Know That You Are Whole

“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”
~Eckhart Tolle

“I feel so damaged.”

These were the words I heard recently from a friend, and it broke my heart. She had just become aware of a pattern in many of her relationships that has caused decades of struggling. She saw how it originated in her childhood, and she felt hopeless that it could ever change.

I didn’t say it, but secretly I was happy – because becoming aware of an old pattern is the first giant step toward being free of it.

The Myth of Damage

Who among us has not felt damaged? If we commit to authenticity in our lives, to not leaving one stone unturned, we will eventually come across these overlooked places in ourselves. We discover pockets of conditioning that make us feel needy or have led us to act in ways that are less than admirable. We may have even hurt others or ourselves. It’s easy to feel flawed.

But there is a misunderstanding in identifying ourselves as damaged. Because here is the truth: You did not come into the world damaged. Your original source, who you are, is whole, fulfilled, creative, completely at peace, loved and loving.

If you feel damaged, you have forgotten the truth of the matter. Unbeknownst to you, a layer of false identity has been shielding you from yourself. You are absorbed in a learned behavioral habit that, at one time, you needed for your survival.

Now is the time to remember who you are.

Unwinding the Habit

We are born innocent, filled with so much potential, virtually free of psychological scars. Then life brings us challenges. Our needs are not adequately met. Our feelings are rejected or minimized. We may have been criticized, pressured, demeaned, or even abused.

We don’t have the skills and support to manage our emotional reactions, so our feelings go underground, out of conscious awareness. We develop belief systems and strategies to make our way in the world. And we take on identities – as unworthy, entitled, bitter, or afraid.

My friend Melanie grew up with a single mother who gave her the silent treatment for days whenever she made the slightest infraction. Can you imagine what this would do to a little girl? She lived in fear of making mistakes, and her whole focus was on the fruitless task of pleasing her mother. Even now, decades later, she catches herself expecting to be rejected by friends and co-workers if she speaks her mind.

Faced with these untenable situations, our original face, our essence or true nature, gets covered over, obscured by whirling thoughts and desperate behaviors trying to make sense of the confusion. And these tendencies are very deeply ingrained because we become masters of them so early on in life.

Imagine walking back and forth on the same 5-foot stretch of ground day after day, year after year. The groove becomes a ditch which becomes a chasm. We can’t fathom that another way is possible. No wonder we call ourselves damaged.

But you are not damaged (so you can stop telling yourself that you are). Take away what you have learned from your experiences, and what is revealed is the unconditioned you. You are whole, clear, undisturbed, open.

Doing the Work

Working with these habits that have become your foundation takes patience, perseverance, and love. See if you can make these habits an ally rather than an enemy. Let them walk with you, if they need to, but don’t let them rule your life. They may not disappear, but you will see the potential in each moment to make a new and different choice.

  • Study the pattern so you can recognize it easily.
  • See how it served you at some point in your life – but no longer.
  • Be willing to let it soften. You are saying, “Yes!” to life.
  • Prepare yourself to feel and act differently.
  • Try out a new response or behavior.

On the road to reclaiming yourself, you will forget and lose your way, and this is not a problem. Keep at it, and eventually there will be chinks in the armor. You will notice space and flexibility where before was contraction and habit.

Are you damaged? Impossible. Consider that you are whole. Discover that love is closer than close. Restore yourself to your natural state, and you will see that damage is a figment of your imagination.

Do you recognize yourself as whole? Can you see that the ways you have learned to protect yourself are not who you are? I’d love to hear…

