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To Learn to Love Ourselves

“There is luxury in self-reproach.  When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us.”  — Oscar Wilde

Just as we don’t have the right to judge someone else, we don’t have the right to judge ourselves.  Our unhealthy script in the past was that when we did something we felt ashamed of, we judged ourselves guilty.  All too often, we then punished ourselves. Was that behavior an expression of our shame and sadness because of our defects? Punishing ourselves won’t stop our unhealthy behaviors; loving ourselves will.

We are grateful that our growth in our emotional health has taught us the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt lets us feel remorse and sadness when our actions violate our values.  Guilt helps us know when we’ve acted badly; shame tells us we are bad.  Guilt gives us a way back to ourselves through making amends; shame leaves us hopeless.  To give in to shame and self-hatred only harms us and intensifies the power of our unhealthy behaviors.  There is a better way, and that’s to learn to love us.

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Embracing the New ~ Imbolc

 

“An old error is always more popular than a new truth.” — German Proverb

The Wiccan celebration and ritual for Imbolc is fast approaching February 2nd. Imbolc brings the end of winter and of course a time of great change toward spring. Spring, even here in the desert southwest means new, rebirth, regeneration. I find that I often feel uncomfortable with the new because it causes me to reach out and expand my vision.  This may be painful and I don’t like the pain that comes with change.

My life at times is cozy and gives me a curious kind of comfort and reassurance.  When lonely or anxious or hopeless, I have at times turned toward unhealthy behaviors.  I am used to it and don’t need to do much to keep on going in the same old way.

Suddenly, I have seen the error of my ways.  Discovery, disgrace, legal issues, isolation, despair, the loss of a partner, the contempt of friends – all possible consequences of that cozy, complacent turn to my old behavior.  Yes, I may have awakened one day to find that my old behavior ruined my life!  This awareness has caused me to begin reaching out for the hard process of change.

Making difficult change is painful, but that pain is preferable to the agony caused by the inevitable outcome of unhealthy behaviors.


You Are Wonderful and I Love You

 

 

“Words can sting. Words can hurt.” – Mark Schmitz

“Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglect” — William Shakespeare

I’ll never make a feeling of true safety by seeing my self-image in terms of my character defects. To give my shortcomings such power is to make sure that I will never have enough faith or strength to continue forward; I am either condemned to live in the past, trying to change it, or to the future, trying to control it.

The only safety is in the present, affirming the positive qualities I have. Even if I’m in deep sorrow this moment, I can feel safe by appreciating that I can to grieve, which takes courage and passion for life. Appreciating my many good points is a way for me to counteract the fear that eats away at my security.

There are some ways I can affirm my self-worth. I can choose affirmations from my affirmation jar, ask others for positive support, list my good qualities and include my progress in my journal or blogs. I deserve to have the freedom that comes from feeling safe within me, not replaying the tapes that hold the hurtful words said in the past. Rather than saying to myself now – “You’re too skinny” or “You’re not attractive,” I can say “You’re wonderful and I love you.”


The Terrible Beast and Me

 

 

“The terrible beast that no one may understand, came to my side, and put down his head in love.”     – Louise Rogan

 

There are times when it seems easier to give in to despair than to fight my way out of it.  I’m learning that the trick is to catch myself before I become so depressed that I’m incapable of acting.  For starters, I can ask, “What am I feeling? Am I angry, sad, resentful or feeling sorry for myself?”  There usually is real pain beneath my despair – pain that must be expressed so that I can let go of it.

I can also take good care of myself.  I can eat right, get some exercise, get out of the house more and seek kind and understanding people.  Talking through what’s bothering me and asking for what I need are good antidotes to despair.  Most of all, I can reach out for the consolation and strength of the Universe.

I may feel unworthy or hopeless and too tired to even care.  I may believe that nothing matters.  But things do matter.  I matter.  Life matters.  I don’t have to keep struggling with despair and depression alone.  I am grateful for this spark of hope within me that can never die.  Things will get better.

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The Challenges of Accepting and Loving Life

“Love is not about finding the right person, but creating a right relationship. It’s not about how much love you have in the beginning but how much love you build till the end.”

I know I’m not alone in my lingering fear of pain and the way I try to flee its onset. In the past, I would do almost anything to avoid being hurt, and I was unwilling to take risks in my emotional life. I remained in a love-less relationship for 16 1/2 years and a in a second, controlling, compulsive and impulsive relationship for nearly 11 years, then endured a 5 year abusive relationship because I didn’t want to feel the pain associated with ending those relationships.

Deep down though, I knew I was playing a dangerous game with my sanity. But at least I wasn’t making myself vulnerable, or so I thought. Life without pain I have learned is an impossibility. The same is true of love. Our loved ones may grow away from us for a while, or they may become sick, leave us or die. We cannot control life. Accepting it and loving it as it is, with everything that is unpredictable and painful about it, is one of my greatest challenges along my path of personal growth.

