It was not my fault!

I wrote this some time ago and want to share this here. Maybe my story will benefit somebody.

Some five years ago, I found the instructions for Metta Meditation in the tradition of Ajahn Mahachatchai online and I have been meditating in this way for some time, first occasionally, later more. I never had any formal training in this type of meditation before, but the technique has helped me a lot to deal with some issues that I had suppressed with Vipassana meditation techniques. Like many westerners I had to deal with feelings of insecurity and unworthiness; I had a very low self-esteem. Especially the first stage of Metta meditation helped me so much to overcome that and I feel much more self-confident overall.

But recently I’ve gone through an experience I find hard to describe. I had not been feeling very well and rather depressed, but unable to find any reasons why. I felt ashamed of myself, a sense of self-loathing. I felt I was the worst person in the world. But when I meditated, I could still go into the first stage (Metta for myself) fairly easily, as well as for the loved and neutral person. The “disliked person” I’ve always found a little hard because I don’t really dislike anybody, but sometimes there were people that pressed my buttons so I focussed on those and it usually went very well. After meditation I usually felt renewed and happy, at least for a while. I could not figure it out. How could I feel so down on myself and still easily do Metta for myself?

The image of one specific person kept popping up in my mind, although I have not seen him for more than 10 years and I have no specific feelings towards him one way or the other. Whenever I would think of him I would feel rather neutral, despite the difficult times in the past. But I had forgiven him and moved on. I had even gone back to see him and forgive him and after that we had parted and never seen each other again and I had never given it another thought. Until now.

So I decided to use him as the “disliked person”, not expecting anything really, simply because I did not dislike him. As usual, the Metta could build up very well through the first three stages and when I came to the “disliked person”, I felt very happy and full of Metta. Keeping my awareness inside my own body, I only just changed the name in the words I was saying to myself; “May he be happy.”. Within a minute, I was overwhelmed, not with anger or resentment towards him, but with a feeling of being physically violated. And accompanying that were strong feelings of shame for the fact that I am a woman, shame for having this body. Bringing his name inside the framework of my own body was too much. Then I knew what was going on: I had forgiven him, but never myself. I had repressed those feelings for over 20 years but now, with the Metta meditation, they were coming to the surface. I don’t need to go into detail here; I think it is obvious what had happened.

Knowing this, I could start to overcome this and kept on doing the Metta meditation in this way until the feelings of shame were gone, until I could finally accept myself as a woman without feeling inferior or unworthy because of that, until I no longer felt disgusted with having a body that was attractive to men. I feel grateful for having found this wonderful technique.

The main drawback of all this was that I had tried to talk about it, before I knew what was going on with me, with two of my friends and as a result I had aliented them. In hindsight I see that I was projecting my own feeling of unworthiness on them, wanting them to hate me, wanting them to validate those feelings I felt inside myself; I wanted them to push me away, to feel the same hatred and disgust towards me as I felt towards myself. I cannot blame them for doing just that and I feel sad for having dragged them into it. I must have been a difficult person to be around for them, maybe too needy and too clingy.

But I hope that they will forgive me one day. I have forgiven myself; my reactions were completely natural given the circumstances, only caused by the conditions of the time. I read that many women react this way. It was not my fault.

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I’ve always liked the sensibility in some Eastern cultures that do not have a sense of fault, or personal guilt and shame. There’s a story that was asked of the Dalai Lama about what to do with westerners that feel self-loathing. The Dalai Lama actually had to have his interpreters explain to him the question, over and over, because the idea of self-loathing and self-aversion was a concept and behavior that was not known in Tibetan culture.

I have this sense that personal fault and modern-self-aversion is a toxic western concept, and that we have taken this sense so far that we have so much anxiety and depression in this culture. I feel that with Metta practice, we can draw closer to this Eastern ideal; rather than guilt, personal shame or self-loathing, we can practice this love and kindness for ourselves, always. We can cultivate this Metta for ourselves in every aspect of our lives. And, even when we do something unskillful, we simply practice a mindful awareness of what we have done, and resolve to do better the next time around. No guilt. No painful shame.

Thanks for posting this, Aoife. Sometimes when we are going through difficulties and emotional turbulence, our friends or families do not understand. Perhaps as you go forward with Metta for yourself, and your friends, they wil lbe drawn back to you. If not them, it will be many others that respond beautifully to the Metta energy that you exude, and hold inside of you.

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Dear @Aoife
Thanks for your post, it certainly helped me as sure it will many others. I practice the same type of metta meditation, and it has helped me so much. I am not as progressed as you! I still can’t help resenting my body and feeling ashamed at times, but I also discovered a deep love for myself and strength I never thought possible. You’ve helped me look forward to even greater rewards as I progress further in the system :blush:

And you’re right, it’s not your fault. Sometimes friends aren’t on your wavelength, or they just don’t know how to cope with hearing our pain, trauma and forgiveness. Maybe like Michael said, in time they’ll understand and come back to you.

