Dealing with Low Self-Esteem and Shame, Part 4: Awakening the Inner Healer


This article is the fourth part of a four-part series on low self-esteem and shame, written exclusively for by Richard Hartnett.

Click here to read Part 1


To weaken the impact of our low self-esteem and shame, we need to strengthen our contact with the healing forces inside us. This side of our personality has been neglected and ignored, just as we ourselves have been, so now we will seek to become much more conscious of its presence in us and learn how to let it help us.

We begin by recognizing how we are being inspired to get help and heal our wounds right now. Where is this desire coming from? If we were to personalize it, we might call it our Healthy Self. It is a balanced and centralized force inside us that awaits our attention. It will guide our growth and convey the creative influence of our ultimate Source to us.

Of course when we are in a defeated state of mind, it is difficult to believe that we can ever get better. We are at a crucial juncture: either we succumb to our fate or we decide to follow our healthy inspirations. Our Healthy Self will show us how to climb out of our pit by taking one small step at a time. All we need do is cooperate with its influence on us.

The emergence of the Healthy Self marks a new phase in our growth. Beforehand, we had been operating on ego-power. That is, we assumed we were responsible for the course of our lives, in effect that we were our own Source. But now we realize how much we are being lived, how much we are responding to input that comes to us from deep within. Now we are willing to act as agents of healing for others.

Living in an inspired way feels different from an egoic approach. It is not an abdication of responsibility, but rather a recognition that our guidance is derived from a central Source that affects us from deep within and that we all seem to share in common. It entails a receptive disposition, one that is humble and patient.

Perhaps the primary activity is waiting and listening for the quiet movements that come from deep within. They may not always be expressed in words. Sometimes they appear as visions in our imaginations or as nudges to our instincts. Afterwards we may put them into words as best we can. These movements may also inspire us to act in a helpful manner.

So, where do our constructive thoughts and impulses originate?

Basically we experience them as positive and effective, insofar as they influence us in this manner. From this we attribute them to a benevolent power that resides deep within us. And yet this Source remains mysterious because we cannot fully comprehend it with our rational mind.

How do we know we are being affected by a positive force?

We cannot be absolutely certain, but we can be reasonably confident we are being constructively inspired if our experience is confirmed by other people. If we share what insights and guidance we receive inwardly and our good friends are doubtful or suspicious of it, then we had better set it aside until we do meet with agreement. For we are all helping one another become healthy by aligning ourselves with the same Source. It’s as if we get on the same wavelength, as it were. We might call this the resonance explanation of recovery.

The Healthy Self acts as a messenger to us on behalf of the ultimate Source

This figure encourages us to confront the people who have hurt us and it affirms us as its valuable allies. In this way it serves as a healing agent for our deep emotional wounds. As we gain courage and confidence under its care, we allow ourselves to be inspired by its vision for us. The Healthy Self wants us to serve as healing agents for those around us who are still hurt, and it will show us how to become aware of the ultimate Source of our identity. Once we realize we are being lived by the Source of our being, we can help others appreciate this perspective as well.

One way or another, we need to find a way to replace our self-disapproval with a positive, affirmative image of ourselves. This need arises from the Healthy Self in us, it is continually inspiring us to take constructive steps for ourselves. If we follow just a few of its inspirations, we we find ourselves shedding our suffering and embracing a positive self-regard. Even if we don’t comprehend how we are being healed, as long as we are receptive to the insights and inspirations that come to us, we will gradually feel better about ourselves and we will sense we are somehow on the right path.

We will enjoy the vision of ourselves as valuable instruments of healing and creativity.

Just as we have uncovered The Judge or The Critic in us and interrogated it, so too can we strengthen our connection with the Healthy Self by conducting a dialog with it. We can use the same questions we used to discover how the oppressive figure operates in us to learn the intentions and methods of the Healthy Self as well.

Click here to read the conclusion to this series and for information on Richard Hartnett's book "Sobriety and Inspiration"

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.


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