I can accept pain as a part of life, even as a part of my growth and health. I can accept pain when I have attained a sense of serenity in my heart. I must give up the false sense of power that results from closing myself off from pain, and, at last, I will feel fully alive.

Feeling is the Inner Life

Expression is the Outer Life

I’ve realized that there’s a difference between my ability to feel, my ability to express my feelings, and my ability to let go.  I know there are many painful emotions I learned to suppress when I was young, particularly anger or sadness.  Other emotions might be difficult to feel because they are connected to past pain.

Yet there’s no letting go, no moving on, until I stop trying to avoid feelings such as sorrow, anger, rage or despair.  I have found the way to begin working through difficult feelings is to reach out to people with a phone call, email, or blog comment.  Other ways I have found to help are writing (blogging or journaling); having a good cry, or plan a healing ritual which can be as simple as taking a couple of days alone, just to think.  For some of us, turning to our Higher Power, as we know it provides the spiritual help and nourishment we need.

The release that will come as a result of expressing our feelings will help to ease the pain.  It’s not realistic to release all the pain from our past all at once, but we can begin by letting go of a little piece today.

Damn Heels Hurt! When In Pain, Who Knows Best Where it Hurts?

 

“Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.” – English proverb.

When I am in pain, I know where it hurts. Other people may be ready with suggestions and advice, but I am the only one who eventually can know what the matter is.

We are each a unique expression of humanity and we are the only ones who can live our lives. When we are stricken with addiction to compulsive behaviors, we know where it hurts and how much. While we may have to bear a lot of pain, we can name where it hurts and begin to do something about it. When this happens, it’s possible for others to come to our aid later on.

This is true whether in the program or on a path of personal growth. We know where the hurt is and we take that first baby step. In doing so, we turn to others who help us bear the pain and walk by our side on the open road to personal growth.


Change is Painful

But What About the Agony that Results Without it?

 

 

 

“An old error is always more popular than a new truth”     –German Proverb

I often feel uncomfortable with the “new” because it causes me to reach out and expand my vision. This may at times, be painful and I don’t like the pain that comes with change.

My previous unhealthy behaviors and actions seemed cozy and gave me a curious kind of comfort and reassurance. I turned to them when I was lonely or anxious or hopeless. I was used to them and didn’t need to do much to keep on going in the same old ways. I’m feeling the need to turn to some of those old ways today, due to pressures, stress and disconnection from my family and some friends.

But today, suddenly I saw the error of my old ways. Discovery, disgrace, previous suits for damages, my partner’s incarcerations, my resultant isolation, despair, the loss of two previous partners, the contempt of our friends – are all the consequences of the coziness of those old ways. Yes, I may have awakened to find that my past behaviors ruined my life. I once again reach out to the hard process of change.

Making difficult changes is painful, but that pain is far preferable to the agony caused by the inevitable outcome of a return to the past behaviors that come from addiction and neglect of my bipolar disorder. I am reaching and embracing the new even though it is sometimes painful for a while.

Suffering

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”  -E.H. Chapin-

 

When I am suffering I wondered this morning, what do I usually do with it?  Do I use it as a reason to abuse myself, shame myself or hate myself?  Do I turn to my former unhealthy behaviors from the pain that is part of the suffering?

When I was acting out, I suffered, I felt pain, but I usually did not understand why.  The suffering and pain that accompanies me along my path of personal and spiritual growth is quite different – it leads me to healing, or at least it will if I let it.  Sometimes I can turn my pain over to the Universe, trusting that my pain is there to help me grow, and that it will pass.  This can help me believe that my pain has a true purpose.

My feelings, no matter how difficult some of them are to feel, are supported by the compassion I am learning to feel myself and the compassion the Universe feels for me.  I can choose to look at my pain in the light of recovery.  It won’t last forever; I will survive!

 

Look In The Mirror – A Poem by Christopher Eshenbaugh

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Look in the Mirror

Look in the mirror.
I gaze deeply at the image of me;
A man who is troubled by mental relapse;
“sick-in-the-head” behavior problems,

Caution, code red!

What a deceiving image I see.
Is this reflection really of me?
I look like a man who is strong and keen,
but deep inside, I feel ashamed.
I cannot control the anger built inside of me;
Anger I have for things I should just let be!
Anger even built towards me.

Who is this coming from behind me?
A man who’s reflection joins me.
My partner, my love!
Do you see the monster I call me?
I have hurt you in many ways;
please forgive the words I say.
Forgive me for hitting you
and calling you those trashy names.

I am scared of myself. Can you help me
out?

“I know I love you without a doubt.”
is sung from his beautiful mouth.

I am blessed to be given his love and affection.
I must not destroy this reflection;
the two of us, side by side.

I am reminded that this man stands beside me,
willing to continue, right here at my side.
I must not make this a wild, scary ride.
I will change my reflection starting deep inside.

Copyright 2007

Christopher Eshenbaugh

All Rights Reserved