Love has always been present in my life, but sometimes it felt incognito and elusive. I searched for it in all of the wrong places, everywhere but within. Once I began to practice self-love, self-kindness and self-compassion, I was able to access it more often. Opportunities to choose love over fear present themselves to me every day. I am choosing love more and more. It hasn’t always been this way….
Learning to love (ourselves and others) is a lifelong practice.
Navigating through life feeling overwhelmed, uncomfortable and anxious sucks. I spent a large chunk of my younger years in these states. I don’t like the way I feel when I get gripped with fear. It is not a state I desire. My body goes into a state of fight or flight and that messes with my heart rate and my nervous system. I become easily agitated and can be bitchy. The anxiety beneath the surface is easy to see, especially if you know me well. My default pattern up until I met Donna at 19 was to keep the feelings inside, keep a stiff upper lip, and to avoid feeling the pain at all costs.
Growing up in a household with mental illness and addiction created the perfect storm of dysfunctional chaos that left a mark on me that I have been actively working to heal for most of my adult life. As a child and teenager I experienced cruel bullying at home and at school. I was a prime target; I didn’t fight back (at school) and I was taught to “ignore them.”
Emotional safety was elusive and lacking. I survived by becoming a people-pleasing love seeker without healthy boundaries. Surviving with layers of physical and energetic scar tissue underneath my skin. Moving from surviving to thriving is a process that has been accelerated with gentleness.
There are always blessings in our challenges.
And, all of these experiences have helped me to grow, made me resilient, and propelled me further on my path. As a result of these experiences, I am able to understand similar challenges that others are facing and can empathize deeply. I became adept at “holding space” for others to heal, but the real deep healing happened when I learned to hold space for myself.
There are many paths to healing; Love is the expressway.
Thank God for Donna. She was the first person to help me to see that love was accessible to me. She taught me how to feel, and she taught me how to find, know, and honor my feminine nature. She showed me how to begin to integrate the parts of myself that I had rejected; the parts of myself that were full of fear. She taught me to dialogue with the little girl inside who was neglected and learned to survive by taking care of the people around her. She helped me to begin to care less what other people think of me. She taught me so much about love!
In the past year or so, my focus has shifted. Instead of focusing on what needed to be “further healed,” I am accepting myself as I am. I am focusing on all of the good in my life. I am aligning with my strengths, and allowing love to come deeper into my life.
Thankfully, there has always been love in my life. There were times when I may not have realized love was present, but in retrospect, it was clearly present. I survived and lived to tell my story because of that love. What love might been present, but incognito, in your life if you look for it?
Love raises me. Gratitude helps me feel better. Forgiveness frees me. Presence reminds me to be aware and to show up in the present as fully as possible.
Gently Moving Forward,
Dr. Donna Stapp: Donna lives in California and Hawaii. She is available for Skype sessions. She is the best psychotherapist I know.
The Via Character Strengths Survey: This is a fabulous free tool by the creators of positive psychology designed to help you to understand your top character strengths. Why not lead with your strengths?