When I tell patients that we are going to work on collaborative self-compassion, I invariably get the contemptuous look that precedes the logic that the self refers to one person, and by its very definition precludes teamwork. Write this down. Frame It. Do an interpretive dance that burns it into your unconscious. Nothing precludes teamwork. Nothing.
Self-Compassion requires many types of collaboration. Of course, you have heard me tell you about the kind of collaboration that involves creating a support network to ensure that you are able to develop, and maintain your core values and self-compassion practice. Another type of collaboration requires you to think of someone you love unconditionally, so that you have an idea about the kind of compassion you should give yourself.
If you enjoyed these kinds of collaboration, this new type will blow your socks off. If you are not wearing socks, put a pair on, and prepare to have them blown off! Inside the confines of our mind, we all have several characters: different personalities that have specific problem solving roles.
You have the administrator that you call on to handle your bills. You have the extracurricular liaison that plans your get-togethers. You have the warrior, who fights your battles. You have the academic that handles intellectual matters. You have the professional, who handles matters of business. Lastly, you have the mother that ensures your heart is whole, healed, and protected.
Stop. Collaborate. And. Listen.
We activate just one of these characters during simple times. But, when we are suffering, one character will not suffice. Instead, we need to STOP, and assess the situation. We need to COLLABORATE, and ask that all these characters be present to make contributions. Then, we need to LISTEN, and notice what our thoughts, bodies, and emotions are telling us that we need. Only after these three actions have taken place can we hope to effectively respond to highly stressful or alarming situations.
Think about your experience. Notice the character or characters that you summon the most. We have a tendency to overly rely on a few characters, which means that we are asking them to guide our actions even when their skillsets do not match the obstacles we need to overcome. For example, we become angry about bills, and summon the warrior, when the administrator would have been the best personality for the job. The warrior chooses aggression instead of negotiation, and the credit card company decides to make us pay the highest penalty instead of waiving the fees.
Similarly, we summon the administrator or liaison to deal with matters of the heart, when the mother might have been our best option. This mistake especially hurts our significant others, family, and friends, who feel no more important than a to do list. It is not just others that we hurt, when we summon the wrong personality. We also have a tendency to injure ourselves. For example, when difficult emotions come up, we activate the academic, thinking that we can avoid the invasiveness of painful feelings by talking about them from a distant and removed place.
We all make these mistakes, gaffes that lead to suffering, sooner or later. So, how do we solve this? We have to Stop, Collaborate, and Listen. Assemble your internal guides, and think about who would be the most qualified person to handle your current issue. If the issue requires more than one of these characters, start with your physical or emotional experience (this will be the most accessible), then call on the planning committee. If it is an emergency, and you have to act, the warrior will most likely get you out of there. I know, I know. You think the warrior is just there to fight, but you are wrong. The warrior is there to keep you safe. He only fights, when he has to.
Experiment with this process. Imagine what these characters might look like. This should make this process easier and more enjoyable for you. We tend to remember that which is unique and entertaining. These qualities also inspire us to stay loyal and consistent to a set of behaviors. I am sure you can relate. When was the last time that you felt motivated to follow a dull and ordinary plan?
Have some self-compassion, and make it interesting. You deserve to live both an interesting and a happy life. Finally, practice, practice, practice. If you do not practice this, it will probably not be available to you when you really need it. Let’s be honest though. It is fun. You are fun. You will probably want to practice it anyway.
365 Days of Self-Compassion. Day 125. In The Books.