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August 20, 2015

What I Learned about Self-Love from a Dog Attack.

QuinnDombrowski/Flickr

I am not one to make a fuss if I’m unhappy about a situation.

I aspire to appease all parties because the idea of getting involved in conflict makes me cringe. Yet the role of peacekeeper doesn’t leave much time for self-love.

So what happens when our own needs are truly in jeopardy and an altercation occurs?

I lived with two gentlemen for the greater part of this year.

I spent part of the summer away in California and to my great surprise, when I returned, we had a new canine addition to our home. This dog came from a rescue shelter with a long trauma history, including abuse by a woman.

Not surprisingly, he was aggressive toward me from the moment we met.

I reacted to the situation the only way I knew how. I warehoused my fear and denial and tried to make the best of this unpredictable force in my own home because I wanted to keep the peace.

Warehousing of emotions is a response (a survival tactic really) where emotions that we’re not quite ready to process come up as a reaction to life’s challenges and we push them down instead of expressing them.

Our emotions become corporeal when they’re warehoused.

I knew my roommate was thrilled to have a dog again after the passing of his former beloved pet and the peacekeeper in me wanted to be supportive of this new bond.

Ten days ago, I was reminded of what self-love feels like. It was a painful lesson to learn, but it was empowering.

I returned home for lunch to find a power company worker waiting at our door to do a repair. The dog was barking defensively and guarding the front door.

In my efforts to protect the stranger from his unpredictability, I held on to the dog while the man passed through our home to our backyard power meter. When the gentleman was safely out of harm’s way, I let the dog go.

Before I could realize what was happening, he launched his body weight toward me and bit into my chin and lip.

I was stunned.

Tears welled up in my eyes from the pounding pain in my jaw and the blood left on my hand as I wiped my chin.

I was terrified and shaking.

At that moment, I knew there was no more warehousing of my fear; there was no other option but to express myself. The trauma of dog attack couldn’t be hidden away because with it, I would be relinquishing all power and compassion toward myself.

The peacekeeper in me vanished the moment I was attacked.

Hours later, I did something unprecedented and scary as hell. I gave myself a gift of the deepest, most compassionate tender loving care.

I spoke up for myself.

I voiced to the dog’s owner that I felt unsafe in my own home and that I would be moving out, effective immediately, because I deserved better.

Something magical and unexpected happened after I acted out of self-love…I was happy.

It’s the the emotion I least expected considering I’d just been attacked and the ensuing scramble of finding somewhere safe and supportive to live but I was actually running joy.

When we learn to treat ourselves with compassion there is truly a sense of limitless possibility that opens up before our eyes.

We’re no longer boxed into a world of peacekeeping and fixing conflicts that oftentimes don’t belong to us.

This type of self-love is not defined by ego, rather it is adopting the way of gentle loving kindness required to take care of ourselves.

It’s embracing the knowledge that in order to vibrantly walk our path in this lifetime, we must be sure our needs are being soundly satisfied before we help others in a manner that fulfils a life purpose.

Self-love is unconditional.

A commitment to self-love means recognising when something feels off, when we’re just not thriving anymore under current circumstances, and making a change because we deserve it.

The secret ingredient to learning the practice of self-love is taking action.

Action does not have to mean a life-changing decision. Action can simply mean doing one thing differently such as treat yourself in a more tender way.

If you’re like me, self-love is hard to grasp.

The reality is we live in a culture where we serve others and talking about ourselves has the stigma of selfishness. The moments we take action in direct benefit of our own welfare are few and far between but perhaps we should do it more.

Sometimes a true act of true bravery is simply just standing up for ourselves.

~

Relephant: 

Feeling Worthy of Self-Love.

~

Author: Caitlin Oriel

Editor: Sarah Kolkka

Image: QuinnDombrowski/Flickr

 

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