I was raised in the Catholic church and found the saying, “love your enemies as you love yourself” somewhat confusing. I thought how can I love an enemy like I love myself if I do not love myself. I wonder how many other people thought the same thing or still do.
I know I was not taught to love myself. I knew from my daily experience what it was like to feel that I was not good enough, or shame, and to feel guilty for having done something that was not approved of or for something I hadn’t done.
As life went on, I internalized many of those things that were said to me. Nobody had to tell me my mistakes or my failings because I knew them better than anyone else. Before anyone could tell me, I had already told myself that I had screwed up or that I was not good enough.
Years of Jungian psychotherapy taught me that I wasn’t that bad. I received immense support from my depth psychologist during the most difficult times of my life, for which I am grateful. It was when I started learning Voice Dialogue, created by Hal and Sidra Stone,in 2006, that I found a way of saying out loud all those debilitating thoughts about myself. As I gave attention, time and space, to my different sub-personalities, I understood why it was that they had taken hold of my internal life. My negative internal dialogue diminished, which was a relief. Then I found I could develop sub-personalities that were compassionate towards myself.
In Voice Dialogue we say, “find a space for the part of you that cares about you.” It might be a place. You may find a bench in a park, or a clearing in a forest, or even in a special place in your home. As you sit, you may want to think of all the things that you are grateful for or all the small things you did to make your day better. You may need to ask your inner critic to leave you alone for five minutes. It takes time to develop a part of you that cares and loves you. But you will get there.