BG5 Business Institute

Driven by Fear to Relaxing into Freedom

Traumatic Beginnings

It is amazing to me that the first twenty years of my life have taken me another 40 to unpack and heal from. While life is challenging by its very nature, I have always 'felt' the suffering and the pain of being in the physical world and have been searching for how to stop the pain my whole life. I have known pleasure and joy as the pauses between the pain. Now having discovered myself and made sense of the suffering through my BG5 journey, I am all the more grateful for my life and those who have taught me along the way.

I grew up in a dysfunctional home where physical, mental and emotional abuse was prevalent as my parents, oblivious to their own pain, transferred it to us through their bullying behaviour. I suffered in silence to feel loved and know myself as they struggled with their own shadows and conditioning. We moved frequently forcing us to re-establish connections with new people and situations every three or so years with no real stable roots or support systems in place from family or friends. The effect this has had on my adult life has been challenging to deal with and is still unfolding. I’ve been driven to read my way through hundreds of self-help books, try many alternative healing therapies, vitamins, herbs, I’ve trained in energy work, basic psychology and NLP. I’ve taken many personality tests, gone to psychics, tarot card readers, mystics searching for relief from the trauma and to know who I really am.

Speaking about the trauma or accepting help was very risky as I grew into adulthood as I had to pretend that I was okay and could be productive. The measure of my success, it seemed, was not my own satisfaction or health, but that I attained a six-figure pay check and the ability to own a new house and drive the right car, none of which ever really appealed to me. So, who was I working for?

When I discovered BG5 and Human Design, I began to understand myself for the first time and make sense of my life and its challenges.

The Challenges

I spent my adult life looking for myself, feeling very lost and confused about what I was meant to do and felt a constant emptiness in the core of me. Still, I managed to build what others have seen as a successful life choosing a career in technology and raising a family while working full time. I remained silent feeling insecure, worthless, and struggled with anxiety and bouts of depression pretending I was fine, doing what I thought I was supposed to do or what would provide me with a good income and create a secure foundation.

I could work for periods of time at a very high, fast pace taking on more than I really needed to, being ambitious and working my way up in any organization to a position of management, constantly climbing the ladder to earn more income. I could always see the big picture and secretly wanted to ‘run the show’ and dreamed about how I would do it differently. When I owned my own business though, I was stricken with anxiety and depression, terrified of losing everything even though the business was doing okay. Losing a big contract struck me to my core and I experienced my first health crisis – a gallbladder attack. This left me weakened and took months to recover from while I downsized my business to something more manageable. In the end, I couldn’t sustain the pressure of running the business when what I really enjoyed was doing the work.

I always took on more than I actually had energy for, driven to put solutions in place that would take an organization far into the future. I was often asked to and delivered the impossible with no resources as I didn’t’ know how to say “No – it can’t be done”. If I could envision it, I could create it and I often tried to ‘make it happen’ when others weren’t ready for it. I longed for the recognition to fill the void in the core of me, not knowing my real purpose, attempting to be seen or recognized while at the same time shying away from any public focused attention. Even while I was having success in my work, I rarely felt ‘satisfied’ and more often felt extremely exhausted and frustrated that change happened so slowly and there seemed to be so much that needed fixing.

My health suffered as I chased one solution after another from nutritional supplements, herbs, essential oils, exercise and diet programs, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, meditation, yoga, spa days to relax, mini and full vacations. All worked only temporarily because as soon as I was back to work, I was exhausted again, my body filled with pain within a few days. I was on a constant hamster wheel of too much work to do with too few resources and the constant pressure to work faster. I had difficulty getting to sleep at night as ideas and the pressure to solve problems wouldn’t stop when I laid my head down.

Crashing Into My Limits

And then I hit a wall. A new leader was hired to my department and began to tear apart everything I’d built over a ten-year period. Her approach and attitude were very indifferent, authoritarian, manipulative and bullying. Over a two-year period, my sanity was put to the test and as I tried the many strategies I’d used throughout my life to keep my footing. I found myself feeling like a small, helpless child with no voice taking abuse after abuse until I collapsed. I left on a medical leave and spent three years recovering.

