“No matter how far we come, our parents are always in us.” ~Brad Meltzer
Had you asked me five years ago, before my healing and personal growth journey began, if my upbringing and childhood wounds were shaping the choices I was making in relationships, I would have scoffed at you and said, “No way. Are you kidding?”
Somehow, I had normalized the dysfunction I grew up in: the absentee father, the mother with mental illness, the lack of stability and safety, the enmeshment and codependency, the attachment wounds that left me spending a lifetime searching for someone or something to fill the void.
Somehow, I had overlooked the fact that I had chosen a partner who reflected back to me what had been familiar in my past: the power struggles, the imbalances, the passiveness and emotional disconnection, the unhealthy conflict resolution, the gaslighting and volatility.
This is not to say that my former partner was all bad, because he wasn’t. No one is. It’s just that together, we became toxic and dysfunctional, unintentionally recreating the patterns we had both witnessed growing up.
We were so entangled in our patterns and unconscious behaviors that we didn’t see how it was all playing out. I wrote off our unhealthy relationship dynamics as “normal,” something all marriages experience, because I had not yet spent any time diving into my childhood wounds to know any better. I lacked the awareness of what a healthy partnership looked like, because I had never known a healthy relationship—not with my mom, not with my dad, nor in observation of anyone in my extended family.
Dysfunction in my family (and my former partner’s family), appeared to be the norm. Therefore, I convinced myself that what I was experiencing was normal. Little did I know that I would eventually be the one to break the mold, to become the reasonable and sane one in a sea of insanity.
This is how I woke up:
1. The level of dissatisfaction and dysfunction in my marriage reached a breaking point that inadvertently led me to fall for another man.
2. This started me down a long road of healing, introspection, psychological work, and therapy.
3. Therapy taught me that my spouse was reflecting back to me the characteristics of both my mother and my father.
4. My relationship patterns were brought to my conscious awareness.
5. The knowledge of where my patterns and behaviors originated allowed me to make the changes needed to heal.
I remember the precise moment the light bulb turned on. It was like the heavens parted and a bolt of lightning came crashing down from the sky, illuminating what had previously been hidden in the dark. I was walking out of my therapist’s office one afternoon when I stopped abruptly in the middle of the parking lot and said aloud to myself, “Oh my God, April! You have married your mother and fallen in love with your father. How in the hell did this happen?”
During that session, she had pointed out, or rather helped me see, how my partner’s anger issues and harsh disciplinary measures resembled those I had seen in my mother, while his passivity and lack of accountability resembled traits of my father.
Unbeknownst to me, I had entered that relationship with a sort of subconscious recognition of both of my parents, even though some of these traits didn’t present themselves until later in our relationship. This realization in itself was enough to get me to wake up to the reality I had been living in and decide it was time to end the marriage.
The knowing is what helped me break the cycle. The knowing is what liberated me.
Through the painful and bitter process of uncoupling, I was finally able to free myself from the unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns that relationship was mirroring from my childhood. In a strange way, I was grateful for the unhappiness and dysfunction that partnership had created, because it provided me with the stark contrast I needed to experience in order to know what a healthy relationship is NOT.
Looking back, I couldn’t have seen it coming any sooner. I couldn’t have known what I didn’t know, even though I beat myself up for months after the divorce thinking it was all my fault. Even though my former partner tried to do the same… blaming, shaming, and avoiding any responsibility for his part in the toxicity and dysfunction. Skirting the fact that he was the other factor in the equation.
Then, I realized, “You know what? No. It takes two to tango.” Both parties need to clean up their side of the street, unpack their childhoods, and take accountability for their own wounding. Relationships are never a one-way street.
For anyone who has suffered through these types of unhealthy romantic relationships (the ones full of pain, drama, and conflict), please allow what I have learned to save you a little time and a little heartbreak. I’ll cut right to the chase.
1. We are all longing.
Deep down, we all have the desire to be loved intensely and wholeheartedly. We desire someone to help us feel seen and adored and to wrap us up in a soft, comfy blanket of protection. We long for the parents we never had, for the love we wished we had received, and for the chance to be loved just once in the most breathtaking, unimaginable way. Sometimes, we are lucky enough to experience this. And other times, we think we have found it, only later to realize that it was just a memento of the past coming to pay us a visit.
2. We unconsciously choose partners who remind us of our parents, usually the opposite-sex parent.
This does not have to be tied to gender, but rather whoever embodies the masculine/feminine energy in the relationship.
As much as we’d like to say that things with our partner “just didn’t work out” or that the problem was all on them, we must learn to admit to ourselves how our upbringing impacts our romantic lives. More often than not, the partners we choose have some obvious, and some not-so-obvious, things in common with our parent of the opposite sex.
For example, if your dad was a workaholic and was rarely present for you as a child, you may tend to (unknowingly) seek male partners who are also career-driven and perhaps distant or detached. If you are a male, and you grew up with a mother who was meek and submissive and rarely stood up for herself, you may find yourself with female partners who are the same.
3. We unconsciously seek partners who we think will give us what our parents could not.
On another level, it can be that we are subconsciously trying to recreate scenarios from our childhood that didn’t meet our needs. We are attracted to people who show us what it could feel like to have the parent we wished we’d had.
For example, we may seek a partner who is kind and nurturing, because we didn’t receive nurturing as a child. Or we might be enamored by a partner who makes us feel safe and protected, because we didn’t feel safe and protected as a child.
If you go back to your childhood and think about what you were lacking, and then look closely at your last few relationships, or even situationships, you may come to discover that the person you were dating possessed certain qualities that filled a gap inside. What attracted you to them is that they filled a hole in your heart that was left by one of your parents.
Keep in mind these dynamics usually play out on a subconscious level. You are often not consciously aware of your choices, because you have not yet done the work to reveal what it is that is driving your behavior and causing you to make these relationship choices.
This is why it is so crucial to get to know yourself and to dive deep into your past, your wounding, and your patterns and behaviors. Until the underlying nuances are brought into your awareness, you will continue to repeat the same patterns, choosing similar kinds of partners who show up wearing different suits.
If we truly want to free ourselves from the relationship patterns that we inherited from our caregivers, we must begin by focusing our attention inward. Rather than seeking love outside of ourselves, or looking to another to repair our wounds or mend our broken hearts, we must give ourselves the love we seek. This means healing our childhood wounds and traumas, re-parenting ourselves and our inner child, and cultivating a deeply compassionate self-concept.
Some of the reparenting methods that helped me the most include:
Be patient with yourself during this process of healing, uncovering, and repairing. It can be difficult to come to new realizations about your past and some of the ways that you didn’t get what you needed as a child. It can stir up feelings of sadness, anger, or grief, so you must hold yourself gently and do the inner work as you feel ready and as you have the necessary support to guide you through it.
