The Power of Self-Compassion

In August 2012, my husband and I did ‘The Alchemy of Relatedness’ with Fanny and Colin, a couple who runs retreats in Devon, England. They call their work ‘The Movement of Being.’ On this week-long retreat, held on Dartmoor, we stayed clear of ‘normal’ distractions. In the mornings we sat outside facing the lush countryside of Devon and listened to bird song. Each day, the group met in a circle. If something came up, we had the opportunity to speak up and process our feelings.

It’s amazing how much stuff comes to surface when we are willing to slow down and embrace stillness. I loved the time inside the circle. Feeling held and relatively safe, I could allow my feelings to surface.

But time outside of the circle was a sheer torture. I know many people feel socially awkward. For me, it was verging on a phobia. Most of the time, I hid behind my husband. We huddled together, away from the rest of the group, enjoying the safety of our connection.

On a typical day we had three circles. Towards the end of the retreat, Fanny and Colin suggested that we have a ‘free’ evening. The plan was to gather around bonfire after dinner, chat and sing. Anxious, I went to have a shower. When I came out, my husband was sitting at the table with the rest of the group having his dinner. In that moment, something flipped inside of me. In total despair, I ran away. He was with them too. I was totally alone. I couldn’t bear the thought of joining the group at the table. Individually they were all lovely people. There wasn’t a single person I felt uncomfortable with. But as a group, they intimidated me: it was as if I disappeared.

I walked around the village for over an hour waiting for someone to notice my absence and come looking for me.

No one came.

Tired of crying and walking, I returned to the venue.

‘Did you go for a walk?’ My husband asked. He had no idea about my drama. His casual tone was the last straw and I fell apart.

‘Ask Colin to hold a space for you to process this,’ he suggested once I couldn’t cry anymore.

15 minutes later, I was sitting with Colin on the ground not far from the bonfire and telling him about how I got triggered.

‘Can you allow yourself to be touched by this?’ He asked softly.

The words felt like an empty sound.

‘Can you feel compassion to this part of yourself?’ He rephrased the question.

I couldn’t.

‘How do I do that?’ I asked eventually.

‘Well, if a little girl, perhaps your daughter or sister, told you that this is how they felt…’

Finally, I got it. That was the only way I could feel self-compassion. For years afterwards, I clung to the image and returned to that little girl every time I was open to feeling self-compassion.

You see, I was brought up in a culture where when a child falls down, an adult can hit the child and reprimand them more. ‘I told you not to…’ was a common phrase used in my family, if something went wrong. When I failed, I didn’t share with my loved ones. I knew I wasn’t going to get a compassionate response.

What’s worse, I internalised their reactions. So, when something wasn’t quite right, I beat myself up, adding insult to the injury.

It was only last summer that I really started to learn giving myself compassion. The power of self-compassion is astounding. On the face of it, the process I use is deceptively simple. All I need to do is to focus on my heart centre and solar plexus, and say ‘I’m so sorry [fill in the blank]. Yet within a few minutes, I feel lighter and calmer. It works without fail and has the capacity to heal the deepest wounds.

Practicing self-compassion had several added benefits for me:

  • Self-awareness: to name what I feel, I need to be willing to stay present to the discomfort.
  • Acceptance: to move through the pain, I need to face whatever is. It doesn’t mean resigning myself to the situation. Paradoxically, I can transform the pain once I acknowledge and accept what is.
  • Kindness: with self-compassion comes kindness. It’s not a fluffy type of feeling. It’s more of a softening and relaxation in the face of discomfort.

I’m half-way through a certification programme in Compassion Key with Edward Mannix. As part of this programme, I am offering free Compassion Key sessions. If you’d like to experience the power of self-directed compassion and shift a major issue in your life, give it a shot. It’s amazing!GV

If I can give myself compassion and transform my life, so can you.

 

This guest post is by Gulara Vincent. 

 

Dr Gulara Vincent is a writer, blogger, and a university law lecturer. Her book proposal was a winner of the Transformational Author Experience in the USA in 2015. She lives in Birmingham, England, with her husband and two young children. You can visit her writer’s blog at gularavincent.com  or connect with her on Facebook  and Twitter (@gulara_vincent).

