In early recovery, both Bob and I turned towards the outdoors. Everything was better than staying inside, feeling trapped in old patterns. Bob soon found himself walking the rugged mountains of Andalusia, while I walked the Dutch polder landscape.
What we noticed, is that the cells in our body and our thoughts change when we are in nature. Our breathing changes and thus our heartrate. We release stress and our attention shifts; we become more aware of our senses and surroundings.
We can smell crushed thyme where we walk and hear the cries of birds between the trees. We feel the wind in our hair and see little insects flying and crawling along the path we walk. We enter the present moment, which is a place that we often want to turn away from, in addiction as well as in depression.
Walking is a good activity that we can use in our practice of mindfulness. Learning to stay in the present moment will help us greatly by surfing the waves of cravings, depression or anxiety. One step at a time, we turn the gaze on the direct experience and watch how our thoughts make a story around it. When we do that often enough, it becomes a new habit and by then we are able to distinguish the story from the experience.
The reality is always more friendly than our stories about it. A craving feels intense and almost impossible to resist, because we fear that it will take forever. However, in reality it only lasts a few minutes before it subsides. When we can stay fully present with the feelings or fears that torture us, we come home in ourselves. We come to a place of healing where we can be our own loving parent, take our hand and walk ourselves home.
Energy Medicine is a hands-on technique that works with the electro-magnetic field around us and is an important part of our recovery program, giving non-invasive pharmaceutical-free healing on all levels of our being, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. How this works, we will try to explain here shortly.
Although the shamans of the world know it for ten thousands of years and every mother since the beginning of time, it has taken a long time for science to unravel the working of Energy Healing. Finally it has come to an evidence-based understanding as discoveries in physics, biology and related disciplines have accumulated over the last decades. Modern physics has changed our view on reality immensely and validated ancient healing modalities that used to be considered as ‘unscientific’.
Energy Medicine works with the energy fields that make up the infrastructure of every body. Energy is not divisible into parts like the old paradigm of western medicine suggested, in contrary, we are a fluid world of radiating energy, continually changing; an ocean of particles of light, energy, and information. This isn’t limited to our body only. Thoughts, emotions, memories, behaviors and spirit are all interconnected patterns of energy too. When we are able to tap into a higher consciousness - the unified field where unconditional love resides- we are able to change the electro-magnetic energies, in which disturbances can be manifest even before any symptom is noticeable in the body.
The healing methods that we work with and that most people have heard of are Reiki and acupuncture. These have proven quite effective, as I have experienced myself, and we aim to teach our clients the principles so that they are awakened to their own healing capacity and empowered to heal themselves.
** For more information about the new paradigm of healing we highly recommend you to watch the documentary 'HEAL'.
Years I’ve struggled with feelings of guilt. I felt that I had failed as a human, unworthy. One day a friend pointed out that it was my limited self, my ego, that didn't allow me any failures or mistakes and prevented me from growing further, ‘out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing’. Whatever it was what had happened, I couldn’t make it undone, it was already woven in the tapestry of my life and the ones involved. These feelings of guilt kept me small and held me hostage in the past. Even worse, I allowed myself to be kept small and held hostage in the past.
What would man be without good friends! It became clear that, if I wanted to be free, I had to let go of this burden. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to forgive myself as I despised what I'd done.
Fast forward a few years later. I recognized what the great poet Rumi had said in ‘the cure of the pain is in the pain’. In this case, that meant that I had to let go of the contempt itself, as that was the pain, and to fire up my belief in the power of love and compassion. When I did, it was like learning to love myself unconditionally for the first time. Superficially it felt as an act of rebellion against my wannabe super-self, but soon it sank deeper and softened me, and more forgiveness followed. It took the form of a real cleanse over several months and with every act of kindness towards myself I peeled off another layer of shame, sadness and pretense, making me feel more true and open to what I am.
Forgiveness comes down to love. Faith in the power of love. The love that you are, that you feel as an inseparable force in you, that you share with and recognize in others. It is sooo strong, YOU are so strong. It can make you feel loved despite all and everything, it doesn’t keep a score of what you did and didn't and it never dies. When you trust enough, do surrender to it and “When you are in the state of surrender, you will reject anything that gets between you and your relationship with God [Love].”
