The role of self-compassion in our healing
Before getting to the point of where we feel empowered after the abuse, we need to give ourselves tender self-compassion. The first step is to hold on to the pain of our trauma in mindful awareness, so we can acknowledge and validate it without turning away. We need to be present with our own suffering, as uncomfortable as it might be, just as we would stay with a crying child without abandoning her. Many women just want to forget and move on from their experience of abuse, but when our pain is forgotten rather than acknowledged, it inevitably prolongs the recovery process. It’s important to clearly see and speak the truth of what happened, if even just with ourselves, a therapist, or a friend. It’s equally important that we don’t re-traumatize ourselves as we go through the work of healing. If the abuse came from a family member or romantic partner, there will be backdraft as we open up to the pain of what transpired. We need to go at a pace that feels safe and get professional help if possible.
In MSC (Mindful Self-Compassion), we use the saying of “go slowly, walk farther”. Patience with the speed of healing after abuse is one of the gifts self-compassion can offer.
It helps to be as warm, understanding, and unconditionally accepting of ourselves as possible. If we feel broken, can we embrace our brokenness? We may feel tainted when we have suffered abuse, but our souls are still pure and beautiful regardless of what has happened to us. When we fill our consciousness with loving, connected presence, our true self-worth is revealed.
We also have to remember our common humanity. A large number of the female population has been assaulted and a large majority has been harassed. We don’t need to feel ashamed or isolated by what happened. We are not alone. We can feel connected with millions of women around the world who has suffered as we have. Even if trust has been shattered, we can form a new safety net by reaching out to other women who have experienced similar things. We can find strength in these bonds and join a shared commitment to end sexual abuse.
Information taken from the Fierce Self-Compassion book by Dr. Kristin Neff (2021).
SELF-COMPASSION BREAK mindfulness exercise
Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that is causing you stress. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.
Now, say to yourself:
1. This is a moment of suffering
That’s mindfulness. Other options include:
· This hurts.
· This is stress.
2. Suffering is a part of life
That’s common humanity. Other options include:
· Other people feel this way.
· I’m not alone.
· We all struggle in our lives.
Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you.
Say to yourself:
3. May I be kind to myself
You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:
· May I give myself the compassion that I need
· May I learn to accept myself as I am
· May I forgive myself
· May I be strong.
· May I be patient
This practice can be used any time of day or night, and will help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.