Compassion

Finding Love And Happiness By Overcoming Our Need To Be Right

Self-Compassion Blog.  Finding Love And Happiness By Overcoming Our Need To Be Right.

Striving To Be Right

One of the most mind-boggling ideas out there is that other people value you based on how often you are right.  Being right makes people feel confident, and at ease in their relationships, while being wrong causes people to feel unsure and anxious.  It makes sense that we feel more comfortable in an ever-changing world, if we feel that we understand it.  Somewhere deep down inside we know that we cannot understand everything, so we opt for the next best thing: to know more than everyone else.  It’s ok to think it.  Yes, we desire to be know-it-alls. 

The Know-It-Alls and The Know-Nothings

But, despite how great being right feels, it blinds us from what the experience is like for the person, who is wrong.  They feel incompetent and helpless.  If we follow this logic, the know-it-alls, by their very nature, make others feel like know-nothings, and know-nothings feel bad about themselves, which makes them not want to hang around with the know-it-alls.  If a good life is judged by the company we keep, how do we judge the life of someone, who cannot keep any company at all?  My guess is that we find it to be a sad one.

Learning To Choose Relationships Over Rightness

If you learn nothing else from this blog, savor this invaluable piece of relationship insight: people will often feel about you the way you make them feel about themselves.  If you make them feel like losers all the time, they will feel sad, and they will identify you as a sad person.  If you make them feel like winners all the time, they will feel happy, and you will be recognized as a happy person.  Despite this seemingly impossible dichotomy, you really only need to make them feel appreciated, which requires just the occasional win.  So, do yourself the kindness of letting go of your need to be right all the time, instead making room for the love, compassion, and ease people will naturally feel in the presence of someone, who prioritizes these characteristics themselves.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 272.  In The Books.

If You Think Self-Compassionately, You Will Be Self-Compassionate.

Self-Compassion Blog.  If You Think Self-Compassionately, You Will Be Self-Compassionate

Misunderstanding Self-Compassion

Self-Compassion has long been misunderstood as an innate quality gifted only to the patient and penitent.  Hearing this word inspires images of Mother Teresa caring for impoverished orphans or Bishop Desmond Tutu offering forgiveness to human rights violators.  We think of the Dalai Lama hugging an innocent Northern Ireland man, who lost his sight after being hit by the ricochet of a rubber bullet meant for someone else. 

We think of these things, and maybe even verbalize a wish to be more like these folks, forsaking our own ability to think and act self-compassionately, and we move on.  But, these people, who have done so many good deeds that their legend seems to supersede their limitations as human beings, are still just people.  In examining an event that involved several Maoist soldiers beating up a young child, even the Dalai Lama said that he hopes that he would have been able to respond compassionately, but that he might for all of his good intentions responded aggressively had he been there.  The take home message is not that the Dalai Lama is part Chuck Norris, though he might be, but rather that self-compassion is not an inborn and passively maintained character trait.  Quite the opposite!  Self-Compassion is something we foster from doing.

The Burden Of Criticism

Why is this helpful to you?  Because all the self-criticism and criticism of others that you endure without compassion is exhausting, disorganizing, and displeasing you.  Think about it.  The more critical of yourself and others you become, the more critical thoughts become available to you.  The more available they are, the more we feel weighed down by them.  Sure, it sounds cool to say critical things about ourselves and others.  It gives people the sense that we are so tough that we do not care what the consequences of such actions are, but, in the end, other people do not pay for these thoughts and behaviors.  We do!

Finding More Self-Compassion By Thinking Self-Compassionately

I do not know about you, but I wake up every day with the same thought.  How can I get more and pay less?  With all of our responsibilities, we can ill afford to pay more.  I am not suggesting that you rid yourself of negative thoughts.  We come by these thoughts naturally, but we can choose what we do with them.  If you think about how life’s challenges have made your circumstances and the circumstances of others difficult, you will have greater access to self-compassion, which also means less criticism of yourself and others.  If you have not been paying attention, that means more energy and less stress for you! 

I am not suggesting that you give yourself or others a free pass to do things that cause pain, I am simply inquiring if finding remedies to those issues would not be made easier by better understanding them.  I, for one, believe that all people are capable of great compassion, but to be self-compassionate, you must think self-compassionately.  The next time you experience something that causes you pain, observe your wish to judge yourself and others, let it pass, and choose to remember how you and others come by your experience naturally.  Like a long road paved with bricks, this brick (a single act of self-compassion) will be one of many, yet its worth is infinite, as it gives you greater and easier access to self-compassion.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 271.  In The Books.