Realizing that we made poor choices in relationships can cause enough shame. We need not strengthen the blow by beating up on ourselves further for something that we were not aware of at the time. However, being in a healthy relationship means that we are willing to own our side of the street, take accountability for our choices, and make the necessary changes to show up better the next time. As the saying goes, “Once you know better, do better.”
Our parents did the best they could with the tools and awareness they had at the time, as did we. But now, it is time to pave a new path. You get to be the one to rewrite the script. You get to be the person in your family who, despite being surrounded with dysfunction and unhealthy relationship models, breaks the cycle for good. You get to prove to yourself, and to your future children someday, that just as dysfunction can be passed down through your lineage, so can healing.
You… yes, you.
Whoever gets to hold your heart will be infinitely blessed because of your courage. Love you.
About April Ross
April Ross is an author, lightworker, and spiritual mentor who guides others on their awakening journey to heal from unhealthy patterns and behaviors, free themselves from the past, and step into becoming their most authentic, aligned selves. She is the author of Bravely Becoming © 2021 and the course creator of Soul Awakened, a step-by-step guide to navigating the awakening process. You can find her course and 1:1 mentorship program here.
“A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden.” ~Buddha
Family is often considered the cornerstone of our lives, providing support, love, and a sense of belonging. However, not all family dynamics are healthy, and breaking free from toxic patterns can be crucial for personal growth and overall well-being.
Unhealthy family dynamics can manifest in various ways, including emotional manipulation, control issues, and unhealthy communication patterns. In addition to causing pain and unhappiness to those affected, very often, the behaviors that create an unhealthy dynamic are passed from generation to generation, as children learn what’s “normal” from their parents.
When dysfunctional behavior is your “normal,” it can be difficult to recognize the need for change and even harder to make those changes. But if those changes aren’t made, the result is often continued unhappiness, a trail of broken relationships, and perpetuation of the dysfunction cycle.
How to Recognize Dysfunction in Your Family
Your family’s perfectly normal, right? After all, every family has problems.
That’s what I thought too.
It’s not an accident that I’m in the mental health field helping people fix psychological problems. I had to escape just such a family. And in the process of doing that, I decided to show others how they could become more than the family they came from too.
I assumed the way my family interacted with each other was the way all families interacted. My dad was emotionally volatile, and my mother was emotionally absent. There was anger or nothing in my house growing up. My family was purely functional (task and survival focused), not experiential (sharing the emotions that come along with life experiences).
This left me significantly lacking in emotional intelligence. And the first thirty-plus years of my life showed the consequences with failed relationships, employment, finances, and happiness.
So, while it’s true enough that each family has its own problems, the way family members interact and communicate with one another can heavily influence the problems encountered and how they’re resolved. This means the family experience can vary widely, and sometimes those experiences can be dysfunctional or even traumatic, making even “normal” family problems more severe.
One of the biggest obstacles to creating better familial relationships is seeing the signs that the ones you have aren’t operating in a healthy manner. As I mentioned, this isn’t always easy to do.
The first step is recognizing how dysfunctional relationships present themselves. Some of the most common manifestations of family dysfunction are below.
It should be noted that volumes have been written about each of these dysfunctional behaviors, the many ways they can manifest themselves, and why they occur. For the purpose of discussing the importance of breaking free from these unhealthy dynamics and how to do it, I kept the descriptions below brief.
While this term pertains to family dysfunction, it may not be familiar; however, the type of relationship it describes will be. Enmeshment is an unhealthy lack of emotional and psychological boundaries between family members.
Family members may become overly involved in each other’s lives, often experiencing collective or paired emotional reactions, micromanaging one another’s actions, and losing any sense of autonomy.
Think of married couples who seem unable to make decisions independently of each other, or adult children who need a parent’s approval to make life choices.
Left unresolved, enmeshment can prevent people from forming healthy, independent relationships outside the family.
In codependent relationships, there’s often one person who feels an excessive need to care for others and put their needs above their own. This goes beyond what’s accepted as loving and selfless and becomes a defining characteristic in a person’s identity.
In codependent relationships, the caretaking individual often enables destructive or even dangerous behaviors in others. My own mother fit this description.
Think of the mother who’s constantly making excuses for her child’s failures or buying beer for her alcoholic husband. Or the husband who’s aware of his wife’s affairs but refuses to believe he needs to take a stand or leave.
Any type of abuse constitutes dysfunction, but emotional abuse is insidious because it can quietly insert itself into a relationship and masquerade as love.
Emotional abuse in relationships can involve manipulation, verbal abuse, conditional love, constant criticism, controlling behavior, and more. It’s often hallmarked by using love as leverage and explained as “for your own good.”
This was also a big factor in my own story.
If any of these have an uncomfortable familiarity on any level, you’ve likely experienced dysfunctional family relationships.
Personal Reflection on Your Family’s Dysfunction
Making changes can’t be done with a shotgun approach—it must be targeted to what’s happening in your relationships. To make the most effective changes, you need to narrow things down to those behaviors that are specifically dysfunctional in your relationships and yourself.
Begin this by identifying the problematic behavior patterns in your family relationships. These might originate in the following areas.
Because many dysfunctional behaviors have deep roots, evidence of these patterns can often be seen in the earliest childhood memories. Reflecting on these memories can help provide perspective on your emotional state, reactions, thoughts, beliefs, and how you relate to others, and can help you identify what you want to avoid when it comes to your children.
Nearly all relationship problems have a communication component that needs to be addressed. Poor communication habits are like the highway on which dysfunction travels. These habits are often characterized by yelling, silence, avoidance, and inability to constructively express emotions or resolve conflicts. When you can see where communication has failed, you can better determine what needs to change for it to be positive and successful.
Unrealistic expectations of family members can lead to frustration, disappointment, and anger. Feeling that you constantly disappoint those you love will have a detrimental effect on your self-esteem. Conversely, if you’re the one placing excessive pressure on family members to live up to unrealistic standards, you’ll need to relearn how to appreciate people for who they are and what they offer.
Unrealistic expectations can also lead to feelings of conditional love. Feeling like failing to achieve specific goals will mean the family (or family members) won’t love you is an extremely damaging dynamic.
How Your Family Has Influenced Your Self-Perception
Part of how we view ourselves is based on how others respond to us. People we love and value in our lives act as a living mirror. For example, this means when those people treat you with disrespect or disdain, as though you’re a failure or unworthy of love and affection, you’re very likely to have a negative view of yourself.
By reflecting on patterns within your own experience, you can better see how they’ve affected current relationships and identify the specific areas you need to address to make positive change.
I won’t sugar coat it—this can be a difficult process.
