T.O.’s

Okay. Here goes. I’m going to confess something to you. This is something about me that I don’t tell a lot of people. After all, in some way, some perspective I hold, I see this as childish and immature. So it’s a little embarrassing to admit to. (But only a little. I mostly accept that this is who I am). Therefore, when I have visitors I’m very aware that now they will know this thing about me and I wonder what they will think. So .. like I said … here goes.

I have over 80 stuffed animals and dolls. (Does that make me a hoarder? I wonder where you draw the line). What do you think of me now huh? Well, now that it’s out there let me tell you how wonderful it is to have all these ‘beings’. I call them the Beans. There are three groups of them – The Bed Group, The Bedroom Floor Gang and The Living Room Bunch. And one bear is actually called T.O. which stands for Transitional Object in psychology or psychiatric terms. It is an object that carries comfort and love for the person. My psychiatrist gave him to me so it was very right to call him T.O. Actually the letters should stand for ‘Transferable Object (of love)’ which is what my psychiatrist really gave me. All the care my psychiatrist gave me went into that little bear so I could comfort myself when I wasn’t with her.

Before I fell apart back in 1990, (I think they used to call those ‘nervous breakdowns’. Sheesh!), I think I a had 3 or 4 stuffed animals. But once I did ‘break down’ and start to uncover my past I discovered many different parts of me who had been created in response to childhood abuse. And many of those parts were very wounded and frightened and needed lots of comfort. Fortunately, I also had (and still have) some other very caring and nurturing parts who started buying stuffed animals for the more wounded ones. And continued buying them over and over for many years until the collection I have now. It’s crowded in my apartment because of them but they are so important to me (and to all my parts).

This is what I really wanted to tell you. These animals and dolls are all happy and healthy. They get every need met. In other words, for me, they live a perfect human life. My ideal. Some of them I give voice to – as in out loud. They speak to me. They are like children who are extremely happy and well cared for. And in return, they care for me. They comfort me when I am sad and celebrate with me when I feel good. They always say the thing I need the most to hear.

I have often wondered, if I had to evacuate my home rather quickly, what I would grab first. My dear cat Panda Bear is always first. She is my greatest treasure, my beautiful companion. Then the Beans. They are second – that’s how important they are to me. When I could not have compassion for myself they could express it. One step removed but it worked.

So having these many stuffed animals … does it mean immaturity or does it mean a creative solution to the need for comfort and care? I see these beings as extensions of my inner parts and a celebration of each and every one of them. I love all my inner parts now. We are a community, and we care deeply for one another. It wasn’t always like that, of course, but I want everyone to know that it’s entirely possible to change that. And stuffed animals and dolls have helped me so much.

 

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T.O. Mackie and Baby Annie – some of my best friends
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SC Group (Aug 15, 2017)

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This is a recap of some of the things we discussed this session.

Curiosity rather than Judgment

We talked about replacing judgment of ourselves, especially when we fail or make a mistake, with curiosity instead – as a first step toward acceptance. Here we can use the FIRST THOUGHT, SECOND THOUGHT that was suggested in one of our earlier meetings. We can’t stop the first thought that comes to mind and many times it’s a judgment about ourselves, some kind of label – I’m bad, I’m stupid, I’m wrong, I’m a failure, I’m a loser. However, what we can do, is have a second thought – one of noticing. Aha – judgment is happening. Criticism is happening. It even helps to say it this way rather than say I’m judging, I’m criticizing. It gives us a little space to step back and really observe and see what our mind is doing. Just observing it.

Some people talked about how they have been hurt by others making them feel sad and/or angry. It is so very difficult for us when our family criticizes us, and browbeats us, puts pressure on us to do certain things, to succeed. How are we to respond to this? How are we to cope? Some people do cope and live up to their family’s expectations. But I think many more of us suffer instead and end up hating ourselves for not meeting expectations.

I talked about need, in terms of this issue. Everyone has needs they want to meet. Often parents need their children to live out a certain life, and that is often because they could not. It’s important to notice that their expectations of us are their needs, belong to them and not to us. Their agendas for us. What is most helpful is to determine what we need to feel happy. If it’s to please our family then so be it. But if it is do something else, then the best thing we can do is listen to ourselves. If we try to go against the grain of who we truly are we tend to suffer greatly.

