Tag Archive: attachment



Self compassion. What is it?

To understand this concept better, we must first understand the concept of self worth. For people who generally already have a pretty good sense of self esteem and who recognize that their worth does not come from something external, such as how you perform or whether you are accepted or rejected by the people you love, self compassion is a relatively easier concept to understand. These people have either taken in enough emotional object constancy from their formative years and taken in enough nurture and love from their parents at that crucial stage of development, that they have enough love within themselves to understand self compassion. Or, they have learned the tools to develop a positive sense of self esteem later on in life. And yes! Self-esteem can be taught, learned and appropriated!

It is for those who have come from a more traumatic background of neglect or abuse of any kind or who lacked the nurturing or a stable, consistent environment while growing up who will likely find this subject of most value. A stable consistent environment can include anything from receiving consistent messages of worth and value as a person, not by what you do or don’t do, but just for who you are, to having steady, consistent people in your life, to living in the same neighborhood, growing up with the same kids from your school to increase the sense of bondedness and connection. Kids who grow up with one parent who has several partners who come and go frequently lack the steadiness of knowing both parental figures will be there for them. When families move frequently to different cities, uprooting their kids and planting them in new schools every couple of years or so, even if it is necessary for work related reasons, the child learns to adapt, but not to feel a sense of consistency or attachment with peers, which is also essential for the stability necessary to build into a child a healthy sense of connectedness. Even those who grow up with healthy parenting can be affected by low self worth for a variety of reasons. No family is perfect, and you may miss out on one or two of the essential pieces necessary to build a strong sense of worth, as in the above examples. The nurturing may be there, but moving a lot can affect the child, or if the nurture is inconsistent, or a variety of other factors may affect one’s sense of self esteem. So the bottom lime is, everyone can benefit by understanding more about self worth and where it comes from. So let’s take a look at a simple definition of it, before we unpack how to build that self esteem by introducing self compassion.

Self esteem is a realistic and appreciative opinion of oneself. Realistic meaning an honest and accurate assessment of yourself. It involves having positive feelings toward the self. It involves the ability to know that you have worth regardless of external circumstances.

Trauma has a way of re-wiring the brain to de-rail one’s sense of worth. What then begins to happen is that a person begins subconsciously speaking negative messages to the self. “I am not lovable because I was abused” or “I can only be worth something if I perform well” or telling oneself messages like “I’m a failure.” “no one loves me.” “I’m worthless.” “It would be better if I were dead”, etc. These are a few examples of negative self talk. The more you listen to these subtle statements, the worse they become. A person can begin to self-sabotage themselves and give in to self pity, or reject love when it is offered by dismissing it with reasons and assumptions as to why it can’t be true that someone loves us. Why? Because we have re-programmed our brain to only listen to negative messages that we use as a wall to protect ourselves. That’s right! Pain can be a protector. So can anger and rage. Anger and rage turned inward on ourselves is deadly to self worth. The sad thing is, most of this is going on subconsciously as we go about our day to day life, battling depression, despair, or self hatred, not realizing where it stems from, due to a lack of mindfulness about what we are allowing our minds to dwell on. There is a lot of research on how our brains work, and in many studies revealing ways to by-pass the trauma centers of our brain to re-route as it were, by reformatting the messages the brain is taking in. I do not have the time to go into that further. But the point is, there is sufficient evidence that our brains can learn new messages. We do not have to stay in trauma forever!

The bible suggests that ‘ whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” Philippians 4:8 NIV

This is good advice and wise counsel. Buddhism and Psychology also offer good tools for paying attention to what we are thinking about, called Mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is the practice of skillfully managing our attention and awareness. Attention regulation leads directly to emotional regulation.”

” Mindfulness is…knowing what you are experiencing WHILE you are experiencing it. Moment to moment awareness. Paying attention to our stream of perceptions rather than our interpretations of them… It is both knowing where our mind is from moment to moment AND directing our attention in skillful ways.”

The above quotes are from the book “The Mindful path to Self Compassion” by Christopher K. Germer, PhD.

The bible discusses this concept as well when it instructs us to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Joyce Meyer teaches on this concept as well, to “think about what you’re thinking about” instead of carelessly allowing destructive thoughts to take up residence in your mind.

