I can honestly say today I am coming to love the person I am. Past months of grief have opened me to the truth of my pain growing up and carrying the wounding even into maturity, and seeing how arrested I became and then caught up in care-taking. Self compassion to me is the healing elixir those of us with emotional neglect or attachment trauma need to apply every day..
Actually I was reading today in Bev Aisbett’s book on anxiety 30 Day 30 Ways to Overcome Anxiety that she recommends we set aside a day of self pity or feeling our dissatisfaction or real feelings, if that is the truth of things, rather than put on a brave face or keep smiling.. Certainly, there are times we need to move out of that state of self pity too, if it starts to become an identity and trap us in non productive unengaged living.
I posted a post recently on allowing time to grieve and cry.. Often self pity is seen as something bad. I used to hear in Al Anon all the time ‘get off your pity pot’. Ouch that seemed harsh!! I was genuinely grieving so much when I got to Al Anon after my marriage ended.. And I had a lot to learn about carried trauma because now I know the grief I feel is not just mine it goes back at least 4 generations. When no one acknowledged the pain and loss in our family, especially after Dad died and Mum made me go far far away I was often forced to carry it all alone and even when I came back home and tried to get family to see it, I was just told to put it aside or some other crap, or punished or sidelined for feeling emotions.
Sad to say my Mum’s grief killed her in the end and my sister’s ungrieved losses have led her to become a pharmaceutical drug addict (sorry if this seems harsh but when psychiatrists just advocate meds and not an ounce of therapy I see that as toxic and grossly ill infomed.)
Today I can call out the truth I see. I can stop blaming myself for never ‘making it’ or ‘lacking ambition’ (this later diagnosis comes from my brother a complete over achiever who dissociates through alcohol and overworking). That said in our society when its all about externals how exactly do we go about getting our inner pain acknowledged and if we don’t look back and find out about what losses or illnesses dogged past family in terms of geneology we also avoid critical information that may help us come to terms with what is buried or carried by those of us who are, particularly now, tasked with bringing light to the family unconscious as well as turning around old patterns and releasing stored pain and shame.
There is a way to love ourselves through all of this healing for we are not bad for having been wounded or learned maladaptive ways of coping. The point is to acknowledge the truth and not let it hold us back in self fullfilling prophecies. Bev speaks in her book on anxiety of being mindful of the language we use in nailing reality.. Saying things like “its all too hard”, “things will never get better”, “I am just a complete fuck up”, “he’s a total brat” don’t help us to deal with anything, and they don’t help us to focus on solutions if they exist in the present. Feelings are also driven by the way we think about and name things, which is another point she makes and something therapist Sheri Van Dyck, MSW addresses at length in her book on calming our emotional storms.
Going gently in our healing is possible only when we love ourselves and also realise that healing and becoming aware of our patterns of thought and reaction takes time and is a work in progress. One helpful saying from 12 step recovery says we focus on ‘progress rather than perfection’. Progress for some of us who get trapped in fear flight fight reactions to trauma may actually be NOT EXERCISING BUT SITTING DOWN TO MEDITATE OR READ A BOOK OR EVEN BAKING A CAKE. Anything that can put us in touch with the part of us that may be anxious and helping it to calm is going to be more productive than just running around like a headless chicken.
Coming to know ourselves and love ourselves in recovery takes time for those of us who were told who we are is not enough. The insight that we could be loved unconditionally by God may be a difficult one if we were only praised for how well we could perform or gear ourselves around other’s needs which often happens if we were born to self involved or addictive parents.. Getting to know our heart and the fear or anxiety or pain we carried since childhood may take time, but healing opens when we find a way to present for ourselves in any weather, not shaming ourselves but offering ourselves the love, understanding, empathy and presence we (as well as our parents, grandparents and ancestors) were probably never shown in childhood.