Why self compassion helps us more than ‘self esteem’

Self esteem in later years has been touted as the be all and end all to good mental health and raising healthier children, but is it really, or in our focus on raising self esteem are we really teaching that the true basis of self worth, (which involves acceptance of the fact we cannot always be the biggest or ‘best’ someone) lies in becoming more outer directed and narcissistic rather than inwardly compassionate and empathetic to our own and other’s common humanity which involves a spectrum of all kinds of achievement and non achievement?

It’s a question I have been thinking about, now midway through Christine Neff’s book on self compassion.   She explains how self esteem is often about feeling that our worth is based on measurable things or behaviour, rather than intrinsic sense not only of our own worthiness but of our limitations and foibles as well.  If we think we need to perform in certain ways in order to raise our self esteem and be considered ‘worthy’, accepted or deserving we end up becoming quiet  outwardly oriented, rather than a inwardly focused in sense of  inward security.    We can also become less compassionate.

In counter balance to this self compassion enables us to embrace the whole of our selves even when we may fail to reach goals or act in certain ways not associated with high self esteem.  Self compassion enables us to embrace ourselves in the tough moments and surround ourselves in a blanket of care when we may feel sore or hurting.

The three foundations of self compassion, according to Neff are :

  1. Self kindness.   A sense of being gentle with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgemental.   Finding ways to self soothe and tap into what Neff calls ‘the mammalian – system’.  Doing this has been proven by research to raise oxytocin levels (the hormone of love and bonding) which also raises feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness while helping us feel warmth and compassion for ourselves.  In contrast habits of self-criticism have been shown to trigger the amygdala and raise our blood pressure, adrenaline and production of the stress hormone cortisol, in turn activating our fight flight brain.  Self criticism also lights up different areas in our brain increasing our stress levels.  Self kindness and self soothing is demonstrated by saying kind soothing things to ourselves in times of stress.  This is really hard right now.  I am with you.   This will hurt for a while but in time the hurt will pass.  It involves tuning in with awareness to how you are feeling or being triggered at that moment, what you are observing, what you are needing and what you require.  When we are not being kind we ignore or dismiss these things maybe because that is what we learned to do as kids due to emotional abandonment, disconnection or neglect.   Working to change inwardly critical self talk is also a huge part of this first component of self compassion.
  2. Recognition of our common human experience.  So often in grief or depression a huge part of our suffering relates to the feeling that we are so deeply alone in this experience and so very far from human aid or care.  This may on many levels be the truth of how it was for us as children in homes where there was not much emotional care or presence or if we are trapped in relationships with non empathic, abusive people.   Post traumatic stress and complex PTSD can also make us feel so alone and terrified at the same time, terrified to reach out only to be hurt again.   We may feel that unlike the rest of the world we are less than or not entitled to care, concern or belonging, when really the truth is that others also struggle with these same feelings as us and we are all worthy of care love and concern.  Such feelings of isolation can then go along with the development of globally negative views about humanity and the state of things.  While it is true that there is so much suffering in the world, the truth is that there is care and kindness too.  However part of a deeply depressive non self compassionate mindset is that we are alone in this, we keep our focus only on the negative as well as those things that hurt, we fail to trust and reach out and understand our interconnectedness and in this state of mind our focus on bad feelings grows.  On the other hand when we realise we are part of a wider humanity in which suffering is an intrinsic part of life we develop more radical acceptance and are more likely to take steps to improve things at the same time as being fully aware of the global nature of suffering.  In reaching out to share or care we move past our disconnection or deep feelings of not belonging.
  3. Mindfulness In self compassion practice mindfulness refers to the clear seeing and non-judgemental acceptance of what occurs in the present moment, including our so called ‘negative’ or difficult states of mind and being.  To give ourselves compassion we have to notice that we are suffering rather than be reacting to our suffering by distancing and dissociating (all of which we cannot notice when we are not being mindful).  “We often fail to recognise feelings of guilt, defectiveness, sadness, loneliness, and so on, as moments of suffering that can be responded to with compassion….When your boss calls you into his office and tells you that your job performance is below par, is your first instinct to comfort yourself?… probably not.”   Being conditioned to ignore our pain, according to Neff means that we are physiologically programmed to avoid it. “Because of our tendency to turn away from pain, it can become extremely difficult to turn toward our pain, to hold it, to be with it as it is. ” When we do this we shut ourselves off from our true emotions and we also lose our ability to learn at a deeper level about the deeper nature of our experience and reactions.  In mindfulness we develop the ability to turn toward our pain, suffering or other bodily sensations becoming aware of them while not exaggerating them.  For example, we can become aware when an emotion such as anger is occurring for us by noticing we are clenching our jaw, feeling heat rise in our body,  feeling a desire to lash out.  In her book Neff gives the example of a man who endured long term emotional abandonment by his mother.  His therapy involved becoming aware of his acceptable anger without lashing out or acting it out in rage on his mother.  With the use of mindfulness as well as the loving presence of his therapist he was able to feel and understand the basis of his anger and become attentive to what it was saying.  He was also in time able to see how his mother’s abandonment was not necessarily associated with a lack of love for him but was due to her doing what she thought was necessary.  He was able to share his real feelings with his mum in such a way that he expressed them, rather than depressed them and they were heard.  Mindfulness was central to this process.  “We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full.”  (Marcel Proust, quoted on P. 118 of Self Compassion)

