Practical Self-Compassion.

Compassion is the recognition of suffering in others or yourself and the desire to elevate the suffering. [1]

A little bit oversimplified for comprehension, let’s say that we have two modes of being of which one is the control mode [2]. It’s nice to have control; we point out what is wrong with the other person or the world and we desire that they would change. They say ‘Thank you for pointing this out to me’ and everything is hunky dory. When we can’t control others, we control ourselves. The mode of control seems to be very dual, whether it is your fault or mine, things are wright or wrong. We need to fix ourselves or the surroundings. We need to do this  to have that and so on.  The central question in the control mode is ‘What is wrong?’

The other mode is to connect with yourself and others. The question becomes: ‘What do I need?’ and is focused on what will help me? It puts you in a more active position and is more future oriented than the control mode.

How do we get in connection mode? [2]

 

1. Look at your story from an outsider perspective.

Imagine that you play a part in your own life movie. Maybe you’ll recognize the script, it may be very predictable to you. Seeing it from a distance gives you the possibility to experience it a bit more, maybe even enjoy it. Don’t stay away from your feelings but feel them. Drop into your feelings and let them move, let them pass through.

Self-compassion brings out our deepest needs.

2. Feel your feelings.

Bring attention to the body and feel what you’re feeling in the moment. It is possible you were taught that your feelings are inconvenient. Or sometimes we ramp up our feelings and act them out in full volcano mode. This puts us back into control mode; when you lash out or are so angry that you (try to) control the situation. ‘How many times have I told you…?’ or ‘Well, we’ve done all the things you wanted and when is it going to be my turn?’ By getting to know our feelings, we can digest them and let them through just by feeling them. There is no need to judge these feelings. They are there and we are too. Sometimes these feelings will just pass. Feelings point you in the direction of your needs. And getting to know your needs, is a wonderful thing to do. Sounds a bit abstract? It is for now, later on I’ll give you some more hands on examples. If you want to know more words to express your needs, to go beyond ‘I feel bad, sad, mad or glad’, you can check out the Universal Human Needs as Dr Yvette Erasmus adapted them from Dr Rosenberg on her website. [3]

When in recovery I want to have choices. I want to choose what is good for me. So I guess I’ll need to know what I want to move toward to and what I am are going away from; what my needs are to proper recover and to make some healthy changes for me.

Without feeling there is no healing’.

Feel your feelings and attribute words to them. Experience the feelings. Where are they in my body? Get to know them. Don’t resist them, don’t make them smaller or bigger. When you are thirsty and you pay attention to it, you will have a drink. When you don’t meet the need for water, it will build up and sooner or later your whole attention will be on that one need. Your feelings exists to bring attention to your needs. When you’re afraid, your need can be for safety, belonging, understanding, to be seen, …. Ask yourself ‘What is this about?’  Feelings point to a need and ask for a strategy. But the strategy isn’t that clear cut either. Applying one strategy isn’t going to lift all of your problems overnight. It is more a process of getting to know yourself and that journey can exist of many steps. Getting to know yourself and your needs can bring you clarity and energy.

Sometimes we’re scared to acknowledge our feelings because we don’t want to feel pain. There isn’t anything wrong with you or you haven’t done anything wrong when you feel pain, it is not a punishment. As with other feelings you can feel pain and address it from a place of empowerment.  In case of stronger feelings, sometimes they can be better contained in the presence of safe people because you can’t contain it all. That is something to take into consideration.

  1. ‘Pay attention to your reactive patterns.’