Looking at your family and your own experiences through a brutally honest lens can bring a lot of repressed pain to the surface and leave you feeling raw, resentful, and depressed—which is exactly how I felt when I went through this process.
As I worked to accept that my family wasn’t the norm, I began to feel even more angry. I’d been robbed of a loving and supportive family experience. What would my childhood have been like if my dad said he loved me, ever?
But even as the anger surfaced, I could see that allowing it to consume me was pointless. It wouldn’t change the past and wouldn’t change my parents. Ignoring anger and resentment is a bad choice, and so is getting too comfortable with it. But this was hard, and a process, because I’d held on to both of these feelings for so long.
I learned that I had to let myself feel these feelings and then find a way to move on and break the cycle going forward.
Creating Happiness by Breaking the Cycle of Dysfunction
Positive change in relationships doesn’t just happen. It requires intention and effort. This means you’ll need to embrace your personal responsibility in making these changes.
Once you understand what dysfunction looks like and how it manifests in your relationships, you can take the next steps toward change.
While those changes will look different for everyone, certain steps are common to most efforts and essential for creating and maintaining happiness.
1. Focus first on what you can do as an individual, whether your family members are open to change or not.
Because you can only control your own actions, understanding what you need to do personally is crucial. Sadly, family members often aren’t ready to admit the need for change, or participate in it even if they do.
To start, practicing active listening, which is seeking to understand what the person is trying to say, not just listening to respond. Doing this can help you better see the broken parts of a family member’s emotional state and make you more empathetic. It can also help reinforce the understanding that the dysfunction you’re experiencing isn’t your fault or yours to own.
Next, cultivate healthy relationships outside the family. When you can see and experience healthy connections with others, it can be eye opening and create perspective. Yes, there are other ways families function than yours. Outside relationships also allow you to practice and improve your own communication skills. Those will eventually translate into your new approach with your family.
Lastly, be willing to step away from a toxic situation. Sometimes, the only avenue to achieve change is breaking ties, at least for a while. Your mental health and ability to create healthy and successful relationships must be prioritized. If your family is standing in the way of those things, you may need to step away.
2. If your family is open to making efforts toward change, commit to the following together.
3. If it seems like you’re not making progress, consider professional help.
Everyone’s idea of change, which changes are needed, and which will be most effective can be different. This means that, especially in a family, finding common ground on what should be done to make a difference in the dynamic can be tough.
If, as a family, you can agree that something needs to change, but you can’t agree on what or how, then this would be a good time to seek counseling.
An experienced family counselor can be instrumental in helping everyone see eye-to-eye and create better communication habits. A counselor can also offer an objective perspective, provide tools for addressing deep-rooted issues, and offer a point of accountability so you can all break dysfunctional patterns and learn healthier habits. Don’t expect things to change overnight, however.
Breaking the cycle of dysfunction is a gradual and ongoing process. Patience, empathy, and a willingness to learn and grow as individuals and as a family are critical components of this transformation. It will also involve adapting these steps to the specific needs and dynamics of the family.
In the case of me and my family, this process took time. An important lesson I learned is that I control myself and my behaviors when it comes to my family, and that has to be enough for me.
So, change yourself, even if you can’t change your family.
Rather than mindlessly going through my life repeating what my parents modeled for me, I decided I wanted to put a fork in the road of my family tree and choose a different path for myself and my future family.
Today my relationships don’t follow the dysfunctional patterns I grew up with—it’s my choice and I chose change. I broke the cycle.
Maybe you’d like to do that too?
About Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching. He’s an expert in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges facing couples today. Dr. Kurt is a regular contributor to publications such as HuffPost, PsychCentral, and The Good Men Project.
“Until we transform ourselves, we are like mobs of angry people screaming for peace. In order to move the world, we must be able to stand still in it.” ~Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
It only happens about every ten years or so. The primal scream. It gets unleashed when things feel like too much.
But it happened recently, to the dismay of my husband who was enjoying a rare moment of quiet in the house. I had just dropped our son off to basketball practice. The soup I’d picked up for dinner spilled in the car, and the lid to the boiling emotional pot that I had been diligently managing for months burst off.
It had been a hell of a semester with unrelenting stress from a job that required more than I was willing to give. I exploded from the strain of responding lovingly to the confusion of a moody teenager managing peer pressures and media overload. And from the pain of caring deeply for our hurting, warring, grieving, angry, divisive, stubborn world.
The impotence I felt was crushing. The complicated layers wound me into knots. Until I came undone.
I sat for a while with the echoes of the scream in my ears, relieved to finally acknowledge that not all was well. And in the days to follow, as I meditated and re-centered and cared myself back into balance, I recognized that not all was lost either.
My mindfulness practice has held me steady over the years, allowing me regular contact with my heart. I have learned to look inward, getting to know the pain, the uncertainty, the non-answers. I have become comfortable with letting the breath unknot the blockages of unprocessed emotions.
I never know when they will break free or come out sideways. But as I have returned to the breath an infinite number of times, I have learned to trust that I can let whatever needs to arise speak.
Sometimes it’s sadness. Sometimes it’s hopefulness. But other times, I have to let despair and grief step into the light.
They say that what we resist persists. Our emotions have wisdom. Denying them now feels unkind.
I’ve noticed over time that even while the pain inside can be confusing and disorienting, something continues to grow stronger, steadier within me. Something grows lighter. If I let it.
I don’t limit my practice to one thing. Mindfulness meditation is my root teacher, my guide in this inward journey. But these times call for reinforcements, spirit allies, friends, prayers, and kindness.
I lean on the wisdom of shamans, mystics, and sages who instruct us to dream the world into being. I know well that the power of our minds can both create the world we want to live in and destroy it. I recently added courageous dreaming to my list of reinforcements.
The implications for my choices are not small as I watch my son navigate the shaky world he lives in. Checking the news. Asking hard questions.
I tell him with confidence that there is beauty and good and joy. Even on dark days. In our world. And I believe that deeply because I see it. In my heart and in the heart of so many others. The ones who have learned how to sit still in the midst of it all.
I navigate these times by tending to my inner garden. I know that when I nurture my inner world, I can be of wiser service to the world around me. I try to model this to my son who is too much in the throes of growing up to understand much of this directly, but I trust that the seeds are being planted.
I am dreaming the world into being in my small but mighty sphere of influence. And I am accompanied by countless others—friends, teachers, fellow wisdom seekers—who are similarly invested in caring for the garden within so that they can be the caregivers, healers, and magic makers that our world needs. This, I believe, is the way of change.
The pathway is simple but not easy. Mindfulness takes diligence and practice. But it can be the foundation for the steadiness, calm, and compassion required of us in these times.
This is how we can get started.
Develop a foundation for steadiness.
