Practicing Non-Violence Towards Yourself

I'm really mean to myself. I dredge up my past transgressions with disgust and shame compounded by years of self-indulgent loathing. Sometimes I actually say, "I hate you" aloud several times a day. Even nastier words like, "bitch" and "whore" pop out of my mouth almost instinctively. I once had a friend who told me he'd raise his hand to his temple in the shape of a gun when he was giving himself an emotional ass-kicking so I know I'm not entirely unique with this experience. A few weeks ago I had a minor epiphany when I realized I was abusing myself with the same words that my father used against my mother for years. Not only did I develop the common ACOA (adult children of alcoholics) trait of judging myself without mercy but I have also internalized and continued the abuse I witnessed as a child. Fifteen years of active addiction provides no shortage of sins and shortcomings to re-live.

I've been searching for a remedy to this affliction for some time, usually in the self-help aisle of bookstores or a counselor's office, but the greatest relief always came from a few stiff drinks. Getting drunk made me feel relaxed, confident and connected. Now, without that crutch, I am desperate for a better solution. I want to be restored to sanity and I know that God is waiting for me to get over myself and accept my imperfection. By denying the forgiveness that is being offered I am telling God that I make a better judge and raise my self-importance to new levels. Ironically, intense self-flagellation is as much an indication of a big ego as it is of low self-esteem. Great expectations lead to great torment.

"If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter." (St. Thérese of Lisieux)

When I read the above quote by St. Thérese I breathed a deep, knowing breath. I came to realize that I don't need to overcome my misery, I need to embrace it. That which we resist persists. All of the psychospiritual energy I spend fighting my dark side actually gives it the power to continue growing stronger. It is only through practicing acceptance that I am freed from it's grip. Members of 12-step programs are very familiar with this paradox.

So I'm trying to "turn it over" and "give it to God" when the old records start playing but I haven't totally surrendered yet. Don't ask me why I hold on so tightly to the hate. I suppose in some way it must provide a release or payoff otherwise I wouldn't do it. The behaviour is so ingrained it feels like a part of my essence. I am violence turned inward. I am alone, ignored, worthless. I am hate manifested. I am ugly, wrong, bad, pathetic, stupid, rejected nobody. I am broken.

Thankfully, God loves my brokenness. It is in this place that I am humbled and become willing to receive. When I am at the lowest of lows there is no distraction from God and in these moments restoration is truly possible.

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