QUESTION: In the past few years, I’ve been working on myself… a lot of physical issues for the past 15 years, unbearable mental and emotional pain (from childhood), and a recent identity crisis led me to find solace through many great books and audio/video lectures, which has helped me realize I had co-created my life.

For the past five years, I was being more aware of my thoughts/sensations, contemplating, introspecting, and venting out my pain through writing. Many times, I felt that I was healing and was far better than before, but at the same time I also seemed to shutdown/withdraw and be covered by more intense shame/guilt.

Consciously I want to be at peace, joy… but seem to unknowingly cling very rigidly to pain-causing people, situations, and thought patterns, and feel very overwhelmed and scared to trust the unknown. So I seem to wait for THE MOMENT to take action, make a change - like move away from this current place (for now it’s my parent's place in my hometown in India which is not equipped to accept a woman who is not married anymore and who has no children) to any other place that is more nourishing and can accept me the way I am.

I do understand that I totally lack true self-acceptance and am projecting that non-acceptance coming from the other. (There’s an inner voice which I was aware of since my adolescence that constantly seems to abuse, reject, or belittle me directly or through others…) In the past few months, I have been able to witness the emotion/sensation underneath the voice and feel/listen to the intense pain. But it seems like a warehouse of pain, and the pain that I released seems to be back or stuck with me. There are also other physical issues I am dealing with - chronic abdominal and sciatica pain for years and other digestive and gynecological issues. I seem to want relief from pain and be at more ease in the body, but am not able to deeply be and listen to my body, so as to know where I am not doing what it wants. Are there any suggestions/tips you can give to de-link my focus from pain and feel worthy and unconditionally accepting of myself? You have talked about EMDR, but I do not have access to that where I live. 

ANSWER: Wonderful that you have had the courage to sit with yourself and be aware of these different forces within. We all have them in differing degrees: the part that wants to wake up and the part that pushes back at even the thought of change. Awareness is key, and good on you for fostering that. As you have found out, this dance is a process and not an event. It takes many years to have the direction move solidly towards our conscious desired intent. The unconscious will always trump the conscious until it is administered to. And that is exactly what you are doing with your examinations.

Self-acceptance is a lovely notion, but, in reality, it is difficult. Most of us gloss over its lack with distractions, willpower, paralysis, egotism, narcissism, and so on. Fostering it is like wearing down the rock of self-hatred with the water of softness and compassion. This is another difficult practice that takes many, many years. We have to give to the inner child what was withheld from her at a young age. That is a daily practice of sitting aware at the gate of our mind and its constant judgments.

It seems that you are bringing the attention of your mind back on itself. It would now be good to bring the body into the equation. No problem if you have no access to EMDR. Use what is around you: a gentle yoga and pranayama practice could be useful in moving some of this emotional pain out of your system. Traumas can get trapped in our physical structure, and conscious breathing and movement can do wonders to help release them.

Also, as you keep your awareness into what you call the inner voice, give it a name. It is not your actual inner voice, but rather the internalized judge. So give her a mean name that she deserves, and start identifying her when she is running the show. As you identify her clearly, keep an inner ear out for your true inner voice. That is the silent one that has been guiding you on your self-discovery and healing. 

Again, remember that you are on your journey. It takes time, take heart that you have started your process and are firmly on your way. To “feel worthy and unconditionally accept” oneself takes a long time. It comes and goes in small fits in the beginning and then takes hold more and more as time goes by. I know that your process is even more arduous given the cultural patriarchal narrow-mindedness that you are up against. Your aim is true and your heart is set. There is no stronger intention than that, my sister.

Ask AbdiAbdi AssadiHealing