We are born helpless and incapable of living without other people’s assistance. We depend on caretakers, usually parents, to take care of us so that we can develop into adults able to live interdependently with others. This is just a fact. And from what we know of history, it’s been true since time immemorial. As much as it can create loving strong bonds with our caretakers, that isn’t always the way things work out. Not everybody has their diaper changed in a timely manner, is soothed when crying, or fed when hungry. But, we are all genetically and evolutionarily primed to expect help from others.
I think it’s really important to understand that when we begin to do deep inner work. It’s very rational to think that we can change our thoughts and work wisely with our emotions and bodily sensations; but, it’s also extremely important to understand that we’ve been programmed since birth to think that what we seek is outside us.
Understanding this is crucial as it clarifies how difficult it is to create a loving, self-supporting relationship with oneself. Not only are you swimming against the tide of your own experience, that what you seek is to be found in others (the opposite of the yogic aphorism that what you seek is always within), but, it goes against millennia of human experience encoded into your very genes.
So what’s the answer? Clearly, you’re not going to redesign your DNA and change the way babies become adults. By acknowledging this deeply ingrained tendency to look outside yourself for comfort, you can begin to grasp how difficult it is to be a consistently loving, warm, kind, patient presence for yourself.
Once that shift occurs, the tiniest progress toward self-compassion and gentleness with whatever arises can be seen as an incredible accomplishment. Over time those little moments of self-love build into a more reliable inner refuge where you can better ride the waves of life’s vicissitudes.
Once again, the task is to be incredibly patient with the process and understand that this is lifelong work. You don’t do it for a week, a month or a year and suddenly it’s inculcated in you. Just like you can’t eat one breakfast and it will suffice for the rest of your life, this is simply another kind of nurturing. You’re feeding yourself psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
Ideally, that feels so good that you naturally want to continue. Just understand that the old neural pathways are deeply entrenched and the new ones you’re building take a while before they become strong enough to counteract all your former tendencies, habits and patterns.
Just think of the payoff. Won’t it be amazing when you next feel anxious, angry or grief stricken and you can find some peace inside yourself?
Here are a few questions that can help you:
What would you really love to hear from somebody right now?
What’s on your mind?
What are you feeling in your body?
What are you feeling emotionally?
Is this bringing up something from the past? If so, what is it and what feelings does it is evoke? Can you make it safe to be with them just as they are?
Please, remember it takes great courage to plumb your depths. Give yourself credit for being willing to take this journey. The reward is greater self-knowledge and the ability to truly support yourself through whatever arises.
These are especially difficult times and, whether people are consciously aware of it or not, we are all swimming in a sea of anxiety. It has never been more important to be there for yourself in the most comforting, loving ways possible.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang