Healing the Pain Body with Self-Compassion
About 6 years after my Awakening, I walked into a psychotherapist’s office for the first time.
It’s hard to believe that I’d never been to see a therapist before. Like many other empaths and sensitives, I’d quietly suffered through a lot of betrayal, pain and abusive relationships before I knew any better.
But now I was frustrated. I felt stuck in a cycle of self-sabotage. Despite all my efforts at Mindfulness and all those hours meditating, I was still being undermined by my pain body.
At the time I didn’t understand the idea of projection. I wasn’t aware how I was acting out of my conditioning and projecting past trauma onto present circumstances. All I knew was that I was getting in my own way and I was sick of it.
During our first session, my therapist said something to me I’d never heard before.
That’s because until that point, I’d been doing all my inner work by myself, with the help of spiritual self-help books. What I heard that day never appeared in the print of any book I read, nor left the lips of any person who supposedly cared about me.
And it was exactly what I needed to hear for a profound healing crisis to begin.
You see, before then I’d been trying desperately to heal my heart at the level of mind.
I’d read hundreds of spiritual books by now and sat through thousands of hours of meditation. I felt that if I could just focus on being present in the now, I could train my pain to go away. That I could re-program my thoughts, like many do, by sheer will, with affirmations. That I could shift beyond feeling angry and resentful towards myself by telling myself those horrible things I’d been through didn’t matter.
And yet, that clearly wasn’t working.
Don’t get me wrong, I was very good at dissociating. I had always been good at detaching from my issues or finding ways to escape from them. But by now I had enlisted my intellect to do it instead of drugs or alcohol.
My new spiritual vantage point could easily explain away what I’d been through. I excused my abusers for acting unconsciously or out of their programming. I intellectualized my feelings and thought if I just continued to observe as the Witness, my pain would remain at a distance. That I’d find my peace with it.
Until something would trigger me.
Then I’d get all unraveled and painful memories would come flooding back. My heart raced, pumping cortisol gave me the shakes. I would ruminate in shame for hours over the slightest mistake. What’s worse is that underneath all the fluffy self talk, I still disliked myself.
No amount of meditation or self-talk could bring me back to center. It felt like my emotions had their own neural network, and I couldn’t unplug from it.
Until the day I walked into that therapist’s office.
Self-compassion is the antidode to shame.
After talking with me a little about the kinds of experiences I’d had in my youth that I was carrying around with me, he softened his gaze and said, “Wow, Debra, you’ve been through a lot.”
I know what you’re thinking, that being made to feel like a victim isn’t very empowering.
But it was the first time I’d ever felt this kind of compassion towards me. Raised in a household that shamed us into obedience, I certainly wasn’t very patient with myself.
How else was I supposed to crawl out of a pit of hostility and repressed self-pity without accpeting that it was okay to FEEL victimized.
At least for a short time.
Before I left his office that day, my therapist gave me homework. Pointing to a statue of Quan Yin on his bookshelf, he said, “She’s the Chinese goddess of mercy and self-compassion. I want you to go home and contemplate Quan Yin. Be gentle with yourself.”
So I went home and sat with my feelings of being betrayed and abused, especially by people who were supposed to protect me when I was young. Each time I heard my inner critic’s voice, the one who said I was a weak and bad person, that I’d deserved what happened to me, that I should be ashamed for the circumstances I put myself in, I contemplated Quan Yin and the idea of self-compassion.
This frequent repetition of contemplating self-compassion brought me to a stage of grieving, and eventually an authentic acceptance of some the things that I had gone through in my youth.
But I didn’t identify with the victim mentality. I didn’t cling to it as if it were a long lost part of me. I visited that dark cave for a short while, just enough to shift the frequency of shame I was holding onto.
As I let the tears fall without stopping them and mentally gave myself a hug, I had a revelation. In that dark womb-like cave, I came to recognize that shaming myself was a pattern I’d modeled after my parents. Not very original, is it?
The Healing Crisis of Self-Compassion and Grief
I’ve since come to understand that it’s absolutely necessary to spend some time grieving for parts of ourselves that have been hurt. To grieve for that loss of innocence that comes with being betrayed and disappointed by people we trusted.
I’m not saying this is where we should remain. Societies filled with victimized, angry and resentful people do not make productive, enlightened societies.
But to get through to the other side isn’t about denial, repression, or thinking our way out of it. We have to dive in and take an active role in re-parenting ourselves with self-compassion.
Not by excusing or intellectualizing. Not by dancing around it and only observing our trauma from afar. But by giving ourselves a big hug and acknowledging our pain. By saying “I’ve been through a lot. No wonder I feel the way I do. It’s natural and ok.”
Otherwise we are just unconsciously acting out the abuse cycle. When we refuse to acknowledge our feelings of pain, disappointment and betrayal, we are invalidating those exact same parts of ourselves that were first invalidated by our abusers.
It also leads to a chronic numbing of the emotions and prologned states of apathy and depression because we become disconnected from our feelings this way.
Self-compassion is a Healing Frequency
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “You have to feel it to heal it”. For me, sitting with my feelings brought about a shift from resentment to grief within a few days.
To this day it feels like walking through a wall. Once I truly allow a feeling its time to just ‘be’, it will shift and let go of its grip on me, changing from something addictively magnetic to something milder and more diffuse.
For many of us with strong, driven type A personalities, allowing our feelings to surface seems like an indulgence we can’t afford. We’ve always pushed through with mental discipline to achieve the next goal. We dig in our heels, grit our teeth and put our pain aside to do what is necessary.
What I’ve learned is that grit doesn’t jive well with emotional healing. Lasting healing requires surrender, not pushing through.
But more importantly, it is the frequency of love and compassion that heals the pain body. It is what is summoned during Shamanic ceremony and Soul Retrieval to heal soul loss. It’s what’s channeled in energy healing like Quantum Touch and Reiki. It’s is also what’s re-programmed into the energy body via the meridians in EFT.
Remember, frequency cannot be reached with the mind. We must resonate with Love for ourselves, despite our wounds.