To begin, allocate ten minutes a day where you won’t be interrupted. Start with an awareness of breath practice. Sit comfortably and notice the in and out breath without trying to make anything happen.
When your mind wanders (which it will) bring it back to the breath, again and again. Be gentle with yourself and don’t expect radical change. Stick with the practice, gradually lengthening the time that you sit to develop concentration, trust, and stability.
Strengthen your heart connection.
Building on your awareness of breath practice, you can place your attention on your heart space. Breathe in and out of your heart noticing what arises when you pay attention. Is there aching, longing, tension, or joy?
You may put your hand on your heart as you listen, staying open without judging. Whatever you notice, consider sending kindness to your heart. Continue breathing through your heart space, thanking your heart for protecting you and supporting you.
Get curious about your emotions.
It feels counterintuitive to lean into what makes us uncomfortable. Yet leaning into our emotions can be our gateway to freedom. This practice is called tending and befriending.
Sitting quietly in meditation, you can notice what arises with kind curiosity. The emotion might arise from within the body; the belly, chest, and heart are the most common places where emotions are felt. Or you might just sense something in the background—anxiety, fear, anticipation.
Give the emotion a neutral name, see if you can let it expand or contract as it needs to, and send it loving-kindness. We don’t need to sit long with the emotion. Just long enough to get to know it, open up space for it, and send it compassion.
My son noticed a butterfly the other day. We were taking a walk and he just stopped in his tracks. He wanted to capture its beauty in a picture.
We talked about the transformation that butterflies go through in their lifetimes, and it reminded me of the profound and often overlooked beauty of nature. When we pay attention, these simple moments can be intensely healing. The more we touch into gratitude, the more we find ease.
Gratitude is an antidote to anxiety, worry, and negativity. We can formally instill gratitude by committing to a daily practice of remembering or writing down three good things from the day. Then we soak those things into our body, savoring them, and holding them with loving intention.
Envision the world you want to live in.
When we are deliberate about connecting with our breath, body, emotions, and heart, and receiving gratitude, we can more easily sense being part of a loving, compassionate world. We don’t only envision this world, but we live out all that we hope it entails. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said: “If we want peace, we have to be peace. Peace is a practice and not a hope.”
We are at an inflection point in our world. A time of great change. We can decide first how we want to be. The rest will follow.
May you practice with an open mind, heart, and spirit.
About Sue Schneider
Sue Schneider, Ph.D. is a medical anthropologist, integrative health coach, certified mindfulness instructor, and author. She has been teaching mindfulness meditation and coaching for mindful change for over a decade. Her most recent book is titled, Meeting the Moment With Kindness: How Mindfulness Can Help Us Find Calm, Stability, and an Open Heart (2023, Mantra Books). You can learn more about Sue at meetingthemoment.org.
Loss is confronting. But I ask you to please walk beside me while I address this most challenging aspect of life.
Losing those we love.
While loss is inevitable, it is something that we always think happens to others.
Until it happens to us.
The last six months I have had a steep learning curve on loss.
The spiral began in May this year.
On May 18th, my partner suddenly walked out. I was blindsided. Heartbroken. I would later learn the truth about his duplicity. But that is fodder for a memoir at a later date.
Two weeks after my partner left, my beautiful horse died in a freak accident.
A month later, my father, with whom I was incredibly close, passed away unexpectedly.
A month after my dad’s passing, my ex-husband, my daughter’s father, died suddenly.
Plunged into pain and darkness, I didn’t know when or how I would surface. Grief is devastating and incredibly raw. It brings you to your knees.
This is when I learned the term cumulative grief.
Cumulative grief is described as a series of losses that compound, not giving you enough time to process one loss before incurring another. Like tumultuous swell in the ocean, you barely get a chance to draw breath in between ‘waves.’
And I was drowning.
Drowning in the loss of a man I thought I knew, the loss of my beautiful father, and the loss of my ex-husband. And my darling horse would no longer be there to greet me at the gate.
A paradigm shift occurs when you suffer such dire despair. The first is you face your own darkness, and the second is that you learn the mettle of those around you.
In facing my own darkness, I was stripped bare emotionally. I could no longer avoid those places inside that had long needed to heal. As I was tossed about in the ‘waves,’ I gained a certain clarity and insight into my strengths and weaknesses and had no choice but to confront them.
Learning the mettle of those around me was eye-opening. Some quietly disappeared from my life, others avoided me, and then there were the glorious few who dove in beside me to help navigate the rough seas, steering me through my anguish and taking over the wheel of the ship when necessary.
Loss is a terrible thing.
We like predictability, certainty, and security. Loss robs us of this. Like a thief in the night, it comes out of nowhere. Once touched by it, our perspective is changed forever.
What I learned is that even in grief and despair, we evolve. I call this the evolution of loss. Life at any age is not static. These losses proved an incredible catalyst for introspection, transformation, and wisdom.
I learned that control is merely an illusion.
The only control we have is over ourselves. Our choices, and our reactions, govern the direction of the ship. We can sink or we can swim.
Sinking was not an option with a grieving teen daughter who had lost a father and a grandfather. The loss of our fathers intrinsically bound us.
I chose to tread water amidst those pounding waves of grief. Then I chose to swim for shore.
Have I changed? Yes. Irrevocably. I look at life through different eyes. But this is not a bad thing. I appreciate more, I count my blessings.
On the days I grieve, I embrace the altered seascape of my life. When the big swells come, I ride them out until the waters are serene again. Grieving is one step forward, two steps back, until you reach a level of acceptance.
I am restoring my sense of agency, diving headfirst into things I have always enjoyed but never made time for. I have learned many things about myself.
I inherited my father’s love of writing. Now I write—all the time.
I spend endless hours in the garden, growing roses and vegetables.
My other horse is due to have a baby on Christmas Day.
After four years out of the workforce, I got a new job in medical research, which is interesting and varied.
I started an advocacy group for teens to recognize toxic relationships. I plan to write a program for schools.
I have joined new groups and met new people.
I am here today because I made a choice not to let someone’s duplicitous actions and the unfortunate events of life shatter me forever.
Loss can break you or it can help you grow. You get to choose.
About Leigh Burns
Leigh Burns is a writer of human-interest articles and is currently penning her first book, which promises to be relatable, bittersweet, and intriguing. Leigh hails from a small town in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and has a background in medical writing, educational writing, and marketing. Leigh is a mum to one teen daughter and has an innate love of horses, the Australian outback, and a well-brewed pot of Earl Grey tea.
When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was a guided meditation titled “Cultivating Joy.” In this meditation I was taken back to a time when I felt joy. The first thing that popped into my mind was a time about three weeks ago; my husband, my dog Lily, and I had traveled to Wintergreen Resort to celebrate my birthday.