Before I get into self compassion, I must look at the flip side of the coin. There are those who dwell on pain and allow pain to be their protector. The same applies to self hatred. But, there is another aspect to take a quick look at. Studies show that the mind naturally wants to avoid distressful events and uses denial and all sorts of other coping mechanisms like projecting our distress on others, etc. The problem with this is that denial amplifies the problem. Seeking pleasure or addictions to numb pain are temporary fixes that inevitably make things worse for us later on.

“The ability to see things as they are, with acceptance, gets us through.” (taken from the book, the mindfulness of self compassion, Again.)

Suppression actually ends up becoming preoccupied by what is trying to be avoided, causing all sorts of anxiety, self hatred, depression, etc.

“New research suggests that establishing a new relationship with our thoughts and feelings, rather than directly challenging them, makes the difference. This new relationship is less avoidant, less entangled, more accepting, more compassionate and more aware. Leaning into our problems with open eyes and open hearts – with awareness and compassion – is the process by which we get relief…Resistance creates suffering. Acceptance alleviates it.” (The Mindfulness of self compassion)

Now acceptance is not embracing and feeding the negative emotions and coddling them and making them right at home where they can wreak havoc on our souls, but rather to take a look at what is happening in our emotions. I have had it explained to me to try and look at those problematic emotions as a cloud passing by in the sky. You watch it with interest, apply compassion, and allow it to move on.

“Self compassion is a form of acceptance. Whereas acceptance usually refers to what’s happening to us -accepting a feeling or a thought- self compassion is acceptance of ourselves while we are in pain… Self compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”

“Mindfulness says ‘feel the pain’ and self compassion says ‘cherish yourself in the midst of the pain.'”

The bible, as does like every other religious teaching out there, the golden rule: To love others as you love yourself.

I invite you to practice kindness toward yourself. Give yourself grace for when you feel like you have failed at something. Every time you want to automatically criticize yourself, you are hurting yourself by engaging in self-sabotage. Some of you believe that is all you are worth. It is a lie in it’s ugliest form. We were all made in the image of God and are dearly loved by Him. We were all designed with dignity and incredible worth. My heart goes out to those of you who believe you aren’t worth much. My advice: If there are people who are contributing to this message of a lack of worth in you, that you separate yourself from them, at least for a time, to begin to practice self compassion and self worth, until you recognize that your value does not come from external validation, but that it is innate within you.

I could say SO much more on this subject… It is very near and dear to my heart. But I can only say so much in one blog.

Remember to think about what you are thinking about and extend kindness and compassion to yourself!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome this and other struggles such as depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

Learning to Attach and Bond


By the time a child is 3 years old they have taken in astronomical amounts of information -we are created with so many genetic possibilities. So much of which depends on what we recieve from our parenting, the quality of relationship, to see which elements get developed, and which remain underdeveloped. The reality is that that none of us walk away from being parented completely unscathed! No one is perfect, and our parents are not fully responsible for what we missed out on in our childhood. This is due in part to the law of responsibility. We are responsible to finish growing in whatever areas we missed out on the first time around which is great news to parents who often beat themselves up over areas where they recognize that they were imperfect in their parenting.
But what is this astronomical amount of information that a child must take in and receive and begin to appropriate in life?
Children are always learning, and observing, and mirroring what information they see and take in. Kids need to attach and to bond, to learn to separate from mommy and determine who he/she is apart from mom. In the first year of life, they need to learn basic trust, developing a self soothing ability to have a relationship with his/her caretaker in their absence and develop emotional object constancy. Early on in child development, infants do not have enough love or structure within themselves, and require a great deal of nurture. Kids also need to learn to know what their desires are and their limits and to know that these will be respected. They are to learn how to own and take responsibiltiy for their own behavior, feelings, attitudes and abilities. They need to know they are loved no matter what. They need to eventually grow up and leave and become mature adults. But before they finish growing up and developing, they also need to process the imperfect parenting they receive. They may need to learn how to respond to physical or emotional neglect, abuse, deprivation, role reversals, physical abandonment, boundary violations, sexual violations, etc, etc.
That is an incredible amount of information for someone so young to have to learn all at once, which is why we often come away from our childhood feeling like there were pieces missing, unprepared for adulthood or recognizing that perhaps we are incomplete in our development.
My intention is to unpack this a little bit and help fill in the gaps a bit.

