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.
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.
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.
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)