SELF-CARE, SELF-COMPASSION DISCUSSION & SUPPORT GROUP
SUMMARY OF OCT 10, 2017
SUPPORTING YOUR PRACTICE
I was delighted to hear on Tuesday two of our members say they have noticed a difference in their lives using some of the concepts we talk about such as mindfulness and loving kindness meditation. One person said she now feels more of a sense of herself when she does the metta meditation. This is awesome! If we often get caught up in pleasing others, in taking care of others’ needs, we lose ourselves in the process. We need to find ways to get back to connecting with our innermost feelings and needs, connecting with ourselves. I think it’s progress, a moving towards health when we are truly in touch with ourselves.
Another member shared a time when she was most upset, angry about something and she was able to step back from the experience and see it from a more objective point of view. Again I see this as progress towards a healthier life, towards wisdom, when we can step back from our dramas and see them as simply that – as ‘dramas’. It doesn’t mean they are of no value. They are our life stories, how we define and express ourselves in the world and each one of us has a unique life story. It’s when we get so caught up in that story that we lose sight of what’s really going on. In other words, understanding when our thoughts are tricking us into thinking something is real and true (e.g., I’m a born loser) when it’s actually something that’s very tainted by the ‘programming’ we received growing up. When we buy into these stories in this manner we tend to become very upset, distressed and freak out. We catastrophize or believe ourselves incapable of dealing with what is going on. We are totally overwhelmed.
However, we have a choice – always – to step back. It’s not easy to do when emotion takes over control of things. And sometimes we may have to simply let it happen (freaking out I mean) and then evaluate afterward. “Hmm I’m not happy about how I behaved back there. I just let myself get so upset over a little thing. I’d like to change that.” We can revisit the scene afterwards and try to figure out what to do the next time. Even though the next time and the next time and the next time may be the same thing, the same catastrophizing, the same hysterics, at some point we may get tired of it all and say “It’s time to do something different”. And then we do.
I hear from people in the group that although the thought of compassion for themselves has been a really huge and painful hurdle that some members are slowly getting past these hurdles. They are finding that the Loving Kindness meditation is working in some way, not always explainable, but it’s happening. So I’m particularly pleased this week to hear this. (Keep in mind it’s not a competition. We all have to go at a pace that is gentle and kind towards ourselves. It’s not about pushing.)
Trying to figure out what caused a symptom
The group got into a discussion about trying to figure out what makes you dip into depression or mania or anxiety for example. What triggers a mood change and into symptoms of our illness? As was pointed out by one member we are made up of many ‘moving parts’. In other words there may not be only one cause but multiple factors contributing to a spiral into illness (or even out of it and into a feeling of well-being). If we suddenly feel very depressed, manic or anxious it could be several things that have contributed to this episode. Looking for one cause may only frustrate us.
Not all of us question our mood change, or even want to ask why. Some of us simply want to let it happen and not to think too hard about it. But others of us want to understand what triggered the change so that we might adjust some things in our lives in order to prevent future triggers. One of our disadvantages as humans are our thoughts. We can’t always trust them to be accurate, to be the ‘truth’ of a situation. If we find ourselves merely spiralling down in frustration trying to figure out what’s wrong, this may be the worst thing we can do for ourselves. This may be a time to simply be aware, pay kind attention and take care of our needs (e.g., I need soothing and comfort right now. I need to talk to someone. I need to go to sleep, or have a cup of tea, or distract myself with tv).
Which leads me to….
LIVING IN THE MOMENT: R.A.I.N.
Like the three-part Self-Compassion model, this is another model we can use in the moment. Following these steps might help us understand more clearly what causes our triggers. Although there’s no guarantee. We humans can be very complicated and our thought processes very complex and difficult to understand with any clarity. We may have to come to terms with simply allowing our emotions without understanding what has triggered them.
This is when we simply RECOGNIZE that something is going on with us. I’m upset, I’m angry, I feel threatened, etc. We can even come to RECOGNIZE that we are simply having a human experience (the Common Humanity component of the Self-Compassion model).
It also helps to RECOGNIZE our resistance to these feelings. For example, if we feel “I don’t want this to be happening right now. I don’t like this feeling.”
At this stage we can simply be as non-judgmental as possible about what we are experiencing. We are simply feeling this or thinking that.
Now we can work with ALLOWING these feelings and thoughts to be here. I like the word ‘allow’ as it suggests that we have a choice here. And if we can’t get to ALLOWING things, maybe we can simply acknowledge that these uncomfortable/painful thoughts and feelings are happening right now.
Again we can notice our resistance to these things and ALLOW it to be as well. ALLOWING can lead us to acceptance eventually.
This is the point where we can be curious about our thoughts and feelings. What’s going on that’s causing me to feel so upset? Is there something specific I’m thinking right now that could be causing my feelings? Is there something I’m needing right now?
If we notice our resistance to this moment, to how we are feeling, we might ask ourselves what is it I’d rather be doing? We might also look at cause & effect, triggers. What was it that upset me? What was I thinking at the time? What emotions did I, or do I feel, about those thoughts? All of this needs to be done with gentleness and nonjudgmental. As often as possible.
Imagine that your life is like a tornado. You can get swept up in those savage winds and feel out of control and overwhelmed, or you can stand in the eye of the storm and simply see what is happening around you. As I mentioned earlier, the group member who said she could step back and see her anger – that’s what I’m talking about. Stepping away from that whirlwind of events and emotions, and yet still involved, still living our lives fully. It’s not about detaching ourselves from our life, from ourselves but it’s more about being involved, embracing it all without being overwhelmed. I know. I know. Much easier said than done.
The point is – it’s possible.
She works with thoughts and ask important questions that help people rethink the stories they tell themselves. Such questions as
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
May you be safe
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you live with ease