Our Need to Love Ourselves

“Love yourself. Love others. Give service.” says the guru to the student. “Love is all there is.” Is it that easy? Or is it a life-time process to learn what love is? How many layers do we need to dig through to get to Oz? And when we slide the curtain aside, we only find ourselves. We are the gatekeepers, but it is a journey to find the key.

From our abused childhoods comes suffering, blame and self-hatred. When we have been traumatized, many of our emotions, our sadness, anger, sorrow is associated with abuse. We condemn these feelings as weak because as children we were criticized and punished when we tried to express our hurt or pain to our parents. As children we suffer in silence, developing layers of protection and building walls around our hearts. We then reject feelings of any kind because it conjures up our body memory of deep pain, hurt and fear. We even reject love, because love is the healer and brings up what needs to be healed – pain and fear – and therefore, we begin to fear love. We can’t receive any kind of feeling because all feelings become pain. We don’t know how to love and have compassion for our victim feelings because we don’t know the difference between abuse feelings and the natural feelings that we have because we are human. We need to learn to love our wounded feelings in order to heal. We need to understand and accept that the more painful feelings emanate from abuse, and then we can start to create a new loving story for the victim child. These emotions are here for us to learn to love the child, the being, the soul that has been repressed ad unexpressed. The wounded child’s feelings need to be recognized and validated so his/her experiences can be received and witnessed as true. Only then can we grow our painful feelings into healthy expressions. Life is a process. Life is our therapy. If we examine our life and ask why this is happening from the victim who believes there is no way out, that we are doomed to repeat the pain, and blame and punish ourselves and others, then we hold to the belief that we are destined to be unhappy. But if we embrace the wounded part from our witness/adult, we can learn to treat ourselves with compassion. We are so misinformed about emotions that it has caused a frozen society, believing in our unworthiness to receive love. It is a journey to learn to love ourselves. And it is a choice to take this journey. It starts by allowing uncensored expression, no matter how dark or ugly; by understanding that these feelings lead us to knowing ourselves. That to know our true selves, whether we have been abandoned, neglected, ignored, have mental disorders, physical problems, emotional pain, dyslexia, anxiety or depression, that if we accept, own and love these shadow unhealed parts, we can and will find happiness. That we can use our so-called imperfections and transform them into life-giving choices. That our wounded feelings can be a doorway into learning unconditional love. We need to stop judging our experiences and  ignoring our victim. When we give the victim part of us attention in loving, creative expression we become more alive and caring. Instead of thinking our painful feelings are wrong, can we receive these feelings as a way to learn to love ourselves? Going numb to our feelings is not an option, blaming ourselves and others is not an option. Feeling our feelings and expressing them as our own with compassion is the bridge to our forgiveness.

It is hard to learn to love ourselves…particularly when there are so many wounds from your childhood. The lack of recognition and compassion for our pain from our families, teachers, friends and religious leaders is about their wounds, not ours. However we cannot save them, nor can they save us. It is a long road to recovery to heal our broken hearts. Healing takes time, attention and commitment to ourselves. Our pain runs as deep as our love. But the only place love starts is with ourselves. Loving ourselves doesn’t erase our past, it gives us the compassion to understand ourselves and the choices that bring us balance and integration.

Unfortunately, our families might not be the ones we can turn to, but they are the ones that have ignited our search for knowing love. It is a painful journey, and it is our journey. It takes time to build a container around our feelings so we can hold the intense energy to express them.  As we heal and learn to love ourselves, we release the pain in our hearts. Then we will be able to attract and grow love around us. In Clarissa Estes’ book Women Who Run with the Wolves, she says, “many times we have to go elsewhere to get our spiritual cookies,” meaning that our families are not always the ones who we will give us emotional and spiritual support. This constant pain and need to have our brother, sister or any family member love us, so we can then love ourselves, is in the truth, the search for our own self, our own hearts, our own soul.

It is an ancient knowing to acknowledge this process of love. A deep spiritual knowing and a mystery. What will it take for any of us to take the risk to learn to love? What are we willing to feel, express and ask for?

Change is Change. Love is Love. We need to begin somewhere. Begin with telling our darkest secrets, from our deepest places and begin to love those dark holes…and you will find the light waiting there…

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