I am not very good at being kind to myself. I find myself equating it with selfishness. Or with avoidance, like I am no longer doing the work to get better if I am being kind to myself. I act like healing is this intense process of fixing, an almost surgical action of removing the bad and filling up the holes with good. Defining healing this way means I make lots of rules for myself and then berate myself when I break them. I police myself. I judge myself. Healing becomes a process of harming myself.
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Its not me and my trauma. We are not separate entities. I feel like I often treat myself this way. Like trauma is a cancer, a cyst that is other to me; an invader that must be contained, removed, exterminated. As I dig away at myself, searching for these malignancies I claim are not mine, I end up doing so much damage. Uprooting them and expelling them is actually a process of uprooting and expelling myself. It is not me and my trauma. Trauma is part of who I am. Me as my trauma. Me with my trauma. Just me.
Most people acknowledge that we are all formed by the world around us. That we are all a relationship of body, mind, experience, family, community, society. So why is my trauma not part of me? Why are some experiences outside invaders to be denied, hunted, exterminated and others are not? Why are our experiences of love, joy, happiness considered important parts of the journey of becoming who we are while experiences of abuse, violence, loss and trauma are not? Because they hurt? Because they harm?
Honesty. I think it has to do with honesty. We don’t want to honest about the complex mix of good and bad, kind and hurtful, fulfilling and devastating that actually makes up the world we live in, and the people we become. We don’t want to admit that whenever we move into relation to one another we have the potential to both love AND to harm. To relate is a risk, a risk we don’t want to be honest about.
So we pretend that hurt and harm are not part of us, that they are not important threads in the fabric of families, communities and societies. We refuse to be honest about all we can be, all that we are. We are scared that to do so would make connection impossible. If we have experienced trauma, if we have grief and sadness and pain, we will be unlovable.
Finding kindness for myself means finding space for this honesty. Kindness means making room to bring all of us. Kindness means building relationships of honesty and trust that help us to take the risk of relating to and with all our parts. Kindness means learning to how to be responsible for the impacts of these hurts. Responsible; not always in control, but responsible enough to be honest, to say “yes, I am hurting”. To say “yes, I acted out”. To say “yes, I have done you harm”. Kindness is believing this is a possibility.
Kindness is being honest that we may not be able to heal all the hurt we feel. That we might never end pain and suffering. And being honest that we can change what it means to live with these things in our hearts. Kindness means being honest that we can stop casting out those parts of us that ache with trauma, that bleed with grief and sadness.
We can invite them in, speak their existence. We can stop pretending that hurt is an outsider, an intruder in opposition to growth and survival. We can recognize that hurt has been part of us in different ways for a long time. Kindness is being honest that we can welcome it all in.
The kindness of welcoming in pain, sorrow and trauma is not an act of condoning its causes. It’s not saying that the sources of these hurts are okay in any way. Rather, the kindness of welcoming in hurt is about being honest and open that these experiences are real and have real impacts on us. It is about being honest about the hurt, the sorrow, and the pain of surviving. By welcoming them in we create the potential for compassion and empathy.
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I am trying to show myself kindness by learning to be honest about where I am at. Honest about how hard the day-to-day is. Honest about how overwhelmed I feel. Honest about the role this pain and trauma plays in my life. I am trying to welcome in my trauma. I am trying to sit with it; just be there, not fixing it, not judging it, just being present to witness it. Kindness is being an honest witness to my trauma.
Kindness means being honest about what healing is. Not letting others define it for me. Kindness means letting go of who I think I should be, where I think I should be at and being honest about how I am right now, trauma and all.
This doesn’t mean I have given up on things changing. It means that I am giving up on my fears of not changing; giving up on my fears of being in this place forever. Kindness means being honest about the here-and-now of surviving. It means learning to rest with my trauma, find a home in it. Kindness means being honest enough to know healing won’t be a purging of the my trauma. Healing will not be a process of forgetting but rather a process of honest remembrance.
I am tired of attacking myself. I am tired of judging myself. I am tired of denying myself. I am tired of hiding myself. I just want to be kind to myself. I just want to be honest. I want to welcome in all the parts of myself, no matter how pained, how dark, how damaged. I want to learn to sit with all of me, break bread, share stories and gain comfort from being in this together.