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  1. Deb Perkins says

    Ever since I can remember, I’ve always felt whole on one level, yet unworthy and fractured on another. I liken it to a yardstick, where the wholeness and radiance of my being is on the right, and the not-so-whole grooved parts are on the left. As I go throughout my day, I realize from which point on the yardstick I’m operating…I don’t try to get rid of a state or get down on myself for having it; I simply ask myself if that’s where I want to be. It just feels more and more right to operate from the right side of the stick. I have a tendency to go into anxiety and depression, which are toward the left, and it’s interesting how once we reach a certain point of leftness, there seems to be an invisible blindfold that blocks our sight. I try to see the blindfold coming in the early stages, and I tear it off before it gets tied. I turn my head to the right, and choose a higher number…anywhere, just a bit higher….Sometimes I’m too late, and I slide down into the left, where the grooves are and where anxiety lurks. But I know it is just a temporary place, in the darkness, not fun, really….I’m aware…. Perhaps I imagine a yardstick because it reminds me of school – where the lessons are….I learn my lesson from the leftward slide….I study it in compassion and openness so that the wisdom can start making its own groove, deeper and deeper, and more and more to the far right. Eventually, I even feel the right side in the dark depths of the left….I guess that’s where the non-duality comes in….Life is one big classroom, and we have so many choices. I’m so glad that I found your sight. I await every Thursday for the sweetest lesson of the week……

    • Gail Brenner says

      I am so moved by your comment, Deb. Your insight is crystal clear.

      I see that the wise, whole right side is beginning to infiltrate the left. The right is expansive enough, loving enough to hold everything, including the darkest dark of the left. Let the left be consumed by love every time, as much as possible. Eventually the power of the darkness subsides, the grooves soften, and clarity reigns.

      I’m glad you have found a home here. Love to you…

  2. says

    I’ve had relationships where they would do the silent treatment thing. I would tell them that the silent treatment is a form of abuse and control.

    Needless to say the silent treatment would be no more.

  3. says

    Your post reminds me of all the “wounded” langauge that is so common these days. It seems that so much of what we read focuses on our woundedness, on our victimhood. What a refreshing change of perspective you present. We are not wounded. We are not victims. We are whole and healthy children of the Source (or whatever name you choose).

    One of my colleagues is famous for his consistent response to the question, “How are you?” He always answers, “Perfect.”

    As are we all. Thank you for reminding us!

    • Gail Brenner says

      I’m with you, Galen, about the language we use. We might feel wounded, but we are not actually wounded. This sort of clarity is essential in this serious business of happiness. Thanks for bringing it to light.

  4. says


    I so like the flow of your pen and the softness and encouragement you offer in your posts. I felt gently uplifted after reading today.

    I am of the notion that we are on a journey to reconnect with our perfect human wholeness. Each one us, knowingly or not.

    This week I heard a wonderful reminder for life: “Practice what you want to keep.”

    Blessings to you.

    • Gail Brenner says

      A warm welcome to you, Susie.

      I appreciate what you say about reconnecting with our wholeness. The wholeness is already there, and somehow we get diverted from this knowing. Finding our way home is the only journey worth taking.

    • katie says

      “Practice what you want to keep”. Thank you for that. That is something to think long, hard and often about. I will get started now =)

      • Gail Brenner says

        A warm welcome to you, Katie.

        So beautiful to practice what you want to keep, and let go of anything, anything at all, that doesn’t serve or brings suffering.

        Love to you…

  5. says

    Hi Gail,

    Thank you for another powerful post. In my own experience, I know I was living each day through a ‘damaged’ lens and for the longest time couldn’t figure out why I never felt happy or fulfilled despite having a life with a lot to appreciate – healthy family, good job, loving boyfriend, supportive friends, etc. I just could not get out of my own way to stop and smell the roses! How frustrating that became! I love how you refer to the self is damaged and overpowered by damaging habits as ‘whole’, just saying that to myself makes me feel calm, open, and content.
    I’m sure many people feel their original, whole self may never be resurrected after years of protecting themselves with detrimental habits – but you give great motivation and tools to start making the change.


    • Gail Brenner says

      Welcome to you, Amanda.

      Well, if you were able to get out of your own way, then others can do it, too. Somehow you found your way from believing you were damaged to the wholeness that you are. I’m celebrating with you! We start where we are – very simply – and go from there. I always hold the possibility of freedom for everyone – no matter how strong the patterns or how tragic the circumstances they may have been in.

      I appreciate your kind words – and your comment certainly contributes to inspiring people.

      BTW, I have to say, I love the title of your last post: quick power snack-sweet multi-grain waffle with almond butter. Yum!!

