Do no harm.
This is the first limb of Patanjali’s system of yoga. The first yama or principle is inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.
I’m starting to explore this concept in a different way than I have seen it before. As I’ve grown through my yoga practice and other healing work, I’ve started to see ways in which I send harm toward myself and how to send myself love in those moments. I’m not always successful at doing this and the thoughts sometimes spin out of control and, recently, I became tired of them.
Last year, I started to see a pattern of anger and resentment stemming from moments when I feel hurt. A pattern of internalizing the emotions out of fear of expressing them (especially anger) to another person. Fearful that the anger would erupt and I would lose the person as a result. Fearful then at that loss of abandonment that I then pre-emptively would try to get that person out of my life. I would take on all the pain that was caused and without saying anything, but often try to emanate it and will that they felt it too.
I caused harm to myself in this way and to others because, of course, the anger would still come out. I would be unkind or mean. I would often lash out to another being or myself.
Though I would never ever say the words, “you hurt me”.
I couldn’t give voice to the direct moment or experience. Instead, I let myself be hurt.
I took it on. I held all of it. I turned it inward (because I could dole out the punishment internally or to myself and control the amount – or so I thought).
In the past few weeks I had some experiences where I was incredibly hurt. Of course, I didn’t say anything directly. Instead, after trying every coping mechanism I had, my behavior escalated to match the hurt I felt and throw it back.
After a few attempts to clear it up, there was some success. And then, when I was again on my own and felt safe, for the first time in my life I actually really truly felt the sensation of anger. It was so strong and I stayed present with it. Wow! That is some powerful stuff!
In my yoga practice that night, I had an interesting thing occur. I could feel all of the anger and, at the same time, there was this fusion of it with love. I didn’t know that those feelings could merge. That they could be implicit in one another. It started to give me a new understanding and it started to let anger feel more safe.
I’ve kept anger separate for so long, I have had to learn that it’s okay to even feel it. Let alone express it.
A few years ago, the therapist I work with had explained that anger is healthy because it lets you know when you feel hurt. That concept rattled my brain. It didn’t make sense and it did make sense. All those years ago a seed was planted.
I’m not sure when or how but in the wake of being with this emotion and thinking about feeling hurt, I replayed a bunch of other times when I didn’t say anything. I had a flash of a near memory that I can’t quite place – that somewhere along the way I learned or was taught to not show people you’re hurt because they’ll know how to hurt you again. Don’t tell them. Don’t give them the ammunition to use against you.
I learned never to say, “you’re hurting me” or “don’t hurt me” or “stop”.
I never really learned that hurting me is not okay. Or, if I did learn it, I didn’t take it in or understand it.
I have never given voice to someone else directly for causing me harm. Not once that I can remember.
Don’t show your weakness. Don’t be vulnerable.
So I masked it. As best I could and as best I knew how.
I hold it. I hold onto the experience.
I absorb it.
I take on the responsibility. I take on the anger. I hold it in my body and my cells.
The anger can’t be expressed. The hurt can’t be expressed.
The wounds deepen and kept being held.
The triggers widen.
Unexpressed hurt that can turn into anger often leads to depression. This has been true for me. In the wake of all of this new growth with anger, I did reach a limit of being able to stay with it and I just wanted it to go away. I then felt the edges of depression creeping in around the corners of my being and, my new anger embodiment I told the depression, “no”.
“No. No. No. No. No. You are not coming back”.
I felt myself flip back into the anger and that made the depression go away. Huh…
When I start to look at how I got to where I am now through the lens of the chakra system, I can see all the first chakra work I have done to feel like I belong. Like I’m safe and that I matter. I can see the belief work I’ve done in the second chakra – including so much emotional exploration and understanding how controlling and limiting held beliefs can be. How to find movement. I can see the third chakra and shifts in my feelings of powerlessness and power and how to try to not exert power over others (including leaving them before they can leave me). I start to see the fourth chakra of relationships and connection to others and to myself and how stunted it has been because of my belief and that is tied to the fifth chakra – of not giving voice.
Not giving voice to my needs. Not asking for help. Not saying, “you’re hurting me”. It never even occurred to me as an option.
Not even once.
I find that surprising.
What are some of the outcomes? If I say, “you’re hurting me”…
The person could choose to keep doing it or hurt me more. That has been my belief.
What is more likely, is the person might say, “oh, I didn’t realize that – I’m so sorry” or “I’ll try to not do that again”.
The person may hear me and may not want to hurt me. They may even take responsibility for it (meaning I wouldn’t “have” to). Even if they don’t – my expressing it or giving it voice means I’m not passively allowing myself to be hurt.
Why have I never thought that those outcomes were options?
I was too busy being caught up in it to see it. Reacting in the ways I always have.
Because the belief was so very strong, it has been running the show. It has been behind every decision I made. Behind all the fear. The taking on. The not expressing.
There are other dimensions of course. Other pieces of the puzzle that fit in. Other beliefs that also led me here, underlying and playing along with this one.
I’m starting to see how my fear of persecution is linked; because I let myself constantly feel attacked without knowing how to protect myself. How hard it was to accept and ask for help when I was deeply wounded (I was more comfortable staying in the wound… until I wasn’t). How much I have frozen in the past when blindsided by hurt without knowing which way to go or what to do.
I am only just starting to wrap my head around this realization as it is so very new. It’s fascinating for me to see these connections now. And, in seeing them, to hopefully learn (with help!) how to shift and make different choices going forward. To choose to heal all of this hurt instead of staying in embedded or exposed wounds. To hopefully learn how to no longer take on more.
To say no. You’re hurting me. Stop. It is not okay to hurt me.
In my Apprenticeship in Ireland we work with the sacred law that “nothing shall be done to harm the child”. I wonder if hearing that so many times in the last two years has also helped contributed to this realization. I think it has.
Nothing shall be done to harm the child.
Do no harm…. And…. Take no harm.