The Gift of Self-Compassion

Posted: 12/1/2019 8:00:00 AM by Deborah Faust, MHANYS

Gift.jpgWe are moving through the season of gatherings, celebrations, rituals and ceremonial practices. It’s a time throughout the year that we may see family members and old friends we don’t see often. For some of us it’s a time of remembrance and deep wounds that were never healed, so moving through this season may bring about stress.  So often during this season our good intentions fall short and we find our self-responding to the present from our past. The wounds that have been in remission may suddenly flair up.

I found a great video that defines how to hold a supportive space for ourselves and others.  The video asks, “who is holding a safe space for you, and who are you holding a safe space for?”  I immediately thought how difficult it is for so many of us to feel emotionally safe at family gatherings when we share histories of listening and telling stories rooted in unhealed family trauma. I must admit, at previous family gatherings, I was unable to listen without judgement or be fully present and allow my family to feel what they needed to feel.  I felt responsible to fix what was wrong and make everyone feel better and when that didn’t work - anger would set in. It is difficult to hold a supportive space for others and listen without judgement if you are not comfortable with your own feelings.
The last few years, I have become committed to the daily practice of mindful self-compassion, and it has become the foundation for moving me through difficult times and relationships. Self-compassion has taught me how to turn the concept of compassion that I give to others inward and support my own emotional development and acceptance. One of the definitions of compassion, is being concerned with the alleviation of suffering for our self and others.

The practice of self-compassion transforms the way we view our life experiences and provides the perfect conditions for healing old wounds. A leading expert on the practice of self-compassion, Kristen Neff suggests there are three components of self-compassion; self-kindness vs self-judgement, common humanity vs isolation, and mindfulness vs. over-identification. When practicing these three components we begin to recognize that being imperfect and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so we tend to be gentle with our self. Our inner voice is less critical and let’s face it, when we are hard on ourselves, we are hard on others. Being “human” means we are mortal, vulnerable and imperfect.  The practice of self-compassion recognizes our suffering and personal inadequacy as part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.
Since I began the practice of mindful self-compassion, I am able to balance my negative emotions so that I am not suppressing or exaggerating them and most importantly I am not over identifying with them. Those of us that struggle with depression and anxiety know how harmful our inner critic can be to our mental health.
 


Through the practice of mindful self-compassion, I find comfort in knowing I am connected to the pain of others and not alone in mine. I find comfort knowing that my inner dialogue is my Alli and no longer sabotaging my sense of worth.  I find comfort knowing that because I am no longer hard on myself, I am able to be kind-hearted to others and accept my limitations and the limitations of others.  A quote from Carl Rogers says it so perfectly, “the paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”  I am now comfortable sitting next to those I love and listen without judgement and I don’t need to challenge why they feel what they feel. It no longer matters who did what or why, the only thing that matters is if someone is hurting.  


During this season of family gatherings and celebrations consider holding a safe space for yourself and others through the practice of self-compassion.  Consider the practice of compassion and self-compassion a gift to yourself and others during this season of gatherings.

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