the need to feel connected; learning self love and self compassion

Written by Amie on April 19, 2013 – 1:05 am -

feeling safe to express who you really are

Underneath the feelings of depression, sadness,guilt,shame,grief, (and I believe most emotions), is the need to feel connected to ourselves and to others. When I was depressed, I was completely shut off from myself and from others. When I was depressed, I would isolate myself. What I really needed was someone to be there with me, holding me and reassuring me. Sadly, I felt I didn’t deserve to have this, and I also felt that nobody would want to be there for me anyway. So I was not able to ask for what I needed. I believe most people (people who are not in touch with their true feelings) feel too ashamed that they have the need to be connected to others. It makes them feel weak to need other people. When I say “connected”, I mean in an authentic way. I mean being able to feel and to express your deepest, most sacred feelings. I mean feeling safe to express who you really are.  What I was truly craving when I was feeling the most hopeless, was to have  someone there with me to witness the emotions I was having, and to be present with me, without trying to “fix it”. Instead, I felt guilt, shame, and self-hatred because I couldn’t “feel better” on my own. I felt as if something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just “snap out of it”, or “find something positive to focus on”. Well, now I know why.

our  emotions trigger a reaction inside them

Most of us were conditioned to shut off our emotions and to believe that we “shouldn’t” need anybody when we are having “strong” emotions. People may tell us to reach out, but many people are not capable of handling us if we actually do reach out. Many people try to “say the right thing” by offering to be there for us, but when it comes down to it, we learn that it isn’t safe to express our true selves. We learn that when we  reach out we hear the message, “you will be OK”, “tomorrow is another day to start over”, “can you exercise, will that help?”, “maybe you should do…xyz”. Don’t get me wrong, most people are well intentioned.  The problem is that our  emotions trigger a reaction inside them, so they want that feeling to go away quickly, as it feels very uncomfortable. They want you to be “all better” so that things can feel “normal”, and so that they can go back to feeling comfortable. What we really need is just to be heard, validated, accepted, and loved. These feelings make us feel connected to each other.  Deep inside each of us is the need to feel connected and accepted, especially when we are feeling horrible about ourselves. When we share our sacred feelings with someone and the reaction we get back is one of dismissal, or of them trying to “fix” us, this reinforces our feelings of self-hatred. Even though they are attempting to make us feel better, we feel worse because we are not being heard and our feelings are not being validated. By trying to fix us, we get the message that something really is wrong with us. So, we decide that isolating ourselves is the answer. Who would want to be around someone who is depressed and can’t “get over it”? The self-hate messages convince us that we don’t deserve to be listened to and loved. (please keep reading, as there are most definitely ways to get your needs met in this situation).

even when we feel dead inside

Many of us were conditioned to hide our feelings, to hide until we “feel better”. We have been conditioned to put on a smile even when we feel dead inside. I remember  “acting as though everything is fine”. That is, until I couldn’t do that for one more second! I thought I would go completely insane if something didn’t change. I knew I needed people in my life who could love me and support me for being exactly as I am. I didn’t “mentally” think this, if that makes sense, but I *knew* in my body that I needed to be connected to others in a healthy way. I was craving like-minded, accepting people. In general, if a person could stop and really get in touch with their true feelings, they might notice how they are craving authentic connection with others. Imagine if it became “normal”, healthy behavior to answer the question, “how are you today?” with a REAL answer instead of, “fine, thanks, how are you?”! You might say, “well, actually I am feeling sad today because my cat is sick. I am afraid she might die, and I’m really scared.” Imagine if the person responded to you with authentic heartfelt words that really connected you to them. Imagine if that person looked you in the eyes and really “saw” your pain and your fear, without trying to make you “all better”. Imagine if they just simply connected with you in a way that you truly felt heard and validated?  Your truth is being shared with another being, and you feel connected and you feel safe. Imagine what this world would feel like!! Imagine how each of us would feel if we felt connected to all of the people in our lives in an authentic way. Imagine if we didn’t feel the need to hide or pretend how we are feeling in order to protect ourselves emotionally.

