The Power to Heal in One Simple Concept
Find strength in embracing your very human imperfections.
Posted Aug 08, 2017
Emotional pain is an unavoidable part of life. But what is avoidable is the pain of sensing that you are different from everyone else – and not in a good way. Despite how it might feel, your struggles show your humanity. Having flaws and weaknesses, as well as making mistakes, is very human. It’s just that when you are struggling, you can feel so distressed that it can be hard to see. But you can learn to recognize this reality. And when you do, it is healing.
While almost everyone feels overcome by their emotions at times, some people are chronically weighed down by a sense of being alone in the universe. They often experience themselves as essentially flawed. Rather than a mistake simply being just a misstep, they see it as a sign of their overall incompetence or inadequacy. And not the kind of incompetence that can be fixed with learning or experience. Instead, they “know” on a deep emotional level that they are fated to fail or not measure up in some way (even when they can intellectually see themselves more positively). Similarly, they may sense that they are doomed to rejection or abandonment because of this fundamental flaw.
Whether you are momentarily overcome by aloneness or chronically struggle with it, you would benefit from connecting with the common humanity that you share with other people. To do this, begin with reflecting on your situation and identifying your feelings. Observe your thoughts about yourself.
Once you are conscious of the various aspects of your experience, consider how others might feel if they were in your shoes. Be sure to imagine that they are facing your situation with a similar background to yours. For instance, if you tend to be self-critical for often losing things and being disorganized, think about whether you would be empathic to someone else who struggled similarly (especially if you have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and know that they do, too). Or, if you are hard on yourself for being the worst player on a golf outing, it would be helpful to remember that you had only played once before while everyone else was much more experienced. Even so, you might notice how some of the other people get frustrated, or even angry, with themselves – just like you do – when they don’t play as well as they’d like.
Allow yourself to recognize in your mind and heart that your experience is understandable because it is a very human reaction. If you slip back into self-criticism or aloneness, consciously return to nurturing your self-awareness (as opposed to self-judgment) and then connecting with how others might feel similarly to you if they were in the same situation. Focus on holding that experience.
Remind yourself as often as necessary that you are not alone. Remind yourself:
I’m only human, just like everyone else.
There is no miracle cure for human suffering. But this way of approaching troubling situations might help keep you from unnecessarily adding to your pain. Rather than feeling alone in your struggles, you can connect with the sense that those struggles are part of being human. And you might find that connecting with this is healing – enabling you to have self-compassion that can create a greater inner strength to face life’s many challenges.
You may also be interested in seeing this related video:
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She is also a regular contributor for the WebMD blog Relationships and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships Message Board.
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Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Personal change through compassionate awareness