Wintergreen has always been a magical place for me. I was born and raised in the same county, but just on the other side of the mountain. My idea of a birthday celebration has become much less of a party and more of an ungregarious celebration hidden among the beauties of Mother Nature.
It was here, at an elevation of about 3,500 feet, surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge, that my soul just magically became lighter. It was a spectacular sunrise of pinks and oranges that exposed the beautiful blue peaks and the fall foliage.
Sitting on the second story balcony of a condo high on a ridge just above the ski slopes, I sipped my coffee and chicory blend with Lily guarding me. It was here that I felt a peaceful joy surge through my veins and entire body. I was overcome by this feeling; it had been too many years since it had visited.
This is truly my magical healing place. It is here in the encapsulation of the mountains where I feel as if I am receiving a hug from the Universe, safe, warm, and nurturing. It feels like coming home.
It has been a rough couple of years. In 2021, my career as an educator came to a disappointing end. I started teaching in 1999 and loved it. It was my calling. In 2011, I received my master’s degree in education administration and leadership. My goal was to change education.
I laugh aloud as I type this, as it was naïve and unachievable. The hierarchy of education wanted yes-people to run their schools, not people like me who wanted to fix the problems. I was an administrator for three years and returned to the classroom for my last six. It was the fallout of COVID that started my quick exit, and I retired on the last day of 2021.
It was a decision that would serve me well. Teaching negatively impacted my physical and mental health and my quality of life. Teaching in public school for over twenty years, working second jobs, and being married to a retired Army Warrant Officer had, however, afforded me the opportunity to retire in my fifties. Once I retired, I would spend the next almost two years mourning this career and feeling like I had failed.
In late August of 2022, I was getting ready to start teaching fourth grade in a wonderful small private school, that gives me hope for education. It was one week before classes started that my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic and lung cancer. She moved in with us, and I quit my job to care for her.
It was a long and hard nine months, and five days later, on May 31, 2023, she died and the grieving started.
I had been experiencing anticipatory grief for the nine months of her illness, but death grief, I found, was quite different. I am an only child, and I was Mom’s primary caregiver. Mom and I loved each other but were as different as night and day. Our relationship had always been contentious. We failed to understand or appreciate each other and our vast differences.
Mom was not an emotional person, and I always felt inadequate and uncomfortable around her. She never adored me, I never felt as if I could do enough, no matter what I did, and this did not change with her illness. There was no end-of-life epiphany for her, nothing she wanted to share. Just regret on my part that we could never connect as mother and daughter.
It was not until a couple of weeks after I left Wintergreen that I realized I had arrived at the mountain with anxiety and a shit-ton of baggage, and I left with none of it. I had been trying to grieve, trying to forgive, trying to move forward, and trying to heal from past experiences. While I felt like there were things that helped me open up and be ready, it was what I will now call the “magic of the mountain” that truly healed me.
I realized that I had not felt peace and joy like this in over a decade. I had been so bogged down and stuck in life that I could not heal, forgive, and move forward.
I’ve felt joyful every day since we left the mountain, and my whole mindset has changed. I have, after a lifetime of anger and pain, forgiven my mom for what she did not know or was not capable of.
I realize that everything I had needed and missed from my mother was in these mountains. These mountains provide me safety, warmth, and nurturing. The warm embrace of the hugs and acceptance I always needed, I find here. Since then, I have been able to recall this nurturing feeling, by traveling back to the day that this magical mountain healed me.
For my whole fifty-seven years on Earth, I had wanted Mom to adore me, to nurture me, and to be the mother I needed, but that was not who she was. I have through this experience, with the help of this magical mountain, learned that I have everything I need to nurture myself. Mom gave me all she could, and my only regret is she is not here for me to tell her that it’s okay. We meet people where they are.
I stopped beating myself up over my educational career, and I realized that season was over for me. I am in an “exploring my hobbies” phase. Thanks to my mom, I have that gift of time to explore my passions. I thought I could only be valued by others and value myself if I worked, but that is far from the truth. Our careers or jobs are not the essence of who we are. If that is all we have, we may need to explore why.
I have let my family, especially my grown children, off the hook for my emotional well-being. No guilt trips here, just love and adoration to accept them and their choices. And for my amazing husband, I have done less whining and moaning about my “issues.” I have had some form of anxiety my whole life, but I am so much better. Healing this baggage and moving forward has changed me.
I am not saying that one trip to the mountains will magically heal you. I have been working on my healing for many years in a variety of ways. I do believe that yoga, meditation, mindfulness, spirituality, and energy healing have provided me with the skills and openness to heal, to change my story and perspective.
I had to be open to receive the “magic of the mountain,” Mother Nature, and the gifts the Universe gives us to heal ourselves. It is my belief that healing is our responsibility, and it is also an individual thing, not a one-size-fits-all journey.
I am just grateful that after a lifetime of various issues and struggles that I feel that I have found my perfect healing recipe. It is my hope that each one of you reading this will find yours as well and experience the level of joy and peace that I have found in the last few weeks. It has been a long time coming.
And if it feels like all your healing efforts are not yielding any results, stick with the process and be patient with yourself. Be still, be open, and be silent, for it is in these moments when true magic visits our soul. Never stop believing or looking for the magic. Your magical moment could be right around the corner.
About Pamela Fox
Pamela Fox is a writer, a yoga teacher, a nature lover, a community herbalist, a lifelong learner, and a seeker of joy. Pamela is the mother of five children and an empty-nest child, her dog Lily. She and her amazing husband live in beautiful coastal Virginia.
“Feelings come and go, like clouds in the sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to find ourselves caught in a whirlwind of intense emotions.
Whether it’s the stress of looming deadlines, the anxiety of an uncertain future, or the frustration of unexpected setbacks, intense feelings often hijack our mental well-being, leaving us feeling drained and powerless in their wake.
In such moments, our instinctual response is often to either suppress these emotions or allow them to dictate our actions, leading to a cycle of reactivity and emotional turbulence.
Growing up, I learned to fear emotions. In my tumultuous home, it often felt like there was no room for feelings—they were either ignored, mocked, or punished. I adapted by suppressing my emotions and disconnecting from my heart.
I became a quiet, shy, and sensitive child who didn’t make waves, the proverbial good girl, always pleasing and performing, never complaining, saying no, or acting out. Disconnected from myself, I had trouble connecting with others.
I began disappearing into my own world. Convinced there was something wrong with me, I lived in a perpetual state of internal angst and shame, wanting and fearing connection all at once. For years I was plagued with codependency, negativity, c-PTSD symptoms, one-sided relationships, anxiety, and anger buried so deep I didn’t even see it. I lived on autopilot—successful by external standards but internally in emotional turmoil.