Before I go directly into the benefits of yoga, I would first like to write about trauma, what it is and what it isn't. As a result of many studies, it has become agreed that the trauma we suffer does not reside in the event that cause physical or emotional pain, nor in the pain itself or in the story we attach to it. The trauma is caused by the energetic response to the event that gets blocked in our body when we are not able to release it in the aftermath, according to Peter A. Levine PhD, who made it his life’s work to explain and transform trauma.
When we look at this description, it becomes clear that trauma can be induced by a far wider variety of events than only political and war crimes, domestic violence and abuse. An accident, bullying, hospitalization or the sudden death of a loved one can be the cause of posttraumatic stress and dissociation in various degrees.
Unfortunately, we in the West are not equipped with a lot of tools to regain control over our lives after a stressful event, and, as a result of all the cuts in mental health care, it has become quite a lottery to find yourself good and affordable therapy when you need it. I, for example, had to wait 9 months before a therapy program became available for me after my suicide attempt in 2004. Therefor it is understandable that people often try to find solace in self-medication or prescription drugs, only to discover that it is extremely difficult to wean off them after some time and that it didn’t cure the pain.
On a more positive note, when we want to release and overcome the debilitating effects of trauma, we don’t need to wait 9 months to take action. We can work on ourselves. First thing we can do is to re-balance and strengthen our central nervous system, because that is where the posttraumatic responses are ignited.
We can use the same method to train our nervous system as when we want to train our muscles or condition; by alternating periods of stress and relaxation we restore the balance and build resistance. Too much stress can cause injuries in the form of new trauma, while long periods of rest will weaken the nervous system further. It is the pendulation that does it.
It's wellknown that almost all kinds of exercise are good for us, whether it is dance, gymnastics, football, a walk in the mountains or tai chi; they all serve certain goals like equilibrium, strength, flexibility or body-awareness. However, as people in recovery from long-term stress or trauma, no matter how many years have past since the original event took place, we benefit most from a form of exercise that can help us on all levels of our being, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Traumatised people often have lost the connection with their inner feelings and bodily sensations to a certain extent, a 'blessing' called dissociation that occurs when feeling becomes to painful. This implies that when we are going to restore these connections, we preferably do that in an environment where we feel safe and nurtured and in a pace that feels comfortable to us. If we want to break through resistance or fear too quickly, we risk further traumatization.
A body-based approach that has the ability to touch and transform us on all levels, is Yoga.
Yoga offers not just a physical training, it is an ancient practice to access, heal and integrate the body, mind and spirit. While moving into the postures guided by our breath, we connect with our thoughts, feelings and emotions, and discover how we interact with ourselves. I, for example, discovered, after pushing myself so far that I got injured, how harshly I was judging the limitations of my body. And obviously I didn't just judged myself..
A recent study of women who suffered treatment-resistant complex PTSD, at The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute in Massachusetts, has shown that the practice of Trauma Sensitive Yoga reduced PTSD symptoms by 51%, and 83% of the women no longer met the criteria for PTSD after 20 weeks of Yoga-therapy. Other studies show that the heart rate variability increases, what means that the nervous system gains strength and the hypersensitivity for stress, that is one of the PTSD symptoms, decreases.
Another great advantage of Yoga in comparison with a lot of other exercises is that it can be done by everyone, healthy, injured or (partly) immobilized. Even for paraplegic students Yoga can be uselful, resulting in profound benefits to their nervous systems and overall well-being.
When we start the Yoga practice, we use the breath to direct our awareness to our bodily sensations in a non-threatening way, at the same time positioning us firmly in the here and now. That is the starting point for further exploration, but only if, and when, it feels comfortable to succeed. Yoga offers specific poses (asanas) to open up those areas in our body that have contracted to hold unreleased energy, which is often the case in the pelvis, heart, shoulder and throat area, as well as poses for deep relaxation that might trigger an emotional release. This is a normal reaction, as we link our awareness with our feelings and emotions, perhaps since long. A powerful tool that can help us to dive deeper is the Emotional Walkabout, developed by yoga teacher Bija Bennett, which is a step-by-step process to navigate through emotions.
We can safely state that (trauma-sensitive) Yoga is a powerful and effective method for people who suffer from long-term stress and trauma to come home in our body, restore our direct experience and feel a sense of control and involvement with life again.
All given information is meant as merely information and never aim to replace advise or therapy from a medical professional.