Just A Spoonful of Sugar Makes The Medicine Go Down

Self-Compassion Blog.  Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

A Spoonful Of Sugar

Like most kids, I hated medicine growing up, and my mother would always remind me of Mary Poppin’s famous phrase, “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”  Years later, I realize that it was my mother’s kindness that functioned as the sugar, when I needed to muster up the fortitude to gulp down a gross heaping of some purple or green colored syrup.

The Problem With Complaining

As adults, we have responsibilities that can be difficult, replete with unappetizing choices and actions.  Our tendency is to complain about these things in a way that only makes them harder to complete.  We go on longwinded monologues that make these choices out to be greater and greater catastrophies.  Then, we do something really odd.  We try to harden ourselves or toughen up, sometimes literally grimacing, as we force ourselves to complete the necessary actions.  A well-known fact is that actions you reward will be easy to repeat and those that you punish will be harder.  So, why do we punish ourselves for completing a difficult action, when it will only make it harder to do in the future?

A Solution For Completing Life’s Undesirable Tasks

There are many ways I can answer this question, but because you are probably in a hurry, let’s look at a solution instead.  When you come across something distasteful that you must do to have a good life, rather than focus on how much you dislike it or the pain it causes you, instead focus on why you are doing it, and frame it as something that is beneficial to your well-being.  Additionally, use your self-talk to say nice, affirming things during and after the process.  This will do two things for you.  First, being kind will give you the necessary resources to complete the action.  Second, rewarding yourself will make it easier to do in the future, and you might even feel good about it.

Living An Inspiring, Meaningful Life of Ease

Next time you are faced with an annoying or even repugnant responsibility that is necessary for you to have a good life, use a spoonful of sugar.  It makes the medicine go down.  If you are worried about not being tough enough, fear not, life will give you more than enough challenges, and you can grimace and flex your way to the finish line if you so desire.  But, it might be helpful to know, you do not get extra points for punishing yourself, just a harder life, with less energy for building meaningful relationships, accomplishing goals, and living a life that inspires and sets you at ease.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 268.  In The Books.

Your Life’s Too Complicated. Let’s Simplify It With The Plateau-Flow Method!

Self-Compassion Blog.  Your LIfe's Too Complicated.  Let's Simplify It With The Plateau-Flow Method!

Defying Flow

I used to run with great effort, foisting myself forward with each step, and when my gait slowed, I would sprint to quicken my pace.  I was rewarded for these efforts with shin splints, Achilles strains, and plantar fasciitis.  Running and the feedback it gives your body are simple processes, and I chose to defy these communications with a fiery will, and unnecessary, complicated movements.  Life is like this for all of us.  We have values and set goals, and when the flow of life resists our plans, and gives us feedback, we resist its rhythm, determined to control it with our complex tricks and action plans.  Like any good card player, life calls our bet and raises the stakes with even greater obstacles.  Eventually, we feel overwhelmed and quit.

Trusting Flow

What if I told you that you could avoid this disempowering pattern by simply learning to trust life’s feedback?  Obstacles emerge because there is something relevant for you to learn about your personal life or work.  To meet these needs, you must slow down and address them even if they are not obvious steps towards your defined goals.  Having an interesting and evolving life requires something that most of us forget: the unknowable.  Let this sink in.  IF LIFE WERE PREDICTABLE, THEN YOU WOULD NEVER LEARN ANYTHING NEW.   Give yourself permission to observe, adjust to, and respond to things that do not instantly make sense, they just might better your life or save another’s.  Of all of the interventions I have ever used with patients, perhaps the most successful involved me making fun of myself for several hours in the middle of the night to maintain the attention of a suicidal patient at a residential facility.  Spoiler alert: she lived.  Nobody would want a moment like that, and it sure did not seem to fit my goals at the time, but my life and hers are unfathomably better for it.

The Plateau-Flow Model

It would be a terrible crime to speak at length about lessening your life complications without providing you with a model to use.  Fear not!  I have one.  It’s called the plateau-flow method, and it works as follows.  Set goals which reflect your values, and work towards a plateau (i.e., accomplishing an important goal).  When obstacles encumber your work, trust the flow, and address these obstacles with the understanding that they serve a necessary part of your journey.  When you eventually peak, switch to recovery mode, trusting that the flow of life will lead you where you need to go.

In this way, you will live an inspired and evolving, but much simpler life than before.  You will avoid unnecessary injury or illness – both emotional and physical – by trusting the feedback and challenges life gives you.  As an added bonus, the self-compassion and acceptance you show life’s obstacles will help you better understand your own life and the lives of others, which will translate in to more success and happier relationships. Much like my newfound, injury-less running, you may find that listening to life instead of dictating its terms will allow you the freedom to appreciate it, and feel at ease.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 265.  In The Books.

