Understanding Brings Compassion

I know I promised to begin delving into vulnerability as it relates to guilt and shame, but something came up this past weekend that I wanted to share.

I had a wonderful experience at the Mind, Body, Soul Expo held in Saratoga Springs on Saturday.  The place was packed all day long with over four thousand people searching to find ways of feeling better physically, emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually. During the expo, I had the opportunity to speak with many, many people who stopped by my booth. If only there were twelve of me, I would have been able to speak to everyone who came by!  

Because I deal with a difficult topic, it was both exhilarating and validating to realize how many people are willing to learn more about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they might heal the lingering effects of negative childhood experiences. Over and over expo-goers ran their finger over the sub-title of my book Let My Legacy Be Love, and said, “Tracing adult issues to childhood hurts. I know all about that.” Of course, as usual, all of this got me thinking.

Defining Understanding

I started with the Merriam-Webster to find the dictionary definition of “understanding.” When used as a noun, understanding means comprehension.  When used as an adjective, it means to be tolerant and forgiving. This struck me as significant. I mean, stop and think about that for just a moment. Through comprehending/understanding a situation or person, you become tolerant and forgiving. What a wonderful gift not only to yourself but to everyone around you!

How Do You Get to Understanding?

From my experience, I believe that understanding is key. To break it down into more process terms, think of it this way.

  1. Learning involves acquiring knowledge.
  2. With acquired knowledge comes understanding.
  3. With understanding comes change.

In other words, when you understand the origin of an unhealthy repeating pattern in your life, it is much easier to release the story to which it is attached.  My experience has been that understanding the root of an old hurt makes the hurt easier to release. Basically, you examine the story to find understanding, and once you have that, it is easy to let go. Think about it using the formula above:

               1.  You learn about the research uncovered by the ACE Study either through these blogs, on my website or in your own research.

               2.  You dig into one repeating pattern in your life to find the root of an old story. Upon examining the story with curiosity and a desire to understand its origin from a new perspective, you recognize that maybe you were too young to understand the young-life event as it truly was at the time.

For instance, let’s say your mom was constantly screaming at you and putting you down—telling you the one thing you dreamed of doing in your life is not possible for you. Her actions caused you anxiety and set in a pattern of not-good-enough issues. By looking at her behavior from a place of objectivity rather than from that of the target, you now have the opportunity to understand what your mom was going through at the time. Some simplistic possibilities may be:

  • She was under stress and had no training on how to handle her stress. As a result, she reacted the way her mom or dad reacted when she was little. In other words, she treated you the way she was treated as a child.
  • She was unhappy in her own life leaving her incapable of loving you the way you needed to be loved.
  • She didn’t want to see you disappointed. Her dream didn’t work out. Why would yours?

Of course, there are many more possibilities, but by looking at them from an adult perspective, you are acquiring the knowledge you need to finally understand your mom’s position and resulting behavior at that time.

3. With the insight gained by looking at childhood events from an adult perspective, you begin changing your thoughts. As your thoughts change you start to set in a whole new pattern and way of being. I know from experience that it’s possible because I did it.

By taking the time to understand the source of your childhood hurt, you can change your life in the present. When you change your life, your actions resonate out to everyone around you, and they begin to behave differently toward you. It’s a beautiful cycle and an incredible gift to future generations.

With understanding comes compassion. Compassion changes everything.

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