Mindful ways of working with pain are shared in detail in chapter 5 of Christine Neff’s book, which I highly recommend, she also goes in to more detail about the two other basics of self compassion I have shared in this post.  I have been using a lot of the self compassion practices myself lately,  I used them today when I went for my yearly breast cancer follow up screen check and I was able to calm myself when the therapist left the room for a long tme leaving me alone after telling me I may have a cyst in my breast.

I do believe that self compassion in my own case is far more important to me than high self esteem.  Self compassion gives me a way to be with what is occurring in love and acceptance.  It helps me understand myself and others better.  It is a practice I am very grateful to have found.  It is a practice I want to share more about in upcoming posts.

Self compassion helps us to understand that we are lovable as we are, even if we don’t achieve big things, it teaches us that its okay not to be perfect, to mess up and make mistakes.  It isn’t an excuse for bad behaviour but it is a way of allowing ourselves to soften and go more gently not only with ourselves but also with our fellow humans as we recognise how much we all struggle in the earthly sphere of life where there is often suffering and things are far from ideal and perfect.  It can also encourage to keep growing and be kind in that process rather than self punishing.

Core trauma and core sentences : addressing carried ancestral or parental trauma and pain.

Many of us have core thoughts or beliefs, often fuelled by past pain, losses, trauma or fear which run over and over like an ongoing monologue either at the level or just below the level of consciousness.  We may not be fully aware of them.  We may not be fully aware of where they come from.  Not knowing our parents or grand parents or great grand parent’s history (about which they often remained silent) we may not realise that they actually relate back to something – a loss, trauma, illness or injury that happened in past generations.  They may then fuel our lives in painful ways causing much havoc.

This blog is a continuation of earlier ones I wrote last week on the subject of ancestral healing  Its something I became aware of in my own life through intuition as I learned more about past traumas on my mothers’s side of the family after I got sober in 1993.  I was aware when I began to attend Al Anon after many years in AA that my addiction was a family inheritance, something passed down in some way.  It wasn’t until I was given access by chance to information about my great great grandfather’s history of addiction, loss, grief and eventual abandonment that I began to join up some of the dots.  That is why I was so excited to finally read Mark Wolynn’s book on ancestral pain and healing It Didn’t Start With You last week.  

In an early chapter of his book, Mark tells the story of a young (19 year old man) called Jesse who at that age suddenly began to experience panic attacks which involved his body feeling covered with cold and shaking.  On exploring the family history Mark found out that Jesse had an uncle who died at the age of 19 after falling down face first in the snow.  Jesse at the same age of his uncle’s trauma was re-experiencing the symptoms and emotional as well as physical pain of his uncle. Once the connection to his ancestor’s pain was acknowledged and healing work was done to make a separation Jesse’s symptoms and panic attacks subsided.

The second story Mark tells of a woman who began to feel suicidal at a certain age.  She would be overcome with the worst depression and say to herself “I just want to incinerate myself”.  Turns out a host of her relatives had actually been gassed in the gas chambers by the Nazi’s during World War II.   The family history was hidden and never spoken of but this woman carried the painful feelings of longing to die which hit around the age some of her relatives were killed.

There are too many other powerful stories of healing in Mark’s book to relate in this one post and I have a limit tonight on what I can transcribe.  What I would like to address is that so often pain we carry may not only be ours.   It may have roots in childhood but often the childhood relates in some way to the past of a parent or grandparent that was transferred.  According to Mark if the there is a murder or other legacy of guilt in a family a later member may be urged to attone for that guilt or murder.

