Posts Tagged ‘being kind to self’

Man on bike (c) Lynda BernhardtWhen a person chooses to heal from child abuse, the biggest hurdle that he faces is the momentum of a lifetime of thinking about himself in a certain way. It is second nature for a child abuse survivor to put an enormous amount of energy into hating himself. Healing from child abuse involves doing the exact opposite, which is learning how to love yourself. This can be hard to do.

It is kind of like turning a big ship around. When you turn the wheel, the ship is not going to do a 180 right away. It is going to take some time. First, the ship has to slow down. Then, as it slows, it can begin changing direction. As it turns into the way that it needs to go, you can once again pick up speed in the right direction.

I have found that, to heal many aspects of my child abuse history, I had to begin by slowing down the negative stuff before I could implement the positive stuff. For example, to heal my negative associations with sex, I could not suddenly wake up one day and say that sex went from making me feel badly about myself to feeling great. Instead, just removing the negative energy and becoming neutral about sex slowed the ship, enabling me to begin turning it around.

I have applied this to many areas of healing, including self-injury and an eating disorder. Sometimes the most kind thing I can do for myself is to slow the negative progression. Then, as the negativity slows, it leaves room to start adding some positive energy to the situation.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Purple flowers (c) Lynda BernhardtWhen I was in therapy, my therapist recommended that I read the book Compassion and Self Hate: An Alternative to Despair by Theodore I. Rubin. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has suffered from abuse.

The crux of the book is that each of us has a battle going on inside of ourselves between self-compassion and self-hate. No matter how powerful our self-hate is, our self-compassion will always win because being loving and compassionate toward yourself is your true nature. It is basically the same message as learning how to feed the right wolf. I have come to realize that this was my issue last week when I was struggling with all of the social graces and not feeling “normal.”

It is humbling to realize how easily I can slip back into old patterns, even after years of healing work. Hating myself was my normal state for most of my life. So, when I was triggered, it felt very comfortable to slip back into that pattern. Nothing in my life had changed – it was an internal shift. I chose to feed the “wrong” wolf, even though this happened at a subconscious level. I am happy to say that, now that I recognize what I was doing, I am sending big fat, juicy steaks to my “good wolf” and putting the “evil wolf” on a diet.

Every minute of every day, we make choices about how we feel about ourselves. We can choose to tell ourselves that we are stupid, abnormal, unlovable, or a wide variety of other self-hating messages, or we can choose to love ourselves exactly as we are. I am, once again, choosing to love myself. It does not matter if other people find things about me that do not meet their “standards.” I meet my own standards, and that is all that matters.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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