This weekend a friend told me he doesn’t ever recall being encouraged by family or even many friends. It’s a sad and common truth which many people experience, including most of my clients, and which I can unfortunately relate to myself.
In fact, in my experience, the habit of encouragement is such an important part of wellbeing and health, it’s worth a blog to itself.
So what makes the act of encouraging others so important?
The clues are in the etymology (meaning):
According to the English dictionary ‘encourage’ means to ‘give support, confidence, or hope to (someone)’.
We will have more clues however if we look at the French dictionary. Encourage has its origins in Old French ‘encoragier’, to ‘make strong or hearten’. Encoragier comes from the word ‘coeur’ which means ‘heart’ in French. When we encourage someone we literally ‘lift their heart’, the seat of the Soul or Spirit.
The act of encouragement is so vital for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing that not receiving enough can leave us with rock-bottom self-esteem, self-worth and self-belief.
The act of encouragement is so vital for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing that not receiving enough of it can leave us with rock-bottom self-esteem, self-worth and self-belief.
In turn, deep unconscious feelings of ‘I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve’ (happiness, success, abundance, to be loved etc…) lead to dis-ease as a direct result of unhealthy behaviours and lifestyle habits which stem from these core limiting beliefs.
For people who are chronically sick, they have often endured a lifetime of criticism, judgement, punishment and abuse, all of which are the direct opposite of encouragement.
When we are criticized, chastised, humiliated and put down by others, (often the very people who were charged with our wellbeing, ie parents, caregivers, teachers), we come to believe we are unworthy and ‘bad’. We become ‘dis-heartened’ and ‘dis-spirited’ , which leads to hopelessness, helplessness and despair, which turn into anxiety, depression and even illness.
When we are encouraged, we feel ‘light-hearted’, optimistic, positive, hopeful and self-confident. We trust in our ability to navigate our way through life.
By contrast, when we are encouraged, we feel ‘light-hearted’, optimistic, positive, hopeful and self-confident. We trust in our ability to navigate our way through life. We feel we can cope and manage the challenges which come our way. We feel that people around us will support us in times of need, and that we can ask for help. If we grow up without encouragement, our heart is literally ‘broken’ because it’s ‘soul-destroying’.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of encouragement for health and happiness. If we have grown up without it, and even worse experienced the opposite, we will also find it difficult to encourage ourselves; instead we may be quite hard on ourselves, always putting ourselves down, comparing ourselves to others, beating ourselves up… It’s not a pretty sight (in our mind), but it’s what we’re used to, because it’s what we experienced growing up and it’s what we know. It’s familiar.
So what is the way out?
As always the number one step is AWARENESS. Becoming aware of what is, whether that be recognizing the lack of encouragement, or our own self-defeating habits and behaviours.
The number one rule for recovering from unhappiness and chronic illness is self care. We have to give to ourselves what we never received.
The next step is SELF-LOVE and SELF-CARE. In fact the number one rule for recovering from chronic illness is self care. We have to give to ourselves what we never received. This is no easy task, because initially we don’t even have the neural pathways in our brain to know what love, care and encouragement are.
And we have to learn how to RECEIVE. We have spent so long protecting ourselves from receiving love because of the pain of rejection which led us to close our hearts, that we don’t know how to receive positive attention, including love and encouragement. As we say in Tong Yuan (Creating a Barrier-Free Heart) ‘it’s an art to love, and it’s an art to be loved’.
And we have to learn how to praise ourselves. I call this SELF-APPRECIATION. We have to learn how to appreciate who we are, just for being alive, and recognize our achievements. We must practice this daily.
When I work with clients, they learn all of this: they learn how to recognize past pain and clear it. They learn how to appreciate and love themselves in practical, tangible ways. They learn how to put a stop to continuing unfair treatment from others. They learn how to put themselves first without feeling guilty. All of this can be learned, and we must do this if we never learned to do it when we were children. I also encourage my clients a lot!
One of the ways I help people re-learn encouragement is by teaching them a daily meditation called ‘Tong Yuan’. Tong Yuan is a Chinese term which means ‘create a barrier-free heart’.
When we are hurt in the past, we automatically and unconsciously (energetically) ‘close’ our hearts to protect from further hurt. A closed heart prevents us from experiencing and receiving love. It also perpetuates the lack of trust and fear which has built up inside us. The way out is to open the heart back up so we can experience what are called the ‘5 essential qualities of the heart: trust, openness, love, gratitude and respect.
There are many ways to open the heart back up, but practicing Tong Yuan is a safe, easy, practical and efficient way to do so. It’s a daily practice which one can use for the rest of one’s life to keep building love, trust and self-awareness.
Whatever method you choose, the most important thing is to reverse the damage that a lack of encouragement has created. It’s also essential to have patience, because this is not something which changes overnight. But with persistence we can re-build courage and love in our heart.
If you want to learn more about Tong Yuan and how to open your heart check out the following links”