“It is important that we forgive ourselves for making mistakes. We need to learn from our errors and move on.” — Steve Maraboli
Self-punishment is the single biggest impediment holding you back from living an empowered life if it is not attended to with kindness and self-compassion.
Self-punishment may be a learned response from parents or loved ones when you were a child. The critical parent can sometimes be disparaging in their words while not realising the gravity that such words have on the subconscious programming of the child.
I was brought up in a very loving and nurturing home environment, yet I was subject to parental discipline by a father whose standards I could not live up to. It seemed that nothing I did was ever good enough — according to my father there was always an opportunity to improve.
Although to a young boy looking up to his father, reassurance and emotional support are required to nurture a child’s development. It was in my adult years that I unconsciously adopted much of the same behaviour towards myself. I was acting out the behaviour I was all too familiar with as a child. It was not until I took some time to reflect and examine my behaviours that I came to realise I was enacting my father’s behaviour towards me as a child.
Self-punishment appears to be a defence mechanism intended to support the difficulties of life. Over the years I have heard countless stories of people describing in detail how difficult and unjust life can be.
Being emotionally resilient allows a person to withstand the forces of life. Yet, this is not how it is supposed to be. Emotionally resilience does not call for self-punishment in order to become emotionally stronger.
In fact, as you know, it has the opposite effect. One of the aspects I discovered in my self-reflection was the strong need as a young boy for my father to reinforce my good behaviour. I craved reassurance as a child and would supplicate to him in order to appeal to his good nature.
In effect, I was seeking consolation and caring — to be nurtured so as to develop a healthy self-esteem. Therefore, emotional resiliency is borne out of a prominent self-worth. Your inner child craves to be nurtured in a loving and kind manner, much like you would treat a loved one.
“Be willing to stop punishing yourself for your mistakes. Love yourself for your willingness to learn and grow.” — Louise Hay
If your emotional needs are not met, you develop disempowering emotions, such as anger and rage, which is turned on oneself. The self-punishing person suddenly develops a harsh inner critic and voice which advises him/her that nothing they do is good enough.
You may have been in this situation yourself over the years? Such dialogue as, “You idiot!” “Why do I keep making these stupid mistakes?” “I am such a fool” only reinforce the self-punishment at a subconscious level.
As you pose disempowering questions, the mind becomes habituated towards providing the answers to these questions and soon enough a cycle of self-deprecation ensues. At this stage, the individual has adopted the persona of the inner critic as part of their personality where it has become a part of who they believe themselves to be.
The key to working through self-punishment is to recognise that your thoughts are deeply ingrained having been reinforced over many years. It will require a concerted effort and patience to move through this phase of reconciliation.
Changing your inner dialogue to be pleasant overnight may be seen as a threat to the ego, since you have become accustomed to the voice of the inner critic. Positive self-talk in this instance may be akin to speaking in another tongue.
Whilst the nature of the self-directed inner talk may be familiar, it does not feel true since you have grown accustomed to the self-punishing talk over time.
You may unconsciously punish yourself for wrong doing since this is viewed as self-retribution for untoward action in the past. People at this level who typically feel bad about themselves will develop a harsh inner critic who feels compelled to punish oneself for wrongful acts.
“Once you forgive yourself, the self-rejection in your mind is over. Self-acceptance begins, and the self-love will grow so strong that you will finally accept yourself just the way you are. That’s the beginning of the free human. Forgiveness is the key.” — Don Miguel Ruiz
It is important to forgive yourself as a means to rewrite the past and invite love and compassionate energy towards oneself. If you are to be realistic, this may pose more challenges than you anticipate, given that you are attempting to rewrite a strong and powerful inner script that has been given power all these years.
As you attend to your shame and guilt, you become less critical of yourself and slowly turn down the volume on the self-punishing inner critic. The answer lies in transforming the self-punishing inner talk, rather than obliterate it completely.
The transformation process seeks to understand that you create a false sense of self by feeding this false-self power over you — yet this is not who you really are. Transforming self-punishment becomes an act of forgiveness and self-compassion by creating a new inner dialogue, which naturally unfolds over time.
Working with a trained mental health professional is advised as a means to begin the process of healing, while simultaneously developing a new vista upon which to heal one’s past.
At times there may be a great deal of pain that has accumulated over the years that seems unbearable to deal with, so you delay the healing process.
You must come to terms with feeling the pain within the context of a secure and nurturing setting if you are to move forward and transform the self-punishment into positive energy.
As you develop a nurturing inner self, this feeling naturally polarises over time to create a new lens in which to view your past wounds.
Therefore, you realise that you are capable of managing real-life problems by your capacity to develop a stronger emotional resilience, which is not vested in self-deprecating inner talk.
Originally published at medium.com