If you felt abandoned as a child, if you feel abandoned now, the key to reclaiming your wholeness is to commit to being there for yourself in a loving, compassionate way right this minute.
Of course, that can be highly challenging, as old habits die hard. Feelings of isolation and worthlessness may have become familiar companions. If you have been re-indocrinating yourself for years with the same messages you heard as a child, and treating yourself harshly, becoming tenderhearted can seem daunting. It is easy to feel overwhelmed even before you start, since old messages can feel deeply ingrained. Stick with new ones and you will reap the rewards of self-compassion, gentleness, kindness, and patience with yourself. Practicing different ways of reacting to stress creates new neural pathways that eventually become almost automatic. Changing requires diligence, commitment, and self-discipline, all of which get easier as you start seeing results. In time, by talking lovingly to yourself every day, those messages will replace most of your previous self-downing inner dialogue.
To shift from the old to the new, you have to tune in to your self talk, which is typically a barrage of negativity. Then, after you have identified your critical thoughts, lovingly accept them. You are not agreeing with them, but accepting that they have existed and came to you through parents, teachers, coaches, clergy, friends, or other family members. As a child, you didn’t consciously choose to believe this nonsense, but repetition from others ingrained it.
After you have wrapped your mind around the concept of accepting what you want to annihilate, meet each negative thought with a question and a gentle, caring answer. For example, if you tell yourself you are lazy, ask if that’s true. It may be true some of the time (as it is for almost all humans) but is it true 100% if the time? If not, you can’t honestly call yourself lazy. To earn a name, you have to be that way 100% of the time, just the way my couch has to be a couch 24/7 for me to conceptualize it as one. If it turns into a camel at night it’s not a couch. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t call it a couch anymore.
Similarly, you may sometimes behave lazily, but that doesn’t make you lazy. Look for every example where you have been motivated and achieved something. Seek proof that your initial self-assesment was wrong. Once you have amassed some evidence, start using it to gently, and lovingly, tell yourself all the things you wished you had heard as a child, and want to hear now. Do this with as much heart and passion as you can muster. Continually remind yourself you are lovable, worthwhile, and unique.
Keep talking to yourself in this kind, supportive way as much as you possibly can. Eventually, these new messages will replace all the old negative self-downing that made you feel lower than a snake’s wiggle.
Every time you choose self-compassion over self-criticism you help cement a new, loving relationship with yourself. Suddenly, you feel more confident, relaxed, safe, and open to life.
When you encounter a block, and you will because this inner dialogue is deeply ingrained, assume it’s a natural part of your healing process. Acknowledge the strength of your old beliefs and re-double your efforts to create new ones.
It is not unusual to feel a bit unmoored from these changes. Understanding what a huge cognitive shift your are undertaking, and giving yourself credit for bravely doing this work, will ease those uncomfortable moments. Typically, they occur when you begin to feel better. It’s almost as if your unconscious mind is daring you to move forward. Well, that’s OK because you are up to the challenge with your goal of self-compassion more clearly in sight.
Remember, whatever you are experiencing: You can’t be too kind to yourself.
Sometimes, people mistake self-compassion for selfishness and narcissism. The Buddha said, There is no one more deserving of compassion than you. Taking the very best care of yourself is beneficial to everyone as you will have more love and generosity to spread around once you feel better, and more deserving of kindness and respect. All New Age philosophy is predicated on our creating our own lives. Of course, as children we were powerless, but once adult we can envision the life we want and bit by bit make it a reality.
Feelings of abandonment are disturbing on a very primal level and cut right to our core. The last thing you want to do is abandon your sweet self.
A few days of practicing these new responses will feel good, but months of reinforcement will make them second nature. Every time you substitute kindness for criticism you improve your relationship with yourself.
When you feel depressed, abandoned, anxious, or worthless that’s a big clue you are telling yourself something harsh and untrue. Challenge your beliefs vociferously in the context of unconditional self love and watch your life improve.
Another technique is to simply ask yourself: “What would I have to think to feel better about this?”
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, your feelings are there to feel; so, if you feel overwhelmed, go into it. Resist the urge to distract yourself with something. Temporarily escaping from the unpleasant feelings only makes them come back with a vengeance. By exploring and accepting them, they lose their power. It’s almost like when you agree with someone who is looking for a fight. It takes the wind out of their sails.
These emotional storms are part of your healing passage to a calmer you. If they feel overwhelming, you may want to talk with a counselor or therapist for guidance and support. In the meantime, take the very best care of your sweet self.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang
Abandonment Issues: How to overcome their legacy February 29, 2012