Be Slow To Judge. Be Quick To Love.

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More than once she rubbed her belly as though reassuring herself in some way. And as I watched her, I felt her pain. I watched her as she softly rubbed her pregnant belly, and followed her gaze to the mother who was holding her infant as close to her as possible given the IV and monitors between them. I imagine she could feel that mother’s pain as she caressed the unborn child within her. She glanced down at her belly once more before continuing her rounds, checking on each child as they were wheeled out of surgery and into the recovery area.

She approached the father who rocked his baby girl and tried to wrap his strong arms around her, even though both her arms were bound in splints preventing her from giving or receiving a proper hug. She was obviously uncomfortable as she thrashed around, unable to keep still. I watched that daddy with all the patience in the world, hold his little girl, and whisper words to soothe her…words only to be shared by the two of them, words he hoped would comfort her and in turn comfort him too. And as I watched him, I felt his pain.

Just steps from them, I heard a couple simultaneously reciting a list of medications their young daughter was currently taking. I was taken aback by how efficiently they packed her belongings, wiped the drool from her mouth, and inched her wheelchair closer to the hospital bed in preparation for the transfer. I was in awe of how their every movement seemed to be part of a synchronized dance, each anticipating the other’s next move, each understanding their role. I watched them carry their daughter into her wheelchair, the mom brushing back a stray lock of hair off her daughter’s face, the dad gently cradling her like he must have when she was an infant even though her legs now draped and dangled over his arms. I realized their fluid movements must come from years of practice. And as I watched them, I felt their pain.

I returned my attention to the nurse as she led us to the waiting area where we would join the rest of the family members waiting for their loved ones to come out of surgery. It brought me back to all the moments in emergency rooms, hospitals, and doctor’s offices I had witnessed in the last two weeks – when I felt my own son’s pain as he doubled over, my daughter’s pain as she saw her brother in the hospital for the first time and tears streamed down her face, my husband’s pain as he stole worried glances at me when he thought I wasn’t looking. I saw complete strangers in pain, worried for their loved ones, faraway looks in their eyes as their current experiences caused them to relive another pain from another time, another place.

As I paced the waiting room, I watched the nurse deep in conversation with a dad and his teenage daughter who rubbed her bandaged arm to the same slow rhythm the nurse rubbed her pregnant belly. As I watched the fearful look in the young girl’s eyes, I felt her pain. It was then I glanced at another woman sitting off to the side by herself, and noticed she couldn’t take her eyes off the nurse’s hand as it moved up and down time and again, covering the span of her belly with soft, soothing strokes. Pain filled her eyes as her own hand mimicked the nurse’s movements. Yet, when I took a closer look at her hands I saw them caressing a very flat stomach, her teary gaze locked on the nurse’s hands as her own kept up the same rhythm. And as I watched her, I felt her pain.

As we cross paths with complete strangers, we must remember that our pain may seem greater because it is our own, but we truly have no idea where someone else’s pain stems from. Show compassion. Be slow to judge, but be quick to love.

Self Compassion…Take Two

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A dear friend asked me to write about self compassion for the #1000speak movement. Sweet of her to ask so I thought sure, I can do that. Then I started typing the most boring, mundane clinical description of my version of self compassion…..truly it sucked. Then I remembered…..I’m not a clinician so how about I just get real with this topic?

Self compassion for me, is the act of being kind to myself and treating me like the awesome friend that I can be to others. It sounds all flowery, with hand holding, perhaps singing Kumbaya or at least a trip to the mall, but not always. Sometimes, just like with your good friends, someone needs a swift kick in the ass. A heavy dose of truth serum, removal of the blinders if you will. Yes that is also compassion in the long run. And guess what sometimes you need to do that for yourself.

I grew up in a crazy household. Drunk mother, absent dad, I bore witness to some serious insanity and I mean that in the clinical sense. As a young girl I learned the ways of self preservation. It often meant hiding in the shadows and people pleasing to an extreme. I learned to read people and react in ways that they would favor. These were my defense mechanisms and they served me well, until they didn’t anymore.

