Self-Compassion For Those With A Family History of Unkindness

An Unkind Family

Self-Compassion brings up some tough feelings for people.  Recently, I was asked how someone with a really critical, and unpredictable family might go about developing self-compassion.  They were a bit surprised, when I responded, “How could you not?”  Suffering is not the antithesis of self-compassion.  It is the birthplace.  Even when life seems to be in an upheaval, we need to be able to look into the wreckage of our lives, and see how and why we have survived.  Some part of you wanted you to live, and a frank conversation with that part would be a great place to start in developing self-compassion.

History Of Self-Criticism

People with divisive families often have a long history of self-criticism.  Because they can be so mean to themselves, they assume that they are without self-compassion, but if they truly lacked self-compassion, then they would never have noticed how self-critical they were.  Of course, the journey may be harder than someone born into a family of terrific supports, but the journey will also yield greater self-compassion, and a deeper understanding of the self-compassion mechanism.

Look to anyone, who has made it their purpose to spread more love and understanding, and you will almost always find a history of family difficulties.  We need these people.  Would they have existed without a difficult pathway to love and self-acceptance?  Probably not.  This in no way makes it okay for others to treat you poorly, and for that suffering you have my sincerest wishes for well-being, and a life well-lived.  It also means that you are not damaged goods, but rather someone unique and worthy of love, who is also deserving of better care.

A Simple Practice To Move From A History Of Pain To A Present of Self-Compassion

With this in mind, let’s look at the process of getting from poor models of self-compassion to a useful self-compassion practice.  First, acknowledge the painful feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations that come up with a wish for self-compassion.  Do not indulge these stories.  Instead, acknowledge that you have arrived by them naturally, and are deserving of freedom from suffering and kindness for your pain, as you would wish all other people. 

Then, try these self-compassion phrases: While I suffer, I am not my suffering.  While I can become self-critical, I am not my self-criticism.  As I wish for all people, may I accept myself just as I am.  May I be kind to myself.  May I be understanding when these wishes feel out of reach, and wish for them anyway.  I am one of many voices wishing for well-being, which does not make my wishes any less great. May I be free to live a life of well-being, fulfillment, and ease.

Magic Potion

This is no magic potion, but following this practice is a step in the right direction.  The body and mind are capable of all things.  Just as they can hurt, they can heal.  We are merely inclining them in the right direction, so they have the opportunity to heal us.  Life is not about avoiding what troubles us, but rather noticing the troubles, witnessing or grieving the pain they bring, and continuing to live our lives the way we desire with well-founded intentions, and love.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 206.  In The Books.