Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Self-Compassion



I speak to so many people who judge themselves harshly, who compare themselves unfavorably to others (this is especially true in yoga classes), whose inner dialogue is a constant torrent of negative self-statements. We now know that these thoughts result in a release of harmful stress hormones in our bodies.

You can change your thinking and as a result, improve your health and well-being. 

There are tools and techniques that help in thought-shifting---CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), hypnosis, and this one from Linda Graham's great newsletters, Healing and Awakening to Aliveness and Wholeness (http://lindagraham-mft.net). The following entry from her September 2012 edition is worthy of consideration, as it addresses the toxicity of self-criticism and the power of viewing ourselves with compassion.  Linda Graham's commentary is based on Kristen Neff's work (referenced below).

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

People who are compassionate toward their failings and imperfections experience greater well-being that those who repeatedly judge themselves. The feelings of security and net worth provided by self-compassion are also highly stable, kicking in precisely when self-esteem falls down.”
This is the intriguing premise – and promise – of Kristin Neff’s book on Self-Compassion, based on 15 years of research at the University of Texas-Austin, and her own deep practice as the compassionate – and self-compassionate – mother of an autistic child.

Neff is deft at describing the differences between self-esteem (based on qualities or performance) and self-compassion (based on intrinsic worth and love), saying that both self-esteem and self-compassion help people feel happier and thus avoid anxiety and depression, but when the chips are down (and the props of self-esteem fall away) self-compassion is a steadier support in helping us re-right ourselves.

Neff is clear, as all researchers about positive emotions are, that self-compassion is never about erasing negative emotions, it’s about embracing them. (Her metaphor of the combination of the sweetness and bitterness of dark chocolate works for me.) The self-compassion mantra she developed for herself:
This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is part of life.
May I be kind to myself in this moment.
May I give myself the compassion I need.

One exercise Neff recommends for developing self-compassion is this one:

 Keep a compassion journal, writing down experiences of the day or the week where you were able to a) mindfully notice either self-criticism or the new habit of self-compassion; b) notice how you were able to be kind to yourself; c) notice how either the pain or the kindness evoked a sense of connection to other people.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Affirm: I will be compassionate with myself today.

No comments:

Post a Comment