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Posts Tagged ‘self-hate’

Several comments on my blog lately have touched upon the issue of self hate. Self hate is a very common aftereffect of child abuse. In fact, it is so common that Compassion and Self Hate by Theodore I. Rubin is the one book that my therapist strongly urged me to read. It is not the most smoothly written book that I have ever read, but the content is great.

The themes of the book are similar to the parable of the good and evil wolf. The book talks about how we each have a battle going on inside of us between self-compassion and self-hatred. Compassion always triumphs over self-hate, but before it does, the self-hate will have a final rally and fight with all that it has inside. That is the time when it is more important to keep fueling that compassion or self-love. Otherwise, you can wind up sliding right back to where you were, hating yourself instead of loving yourself.

I have noticed several readers posting comments about hating themselves or various aspects of themselves. As the book points out, our natural state is self-love. Self-hatred is actually contrary to how we were designed to feel about ourselves. However, the child abuse warped our self-perceptions, causing us to internalize our abusers’ views of ourselves.

When you are in a perpetual state of hating yourself, it is hard to imagine actually loving yourself. It is doubly hard to imagine that loving yourself is a more powerful force because your self-hatred feels so all-consuming. However, I can tell you from firsthand experience that this is true. If you will feed the good wolf and choose to be kind and compassionate to yourself, your compassion will win. However, before it does, the self-hatred will rally back. You have to keep fighting back, being kind and gentle with yourself, to break through the self-hatred and enter into the wonderful world of self-love and acceptance.

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Child in cabin (c) Lynda BernhardtWhen I was a child, I rarely got sick. It was a good thing because there was nobody to nurse me back to health, anyhow. However, as an adult, as I moved toward facing my history of child abuse, I became sick a lot.

I used to have one serious illness after another. I would get the flu, which would go into bronchitis. I had multiple sinus infections. I stayed sick, which drove my husband absolutely up the wall. (He is hardly a nurturer.)

I would get extremely ill each time I started a new job. I used to joke that I was allergic to first days because I would get very ill. I started one new job with a stomach virus. I had bronchitis for the start of two others. You really cannot call in sick for the first day of work, but you also cannot be vomiting all over the person who is training you, either. It was a terrible situation.

I would sometimes break out into hives for no apparent reason, especially if it was the worst possible time, such as the day of a test. I would break out into eczema rashes in the most difficult places, and it would not clear up for months on end.

When I was finally ready to enter into therapy, I lost my voice – not once but five times. My therapist said it was a fitting metaphor because for most of my life, I had no voice.

My therapist recommended that I read the book Compassion and Self Hate by Theodore I. Rubin. I was shocked to learn that my own self-hate was fueling all of this illness. The book drove home that extreme self-hate can manifest as physical illness. I did not realize just how much self-hatred I harbored until making that connection.

Since I have chosen to love myself, I rarely get sick anymore. In fact, this sinus infection has been my first illness this cold & flu season (I mean in the season that has already ended). Even when hub got one strain of the flu and my son got the other, I stayed healthy. It is amazing how deeply our minds and bodies are connected.

Related topic:

Trauma Tuesday: Traumatized Children and Frequent or Inconvenient Illnesses

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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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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Frog statue (c) Lynda BernhardtLast week, I focused on my perceived lack of social graces and how it was making me feel like a fish out of water. I had a near panic attack going to a birthday party last week, even though two of my good friends were throwing it for their sons, whose birthdays are only a few days apart. I had a bunch of close friends there, but that didn’t matter. I had to take over-the-counter medication to calm myself down so I could even attend.

One of my friends noticed that I wasn’t quite right and asked if I was okay. Of course, I started crying. I couldn’t talk about it there, or I knew I would fall apart. I made a joke about inheriting my sister’s social anxiety disorder, to which she replied that at least I was comfortable in social settings. That made me laugh.

I still cannot quite pinpoint what got me so worked up. I was triggered – obviously – but I cannot exactly say what needed (or still needs) healing. All I know is that I felt a lot of shame, even though I know I have no reason to feel shameful.

I didn’t feel “normal,” and that dredged up all of my childhood insecurities of not fitting in anywhere. A wise friend reminded me recently that there is no “normal” and that we fit in as well as we believe that we fit in. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

I am “normal” in that I am a “normal” trauma survivor. A part of myself longs to be “normal,” defined as “fitting in” with those around me. And yet, I question if that should be my goal. Do I really want to spend an hour discussing the pros and cons of choosing off-white versus eggshell for the trim in my kitchen? No, honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I don’t give a #$%&. It’s all white to me.

For some reason, I was deeply triggered, and it shook my confidence in myself. I questioned whether being me was enough. The bottom line is that I am who I am, and that is not going to change. I can pretend to be another person, just as I did for most of my life, but that won’t make me “normal.” That’s just a mask. I don’t want to wear a mask any longer.

It seems like the people who are “normal” just want to be “superheroes,” and those who are “superheroes” just want to be “normal.” Most people do not seem to be happy with who they are. But the bottom line is that it does not matter if I am viewed as “normal,” “abnormal,” or a “superhero.” I can only be me.

And when it comes down to it, it is only my opinion of myself that matters. If I told my friends that I was feeling insecure about myself, they would rally around me and tell me how much they care. But I know from experience that I will not feel their love unless I first love myself. This isn’t about anyone else – it is about me.

I am probably overanalyzing myself and my reaction, in part because I don’t like feeling so badly. The bottom line is that only I can choose to accept or reject myself. No matter which path I choose, the opinions of everyone else are not going to change how I feel about myself. It’s up to me to decide what “normal” is for me and embrace myself, regardless of how I measure up to anyone else.

Related topic:

Warped Reality of the Abused Adopted Child

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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