IMG_0161When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Wow. Well. This is a pretty big subject for survivors of drama, trauma and dysfunction. But this essay by Nancy Nicolazzo is also a very good example of learning to find balance in life by discovering compassion for ourself – and those who have harmed us.


I’m not talking about “letting them off the hook”. Quite the opposite.

I’m talking about finding a way to let ourselves heal from the ambivalence we often end up with that causes us such pain and confusion in our lives.

I’m talking about finding a place of understanding why WE feel “fucked up” as well as an understanding that to make those who harmed us responsible for what they did to harm us while also understanding they are humans who have also been hurt.

I’m talking about learning to love ourselves enough to take our todays back from those who stole our yesterdays.

I’m talking about being able to learn to recognize that feeling of “love-hate” relationship many of us have with our families – including siblings, cousins, parents…anyone who was there and who either hurt us or did not help us.

I’m talking about being able to acknowledge the rage, embrace it and then let it go.

Not so we can “forgive and forget” but so that we can get on with getting a life.

Remember – compassion does NOT mean that we continue to allow those into our lives who have hurt us in the past or are continuing to hurt us today.

  1. It means being able to accept that the past happened and we can’t change it
  2. It means learning to love ourselves enough that we don’t keep putting ourselves in situations where we end up feeling “less than”.
  3. It means that if we cannot get to a place where we can “accept them as they are” that it is totally fine to “love them from a distance”.

An excerpt from this essay by Nancy Nicolazzo

I grew up in a family dominated by alcoholism, narcissism, illness and dysfunction. There were four of us, my mother, my father, my older brother and myself.

From a young age, I had a lot of responsibility. I was a parentified child, caring for my older brother who was epileptic and also caring for my parents whose main focus of concentration was on themselves.

Growing up I was filled with confusion, dissatisfaction, and suppressed anger.

As a child, I did not know other children were busy playing and being cared for. For me it was all about caring for others. I was left alone while my father worked, my mother shopped, and my brother was taken where he needed to be.

As a result of these dynamics, I grew up trying to please my distracted parents. I wanted nothing more than to win their approval and affection.

She goes on:

People work with anger in different ways. My way was to repress it. As I worked with my dreams, I realized I felt rage at the man I married and later I realized I also felt rage towards my parents. It was safer, when I was younger, to repress the rage as a way of “holding onto” my husband and my parents. Repressing anger, however, is not such a healthy thing to do – it takes a toll on the body, the mind and the spirit.

Marshall Rosenberg teaches nonviolent communication, and writes “You can feel it when it hits you. Your face flushes and your vision narrows. Your heartbeat increases as judgmental thoughts flood your mind. Your anger has been triggered, and you’re about to say or do something that will likely make it worse.  You have an alternative. The nonviolent communication process teaches that anger serves a specific, life-enriching purpose. It tells you that you’re disconnected from what you value…”

Rosenberg’s quote on anger helped me to realize that anger serves an important purpose. The quote helped me to understand my reactivity.   And, understanding my reactivity and that my parents were suffering, allowed me to transform the anger to compassion.

Please consider reading this essay in its entirety here: When Another Person Makes You Suffer, It Is because He Suffers Deeply Within Himself.


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