Depression is your soul’s way of saying, “enough beating”

Connection is at the heart of being human. Humans need authentic connection in order to be healthy. We can only pretend for so long. Sadly though, there are some people who go through their whole lives without having real connection. We are all craving authentic connection. I believe this 100%. But we have been shamed and guilted into believing we shouldn’t show our true selves. The way our world is set up right now, it is difficult to feel connected in an authentic way with others because most people are in “pretend you are happy” mode. This does a disservice to everyone for so many reasons. It is very difficult to be vulnerable with someone who appears to “have it all together”, or with someone who appears to have  no worries.  Remember, most people may be pretending, so try not to compare yourself with others. Healthy people do exist though, lol, I promise you that!  Some people who appear to be happy, are in fact, happy and healthy! As you become more and more aware of your own emotions and truths, you will begin to have a feeling about others who might be a safe choice for you to express your true self. The path to connection begins with self-love and self-compassion, two things most of us were not taught. We must begin the practice of being easy on ourselves. We have been shut down emotionally and beat down mentally, for possibly our whole lives. Depression marks the turning point. Depression is your soul’s way of saying, “enough beating”. “Enough self-hatred”. It is time to begin the journey to loving yourself enough to fill the need for connection. You deserve connection and love.

The Good News! Your Way to feeling and being connected

Now for the good news! When we don’t feel safe enough to express our true selves, we are not connected to anyone, let alone to life itself. Cutting ourselves off from our true selves and from others, we also cut ourselves off from our life force. I don’t believe it is possible to feel connected to anyone or anything in an authentic way unless you love yourself. You can only feel love and connection to the degree in which you feel it towards yourself. (two exceptions in my opinion, are children and animals) Life doesn’t want us to feel disconnected. It is there just waiting for us to reconnect. Learning self love and self compassion is key. I went from completely hating myself to being completely in love with myself. (it has taken several years, and I continue to grow stronger and stronger in this, as the journey goes on forever) I tell you this because I want you to know that this is possible for you too to love yourself no matter how hopeless you are feeling in this moment! It is a process of unlearning the self hate messages and beliefs that have been on “automatic” in your mind for probably most of your life. So, for me, I began with nurturing myself whenever I possibly could. I picked nurturing music, I read healing books, I found a loving therapist (who focuses on self-love and body/mind/spirit), and I became part of a healing, women’s growth group, I danced more, I got healing massages and learned all kinds of body healing techniques, and very importantly, I started working with a homeopath. I bought myself small gifts when I could; pens and pads of paper being my favorites. I asked the universe to bring healthy people into my life, and then I paid attention. I began meeting people who I feel safe being vulnerable with. I also stopped opening myself to people who weren’t yet capable of receiving me and my truth. It is a process to learn to take good care of ourselves. Becoming aware of your thoughts is imperative. When you hear self-hate in your thoughts, choose self-compassion instead. Have compassion for yourself as you would have for a small child or a loving pet. Talk to yourself as you would talk to them. Listen to the pain going through your head. It is painful to tell yourself hurtful thoughts. Give yourself compassion around this. Fill your thoughts with self-loving words, even if they don’t feel true. Someday they will, and you won’t need to say them anymore, your body will *know* them to be true, your body will *feel* them.

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Depression and the game of “pretend”

Written by Amie on April 1, 2013 – 3:04 am -

 playing the “fine” game

Pretend as though everything is “fine”? No thanks.  Just hearing the word “fine”still triggers a bit of anger in me. How many times did I answer the question, “How are you?” with “FINE”, when in fact, I was far from feeling fine! I quit. I quit the game. The game of pretend is over for me. I refuse to do it. I choose healthy behavior, and pretending is not a part of healthy behavior. I will only choose to answer “fine” if I am just not in the mood to give someone my energy. I spent years playing the “fine” game, and it is a really unhealthy game. I understand why we do it. We do it to avoid having to feel the truth of any given situation. We do it to avoid being vulnerable. Most of us have been trained well at the game of pretend. A few years ago I changed the rules. Many people around me were not too happy. That’s okay. If they choose to continue playing, that is their choice. For me, the game of pretend equals suffering. I no longer choose to suffer. I chose the path of looking at my life and feeling the pain that was blocking my authenticity. I chose the path of truth.  In order to be authentic, we have to feel. We have to be real with the emotions that come up in our lives. I didn’t know how to do that until a few years ago. I’m still learning.

