When self care fails and what can help!By sylviap
February 05, 2019
Learn how practicing Inner Bonding helps us to ensure that we are practicing self care in a way that truly supports our inner wellbeing.
There is so much discussion about self care on the internet that it can really confuse us. In my work over many years, I have often found myself clarifying for women that while the healthy eating, the favorite show, the baths, the self help books, the lit candles, the beach walks, the manicures, the yoga classes all can be helpful, there is an underlying shift that we need to make, to feel better.
Many women approach self care by trying to do ‘all the right things’ and find themselves depressed when they still feel unhappy. I will often ask them, “What part of you is doing the yoga/exercise/healthy eating/insert self care practice here?”
Often they will uncover that it is their wounded self or inner critic, or what I like to call ‘the teenage self’ because it kind of has that judgy, rebellious tone that sounds something like, “you’re gonna get fat, if you eat that!” “stop being so lazy!” “do your yoga so you can be good” “you’re a piece of crap unless you get your act together” “I better look good so people don’t judge me” and also resists and eventually sabotages the self care. (And of course these are edited versions because I know our inner critics are often much much harsher.)
At any rate, what we know is that the intention of this wounded part of us is to shame us because we are scared and we seek some sense of control. This can also be called trauma brain because these patterns arise from the fight/flight/freeze response to stress and trauma.
Unfortunately, when we are doing all the “right things” preached to us by the internet but we are doing them from this fearful and controlling trauma brain, we are actually simply perpetuating stress and trauma in our lives. This is compounded by the fact that much of the self care messaging is intended to sell us stuff by communicating that we are not enough, which further triggers us into fear and trauma brain!
To shift out of this fearful trauma brain, we must bring in a sense of safety through compassion. To do so, it often helps to think of what we would offer to a child in a similar stressful situation. For example, if I saw a young girl who after a long day of hard work had to come home and take care of small children whose needs seemingly never end, with little support and I asked what does she need? Usually the first place to start might be a hug, a supportive presence, and tangible help.
She is not doing anything wrong, she just needs to know she's enough, to not feel alone and she needs help. So the shift that we are missing, is an inner shift where we turn our attention inward with kindness (like a hug) and are supportive of ourselves by tuning into our needs with compassion. And we get help, wherever we can because we are not meant to do any of this isolated from our community.
So many who’ve been abused don’t easily know how to do this and we lack the neural pathways. While it does take practice and repetition to build these pathways, with Inner Bonding, we learn to recognize when the wounded voice (trauma brain) is running the show, and we offer relief to that stressed part of us, by bringing in inner connection and safety. We shift into the Loving Adult and instead of thinking fearfully ‘what should I do?’ we ask, “What would be loving?”
We say to ourselves, "I've got you" and we may say to our spiritual source, ‘I am here and I am holding myself and I want to know what would feel truly good and loving to me right now?’ “What would be truly loving to my children right now?”
When we ask these questions with an intention to be kind to ourselves, we get simple answers that guide us moment by moment. Cook dinner, sit down, snuggle, lay down for five minutes, etc. they are answers that come in the flow and meet your need best as you tune in to your particular situation (rather than some prescriptive internet formula).
Also, we need to be kind and compassionate toward ourselves about what we can really do and what realistic issues might be legitimately getting in the way, for example financial stress, health issues, lack of support, marginalized identity, relationship problems, and so on.
We need to acknowledge with acceptance and compassion the things that may make things harder for us, so long as we are not abandoning ourselves to the challenge. For example, I have developmental PTSD and a strong family history of mental illness/high sensitivity, so this means that I place extra focus on my basic needs of sleep, avoid wheat/sugar/alcohol because my head is clearer without them, practice Inner Bonding, and do less than many people, among other things. As a loving adult who sees my needs, I attend to them. I experience all that I do to eat well, sleep, set limits, etc. as true and relevant self care because I am doing them with presence for myself and out of love for myself, not as a controlling/fearful/resistant ‘teenager.’ But I had to learn this, because before this, I had learned like most, to abandon myself, just do what I was told and assume I was helpless to impact my challenges.
We may need to remind ourselves daily that we are doing our best AND practice trusting that our spiritual connection, will guide us in what is most loving to ourselves moment by moment. Starting with that inner hug of supporting ourselves with the kindness, respect, and support we may not have known growing up. Most of us know what this looks like because if asked to be kind and compassionate to a child, we can. True self care means we give this basic dignity to ourselves.
Our self care does not have to be complex, it just needs to be tuned in to our actual needs, moment by moment with loving self-presence. If we are compassionate and kind toward ourselves, we will actually feel better than if we did all the yoga classes while shaming ourselves.
Sylvia Poareo is deeply grateful for Inner Bonding and offers individual support, workshops and retreats nationwide. For more info visit: www.connectingwithin.com
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If you are not letting yourself do what brings you joy, attend to what you fear that is stopping you. Do you fear rejection or failure? Do you fear doing well and then losing your free time, or then not living up to expectations? Not following your joy and passion indicates that your loving adult is not creating a safe space for your essence to express itself. Today notice the beliefs that are limiting you.
By Dr. Margaret Paul