Programming

We talked about the importance of understanding that we have all been ‘programmed’ since childhood, even before birth. The genes we inherit are the beginning of the ‘programming’. Those genes will dictate to some extent what our personality will be like, what our physical body will be like. Then when we are born whoever cares for us will ‘program’ us in different ways. When we go to school the system will ‘program’ us in certain ways, our teachers will also ‘program’ us depending on their personality and teaching style, and our peers, our playmates will have a strong influence as well. And our culture, our society will ‘program’ us in certain ways as well.

By the time we are a full grown adult we have inherited a wealth of information about life, and we have integrated certain values and beliefs into our very being. We have adopted certain perspectives and certain attitudes towards others, towards ourselves and towards life itself. We will have come to many conclusions and some of them can cause us harm.

My co-facilitator, A., shared with us a story about the Dalai Lama. He was asked by someone how to deal with self-loathing. He and his translator talked for quite a while together about this question because they didn’t quite understand it. Tibetan people are not taught to loathe themselves, to put high expectations on themselves and then beat themselves up when they fail. A. made the very clear point that our self-hatred comes from this culture, it is not a basic human characteristic. It is created in our culture. This means it is learned behaviour and also means that it is possible to ‘unlearn’ it. We can choose another way of looking at ourselves.

Anger and rage

To revisit the subject – that some of us have been hurt so much in our life, particularly by our parents or caregivers. Our deep disappointment with this situation fills us with anger and rage. Understandable. I put out that possibly anger and rage are a form of aversion, a denial of sorts that we didn’t get what every child needs – unconditional positive regard. For me, it has been hard to accept that my mother was not able to listen to me very often so I felt I could not confide in her or turn to her for comfort. I was angry for a very long time. Eventually I was able, for the most part, to accept that she was taking care of her needs and to accept that she could not take care of mine. She needed herself too much.

One person pointed out that acceptance does not mean condoning someone’s actions. A very important point. It is not about letting someone else abuse, or continue to abuse us. Acceptance is more about accepting what we feel about the situation, what our own emotions are — our anger, an expression of our pain. It is also accepting, coming to terms with the fact that we cannot always get our needs met by others, particularly our parents. We may need to look elsewhere.

Weekly meetings

A. and I will be confirming with MDABC about a room so we can have our group every week, instead of every two weeks. We are aiming for starting the second week of September. I will let everyone know when we are sure.

LINKS

http://www.soundstrue.com/store/weeklywisdom?page=single&category=IATE&episode=12405&utm_source=bronto&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=N170806-WW&utm_content=This+Week:+Featuring+Chris+Germer+and+Elena+Brower

This is the Sounds True website. This particular page has a 62-minute podcast with Christopher Germer on self-compassion.

https://chrisgermer.com/

Here is Christopher Germer’s site. One of his books both Alex and I are reading is called “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion”. It’s excellent and very helpful.

Brene Brown — http://brenebrown.com/

She is well known for her talks and books on the subjects of vulnerability and shame (as well as other topics). There is a TED talk on her website on shame. When we have a hard time feeling self-compassion for ourselves it’s often because we feel so much shame for being who we are. I hope her site might help with this.

 

Dr. Kristin Neff’s website: http://self-compassion.org/about/

This is such a useful website on the topic of self-compassion. Dr. Neff is a leader in the field. There is a self-compassion quiz you can take and a more in-depth article on the self-compassion model of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.

The Self-Acceptance Project: http://live.soundstrue.com/selfacceptance/

This is an amazing website. It’s all for free. You can watch about 30 short videos on self-compassion and related topics. The first video is Dr. Kristin Neff speaking and she touched my heart profoundly. After listening to her I committed myself to learning how to be self-compassionate 100% of the time. And it worked!!

 

 

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease.

 

 

 

Is self-compassion natural?

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I want to add a bit more from Christopher Germer’s book.

