A journey from trauma towards compassion

Elisabeth Carlucci
6 min readAug 17, 2021
Picture by Giulia Bertelli on unsplash

“Compassion is the Marriage between awareness and the heart.”

Sensitivity for the needs of others and negligence of our own needs is sometimes mistakenly perceived as compassion. In this article, I elaborate on my perspective on compassion and my personal journey towards it.

The origin of trauma

As children, we depend on our parents and it is our genetic duty to love them. If caretakers behave in unbalanced, out of place, unreflected or hurting ways, children often cut themselves off from their own emotions. Intending to regulate their parents, they develop an ability to perceive their caretakers’ needs more than their own. This strategy helps continue to love their parents and stay in a system that keeps them alive by offering shelter, love, and food.

My personal story

Due to family patterns, I learned not to be in touch with a certain range of emotions and therefore with parts of myself. I had trained myself to be hard and to not feel everything I perceived.

At the same time, I was always positive and adapted well to any situation. As I was happy and had few problems I had an open ear for everyone’s troubles and issues.

Nowadays I understand that this was my way of coping with my family system, my survival strategy. I had lost a deep and authentic connection with myself. As an adult, I realized that I was always happy yet not really in contact with my needs and emotions like anger or frustration. I also saw that I could feel others more than myself. Therefore I prioritized the fulfillment of their needs over discovering what I wanted in a situation.

As an adult, I realized that I was not really in contact with my needs and emotions. I also saw that I could feel others more than myself.

The development of survival strategies

Many of us have parents that have not walked the inner path of figuring out their traumas and psychological issues. To cope with a traumatized family system and its daily circumstances, we develop survival strategies. Over time those strategies turn into ego structures.

The more we are willing to peel off the layers of our ego to gain emotional, mental, and spiritual maturity, the more we will encounter our survival strategies disguised as behavior patterns. These developmental or attachment traumas might have occurred between conception and teenage years.

Trauma has the potential to turn into talent

The good news is that if we dare to look at ourselves and start the journey of self-discovery and healing these coping strategies can turn into gifts. As we become aware of our unconscious behavior patterns we can consciously use these abilities.
The talent to feel others and immediately know what a system needs to find balance is one of my principal tools as a therapist and coach.

I was only connected to myself when I was alone

After years of Meditation, Yoga, and awareness work I realized that when it came to relationships I was giving up part of myself. In connection, others and their needs were the priority. As my needs were not met, I sometimes needed to react harshly or change place to draw a line and be in touch with myself.

I always had a partner, lots of friends and people in my social circle— taking care of everyone´s needs made me a popular companion. I noticed that the only way to be connected to me was by being alone. In order balance myself I cultivated lots of me-time.

Attachment Trauma presents itself in contact with others

This kind of pattern only plays out in contact with others and is -as we can see- very compatible with society. Due to these features it oftentimes remains unseen for a long time. One of the main characteristics of developmental trauma is that it plays out around topics of contact, the loss of contact, connection, and the loss of connection.

In my case, it was the loss of contact with myself.
Unconsciously I believed that to be connected to others I needed to give up pieces of myself. This belief system had turned into an automatism that reinforced itself over decades.

Unconsciously I believed that to be connected to others I needed to give up pieces of myself.

As I changed, my relationships started to crumble

Once I realized what was happening, my behavior in my relationships slowly started to shift and change. Several of my friendships were crumbling as I naturally learned to contain my energy by giving less to others than I used to. It was interesting to observe how strangely people behaved when I stayed in touch with myself while relating. People in my surroundings were not used to this new version of myself. A whole new world of self-discovery unfolded.

This is the beauty of the inner path: Every time you puncture a new layer and unwind the screw of the ego a little bit more, an unknown world opens up and a new adventure begins.

Spiritual practice helps to become more subtle in perception

Looking back, it took me years of Sadhana (spiritual practice) to become subtle in my perception and realize that I was not fully embodied and in touch with myself. What helped me most were Yoga, Meditation, Family Constellations, and Trauma Therapy.

Being in touch with subtler layers of myself also helped me tremendously to advance in my spiritual practice. I developed a deeper understanding of the teachings of the sages which I had been following for a major part of my life.

I noticed that I was able to be much more present in the here and now. Unconscious thinking slowed down drastically. And I realized that Self-love was the root of Compassion.

I had confused empathy with compassion

As a spiritual seeker, I was always aspiring to be compassionate. Now I understood that previously I had confused empathy with compassion.By being in touch with myself an unknown depth of compassion arose naturally. A level of compassion that included me. A level of compassion that sprung from knowing and loving myself. I realized that by being in love and therefore in touch with myself I naturally perceived the interconnectedness of everything and everyone.

Compassion does not mean prioritizing others over yourself

Compassion does not mean prioritizing others over yourself and feeling their needs more than yours. Compassion means meeting everything and everyone with an open heart, free of opinions or judgments, knowing that people´s suffering and pain are unconsciously the motives for their actions.
Compassion means feeling everything- my suffering and the suffering of others- yet not being reactive or compelled to act.
It means being in touch with the great truth of Oneness and Interconnectedness. Compassion means loving everything as it is by setting it free.

Compassion is the Marriage of awareness and the heart.

Compassion means meeting people, beings, and events from the core of our hearts and giving all of them space to reside there for a moment in time. Compassion means allowing ourselves to be touched by creation as it is without preference for particularities.

Compassion means allowing ourselves to be touched by creation as it is without preference for particularities.

Compassion is unconditional love in action, it is the practical application of unconditional love. Compassion is a result of awareness. It builds upon the foundation of awareness. Compassion is the Marriage of awareness and the heart.

To grow in compassion we have to dive into our shadow

Compassion is not something we can willingly create or forcefully achieve. True compassion is a result or a by-product of self-discovery and extensive spiritual practice (sadhana).

True compassion equals being present, it springs forth of the awakened mind that resides in the present moment.

To grow in the field of compassion, we have to walk the dark and insecure alleys of our inner shadow world, getting deeply in touch with ourselves, licking our wounds, and allowing ourselves to feel and perceive everything as it is. Including ourselves.



Elisabeth Carlucci

“Life is about experiencing the silent joy of being moment by moment with what is.” - Spirituality, Psychology, Philosophy