Mad at Me is Worse than Mad at You
On my journey of mental health self discovery and learning about the disordered behaviors that I struggle with, I’ve gotten better at dealing with external frustrations and emotional triggers. I’m by no stretch of the word “recovered”, but I’m engaged in the process of learning and healing every day and because of that, I try to filter my experiences through a combination of the skills I’ve developed to keep me emotionally safe and the knowledge that I am a compassionate person.
Well, while protecting my emotional safely, I recently bypassed the part about compassion and behaved terribly in front of someone I genuinely care about and now I’m left with the feelings usually reserved for people outside of myself, people who have “done me wrong”. I feel regret, confusion, anger, betrayal and a bizarre shot of relief for having acted, or rather reacted, in the manner I did.
So, what is this sticky mire of emotional swamp and how do I extract myself?
Intellectually I can guess as to what some good answer are. Be compassionate with myself, give myself some time to experience these emotions instead of fighting them, let them go once I know I’m safe, and so on. Because of the work that I’ve done to learn how to manage external hurts, I know that those steps will serve me well, however internal hurt feels like a different and more confusing animal.
Why is that?
It’s become second nature (actually it’s become almost a fierce calling) to be compassionate toward other people. I listen to my inner dialog constantly to detect tones of unnecessary judgment and when I see someone struggling I make every effort to get beyond my cultural bias and understand them. In other words, I can give them the benefit of the doubt. That somewhat truncates the process of examining the details of why they behave a certain way, or the motivations behind their actions and I’m cool with that – I don’t think it’s my place to judge other peole simply because I don’t understand what it’s like to be them, plus, who the hell am I to sit as judge?
I try really hard to be consistent in this regarding other people but find it so hard to give the same slack to myself and I can only guess that it has something to do with knowledge.I know my intentions and I know just how deep my need to protect myself runs so when I try to give myself compassion in the same way that I give it to others, it doesn’t work and I’m pretty sure it’s because I know those things about myself.
I think I need to find a different type of compassion to use for “me” versus the one I use for “them” because I can’t simply give myself the benefit of the doubt; I know the underlying emotions, the intentions and the background information. I think I need a stronger, louder, bleach-like compassion that will address those rebuttals I make in my head when I try to forgive myself.
Instead of dwelling on the analysis of ‘why’ or the chastisement of “But I know better than to lose my temper!”, details that I don’t require from people external to myself, I need to work on developing a self compassion that floods my mind and heart with perspective, takes into account my needs and reminds me that being disappointed in my behavior only serves a purpose to the point that it teaches me to do things differently next time. It does not define me.
Similar to the way that guidance you take from others is often easier to accept than the guidance you give yourself, self compassion can feel like not being able to see the forest for the trees. It’s right in front of you but it takes a different vantage point to be able to understand it and work through it.
I’m hopeful that while working my way through this forest that I am able to keep my disordered thinking and actions at bay, but if I’m not, I will have another opportunity to practice self compassion. Looks like I’ve got a new tool for my toolbox.