It was only after becoming a parent that all that I buried within began to surface, catching me off guard. Parenting, more challenging than I ever anticipated, forced me to confront the pain, trauma, and difficult truths that I had been repressing all my life. I began to unravel.
When we live on autopilot, we become slaves to our reactions, blindly following the same patterns of behavior without pausing to consider their consequences. I know I was—feeling lost in a whirlwind of suppressed emotions and disconnected from my true self.
But amidst the chaos of my internal turmoil, I discovered a transformative path forward: mindfulness. This ancient practice became my beacon of clarity in the midst of emotional storms, inviting me to step off the treadmill of reactivity and into the present moment.
By embracing mindfulness, I learned to approach my intense emotions with curiosity and compassion, gradually unraveling the layers of pain and trauma buried deep within. In the process, I unearthed a reservoir of resilience, wisdom, and love buried deep within me.
How to Process Intense Feelings with Mindfulness
Emotions are an integral part of the human experience, and they often manifest as sensations in our bodies. They arise in response to challenging situations or perceived threats, and our immediate response is often automatic and primal. However, by fostering greater self-awareness and empathy toward our own emotional experiences, we can begin to navigate the landscape of intense feelings with greater clarity and resilience.
Step 1: Name It in the body.
Think about a recent situation that stirred up strong emotions within you. It could be a disagreement with a loved one, a work-related challenge, or even a personal setback. Pause and ask yourself: What did you feel in your body during that moment? Did your chest tighten, your heart race, or your eyes well up?
When my kids were younger, I was plagued by anxiety. Between a lack of sleep, having to be “on” 24/7 as a parent, the stress of trying to make a living, and feeling all alone (we moved across the country), I was constantly on edge. And so, I would react to small things with big emotions. It always started with my body tensing up and my heart suddenly racing while thoughts like, “I can’t handle this!” ran through my head.
Emotions first show up as sensations in the body. We have no control over these natural responses—they’re programmed into our DNA. The good news is that these bodily sensations are like emotional signposts. If we pay attention, we can recognize what they are trying to tell us. And by naming what comes up, we can gain clarity and understand what is unfolding within us. It’s an empowering first step to mindful emotional processing.
Step 2: Breathe into it.
Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention. It allows us to recognize what is happening in our body, with compassion and without judgement. That awareness is power—the power to respond from our authentic selves instead of reacting from our habitual selves.
Think back to a time when you had a heated argument with a loved one. Your immediate reaction was likely intense, with emotions running high. But what if, in that moment, you had taken a deep breath and allowed yourself to pause?
When we are triggered, the primal part of our brain gets activated first, well before our intellectual brain gets the signal. The amygdala (our reptilian brain) controls our automatic reactions, which depend on our upbringing, defenses, and coping mechanisms we developed over the years. Taking a few deep breaths allows us to halt this reaction just long enough for our pre-frontal cortex and intellect to kick in.
Over time, this simple act of focusing on breathing while being flooded with waves of intense emotions helped me stay calm in stressful situations and tampered down my reactions. It was often just enough for me to regain perspective and respond as an adult, not an overwhelmed child still trying to be seen or heard. Now if I feel triggered or ungrounded, I remember to stay focused on the breath. It always carries me to the other side.
Step 3: Remember that emotions are energy in motion.
Emotions are energy, and they’re always in motion. We get stuck on feelings because we disconnect from them, repress them, and pretend they’re not there. Or we hold onto them. We let them fester. They don’t get processed and then released, so we can’t move on.
Working through emotions starts with simply allowing them to be. We’re no longer fighting them, getting stuck on them, or running from what comes up. Instead, we let the feelings come and go, without attaching a story. It’s good to practice this when you’re calm, so that you know what to do in the heat of the moment.
Learn to just notice and allow what happens to you internally. As you observe the sensations in your body and feel what comes up, bring a sense of compassion for yourself, especially if intense feelings show up. This is difficult work, so take baby steps and make sure you take care of yourself daily—body and mind.
Mindfulness teaches us to accept all emotions and increases our window of tolerance to stressors. We get more resilient and authentic. We begin to listen to our feelings with openness, non-judgment, and compassion—and that’s transformative.
Feelings are messengers. They inform us about what we value and what we don’t want. For me, the anxiety was screaming at me to start taking care of myself. I was neck-deep in raising children and working and running a house, and I neglected to show up for myself. The truth is, I was deeply unhappy, and once I accepted that, I was able to draw some boundaries and change what wasn’t working.
Think of the last time you experienced disappointment or frustration. Instead of pushing these feelings away, allow your emotions to just be there without judgment. Focus on your body. Where is that feeling located? What does it look like? What does it need from you? Whatever comes up, give it attention.
As you observe these sensations, you can journal about them, or take them for a walk. Maybe your body needs to shake it off or dance it out. Do whatever feels right to move that energy through and out of your body. By engaging with your emotions, you enable them to flow through you, rather than stagnate and fester.
Step 4: Respond from your wise self.
Awareness is half of the equation; the other half is action—and how you respond depends on your state of mind. With mindfulness, you don’t get swept up in the turmoil of emotional reactions; you’re no longer allowing autopilot to take you for a spin. Instead, you notice, breathe through what is, and tap into a higher perspective. And then you choose your response based on what makes sense for you.
Ask yourself, “What’s the best way to handle this situation?” Do you need to take action, advocate for yourself, set a boundary, reach out for support, step back and regroup, or take care of yourself to restore and rebalance your energy?
For me, overcoming anxiety was a journey of learning to recognize when anxiety arose, to breathe through the discomfort with compassion, and to choose a response that aligned with my values and well-being.
Whether it was removing myself from triggering spaces and situations, taking more time for myself, seeking support, or letting go of perfection, I started prioritizing my health and well-being. It wasn’t always easy, and I had to let some things go, but slowly I shifted toward inner peace and authenticity.
I also learned to not take things personally, recognizing that everyone experiences challenging emotions and that responding gracefully is a sign of strength.
If emotional regulation was not modeled for you growing up, it can feel like navigating through a minefield. For years, I struggled with understanding and managing my feelings, which, in turn, impacted my relationships, my well-being, and my overall happiness.
With mindfulness and consistent practice, however, I was able to break free from old patterns, heal from past wounds, and cultivate emotional resilience and well-being. Intense emotions started to lose their grip on me, and I became more peaceful and less reactive. I discovered the grace of self-compassion and learned to ride the waves of big feelings, knowing that they would eventually subside.
Emotions are an intricate part of our lives, and using mindfulness can help us navigate them more effectively. We don’t have to fear them. It’s possible to regulate our emotions and cultivate a more mindful and graceful approach to life’s challenges.
By actively engaging with our emotions, rather than reacting on instinct, we can unlock a newfound sense of control and wisdom, creating a more harmonious relationship with our emotions and the world around us.
