Don’t Worry About A Thing: Self-Compassion For The Things We Cannot Control

Self-Compassion For The Uncontrollable

We need self-compassion for that which we cannot control.  Those suffering from the strain of relapsing into drug or alcohol use learn this through 12 step programs.  People on the heels of success or those that want so many good things for their families and friends learn this motto through their religious affiliations, or through tools that are not affiliated with religion, such as Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Its widespread use leaves little doubt about its effectiveness.  However, despite the many famous religious leaders and health professionals, who pass on this advice, it is a well-known Reggae singer, who has most effectively imparted this wisdom.

In 1977, Reggae legend, Bob Marley, wrote Three Little Birds in which he asked us not to worry about a thing, and assured us that everything would be all right.  He requested that we attend to the sweet song of the birds in the morning, while smiling at the rising sun not to forget about yesterday’s sorrow, but to be aware of the hope that emerges each day.  For all the bad things that could have or did happen yesterday, the sun still comes up today, the birds still sing, and we can still choose to smile at both.

The most powerful part of Bob’s songs is that they bring peace and ease to others, and serve the purpose of lullabies.  In other words, these songs recognize the pain of the listeners, and then soothe the affected areas by wishing them renewed health and optimism.  Lullabies have been used as effective medicine for years. 

The Power of Lullabies

Why are lullabies so effective?  The reason: attachment and nurturing is vital to human survival.  Lullabies serve this purpose, most notably, in the calming effects they have on babies.  Babies also make a connection between the song and being loved.  The combination of these two factors actually causes us to relax, and feel safe, which turns off our stress hormones, and turns on regulatory chemicals such as Oxytocin.

Only non-parents could possible read this, and question the power of the lullaby.  Parents have seen their babies cry in agony.  It is a coming to God moment.  You feel scared and helpless.  You worry your baby will be exposed to great harm if the wailing persists, and you are probably not wrong.  Then, you try something: a gentle rock, some soothing words, and the baby still cries.  With nothing left to loose, you turn to the voice that has made you self-conscious your entire life, and you beg it to sing.  Your baby quiets.  The redness from her face fades, and she closes her eyes, breathing regularly and evenly.

As we get older, we have fantasies of inventing complicated ways of soothing ourselves, and others.  These fantasies come from a wish to prove our worth, individually, and as a representative of a new generation.  Some things were never meant to be re-invented.  One such thing is the lullaby, and it not only works on babies, it works on us too.  Why does it work on us?  Because we never forget what it was like to feel truly helpless and to be soothed.  Even if we cannot recall these lullabies in our explicit memory, our exposure to them and their efficacy lives silently in our bones. 

Lullabies Used For Self-Compassion

The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, lost, despairing, or simply burdened by the day’s stressors, summon the courage to sing yourself a lullaby.  Hum or sing to yourself a song that simply brings you ease.  You can do so in your head or out loud.  Do use the lullaby to avoid the suffering because it will only make the suffering worse.  Instead, acknowledge the stress or worry you are experiencing, name it, let it pass, and then sing to yourself with your well-being in mind.  Use a co-pilot to start this practice, if it helps.  Sing along with Bob Marley.  Try out Bobby McFerrin’s song, Don’t Worry Be Happy.  I also like Frank Sinatra’s song, Someone To Watch Over Me.

This exercise might make you feel self-conscious.  That is normal.  You might start by imagining or actually singing to a beloved pet or a child.  Include someone to sing with you to this pet or child, if that makes you feel more comfortable.  Sometimes, more is merrier. 

Probably ten years ago, I had a red beta fish I loved.  His name was Freddie Fred.  He was an anxious guy, who would hide among the plants in his big, translucent bowl.  One day, we were both stressed.  I had several pending exams, and he was hiding in his plants.  For some reason, I began to sing Frank Sinatra’s Somewhere Beyond The Sea.  To my surprise, he peeked out of his plant, and then proceeded to happily swim circles at the top of his bowl.  This became our daily ritual until Fred passed, and no matter how difficult the day (and some were really difficult!) I always felt better, and so did Fred.

Focus On Your Intentions

Do not worry about the quality of your tone.  Focus on the quality of your intentions, and place a hand on your heart if it helps.  This timeless exercise has been providing people well-being, and freedom from toxic stress for generations.  Give yourself permission to let it calm and soothe you too.  If nothing else, you will be sure that you have made strides in pursuing your core values of living a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life.

365 Days Of Kindness. Self-Compassion.  Day 121.  In The Books.