It was both the most challenging time in my life and the saving of my life. I had no choice but to stay home and try to relax. My brain had fried, my hard-drive crashed and all the suppressed emotions came flooding out of me and would not stop. I couldn’t think at all as my brain had physical symptoms of a concussion and I was diagnosed with Adrenal Exhaustion and Sleep Apnea. I had no energy to do anything but lay on the couch. As I struggled to gain my health back, I suffered constant anxiety which had become frequent panic attacks and depression, often with suicidal thoughts.

Working my way through the medical and insurance systems caused even more anxiety as I feared being sent back to work before I was ready. I suffered PTSD symptoms whenever thinking about having to return to my workplace or any kind of work that involved dealing with people or technology. I’d been studying people and trying to figure out how to protect myself from them for years and felt very vulnerable that I wouldn’t be able to stand up for myself again, anywhere.

As a child, I’d been told to ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself’ and get over it and get back to work so I feared this would be expected of me any day.


I was really messy, and I’d never allowed myself to be messy before and as I surrendered the control from my brain (since it wouldn’t function) into the experience of just being in my body, the transformation led me to a fill the void within myself that I’d been searching for my whole life. I began to recognize the anxiety and depression I’d always felt and ignored, fearing I’d be labelled and discarded as crazy and found myself being treated with empathy and kindness instead.

I learned about Complex PTSD, the result of unresolved childhood trauma, which was very validating just to know that what I had suffered was real and someone had acknowledged it. This helped me to deal with the emotional neglect and mental/emotional/physical abuse I had experienced as a child and I began to realize just how damaging it had been. I had been experiencing ‘flashbacks’ of feeling small and helpless with no voice to stand up for myself. I had been co-dependent all my life, doing what everyone else thought I should do and ignoring my own needs and desires.

Throughout this time, I had been led to study Human Design and BG5 and that’s when I really started to understand who I am and who I’m not.

The Big Insights

Learning how I’m designed to take things slow, one step at a time allowed me to let go of constantly being in a hurry and feeling rushed into decisions. I need to wait to see how I ‘feel about things’ over time and ignore the inner critic (monkey mind) as it reminded me, I had to hurry, or I’d die, now understanding it wasn’t me, but my conditioned shadows.

As I learned how to connect with my body and emotions and trust them as my ultimate authority, I began to honour them instead of being repulsed by or ashamed of them, always having been called ‘too sensitive’.

It took some time to let go of the paradigm that had existed my whole life – that I had to do what was expected of me and go and make my life happen. That initially felt like free falling into an empty void fearing there would be nothing to catch me, but the opposite was what really happened – a feeling of being completely held.

Since I’ve come to understand who I am and who I’m not, I’ve been able to sink even more solidly into myself knowing what’s good for me and what’s not and standing up for myself even in the face of others who are still stuck in the old paradigm.

Shadows – ‘Who I’m Not’ but where I’ve been living from

Role Confusion – Identity & Direction

Having this centre open is the biggest distraction in my design – not knowing who I am or what I’m meant to be doing in my life. Whether or not I am loved is also in this centre – leaving that gaping hole in the core of me that I couldn’t seem to fill no matter how much I did or how many people around me loved me. I couldn’t take it in, like I had a shield up to protect my heart from any more pain.

Those of us with open Identity & Direction are the most susceptible to abuse and to becoming people pleasers since we don’t have our own sense of self. We are extremely flexible, like a Chameleon who can blend in anywhere and not be recognized for who we are because we absorb the identity of those around us.

The impact of not knowing where I fit in, what role I was to play in my boss’s ‘new world order’ was crushing. It felt like I was no longer needed at all and even though I was told to carry on doing what I’d always done, she had made it impossible to do that.

