In Eastern philosophy one can find teachings that say that suffering in life is caused not by the actual event or illness but by the resistance to what is. This wisdom aligns with what Victor Frankl learned in the concentration camps. The one freedom that no one can take away from you is the attitude you take to a situation.
Many people come into therapy very, very critical of themselves. It is often at the point of self-loathing. This creates terrible psychic pain and often ineffective efforts to try to compensate. They may do everything for others, never saying no, leaving themselves exhausted, in ill health and empty. They may isolate and focus only on their work. They may focus only on their children. They may exercise and diet excessively to be thin enough or strong enough. They may sabotage themselves in their profession or their love lives. They may eat and drink alcohol to excess or use drugs to make the pain go away. This self-depreciation and brutality is a recipe for depression and it is one of the hallmarks of depression. The other symptoms of depression are ruminating, trouble with concentration and memory, lack of pleasure, apathy and lack of motivation, low energy, sleeping or eating too much or not enough and thoughts of death.
I came across this quote of Karl Rogers from his book
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change ….we cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.”
Self-compassion is the ground for healing. Many of my clients can’t imagine feeling compassion for themselves, especially if they have no experience of someone being compassionate towards them. When I share this quote, some get anxious and don’t have any idea how to make the shift to self-acceptance and compassion. They think that I want them to work harder. My response is, “Relax, set the intention to accept yourself and accept what you can today. Notice where you are still critical and let’s talk about it.” This isn’t about forcing yourself or trying harder, it is about the realization that “I am what I am and it is enough”. That doesn’t mean that you might not want to change something or grow in a particular way but right now, today, it is a wise move to choose to relax and be at peace with yourself as much or as little as you can. Even if nothing feels different, the fact that you have made a choice to learn to accept yourself will shift something and openings will gradually emerge.