As we mentioned earlier, the very act of understanding what happened to us in our own childhood is healing. First, it lets us change the very filter through which we see ourselves and our lives. Seeing and acknowledging the ACEs helps us to connect the dots of our present behavior (for example, understanding why we’re suffering from migraines, or can’t stop smoking, or yell at our kids even though we keep saying we want to stop).

The second reason to understand what happened is that it allows us to open up our hearts to compassion for ourselves. With compassion, we can look at ourselves and others with understanding and care, instead of judgment. Compassion is the key to healing. When compassion grows in our hearts, we will begin to experience less pain and suffering and become unstuck. Compassion guides us towards healthy living, a longer life, as well as peace and happiness. Compassion can help us heal our relationship with our children in the present. Knowing where our behavior comes from can allow us to move forward.

In Wrestling Ghosts, Kim is dissatisfied with how she is raising her kids. She wishes she could just do better. To her therapist, she says, “I wish I could just tell myself to knock it off and be normal, healthy, good, happy, loving, productive.” It isn’t until Kim is finally able to see herself as a 9-year-old girl who had lived in a battered women’s shelter that she has compassion for what she went through. This is a huge step toward her healing process.

In the following sections, we’ll learn about the many ways that Kim was able to shift her self-perception. And no, this stuff isn’t easy. We know that; we’re here to support you while you find that compassion for yourself!