Healing with Compassion
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | January 2016 (edited 2019)
We best address hurtful pasts with a soft compassionate approach. Harshness furthers the injury, preventing recovery, and continuing the pain we wish to avoid.
"A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal." ~Steve Maraboli
Beneath our protective exteriors, we carry wounds. Lost love, broken loyalties, emotional attacks and reoccurring neglect leave marks on the soul. We largely function unaware of these wounds from the past; but they forcefully impact the present. Perhaps, we will never fully understand the imprint of the past in our lives. Needless searches may uncover more trauma than actual exists. We can, however, treat these unseen wounds.
Occasionally with thoughtful reflection, we have flashes of enlightenment, organizing the broken pieces of experience; an experience, the disruptive emotions, the past, the present all seem to weave together in an understandable whole. But this is not common. Often experience triggers strong emotions that hijack behaviors, sending us orbiting into the same destructive patterns. Not recognizing the reasons behind our feelings doesn’t mean there’s no reason for those feelings. We can’t wait for meanings. Often time doesn’t permit. We must patiently move forward, gaining deeper understanding only when it's available. The meaning behind the hurt may be illuminated and healed but only on its own time and in its own manner.
This process of healing repeats throughout our lives, a natural part of the maturing process.
An effective ointment to heal these wounds is compassion. Hurts given compassion heal. But finding a trickling spring of compassion among the dry deserts of selfishness isn’t simple. Partners, family, and friends can contribute but the most essential source should be discovered within our own heart. When we loathe our selves, we misinterpret kindness from others; their compassion is rejected, confirming our demeaning and hurtful judgements of self.
We feel strong emotions; a rush of electrical and chemical balances surge through our bodies and break into consciousness, warning that change is occurring; a reminder of our humanness. Outside encounters constantly poke the sore spots from the past, stirring emotions, and warning of danger. Sore spots remain lodged in our psyches interfering with love, relationships and happiness.
Instead of gathering wisdom from experience, some experience powerlessness; the hurts overwhelm the emotions and they misinterpret opportunities as threats to be avoided. These embedded memories, whether explicit or implicit, must be coaxed out with compassion. A secure safety zone must be reestablished.
"An effective ointment to heal these wounds is compassion. Hurts given compassion heal."
“Do unto others, as you would have other do unto you,” the ancient Hebrew writings encourage. If I need compassion to heal, so do those around me. An emotional reaction from a partner, friend, or family member may activate my fears and incite a protective response. But where is the utility in a response that further damages an important relationship? This chain must be broken. A defensive response will likely further alienate and hurt. Neither party receives compassion, trust is trampled and healing is delayed.
The natural march of the sensitive ego quickly entangles communications in the sticky webs of defensiveness. My response to her response encourages another protective response in return. Around and around the (lack of) communication goes without either party hearing or feeling the deeper calls emanating from the words; both parties focus on self while completely blind to the partner. Accumulation of these contested moments determines whether trust is built or the relationship is destroyed. The message given “I hurt, and you don’t care,” often is the received meaning behind the war of words—no matter what those words may be.
To change hurtful patterns, we must consciously break the chain, momentarily stepping back from the emotions and asking, “What is my partner feeling?” Maybe we have distanced ourselves too long; the connectedness has been broken. We may have to clearly ask about their feelings and non-defensively receive their answer. We may discover our partner’s anger, sadness and fears. And with that knowledge, we in return give them compassion.
This kinder path to ourselves and to others, eventually, provides softness to our fears and healing to our hurts. We need compassion. As intimacy deepens, we recognize a partner’s feelings early, quickly reaching out with compassion; simple gestures and an open heart begin the healing process. By assisting in the healing of a partner, we create a bond—a bond of trust, a bond of love. Within these bonds, we find security and a return of compassion.
Compassion heals. Nurture feelings towards others. Practice kindness towards yourselves. Slowly these feelings embrace our lonely and hurting hearts, giving us the security we need to flourish.