  6. says

    Gail: Really good one and you are so right that once you identify the pattern, you can break the cycle. That really is more than half the battle. Of course it then takes some reprogramming and discipline to work at thinking and doing things differently, but it is so much farther down the road then just unconsciously living. I really appreciated every thing you said in this post and Eckhart is one of my favorites :) As you said, it is all about unwinding the habit. Great post.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Thank you, Sibyl.

      I tell people that sometimes things get worse before they get better when they start down the road to healing. This is because of this important step of seeing things clearly as they are – identifying the patterns that aren’t working. When we commit to this level of truth-telling, then the deprogramming can begin.

      I appreciate what you say about discipline. As I’m sure you well know, change takes a total commitment. The more willing we are, the better results we see.

  7. says


    Our true essence can never be damaged! You’ve articulated this so well. Like almost everyone, I’ve spent most of my life believe in subtle ways that I am damaged. Now, I know that’s not the case and if we do the work you suggest here we can indeed transform our habits and come in touch with our true self.

    I don’t necessarily agree that we are born innocent. Id the idea of karma is true, and I don’t know if it is, then this is not necessarily the case. But I do agree our true essence has always been there, is there now, and will always be there. It’s unchanging and undying and can touched in any moment. So in that sense, we are born with our true nature fully intact alongside karma if one accepts that belief!

    • Gail Brenner says

      This is so well put, Sandra. I tend not to hold onto any beliefs – I go by actual experience. But I don’t have a problem at all with others having certain beliefs. And I personally haven’t had direct experience that tells me I carry karma from past lives.

      But the point is what you so clearly articulate – that the wholeness is here – unchanging and undying. This goes beyond belief, and we can know ourselves as our true nature in any moment. Damage is just another belief. When we let that one go, the door opens to realizing our essence.

  8. says

    Thank you Gail for the knowing story of feeling “damaged.” We did come into this world whole and our “damage” is what we learned or how we learned to survive.

    I like the part where you say to “see how it served you in the past but no longer.”

    I learned how to nurture and help others. Somehow I did not learn how to do that for myself.

    I helped others to the point of it being hurtful to me. And once these people felt better, their attitude would be thanks, now I don’t need you anymore and walk away.

    That, naturally, left me feeling empty, and used. Yet, it still did not stop me from repeating the same actions over again with someone else, or worse even, with the same person.

    I am now starting to learn to be compassionate and caring but not give them my everything. Surviving now, I have realized, is the part of me I give and safe for myself.

    Thanks for your article which only reinforces my learning to take care of me.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Virginia, and welcome to you,

      You have learned that when your MO in life is to take care of others, you attract people who want to be taken care of. There is a hidden deal being made – if I take care of you, then you will be there for me. But it doesn’t work, does it? Seeing through a strategy such as this one is so important.

      Making that discrimination between caring and not giving everything is essential. It helps to go slowly and check in with yourself often so that you don’t miss the urges to engage in the old pattern. This way you learn to trust yourself again.

      Sending so many good wishes to you for your clarity and good intention…

  9. says

    I’m moved to tears in this moment. This is MY story in every way. It is an extremely harsh reality to face when it’s your mother who can’t/won’t love you. It shapes the way you move in the world. I’ve lost everything in the past year as a result of my “shaping” and it has taken me to hit this bottom to find this article. At 37, my life is in total reconstruction. Feeling spiritually fatigued in this place, I can honestly say that this article has ignited a spark in me. Thank you so much!!

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hello to you, Rhonda,

      When I hear of a situation such as yours, inside I rejoice. I am so sorry for your pain, but am so enlivened by your willingness to be honest and face what is – for only with this honesty can things really begin to shift.

      Your life is in total reconstruction? Good for you. Just let go of what doesn’t serve and things will construct just right on their own without much intervention on your part.

      That story of family is a very tough one. Of course we want that most loving situation and parents who adore us. But some of us just don’t have that. So the choice sits squarely in ouro lap – carry around the pain and suffer or figure out how to be free of it. You are a testament to the latter.

