Just not liking yourself for something is one thing, but hating yourself is another.
Self-hatred and self-criticism are the most common encounters I experience in my practice and they can generate an enormous amount of anxiety, panic, depression, and self-criticism. It makes me very sad to see people feeling trapped in their guilt and shame that they start hating themselves. But I know it is possible. I can relate since I too was there once. It took me a long time to get to healing and to the point that I have high regard for myself. To an extent, I believe it’s one of the existential experiences that humans have to go through in order to consciously evolve and realize their sacredness, but that discussion is for another day.
What I want to cover today is how silence can be used as a coping tool to heal self-hatred. Sometimes in my practice, I see a lot of the worst versions of self-hatred. Sadly enough, a lot the self-hatred comes from the human-created fear of God.
“I am bad. God is punishing me for my sins.”
“I deserve to suffer because I am a really bad person.”
“I hate myself with passion, you know? Why don’t I just die?”
My schooling and internships certainly did not prepare me for such encounters. Although I have done a lot of work of my own on spirituality, I am a lot more comfortable now talking about “God” in counseling, but it still can be a tricky subject. Sometimes I still am left speechless to hear such self-loathing that I have no words to offer any comfort to my clients.
In those moments, I feel no matter what I say, it’s not going to make my clients feel any better about themselves. Sometimes I have them express their emotions on paper so they can see their thoughts, which is helpful for some. Usually, I have my clients start journaling from day one. There are many benefits of journaling and there are a couple of different ways one can use this great tool.
It makes me incredibly sad to see a soul suffering through such self-hatred. I want to tell them that no matter what they think they did is worthy of such self-loathing. Most of the time, it’s childhood trauma and the person has not even done much wrong in my opinion. But that does not matter. In those incidents, I just silently send positive and compassionate thoughts to them. Usually, there is a lot of crying and silence, which feels like eons even if it’s only a few seconds.
When you’re in the helping profession, you want to take away people’s pain. Not letting them sit with it in their lap. But that’s exactly what is needed most of the time. Not much I can say will make them like themselves any better than sitting with them in silence and feeling the shame and guilt of what they think they have done wrong.
In my practice, very few people can comfortably sit with their sorrows. Usually, it’s that uneasiness that starts to create anxiety, develop depression, or any other form of mental disorder. Holding the space non-judgmentally is the best I can offer to allow them to feel sorry for themselves to process their guilt & shame.
This is not all there is that can be done but it certainly can be one of the powerful ways to overcome self-hatred. Silence can be an incredible healing force and I use it often in my practice. Facing fear is another condition in which I give silence the first preference as an intervention.
Exercise: Find a quiet, peaceful, silent, and private place. Start with a straight spine and 5-10 deep breaths in total silence. Focus only on your breath till you feel you’re grounded. Slowly allow all your ugly thoughts of yourself to come to the surface. Sit with all your ugly guilt and shame all around you while holding on to kind, loving, compassionate, and non-judgmental thoughts for yourself. Allow as much time as needed to start feeling comfortable with your “sins.” Do this exercise often till you’re able to feel compassion and positive regard for yourself. I would suggest focusing on one thing at a time if possible.