Quan Yin, Goddess of Compassion
About 6 years after my Awakening, I walked into a psychotherapist's office for the first time.
It might be hard for you to believe that I'd never been to see a therapist before. Like many other empaths and sensitives, I’d quietly suffered through a lot of betrayal, pain and abusive relationships before I reached out for help.
But now I was frustrated. I felt stuck in a cycle of self-sabotage. Despite all my efforts at Mindfulness and all those hours meditating, I was still being undermined by my pain body.
At the time I didn’t understand the idea of projection. I wasn’t aware how I was acting out of my conditioning and projecting past trauma onto present circumstances. All I knew was that I was getting in my own way and I was sick of it.
During our first session, my therapist said something to me I'd never heard before.
Until that point, I’d been doing all my inner work by myself, with the help of spiritual self-help books. What I heard that day never appeared in the print of any book I read, nor left the lips of any person who supposedly cared about me.
And it was exactly what I needed to hear for a profound healing crisis to begin.
You see, before then I'd been trying desperately to heal my heart at the level of mind.
I'd read hundreds of spiritual books by now and sat through thousands of hours of meditation. I felt that if I could just focus on being present in the now, I could train my pain to go away. That I could re-program my thoughts, like many do, by sheer will, with affirmations. That I could shift beyond feeling angry and resentful towards myself by telling myself those horrible things I'd been through didn't matter now that circumstances had changed.
Yet, that clearly wasn’t working.
Don’t get me wrong, I was very good at dissociating. I had always been good at detaching from my issues or finding ways to escape from them. But by now I had enlisted my intellect to do it instead of drugs or alcohol. I was still fragmented.
My new spiritual vantage point could easily explain away what I’d been through. I excused my abusers for acting unconsciously or out of their programming. I intellectualized my feelings and thought if I just continued to observe as the Witness, my pain would remain at a distance. That I'd find my peace with it.
Until something would trigger me.
Then I'd get all unraveled and painful feelings would come flooding back. My heart raced, pumping cortisol gave me the shakes. I would ruminate in shame for hours over the slightest mistake. What's worse is that underneath all the fluffy self talk, I still disliked myself.
No amount of meditation or self-talk could bring me back to center. It felt like my emotions had their own neural network, and I couldn’t unplug from it.
Until the day I walked into that therapist’s office.
Goddess of Compassion
After talking with me a little about the kinds of experiences I'd had in my youth that I was carrying around with me, he softened his gaze and said, "Wow, Debra, you've been through a lot."
It was the first time I'd ever felt this kind of compassion towards me. Raised in a household that shamed us into obedience, suppression and toughing things out, I certainly wasn't very patient with myself.
How else was I supposed to crawl out of a pit of hostility and self-pity without allowing myself to FEEL victimized, at least for a short time?
Before I left his office that day, my therapist gave me homework. Pointing to a statue of Quan Yin on his bookshelf, he said, "She's the Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion. I want you to go home and contemplate Quan Yin. Be gentle with yourself."
So I went home and sat with my feelings of betrayal and abuse, especially by people who were supposed to protect me when I was young. From here on, each time I heard my inner critic's voice, the one who said I was weak and bad, that I'd deserved what happened to me, that I should be ashamed for the circumstances I put myself in, I contemplated Quan Yin and the idea of self-compassion.
This frequent repetition of contemplating self-compassion brought me to a stage of grieving, and eventually an authentic integration of some the things that I had gone through in my youth.
Victimization as a Bridge
But, what's important to note is that I didn't identify with the victim mentality. I didn't cling to it as if it were a long lost part of me. I visited that dark cave for a short while, just enough to shift the frequency of shame I was holding onto.
As I let the tears fall without stopping them and told myself I'd been through a lot, I had a revelation. In that dark womb-like cave of grief, I came to recognize that shaming myself was a pattern I’d learned from my parents. I didn't have to keep doing it just because I'd learned it as a child.
Grief is the Healing
I've since come to understand that it's absolutely necessary to spend some time grieving for parts of ourselves that have been hurt. You can't really move forward until you grieve for the loss of innocence that comes with being betrayed and disappointed by people we admired and trusted.
I'm not saying this is where we should remain. Societies filled with victimized, angry and resentful people do not make productive, enlightened societies.
But to get through to the other side isn't about denial, repression, or thinking our way out. It isn't about "letting go" of suffering and disengaging our focus from it. That keeps us separated from the parts of ourselves who are suffering.
This lack of integration will keep vying for our attention by acting out in unconscious ways. What's not looked at becomes baggage that gets tacked onto our Shadow Self, a personality of pain.
We have to dive in and take an active role in re-parenting ourselves with self-compassion.
Shadow Work as a Spotlight
Not by excusing or intellectualizing. Not by dancing around it and only observing our trauma from afar. But by having some compassion for what we've been through and acknowledging our pain. By allowing the feelings to have some time to air out. By saying to ourselves, "I've been through a lot. No wonder I feel the way I do. It's natural and ok."
We need to shine a spotlight on our pain for a time.
Otherwise we continue to unconsciously act out the abuse cycle. When we refuse to acknowledge our feelings of pain, disappointment and betrayal, we are invalidating those exact same parts of ourselves that were first invalidated by our abusers.
By not seeing yourself and cherishing who you are, you are following the programmed script. You don't stop the cycle of abuse. You need to find the part of yourself that is under the pain. The part that cannot be soiled by it. That's what you're digging for in these profound moments of self-healing.
It also leads to a chronic numbing of the emotions and prologned states of apathy and depression because we become disconnected from our feelings this way.
Self-compassion is a Healing Frequency
Perhaps you've heard the saying, “You have to feel it to heal it”. For me, sitting with my feelings brought about a shift from resentment to grief within a few days.
Nowadays the process is much faster because my healing personality knows what to do and doesn't need much coaxing. Through repetition, I have taught myself that I don't need to repress pain because it's okay for me to feel it.
Once I truly allow a feeling its time to just ‘be’, it will shift and let go of its grip on me, changing from something with a high emotional charge to something milder and more diffuse.
Why Healing is Tough for Tough Girls
For many of us with strong, driven type A personalities, allowing our feelings to surface seems like an indulgence we can’t afford. We’ve always pushed through with mental discipline to achieve the next goal. We dig in our heels, grit our teeth and put our pain aside to do what is necessary. We engage too much with our Warrior energy, the peril of which is a surplus of dry, mental energy and a lack of spontaneity that leaves us disconnected from others as well as our own feelings of joy and pleasure.
What I’ve learned is that too much grit doesn’t jive well with emotional healing. There needs to be balance. Lasting healing requires surrender, not pushing through.
But more importantly, it is the frequency of love and compassion that heals the pain body. It is what is summoned during Shamanic ceremony and Soul Retrieval to heal soul loss. It's what's channeled in energy healing modalities like Qi Gong, Shiatzu and Reiki. It's is also what's re-programmed into the energy body via the meridians in EFT.
This kind of frequency cannot be reached with the mind. Healing frequency must be conjured, like magic. So, if you're struggling to integrate your trauma, my advice is to focus less on the mind and more on heart opening.
The goal is to resonate with Love for ourselves, despite our wounds.