When we get really into meditation, I mean a regular, steady practice, we'll start to develop an awareness of our inner witness and the creative force of our thoughts and belief system. Slowing down, we can experience how our thoughts brings feelings and concepts into life and give them solidity. It happens with pain and happiness, desire and fear, possession and loss, in fact with everything. If I reflect on my life, for example, it gives substance to the idea of a woman called Gerda, who has existed for so many years and has a lot of stories to tell. Through telling them, I drag this 'past' into the present moment and keep the illusion of a continuum going. We do it all the time and live the consequences.
When the incessant chatter of our mind calms down, we'll see the naked truth. Walking on a late summer afternoon through a village that has come to life, we see cars and pedestrians passing and a high, angular building from which the paint has peeled off, catches our attention. A golden setting sun highlights the cracks in the plaster. Freshly washed, colorful clothes are drying on the balconies. Children play and laugh, dropping long shadows on the pavement. It is perfect that old building over there, right on that spot, with its light and sounds, it is exactly as it should be. Just like you.
That heap of stones is just a form without meaning. The meaning is given by us. We attach stories to forms, each of us our own, in that way we distinguish them based on our conditioning and beliefs. It's how we differentiate beautiful from ugly and yours from mine, without ever being able to separate them. Some stories we attach to, others we'd rather detach from, and that can be quite a struggle. However, all those stories are not the real thing, they're nothing but sound and smoke.
Truth is prior to every story. It is neither a concept nor a thing. In its innermost essence, it is nameless and limitless. It's everything, including that what has no name and that of which the name has long since been forgotten. One calls it God, others Consciousness, Truth or Source; I call it Love. No love as the opposite of hate or fear, and not like the love for one Mr. , Mrs. or the children, but Love as all-encompassing, unlimited "everything", as the primary cause of all existence, in all its splendor and atrocity.
For that reason, I do not try to detach myself from feelings or emotions, however impermanent they are. After long years of dissociation and depression, life has become an intimate dance with that-what-is, and, although I stumble and grumble sometimes, for me that is the key to a fulfilled life, a deep intimacy with the truth of this moment, whether I like it or not. As mystic-poet Jeff Foster pictures it, 'There is no unholy ground.'
On Holy Ground - by Jeff Foster
They say to look upon God’s face
Would be unbearable
We would be blinded by light
Then I have died a thousand times over
I have burnt at the stake of existence
All images of myself have melted
And even that cannot be true
And I say ‘God’
But I have to laugh –
The word has lost all meaning
God is only a metaphor
For this fragile gift of a life
For this precious moment, unrepeatable
For this consciousness, unspeakable
For a familiar look on a stranger’s face
For those icy winter branches
For each footstep, falling
There is no unholy ground
Read more from Jeff on Life Without a Centre
There are many ways in which we may find ourselves at the doors of recovery, it might be a devastating rock bottom, a binge session that got out of control or a, “I can’t go on like this,” moment. However we arrive, we find ourselves lost, vulnerable and hopelessly unsure of what to do. We reach out to others who have achieved what we feel is almost impossible, and hope they will guide our way.
The thing with addictions, be they substance or behavioural, is they affect us all in different ways and for different reasons. It is often said, that there are as many differences in how we are affected as there are people with addiction problems. The same can be said for recovery, we have the opportunity to design and define a recovery that fits our individual needs.
The Early Days
I, like most, had little choice in where I could reach out to. There was a helpline and a meeting and that was that. In truth it didn’t really matter, to get myself in the company of others who had succeeded was just a must. This was my only option and luckily a step in the right direction. So I rang and I went.
I had taken a leap of faith, started a journey in which I had no idea where it would lead, or what would be required of me. That leap was an admission of complete failure and recognition that I had no other choices that would not lead to oblivion.
The first week still remains a blur; I drifted between sleep and a semi-consciousness, at any time of day or night.
I was isolated, loneliness stung like nettles. I had taken myself away from friends and family and was living in a small village where no one knew me. I clung to the small comfort of a radio talk show both to alleviate the loneliness and to distract the incessant chatter of my mind.
Cravings hit like lightning strikes. Thoughts, feelings and emotions danced a sinister frolic in and out of my senses. Confusion reigned, time crawled. Quite astoundingly i found myself back at the meeting announcing, “For the first time since my late teens I had lived one whole week without drink or drugs.”, to the rapturous applause of all present.
Highs and Lows
This meeting marked a change in my moods, a feeling of euphoria swept over me, i felt light, positive and grateful. My mind started to clear, and thought became more focused, honest and coherent.
I rode the wave enjoying its highs and in doing so I was clocking up more sober time. Warnings and a few less than compassionate comments from my meetings were brushed aside.
