Compassion for ourselves and others can grow from the pain of our childhood.
“Often, our misunderstandings about love are born in disruptive family relationships, where someone was either one-up or one-down to an extreme. There is an appropriate and necessary difference in the balance of power between parents and young children, but in the best situations, there should be no power struggles by the time those children have become adults – just deep connection, trust, and respect between people who sincerely care about each other.
In disruptive families, children are taught to remain one-up or one-down into adulthood. And this produces immature adults who either seek to dominate others (one-up) or who allow themselves to be dominated (one-down) in their relationships – one powerful and one needy, one enabling and one addicted, one decisive and one confused. In relationships with these people, manipulation abounds. Especially when they start to feel out of control.” ― Tim Clinton
The Red Book of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) lists three ways we learn to disassociate from painful feelings. We learn to use: (1) rationalizing, (2) using substances. and (3) creating negative excitement such as phobias, obsessions, etc. These force the body to produce physical armor–adrenaline, endorphins, melatonin–to stay imprisoned in a narrow but familiar range of behavior.
So because I grew up in a home controlled by alcoholism, I learned emotionally how to create my own little cage that I lived in for over 60 years. I’m lucky. I learned how to come out of the cage and really be free. I meet others along my journey who have learned this complete release of the ties that bound us up inside ourselves. And they write about their journey in a way I can completely identify.
1. From laurieworks: “Just Keep Following (The Heartlines on Your Hands)“:
“I have struggled with anxiety for years. It came to the forefront when I stopped drinking, but it was there beforehand. I just had no awareness of it. When I stopped drinking, I got to see my anxiety front and center. I’ve had the chance to observe it the past almost 3 years. And as I do I realize it’s plagued me since I was a small child. I grew up in an atmosphere where I was only allowed to do things if they followed “the family rules” which were inconsistent and hard to determine. As a result I developed a ridiculously sensitive conscience and what I think is the origin of my anxiety.”
“Doing things in a self-empowered, heart-centered way is extremely foreign to me. Beginning last year in May/June, I started switching to this mode of life. It’s the reason I stopped going to 12 step recovery, stopped my love addiction recovery, started my yoga teacher training. I selected this teacher training mainly due to the empowerment aspect of it. I’m not seeking another person to tell me what to do. I’m seeking an empowered life.”
“It’s not easy. Because it requires finding the “still point in the turning world” (as e.e. cummings says) and rising out of the dark of that silence to quietly pursue what my heart prompts of me.”
“I have a different view of the heart, also. There’s millions of life coaches on the internet right now preaching following your desires, finding work you love, that kind of thing. While this has its merit, I think it can get a little skewed. Because in many ways I think you first have to reveal the heart. Which is another reason I took up Yoga. Yoga is all about learning to reveal the heart that lies beneath.”
“So yes, follow your bliss. But first – clear the mirror so you know what your bliss IS. That’s the message for me. Follow the bliss, from the True Self and the true heart center. Easy? Not necessarily.”
2. From Kristi Breugem:
For most of my life I have been a perfectionist. As I stated above, perfectionism creates unrealistic expectations and then feelings of failure. So, you can imagine that my critical self-talk was fairly intense for most of my life. When I was introduced to the concept of self-compassion my first thought was “obviously I do this – I love myself so I must talk to myself kindly.” Well was I wrong! When I started listening to the thoughts running through my head I realized that I was extremely critical towards myself. At this point my immediate reaction was shame. I went to a place of “if you really love yourself how could you talk to yourself this way?” and “You know better.” I was clearly not using the mindfulness skill of listening with a non-judgemental stance. Thus, began my journey to changing the critical voice in my head into a compassionate voice. This required an immense amount of reflection on why I speak to myself critically. It also required a conscious daily practice to challenge the negative self-talk and change it into compassion.
I can say that now, after time and practice, self-compassion is more natural to me. What I’ve noticed is that I am considerably happier in my every day life. When I am struggling and I use self-compassion I have noticed that my fear, pain, anxiety, or whatever strong emotion I am experiencing immediately decreases in intensity. I then feel that I can manage whatever struggle I am experiencing. I have also noticed that the times that I do not utilize self-compassion in times of struggles that I have a harder time accepting myself and the situation which then increases the intensity of my suffering. Utilizing self-compassion has changed the way that I see myself and the world. I find that I am more accepting of myself, which in turn means that I can connect to my worthiness and self-love. It is wonderful gift you can give yourself when you can be compassionate to yourself and connect to your worthiness. I hope this inspires you to take your own journey to self-compassion.