Today, Martha Trowbridge expands on this idea with some terrifically important and creative thoughts….
If you’ve been long-wrestling with the ravages of trauma, self-love can seem impossible. How can you love yourself, when you’re shattered, agitated, a useless mess? How can you love yourself, when the person you once were is gone, most likely, forever? How can you love yourself, when your future is doomed to unending, unbearable agony?
Compounding your miseries, you’re haunted by the ‘fact’ that no one could possibly love you, or want you, now that you are traumatized.
If you can, step back from your situation for a moment. Thinking the thoughts and feeling the emotions I cited above, what is your perspective?
Do you respond to the torments of your PTSD with authentic self-love? I think you know: you don’t. Sadly, your perspective is quite the opposite. It’s a perspective of self-hate. Self-hate. Chilling words, indeed. Yet if you bear with me, I’ll do my best to explain.
Trauma is dynamic. It is relational. To perpetuate itself, ongoing trauma requires your participation, at least to some degree. It requires that at some level you agree with its urgent, painful, condemning message. Conversely, without your assent, trauma has little enduring power.
For instance, as you struggle with PTSD, are you flattened by the sense that you are failed, broken, bludgeoned, doomed, worthless, irreversibly ruined, done for, and/or despicable? Do you kick at yourself for being weak? Are you convinced that sooner or later, the fight will be over, and you’ll be the loser? If so, PTSD has you on its side. How?
Wholly opposite to authentic self-love, ‘self-hate’ accuses, reprimands, blames, judges, chides, attacks, torments, pronounces, rages, shakes, dooms, threatens, taunts, terrorizes, spits at, intimidates, resents, hates, overpowers, scorns, and ridicules you as you suffer emotional and mental agonies. It is forceful. It is violent. It is insistent, and demanding. ‘Self-hate’, in its dynamics with you, picks up the evil cries of PTSD and not only amplifies them, it plays them over and over and over; then over again.
An unholy alliance, indeed, between PTSD and one’s proclivity toward ‘self-hate’.
Consider this: why does the torment of trauma run down and off the backs of some survivors, yet cling to and invade every cell in the bodies of others? In we who long- suffer, the message that PTSD repetitively delivers resonates within us. It attaches to deeply embedded beliefs we have long-held; and once attached, its message shakes us to our core. What sort of beliefs are these ‘trauma receptors’?
The beliefs we acquired since our earliest hours, whenever bad things were done to us. The beliefs we reinforced in ourselves, by the bad things we have done to ourselves. Herein lies the toxic dynamic energy that keeps our PTSD pulsing, vibrant, and oh so alive.
Compare this with authentic self-love.
Authentic self-love is a way of being that honors, cherishes, protects and nurtures your sacred Spirit. By Spirit, I mean the totality of human metaphysical experience, including mind [consciousness and the unconscious]; soul [the limitless in time and space -- the aspect of human existence that interconnects with the Divine]; and self [the human definitive principle -- the 'You'].
A person who truly self-loves responds to traumatic suffering with self-protective, self- embracing, self-nurturing, and self-respecting responses. She is truly horrified at what has happened to her. Eager to fend off attacks, she sets herself in whole scale opposition to anything that seeks to destroy her. She thoroughly rejects the idea that trauma’s destructive messages are accurate, appropriate or legitimate. Determined to protect her precious Spirit, she is confident that she will find a way to weather trauma’s storm.
Most importantly, a person who authentically self-loves can clearly separate what has happened to her [traumatic experience] from whom she is a sacred person, precious and worthwhile, wholly undeserving of the violations against her.
So you see, her posture, and her response, in no way feeds or vitalizes her trauma.
We who do not practice loving-kindness [Dr. Chris Germer, link below], who find ourselves succumbing to the spell of the hateful voices of our PTSD, who agonize, ruminate and self-blame, sink more and more deeply into our sufferings. With our harsh, self-hating responses to our PTSD, oddly, we side with our tormentor.
Learning and practicing authentic self-love totally changes this.
Who can learn to practice authentic self-love? Anyone, at any time, in any state of Spirit, can learn to practice authentic self-love.
Can it be that you are too destroyed to become self-loving? No. Any Spirit, no matter its state, can be resuscitated – and revitalized – when at all costs, in every situation, that Spirit is faithfully protected, nurtured, embraced and cherished by the person in whom that Spirit dwells.
Martha Trowbridge is Executive Producer and Host at Martha Trowbridge Radio, LLC: Empathic Wisdom For Suffering Women. As a victim of violence two decades ago, for years she experienced PTSD, accompanied by traumatic depression.
The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Professional Perspective’ contact Michele.