I found a trade-off acceptable, I could attend the meetings which I found alien in beliefs and concepts, in return I could join the after meeting coffee and chat with fellows in recovery. Conversations were free and open and these encounters were proving invaluable.
The euphoria evaporated as fast as it had appeared, to be replaced by a tsunami of feelings and emotions. I was plagued by guilt, shame, anxiety and worst of all deep black depressions and suicidal thoughts. My mind became the torturer, relentlessly thrashing me for the destruction I had wrought upon myself. I was totally overwhelmed and I shared this, but nothing that was said to me made any sense, the sensation of impending doom was absolute. I relapsed!
The next morning I locked the house, and leaving the key under a stone I headed out into the mountains that surrounded the village. My intention was to find a desolate place where could throw myself into a ravine and be disposed of by wild animals, such was the point that I had arrived at, such was the shame of relapse. Quite how serious I was about this, I remain unsure as I took some food and water with me.
As I walked in this wild and wonderful landscape, I became acutely aware of all around me. I stopped for a while under the shade of an old twisted olive and studied the antics of a procession of ants, busy with their task of collecting seeds for the coming winter. Bees buzzed around the flowering broom bushes, birds chattered in and out of the trees, the rugged rocks against the sky took on a passion of colours and forms that I had never seen. A small rosemary bush struggled for life as it protruded through a crack in a rock. The wizzen trunk of the olive held me intensely transfixed for a long passage of time, awed by the pure natural art it displayed.
I wandered around for hours, staring wonderstruck by all I saw, as if seeing for the first time. Something touched me deep in the core of my being, I felt like a window to a new world was opened and I was allowed a glimpse. I did not want to leave that place, it felt like home.
I spent the rest of the day discovering this new world. I ate wild figs and oranges, ecstatic with the flavours. As night began to fall, I returned to the village infused with a new life.
A Recovery that Fits
It's not that all of a sudden everything was easy and manageable, far from it, there were to be many difficult challenges. But what I had experienced in that walk through nature could not be undone and had given me a foundation to build on. Hope where there was none and acceptance that although my recovery was in my own hands, I was not alone.
Every day I took to walking the countryside after feeding myself as healthy a breakfast as my meagre finances would allow. I registered with the local town hall’s free internet service, where I spent hour upon hour scanning the wealth of information available.
In a nearby market town I connected with another group where I found kindred spirits in recovery, they too were my teachers. Practices that were recommended and that fitted, like meditation and journalling, were incorporated into my daily routine. Immersing myself in nature had already become my favourite practice.
I learnt to accept that life goes on as it should, with all its ups and downs, twists and turns, successes and failures.
Gratefully I accepted sound advice on how best to deal with depression and anxiety.
It became obvious that there were underlying reasons for my fall into addiction that I would need to address. Realising that I was the sort of person with a sensitive and overactive mind, that was also the source of my creativity and joy for life, I needed to retrain my mind as a compassionate housekeeper rather than the brutal slave-driver it used to be. I found a path that I could follow.
Things I Wish I Had Known In Early Recovery
*In the next blog I write about Triggers, Urges and Relapse as this demands to be dealt with in depth.*
In order to understand what our body needs in times of stress or post-trauma, we first have to understand what happens in our bodies.
Stress and post-trauma responses get more intense when our physical stress system is more out of balance, which is caused by too much adrenaline-like or too much cortisol-like chemicals. The first speed us up and give us energy, sharpness and anxiety or anger (flight-fight response), the latter cause among other reactions a slow and shut down, pain relief, calmness or depression.
It is important to know that these are normal physical reactions in a body that is designed to survive. These reactions are definitely not signs of weakness, as we use to think. On the contrary, our body is showing its survival skills, its strength.
Stress and trauma affect us on all levels, mentally, physically and spiritually, so there is also a wide range of skills and tools that can help us to strengthen our resilience on all those levels. In this series we focus on what our bodies need most.
The first 'tool' we can use to reduce the intensity of our physical reactions, is to breathe deep, deeper than we normally do. When we are under heavy stress, we breathe very shallow, filling and emptying only the upper part of the lungs. That might be precisely why we cannot think clearly and speak coherently in those moments, the brain lacks oxygen. Deep breathing, filling and emptying our whole torso, brings much needed oxygen to the brain by which we start to gain clarity. And it doesn't stop there. The deep, regular in- and exhalation causes the blood pressure to drop, the heart-rate decreases, the adrenaline and cortisol levels go down and we become calmer.