When we don’t want to feel the loss, the grief, the anger, the loneliness, we run into our own heads, we ruminate and we fight our own old patterns. ‘I don’t want to feel scared and alone anymore!’ ‘Because I’ve been so alone for such a long time and that was not fair. I needed to have some support, instead I needed to do everything alone, even when I was little and I am still so mad about that ….. and I can go on and on and on for quite a while. Pile some good old judgement on top of the rumination and you got the recipe for exhaustion. Sometimes the need that you need to meet can be to accept limited options. You can feel grief and sadness because of the loss of the options you are enjoying. Allow yourself to feel sad but also to realize that what you want can be an expanding of options in this particular situation. ‘In this moment it is sad that I don’t have that.’ A more known reactive pattern is to fall back on negative self-talk like ‘I don’t have a perspective because I’m not capable, because I have no experience in that field, because I’ve made the wrong choices’ etc etc. Thinking like that brings us back into our story and zaps energy, we get stuck.

“My theory is that we get depressed because we’re not getting what we want, and we’re not getting what we want because we have never been taught to get what we want. Instead, we’ve been taught to be good little boys and girls and good mothers and fathers. If we’re going to be one of those good things, better get used to being depressed. Depression is the reward we get for being “good.” But, if you want to feel better, I’d like you to clarify what you would like people to do to make life more wonderful for you. [4]”

― Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

 

Practice!

I’ve observed a few self-judgments while applying for a new job. So let’s see how to work with feelings and needs in real life.

What do I value when telling myself that ‘I’m not capable?’ I value effectiveness, competence, mastery and empowerment. Those are the needs that I actually want to meet. Once we put our attention on what we are valuing and what we want to move towards, it’s far more energizing.

‘I don’t have experience’ what do I value? I value experience and having more options that I can get creative and innovative around. How am I going to meet that need?

‘I have no confidence.’ What deep need lies under that? Sense of self-respect, self-connection, self-acceptance. How do I get that?

We observe our self-judgments and we try to work with them. Shifting from what is wrong to a place of empowerment. Going from ‘what is wrong?’ to ‘ what do I value and what do I want to move towards to?’

Click here for a worksheet to transform self-judgement into self-compassion. [3]

What about the fight I got into yesterday with Pierre? What if I acted out,  not being rational but spilled everything that had built up in the past month? I could feel guilty, tuck away what happened and forget about it. But what if it was a legitimate strategy to be heard, the need to connect and to work together? To feel that togetherness? I met the need to stay relatively calm to get my message across, there was no volcano outburst like did happen in the past.

I felt anxiety because of the address change. I felt mourning because I left my safe place. The place I know no-one is going to judge or to control me. The one place where I can be sure that I’m not a burden to anyone, where I can relax. I felt alone in those feelings. By expressing them I met the need of sharing, to be seen and heard.

I felt irritated because of my limited options at the moment. There is the self-isolation because of Corona. Where I wanted to expand and go out to nature or to explore the world on my pace, that option is being limited. I feel frustrated sometimes because I felt like my freedom was taken away again. First during my childhood, then during burnout, depression, corona and now a new house that isn’t my home yet.

Far few things are in my control now we’re living together. I feel a deep need of efficacy. Let me explain with something ‘irrational’. Pierre has a cleaning lady, where keeping my place tidy or not can feel like a mirror for me, giving me clues about how I feel. I leave little breadcrumbs – as so to speak – about things that I want to be reminded of simply by having them in my view. I feel like my security blanket shrunk into a tiny piece of cloth and now is being tucked away. I pull and pull but my blankie has been in the wash and doesn’t feel like my blankie anymore. So I work hard to find my way in this new home.

During the argument I didn’t meet my need to have patience with myself and my partner. I wanted change now, to feel secure. I struggle with letting go, mourning and accepting the new. I didn’t meet my need to accept that this transition is going to take effort from us both. That there is a will to make it work but that we (I) need to address the ‘small’ things too. It all happens in baby steps and it takes some practice to balance the letting go, the accepting, the mourning and self-expression.

I need to accept my need for therapy; recognizing that I’m doing all this with less support that I’m used to. I have violent dreams, some things are installing themselves into my mental and physical place, the mind and the body. I feel like I’m not protected anymore, I’m more vulnerable. I think that when I can be more aware of that, I won’t be so hard on myself or the need to control will be diminished. Peace could return. Breathing. Expanding my options. I can choose to practice self-compassion to give me more clarity in my own head. I need to relax and not to waste energy making everything look ‘shiny’. I want to listen better to Pierre because I need that togetherness and together we can be some kind of mirror for our well-being and my blankie can be laid out on the couch.

