Why Self-Compassion is Essential to Healing

Getting stuck in painful emotions brings me back again and again to an insight that has profoundly changed my life—self-compassion is essential to homecoming. I have to love myself into healing.

When emotions are strong, my first step toward kindness is usually pausing, opening to the feelings, and telling myself “this belongs.” It helps me remind myself that there’s nothing wrong with the arising of irritability, anxiety, or aggression. They are our limbic caretakers,
our survival brain’s primitive way of trying to protect and promote our well-being. Even self-judgment is well-intended because it tries to improve us in ways that will make us more lovable and worthy. Seeing those feelings as primitive forms of self-love helped me accept them as part of my human experience. And that acceptance was the beginning of loving myself into healing.

An allowing presence is the ground of love. As we then embrace the pain of our limbic caretakers with a tender heart, there is a profound and healing shift: The identification with an angry, judgmental, deficient self dissolves. It is clear that while emotions and stories will come and go, this loving awareness is the truth of who we are. Any moment of remembering this is a moment of true freedom.

Trust Your Heart

When you find yourself stuck in self-judgment, pause for a few moments to honestly face the suffering of believing you are “not OK.” Notice where you feel that suffering in your body. How is it arising in your mind? Then offer some gesture of kindness and understanding to these painful feelings—you might place your hand on your heart and softly whisper to yourself, “Please trust your heart.” Or “Please be kind.” Notice what happens when your intention is to love yourself into healing.

During moments (or days) when everything seems impossibly complicated, we can still return to one place of simplicity: our innate capacity for presence and kindness.
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