      Oceans of love to you…

  10. says

    It’s so funny to me that we have to keep saying things over and over. Wasn’t Jesus’ message over 2000 years ago that we are whole and love-worthy just as we are? He invited us to grow from where we were but we were worth God’s love and our own, right where we are. Think of the woman at the well parable. She was supposedly living in sin and immoral yet he loved her and showed her how to love herself which so amazed her she began to share it with others just as you are sharing this story now. We are a nation (the U.S.) that likes to call itself Christian yet we have this problem of not thinking we are good enough, not loved and not able to change. I think religion did that to us. That and culture which is largely Middle Ages Christianity influenced (and Puritan too). I’m glad so many are saying this but I wonder how the world would have been different today if people would have taken Jesus’ message to heart all along.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Welcome to you, Timaree. Thank you so much for visiting.

      The message of Jesus is a beautiful one, something we can all learn from. Thank you for the reminder.

      Although not the major point in your comment, I do need to mention that the US is not a Christian nation. One of its primary doctrines is the separation of church and state. Because of this, there is the freedom for a vast range of people to hold a myriad of religious and spiritual beliefs. This level of freedom allows us to have provocative and meaningful conversations about the most essential questions, and we can all feel free to explore in all directions without the need to label or pigeon-hole.

      • says

        I agree. We are not, nor ever have been a nation with an official religion. Thank goodness. Too often I hear on the news however, conservative Christians claiming it to be – and then telling everyone how wrong they are and how they had better straighten up. No. We are whole and we are whole no matter which religion or no religion even, we are. I was actually being too tongue-in-cheek I guess. Since I started with Jesus I was just pointing out how people who make religions that follow someone like him can contort it to making everyone feel the exact opposite of what he taught. I’m probably still not being clear. Basically, I am just saying I agree with you and am glad you made the post because obviously people still need the message.

  11. says

    I agree that most of us feel damaged in some way as we go through life. So much of it seems to come from our family of origin. I appreciate your saying that recognizing that we feel flawed is the first step to being free of it. Instead, so many self medicate in ways that are self destructive. Recognizing where their pain is coming from is one of the keys to recovery. Powerful post!

    • Gail Brenner says

      Thank you, Cathy, and welcome to you. So glad you stopped by.

      The key here is that we feel damaged or we think we are wounded. These are thoughts and feelings that can be seen through and not taken as truth. The truth is wholeness, unity, open-heartedness, and expansive love. And, yes, recognizing these thoughts and feelings is essential to not letting them run wild.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

  12. says

    Gail, what a great post! I’m reading Neal Donald Walsh’s “Conversations with God” and in that book, God tells Walsh that we are not here to “learn” who we are, we are here to remember that we ourselves are divine and perfect beings.

    You really tackle a huge subject here in a very succinct and precise way: We create ourselves in this life, and at some point we all made up stories as you say, that served us in some way, even the stories about how damaged we were.

    But I believe, like you, that we can change those stories by becoming aware of how we acquired them in the first place, and then replacing them with more positive stories that serve us.

    To me, that’s a very empowering premise: if you don’t like the story you have about yourself, it’s in your power to change it!

    Thanks again for a very insightful look at this.


    • Gail Brenner says

      I love that point, Gordon, about remember who we are, not learning who we are. An important distinction.

      I appreciate your point about creating positive stories. Who doesn’t love a positive story! I also like to put out the possibility of no story. There is nothing wrong with positive stories, but in my own experience, I have found the deepest freedom and relaxation by giving up all stories. It is an effortless way of being to simply surrender and let everything be.

      Of course fears come up – how will I function, what will it be like. All I can say is that I’m happy, I flow with circumstances, I know unity with all life, and my life functions just fine. I feel empowered in that I am not disturbed by the changes of the world.

      Change is possible, as you say, and it’s empowering, and relieving, to know that.

  13. Michelle says

    Wow what an amazing site. You are one amazing lady. Thankyou for all your encouraging and kind words.
    Michelle (New Zealand)

  14. says

    I came across this post at the right time. I have a friend who is in depression due to some recent activities in her life. I am sending her this link… hope she reads it… Thanx for this wonderful post.


    • Gail Brenner says

      Thank you so much for stopping by, Jes. I hope this article supports your friend, and I’m glad that your friend has a friend like you looking out for ways to support her.

  15. says

    I stumbled upon this post this morning after a momentary relapse into “I’m broken”

    Thank you for writing these words, and helping me understand that I am whole. I will use these tools on my journey towards healing.


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