“… we need to recognize that we deserve to feel better. When we feel really bad, most of us engage in self-punishment rather than self-compassion. We heap on self-criticism (‘This wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t so stupid’). We act as if suffering always points to a personal flaw rather than being a fact of the human condition. If we remind ourselves that wanting to feel better is a natural instinct, perhaps we’d be less likely to take ourselves to task when things go wrong. Wouldn’t you still clean and bandage a wound when you get injured? Why not do the same for yourself when you’re in emotional pain?

“… [a] group of people who might find self-compassion unnatural or difficult to practice are those who’ve been neglected or abused in childhood – suffered lots of stress in the formative years. The learning process for these folks may simply take a little longer. Many traumatized people feel they don’t deserve to feel good, or they haven’t had much practice feeling good. Furthermore, it may be hard for them to experience emotional pain in safe doses. Painful emotions recruit earlier pains. For example, a relationship breakup can trigger a tidal wave of loneliness and shame stored up from childhood, overwhelming one’s ability to focus and function.

“People with early childhood trauma, however, often demonstrate remarkable compassion and kindness toward other people or specifically toward pets or young children. Most everybody seems to have someone or something toward whom they experience natural compassion. … if it’s hard at first to feel compassion for yourself, you can use compassion for others as a vehicle to bring it to yourself.”

 

 

SELF-COMPASSION SUPPORT GROUP (August 1, 2017)

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SMOKY SUNSETS – Caer

 

Thank you to all of you who attended Tuesday August 1 and participated in some really good discussions. In case you missed all or part of it, we revisited having self-compassion for ourselves. A. (my co-facilitator) read from Christopher Germer’s book the mindful path to self-compassion. Below are some highlights of what he read. I will put more of it on my blog.

“IS SELF-COMPASSION NATURAL?

“Although our personal experience may tell us otherwise, self-compassion is the most natural thing in the world. Deep within all beings is the wish to be happy and free from suffering. … Everything we do, even the good feelings we derive from helping others, seems to derive from the wish to make ourselves feel better. Self-compassion practice is therefore not adding anything special to our behavioral repertoire – it’s just fanning the flames of our innate desire to be safe, happy and healthy and to live with ease, but in a more helpful way than our tendencies to grasp for short-term pleasure and to avoid pain at all cost.

“… when bad things happen to us, we tend to have three unfortunate reactions: self-criticism, self-isolation, and self-absorption. [Dr. Kristen] Neff’s three components of self-compassion direct us exactly in the opposite direction: self-kindness, recognizing the common humanity in our experience, and a balanced approach to negative emotions.

“Why do we react like this? I look at it this way: the instinctive response to danger – the stress response – consists of fight, flight, or freeze. These three strategies help us survive physically, but when they’re applied to our mental and emotional function, we get into trouble. When there’s no enemy to defend against, we turn on ourselves. ‘Fight’ becomes self-criticism, ‘flight’ becomes self-isolation, and ‘freeze’ becomes self-absorption, getting locked into our own thoughts.”

I want to comment on this idea of linking the fight, flight or freeze responses with the three components of the Self-Compassion model. I think this is a wonderful way to be in the moment especially when we feel uncomfortable or we are in pain. We can stop and ask ourselves:

  • am I fighting with myself by being judgmental, critical and condemning? Am I fighting against what I am feeling? Am I trying to push away these emotions?
  • Am I taking flight by withdrawing from the world, into my own cocoon? Am I feeling ashamed and embarrassed because I feel bad about myself? Do I feel like this is only happening to me and no one else has any idea what this is like? Do I feel completely alone with this?
  • Am I ‘freezing’ and drowning in my own drama and story? Am I so caught up with my own issues and problems that I can’t think about anything else? Do I feel totally absorbed and stuck here, paralyzed like a deer in the headlights?

A wonderful image was shared by one of our members of the three components of the Self-Compassion model being like a net beneath us. Holding us. Maybe one net for each component – self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness. Thank you for that.

 

OTHER NEWS

We had a lengthy discussion on using the Talking Stick as one member expressed minor frustration with it. As facilitators, we want to make sure everyone is as comfortable as possible. It’s helpful to know if anyone is uncomfortable with something we are doing in group time. The group didn’t make any decision to use it or not but we simply continued to use it. A. and I are very much in favour of continuing to use it. However, if there is more discomfort with using it we can talk about it again.