Everything is different and I need time and self-compassion to help me digest this whole new menu.

“Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need [4].”

― Marshall Rosenberg

 

Resources, further reading and credits.

[1] My other posts on self-compassion: What is self-compassion? and Self-compassion in recovery from depression.

[2] More in-depth talk about self-compassion by Dr. Yvette Erasmus part 1 and part 2.

[3] Website Dr. Yvette Erasmus.

[4] Citation from Dr. Rosenberg as found on Goodreads. (2020).

Picture credits click here

27 thoughts on “Practical Self-Compassion.

  1. I fear we might be about to disagree!
    Behind all of this, do not forget that Pierre invited you there for a reason. Wanting to see you improve is very selfless, but there must have been something in it for him too. He must ultimately want you to be around, and will likely be willing to compromise bits and bobs to keep it that way.
    On your general point, I think there is a balance. I have seen my daughter, for 20 years, judge things on nothing but the immediate – whether it makes *her* happy *now*. She still does it. Even to the point where she harms herself long-term. Most of us think along the lines “I will not do X because it might harm my chances of achieving Y”, but not my daughter. So while self-compassion is important, we also need to look at the big picture to have an idea what our interests really are.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aha, I would agree to disagree but I do agree! 😁 When you look at the bigger picture, that would mean you really have a firm grasp on what your needs actually are. While acting out in the moment can be a ‘relief’ it can disagree with your need to come to an understanding. So during practicing we could postpone those ‘immediate’ needs and opt for the benefit on the longer term. But it would be maybe easier to do that with that bigger picture in mind. It can maybe ease the mind in the moment. It can give you a better understanding of the general direction you want to go.
      With Pierre I guess you’re right. It’s just sometimes those really silly, small things that need to come together. And it can be so weird to talk those through, like what time do we eat in the morning 🙄 We’re both used to having it our own way because we lived alone for such a long time. Love is a verb!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ahhhhhhh….we agree again. Is he vegan too? We will sometimes bake croissants together but usually I eat porridge, and she leaves me in no doubt of her feelings! I bet a lot of things Pierre never even realised were issues.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. He told me that and he was a bit disappointed that he didn’t notice those things and that it did happen. He’s not vegan so I don’t look to close at what he is eating sometimes 😊 But I won’t by or cook anything with an animal in it. (I haven’t decided how to get around this one with the dog!!). Pierre buys his own fishies sometimes but usually he’s happy that I’m willing to cook. Normally he eats warm at work, so he eats meat and fish there and not at home. Now with the lock down it is a bit different.
        I don’t mind a croissant being eaten in front of me. When we have gatherings with family there are whole cheese platters and what have you. Live and let live 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a very important post, and I’m glad I read it. The part where you mentioned how we should experience our feelings rather than making them smaller or bigger than they are really resonated with me, because that’s something I’ve been trying to do for the past couple of years. What we feel is a window into why we’re feeling it, and it’s just a whole path to understanding yourself better rather than blaming yourself for feeling a certain way.
    I wish you growth and healing, and a comfortable shift into your new life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a nice comment! I like the window metaphor, it says it all. That makes it even more clear for me. I guess it takes some practice but I truly believe that there are a lot of benefits. Getting to know yourself seems like a necessary path on the journey of life. You’re very smart!
      Thanks for commenting and your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d never thought about that concept of your feelings bring attention to your needs. It’s absolutely true. Well put, unless you stole it. Then, good job stealing it and passing it off as your own.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another great post 🙂 I think feeling our feelings can be difficult, especially when we’ve repressed them for years. Not only is it uncomfortable and unfamiliar to start feeling again but – when something negative has happened – those feelings are usually intense and negative. Of course, eventually you’ll experience the good feelings too … but it may take time, so we need to hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my experience they do come up, all those feelings. The old ones sometimes in a whole new ‘outfit’ so you don’t recognize what they really are. I find it comforting that, although they are not fun or uncomfortable, as long as they point to a need (something good for me) it makes it less scary to feel them. Thank you for your thoughtful comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kachai, this is intelligent and well written, thank you 🙂 I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and emotions about moving. I can relate so much and hope you feel more settled each day. I’ve had to work and am still working on recognizing control mode or “black and white thinking. I’ve also stuffed my feeling and then reacted as a volcano. I’ve been afraid to feel many things and then I ruminate and pile on limiting self talk. I really like how you laid this information out, it’s given me much to think about and has helped me see I have made progress over the years and I still have a ways to go, but that’s ok!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a beautiful comment, thank you so much! I can imagine that ‘moving’ is a hot topic for you too but you face other challenges with that. I guess we slip easily into control mode but the connection mode can give you much more freedom, that is what I experience but I need to keep an eye out on me and take steps back sometimes to get out of control mode. It’s a thing I like to play with, you know, there is no right or wrong, it can be just fun to observe how you are. And the next day you’re different if you choose. 🙂 And so you can hop along on your journey to get to know yourself.
      Haha, volcano mode is no stranger to many people I guess, sometimes we need to let it all out! 🌋 (<– volcano, not a Christmas hat) 😊😁