We are glad to have you here now and thank you for the courage to share your powerful story :pray:

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Thanks so much for this very moving story, and for having the courage to share it with us.

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Your post is beautiful. I was particularly moved by this:

You’ve pointed to so much beautiful Dhamma, especially in this one sentence. Much mudita for the loveliness you’ve earned through your own efforts. Thank you so very much for sharing; may you continue to grow in metta and Dhamma.

Much Metta and Mudita

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Thank you all so much for your kindness and support!

But not much courage I’m afraid: nobody here knows who I am. Sometimes it is easier on the internet with people you don’t have emotional ties with.

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Well I am happily in that same boat too :slight_smile:

It still takes courage though…just letting it come forth from your being and giving it out to the wide world…unsure of how they may see it or respond.

:slight_smile: Go you!! :heartpulse:

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We had some discussion when setting up the forum as to whether we should enforce a “real name” policy. And this shows exactly why such policies are a bad idea.

Well, that would be a subjective assessment. To me, it takes huge courage even to be this honest with yourself, let alone to share it with strangers. :pray:

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Thank you for sharing this story, @Aoife, it’s deeply moving to me!
:heartpulse:

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I feel a little overwhelmed by all your kind replies. I had not expected that much.

Thank you @Cara, that is the best compliment you could have given me!

Nobody can really understand what such an experience does to you until you experience it, and even then only if you are willing to look at it yourself. So yes, I guess that takes courage; it is so tempting to stay in a victim role, to give yourself the identity of “traumatized”. It is the courage of to let go of that identity; a courage for which I thank the Metta meditation and those teachers who are teaching it.

But sharing it with strangers is strangely liberating, far easier than sharing with friends. With friends you never know how they will react, what misunderstandings it creates, and they might feel that it is somehow personal. But on a forum it is never personal and if you don’t want to reply, there is no pressure to do so.

I often asked myself how I would have reacted if the roles had been reversed and I had been in my friend’s shoes. And I think I would have reacted exactly the same. I try to imagine what it is like when somebody projects those feelings onto you or becomes too needy and I think I would probably push that person away too.

But even if they had reacted differently, would that have helped me? Was their reaction not really the best push for me to look at myself and realize that my behavior was simply not acceptable and that I should snap out of it? I thank them from the bottom of my heart for not indulging me when my mind was so restricted in it’s thinking.

And after all, is how we see other people not just a projection of our own minds reflected back at us? Is everything we experience not just filtered though the filter of our own perception? And is it not our task to let go of all those identities and perceptions and see each other for what we really are; mere constructs of our minds, caused by conditions? Then there can only be Metta left.

Being here has been a little surreal to me. In my professional life I have a social identity that requires me to play a role, put on a mask. And my private life is intertwined with that too. All my friends are also my colleagues, so I have to pretend, play that role, also around them. I felt that here on this forum I can simply be myself because nobody knows me. I never understood why people wanted to go on things like “Second Life” but I think I’m beginning to understand: all social restraints of our daily lives are not there any more and we can be ourselves. Of course this can also bring out the worst in people. But at least this forum has created a safe space for people like me and I thank the moderators for keeping it that way.

So thank you Ajahn @sujato for not enforcing a “real name” policy.

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Aoife, thanks for sharing you experiences. Its not easy; it will be valuable to others too. I heard just yesterday of a woman sharing her experience of being homeless using her mobile phone, on twitter- the replies she received she found reassuring and very supportive to her and helped her get through it.

Metta is incredibly useful practically and on the path to Nibbana (there is a lot of overlap). The community here on DD is great! I hope you have a useful and enjoyable stay here! :sunflower:

with metta

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9 posts were merged into an existing topic: Homelessness & smartphones

I was the first one to read your post and it’s taken me this long to subdue my scaredipants orientation just enough to say how beautiful I found your account and, indeed, to echo Cara’s comment that it certainly helped me. I suppose courage is a relative thing. Anyway, courageous or not, deep thanks to you.

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Thank you Aminah! This means more than I can find words for. :anjal:

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Dear Aoife,
Thank you for sharing your story…it touched my heart. Your honesty and courage is very moving. Find love towards one self and others is very difficult job. I have similar straggle. I apply techniques suggested by Ayya Khema. Unfortunately she passed away but she has written numerous wonderful books and she left many recorded guided metta medications. I use them most of the time for my progress. I feel very fortunate to find her teachings it is working wonders for me.
With metta. Alona😊

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