When I was 15 my mother tossed me into rehab. It wasn’t completely unfounded. I had decided to start drinking and experimenting with drugs just about the time when she first tried to get sober when I was 13. Shitty timing on my part….if I started a year or two earlier at say 11, she would have been too drunk to notice any change. Teenage rebellion and sober mom did not get along well and after several warnings I found myself in rehab.

I had no intention of getting sober, none. I thought I would just do my time, gain some street cred and go on my merry little way. I was wrong. A few days into my stay I had what is known as a spiritual awakening…..please don’t leave I promise it isn’t overly religious. Anyway, my awakening was a moment of awareness. I know it sounds very new age….it was really just a few moments of clarity when I realized the crazy shit storm of a life path I was on and I made a conscious effort to change course. I had a moment of realization and I made a decision to stay sober. That was in 1983 and I’m still sober today. Huge act of self compassion right there.

My first year of sobriety was insane. My mother got remarried when I left rehab and her husband got violent. End result, I was homeless. So there I was 15, newly sober, scrambling to find a place to live. I wound up in nearly a dozen places in the course of my first year sober. Some were good, some were bad, one was horrendous. At this point my self preservation skills were in effect. When I finally got to a safe place I needed to add some tools to my toolbox.

I was exposed to the 12 steps of AA and received a lot of counseling that first year of sobriety. I learned a lot that first year and more than 30 years have passed and I try to remain teachable. My tools for self compassion have changed as I have gone from a troubled teenager to a responsible adult – mother, wife, community member, business owner, et cetera. The transition has not always been smooth.

Here are some of the things that I do to show compassion for myself:

Self-care

This is not self indulgent. That’s right all the stuff you’ve heard forever – eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, stay out of harm’s way. These are all valid and necessary in my life. I can feel a shift when I haven’t eaten, slept well and/or haven’t exercised. Self care is self compassion.

Self reflection

I have to be honest with myself about the things I like and don’t like about me. This has often required coaching from a trusted friend. Was I an ass in that situation? Should I apologize? What can I do differently? Or as I heard once, decades ago and probably in an AA room. Ask yourself three questions if you are unsure of how to proceed in a situation: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? There have been plenty of times when I kept my mouth shut because I couldn’t give a yes to all three. And, honestly I apologize a lot because I am wrong a lot. Being able to look at myself and make changes (or at least try) helps me to make eye contact with myself. This is also, self compassion.

Self talk

Sometimes the thoughts I play in my head are inaccurate and they are almost always worse than reality. This can range anywhere from self loathing which manifests itself in really shitty negative mental name calling to full blown scenarios that do not exist. There are thoughts I have to routinely push away – I’m fat, ugly, old, stupid, whatever the insecurity of the day is….I need to fight it with something positive. This is also an internal dialogue – you’re healthy, you worked out, some people don’t even make it to 47, you are a solidly decent human being, get a grip woman. Facts aren’t feelings, focus on the facts. I have been known to make lists of pros/cons for a variety of situations – work, love, wall color, anything. So basically I have to talk myself off the ledge, less than I used to but more than I want to. Being aware of the negative thoughts in my head and fighting them with purposeful kindness and awareness is self compassion.

Self love (passion)

Not talking about solo romance here (not that there’s anything wrong with that). More like self actualization. What brings you joy? Do you have a calling or an urge to do something? Was a seed planted years ago and you just haven’t watered it and given it sun? I have made the things that make me feel joy a priority. Now I admit this isn’t always easy to schedule in. If you have financial/physical/other obstacles you might feel too tired to try a yoga class or maybe you can’t afford to go to a writer’s conference. That’s legit and I get that. Find a way to squeeze in your passion even if it is only in 10 minute increments. Like to write – keep a journal, blog or use social media to put yourself out there. Like to dance, check out the YMCA they might have some classes you can take on the cheap. My calling is hospice work. I felt the first pull in 1997 when my aunt was dying of cancer. It took me 11 years to have a schedule that allowed me to pursue becoming a hospice volunteer, but I did it.

