“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for all your other relationships”
Here’s a thought, and it’s about self love. This is often the most difficult form of love to feel. When we suffer trauma through abuse, especially abuse that continues in one form or another, the part of our brain that looks out for trouble stays switched on all the time. So we anxiously expect that things are going to go wrong – all the time. Things seem always to be out of our control, just as they were when the original trauma took place. In that sense we remain permanently traumatised.
One of the aspects of abuse is the powerlessness we suffer when it happens. So, in an attempt to re-instate a feeling of control, we resort to traumatising ourselves. It sounds bizarre, but there’s a good reason behind it – at least this way we know how and when the abuse is coming. And so begins a constant verbal drip of self criticism, negative self-talk, shame, self-abuse. It’s comfortable for us to experience this because we’re so familiar with it. In fact the more we do it the more familiar it gets, until the idea that this is what we are gets well and truly engrained in our beliefs. On and on it goes – far longer than the original abuse – and so in a way it is actually worse, because there’s no end to it. We lose track of who we really are – our core self, which is not bad or shameful at all.
If we are comfortable with abusing ourselves, we’ll be comfortable with others abusing us too. In his book “The Four Agreements” Don Miguel Ruiz comments: “In your whole life nobody has ever abused you more than you have abused yourself. And the limit of your self-abuse is exactly the limit that you will tolerate from someone else. If someone abuses you a little more than you abuse yourself, you will probably walk away from that person. But if someone abuses you a little less than you abuse yourself, you will probably stay in the relationship and tolerate it endlessly.”
That’s why I put so much store on self-compassion, being kind to ourselves and about ourselves. Maybe this quote is a literal truth, in that loving ourselves will save the person we really are at the core of our being – not the shameful or undeserving person we believe we are: “Self love will save your soul”.