It is naive to think that self-assertiveness is easy. To live self-assertively — which means to live authentically — is an act of high courage. That is why so many people spend the better part of their lives in hiding — from others and also from themselves.
— Nathaniel Branden
author: The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem
One of my favorite books about how to heal from chronic pain isn’t even about chronic pain — at least not on the surface. It’s called The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. One of the things I love most about this book is how the author writes about self-assertion and the role that it plays in our health and wellbeing.
Our innate life force 🌱 is assertive. We’re born assertive. As babies, we clearly ask for what we need without guilt, fear or shame.
But as we grow, we may encounter barriers to our assertive nature. When we assert ourselves, we may receive negative feedback, shaming or punishment.
These experiences condition us to regard self-assertion as dangerous — something we shouldn’t do. We can’t turn off our assertive nature, but our nervous system can try to protect us from punishment by suppressing our assertive energy.
When assertive energy is suppressed, it’s like a pot of boiling water with the lid jammed on tight. Our energy gets trapped, until it eventually explodes chaotically. One of the ways it can explode is in the form of chronic pain symptoms.
When our assertive energy is suppressed, we may become passive. We may shrink ourselves, make our feelings and needs unimportant, capitulate to other people’s whims, and feel powerless. We may feel like standing up for ourselves is futile, so why bother?
OR, we may feel full of rage and resentment — forms of anger that are trapped inside, going around in circles, feeling powerless to take action on our own behalf.
But our assertive energy refuses to stay trapped forever. Eventually, it will fight to break free. It will protest suppression. One of the ways it can protest is by sending pain signals.
IN ORDER TO CHANGE THIS PATTERN, we need to recondition our nervous system. We need to shift out of believing that self-assertion is bad, wrong or dangerous. And shift into believing that self-assertion is our birthright. That it is as natural, life-serving and as necessary as breathing.
If this idea interests you, here’s a two-part experiment you can try:
1️⃣ With pen and paper ✍️ ask, “Dear fear of self-assertion, what are you feeling? What would you like me to know? What are you trying to protect me from?”
And see what flows onto the page 📄.
2️⃣ Then, project yourself five years into the future, and writing ✍️ from the mind of your future self, complete this sentence: “Ever since I decided to embrace my assertive nature wholeheartedly, this is what life has been like …”
✨What do you think of this idea? What were you taught about self-assertion growing up, and what do you believe about it now? 💖
With warmth and encouragement,
➡️ If you need support with chronic pain and anxiety, 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻𝗹𝗼𝗮𝗱 this FREE resource I created for you: 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲’𝘀 𝗚𝘂𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗶𝗰 𝗣𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗥𝗲𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆.
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