One of the Soulmate students asked for more information about loving yourself. Let me give you an example of what it is not, and why you need it.
Many years ago, my first girlfriend Sandy, had a friend (“Shelly”) who was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. The boyfriend went to jail, and while he was away, she started a new relationship. When the boyfriend got out, he beat the new boyfriend half to death and attacked “Shelly” viciously. When she recovered, she got back together with him. Sandy was aghast, and asked Shelly why.
Shelly’s reply: “you just don’t know what love it.”
How beaten down does Shelly have to be to accept such a relationship? How frightened of the world, to think that the arms of a beast are a safer harbor for her than finding a way to freedom? What does she believe she deserves in a relationship? What role models for healthy relationships could she have had?
Her reaction, and the entire situation, are so toxic that, absent an epiphany, I doubt Shelly is still alive today. She would have stumbled from one predatory relationship to the next, one damaging situation to the next, until she lost all hope, numbed the world with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex, lost all sense of being a precious gem, without which a human soul withers.
Why not die? Precisely why stick around here in a world of pain?
Dear God…my heart breaks just to remember her.
Do we need to ask if Shelly loved herself? All we need to do is ask the question: Would she want her own most beloved child to have a similar relationship?
She might, just MIGHT answer “but that’s all there is in this world.” If she is beaten down enough, if her sense of agency had been violated enough that she saw her sexuality as a commodity, or as garbage ( the deepest damage of childhood sexual abuse, IMO) then she might well think that SHE is not worthy, but few are so damaged they do not want better for their children.)
So if she says “She deserves it, but there is nothing better in life” you have a tiny opening. TINY, but visible. An opening where you can ask:
“Is it true?” Is it true that there is no real love in the world? That no one is in a relationship of mutual respect and support, deep affection, reveling in each other’s sexuality? Is it true?
Because if she can admit that it is true…if she will accept a role model of possibility, if she sees that she’d want her own daughter to have it…then you have exposed the heart of her damage:
WHAT MAKES HER VALUE HERSELF LESS THAN SHE WOULD VALUE HER CHILD?
What happened to her? Who told her she was less than perfect, of less value than the stars in the sky? (Conversely, of course, she is no MORE valuable than a grain of sand. But that is another discussion) Trust me, if you look carefully enough, there is ALWAYS a voice. Always someone in her head telling her she can’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t, isn’t worth it, that happiness is not for people like her.
And then you can ask the next question: WHOSE VOICE IS THAT?
Because one of the greatest basic secrets, one of the doors to freedom once you get the ugly joke, is:
YOU ARE NOT THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD. YOU ARE THE ONE LISTENING TO THE VOICES.
Understand that when you meditate, and the entire activity shifts in meaning. Who told you? Who hurt you? Who convinced you there was no real joy in life, that the very best you can do is is avoid pain.
Now note: there is nothing wrong with avoiding pain. With moving away from fear. But that is a basic animal response, the first stage of learning. The intermediate stage is integrating anti-fear, anti-pain behaviors at the level of habit. You stop falling on your face because you tie your shoes every morning, without argument or thought.
You take care of your body, rest and nutrition and exercise
You take care of your finances: hunting and gathering and marketing and perfecting your skills.
You take care of your relationships: communicating and serving and negotiating and working together.
You do them to avoid pain. Until the basics are learned, at which point you have time to ask the next question: what is joy? What do I love?
And IF you have learned and integrated your basics, you then get to put your consciousness on the question of pursuing joy. And IF you keep those basic plates spinning, with your values and beliefs and goals and habits all integrated, you are able to make choices that are a pursuit of joy, rather than an avoidance of fear and pain. Avoiding pain becomes automatic. Think of Tai Chi: people with bad backs study it to avoid pain. But if you do it enough, you find the flow of joy. Now, you do it every day for the JOY, but the avoidance of back pain comes automatically. Does that make sense?
If you use wisdom, you don’t have to dwell on the threats, the pain, because your automatic love-driven actions handle them with unconscious competence.
