SC Group Summary of Oct 10 2017

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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.

RECOGNIZING

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.

ALLOWING

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.

INVESTIGATING

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.

Non-identification

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.

 

BYRON KATIE

http://thework.com/en

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SC Group Summary of Oct 3 2017

 

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Riddle: When a person has a bee in one hand, what is in his/her eye?

(Answer below)

SUPPORTING YOUR PRACTICE

Talking about TRUE NEEDS

We talked more about needs on Tuesday, understanding our true needs and the best way to get them met without harming anyone. The massacre at Las Vegas brings to the surface a man who probably did not have his emotional needs met. He may have been deeply wounded in his childhood to the point of rage and a desire for revenge. However, the desire, the ‘need’ for revenge is not a true need. By true needs I mean the kind of needs which are at the core of every human being – for example, the need for autonomy and choice, the need for connection with others, the need for meaning and a sense of purpose in our lives, the need for peace and rest from struggle and hard work, the need for physical well-being and the need for play. These can be broken down even further. See the NEEDS LIST handout below for many more of these kinds of needs – I call them the true needs

This man in Las Vegas probably interpreted his desire for revenge (if that’s what it was) as a need that had to be met. However, from my point of view his true needs were probably more like the needs for affection, recognition, validation, encouragement, support and love as a child. If he was wounded along the way his true needs would have been the need to grieve what he lost or did not get, the need to feel sad and let go of the hurts from the past, the need to connect with others and get support in his pain. If this is the likely scenario of that man, and if he had met his need to heal in a loving way, Las Vegas would not have happened. However, many of us are caught up in confusion with what is really a desire or want vs what is a true need. If it’s likely to harm yourself or someone else then you are most likely not trying to satisfy your true need.

Finally, when we pay attention to our true needs and try our best to meet them with compassion and kindness we are so greatly rewarded for our efforts. When we get our needs met (or accept the ones we cannot meet right now), we live in a place of contentment, peace as well as a kind of expansion. We become much more available to the world. We feel more generous of heart and reach out to others more easily.

Relationship losses

We also talked about losing someone we feel close and connected to. I’m not talking necessarily about losing them because they die. We may feel a loss because they are moving away to another city, or they don’t seem interested in spending as much time with us as we want. They may not seem as interested in us as we are in them. These kinds of situations can hurt and create the desire to withdraw from all relationships in order to protect ourselves. There is another choice however – to acknowledge and feel the pain, accept it as part of relationships, as part of conflicting needs, as part of letting go and as part of life. If we choose to withdraw because of being hurt we are cutting ourselves off from things we humans truly need – close connection, affection, love, warmth. If we can’t get them from one person we can reach out to someone else.

Also, it’s important to understand that this person’s desires are not because something is wrong with us, but rather because of their needs. As well, if we feel hurt or angry about the ‘rejection’ we do not need to judge ourselves selfish or wrong for those feelings. They are quite appropriate. We do tend to feel hurt or angry when someone walks away from us, someone who is important to us. It’s a sense of caring for ourselves and our own needs. It’s a form of sympathy and compassion. “Yah, it hurts that my friend is too busy for me, or is moving away from me.”

READING: Finding Good Qualities

If we are having difficulty with self-compassion one of the things we can do, according to Germer, is to find some of our ‘good’ qualities, things we like about ourselves, things we are proud of.

“We’re naturally attracted to good qualities. For example, historical figures to whom we’re most drawn are the moral geniuses, not necessarily the military of political figures. Likewise, if we think of something good about ourselves, we enjoy keeping ourselves company. If we think ill of ourselves, our attention will flail around looking for distraction from these inner threats to our self-image. At the beginning of your meditation, remind yourself of one or two of your good qualities: loyalty to family, conscientiousness, kindness toward animals, perhaps a sense of humour? You’ll feel more worthy of your own attention.”

READING: What Metta is Not

“Now that you have a preliminary understanding of loving-kindness practice, let’s review what it’s not in order to keep the practice from becoming unnecessarily complicated. It’s not:

  • Selfish. The first step toward loving others is to love ourselves. The fault we find with ourselves will also be found in others. Metta teaches us to be kind to ourselves no matter what happens, even as we shape our behavior for the better.
  • Complacent. Metta is a force of will – good will – that can override the instinctive tendencies of fear and anger. Metta frees us from old habits. It allows us to learn from pain and respond skillfully.
  • Positive affirmation. Affirmations are an effort to encourage ourselves by saying things we may not believe, like ‘I’m getting stronger every day!’ Metta isn’t fooling ourselves that our situation is better than it is. The phrases must be intellectually credible to work smoothly.
  • Just a mantra. Although the metta phrases are repeated like a mantra, there’s more to it than that. In addition to using the power of attention, metta works with connection, intention, and emotion.. We’re doing whatever it takes to cultivate a loving attitude.
  • Sugarcoating. We’re not trying to make the reality of our lives less harsh by learning to think or speak in a sweet way. Rather, we want to open to the depth of human experience, including the tragedy of it, more fully. This is possible only if we have a compassionate response to pain.
  • A pity party. Opening to pain is not self-indulgent. We’re not wallowing in discomfort, complaining, or whining excessively. On the contrary, opening to pain through compassion allows us to unhook from the familiar story lines of our lives.
  • Good feelings. Metta is primarily cultivation of good will rather than good feelings. Feelings come and go, but the ground of our being is the universal wish to be happy and free from suffering. That’s where we put our trust.
  • Exhausting. Exhaustion is the result of attachment – wanting things to be one way and not the other. Loving-kindness and compassion stay away from the business of controlling reality so it’s more of a relief than a struggle.
  • Demanding. Metta is always on the wishing side of the equation rather than the outcome side. Positive outcomes will certainly come with time, but we’re primarily learning to cultivate a kind attitude no matter what happens to us or to others. sticking with the wish and remaining unattached to the outcome is unconditional love.

NEEDS LIST

../TOPICS/NEEDS LIST.docx

../TOPICS/NEEDS LIST.pdf

HARDWIRING HAPPINESS – by Rick Hanson.

“Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures that stick to happiness, love, confidence, and peace. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build a brain strong enough to withstand its ancient negativity bias, allowing contentment and a powerful sense of well-being to become the new normal.”

Answer to Riddle: Beauty is in the eye of the bee holder. 😊 (Thanks to M for this)

 

 

 

 

 

SC Group Summary Sep 19, 2017

 

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SUPPORTING YOUR PRACTICE

Last week A. (my co-facilitator) and I let you know that we will have a check-in each week with those of you who want to share your ongoing practice with any of our topics – self-compassion, meditation, mindfulness, and self-acceptance. We are putting this element right at the beginning of our sessions. Yesterday we spent the first hour on people checking in and talking about their efforts and struggles with these things. What seemed fitting for us to discuss in the second half was feelings of shame and a sense of unworthiness….

THE TRANCE OF UNWORTHINESS

One thing that seemed to be quite common to many of us yesterday was the difficulty of feeling compassion for ourselves. Many find it not too difficult to hold compassion for someone else but when it comes to ourselves there is no love there, only loathing and/or disappointment. Even if we lived up to expectations there was no satisfaction from it in the end so what’s the point? Yes! What is the point of meeting other people’s expectations if we are not satisfying ourselves in some real way? Isn’t that a betrayal of who we are and what is important to us?

I read some excerpts from Tara Brach’s Awakening The Trance of Unworthiness. Here is the link to her site where you can read the excerpts and more.

https://www.tarabrach.com/articles-interviews/inquiring-trance/

Carl Jung said (on Tara Brach’s site) that “We’re not trying to transcend or vanquish the difficult energies we consider wrong – the fear, shame, jealousy, anger – since this only creates a shadow that fuels our sense of deficiency. Rather, we’re learning to turn around and embrace life in all its realness – broken, messy, vivid, alive. This is the way out of trance: mindfully recognizing and bringing compassion to the parts of our being we have habitually ignored, pushed away, condemned.”

Brach says “While extremely painful, the trance of unworthiness and its energies of raw shame and fear is a portal to profound transformation. The first step is the realization that we are imprisoned in this trance.”

NEEDS

Someone mentioned yesterday that they didn’t always feel ‘up’ and that is what he’s striving for and wishing for. I realized afterwards that what he was really talking about was getting his needs met. When our most important needs are met to the degree that we feel comfortable, then we feel ‘up’. Others in the group talked about feeling depression and anxiety and again these are often signs that we are not getting something that we need.

When we notice we are feeling ‘down’, depressed, anxious, worried, sad it’s often a sign that we have an unmet need. Sometimes we can’t meet the need exactly, such as feeling the need for intimacy. If we do not have that kind of relationship with anyone yet we long for it how do we deal with that? Always self-compassion can step in and soothe us to some extent. Another thing we can do is look at the attached Needs List below from the Center for Non-Violent Communication (NVC). We may find that our loneliness translates to a need for connection, affection, support, belonging, care, communication and so on. From here we can see that there are more possibilities for us to feel less lonely. We can ask ourselves “Where can I get that connection, that support, a feeling of belonging, of being cared about?” and discover that possibly there is someone or somewhere that will give us some of what we need. We may not get intimacy but care, support and connection can go a long way to making us feel better.

