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  • Writer's pictureAnn Manning

Because you feel bad ...


I am in awe of this statement. To me, it encapsulates the possibility of deep healing.

 

At first glance it may seem to fly in the face of the basic laws of living: getting better, feeling better or being better – these ideas were certainly part of the fabric of my upbringing. They seem like natural and desirable aspirations. Yet here we are being asked to let go of the ‘better’ paradigm and simply be with what is. In other words, we have to let go of trying to feel better to ultimately feel better.

 

There is good science behind this. When we suffer, for example when we experience harsh criticism, either from other people or from ourselves, the body’s primitive threat response is triggered. The threat response will be triggered more readily if, in childhood, we didn’t receive the love and care that was our innate expectation and need. The threat response becomes our default reaction to the slightest stress. When the threat response is triggered, the nervous system gets ready for fight, flight or freeze. In this state, our efforts to ‘fix’ things signal to the nervous system that something is wrong, further stoking the threat response cycle.

 

What we need to do instead is shift gear. If we can align our conscious awareness to our inner experience, with an attitude of caring presence, the impacts of trauma, neglect, and shame, locked in the nervous system, will settle, and gradually dissipate.

 

At the same time, we can’t just throw self-compassion at ourselves as a way to make pain go away. If we do, we’re engaging in a hidden form of resistance that will ultimately make things worse. Self-compassion is not a form of positive thinking that somehow seeks to replace negativity or deny its existence. Instead, it holds the negative with acceptance and caring. allowing us to open to the full spectrum of our unfolding, ever-changing lives with authenticity. Deep healing can happen.

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