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November 14, 2018

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Trust Fall

June 14, 2016

 

'So what is really the path of healing? It can begin in this moment, by embracing the life that's here.' ~ Tara Brach

 

Here's a question to contemplate: Do you catch yourself when you fall? Or, to reframe it slightly, when life disappoints you, what is your default? Do you blame yourself? Do you blame others (even if they're not responsible)? Do you binge-watch a series on Netflix? Do you laugh it off and pretend it never happened? Believe it or not, all of the above responses are completely sane because they serve a self-protective function. For instance, if we blame others, on some level we are acknowledging that the feelings of disappointment are too intense, too frightening, and we take refuge in holding others responsible. Same with binge-watching a series: It serves as refuge against the pain of feeling our feelings. Blaming ourselves is another common defense, and the habit likely developed in childhood: Because holding our caretakers responsible for deficiencies in the environment would have jeopardized our sense of safety, we learned (unconsciously) to default to "It must be me. I'm the bad one." That certainly would have relieved ourselves of the pain of confronting the truth, but at a great cost.

 

Now that we are adults, we can ask ourselves in the clear light of day: Do these strategies still serve us? When life disappoints us, do we add suffering to our suffering by punishing ourselves with self-blame? A good first step is noticing when it happens. You might say to yourself, "Oh, there I go again, taking myself hostage." An awareness of our histories helps us catch our patterns of self-blame as they are happening. And we could include in our awareness our parents' histories, for they were likewise shaped by their parents and their parents before them. A long line of us weaned on the not-so-gentle art of self-blame! 

 

And now that we are aware, now that we are awake, we can arrest the momentum of that long line. We can take responsibility for our lives by learning to stop and feel our feelings. We can catch ourselves when we fall and hold ourselves like our own beloved children while we weep with heartbreak, burn with rage, or light up with pride (if feeling pride was once forbidden). In one simple act we can start a revolution!

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