Recently, someone asked me if self-compassion was retroactive. I found this a puzzling question. To clarify, I asked, “Do you mean, will practicing self-compassion now help you with your earlier experiences?” This person responded, “Kind of. Sometimes, I have nightmares or even day-mares of finding myself in the position of being hurt by a family member or schoolmate. Their character is the same, but it feels like it is happening to me right now.”
Of course, the answer is yes, and while I have covered nightmares in a previous entry, being bullied or hurt in your dreams by someone in the past in relation to something happening in your life now can be re-traumatizing. The body and mind cannot rationalize until later that this personality was from the past. The body and mind experience it right now. It would be like breaking your arm, and then discovering that the broken arm was caused by someone else’s error instead of your own. The arm is still broken, and a broken arm hurts a lot.
Obstacles To Healing Bad Dreams, Old Bullies, And Re-Traumatization
The difference between a re-traumatization and a broken arm is that the arm will heal. People recognize the significance behind it, and probably comfort you. When is the last time you were able to publicly reveal the contents of your dreams, and be supported in a substantial way? Some of you are shaking your heads because your answer is never. It goes without saying that unless you broke your arm under very intimate or embarrassing circumstances that it is a lot easier to talk about your arm. That said, there you are with a re-traumatization, an experience that makes you feel helpless, vulnerable, victimized, betrayed, and wounded without perhaps even an internal voice to tell you that your experience is valid, and that you are deserving of compassion and kindness. These are the same circumstances that cause serious issues with trauma, prolong and multiply its effects.
I know that is a lot of information to take in, but it is important to know that you are not crazy, and that you need and are capable of receiving compassion and care. Heck, it may be one of the best reasons for self-compassion, ever. You may be reluctant to share the content of your dreams with others, but maybe you are willing to be honest about that experience with yourself. This honesty will not bind you to the dream, which is what most people fear. They assume that acknowledging the content of such experiences is fertile ground for victimhood, and distraction.
On the contrary, the only things we experience that come to define us are things with which we seek to under or over identify. For example, you are attacked by a bear, but ignore this experience, so you live with a paralyzing fear of bears, or you describe yourself to everyone you meet as a bear attack victim, and also live with a paralyzing fear of bears. What do these two responses have in common? Both of them fail to observe, with honesty, the physiological and emotional effects of the bear attack. Moreover, neither commit to bringing compassion and kindness to their experience, so that they have the means to let it go. You cannot let go of a wound that has not first been healed. Think back to our broken arm example. Think you would ever get over that broken arm, if it stayed broken forever? Probably not.
5 Easy Self-Compassion Steps For Bad Dreams And Bullies From The Past
So, how do we process such troubling dreams? First, notice where your body makes contact with something inanimate (e.g., your feet on the ground, your sit bones on a chair). Second, notice areas of your body that feel tense, and soften around them. Third, name this difficult experience. This is bullying, or this is trauma, or this is pain and vulnerability. Fourth, remind yourself that you have come by this experience naturally, and that your experience is very real. Fifth, bring compassion and kindness to your experience with self-compassion responses (e.g., May I be safe, May I be free from suffering, May I be free from pain, May I be free from the discomfort of disempowered vulnerability, May I feel empowered and loved) and kindness (e.g., the self- hug, ask yourself how you can be kind to yourself, think of the last time someone gave you unconditional love, and hear them telling you how much they love you with their words and their tone of voice).
Honor Your Truth. Love Thy Self.
Bullying and other trauma triggering elements are always real, when you experience them. The body is guided by perception, and it can only be fooled for a short time before the effects of that pain are felt. It is always best to recognize this experience, to release yourself from responsibility for its cause, to give yourself kindness and compassion, and to finally let it go once you are feeling loved and supported. This life can be very hard sometimes, but the love we possess runs so much deeper. Never forget that truth. Love is greater than pain. It is greater than sorrow. It is greater than fear, and it is greater than time. There is always a good reason for what you feel. Love yourself enough to know that, and trust in its wisdom far beyond your immediate experience. It is the one thing that will help you find your way, when you feel lost, and will help you feel sane, when the world makes you feel so crazy.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 225. In The Books.