Timing Is Everything: 3 Easy Stages To Transition From Criticism To Compassion

A Matter Of Time

What separates an empowered self-compassionate response to difficulty, challenge, or potential criticism is all a matter of time.  We are all presented with problems.  All of these problems cause us pain.  We will, indeed, see more problems in our lifetime.  But, we have three choices: self-compassion, escape/avoidance, or criticism.  With self-compassion, we can go through tough times, give ourselves the space to understand our experience, and persevere with insight and kindness.  With escape/avoidance, we can just as easily be freaked out by tough experiences, and try to escape them when they arise, or try to avoid them altogether, but we learn little, and fear their return.

Finally, with criticism, we can endure tough times, and motivate ourselves with criticism, giving ourselves too much credit for the onset of suffering, and too little credit for its tolerance.  We observe pain as it arises, but have a subjective bias towards shame and blame that might motivate us to work harder in the short run, but it also strips us of well-being and a positive self-concept.

Three Easy Stages To Transition From Avoidance And Criticism To Self-Compassion

Most of us have spent our lives responding to adversity with avoidance or criticism.  So, it only makes sense that we give ourselves time to transition to more adaptive, self-compassion practices.  When we have used certain responses for so long, they are burned into our brain as automatic instructions.  I have developed a three stage process that honors our past responses, while making space for new ones to interrupt these old instructions, to become aware of other viable responses, and lastly to utilize these new skills.  The stages are called: What if? What can I do? Let’s try this.

What if?

During the first stage, people are made aware of self-compassionate methods to monitor stress, anxiety, pain etc., and how to respond to these experiences with self-compassion.  But, once the stressor comes up, we have only moments to respond, and the brain goes directly to our past responses.  In light of this activity, we start to open up the possibility for a potential self-compassionate response by saying, “What if?”  “What if I tried responding to this problem with self-compassion?”

What can I do?

During the second stage, the stressor comes back, and again our immediate choice is limited to past responses, but we are aware that it is possible to respond with self-compassion, so we extend this possibility by asking, “What can I do?’  In other words, what are some self-compassionate options to this specific issue?

Let’s Try This

By stage three, you think to yourself that you have already tried it the old way several times, and you are simply tired of the results you are getting.  So, you say to yourself, “Let’s try this.”  You think of potential self-compassionate actions, and you choose one.  Voila!  You are now operating out of self-compassion!

Compassion For The Stages

We follow these three stages to have compassion for ourselves.  It is hard to unlearn old behaviors, and learn new ones.  It is hard to trust that something outside our own knowledge might be helpful.  To be honest, we are afraid of being even more disappointed than we are now.  At times, it seems too much to ask to get our hopes up.  We recognize these challenges, and because of them, we slowly create enough space to just try a self-compassionate response. 

In this way, you honor the challenge of transitioning to a new tool set, while setting yourself up for success.  You also develop your own, sincere style for bringing self-compassion to your experience, which means that you own it, can modify it, and can get rid of it if you decide never to use it again.  This will help you trust self-compassion and yourself, which makes you infinitely more powerful with respect to your well-being, your contentment, and your ability to tolerate and persevere through challenging obstacles.  Anything can be done in good time.  Timing is everything.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 192.  In The Books.