What is required to free ourselves from such unconscious repetition compulsions and carried ancestral trauma bonds is the ability to honour the ancestor’s pain and give the guilt or grief back to whom it belongs.   To this end Mark suggests the following ways of handing back and releasing ourselves from ancestral pain so we no longer need to carry on the unhappiness, grief or guilt that didnt start with us.

Visualise the family member or members involved in the (traumatic) event.  Tell them : “You are important.  I will do something meaningful to honor you.  I will make something good come out of this tragedy.  I will live my life as fully as I can, knowing that this is what you want for me.”

Construct a personal language or healing sentences to counteract the destructive power of damaging ones.  In this language acknowledge the unique connection you share with the person or people.

In addition you can use the following healing sentences :

“Instead of reliving what happened to you, I promise to live my life fully.”

“What happened to you won’t be in vain.”

“I will use what happened as a source of strength.”

“I will honor the life you gave me by doing something good with it.”

“I will do something meaningful and dedicate it to you.”

“I will not leave you out of my heart.”

“I’ll light a candle for you.”

“I’ll live my life in a loving way.”

“I will make something good come out of this tragedy.”

“Now I understand.  It helps me to understand.”

Mark give additional practices in the next part of the book which involve keeping a photo and working to return guilt or pain to its original source. Lighting candles to honor the journey of our ancestors,  Visualising and creating boundaries and distance between the ancestor’s or parent’s pain and keeping that boundary clear and clean while honoring their loss, pain or trauma.

Additional practices involve connecting with our own bodies to honour our integrity and self as we learn to achieve a psychic wholeness and deepening connection within.  I shared one of these in an earlier post today.  The involve putting a hand on our body, breathing deeply while saying the following :

“I’ve got you.”

“I’m here.”

“I’ll hold you.”

“I’ll breathe with you.”

“I’ll comfort you.”

“Whenever you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed, I won’t leave you.”

“I’ll stay with you.”

“I’ll breathe with you until you are calm.”

When we place our hands on our body and direct our words and breath inside, we support the parts of ourselves that feel most vulnerable.  In doing so, we have a chance to erase or release what we experience as intolerable.  Long standing feelings of discomfort can give way to feelings of expansion and well-being.  As the new feelings take root, we can experience ourselves being more supported in our body.

Such ways of being with our selves and supporting our bodies provide for us a holding environment and counter act dissociation or an attempt to move away and self reject or self abandon.  We may never have learned this way of coping or self soothing before but now we can.  We truly can be present for us and send our own body all the love, support, comfort and healing we need for our journey of separating from old pain we should not have to carry onward.

Moving towards our happy

The following quotes from the third story of recovery from BPD in Beyond Borderline : ‘ I Am Not Just a Box in the DSM-5’ really spoke to me.  It’s full of truth and hope for recovery.  Facing our darkness is the way we move towards the light.   It is something I so firmly believe.

Mostly I was hell bent on protecting my own misery, because it was the only dependable companion I had ever known.  Even if I think back to my “happy” high school years, that self critical, loathing voice was my closest companion.

Driving a wedge between my true self and this negative, hate-fuelled version of myself was a truly Herculean effort.  It took years to put enough space between the two selves for me to even begin to reecognize the existence of this voice.  It took months of true ambivlence about life to wake up one morning and look at myself in the mirror and see the utter defeat and sadness that had taken over.  It took another round of treatment in an alcohol facility to grasp some whisp of hope that if I could cut the shit, stop the self destruction, I could have a better life.  My true self deserves better.  The little girl who danced around effortlessly in pink and purple sparkles deserves better.  The girl who talked to strangers, just because, deserves better…..

I honestly dont know how I survived all the torture I put my body through.  I don’t know that I believe in a ‘higher power’.  I don’t believe in fate…. But there has to be some greater purpose to my life that what it has been so far.  And in my darkest of days – of which there have been many – I have always found solace in the small ways of making life better for other people.  So if my story, if my pain, can help save someone else from making the same mistakes I have, then I guess it was worth it.

