Healing from trauma is a long process that requires your full participation. But how do you heal from trauma when you’re carrying the weight and difficulties of everyday life? The answer is self-compassion. Self-compassion is when you offer yourself understanding and kindness in times of suffering despite any flaws or failings you see in yourself. Below we will explore four basic strategies for using self-compassion to heal from trauma.
- Acceptance of pain. One of the first steps you must take in your quest for self-compassion is accepting that pain is a part of life. Whether that pain is emotional, psychological, or physical, everyone will experience various degrees of pain and trauma in their lifetime. By accepting this reality, you will be more resilient when things don’t go quite as you hoped. This sense of acceptance will greatly reduce stress and anxiety in your life.
- Forgiveness. It’s often easier to forgive others than it is to forgive yourself. Many trauma survivors may blame themselves for the circumstances leading up to a negative life event or they may feel shame because of how they relied on drugs or alcohol to cope. But if you want to heal from trauma, you’ll need to show yourself some compassion by forgiving any errors you made. Forgiving yourself will be easier if you accept that all of us do only what we’re capable of at the time we’re making decisions. Hindsight really is 20/20. But since time travel only exists in fiction, we can only prepare ourselves to make better choices in the future.
- Acceptance of imperfection. Closely related to forgiveness, accepting your imperfect nature and the imperfect nature of others will go a long way in helping your heal. Forgiving yourself for past bad decisions is a good step but incomplete if you don’t accept that bad decisions will happen again in the future. Since imperfection is the consistent state of human beings, healing from trauma requires that you understand and embrace the fact that you will make more mistakes despite your best efforts. By forgiving yourself and accepting your flaws you will be better equipped to cope with traumatic events.
- Realistic expectations. Many trauma survivors, in their attempt to cope and “get over” a challenging time in their life, will overextend their energy and resources by overworking, volunteering too much, or taking on too much family drama. This exhausting coping mechanism can harm the recovery process. Show some self-compassion by giving yourself permission to take it easy. Tackle projects and chores one small step at a time and realize that you won’t be operating at full capacity for quite some time after a traumatic event.
No matter where you’re at in your recovery process, self-compassion can help you heal from even the most challenging trauma in your life.