In this human life, we all hurt at times. This is part of our shared, common humanity.
And yet some of us take this pain “on” at a very deep level, blaming ourselves for it. Instead of viewing pain as something we share as human beings, we take our pain personally, as if it’s our fault.
This belief can appear in our lives in several ways:
- Feeling ashamed of our wounds.
- Judging our pain.
- Blaming ourselves for being “too sensitive,” for getting hurt in the first place.
- Turning our spiritual ideals into weapons – where we tell ourselves if only we were more spiritual we’d be detached, impenetrable to hurt.
- Feeling ashamed about how we coped with our pain. I particularly see this in those who loathe their overweight bodies. They hate the fact that they coped with their pain with food. This implies a “should” that they should’ve been able to handle their pain differently. And so their dear bodies become the scapegoat for their dislike of their vulnerability – and sensitivity – itself.
- Blaming ourselves for our conditioning, for the early experiences that shaped us.
- Judging ourselves for not doing better in the present – for the fact that our wounds still effect us.
To counter this, we can develop all sorts of coping strategies. We may try to control the pain we carry inside and “white knuckle” it. We may try to armor ourselves so that we never get hurt again. We may stuff and suppress our feelings and numb ourselves so that we don’t feel, period. We may bury our sensitivity.
Of course, these coping strategies hurt our tender hearts, and aren’t effective. So we may reach a point in our lives where we want to shift out of them. (If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you’re in this place.) And yet to change these habits we must change how we relate to our pain. One way we do this is by healing our pattern of self blame.
The origins of self blame
The belief that it’s my fault, that I’m bad, and that’s the reason that bad things happen to me are the beliefs of a small child – a tender child who just wants to be loved. When the child gets hurt, when bad things happen, the child thinks, “I must’ve caused this somehow.” And sadly, sometimes that message is conveyed by our culture, families, or loved ones.
A highly sensitive person is much more porous with these messages – they sense and perceive them more easily than others, and can pick them up and take them as their “own.” An HSP is also highly conscientious. So they may internalize these messages more strongly than someone who isn’t so sensitive.
As we grow, we may carry these beliefs with us and internalize them. They run underground and become a part of the air we breathe. They’re unconscious – we may not even see their workings. But we feel their effects. We look at our lives through these wounded, young child eyes. In that child’s world, pain = I’m doing it wrong. Pain = I’m bad. Pain = I’m unlovable. Pain = I’m responsible.
Foul frustration and self attack
This is where self blame really kicks in.
According to one of my mentors, developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld, when too many things aren’t working in our lives, the frustration and pain can build inside our bodies and become “foul.” Because foul frustration has a lot of energy and intensity to it, and because it has to move, unprocessed foul frustration will seek two outlets: either we attack others, or we attack ourselves.
In my experience, most HSPs attack themselves.
This is what self attack looks like:
- Self blame – At some unconscious level, we think that we must be so bad, terrible, unlovable, wrong. We blame ourselves when anything goes wrong – even when other people are the ones acting out their pain.
- Bingeing or overeating can be a form of self attack. When you’re in this space, you’re bingeing almost as punishment. You may be telling yourself things like, “I’m such a screwed up mess.”
- Any punishing addictive behavior.
- Cutting, hitting yourself, or calling yourself names.
- Feeling like you don’t want to be here anymore or telling yourself things like, “I wish I was never born!”
Because self attack can feel scary and intense, learning about foul frustration is soothing and normalizing. We can find a bit of space when we’re feeling this way and recognize – oh, I’m attacking myself. Oh, right, this is foul frustration. Ah, deep, deep breath. We can recognize self attack for what it is: a sign that too many things are not working.
Not that there’s something so terribly wrong with us.
Healing self blame
We heal this pattern of self blame in two ways:
1. By setting an emotional boundary around what is ours and what is not ours.
Most people who are highly sensitive tend to be overresponsible. They tend to take responsibility for things that aren’t theirs – like the fact that they were hurt, the feelings and experiences of others, or even for life’s very imperfection!
This feeling of guilt, shame, of “it’s all my fault” is an illusion. It’s a veil and is not true. I know at a feeling level, it feels true. It lives in our emotions, in our thoughts, in our beliefs, and carries over into our experiences. But what if it’s not true?
The path to healing is a shedding of what is not ours – all the beliefs about the many things that we felt should’ve been in our control – and therefore, our responsibility. As we release the illusion of control and responsibility, we feel more grounded, centered, and less burdened.
2. By grieving our pain.
The path out of foul frustration is counterintuitive: when we bump up against something we can’t change, we need to grieve. Grieving is what metabolizes foul frustration. This deep acceptance is how we soften the habit of blaming ourselves, or blaming others.
Your pain is not your fault. The fact that you were hurt is not your fault. A Sufi teaching put it this way:
Overcome any bitterness that may have come
because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain
that was entrusted to you.
Like the Mother of the World,
Who carries the pain of the world in her heart,
Each one of us is part of her heart,
And therefore endowed
With a certain measure of cosmic pain.
My heart weeps when I tell myself, “precious child, it’s okay – you didn’t do anything wrong. You were simply ‘not up to the magnitude of the pain that was entrusted to you.'” I feel a release of all the “shoulds” and how I shouldn’t have gotten hurt.
When I simply accept that it did hurt – and stop the endless quest for how I should’ve been or done differently – I find this very pure form of grief. The way out of self blame is this tender, acceptance, this openhearted allowing. To grieve what we wish were different. Dr. Neufeld describes it this way: “we become changed by what we cannot change.”
Sometimes life is painful, and we cry “uncle.”
Sometimes we just get through and survive.
And sometimes the way we get through brings some scar tissue….
Beloved, do not make war against your own heart. Do not judge yourself for bearing scars.
Forgive your wounds.
Release the guilt and shame that says it’s all your fault.
Release the belief that you’re the only one who’s been hurt.
Love yourself fully – even with your wounds, even with your broken heart, even with the patterns and habits and conditioning that arose from those wounds.
Thriving as a sensitive being
If you’re wanting more support to thrive as a sensitive being, my dear friend Fiona Moore, spiritual teacher and healer, and I are hosting a call in September.
In the call, you’ll learn:
- how to set energetic boundaries (separate what is “yours” from what is someone else’s)
- how to modulate your sensitivity
- how to utilize the strengths of your sensitivity
- how to thrive as an HSP (highly sensitive person) or empath
The call is free, but you’ll need to register for the call here.
Wanting more hands on help?
If you liked this post, you may also like these articles:
- Loving myself unconditionally
- Uprooting our deepest suffering
- Healing the shame that keeps you stuck
Which program is right for me?
If you’d like help in loving yourself unconditionally – finding forgiveness, releasing shame, and healing beliefs that say, “It’s all my fault,” you may like Heal Overeating: Untangled. This 12 session audio program can help you heal the roots of binge eating, overeating and emotional eating. Our most popular program, women say it’s a “sacred healing space” that they listen to over and over……