Today I woke up energetic.  Today I did not plot how I could become invisible.  I can once again look people in the eye.  Don’t get me wrong – I still have my moments of despair. …. But I can look in the mirror and see beyond all the psychiatric and other sorts of labels that people have ascribed to me.  Yes I may be a borderline, raging alcoholic, depressive, former anorexic patient. But I am also a friend.  A daughter.  A sister. A niece. A cousin. A soon to be teacher.  A life long student.  I am becoming dependable.  I am ambitious  I am intelligent.  I am a woman.

My life and path followed a dark, twisted road.  But each wrong turn has made me stronger.  At the end of the day I am who I am today because of what I lived through. Some day I will be able to look at it all and be grateful….When that day comes I may just surprise myself and be happy to be me, in spite of any box the world tries to put me in.

Cultivating peace

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It is occurring to me lately that cultivating peace on any day is something I can choose to do.  I would rather feel the soft cool balm of peace washing over my troubled soul at those times when it may be hurting or aching.  I would rather answer that cry of regret or feelings of not good enough or criticism with a soothing caring word from self that lets me know that having it all together is not the answer to peace and happiness for me in the present moment, rather that answer lies in peace and at oneness, acceptance of the fact that life can at times be full of pain and far from easy.

Past years have shown me beyond any doubt how hard I can be on myself inside my head.  I didn’t hear voices of self compassion growing up.  I was alone a lot with my thoughts and I felt an emptiness from my parent’s emotional distance which I now know went back to disconnection from their own parents and having to mature at a time of great emotional turmoil in both their worlds affected by traumas beseiging their families due to war and other difficulties.

What I did develop in this environment was a sense of being alone and not knowing where to turn but to substances.  I also became very critical inside my head.  Because I did not know how to manage, nor who to ask I just took myself off and diverted or buried feelings.  Even in my sobriety as trauma began to emerge I started to feel and hear a very destructive inner voice telling me to take my life.

I will post a post after this which comes from a recovery story in the book Beyond Borderline in which a sufferer speaks of how she struggled with her own inner critic. Those of us recovering from Complex PTSD which is a wider less stigmatising diagnosis that could be an umbrella under which others such as Bi Polar and Borderline could fall have deep work to do with the inner critic in recovery.  The inner critic doesn’t accept anything, it judges which is different from discriminating between helpful and unhelpful responses to trauma.  It runs an ongoing monologue of all the ways we have failed, fallen short and not measured up without considering that we lacked certain skills or support.

The antidote to the inner critic is a wise mind loving compassionate voice which is more realistic and understands how we have suffered.  It understands that we have only fallen short of arbitrary standards that are not necessarily realistic nor kind.  It allow for us to progress rather than demanding us to be perfect.  This is the voice that gives us peace, that helps us to cultivate peace.  This is the voice we need to listen to keep our lives in love and balance, rather than full of pain, fear and destabilisation.

I do believe what we choose to focus on grows in our life.  My work with a trauma body therapist involves putting the focus on goodness or pleasant feelings and sensations or things in the environment, not purely as a distraction to pain but as a reminder of what good still lives on outside a traumatised reality.  In many instances the trauma or pain we carry is not even ours, it belongs to the ones who passed it on or the ones that passed it onto them.  We can learn to give this pain back where it belongs and I will write about this soon in a post which shares the work therapist Mark Wolynn does with recognising core trauma and fears we take on from the past.   We are not meant to live a life of constant fear, pain and insecurity but this is what we will find if we keep our focus on it.

In touch with ourselves

Eternity

Just after I post a post on my blog I often find there comes into my mind a contrary view.  It could be something to do with the way I view the world, constantly questioning views and looking to see what lies on the other side.  In my last post I spoke about consistent loving emotional presence as an antidote to the agony, trauma, pain and suffering of BPD.  But after posting it I had a thought how the deepest connection we really need at any moment is to the compassionate wise loving self inside, that can so often be obscured by the inner critic and demoniser that lives inside painting everything black.

I had a really healing day with my Mum yesterday. I took her to the shops so she could buy a card for a friend’s 90th birthday.  We just strolled around a little as its hard for Mum to walk these days and then we sat down at the cafe in our local centre and had a piece of sour cherry and almond loaf with a juice.  We spoke of so many things.  I held her hand, I cried, I felt all the pain of our past and all we had lived through conflicts and fears as well as struggles and tears but also love.   I then drove her home and did some pottering in my garden.  My sleep was not too long in coming and it was deep with a few short break awakenings which is not how it has been over the past few nights where I woke up feeling swollen with undigested feelings and food on the days I connected with no one.

