How to Love in the Face of Pain

Have you ever longed for a loving relationship with someone, but struggled to get past all the hurt you’ve experienced with them? 

This might be one of the most difficult things any human being can do.  

How can we love someone who’s been unkind or hurtful toward us? 

How can we find love in our hearts for those who seem to do the worst things?

This article isn’t intended to be any kind of condoning for people causing pain or harm toward others. It’s intended to generate a new perspective, and hopefully to bring a certain amount of healing and hope to those in pain. 

I’ll also preface this by saying that I’m no saint, not in the least. In fact you’ll see in reading this that it’s through realizing our own destructive behaviors that deeper love is possible. 

I’d be shocked to discover anyone who has not struggled to find love in their hearts for someone that’s upset, disappointed or hurt them.  

Sure, we might say we love them, perhaps even out of the obligatory family connection or some other reason that allows us to feel what we’re saying is true, but acting like we love them is a whole other challenge. 

We must consider this challenge from a holistic approach. That means looking at not only how we’re feeling, but also our thoughts and our actions. 

Additionally, each of these realms of thinking, feeling and willing have extremes that take us out of our True Self. We must learn to see where we are on the spectrum of those extremes, and how to find our own middle way toward healing and peace. 

In a recent conversation with my mother, I was blessed to experience the healing that is possible through our striving toward the middle way. 

I love my mother dearly, and I admit there’ve been plenty of times that I really wanted to love her, but struggled significantly. I’m sure she struggled in a similar way toward me at times as well.

There are many of us walking around with what psychologists refer to as “the mother wound.” Perhaps we felt like or even were a motherless child growing up. Maybe our mother was abusive, or distant. Perhaps she was controlling or exceptionally critical. 

What I’ve come to see so clearly is that hurt people hurt people. Period. 

There’s no exception, other than perhaps a severe mental illness or biochemical imbalance that causes someone to be hurtful.  Even then, I would argue that due to our humanness, specifically our very real capacity to make mistakes, say or do the wrong thing, and often unintentionally harm others, there are likely deep wounds behind even the most unexplainable harmful behavior.

I believe humanity as a whole is suffering from deep cultural and societal wounds that are in dire need of healing. 

Mental illness is skyrocketing. Dehumanization and “othering” is rampant. The World Soul is in deep pain.

I would argue that we are all motherless children, rendered motherless by a culture that has revered dominance, control, competition, and linear, one-size-fits-all thinking. We’ve lost connection to the nurturing, compassionate, collaborative, multi-passionate, understanding and open expression of the Great Mother.

Over the years, my work has been largely steeped in reconnecting to the Great Mother, the Sacred Feminine, and ultimately the Soul. 

I’ve explored archetypes, dreams, Indigenous wisdom, fairy tales, folklore, divination tools, energy work, art therapy, and so much more. These are all expressions of the feminine, many of which have hidden and preserved the wisdom of the Sacred Feminine in a culture that has condemned and even nearly destroyed it. 

I bring up the Great Mother because She is a powerful archetype for helping us to love even in the face of hate or hurt. 

The healthy Mother doesn’t condemn her child for being sick, or falling down and scraping their knee. She understands there is a wound, and strives to nurse the child back to health. 

The healthy Mother also doesn’t willingly allow the child to harm itself or others, though she recognizes the need for a balance between giving the freedom to learn and grow, and setting clear boundaries and behavioral expectations that help them to do so safely and wisely. 

Due to our cultural deficiency in “Mother-Love,” we are being asked to explore ways of reparenting ourselves. This must include our capacity to see our mistakes, delve into the shadows of our being, and bring to consciousness the ways in which we’ve perpetuated our suffering.

My mother was extremely critical and perfectionistic. Growing up, I could do a million things in an effort to please her, and she’d find the one thing I didn’t do to her standards. On the outside, it all looked great. I was the oldest of 5 children, and she’d sing our praises to everyone else, but rarely if ever to us during our childhood. Years of this had me longing to escape. I left home as quickly as I could, and wandered as a motherless child for years, taking many different jobs, trying many different skills, moving to many different places. 