Today we will touch on the need to attach and bond. Before we can even begin to understand and appropriate healthy boundaries in our life, we must first be able to bond and attach and connect to someone who is safe and loving and can fill that lack of love that we first come into the world with. Before you can separate and become a complete person, you first need to be a part of something before you can individuate.

Many people struggle with the ability to receive love, due in large part to a lack of attachment or bondedness. Or, you learn enmeshment rather than intimacy, therefore lacking a clear knowledge of what the difference is. Enmeshment happens when your ability to separate and individuate is disrespected. I will touch on that more next week. I am merely trying to show that there are injuries that develop in us that we carry into adulthood as a result of a lack of bondedness, or unhealthy ways in which we bonded, such as sexual abuse as another example.

So what is bondedness? Simply, the ability to emotionally attach to another person on a deep level. The ability to share your deepest thoughts, ideas, dreams, fears, etc with another person and know you are loved and to feel safe. Emotional object constancy is developed over time as you continue to take in enough love, to know that even when the person giving love is not in the same room as you, you are still loved. Now, you may think this is silly that this emotional object constancy can still affect us years later if not enough love was taken in during our formative years, but it is true. Years later, if that part of development is incomplete, a person may feel a deep sense of isolation and aloneness and be unable to cope with such feelings, and needs to find varying ways to cope with a deep sense of emptiness and aloneness that does not go away. This learning to bond idea is really a BIG deal. It is the first step of growth and development, and the most important.

Some symptoms of a failure to bond include: depression, feelings of badness, guilt, sadness, panic, feelings of meaninglessness, emptiness, feelings of unreality, fantasy, addiction, rage, panic, distorted thinking, fear of intimacy, excessive caretaking, etc.

Unfortunately in one blog I don’t have time to get into more detail about how all these things work, but I can say that if you identify with any of this at all, I can leave you with a few simple tools about how to begin the process of bonding. Perhaps at a later time, I will come back to this subject more in depth and give more helpful tools for growth.

But for now I will leave you with this:

Here are a few tools to help you on your way to develp the skills to bond and complete the mothering process in healthy relationships in your current life:

Step 1. Realize the need for it. Often people live without even having an awareness that they need to connect on a deep level because they have lived so long without it that they have developed skills to adapt to the emptiness. Some people don’t even ‘feel’ the emptiness, because it is buried so deeply inside.

Step 2. Make steps to reach out to others. If you see someone who seems like a caring, nurturing individual, make an attempt to develop a friendship with that person to allow yourself the opportunity to learn to receive warmth, empathy and love.

Step 3. Be Vulnerable. This is big. This is hard…. and often feels extremely threatening when you are very disconnected. The fear of a loss of love is so great it prevents you from reaching out and allowing someone “in” to the deeper parts of yourself. Try not to let this fear rule. It will cripple your ability to attach and bond.

Step 4. Challenge your distorted thinking patterns…. such as the fear I just mentioned, or making assumptions about what other people are thinking, and how confident you are that they WILL reject you if you let them in. These distorted thinking patterns could also be about yourself, and how you have erected a wall of protection by saying hateful things about yourself so often until you believe them, and believe that everyone else thinks the same thing about you. Try not to interpret what you think others are thinking of you. When in doubt, ask, instead of assuming.

Step 5. Take risks.

Step 6. Allow yourself to experience dependent feelings.

Step 7. Recognize your defenses.

Step 8. Say yes to allowing yourself to receive love. Allow yourself to be compassionate to yourself instead of critical and give yourself permission to receive.

It may feel right now, like that is too much of a risk for some of you. I tell you from experience, it is not always smooth sailing, and you may get burned here and there, but when you do finally experience what it is like to really receive love, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

My challenge to you today is this: Love, like you’ve never been hurt. Keep reading, because I will blog in a few weeks on how to identify the safe people to be able to attempt this growth challenge with. Stay tuned!!

If you would like more information on Boundaries, check out the Boundary Development Program available on my website.  Hope to see you there!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website www.freedomlifelove.com and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.   

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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