Here are some of the reasons the Talking Stick is helpful:

  • Helps us be more mindful about what we say and when we say it;
  • Slows the discussion down and gives us all time to digest what people share;
  • Helps keep us on topic (though tangents do happen – which is fine once in a while);
  • Creates a sense of boundaries and safety;
  • Gives a sense of a ‘sacred’ space – one that is held with respect and attention;
  • Gives us some silence between sharing.

INCREASING THE FREQUENCY OF GROUP

We talked about the possibility of running this group every week, starting in the fall. We put it out to the group to see if that would be something that people want. Everyone who responded seemed to be in favour of more frequent meetings. A. and I will discuss booking the room. We will let everyone know when the change happens. In case you miss a week, I will try to send out a brief summary of what we talked about. My blog will often have more on the topics if you want further information.

ENDING ‘PRAYER’

We have decided to end our meetings with these few words.

May I be safe.

     May I be happy.

                                                                      May I be healthy.

May I live with ease

Though I would love to change the last line to “May I be free of unnecessary suffering”. We have talked in the group about Resistance vs Acceptance and that Resistance to what is tends to lead us to ‘unnecessary suffering’ and Acceptance can lead us to experiencing deep joy.

WHY SHOULD I?

Most of us often tell ourselves things we should or shouldn’t do and I think this gets us into trouble. Should is such a word of force, of pushing ourselves to do something or be something rather than accept who we are and where we are at in life. I think the part of me that tells me I should do something is a part that was created when I was a child. This part has all the things that people said to me and that I believed to be true. “You should be a good girl. You should clean up your room, not talk back, not speak up, not protest, etc.” Now I recognize that this should part is only one part of me and it’s only a small part now. I recognize that I have a much bigger part that is true to myself and my needs, not someone else’s.

I think should always begins with an external source and we internalize it. These shoulds become our bible for living. They are hard and solid facts about us and what we should do. And they are to be believed. But I have learned over the years that these voices from the past, these shoulds are not about truth but about meeting someone else’s needs – usually our parents and close family, our teachers, and other community ‘authorities’.

I have changed my shoulds to coulds. When I catch myself saying I should do this, I correct myself and say I could do this. It depends on my needs in the moment. If I want to please others, to meet their expectations (and sometimes it’s totally appropriate) then I am choosing to do this. If I place more value on something else that I’m needing then I can decline meeting someone else’s expectations.

Possibly a good question to ask ourselves when we say ‘I really should do …’ is ‘Why exactly should I? What am I getting out of this? Are my needs being met here or am I meeting someone else’s?’

Also if we want to channel our energies towards something, rather than forcing ourselves using shoulds, we can direct ourselves, as if steering a canoe. You’ve got to go with the current to some extent but you’ve also got to steer the boat to where you want to go. Gently.

LINKS

https://chrisgermer.com/

Here is Christopher Germer’s site. One of his books both Alex and I are reading is called “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion”. It’s excellent and very helpful.

 

Brene Brown — http://brenebrown.com/

She is well known for her talks and books on the subjects of vulnerability and shame (as well as other topics). There is a TED talk on her website on shame. When we have a hard time feeling self-compassion for ourselves it’s often because we feel so much shame for being who we are. I hope her site might help with this.

 

 

Dr. Kristin Neff’s website: http://self-compassion.org/about/

This is such a useful website on the topic of self-compassion. Dr. Neff is a leader in the field. There is a self-compassion quiz you can take and a more in-depth article on the self-compassion model of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.

 

The Self-Acceptance Project: http://live.soundstrue.com/selfacceptance/

This is an amazing website. It’s all for free. You can watch about 30 short videos on self-compassion and related topics. The first video is Dr. Kristin Neff speaking and she touched my heart profoundly. After listening to her I committed myself to learning how to be self-compassionate 100% of the time. And it worked!!

 

 

                           May you be safe.

                                                                                May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease.

(May you be free of unnecessary suffering)