While being bullied by her and the people she hired, I was experiencing flashbacks from childhood and having been treated similarly at a time when I was helplessly dependent on my parents. My work situation felt similar in that my boss held my work-life fate in her hands as I felt it was too late in the game for me to start over in a new job or career.

Finding my way in life without this awareness has been truly painful and understanding this shadow now has been deeply healing.

Mentally Defensive - Trying to be Certain

I expended a lot of energy thinking I had to be the one with all the answers, that I had to be certain about what to do next or how best to deal with the new boss, that I had to be the one to come up with the solutions.

Counsellors told me that I took on a huge task that was much bigger than me and needed organizational intervention.

Losing Focus

I thought I had to have the answers to save everyone from their doubts, confusion and not knowing what was going to happen.

I’ve learned now that I don’t need to have to have all the answers by myself nor do I need to take on the doubt and confusion of others.

Trying to be the Star

Constantly feeling pressured to take action without first being recognized and asked to do so.

Having only the voice of Education defined, I felt it was my responsibility to educate everyone about what was happening, including my boss, and how to fix it.

Design – Who I am

Public Role: Pioneer/Messenger

As a Determined Discoverer (pioneer), I learn through trial and error, continuously trying new things to see what works and doesn’t work. That is what I did in this situation, attempting to resolve the turmoil my boss was causing for everyone. This is also the part of me who 'stands up for what isn't working' and let's others know.

As a Messenger, I am also projected upon to be the Saviour, the General on the White Horse, the Fixer who steps in to fix an issue and then steps out again. I jumped when others asked me to help fix the mess and felt it was up to me to stop the huge waste of time, energy and finance drain that was derailing our most important project.

Life’s Work

My life’s work is about being the CEO and ruling through education. This is why I constantly felt the need to rise to the top and always viewed the business from the top. I was equally wanting to get to the top and terrified at the same time feeling insecure that I couldn’t possibly know enough. I need to be in charge – of managing others, projects, and my own time and resources. I also react badly to being ‘excluded’ because I know that I am one who can bring benefits but do not always get that recognition because of my trial-and-error process. I accepted this humiliation and remained in my position to stay close to the power granted to my new boss to try to educate her to bring the benefits but in the end, it was to my own detriment.

When my new boss stepped in, she did not take any time to get to know any of us on the team and simply began making changes. She gave lip service to others to make it look like she was following best management practices when she simply did what she wanted to and was confused when those of us reporting to her didn’t fall in line. I believe she was completely unaware of the affect she had on others.

I see now that I was stripped of any real authority or autonomy, something that is ‘vital’ to my life’s work. This kicked me in the guts and was like having the very foundation pulled out from under me.

Classic Builder

As a classic builder, I have a lot of energy to use each and every day but unless it is used in a way that is satisfying to me, it leads to burnout instead of regeneration.

I had never made decisions according to my design, having been conditioned like most of us, to ‘go out and make it happen’. Or just Do It! Or saying ‘Yes’ is the only thing that will advance your career. Now I realize just how detrimental this was to my health. As I reflect on my work life, I feel sick and exhausted – something I had spent so much time, energy and money chasing other remedies for relief.

Builders especially have difficulty saying ‘No’. When we are not connected to our Decision-Making Strategy, we often say ‘Yes’ when we really want to shout ‘No!’. This leads to physical and emotional burnout and we end up feeling like slaves.

As a Classic Builder (like the turtle in the turtle and hare fable), I need to do things in a step-by-step fashion, completing one step and waiting while the next step reveals itself to me. I was brought up to ‘hurry up’ like the hare, being told I was moving too slow, so I learned to rush my own process and I was good at that pressuring others around me to hurry too.

This is such a magical process now that I’m following what is correct for me, it’s uncanny that I often don’t know what the next step is, but it always reveals itself just as I’m finishing the step I’m on – and it is exactly what needs to happen next. It feels so much better to trust this than to try to figure out the next move in my head.

Emotional Clarity

My Decision-Making strategy is to ‘wait for emotional clarity’, which means giving myself the time to feel things through and wait until the time feels correct when I’ve reached a calm clarity on the emotional rollercoaster that runs its course through me.

