Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Wise Self-Soothing - Deeply Connecting with Ourself

     We humans have a very basic need to be fully accepted as we are - yes, to be loved unconditionally. When we feel that we're not, we become perilously vulnerable, fearing for our safety, our life. The short- & long-term consequences of feeling unaccepted, undesirable, unwanted, unlovable are dramatically illustrated by research on: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html
     While the support of various communities is desirable & important, the most critical connection is ultimately with ourselves, and this can be & needs to be at the deepest level we can manage. Yet sadly, because of various past traumas, we're all surprisingly, unknowingly, armored against intimacy, particularly with ourselves. In fact, all too often, the relationship with ourself, tends to be militaristic: critical, harshly judgmental (via our internal dialogue or "self-talk"), in the mistaken belief that it will spur us on to success & therefore happiness. At a deeper, wiser relationship with ourself, we're more like a grandparent holding our young 'part' in safety & unconditional love, patiently, gently nurturing her/him to thrive. This relationship can be nurtured to grow indefinitely in depth & breadth, beyond words & concepts, as shown by shamans, mystics, saints, as well as many serious meditators & contemplatives throughout the ages - including right here, right now.

     “Feelings of connectedness, like feelings of kindness, activate the brain’s attachment system. The ‘befriend’ part of the ‘tend and befriend’ instinct has to do with the human tendency to affiliate, to come together in groups in order to feel secure. For this reason, people who feel connected to others are not as frightened by difficult life circumstances and are more readily able to roll with the punches.
      Of course, it’s wonderful when we can get our need to belong met by loved ones such as friends or family. But if you’re someone who has trouble sustaining good relationships, this type of social support may be missing in your life. And even in the best of circumstances, other people aren’t always able to make us feel that we belong and are accepted. In the cavernous halls of our own minds, we may feel isolated in any moment, even if this isn’t the way things actually are. Our fears and self-judgments are like blinders that often prevent us from seeing the hands that are being held out to help us. We may also be ashamed to admit our feelings of inadequacy to those we love, for fear that they wouldn’t love us anymore if they knew the way we really were. Hiding our true selves from others then makes us feel even more alone.
     That’s why it’s so important to transform our relationship with ourselves by recognizing our inherent interconnectedness. If we can compassionately remind ourselves in moments of falling down that failure is part of the shared human experience, then that moment becomes one of togetherness rather than isolation. When our troubled, painful experiences are framed by the recognition that countless others have undergone similar hardships, the blow is softened. The pain still hurts, but it doesn’t become compounded by feelings of separation. Sadly, however, our culture tells us to notice how we are unique from others, not how we are the same.” 
       Kristin Neff. “Self-Compassion. The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.” HarperCollins Publishers, 2011.



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