      Like

  6. (same as millions of others) and often that leads me to go inside myself and overthink the negatives.

    And while I’m in that mode perhaps hubby will interrupt with a question or just a comment and I snap at him, take out my negatives on him. I really try not to act on the immediate, take a step back then let someone (mainly hubby) in on how I feel, what it was I needed (from me i.e. self-compassion) and what I need from others (hubby i.e. sometimes just a hug) to make me feel better.

    Immediacy and control are my nemeses lol and lockdown’s changed all that. I can’t have what I want when I want It lol. But I’m learning, as I suppose as many people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can you see your sons now or is that difficult because of the lock down? I miss people too, people that are close to my heart, I really miss hugging them.
      Here life takes his normal course step-by-step but social visits are still not allowed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, one son is a physiotherapist working with Covid patients’ respiratory needs so I can’t see him. The other is in San Diego. Obviously, I’m delighted for them both but worried and I miss their hugs. You take care and get hugs where you can 🙂 x

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, I remember Marshall Rosenberg! I got “assigned” his book during my teens by a relative. Being a grumpy teen, I was critical of the scripting, but the basic process of identifying feelings (without using judgement words!) and the needs behind them really does help for both self-empathy and interpersonal empathy.

    “It is possible you were taught that your feelings are inconvenient.” Ouch, yes, I think many of us have encountered that attitude that it’s inconvenient for our emotions to exist. I sometimes wonder if that’s why there are so many characters out there that are supposedly “emotionless.” Often those characters are shown as intellectually superior, but I can’t help thinking that if feelings point us to needs, a truly emotionless being would be unable to learn and grow for lack of motivation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think sometimes emotions can be inconvenient, especially when they help with empathy. Mankind wouldn’t have done certain things if empathy was present in the moment.
      Seeing people being as successful is often based on ‘results’ not emotions but money. I guess some people ‘admire’ that more straight forward approach; it seems more easy and clear cut at first but (imo) it becomes boring pretty soon. Great comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. hey i have been reading what you have been posting and sometimes what you write motivates me to continue fighting in my life. I had many self reflection sometimes after reading you post. i would say it does not always help but sometimes reading your post does make me feel a bit better. This post came by while. i was just feeling like shit and all and with all the crying , i chance upon your post on this and it hit me so hard. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you do much! I believe the universe takes care of us somehow and maybe this post was ment to be read by you at that moment. I don’t know very much about the universe but I’m glad that the post was timely and a fit for you.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments. Take good care!

      Like

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