Sunday, December 4, 2011


I hear this a lot from new clients after their first class: “I look around and everyone knows what they’re doing and I’m so uncoordinated!”  If I can talk her down, I try to get her to change her perspective to this:  “I’m new at this and I’m sweating and I enjoyed it—I did really well considering it’s my first class.” This doesn’t mean that you lower your expectations or standards for yourself, only that you understand the truth of the situation and give yourself a break.  You’ll get there.  You’ll learn just like everyone else in the class did at one time.  You’ll do it in your own time and in your own way.  Reframing those initial thoughts will make you learn with compassion and love for yourself rather than through angst.

I was once in a relationship with a partner who was insidiously emotionally abusive.  It was the kind of abuse that when I called him on it, he said I was “too sensitive” or that I hadn’t seen or heard what I thought I had seen or heard.  I started to question whether I was magnifying very small things into huge issues.  After a time, being with him became intolerable.  Even though I was afraid, I felt I had no other choice but to leave.  The choice was between a life where I subsumed myself or a life that was unknown, but where I could be me without punishment.  There really was no choice.  I left.

Many years have gone by with no contact between us.  Now I understand that what I saw as cruelty in that partner was really the expression of his deep wounds.  That does not excuse abusive, manipulative behavior, but it makes me reframe my thoughts about him.  It also makes my anger subside and compassion surface. 

Weirdly, he did me a big favor.  If he had not been so extreme, I would not have been forced to change my way of being so that I could pursue happiness. I would have thought to myself, “Well, this isn’t really so bad.  I can take it.” Change is so difficult.  If I had any wiggle room to stay, believe me, I probably would have.

I can see that the people who have given me the biggest heartache are the people who were catalysts in my own growth and in finding joy. 

This brings me to unconditional love.  Yes, real love is given without condition.  However, just because you love someone doesn’t mean you stop loving yourself.  To continue to have a relationship with someone who is cruel to you, serves no one.  You can still love unconditionally while refusing to submit to abuse.  Because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to stay.

When we can adjust our thinking to realize that our and others’ faults are really wounds, it can give us a whole new way of reacting and interacting.  I am not suggesting that anyone put up with cruelty, but realizing that abusive behavior comes from wounding can take the anger away from us.  That’s a good thing. 

Changing our perspective can replace our anger with greater awareness.  In this way we are choosing to learn and grow, not from angst, but through love and compassion. 


  1. You've done a great service writing about this, Susie. (And I may do the same at one point, because it is a "truth" that so many just don't get.) Finding compassion for those who have "hurt" us shows true growth and releases you both from unnecessary suffering. As you stated so well, those who have given us heartache are often some of our best teachers in this life. Love and compassion are key. I choose both. xxoo

  2. Beautifully put Sue. Thank you as always. Kathleen

  3. Thank you, Sue. You are reinforcing what I just read in a wonderful book called A Life Worth Breathing by Max Strom. He discusses this exact point in Chapter 5. If you haven't already read this book, I think you would like it. Vicki

  4. I plan on trying Studio 44 for the first time this week and I came across your blog as I was checking out the website. This has been my journey exactly, it's as if you were writing my story. I still have some healing to do however and I'm looking forward to movement helping me along. Thanks for sharing, couldn't agree more on all counts.
    Mary F.

  5. Dear Sue,
    I thank you for writing this blog. I, too, was in an abusive relationship and it's very healing to hear these words of wisdom.

    Keep writing and sharing!