When I woke I thought of how in his book Mark Wolynn speaks of connecting to ourselves by placing a hand on our heart and just saying “I am here”.  I awake every morning with startle PTSD symptoms of push pull with body sensations that would be too complex to explain here but this morning instead when I woke up I just put my hand on my heart and said to myself “I am here”  “I will never leave you.”

I felt better and got up and slowly pottered around the house and garden, did some cleaning.  I had my juice and fruit and then wrote two blogs and then had eggs on toast.  I got to thinking after I posted my last post on needing someone there 24/7i healing from emotional abandonment how the one person who can be there for us 24/7 is actually us.  We can learn to be the unconditional loving presence we need in our own lives.  We can take that burden off of others.  We can find a source of joy to connect to on any day, whether it is music or a song we like to sing, or to looking a thing of beauty or reading an inspiring post.  We can make our life happy and content from within.  But only after we have processed any past pain that stands in our way.  And for this we initially need another person’s unconditional loving presence to teach us how to do that and be there for ourselves in a loving way no longer so beseiged by an attacking destructive inner critic.

When we feel this connection from within our emptiness disappears.  The emptiness we feel in certain conditions is actually for many of us a signal of a past life in which we were not connected to emotionally and so could not feel filled up or ‘real’.  We need to heal that deep disconnection and find a way to connect emotionally from within so that emptiness is no longer a source of pain but a place in which we can explore depths of our souls best known in silence and later able to be shared with others.  The deepest connection we long for is really deep inside us.

A place within the pain to find a place outside the pain.

I awoke a little while ago to a golden morning.   I had such a fitful night last night.  I never take any medication but last night I took a Panadol hoping it would allow me to rest.  My body has been all over the place since the anniversary of my accident trauma.  I was also not fully aware of how much my nephew’s visit triggered and the aftermath of feeling.  I was up and down last night and had all the spasms and shock releases in my body which feels like it is trying to unwind.  I wind myself up in my mind with worry over my dog and my mother.  Despite the fact my relationship with my Mum is complex now she is aging so much and in pain I am full of care, this conflicts with feelings of frustration I have in longing for freedom from worry, care and trauma and anger I feel over past hurts.  But the truth is way more complex than I can fully express in any blog.  There are times I know she wanted to support me but since she struggles to accept her own emotions and responses (or does so under the cover of silence and protection like a lot of Scorpios) she hasn’t been able to validate me in the ways I wished, nor fully acknowledge her part.

I was watching the movie Thanks for Sharing for the second time on the weekend and I got triggered in the scene where the son of the older man in recovery confronts his Dad with hurt he caused him and his failure to apologise.  The father who was a big guy in recovery circles as well as full of AA platitudes and pearls of wisdom was being hypocrite pure and simple and refusing to face it.  I saw my self and how alone and emotionally devastated not getting the necessary apology leaves us.  It fucks with our heads as we question the truth and fear losing the parent’s love by confronting their defences with their shadow.

I have pretty much come to the point where I know now Mum wont own her own part in ways she abandoned me emotionally.  To do so she would have had to face her own history and lately she has shared that she was also emotionally abandoned, but the sorry for what she unconsciously did is never coming.  Sharing about it with my therapist the other day she said that she feels to my Mum I am the child inside her she had to cover over long ago and whose pain it hurts to face, sadly.  It takes so much courage and vulnerability to truly own where we fail, often due to unconsciousness.  Not getting that acknowledgement from any member of my family has been painful and difficult.  But at least now I know where NOT to look for it.

In a way I am glad I had no contact with my brother on his birthday.  His daughter shared with me a while back how shut down both her parents are.  She doesn’t blame them for her emotional abandonment and it is ongoing.   I think its a big step to really feel our anger over this, as it can be prohibited.  To stay trapped in anger though in time means a failure to accept and grieve a harsh reality that must be faced and grieved.  I feel in time I will be able to have an honest conversation about how I feel about how he is in terms of being as emotionally distant as my own father was.  He never got the help to face his softer needy side and his wife is furiously defended against her own in so many way too, but the truth is I don’t know her well.  She has always kept up a cold hard distance with the female side of my family, especially after my oldest sister’s breakdown and told her children to do the same.  That is another grief.  I know she has reasons to be angry at my Mum and they are valid.  Mum admits she was in the wrong but doesn’t really have empathy for my sister in law who lost her own mother when she was on the brink of adolescence.

