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1 (855) EMPATHY

Life and communication coaching for women.

Mercy When It’s Hard


Mercy When It’s Hard

Marina Smerling

The times that we feel the most alone are the times we need support the most.

The times we feel shame are the times we need support the most.

The times we want to pull ourselves up and out of our dark hole to resemble our notions of decency and respectability are the times we need support the most.

We humans do this funny thing.  Something difficult happens, our nervous systems respond – with lashing out (fight), or pulling away (flight), or shutting down (freeze) or getting really nice and accommodating (appease) – but rather than tend to our bodies, we get moving.

We try to think our way out!  To concoct an escape plan!  To devise “the perfect response”!  To act in all the ways that “together, empowered, cool” people do, when the truth is, we feel like anything but that.


The secret sauce is in letting yourself stay.  Not forcing your way out.  Not pushing prematurely.  Not putting on airs, or a mask, or veiling your emotions.

Just staying with them.

"Hello anger."

"Hello grief."

"Hello fear."


Letting go, for the moment, of having any solution.  Letting go, for the moment, of having any way out.

Yes, it sounds like hell, I know.  But the truth is, the scrambling to “act normal” on top of our frozen or fighting nervous systems – that’s hell.  A crazy-making, mismatched world wherein we can’t even trust our own bodies and the ground we walk upon.

So let us dare to slow down.

For the truth is, when we tend to our hurting places, when we restore to them a sense of kindness and accompaniment, the solutions find us.   They arise out of nowhere, like a flock of geese emerging in formation from the edge of the field, grace arriving on its own schedule.

But how (“on earth!”) do we stay?

Oh how?

First, I’m a big fan of simply putting a hand to your heart and saying, “Hi sweetheart.  You’re not alone,” and breathing there, with the felt presence of your hand.

This opens the doorway for us to receive warmth, and to imagine being responded to positively by others.  This shift – from defense and protection… to an expectation of kindness – is fundamental.

From here, you might imagine the ideal caretaker responding to you.  This might be a person in your real life. It might be an ancestor.  It might be a fuzzy brown bear.  The beauty of imagination is that *you* get to design the experience that most speaks to *your* body.

Imagine this caretaker or ally getting curious about your, offering to hold you, blocking the door, protecting you.  Notice what has you exhale, soften, and begin to pour your weight more fully into the chair, floor, or bed.

Stay there, holding this sensation of warmth, kindness, being received and held, protected, for at least a minute, allowing the image to “set” in your body and heart.


You are loved.

Even as the mess that you feel yourself to be.

You are enough.


Take your time here.  NO RUSH!  I can’t say this enough.  No need to rush your nervous system to thaw or settle and to surpass your natural timing.  Oh honey, stay with yourself.  Stay, as long as it takes.

You are worth staying for.

You will know when the answers have arrived in your belly, in your bones, and your body is moving toward “right action,” “right speech,” or toward reconnection with another of its own sweet volition.

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