let the heart take backstage. Let me illustrate what I mean with two different types of examples.
The first one is when you want to strive for something that requires financial effort. Let’s say you want to quit work to write full time. This is your real dream and your heart sings whenever you so much as think about achieving that goal. That requires money. I know a lot of spiritual coaches recommend jumping in and letting the universe have your back, but there is something to be said about the universe loving a hustler. Most of those people who did that successful leap into the unknown worked their butts off for it to succeed. Whereas most of us are more deer in headlights for that kind of blind faith. We know we want it, we even know to go for it, but we get discouraged along the way. We find ourselves in front of Netflix, eating our feelings instead of writing six books in three months and reaching out to people while building an email list, all the things needed to launch a series with a bang. Before we know it that leap of faith ends with a wallop of pavement to the face.
No, your brain is too smart for that. But that was never what breaking out of your cage entailed. You could have carved out time in your present schedule, done a golden cage inventory (next chapter!) and reduced the amount of stuff you have. That would allow you to quit your job that you hate and take a less stressful job that allowed you to focus more on your writing. Eventually you could build up to being a full time writer. It means there is no shiny and envy-inspiring cage around you for people to admire, but you are happy and free.
The other example is one of love. So many of us are waiting for another person to come in and set our “real life” in motion. Let’s forget about the unfairness of doing what Ester Perel summed up as turning to one person to fulfill all the needs we used to find from our entire village, or not just romance and sex but also a sense of grounding, purpose, and sense of self and continuity. Even if it was possible to find life’s meaning in one other person (no matter who that person is to you, but for now we’ll keep to a romantic partner), why would you want to?
Only I know why. Because I have also fallen victim to the belief to it in the past. The idea of someone completing us makes this adventure so much less scary. Plus, hello message of every mainstream movie/cartoon since I was old enough to watch them. If that is not shining up a cage and convincing us a fairy tale ending is not only possible but normal enough to be expected, I do not know what is! It is also setting us up to chase an impossible standard, make ourselves and our partners miserable when they fail (as they eventually will) to meet it and in the end, why would we want to give the source of our happiness to someone else?
I probably lost half my readers as they ran off screaming towards Disneyland.
But seriously, for those who stayed, I am not anti-love. I love love. I love being in love. But I seriously regret the times in my life when I sacrificed myself for the idea of love. (Very different from sacrifice for love. We will cover it more later but sacrifice from guilt is rarely good. Sacrifice because you honestly want to do it is). And as someone who honestly thought Mr. Darcy was the very definition of sweeping you off your feet love until, like, I don’t know, five minutes ago (ok, when I saw the meme going around that summarized his style in a text as “I think you and your family are stupid and you are ugly and yet I can not help but fall madly in love with you. Want to date?” and my whole world crashed in) I know how tempting it is to get wrapped up in the idea of love being the end of all - no matter what the cost.
But part of this book is also to help you learn when sacrifice is important and when it is not. And when to stick it out and when not to. And how often it means setting boundaries for how long you will work at something until you accept that just because you love each other doesn’t mean you are good for each other.
Following your heart often means going against common sense and letting the rest of the world think you are crazy.
It is ok, we know you are not.
You are just able to see the cage sooner and connect to what you want and break out sooner. You are on your path. You know more and shinier stuff is not what is going to bring you the fulfillment you crave. I am telling you to jump off that wheel, walk out of that golden cage you have around you, and into a life defined by you!
Create the world you want because you want it, not because your frenemy on Facebook has a curated Instagram feed to die for and it has tricked you into thinking you want the same by messing with your sense of self-worth. Seriously, especially when they are talking about how in love and perfect their relationship is, it isn’t real.
Or isn’t showing the whole picture.
That isn’t me being bitter. That is me shooting side eye at friends, family, acquaintances and past clients for portraying a vision of their love life I just know isn’t true. Because I have heard about the cheating and the pain behind the “so lucky to have you” posts.
Yes, you are lucky to have them. You cheated on them ten months into your marriage. Not begrudging that, yet that is a very different thing from what the acquaintances scrolling the feed sees when you post the smiling without the screaming. I do not advocate posting the screaming either. There is something to be said about some dignity on social media. Yet too many of us fall into the trap of being privy to the shiny side of the cage only and believing it is the entire truth.
Side note on dignity on social media: You may wonder how I can say to share the truth but to have dignity. For me that means rarely sharing the details of what I am working through until I am out the other side. You can say it was a bad day, or you are going through something, but I do not advocate sharing the fresh pain until it has been processed. There is a reason why the caterpillar dissolves inside a cocoon. Talk about it directly after you come out that butterfly.
It is important to talk about it afterwards. We sanitize our lives and try to deprive ourselves of anything painful for fear of looking stupid, out of place, or just plain daring to ask for more. It keeps us safe and in a dull, gnawing seemingly endless pain. We believe it is better to have a dull constant throb than risk the intense flare of pain that comes with making mistakes. With being vulnerable. With actually living our lives. I believe if more people shared their truths from a safe space we would all feel less alone and stop worrying about what our cages looked like to others. We would all know everyone has issues.
In fairy tales - the real ones, not our sanitized versions - the characters are taught how to get through the messy middle.
Yes, they were stripped bare. Yes, they were wounded. But it taught them how to put themselves back together.
Those stories let us know that no one gets to jump from caterpillar to butterfly. Instagram might show it that way because the owner controls the narrative. The truth is there is a gooey dissolved stage where, despite the pain, you need to take the lessons learned in order to put yourself back together.
There is no perfect. Just glorious presence and the journey. Understanding and truly believing that gets us out of the cage. But to even begin we need to understand the power of the cage we are in.