Facing our grief and pain is huge work, I now see.  I feel we skirt around it for so long and as I write this that poem of Emily Dickinson comes to mind : there is a pain so utter it swallows substance up and covers the abyss with trance so we step above or around it (those are not the verbatim words but it goes something like that.)  The reason I think so many of us who carry abandonment trauma suffer and are sidelined by others is that they either have no idea of the devastation it causes or are so deeply invested in denying or covering over their own grief and pain that they can feel scared and threatened when we do and so do things to shut us down or shame us.  Then we can be labelled as ‘ill’ and medicated to shut the fuck up.  (Writing that last sentence I am also aware medications in many cases are used to soften the blow while inner work is prepared for but in many cases they are used to hide from it in the absence of inner reparative psychodynamic work and there is anger for my sisters in that sentence which I own fully!).

As I look back I see this ocean of deep grief and pain began to open up for me in 1999 when my ex husband and I were in the UK.  Facing the enormity of it scared me so I ran home to Australia and then hid out.  My husband and mother were trying to get me some help but I was resisting them a fair bit.  I ran back to the UK and then back to Oz and then back again when I was struggling to find a way to trust and move forward.  So in many ways the anger I have at my family not fully understanding is also anger of my inner child at the adult who would not take the right steps to care for her before. My grief and fear was so huge they were terrifying to face.   And so much went into the fire.

It was only the ending of the next relationship which freed me for the inner work and then my older sister died and that was so hard.  We got to reconnect for a short while with her sons and that opened up feeling but also more fear.  It has taken until this late Mercury retrograde transit to see how strong the Uranus rebellion streak has been in me and how deep the Plutonian deluge of ancestral pain that we carry as a family really is.  In many ways I am the shadow bearer for a lot of repressed energy so its no wonder I have struggled so much and been sidelined so many times by others who are ignorant, misunderstanding or misjudging.  And then I judged myself not seeing how big the task was or how well I was trying, until I found this last therapist who has just been so present, so adaptable, so open and so warm and caring, things I have never received much in my life before.  I come from such a constricted family that holds down so deep so much repressed life force and childlike joy and human wanting/needing, all of which I split off for so many years until now!  Was it any wonder I suffered from anxiety.  It was just repressed life force, wild horse energy in my beautiful body stampeding with hooves of wanting and desiring for release against huge forces of internalised repression!

Phew! Sun is literally streaming in on me at the moment and I awoke today and saw the beauty of my home, which has been such a cocoon and which I nearly discarded earlier in the year in quest of a space that was not the real me I am but the me I thought I should be to be better or neater or more in control.

On that subject last night after I got home I listened to the greatest conversation on radio with a student of ethics and philosophy on transcendant experiences.  What was being discussed was how much the rational enlightenment in the 17th century has stolen from us in terms of raising up qualities of self control, rationality as supreme, making us numb and blind on so many levels to nature and inner mystical worlds that our ancestors were more in touch with.  In the wake of this experiences of feeling connected to a greater power or peak experiences of seeing spirit in matter or feeling that vast overwhelming of love, luminosity and connection have become increasingly pathologised by the mainstream.

On the way home just a while before I had one of those experiences when I saw a hedge of the most glorious yellow wattle shining out at the side of the car.  I was overcome with the awareness of how much love there is in nature and of how much of our suffering is man made by the heroic questing ego that seeks power over nature instead of union with it.

When we fail to see the beauty in who we really are as natural beings, when we go deaf dumb and blind to sensitivities and feelings of connection or suffering, we shut down all that is most beautiful, honest, open and true in ourselves and others.  I know how many others there are out there who also suffering and in many ways our suffering in opening our hearts also connect us to each other.  When we resist that suffering or try to make a illness of it we cut ourselves away from love, life and light.

I saw so much light and love in that wattle yesterday.  I only saw it as I went to visit my Mum for an hour and we had a few moments of connection.  I connect to the pain in my Mum that she has had to deny for so many years.  Long ago as a child she was left alone without resources.  I see how she coped to the best she could.  It was NEVER enough for me but it was all she could do.  Facing the harsh reality of that means grieving not only for her but for all of my family.  It means not living in denial as so many of us do but it also involves realising the beauty that remains even amongst what at times seems to the rubble and wreckage that is left and it occurs to me as I read this back that grieving and feeling the pain is a form of transformation and birthing, it is a dying to the old past so a new present can rise up and live with more awareness of how deep losses and original injuries go.