The point is – it pays to be curious and investigate our feelings. When I meet my needs I am happier, more content, more at peace, more sociable (unless my need is to spend some time alone). When we figure out what we truly need (such as those on the Needs List) then we can figure out how we might meet that need. Have a look.

NEEDS LIST

 

LOVING-KINDNESS (METTA) MEDITATION

This week we continue to focus on metta meditation and working with sending compassion towards ourselves. For some, they find it’s working a little. For others nothing. I reminded people that we are not striving to feel good when we practice metta meditation. We are focusing more on our intention and attitude. We are sending care towards ourselves. But if it is too difficult to start with ourselves we can choose someone else, or even a family pet, to send it too. That way we can get in touch with our ability to be compassionate, and waken it up. I believe that eventually everybody can get to self-compassion. It’s just not always an easy journey.

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you live with ease

 

 

SC Group Summary of Sept 12 2017

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Yesterday we began to talk about Loving-Kindness, or metta, meditation which is different than the Basic Meditation we talked about last time. Basic meditation is about attention to our breath, sounds outside, or body sensations, for example. Metta meditation is about connecting with the person who is suffering (which may be ourselves). We read from the handout on metta meditation (see Handouts below) then talked more about the practice.

The phrases we can use are our little ‘prayer’ at the end of our meetings though you can use any words that work for you and are easy to repeat.

Metta meditation may be very difficult for some of us as it can trigger all kinds of feelings of unworthiness and shame. Many of us can get stuck on feeling anger towards ourselves, a sense of disappointment with who we are or a sense of inadequacy. Some of us shared a bit yesterday about our anger and how we have released it in ‘safe’ ways. One person shared that she chose not to live with anger toward herself anymore, recognizing that she had previously taken on the responsibility of other people’s actions and blamed herself for them.

It may be that what we have to face, in order to get through (not get rid of) the difficult emotions, is coming to terms with who we are and accepting that we have fallen far short of some mark. We might need to really see that mark and question why it is there. Where did it come from? When did we start thinking that we had to meet these expectations? We need to accept that we are not perfect, that we can’t meet other people’s, or our own, expectations all the time – often because something else needs our attention more. Maybe we are too tired and worn out to do anything more, or maybe we have too many things on the go and we are overwhelmed.

It may be that we have to take a leap of faith at first and trust that the metta phrases (and our intention behind them) will work in some way, that they will have some sort of effect, even if not that noticeable. No matter if we have that first rejection of the idea of kind words for ourselves. No matter if we begin with “This will never work.  I don’t deserve loving kindness” – acknowledge that feeling then put it aside. Try saying the first phrase “May I be safe” and see how that feels. If anger or disappointment comes up we simply acknowledge them, put them aside and come back to “May I be safe”. For some, it has to be a step-by-step process. One that is gentle, not one with pressure or expectation.

A (my co-facilitator) and I would like to stay with this topic for a few weeks and go in-depth with it. We will talk about what metta meditation is not (positive affirmations or a mantra, for example), finding good qualities in ourselves, opening to pain, connecting with others and backdraft (“’May I be happy’ is a minefield!”) I hope that this will help those of you who find Loving-Kindness meditation so difficult.

Here is a link to a practice you can do with feelings of shame.

https://www.mindful.org/tame-feelings-shame-10-minute-practice/

“You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear…”

From South Pacific about racism but it applies to us as well. We have been taught to hate and fear ourselves. The good news is we can unlearn these things – step-by-step.

 

 

 

 

 

SC GROUP Summary of Aug 29/17

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It was a good discussion group as usual. The first half was spent talking about Supporting Your Practice and how people responded to our offering this. In case you missed it, A. (my co-facilitator) and I would like to support any of you who want to practice self-compassion, self-acceptance and/or mindfulness on a regular basis. We want to offer you a space to talk about your efforts with it, your struggles and your successes. I WANT TO REPEAT that this is not a requirement of this group. It is perfectly alright to simply drop in and hear what we are talking about. This is meant for people who want to consciously and actively incorporate these ideas into their daily lives and get support doing so.

On putting this out there, a few people responded and in wonderful ways. We heard how much self-compassion has helped one member suffer less in her life. We also heard from 3 different people about how they have learned to accept themselves and be proud of who they are. It is so worthwhile to hear these stories and I hope that they can help those who don’t feel so strong in themselves … yet. Knowing this is possible can help.