 suppressing all of my innate needs and emotions

I know for certain that my depression was the accumulation of years of pretending. I pretended I was feeling fine, I pretended as though I didn’t have needs, I pretended as though nothing bothered me, I pretended I was happy, I pretended like I was fulfilled…..I could go on and on. Pretending is another way of saying I was suppressing all of my innate needs and emotions. We all desire (need)to be with like minded people who love and support us. This is being human. We all desire(need) to be seen and heard. We all desire (need) to feel safe to express who we are. We all have needs, this is what we do as humans. It is healthy. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have needs. When we pretend, we stuff all of our needs and then try to talk ourselves into believing we don’t need anything, and that we are “fine”. And then when one of these needs speaks really loud, we tell ourselves we are being too needy, too sensitive, too…fill in the blank. We have been conditioned to feel shame and guilt for having needs! We have learned to feel bad about having real human needs. We have been conditioned to think we should be perfect….which means we shouldn’t have needs. If we don’t have needs, then we don’t have emotions, right? How can you have emotions if you don’t need anything? How can I be disappointed or sad when someone who says they care about me is disrespectful? If I don’t have the need for respect and safety, then I shouldn’t feel anything when these things don’t happen.  But the truth is, we all have needs! Just because we have been taught to ignore our needs, doesn’t mean we don’t have them. It just means we are pretending, so that we appear “normal”. (whatever that is! There is no such thing, in my opinion)

guilt and shame galore

We have been conditioned to judge ourselves for needing, and then judging and shaming ourselves for having emotions over the fact that we aren’t getting our needs met. If we continue this pattern, self-hate sets in. We think we “shouldn’t” feel a certain way, and when we do feel that way, we hate ourselves for having those feelings. It is a vicious cycle. Guilt and shame galore! Guilt and shame are learned “emotions” (it can be argued whether or not they are even true emotions). Guilt and shame are used to control others and to condition people. Guilt and shame are used to get a person to feel bad enough about themselves that they will comply with what someone wants them to do. Think about a situation with a child. If the child is doing something “undesirable” in the eyes of an adult, so often the adult will use tactics that actually teach the child to start feeling bad about themselves. For example, the adult may say, “but I will be so sad if you don’t stop doing that”, or “that is bad, you are bad for doing that”, or “why would you even think of doing that?” All of these examples begin the process of conditioning a child to feel guilt and shame. They learn to feel responsible for others’ well being. The adult is conditioning them to believe they should act accordingly so that the adult is comfortable. Therefore, the child starts thinking they are bad for expressing their own truth. If a person lives many years this way, they are in the habit of hiding their own truth in order to please those around them. They hide their true self, their true needs, their true desires, because they want to avoid feeling “bad”, and they want to avoid upsetting others. This is how we begin feeling ashamed and feeling as though our needs make no difference. Others’ feelings are more important than ours.

it is easier to isolate than to reach out

It is not surprising to me at all that depression is rampant. The majority of people go through their days pretending as though they are fine, feeling afraid to reach out to others for fear of being shamed, or labeled as weak. This is so sad. I understand how it is easier to isolate than to reach out. I did it for years. I pretended as though things were great, when inside myself I was feeling so lost and so sad. I reached out and started getting help, I read every book I could get my hands on, I began learning how to love myself and nurture myself, and I began seeking others who were on the same path. I sought out others who also wanted to stop pretending. I need authentic people in my life, and I am not going to pretend that I don’t. Once I opened my heart to this fact, some really wonderful people started to show up for me. Although it is sad to let go of those who would rather I pretend, I knew in my heart that I had to let them go with love. I have compassion for their struggles, but I can no longer stay in their stories with them. I have to take care of myself. I will allow people in my life who are authentic and respectful of the real me. They love and support me for who I am. They encourage me and lift me up. They show up for me in ways that I never thought possible. I also know and understand that I am responsible for my feelings, and others are responsible for theirs. Knowing this gives me the confidence to express who I really am. For this, I am grateful.

 

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