Judith Herman once said that the problem with trauma was not the immediate experience of the episode, but rather its effects on our perception of safety, namely the safety of others and the world. Today my office was broken into. It was damaged, and I was robbed of some material things. Thankfully, my patient’s confidential information is still safe, but I am reminded of the hypervigilance I felt seven years ago, when my apartment burned down.
I am mostly unaffected now by that fire, but I tense up a little bit when a fire truck passes me. Much like the experience of the fire, I am also grateful now to know that which I value most is safe: my family, friends, and patients. Given today’s events, I though it would be too much to write an entry, but perhaps it is more important that I write one anyway. Latoya suggested I do so, and she is usually right. In a previous entry, I wrote that well-being is not defined by feeling good in the absence of suffering, but rather feeling good despite it.
Self-Compassion was created because of suffering to serve suffering. It has served me, and my patients in the most dire of circumstances, so it makes sense that I would call on it today with one simple mantra: May I be free from suffering, and may all that I have and all that I am be enough.
I once struggled with the interview process because it hurt my heart to think that every position I was offered would be one denied to other viable candidates. In graduate school, it was even more difficult because I knew and loved most of the people, who were interviewing for the same positions I was. One day, in my mentor’s office, I mentioned this. He urged me to read the Bhagavad-Gita. Given Dr. Germer’s track record for self-compassion and foresight, I downloaded the audio version that day.
The protagonist is a prince named Arjuna, who must defend his family by fighting off the attacks led by his uncles and cousins. Conflicted over his responsibility to protect his kingdom, and his wish to not harm his uncles and cousins, he appeals to his god, Krishna. Krishna tells him to fight, and reminds him that he cannot harm what is truly valuable in another: the soul. It is transcendent, and with us from our first breath to our last breath.
Besides clearly being a great story, it reminded me that I was also obliged to continue my journey, to ring doorbells, and stand and be accounted for. I had to follow through with those interviews, and trust that what was most valuable in my colleagues would remain safe from harm.
Of course, I am upset. No one wants to get robbed, and I would have liked the opportunity to protect my domain. The truth is that I became a psychologist because I love people. By nature, I wish all people good lives, and when energy and good will allow, I love to fight for them. So, I will have to replace an Ipad, expensive noise cancelling headphones, co-pays, a doorknob, a lock, and get a substantial security system.
Nevertheless, I still have my self-compassion, and my undeniable compassion, hopes, and dreams for all of you. That thought is what keeps me warm at night, and gets me out of bed in the morning. As long as I am around, it is not going anywhere. As I have said before, you can have my compassion for others, but not my self-compassion. It is mine, all mine, and so is yours.
Wishing you all safety, self-compassion, and well-being. May you be free from suffering, and may all that you are and all that you have always be enough.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 93. In The Books.