Years ago, I began a personal practice for self-healing that, over time, I’ve come to incorporate into my work with others on retreats and in private healing sessions. It is a gentle yet powerful technique I’ve included in my upcoming book of essays on love and healing. I’d like to share a little sample of it here today.
There’s much talk about self-love these days. I have found in my work that many of us, although we might at first say, of course I love myself, in fact have no idea how to be truly loving toward ourselves, or to genuinely feel love for ourselves. Still others of us may feel entirely unworthy of love from anyone at all, particularly ourselves. We see only our flaws — real or imagined — we speak to ourselves harshly and unkindly, even betray and undermine ourselves, often times without even realizing it.
This pattern arises from the false notion that somehow I can criticize my way to becoming a better, happier, or more successful person. That somehow I can keep myself safe by tearing myself down. How does that happen? It sounds absurd when it is spelled out in this way, but it’s one very common coping mechanism we develop as children if our environment is either physically or emotionally unsafe. The protective energy of anger, which, in its highest form, is designed to assist us as a catalyst for change of some kind, turns inward, toward ourselves, when it is too dangerous to express ourselves and we are powerless to change our circumstances. As children, we can become hypervigilant, chastising ourselves whenever we ‘make a mistake,’ displease those around us or do not measure up in some way, because it seems the only way to be accepted and stay out of harm’s way. We internalize the critical voices around us and our relationship to ourselves becomes adversarial and disparaging.
One of the simplest, most natural ways to open our hearts to ourselves again is to relate directly to that child self. If possible, locate a photograph of yourself at around the age of 2–5 years old. Frame it beautifully and keep it in your bedroom, or if you prefer, a special place where you spend time in contemplation, meditation or prayer. If you aren’t able to get a photo of yourself, hold an image of your child self in your mind as you practice. Set aside a little time each day for conversation with that tender being. Seeing ourselves at such a young age, when the light in our eyes is so bright and our innocence and vulnerability so apparent, effortlessly calls forth the desire to protect and nurture, to speak softly, gently and with affection and encouragement.
There are many ways to approach this sacred conversation with your child self. Begin with the idea that you are getting to know and understand each other better, thereby opening the door to love and healing.