About Joanna Ciolek
Joanna Ciolek is a self-taught artist, recovering self-critic, and the author of mindfulness-based prompt journals, The Art of Homecoming and The Art of Untangling. To learn mindfulness, reconnect with yourself, and begin your healing journey, join her Free Course at The Mindfulness Journal. Follow Joanna on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Marie Bashkirtseff was born to a wealthy family in 1858 in the Ukrainian town of Havrontsi (then in Russia), but in 1870, due to her parents’ separation, she began to journey around Europe with her mother, finally settling in Paris for the rest of her short life. Although a gifted and successful painter, it was for her diaries that she achieved the recognition she sought. Months before her death to tuberculosis at the age of 25, she wrote, “If I do not die young I hope to live as a great artist; but if I die young, I intend to have my journal, which cannot fail to be interesting, published.” Her diary was indeed published three years later, and to instant success. In 1889, British Prime Minister William Gladstone declared it to be “a book without a parallel.”
The Diary Entry Friday, January 9
On returning from a walk today I said to myself that I would not be like some girls, who are comparatively serious and reserved. I do not understand how this seriousness comes; how from childhood one passes to the state of girlhood. I asked myself, “How does this happen? Little by little, or in a single day?”
Love, or a misfortune, is what develops, ripens, or alters the character. If I were a bel esprit I should say they were synonymous terms; but I do not say so, for love is the most beautiful thing in the whole world. I compare myself to a piece of water that is frozen in its depths, and has motion only on the surface, for nothing amuses or interests me in my DEPTHS.
“I have inherent worth. It cannot be raised by my strengths or lowered by my weaknesses or defects of character.” ~Pia Melody
Perhaps you’ll resonate with the way I am feeling as of late: I tell myself I am enough. I have always been enough, just as I am, without doing anything at all. But I struggle to accept this truth without feeling like I have to earn it. Like I have to take a zillion steps for self-care, accomplish a certain number of goals, or do enough things to win validation from other people.
I believe at the core of my being that I am born to be of service. I am a generator, here to bring love and beauty. I am a Capricorn sun—worker bee; Virgo rising—organizer; Cancer moon—deep feeler. All of that makes sense to me. The fact that I am worthy without any of these aspects, that is the part I have a hard time wrapping my mind around.
My entire life I’ve believed that we should be constantly striving to evolve and do better and feel more and be better. That makes sense. Even checking the box of “work on giving yourself grace” makes sense. What does NOT feel actionable, and perhaps feels even a bit unattainable, is the fact that I am supposed to feel completely worthy just for being alive. For existing. What!?
All of my astrology charts and tarot readings and apps and friends tell me I should work on living in my worth, and my initial response is “I’m TRYING! I am doing all the things and trying to get there!” I completely miss the fact that it’s not the doing that’s going to get me there, but the knowing, the believing, and the subconscious agreement that I am worthy.
My current goal (or maybe not a goal, since it is more of a daily practice) is “knowing, embodying, embracing, and LIVING IN my worth.” So, as of now, I am going to work on not working on this. “The Work” is actually more about rest. Forgiveness. Play. Pleasure. Softness and release and acceptance. That doesn’t sound like something I can make a checklist out of, but okay, challenge accepted.
“I have nothing to prove” is my motto for this next year, or chapter of my life. In every moment that I feel unworthiness, competition, or judgment, I am choosing to repeat to myself, “I have nothing to prove.” How powerful is that? I have nothing to prove!
Everything that needs to be proven by my soul expression is proven already just by my existence. Just by being alive, I have proven myself, and so have you. In fact, my only real goal is to truly believe I am worthy, just as I am.
But, if that’s it, then what? Is all of life pointless if that is my only goal? If I believe I am worthy just as I am, what will I lose? Will my drive and purpose escape me? No, of course not; in fact, the opposite is true, and I will be able to continue doing what matters to me with more space, joy, and enthusiasm.
I’ll be able to honor my top values, the things I truly cherish—freedom, creation, growth, and connection—without feeling pulled to do things I believe will bring me praise.
I’ll be able live a life that feels in alignment with me, live a fuller expression of who I am at my core, and redefine how I view and implement self-love, self-care, and self-worth.
Yet, it can be incredibly scary to let go of who you have always been, and I have always strived for the gold stars, the “good girls,” and validation from any and every source, in any and every form.
It’s been exhausting, and I so badly want to put down the weight of needing these unachievable levels of approval, yet I am still learning how. Maybe I will always be learning how, but with each expectation I release, I feel a bit lighter. Each time I choose myself, I open myself up to better things, like bigger love and more peace.
I embrace the “let them” theory when it comes to other people’s perceptions of me. They think you are mean? Let them. They don’t like you? Let them. Everyone will have their own truth and story, and if they aren’t interested in hearing your side or do not want to understand your perspective, do not spend your time and energy on what they are doing any longer. It is safe to let it go.
Focusing on yourself and implementing the “let them” theory is much easier when you remember you are worthy no matter what. When we are living in our worth, we are also much less likely to act in ways that are destructive to ourselves and others.
The times in my life when I made the biggest mistakes or hurt others were times when I felt unworthy or was struggling with self-worth. This does not excuse poor behavior but can be a reminder of why living in our worth is important not only for ourselves, but for the good we want to do in the world.
I have slowly made the shift from external to internal validation, yet even that does not feel like true self-worth. Yes, I might have let go (to an extent) of what others think, but I still am telling myself “gold star IF you work out every day this week,” or “good job IF you keep your house perfectly clean,” or “you are an incredible mom IF you make sure to work on these specific skills with your toddler at least three times a day consistently.”
I tell myself this is better than external validation because the goals and approval are coming from myself, but unfortunately, they are not coming from me at all but from my ego—that part of my humanity that still thinks I need to do and achieve, or be a certain way or look a certain way or show up a certain amount in order to earn my worth.
So there is another shift I must learn to make. If I have made the shift from external to internal validation, I can make the next shift too. The next shift is believing in my inherent worth regardless of what else I do in life and who approves of me.
This is the part where I tell you I have no clear-cut formula for doing this. But I do have an idea of what I need to do that is becoming less vague every day. I am focusing on letting go of limiting beliefs, dreaming in authenticity, and becoming who I believe I am meant to be. Beyond that, I don’t know how yet, and that’s okay.
I will end by leaving you with these questions: Is there really nothing to DO to become worthy? I just AM, and that’s that? Okay. It is a valid pursuit. I will let you all know how it goes.
