We all created a finely-crafted survival system to bury or numb our pain when we were young. We had to, as it was absolutely necessary for survival. Life was too scary, and we didn’t have the skills to meet ourselves in our hearts.
Our survival system can include compulsions, such as drug and alcohol abuse, shopping, work, sex, the Internet, busyness, self-judgment, and chronic worry. I think about all of those years that I shut down the pain with food, drugs and alcohol. In one year alone, I gained 97 pounds. I would have died of the pain if I had not numbed myself with food. I would not have survived without my compulsions. My survival system saved my life!
I want to share a beautiful and inspiring quote by Jeff Brown, filmmaker and author of Ascending with Both Feet on the Ground and Love It Forward, that speaks to this:
“Our survival adaptations are so tough, but our wounds are so delicate. To heal, we have to lift the armor carefully – it saved our lives, after all. It’s like moving your best friend off to the side of the path. You don’t trample on her, you don’t hit her with a sledgehammer. You honor her presence like a warm blanket that has kept you safe and sound during wintry times. And then, when the moment is right, you get inside and stitch your wounds with the thread of love, slowly and surely, not rushing to completion, nurturing as you weave, tender and true. The healing process has a heart of its own, moving at its own delicate pace. We are such wondrous weavers…”
When we finally land on the path of awakening, we come to the place where we can remove the armor and stitch our wounds with the thread of love. We can begin the slow opening of a tender yet bruised heart. But this is not something we do overnight. As we develop curiosity and awareness, we see the fear, we see the shame, we see the despair. Slowly and surely our hearts can open and we can say, “Okay, who is here right now? Oh, I see you, fearful one. I see you, shamed one. I see you, despaired one.” We were all wounded in some way or another. These survival systems were “our armor”. Jeff is inviting us to meet our survival system instead of going to war with it, and to meet what it has been trying to take care of with the healing of our own hearts.
We don’t ever get rid of our survival system because it is ingrained in us. We can’t dismantle it; but, what we can do is bring more space to it. We can begin to heal our wounds by bringing kindness and compassion to these parts that were trained not to trust life. Life is an intelligent process and it knows what it is doing. It includes pain, loss, and death, and when we try to stop the natural process of life, it only results in suffering. We have gotten lost in a world of horrific suffering.
For just this moment, allow yourself the mercy of realizing that at every step of the way, you have done the best you knew how to do. Let go of “I should have done better,” and let the healing of compassion come to you. As you discover how to open to the flow of life, you can begin to heal your wounds and stitch them with the thread of love. You are such a wondrous weaver!
Think about the last time you were in struggle mode and you tried to shut down the feelings. What is your survival system (your method of numbing your pain)?