What is most important for me at this stage of the road in my emotional recovery is self love not self denial or rejection.  I don’t like what I had to suffer and I wish it was different. I know I deserved more but maybe there was a deeper lesson or learning in every single thing I have gone through.  Making meaning of it, accepting what is, grieving the losses to realise what is most important, most luminous so I can come awake again and fully embodied in both my longing and my pain as well as my luminosity and joy, well to my mind that is essential work maybe not for everyone but most definitely for me.

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You are worthy

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I really should be getting my act together to walk my dog but I feel compelled to write this after spooling through my reader to read other follower’s blogs I follow.  It makes me so sad to read of the self rejection and even self hatred people can have for themselves in their lives when they are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress or any other kind of heavy emotional burden.  I personally know how much it crushes your soul (to say nothing of the effect is had on your spirit) when you try to express painful truths others don’t want to hear and try to silence in you.  Narcissists by their very nature will never own the fact that anything they did ended up wounding you.  In fact they get the shits that you dare to say they hurt you and in fact can’t you see how much you are hurting them by daring to even bring the subject up? How could you do this to me! Yawn.

My advice. Get the hell away from that shit.  Your pain needs to heard, it is real, you aren’t making it up.  You are not a malingerer for suffering from trauma.  You are not worth less or worthless. Your soul and body have been injured and scarred. That said are you going to beat yourself up all over again and treat yourself unkindly?  Please DONT DO IT!  Tell the inner and outer critics to take a hike and get off of your case.  In fact though in the end you find yourself letting go because when you argue you realise you are already off the side of self compassion and radical acceptance.  What do you have to prove??  Don’t keep beating your head against that brick wall.  It doesn’t know much about love!

You are not unworthy for suffering trauma.  You didn’t bring it on yourself.  You may however caused yourself more trauma by running in the wrong direction or seeking healing in the wrong places and that in itself is to my mind a sad symptom of emotional neglect, betrayal, abandonment and abuse.  And is the single agony fact behind why and how we get so stuck and some people never escape.  They end up going mad or killing themselves if they cannot get the truth out there or feel the feelings that others find too problematic due to being shut down themselves! Or else invested, for their own reasons in the can of worms being kept shut!

I do often wonder, much as the internet is criticised how so many of us would have survived as well if we did not have this medium and platform for self expression. Sadly it is a bit of a remote medium in that we don’t get to physically touch each other when we share and being touched, held, received, welcomed in our entire being and body is SO IMPORTANT in healing from trauma.  However we do get to voice it and that is a huge thing.  We get validation.  We get to know our pain is real. We get to express and not repress or depress it any more.

The only draw back may be that at times we go over and over and over the old wounds which may have the effect of making them deeper if we don’t at the same time have some love poured into those wounds. You know how a wound often smarts and stings just after it is fresh after you put some antiseptic on it.  It is singing out its pain as cells move into do the healing and ignite the inflammatory response.  Trauma is a super sonic kind of inflammation and one that can burn and burn and burn, but the burning in hurting is also a big part of the healing.  We are in the healing crisis of toxic repair.  We have to go through some pain and then we have to let the wound alone for a time so forces can work under the cover of darkness to repair.  Yes in the end we have a scar that bears a testament to what occurred and what we suffered. We then become what Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls ‘members of the scar clan’.  We bear our wounds and we can become the wound or we can decide that the wound is something we suffered and now bear the memory and evidence of but does not totally divine the deeper spirit in us which bears testament to it.  And its a fine line and in the end involves a conscious or unconscious decision about how we respond to the injuries.  No one outside of you can determine that outcome which is the result of a unique blend of factors that make you, you.

In my own case I would now rather say I have these wounds but there is more to me than them.  I would rather not keep running the wound over and over and over again.   I personally see where it takes me when that happens and its not into a good place and yet I still accept that to run the wound over and over is also a valid response to trauma. Part of the healing process involves going over and over what happened and experiencing the associated emotions and reactions until they transform or alchemise.

Whatever the case though, this is something I now know so deeply and powerfully that I must shout it out.  Whoever you are, whatever you have suffered, no matter what wounds, you are worthy, you deserve love.  You have a right to exist and be seen, and by God show yourself the respect and love you deserve by not allowing negative voices to take the power of this truth away from you.  For you are a beloved by life and to deny that love is to believe in a lie.