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Guest Post by: Keri Nola, MA, LMHC
Over the years through my own experience and as a psychotherapist specializing in trauma and PTSD recovery, I have found that our human journeys are both joyous and tragic. Even amidst the most beautiful of stories, if we listen carefully enough, we can hear about one another’s survival of loss and experience of unexpected pain and suffering. In the process of witnessing and holding space for the healing of both myself and others, I have come to realize one of the most important elements of the healing process and I share that now in the hopes of offering a cushion of support for others’ journeys.
I have discovered that the single most supportive element of successful and long-term trauma healing is cultivating the practice of meeting ourselves where we are with compassion—learning to welcome not only our joy, but our pain with a gentle and loving curiosity that cushions its’ presence. When we are able to observe our symptoms (anxiety, panic, grief, sleep difficulty, flashbacks, relationship conflict, etc) with wonder and kindness rather than judgment and criticism, we immediately welcome a softness that makes our already painful experience more bearable. It may be helpful to remember that symptoms are teachers. They come to us to communicate what is left unresolved within us and when met with compassion, symptoms can ebb and flow more quickly and easily than when we are resisting the process.
Two of the most common questions I often get asked in my practice are how do I know when I am not meeting myself where I am with compassion and what can I do when I realize I am struggling to be compassionate with myself? Both great questions! So I will answer them for you here…
A Few Signs That We Are Lacking Self-Compassion: • Are you feeling emotionally overwhelmed? • Are you judging and criticizing yourself? For example, using phrases/thinking thoughts like “I should be passed this by now” or “This happened so long ago, I’m stupid and weak for still struggling.” • Are you comparing your progress with your perception of others’, i.e. “He/she doesn’t still have anxiety like this!” • Are you struggling with healthy boundary setting? For example, agreeing to do things you don’t want to do.
Ways to Cultivate a Practice of Self-Compassion: • Breathe and allow yourself to pause during moments of struggle • In the sacred pause, become mindful of your inner dialogue • Reflect the inner dialogue without creating conflict, for example instead of berating yourself for experiencing symptoms of fear, grief, or pain, observe those feelings with compassion by saying “Of course I’m feeling _________, I have been through a lot and I am allowed to be present with these feelings and I am learning that they will pass” • Learn to forgive yourself for your humanness—allow permission for you to be where you are without punishment, excuse, or justification AND forgive yourself when you aren’t able to do this as well • Choose to take gentle care of yourself –Put yourself on your priority list and honor that time as you might an appointment with another –Welcome soft, comforting things into your environment—teddy bears, fuzzy socks, animals, blankets, etc –Nurture yourself with food and drink that nourish your body, mind, and soul –Be mindful of the people you choose to spend your time, energy, and stories with—create a support system of people who have shown you they can hold space for not just your joy, but your sadness, fear, and pain too –Ask for what you need and begin to remember that you deserve to receive it (even if that means giving it to yourself)
The healing journey is long and complex enough, why complicate it even more by expecting ourselves to be somewhere that we haven’t yet arrived? Learning to be present in our experience with compassion has the potential to offer us relief even in the darkest of times. Let’s be our own candle in the darkness and choose to greet our symptoms with curiosity rather than resistance and allow our paths to be illuminated by the gifts of gentleness and love.
About the author: Keri Nola is a highly regarded Psychotherapist, Author of A Year on Your Path to Growth and Founder of Path To Growth, LLC, an integrative healing center based in Central Florida. She specializes in trauma recovery and dissociation, combining traditional and holistic techniques to help people access their inner wisdom and create a healthy mind, body, and spirit to live their most inspired lives.
Keri’s real life experience paired with her extensive education and work background makes her a compassionate, balanced, and sought-after professional in the areas of personal growth and wellness. For more information, visit www.pathtogrowth.com, join Keri on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pathtogrowth and follow her on twitter@PathToGrowth
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