Who do you love?
Nurturing loving-kindness as wounded healers.
There is a powerful practice called the loving-kindness meditation, which I first learned as part of a group of 12 others.
The guided meditation teacher invited us to picture a being that we love without condition. People envisioned their child, their pet, their parent. The teacher then asked us to imagine this being in their completeness; how they smelled and looked, what it felt like to touch them. Everyone imagined their love: a child’s giggle, the soft fur of a faithful pet, the loving eyes of a partner.
We imagined how we ached to make them feel better when they hurt, and how we delighted in their joy. We pictured standing between them and anything that would hurt them. We inhaled and took on the role of their protector. We imagined putting a comforting hand on their cheek to wipe away a tear. Picking them up when they stumbled. Holding them as they cried.
The teacher then asked,
“How much forgiveness do you have for them?
It was boundless. It surrounded them like air. Of course, we would forgive them — that went with our love. A tsunami of vivid images engulfed us as we imagined protecting and adoring these beings.
“Now, turn all that compassion on yourself.”
No one expected it. Everyone in the room cried. It was breathtaking.
We are so far from treating ourselves with loving-kindness.
As rescuers — healers — we downplay our efforts because we can’t save them all. We turn to damaging self-talk about our efficacy. We fail, and become “failures.” We experience loss and become “losers.”
But that self-talk doesn’t have to be the choice we make.
We have three options and no more.
You have a choice in how you think about the sea of “saving”, and your role in it.
- Save every single one, all the time.
Not even Mother Theresa could do this. It’s not possible. Mark it off your list.
- Save none. Turn away and refuse to engage.
If you’re still reading, you aren’t wired to do that. Scratch it off the list.
- Save as many as we can — and live to tell about it.
This is the path that will allow us to find balance and to do the most good. Craft a mindset that you are going to do authentic, steady work. And that — that — is what you can do.
The wounded healer.
For many “wounded healers” this concept is so much harder than compassion for others. And yet, without that foundation of self-care and self-forgiveness, there can be no true compassion for others.
Look after yourself a bit, healers. Put your oxygen mask on first. Then turn to save somebody else.