Making the inside of our head a safe place for ourselves isn’t the ONLY thing involved in recovery— but it might be the most important.
It won’t really matter how safe or stable it is outside of us, if inside our own head we’re still attacking and sabotaging ourselves.
Many people who have painful, complicated histories are really cruel to themselves inside their own head.
How we talk to ourselves can be brutal.
A lot of the time we can really struggle with giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt.
Often we’ll struggle to believe we are worthy of pleasure or other positive emotions— after all, what have we done to “deserve” or “earn” positive experiences, huh?
Much of the time how harsh we are with ourselves has been learned over time.
We learned how to be cruel to us by watching and experiencing other people be cruel to us.
For many people reading this, it never even occurred to them that there was a way to talk to themselves OTHER than sarcastically or harshly.
For some people reading this, being kind to themselves feels fake or indulgent.
We’re thoroughly convinced in our own minds that we don’t “deserve” kindness or fairness.
We often feel guilty when OTHER people are kind and fair to us, because we haven’t don’t anything to “earn” it and often feel unworthy of it.
Many of these negative feelings and believes about ourselves are rooted in the past.
They’re so familiar, they “feel” right.
We don’t think to question them, because they’re basically what we grew up with. It’d be like a fish questioning the water in its bowl.
We often grow up feeling undeserving and incapable, because that was the feedback we received, either directly or indirectly, from the people we were supposed to be able to trust and believe.
When we’re kids, we don’t have the cognitive machinery to sift through the validity of the messages we receive about ourselves.
We just kind of take it all in.
Beliefs about who we are and what we’re all about get programmed into us— and they take root.
Over time we lose any sense that those beliefs and feelings aren’t actually, objectively true— they’re just what we were told over and over again.
Fast forward to now, and it’s EXTREMELY hard to convince ourselves that those old feelings and beliefs may not be the entire story.
We are way more complex than any belief system from when we were kids could possibly encapsulate.
Whether we are or aren’t worthy or deserving isn’t a function of whether we were or weren’t loved or cared for by the people who should have been there for us once upon a time.
We may FEEL like we do or don’t deserve love and care based upon what we were told and how we were treated back then…but those feelings are a reflection of those early experiences. Not reality.
Making the inside of our head a safe place for ourselves means refusing to echo and reinforce the mean things we were told once upon a time.
Making the inside of our head a safe place for ourselves means refusing to launch attacks on ourselves that we can’t escape, because they’re coming from inside us.
We are with ourselves 24/7. When our relationship with ourselves is hostile, that means we’re vulnerable to attack 24/7.
How can we possibly recover, especially from trauma, when we have to be on guard every minute of every day like that?
There are LOTS of things that we can and should do in recovery to decrease our vulnerability.
But whatever else we do, we NEED to prioritize that relationship with ourselves.
We NEED the inside of our head to be a safe space for us.
We NEED our heart to be a sacred space for us.
What’s more: we DESERVE that safe and sacred space within us.
No matter what that voice in your head is saying right now.