Self-Compassion For Crisis


Recently, a reader asked me about self-compassion for crisis.  He understood how self-compassion could help him work towards more self-acceptance, and set goals that were in line with his core values, but he wanted to know more about how self-compassion could be helpful in addressing something unwanted, and overwhelming in the present.  It is a fair question, especially given the fact that most people imagine mindfulness and self-compassion being practiced in a tranquil room with white noise, ample offerings of tea, and hours of quietude.  


In terms of crisis, Tonglen Self-Compassion or the breathing in of suffering, and the breathing out of a wish for freedom from suffering is perhaps ideal for a crisis situation because it is accessible, merely requires breathing, and is aided by having something substantial to work with.  An example of which might be: I am breathing in totally freaking out, and I breathe out a wish to be free from this immediate fear.  The in-breaths are normal, and the outbreaths are long like blowing through a straw for 6 seconds.  Slowly, this kind of breathing will start to regulate your body’s response to stress, and the wish for well-being will decrease the agitation you are experiencing in your mind.


Another great self-compassion practice for crisis is acceptance.  The hardest part of a crisis is resisting it.  This is what leads to panic attacks, and overwhelming ideas.  Your body and mind are already working too hard.  The best thing you can do for them is accept that your current experience is more than enough, notice how it feels, and let it pass.  I like to think of a train slowly passing before me with 5 cars, the last a caboose that I put my worrying thought on, and watch it until it travels out of sight.  I repeat this exercise until I feel more regulated, and able to address the crisis in a meaningful way.

Single Word Self-Compassion

Perhaps the last self-compassion practice that I like to use for crisis is single-word self-compassion.  If you have done formal self-compassion meditation practice, you will be used to using the phrases, May I be safe.  May I be free from suffering.  May I be kind to myself.  May I accept myself just as I am.  These are examples of wishes that you might make to ensure a sense of well-being.  You can simplify each one of these phrases into one symbolic word: safety, freedom, kindness, self-acceptance.  During a time of crisis, you may feel too overwhelmed to go through entire self-compassion phrases, but still have enough mental energy to recite a single word, and sometimes one word is all it takes.


No matter which technique you choose, never forget that whatever effort you make that it is enough, that you are enough, and that the experience you are having is enough.  You do not need to change anything.  Notice it.  Let it pass, and be kind to yourself.  Only then will you have enough room to accept it, and move on. 

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 235.  In The Books.