Be very careful of people whose primary expertise is fear-based. They can have vast experience in toxic relationships, but remember THEY CHOSE THEM. They may be a Shelly, without the self-love and wisdom to avoid the monsters, and rather than look into her own darkness, her own paleness, she tars the world. There is nothing else. Love is a fantasy…
Because if she thought, for a moment: Maybe it isn’t the world. Maybe its me…
That is ego death. A shattering of your self-image, or a reduction of it to total worthlessness.
Unless Shelly loved herself FIRST. BEFORE she generated the realization that it wasn’t the world. IF and ONLY IF she loves herself, those thoughts can go…
Maybe it isn’t the world. Maybe its me.
Why do I treat myself that way? What voice in my head tells me I’m not worth while?
Who is that voice? I KNOW it’s not me. Further, since I love myself, I know it is WRONG.
Mother? Father? Early relationship? The social fabric as a whole, a thousand small yammering voices, creating a chorus of programmed pain?
WHO ARE THOSE VOICES?
If a mother loves a child, she will stand against the entire world. If she believes in that child it doesn’t matter how much testimony there is from strangers that that child is wrong and bad and corrupt.
Isn’t that what we all want? Someone who believes in us? Who would stand with us against all liars and denigrators and abuser?
Isn’t that what we deserve?
When you love yourself, you can give YOURSELF that loving “parent”. You can take a stand with a flaming sword, our child-heart huddled behind us, snarling up at the demon screaming “you shall not pass!”
And when you do that, when you take that stand for yourself, something happens. That child self doesn’t care if you win. She cares THAT YOU TRIED. She cares THAT YOU CARE.
And will return love for love. And at that moment, you will grasp that the love you have sought from others has always been within you. That “child” has the aliveness, the creativity, the emotional energy you’ve always sought. And as the apocryphal mother lifts the car off her trapped child, you will unleash the full potential of mind and heart. Once you take total responsibility for your own happiness, you are in the “do or die” place, where you will bet EVERYTHING to protect that child.
And…there is nothing in this world more dangerous than a human being with nothing left to lose, and motivation to kill you. Nothing more clever and cunning, nothing more resistant to fatigue and fear.
Would YOU want to fight someone like that?
I didn’t think so. And the demons of the world, the doubters, those who would beat you down to build themselves up…
Those creatures have one fear: that you will awaken to your power. That you will realize that escaping fear is only half the equation. The rest is love. Love for yourself. For your potential. For the possibility of contributing to others. To living a life of joy.
And if you DO love yourself, and tear yourself free of whatever demon’s grasp that has held you back? You will recognize other survivors. And one of them will have different, complementary wounds to your own. And you will see and feel that if you bond together you are stronger. And if you are climbing the same mountain, at the same speed, along the same path…that bond can last a lifetime.
And if you DON’T have those wounds, if you got the blessing of a good home, and social support, and the right mentors? You have the potential to integrate more fully and rapidly with the same effort. And you then might…just might…decide to take the responsibility to be a role model. To show the Shellys of the world that joy and love exist. That there is more than pain in the world. You SHOW them by the way you walk the world, your willingness to share.
(This, by the way, is one of the reasons I’ve loved the martial arts. I started them from fear. But if you dig deeply enough, you feel the fear’s rightful place in your life, confine it there like wolves snapping at your heels. Then you can focus on the love in front of you, and run like hell. And if you run fast enough, the wolves are so far behind you you cannot see or hear them. They come close from time to time. And at times you must actually fight them. But if you go even deeper…the wolves join your team, and become sled dogs. But that is another discussion…)
Loving yourself is the key to believing you deserve better. Which is the key to looking for examples of possibility. Which is the key to COMMITTING to the new way. Which is the key to picking yourself up again and again when you inevitably stumble.
How many times would you encourage your child to get up and walk? That’s right: UNTIL SHE WALKS.
Love opens the door to possibility. Beware of people who can only teach you to avoid pain. They are telling you that they haven’t learned their most basic lessons, that their own burdens were too great, that they were too afraid of their own demons to face them directly, so they projected them onto the rest of the world and now believe that’s all there is.
Love yourself enough to get angry at your own bullshit, and have faith that there is more.
This is where it begins. Without it, life is simply running from the wolves.