Finding and fulfilling your passion is part of self compassion.

I hope this doesn’t come off preachy because honestly, I am not a fan of preachy. I just feel so strongly about people taking charge and being the best, happiest version of themselves. These are just my experiences with life and my version of self compassion. There isn’t a universal formula for success here. Just know that if you are struggling to be kind to yourself, others have been there. Please be good to you, you’re worth the effort.

This post was written by Bryce Warden – Bryce isn’t her real name, but due to her shady, sordid past and a husband who adores privacy she started this little blog thing as her personal diary/midlife crisis. She has been through some sh*t people and shares her raw and honest stories on Was That My Out Loud Voice? Bryce has been a SAHM with two kids for 10+ years. In her prior life, she was climbing the corporate ladder in the healthcare technology sector, super exciting field (not really). She also runs a small business dedicated to caring for both people and pets and is a hospice volunteer. Bryce has lots of stories to tell; some are funny  and others will break your heart. So, grab your beverage of choice and put a lid on it –  it could be a bumpy ride.

Self-Compassion Prompts for May Link-up #1000Speak

I am really excited to announce May’s theme of Self-Compassion. Learning compassion for myself made such a difference to my life, and I love guiding other people to feel compassion for themselves. It gives me the warm fuzzies, makes my heart sing and my eyes mist over. So yes, I had a hand in choosing this month’s topic!

But now it’s over to you. We’d love to hear your thoughts on self-compassion. If you’ve got ideas of what you’d like to say, then get writing and we’ll see you on the 20th! If your mind is spinning right now and you’re not sure what to write about, we have a few suggestions:

What does self-compassion mean? Is it the similar or different to self-indulgence, self-esteem or self-respect? (If you aren’t sure, then you’ll be pleased to know there’s already been a ton of research on this, mostly by Kristin Neff, though Paul Gilbert and  Emma M. Seppälä, and others have also contributed much to our understanding of how powerful self-compassion can be.)

What makes it hard to be compassionate with ourselves?

Is it possible to be fully compassionate with another person if we aren’t with ourselves?

If you are a professional – therapist, coach or other helper, we’d love to hear from you about benefits you’ve observed or researched in people learning self-compassion.

If you aren’t a professional, we’d still love to hear from you. Maybe you’ve done research of your own, or learned something that helped. Tell your own story so that other people can feel encouraged to learn self-compassion.

And let’s dream too – let’s dream big! Dreaming is the first stage of becoming, after all.

What would it be like if children learned self-compassion at school?

If politicians had classes in it before they ran for office?

If business leaders, teachers, doctors and lawyers learned self-compassion as part of their training?

What would it be like if beggars were taught to treat themselves with kindness, to see that they are worthy, to value themselves? Sometimes this does happen, and if you know of such stories, we’d love to read them – or watch them if you share a video.

What would it be like if criminals were taught self-compassion? Again, this sometimes happens, so if you know a story, we’d love to read it!

As always, our link-up will be on the 20th of the month – covering all time zones. We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

Compassion Logo FINISHED

Compassion and Vulnerability #1000Speak Link-up Here!

Welcome 1000+ Voices! Our theme for this month is Compassion and Vulnerability.

We’ve chosen this theme because April is awareness month for a number of issues related to vulnerability or vulnerable people – some just in the USA and India, and some worldwide.

The second of April was World Autism Awareness Day, and the week from the 2nd till the 8th is Autism Awareness Week. In the United States, all of April is Autism Awareness month. 

April also has international awareness days for assistance in mine action, and of remembrance of victims of chemical warfare and of the Rwandan genocide, among others.

In the USA, April is sexual assault awareness and prevention month and child abuse awareness and prevention month – with the 20th being day of the National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.

It is also National Alcohol Awareness month in the USA and in India, the aim of which is to: “increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.” 

 World Health Day is the 7th of April.

Other issues that have awareness raising events this month are youth sports safety month, infertility awareness, youth violence prevention.

