survivor's self compassion (after abuse)





Self compassion can be a difficult attribute to acquire or regain after surviving any type of abuse – rape, incest, extreme abuse, ritual abuse, domestic violence, etc. Many times the victim has a difficult time not blaming oneself. The blame and shame survivors feel afterwards can cause a toxic poison to run through their lives. How can a survivor care for oneself with gentleness and compassion when one feels such shame, blame, and a sense of deep unworthiness?

Acquiring self compassion is a progression. Through the process of healing (whether via therapy, non-invasive neurofeedback, and/or other methods), survivors gradually shed the shame, the blame, and the sense of worthlessness. I know I did.

As I healed, I realized how little self compassion I extended toward myself. The perfection part of me demanded more of myself than I did of anyone else. Would I treat a friend through words or actions like I treated myself? Definitely not.

As time passes, I am more able to treat myself with the loving care I know I deserve. I can see how much progress I have made in this area in the last eight years. Of course, there is always room for improvement. I am not perfect; and, that is okay!

In 12 step programs, Step Four states, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” (Alcoholics Anonymous). One of the important aspect of this step is that the moral inventory includes both the faults and the good points. Humility means knowing both our strengths and our weaknesses.

“Compassion directed toward oneself is true humility.”

– Simone Weil

Along the way, I used resources such as books and Internet websites to find ways to become more caring toward my body, mind, and spirit. I also found prayer, contemplation, and meditation helpful to me as well as certain forms of exercise (spiritual and physical). Each one of us is unique. What resonates with one of us does not necessarily resonate with someone else.

The book, “Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong” by Norman Fischer was helpful to me during part of my journey. Maybe it will be for you also?

Recently I discovered Dr. Kristine Nett. She is a researcher studying self compassion as well as an author. I have not read her books; but, I have listened to her TED Talk regarding the differences between self-esteem and self compassion. You might be interested. Here’s the link:

She also has a page with various self compassion guided meditations and exercises.

Sometimes I find it is easier to find compassion for myself through reading beautiful poetry or listening to music. John O’Donohue was an Irish poet, writer, and priest. His books bring me comfort (especially as I listen to some of them on CD). One of my favorite writings by John O’Donohue is “A Blessing for Beauty”. It can be found on the below link as well as in his book, “Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace”.

My wish is that you each of you will find your way to a deeper level of self compassion. This self compassion then radiates to others. Kindness and compassion are extremely important in this world of ours which can be so harsh at times.

As a survivor who thrives and as a life coach, I witness the value of self compassion often.

Take gentle care of yourself!