It is worth the effort to teach ourselves to breathe properly, because the quality of our breathing also determines largely whether we will stay healthy or not. Imagine, in the course of one single day about 20,000 liters of blood flows through the veins of our lungs. When not enough fresh air reaches the lungs, our blood can not be purified and keeps transporting waste throughout our body. Moreover, our body simply lacks oxygen, which weakens all its functions. All cells, of every organ, muscle, bone and tissue, and from our digestive to the nervous system, depends on blood, so impure and insufficiently oxygenated blood leads to less body strength, irritable nerves, loss of mental abilities and disease.
There are many ways to breathe better. Yoga with awareness of the breath is one of them. During the yoga exercises leads the breath the movements, not the other way round. In recovery, a closer awareness of the body and breath is very important, because it helps us to notice urges and triggers in an earlier state so that we can act upon them before they lead us astray.
The full-bodied 'yogi breath' is the one that we can use to cleanse our system thoroughly. It uses all the respiratory muscles, which are in the abdomen, the diaphragm, the midrib and chest muscles. It is invaluable to our body because it provides us with the largest amount of air and prana.
Directions Full Yogi Breath:
Besides reducing earlier described, acute stress responses, it can also prevent other reactions, like hyper-ventilation and migraine. It isn't necessary to do this full yogi-breath continuously, but 5 x 3 times a day is recommended during 6 weeks. After 6 weeks you have probably developed a better way of breathing.
Another breathing technique that we can learn from yogi masters is the 'alternate nostril breath', that balances the left and right side of the brain, which helps clearing the mind and the nervous system. If you have difficulties sleeping, this is a good one.
Directions Alternate Nostril Breathing:
All given information and exercises are meant as merely information and never aim to replace advise or therapy from a medical professional.
Trauma and Recovery – Judith Lewis Herman
The Power and Price of Survival – Pamela Woll
The Yogi-science of Breathing – Yogi Ramacharaka
When love beckons to you, follow him,
though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you, yield to him,
though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you, believe in him,
though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart,
and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives nothing but itself and takes nothing but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God."
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
When we hear the word 'addiction' in most people's heads pop up images of hardcore heroine users or drunk people who's lives are wasted, hiding in dark alleys, sleeping under a bridge. A result of fear-based programming that jumps automatically to a worst-case scenario. Alarm bells ringing, this is something we have to stay far from. And.. it is about 'them' not about us. Phew. We can relax and feel safe.
But, as we all know, addiction is not just about alcohol and illegal drugs. Addiction is about all kind of behavior that we keep repeating despite the negative effects it has on our lives, our families or our community. We name the Big 6:
These 6 are the most wide-spread, and you can see that we talk about all those things we use to do that are pretty much socially accepted, we might even be praised for it, but what in fact is a coping strategy to avoid emotional or existential pain.
A sad fact is that many people need to hide their trauma and mental disorders, like social anxiety, high sensitivity or depression, because of the stigma attached to them. Stigma that only shows how unwilling we, as people in general, are to face and think about trauma and its consequences. Childhood trauma, war trauma, domestic violence to name a few. We rather do as if it is not our problem and carry on with our life in denial. Until we come to a point we can no longer live with the mask we have put on, but don't know how to live without it either.
Last week I read a quote from someone who stated that 'addiction in itself can be seen as a form of spiritual seeking, but we got on the wrong train'. I agree fully with that statement. As a living being we need love, but when we are looking for it outside ourselves, all we encounter is just a tiny hint of the real thing. It may be prestige, physical attraction or a temporarily altered consciousness. We might get an ego-boost from it, but in the end, as the ego tends to do, it leaves us feeling even more a separate person and more alone. Real love and connection is to be found in our own hearts, by connecting with and honoring all that we feel, and in doing so we might realize that love is what we deep down are, our inseparable true nature.
When we talk about addiction or self-sabotaging behavior in people, we talk about people from ALL walks of life; factory workers, medics, dancers, teachers and royals alike. We are all feeling creatures and our uneasiness with certain feelings and emotions is mere proof of our ignorance how to deal with them. If denial doesn't work, we start to work harder, shop more or take a few pills more. Until we hit the wall.