So there’s a wealth of topics from you to choose from for the #1000Speak link-up on April 20th! We’d love to read your posts on any of these, and we’d love personal experience posts as well as opinion pieces, research articles or anything else you would like to write.

Just in case you aren’t sure where to start, here are a few suggestions.

  • What action can we take to show compassion for vulnerable people?
  • If you have personal experience of any of these topics, how has compassion from others helped you?
  • Perhaps lack of compassion affected you- if so tell us what you need, or maybe what you needed years ago.
  • Many of these topics – for instance: abuse, assault, violence, alcoholism – tend to pass down through generations. What is needed to change this? If you are a parent who suffered from these as a child, have you managed to break the cycle and how did you do that? What part does compassion play? What about self-compassion?
  • Does awareness of an issue lead to compassion?

Looking forward to reading your posts on the 20th! #1000Speak April 2016 Writing about Compassion and Vulnerability

The link-up is now open. To add your post, click the blue button below and follow the instructions.
Thank you for joining us!

Happiness and Compassion – obvious bedfellows?

Hi everyone. It’s link up time again. This month, as well as exploring compassion we are looking at happiness and its links to compassion. And you’d say there’s an obvious link, of course, wouldn’t you? When exploring compassion we are seeking to increase happiness aren’t we?

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The above quote was a favourite of my father. And I took away that message; be positive, be happy and share the joy. But the other side, the loneliness of sadness, the admonishment here, that being sad is somehow something you suffer on your own passed me by. That was for other people. I wasn’t falling into that trap. But being a little ray of sunshine can only go so far and it fails if you don’t appreciate what someone might be going through when not happy.

It has taken me a while to understand that being happy, positive and joyful can rub off on others but it can equally rub others up the wrong way. And that’s where compassion comes in. Yes, we want people to be happy, don’t we? But we don’t achieve that goal by allowing those who are sad, those who, for whatever reason, can’t, right this minute be happy, remain isolated.

Compassion means that we don’t let people weep alone. It means tending to those who struggle to find any happiness, any laughter at this precise moment. There’s a time and a place for positivity but laughter and happiness are not inextricably linked as once I thought they were. With compassion, however, we can bring more people back to laughter from whatever sad place they are just now.

This month’s link up is now open and ready for your posts. You can follow us across social media via the hashtag #1000speak and on Facebook at 1000 voices for compassion

 

Compassion and Happiness

Our next link-up is on the 20th of March. Just one week to go! Our theme, as it is every quarter, is simply Compassion.

However, 20th March is also International Day of Happiness.

Do compassion and happiness go together? You bet! So, if  you would like to write a post about the connection between compassion and happiness, we’d love to read it.

If you aren’t sure about what to write for this, we’ve got a few things that might help.

First off, in the video below, Pharrell Williams talks about happiness for last year’s International Day of Happiness, and as he points out, protecting our planet’s environment is necessary to ensure the happiness of future generation. I’d say that when we take action to protect our planet for our children, that also makes us happy.

Some people have the idea that compassion means feeling another’s pain, which wouldn’t necessarily make us happy! What do you think? Is compassion painful? Or does it lighten our load? Is it even possible to have happiness without compassion?

Here’s a quote that I shared in our Facebook group this week, and that sparked ideas for a few of us. Maybe it will do the same for you. It’s by Guillaume Apollinaire:

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness to just be happy.

And here’s another one to think about, this time by Epictetus.

People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.

What about self-compassion? Is it possible to have happiness without self-compassion?

Do you agree with quote by  Cheri Huber:

If we can simply see, with compassion, all that arises within us, we dramatically increase our chances of moving away from suffering.

Let’s end this post by hearing from Pharrell Williams again, this time singing “Happy.” The video is amazing, because the video is of people dancing in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, showing us that happiness doesn’t depend on circumstances. 

This month, as well as using the #1000Speak hashtag, you could also use some to connect with International Day of Happiness. #happyplanet and #happiness are two suggestions.

Looking forward to reading your post on the 20th!