We talked a bit about being judged by our family members and how devastating and hurtful this is. It is such a betrayal of our expectations, our utmost desire, as a human being, to be loved and cherished with unconditional positive regard (isn’t that a beautiful term?). I talked about being able to step back from those judgments and harsh words. If we can come to understand that these people are also wounded, and are attacking us in an effort to attack or deny their own pain. They want someone to blame for their own sense of shame but we don’t have to take their pain or their struggle on.

So we need to take space for ourselves, and hold strong in the thought that judging words from someone are not true words. They are not fact and they are not to be believed. (More later about this). We don’t have to believe what these people say. We don’t have to buy into their criticisms. It doesn’t mean we stop caring about these people, if we so desire (and some of us don’t. we have been hurt too much). We can still have room in our hearts for love for them and yet not buy into what they are saying.

 

Informal and formal meditation

After the break A. read a lot about mindful meditation both formal and informal. But first, subsequent to our earlier discussions, he read this …

“Any time a voice is talking to you that is not talking with love and compassion, DON’T BELIEVE IT! If the voice is not loving, don’t listen to it, don’t follow it, don’t believe it. NO EXCEPTIONS!” (Cheri Huber)

Then A. read about meditation from the book we are using as a basis for this group – the mindful path to self-compassion by Christopher Germer.

 Beginning Anew

The path to happiness and well-being never ends. Just when we think we’ve arrived, a new challenge presents itself and we begin again. This book was written to help dissolve the illusion that we can better ourselves to the point where emotional pain is a thing of the past. A more fruitful path is to cultivate uncommon kindness – kindness toward ourselves – as long as we live and breathe. In the words of meditation teacher Pema Chödrön: “… we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is … not to try to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. (pps 243–244)

Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Self-compassion practice is a special method for whittling away our stubborn tendencies to resist pain and grasp for pleasure. It’s mindfulness from the neck down, emphasizing qualities of heart – motivation and emotion – rather than awareness and wisdom. The common healing element in both mindfulness and self-compassion is a gradual shift toward friendship with emotional pain. Mindfulness says, “Feel the pain” and self-compassion says, “Cherish yourself in the midst of the pain”; two ways of embracing our lives more wholeheartedly. (pps 88-89)

Should I meditate?

There are two categories of mindfulness meditation: formal and informal. “Formal” mindfulness meditation is when we dedicate time – usually half an hour or longer – to being mindful of what we’re sensing, feeling, and thinking. “Informal” meditation is when we take a brief, mindful moment in the midst of our busy lives. Both approaches can be practiced while sitting down, standing, walking, eating – anywhere and any time. The difference between formal and informal meditation is mainly a matter of time and purpose.

‘Each person should decide for him- or herself whether it makes sense to establish a formal meditation practice. Formal practice is more intensive, which generally transforms the mind at a deeper level: it yields deeper insights into the nature of mind and our personal conditioning. If you wish to do formal meditation, it should be enjoyable and it should fit your temperament and lifestyle. Most people don’t want to squeeze yet another activity into their busy schedules. Nor should they. This book is not written for people who want to become meditators, although some readers might develop a taste for it. (pps 51-52)

‘Perhaps the most compelling explanation for why mindfulness works is that, over time, we acquire beneficial insights about life. We discover how everything changes, how we create our own suffering when we fight change, and how we unconsciously cobble together a sense of “self.” The latter insight is beneficial because most of our waking moments are spent vainly boosting or fearfully protecting our fragile egos from assault. … When these insights about life become deep and abiding, they help us receive success and failure with equanimity, tolerate emotional pain knowing “this too will pass,” and have the courage to seize each precious moment of our lives. In other words, intuitive insights derived from intensive meditation can help us establish a less defensive, more flexible, relationship to the world.

‘Informal practice means we choose to pay attention, on purpose, to what’s occurring in the present moment. Any moment-to-moment experience is a suitable object of mindfulness. That could mean listening to birds, tasting your food, feeling the earth beneath your feet as you walk, noticing the grip of your hands on the steering wheel, scanning your body for physical sensations, or noticing your breathing. It could be as simple as wiggling your toes. The present moment liberates us from our preoccupations, never judges us, and is endlessly entertaining.’ (pps 55-56)

 

Self-acceptance Summit

Here is the link to Sounds True’s Self-Acceptance Summit beginning Monday September 11 through to Wednesday September 20. That’s ten days of videos. It’s free to register. You can either watch the recordings live or within 24 hours of the live broadcast. After that you will have to buy the upgrade ($200 USD). So if you enjoy watching and listening to people talk about the things we have been talking about here’s the link to register…

http://www.soundstrue.com/store/self-acceptance-summit/free-access

 

This is for The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion and has the online course run by Dr. Christopher Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff. It’s quite expensive but if you can afford it …

https://centerformsc.org/learn-msc/

 

 

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.”