I maintained a relationship with my mother, but it was constantly strained, and often felt more like I was taking care of her rather than her being there for me.

It wasn’t until I started seeking within that everything began to change. 

In order to find peace within myself, I had to also look at the extremes within me that were getting in the way of that peace. 

Sure, at first it was easy to think my pain was all because of mom or dad or this person or that experience. But the hard truth was that I was now responsible for my own life. That meant that anything I was carrying was on me, not them. 

As I dove to my own depths, I didn’t always like what I saw. I started to realize the ways in which I too was seeking comfort by trying to control and perfect everything I was doing. I could see how I hid myself from others out of fear of being seen, even while I had felt that the world was at fault for not seeing me. I had to acknowledge my own dogmas and anger, even in the face of the dogma and anger I was so uncomfortable with in others. 

In my recent conversation with my mother, who is now sadly suffering with dementia, she said to me, “Kim, I admire you so much for all you’ve done in your life. You’ve been through so much, and yet you persevered and never let anything stop you.”

Even writing these words brings tears to my eyes, not because she said them. No. She’d said similar things to me in the past few years. The tears come because this time…this time I could hear her words.  

You see, with all of the criticism from my mother in my childhood, I came to despise anything said about me, critical or complimentary. 

It’s understandable why we might not want to be criticized, but complimented?  Why wouldn’t we want that?

In my case, anything said about me meant that I was in some way being assessed or judged, and I wanted nothing to do with that. 

For years I pushed away compliments, and I justified it by saying, “I wish everyone would just ask how I’m doing rather than tell me how they think I am.” I blamed my pain on others, rather than looking deeper. 

Then, I finally realized that much of what I was seeking….love, acceptance, acknowledgement, understanding, etc…I was pushing away. 

In fact, I already had so much of these things from the outside world, but I didn’t have them within and for myself.  

I had to face the self-loathing that I was carrying around like the rock Sisyphus was condemned to keep pushing up the hill, only to watch it roll down again and again, never to make it to the top. We will keep pushing that rock, whatever it is for each of us individually, as long as we refuse to realize that it’s a rock of our own making…a rock that we have the power to dissolve through exploring the depths of our being, and awakening our inner wisdom.

In my years of striving to reparent myself and connect to my Inner Mother, I found compassion for my biological mother. I began to see her deep wounds, and even the generations of ancestral wounds that are lodged in our DNA. My inner healing began to ripple out as healing in my children, and even in my mother.

In her healing, she began to offer words of admiration toward me and my siblings. It wasn’t easy for her, as could be seen in the ways she would hold on to her stories of victimhood, but at least there was more light accessible to her.

When we connect with our own depths, diving deep through the gates of initiation that shine light upon our own self-betrayal and lead us to the Great Mother, we not only reparent ourselves, but we also bring healing to the world. We develop the capacity to find love, even for those who’ve caused us pain. 

In that recent conversation with my mother, I realized that I could hear her. I could take in her admiration, and admire her for all that she’s given me. For all I know, she was put on this earth to offer me the trials I’ve had so that I could cultivate the gifts I’m meant to offer.  

In our own reparenting, learning to love ourselves and bring healing to our wounds as best we can, sometimes the greatest healing is in using that wisdom to extend love to others. 

I’m grateful for the challenges in my life. This connection I’ve made with the Great Mother has allowed me to not only find healing and peace with my biological mother, but also to make peace with others in my life that’ve brought pain. 

Making peace with those that’ve hurt us doesn’t always mean we must interact with them regularly. Sometimes we can cultivate a new relationship with them based on our new self-compassion and compassion for them, and sometimes it’s safer and more healing to simply forgive them and move on. Only you can know what is right for your situation. 

As we heal our own Soul-sickness, we heal the Soul-sickness that humanity has imposed upon the World Soul for generations. 

May we all find healing, and experience the love of the Great Mother in all that we are and all that we do so that we may also share that love with the world.

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