And then we find out that we can recover. Everybody has resilience., knowingly or unknowingly, and with some help we can strengthen it. We can enjoy a life beyond addiction. We can feel whole again with a heart opened wide. Matured. Compassionate. Alive. It is all part of this immense adventure we've been born into, this human life; to find the way back to our hearts and rediscover how it is to be a sentient being.
~ Gerda ~
The separation of our essence
We are all born with the awareness of Oneness and unconditional love that we experienced in our mother's womb. When we get disconnected from this love that we need to survive and thrive, we will try everything that lies within our power as little human beings to get it back. And if we fail, we take it personal and blame it on ourselves. When our mothers cry, when somebody yells at us, when we can't have what we want, when our parents quarrel, when someone molests us, it is understood as if we aren't worthy of the love we need and long for. For most people that is the original wound; the separation of our essence, the unconditional love that we were born with. Lack of self-worth is one of its major symptoms.
The human condition
Knowing this, we can see that it is almost inevitable not to get traumatized as a child. Most of us haven't always got what we wanted or needed most, as a result of which we got separated from our essence. I think we can say that this is part of the human condition. The longing for reconnection with our essence is therefor one of the main drives behind man's search for acknowledgement, approval and love. Still, many of us are unaware of this original wound and its symptoms. Often it is just the tip of the iceberg that we can see; the contra-productive ways in which we act to ease our pain.
Unfortunately, many of us have been hurt so severely in childhood that we not only lack self-worth but lack faith in humanity as well. The deep suffering caused by isolation and feelings of worthlessness creates so much havoc that we need immediate relief. Only too often we find this immediate, short term relief in substances that we get addicted to or in behavior that doesn't serve our longing for connection at all.
But even when we have grown up in a rather 'normal' functioning family, we all have scratches and bruises etched in our subconscious. Whether we are aware or unaware of these scars, when something triggers our old pain, it still aches and causes a reaction in us that we often describe as a 'bad habit', but would fit more with the title of 'self-sabotage'.
Because with these 'habits' we ultimately harm ourselves and in doing so we confirm over and over again the painful belief we hold true for ourselves, the belief that we are not worthy. Although we might ease our pain for the moment, in the long run we are fueling it.
The many faces of self-sabotage
Self-sabotage can manifest in many different ways, some of them obviously harmful, some very subtle. A few of them are:
Can you tick a few boxes of this list? I still can. Often we have developed perfect excuses to justify why we do what we do, 'having had a bad day' or 'cannot be bothered with it anymore', without seeing an underlying pattern. Without reading the messages of unworthiness or loneliness.
I don't have a quick fix to stop self-sabotage, as it is a way of coping with a symptom of a hidden wound. To treat the coping strategy solely will not do the job, if that is what you are after. When deep inside the notion of unworthiness stays alive, however hard you try to 'think positive', this will keep dragging you down. Your deepfelt beliefs need to equal your thoughts.
What I know from my own experiences, from my teachers and hearing personal stories on the subject, is that when I properly started to care for myself on a daily basis, that means opening up to my inner life (journalling, self-inquiry, meditation) and becoming aware of the underlying, original wound and its symptoms, things began to change. Also, the realization that I am ultimately and fully responsible for my own life and actions helped me to wake up. No one owes me something. And I don't like to be told by anyone. So, I have to show up for myself and steer myself in the direction that I perceive as my soul's journey.
As a result of an ever deepening process of reconnecting with myself, I started to feel more authentic and grounded. A new appreciation for the person I am cautiously peeped its head up and I began to adopt a different, healthier lifestyle and connect with a different, kinder kind of people. Eventually, I found the place where unconditional love resided, in my own heart, hidden under my conditioning and prejudices.
Where love is, is also compassion and understanding. When the pain, that isolated part of us in distress and confusion, can be openly met with compassion, the resistance against it gives way to radical acceptance of who we are and it will stop playing out in its habitual, harmful ways. That is all it ever needed. That has been its only purpose.
The one and only You
May we wake up to the reality of who we really are and feel love and compassion instead of guilt or shame for the person we have become.
May we stop comparing ourselves with other people, which isn't very valuable to begin with and it keeps us focused outwards.
And, in our search for reconnection with our essence, may we be kind and patient when we turn inward and slowly learn to understand what we need to heal and thrive and what truly makes us come alive.
We are good enough. We are worthy. In all our human beingness of messing things up and making amends, trying to find out how to make the best of the life that we are. Don't forget, our worthiness is not in our doing, but in our being. We all share the same essence, an infinite ocean of unconditional love.