We have an understandable and not helpful mechanism of blaming and pushing ourselves. We think this will help us fix things. It is rooted in our survival instinct and primitive brain.
When we are children, we blame ourselves for everything that is going wrong in our lives because it is too risky to see and acknowledge the truth. It is not our fault. Our adults, not children, are responsible for our environment. Parents act out of their own unhealed trauma. They are frozen or raging, absorbed in work, addicted or mentally ill. We are powerless to change it because it is not ours to own. Yet change is so important to us!
Blaming ourselves gives us a bit of hope and agency. If we just were quieter or smarter or less disgusting … everything would be okay. They would pay attention to me. They would stop hurting me. They would protect me.
Acknowledging the truth and accepting feelings of powerlessness is a foundation for healing. And it is nuanced and complicated and scares us. We don’t want to feel it so we push it away.
One of the hardest things we can do is to soften towards ourselves because it goes against this survival drive in our primitive brain. Self-compassion, kindness and accepting ourselves feels dangerous so in comes the inner critic to protect us.
“You don’t deserve happiness. Look how you’ve harmed people.” We might have actively hurt people through a rage response or allowed harm because we were frozen and in denial. That’s tough to let in and acknowledge.
“I am full of regret and guilt about what happened and I no longer shame myself for being human.” We might be able to feel softness and compassion for ourselves that we were suffering. We were unconscious. We didn’t realize how it worked and how we were harming ourselves and others.
As a child, we didn’t have enough safety and connection. Our brains were really affected. Our nervous system is easily alarmed and we are hypervigilant. This persists and drives so much of what happens in our adult life.
It is common to feel compassion for a friend or someone we love if they were in a similar situation but we can’t feel it for ourselves. Hardening against ourselves is a trauma response. Now, as an adult, it helps to cultivate a willingness to be present with ourselves and to fully recover in spite of the resistance we feel to this.
You must have a deeply held belief that you are worth kindness and compassion or you would not be reading this. Notice and appreciate that in yourself.
“Deep down, I know I am worth love and compassion. I am willing to try.” What does that feel like in your body right now?
Last week, we did these five practices from Monday to Friday in the online daily practice. Do the inquiry practices yourself and see what happens.
I always love hearing from you. Please comment on the YouTube practice or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.