Embracing the Inner-Child Gentle non-judgmental attention to the pain
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Recognizing personal error can be painful. Our security is shaken. Safety, survival, and flourishing require sound decisions that positively impact the future. Our choices in partners, placement of trust, order of priorities, and utilization of time all shape the future. Knowing this, our security in the future is heavily dependent on beliefs we will act effectively in the present. This is true; but not exact. Futures are dependent on many factors, only one of those factors is our action. Perfect action and perfect control are illusionary—not existing in a complex world. Success is achieved through a more fluid approach to life, compassionately accepting fault, and adapting to the moment.
Honestly reflecting on the past uncovers personal actions intertwined with our success and failures. We are involved with the evolving product of our lives.
We occasionally stumble, making blunders that hurt others, impact opportunities, and wound well-being. We should consciously work to fine-tune effectiveness. As part of our human inheritance in an imperfect, complex and unpredictable world, we are not capable of perfection. Perfection is a blurry ideal, not even completely understood. We must rely on adaptability (not perfection) to successfully navigate the complex mazes of survival.
Popular dogma degrades discomforting emotions. Acknowledging guilt over a wrong draws the ire of an over-reaching positivity crowd, claiming guilt serves no constructive purposes. I do not agree. The natural response of self-awareness exposes wrongs; no longer covered by the luxury of deception, we see the impact of our behaviors on our lives and on the lives of others. This knowledge combined with empathy may induce sorrow. But, more importantly, this knowledge interrupts the blind hurtful patterns of the past, allowing for new directions. Sensitivity to causing pain to others monitors actions.
We shouldn’t excuse emotional reminders of misdeed with smug self-righteousness or ignorant self-justification. When guilt is unacceptable, we—consciously or unconsciously—will relieve guilt with unhealthy practices. An escape from obnoxious guilt is to denigrate the victim by blaming their pain on their own misdeeds; our meanness is excused because the victim had it coming. Many abusive partners utilize this guilt avoiding mechanism. “You made me do it,” they proclaim, forcing momentary relief from guilt that naturally emerges to correct ruinous behavior.
If we believe guilt is unacceptable, we will experience secondary guilt, feeling guilty about feeling ordinary guilt. This second layer of guilt is almost always unproductive, becoming the motivating power to psychological dodging of responsibility.
Effective responses to emotion begin with openness to emotion to the feeling, sifting through beliefs, stepping far enough back to see the influence of histories, and seeking support from compassionate and knowledgeable others.
"Popular dogma degrades
discomforting emotions. Acknowledging guilt over a wrong draws the ire
of an over-reaching positivity crowd, claiming guilt serves no
constructive purposes. I do not agree."
Our beliefs give feelings meaning, focusing on personal connections. If we have a critical, non-accepting view of ourselves than subtle reminders of shortcomings are serious indictments of inadequacy, painfully reminding that we don’t measure up. When constantly are peppered with harsh interpretations, we feel overwhelmed, sinking into depressions. Our misdeeds prove our privately held image of deficiency. The insecurity of self reigns creating heightened unmanageable emotions. The momentary sorrows, disappointments and guilt invade life, trampling self-esteem, and threatening survival. The normal collisions with experience create bouts of shame, guilt and anger in a thick stew of ouch. Life sucks and we can’t escape. Errant interpretations—defense mechanisms—protect the psyche from collapse, working their own form of destruction.
When insecure, the guilt stemming from misdeeds is not motivated by empathy but from fear of rejection. The emotions are muddied by necessary protection of our damaged ego. The guilt doesn’t repair connections but ignites shame digging create deeper chasms between us and others.
The goal should be to change our relationship with felt emotions. Unless we live in a bubble, we’ll never eliminate all negative experiences. Through compassionate holding of feeling, we disentangle experience from the defensive mechanisms and can better identify our role, gleaming insights to improve our lives and relationships. Misdeeds, instead of indictments, are humbling reminder of humanity. Our self-conscious examinations will stir emotions—an evolutionary response to connection needs. But the mindful acceptance of emotions is non-condemning, gently guiding attention to areas needing care. When we have improved relationships with emotions, uncomfortable feelings don’t demand escape.
With mindful acceptance, we kindly feel emotion, understanding the underlying complexity, and embrace the crying inner-child, gently holding, accepting, and soothing.
The transition from tormentor to compassionate caregiver is a long process, requiring commitment and support. Therapist Carl Rodgers embraced person-centered therapy. Change, he insisted, took place only through a caring environment. Once security of an environment was established, the client healed themselves. Once safe, his clients slowly emerge from the clouds of self-deception. The positive changes they achieved were the natural growth of an organism responding to a healthy environment. The magnitude of guilt, sorrow, and other painful emotions lost their sting when not accompanied by self-deprecating interpretations. The discomforting emotions morph from condemnation to gentle reminders of the rich experience of being human.
As one travels down the path to self-compassion, they must kindly accept the slowness of new change, remnants of the past will remain, haunting experience with unneeded sorrows. This is okay. Smile on your injured soul. Pasts remain. We step back when possible, shedding a tear for the pain, and then compassionately accepting the feeling—for it is part of our being. We work to repair misdeeds when possible, expressing sincere apologies to those we have hurt. By constructively facing these inner-feelings, instead of self-condemning or neglectful dodging, we move forward wiser and stronger.