About Brianna Thompson
Bri is an author, social worker, yoga instructor, single mama, and cat mom. Her blog is Eclectic Purpose. The intention behind Eclectic Purpose is to empower us all to explore extensions of our unique gifts; become more intimate with our emotional, physical, and spiritual bodies; improve our relationships with ourselves and others; discover everyday practices and rituals that feel supportive; and to contribute if we feel called. All while still being 100% human.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I suspect that most people are victims of hate. Wars happen because of hate. Your mental, emotional, and even physical balance is lost because of hate. Hate destroys joy and happiness.
Think about the last time you felt intense emotions of hate—for another person, for a group of people, or even for yourself. Just thinking about it will make you feel not so nice. Now, as you think about those feelings of hate, simply observe yourself.
Observe your mind, your thoughts, your body, your breath; observe how you feel in your gut. You will notice how they all go out of balance.
If someone were to do an experiment with you while you were feeling these emotions of hate, and plug up various monitors to you, they would observe how your blood pressure, your heart rate, your physical body, and your neurons were all going out of balance.
But we don’t need to do any of that because we can feel it. We don’t need scientific experiments to prove that hate affects every part of us.
And anything that affects us individually affects the whole world. Because the world is made of many more people like us. You and I aren’t different at all; we are both the same.
And whatever you see in the external world is a manifestation of our collective inner state. Whenever wars happen, they reflect the inner hate and anger within people. But can hate be destroyed with more hate?
Imagine a can of fuel has spilled and caught fire, and this fire threatens to burn an entire forest. Can you put this fire out by pouring more of the same fuel?
If you pour more of the same fuel, what will happen? The fire will keep becoming bigger and bigger until it consumes everything in its path.
What you need to do is find some other material. In the forest you can take some soil and use it to put out the fire. If there is a group of friends and they all take the soil and pour it over the fire, the fire will be put out faster.
The same applies to hate. Hate can’t be destroyed with more hate.
The only way to end wars or make peace with people who’ve hurt us or who hold opposing worldviews is to recognize that we are fundamentally all the same, and we need to work together for mutual growth and progress. The only way to resolve conflict is to become aware of our higher nature.
I’ll share an example from my own life.
My grandparents were very wealthy. They came from a region called Sindh, and for thousands of years my ancestors have been traders and travelers.
Maybe you’ve heard of the Indus Valley civilization.
They used to travel in caravans across the world to trade spices, dry fruits, gems, carpets, and handicrafts.
They had huge mansions, horses, gold, precious gems, and lots of material wealth. But one fine day, India was partitioned by the British into two countries—India and Pakistan.
Sindh, where they were living, became a part of Pakistan, and they were forced to leave everything and come to this side of India. They had to make a decision between continuing to practice their faith or holding onto their material wealth. They decided to continue practicing their faith.
When they came to India, with nothing, they were labeled as refugees. They had to live in camps where over 200 people shared a single toilet.
But even then, they understood the power of words and petitioned the government not to call them refugees but “displaced people.”
They were not looking for a handout or ‘refuge.’ They did not want people to feel sorry for them or treat them as victims.
Growing up, they made sure they didn’t teach us to hate anyone. They didn’t ask us to hate the British nor did they ask us to hate the people of Pakistan. Instead, they taught us to focus on learning and growing ourselves.
They taught us to be loving, to be compassionate, and to move ahead. This changed our perspective on so many things.
In fact, they taught us that the whole world was ours. We are not restricted by geography. They taught us to laugh and live life with gratitude every moment.
Today when I look back, I feel blessed and lucky that they didn’t teach me to hate. If they had, I would be stuck in a cycle of hate instead of moving ahead.
We all have energy; what matters is where we focus and use it.
Right now, set the intention to replace your hate with love, whether it’s hatred for someone else or for yourself.
Empathy, understanding, and forgiveness have immense power. The moment you try to understand or forgive you are no longer caught in the clutches of hate. Maybe someone wronged you, maybe you felt hurt at that moment, but that moment is gone. And there’s a good chance they didn’t mean to hurt you; they were just hurting inside and didn’t realize what they were doing.
The same is true for you. Instead of blaming or berating yourself for your mistakes and shortcomings, recognize that you’ve always done the best you could given your background, conditioning, and coping skills.
Self-hatred won’t change the things you’ve done in the past; it will just make you more likely to do things you’ll feel bad about. And hatred toward other people won’t change how they are; if anything, hateful words and actions will just inflame them more—but with understanding and kindness, we actually have a chance of learning and growing together.
Hate is like a chain; it binds you. The moment you forgive, you are cutting those chains to the past. You are free.
The moment you forgive, you create a chance for love to grow. Send love to everyone. Because love has the power to win any battle, even the one within.
And if this is hard for you, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time to heal. Sometimes allowing yourself to be where you are is the most loving thing you can do for yourself. And that love for yourself can eventually expand to include love for the people who’ve hurt you (which doesn’t have to mean condoning their actions or allowing them to hurt you again).
One beautiful exercise is to consider everyone a part of yourself. Will you hate your left hand just because you love your right hand more? They are both part of you. Yes, sometimes your left hand might get hurt, but you won’t hate it.
You will, in fact, take better care of it. You will be more loving and attentive.
Similarly, if you look at everyone as a part of this single existence, it will be easier to look at them with love.
Everyone has an inner light, though sometimes you have to look a little harder to find it. It all starts with love.
Before I go, I want you to think of the most loving experience you have ever had. When did you feel immense love? This beautiful feeling of love that transcends all boundaries. Love that transcends all barriers.
Close your eyes and feel this love.
Then, when you feel it, observe yourself and notice how everything feels balanced and in a state of bliss.
Mentally, you will feel creative. Physically, you will feel this beautiful energy. And emotionally, you will feel nourished. That’s what love does to you.
The best glimpse into your own inner spirituality is through love.
The world needs a lot more love, and each one of us has the potential to create a more loving world by starting with ourselves.
That’s how we truly end hate—within ourselves and in the world: with love.
About Yogesh Chabria
Yogesh Chabria is a bestselling author, successful entrepreneur, speaker and founder of The Happionaire® Way. He believes everyone has the inner potential to be truly blissful. You can find out more by visiting www.happionaire.com
Wish me luck as I set sail,
On a journey where dreams prevail.
Through valleys low and mountains high,
Beneath the vast and starry sky.
Wish me luck as I chase the sun,
In pursuit of goals yet to be won.
With courage as my guiding light,
I’ll soar beyond the limits of night.
Wish me luck as I dance with fear,
Conquering doubts, drawing near.
For in the realm of the unknown,
I’ll find the seeds of dreams sown.
Wish me luck as I dare to dream,
In the tapestry of life, I’ll gleam.
With each step forward, bold and free,
I’ll carve my path to destiny.
So wish me luck as I embrace,
The challenges I’ll surely face.
For with your wishes, strong and true,
I’ll turn my dreams into breakthroughs anew.