This was also conditioned out of me as a child, not to trust my emotions, in fact, don’t emote at all. Emotions display weakness. Trying to hold back all of the emotional energy I felt in every moment of every day resulted in carrying around extreme sadness and fear (depression and anxiety) with no ability to allow it to move through my system.

Society, until recently, has supported that position. In fact, when I broke down at work and fell apart emotionally, all my boss could say was that I was ‘ruining my reputation’. I’m looking back now and seeing just how ‘ruining’ this is to anyone’s emotional health but especially those with this defined in their design.

Turning Point

Once I let go and started to trust myself, I realized, I AM the ONLY ONE who knows what is right for me – no one else could possibly know, yet I’d been relying on someone else’s way of doing things my whole life! People NEED me to stand up and say what is true for me as they truly don’t know even if they think they do.

  • Classic Emotional Builder  - Honouring my own pace and allowing myself to wait for emotional clarity has helped me to really slow down and appreciate this process feeling much more settled with fewer anxious moments. (I recognize those now as me trying to do something that isn’t in my best interest or is coming from my shadows.)
  • Pioneer/Messenger – Experimenting to find out what works and what doesn’t work for myself and others and being able to stand up and say what works and what doesn’t work is vital. I now see this not as an affront to anyone else, but clear boundaries that make everyone more comfortable.
  • Life’s Work - Rulership - I matter, I’m important and my voice counts and when I’m not trying to be the star, I can educate others to know how to be the CEO of their life.
  • Identity & Direction - knowing that I need to be comfortable in my environment and if I’m not, nothing will work for me especially the relationships. Realizing my identity is flexible and curious about others and that I can help others align with themselves.
  • Conceptualization - I don’t need to solve all the problems even if my mind thinks it can – that’s way too exhausting and too much to put on one person.
  • Inspiration - I don’t need to be the one that resolves everyone else’s doubt, confusion and not knowing what might happen. Life is a mystery and not all of it is meant to be known and what is meant to be is revealed over time.


Gaining this insight into myself has allowed me to stand up for myself and what is true for me. It’s given me permission to find fulfilling work, on my own terms bringing huge satisfaction that I can do what I love and earn a living loving what I do. I no longer have to chase a job for the paycheck and potential recognition.

I trust that when I stay aligned to my authentic self, I’ll naturally attract opportunities and people to me that I can serve with my regenerative energy. This has made a huge difference in helping me set boundaries and know that my body will tell me if I’m able to commit my energy to something or not. This is all I know for certain I can trust.

Knowing myself has helped me understand and forgive others for what I now see as them not knowing who they are and the effect they have had and are having on others. My relationships have improved as I no longer take what others say and do personally because I’m grounded in who I am and can see and feel their fears they are trying to hide from me.

There are currently millions of people suffering in silence with anxiety and depression that could be alleviated at least somewhat with awareness of their own design and how they interact with their loved ones. It is said that Complex PTSD is likely responsible for the majority of mental health issues today and if the mental health community could agree to allow CPTSD to be added to the current Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM), the DSM would shrink from the size of an encyclopedia to a brochure.

From Pete Walker’s book COMPLEX PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving,

“You are not ill, sick, or weak of character. You are deeply hurt and in need of care”.

I would add to that,

“You haven’t yet discovered your true authentic nature and how you’ve been ‘nurtured’ off track, hidden by your own shadows.”

Shelley Finerty is a Certified BG5 Professional Consultant and Coach and has 30+ years of experience working in the areas of IT, Sales & Marketing, Business Analysis, Project Management and Business Development along with an avid interest in what makes us human having studied NLP, Leadership, Mindfulness, Yoga, energy work, plant medicine, natural healing methods, trauma and recovery. She now works with the BG5 Business Institute managing Marketing and Innovation. Shelley offers private coaching and consulting for individuals, partnerships, small teams and especially loves bringing innovative solutions for creating healthy workplaces to large organizations.