Loving Who You Are, And The Apologies That Stand In Your Way.

Self-Compassion Blog.  Loving Who You Are, And The Apologies That Stand In Your Way.

The Apologies

We spend most of our days apologizing for where we are in life.  I should have a promotion soon.  I should get a raise, a bigger house, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, more degrees, a golden, diamond emblazoned unicorn that somersaults over rainbows.  While we are, in earnest, trying to accommodate our audience, rise to the standard of our peers, and inspire ourselves, we are also establishing over and over that our life, as it is, is simply not good enough.  This makes us feel sad, anxious, and depressed. 

While we draw on this motivation to do more, the more we do, the less we seem to feel good about ourselves.  Our thoughts pour down on us, dampening our resolve to be happy with our lives.  One of the toughest parts of accomplishing something is the awareness that there are other things to accomplish, and that others expect you to accomplish even more.  One of my best friends used to extend my role in our conversations by adding “What else?” after I had just finished describing my current goals and efforts.  It only took two words to crush my satisfaction.

A Recent Experience With The Apologies

Recently, I spent time with one of my brothers, who started our conversation by reassuring me that he was working hard to take care of himself and his family, as if there was an invisible hot lamp shining down on him.  For a moment, I felt like an interrogator: a disturbing mixture of antagonism and judgment, despite actually being overcome with gratitude that he remained so vibrant and that our relationship remained strong.

I say this without judgment.  I am guilty of the same things.  Don’t worry I am still working on the book.  I am not wealthy enough yet to take us on a vacation, but someday.  So, rather than offer any advice, I listened with great interest, basking in his hard fought wisdom, qualities all his own, while silently repeating this phrase to myself: May this experience of sitting with my brother be enough (for both of us).

The Phrase That Pays (Us With Contentedness)

This phrase is my secret to loving who I am despite the pressure of social interactions and social media to pretend that it would be so much better if I had more or could go back to a time with fewer responsibilities.  It is why I do not attend reunions.  I do not want to pretend life would be better if I could return to my past.

I love being older.  My life is filled with more wisdom, well-being, and inspiring relationships than I ever had as a child.  I am not judging those who love reunions.  Some who attend are amongst my favorite people on earth.  My simple truth is that to love my life I must love where I am right now.  It is my hope that armed with the simple phrase, May my experience be enough, that your heart will be open to the awareness that you are more than enough to yourself and those who love you.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 262.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Your Need To Feel Cool

Self-Compassion For Your Need To Feel Cool

Cool

We need self-compassion for our need to feel cool.  It sounds like a pretty superficial thing, but if there was really nothing to it, then nobody would worry about it.  Right?  So, why do we need to feel cool?  We need to feel cool because we want to be sure that we have enough going for us that we are attractive romantically, platonically, and as potential hires for others.  Cool may be something that somebody else made up, but its value is clear in terms of your ability to command the attention, respect, and sometimes the love of others.

The Evolutionary Value Of Cool

Cool people have a skill that others value.  They seem to be able to anticipate popular trends, and have a knack for entertaining people.  Thousands of years ago, the cool people were probably the warriors because they kept people fed and safe from violent attackers.  In our present time, cool people are fashionable, artistic, entertaining people because they keep us safe from social attackers, and our flaws.  One of the hardest things to do as a human is to apologize for simply trying to enjoy your life.  We envy cool people because they live unapologetically, which makes us want to be cool too.

The Burden Of Cool

Despite all of these great cool people traits, this coolness can be a burden.  It’s a burden for the people, who are deemed not cool.  It is an aggravation for people, who have a full life, and have little time for trends.  If you are paying off a car, a house, working a full time job, and are in a relationship, you have too much going on to focus on what’s cool.  And, still, you wish you were.

Self-Compassion For Our Need To Be Cool

So, let’s take a moment to give ourselves self-compassion for our need to be cool.  First, acknowledge the feeling, and name it.  Second, notice the areas of your body that are tense, and soften around these parts.  Third, notice how you have come by these feelings naturally.  Being cool saves me from bullying, and makes other people want to be around me, and it’s hard when I don’t have any time to cultivate it.  Fourth, bring kindness and compassion to your experience.  I am by my vey nature good enough.  The positive people I want in my life will be attracted to me because I am a passionate person, who chases down my dreams.  How can I be kind to myself right in this very moment?

Cool or not, you are more than enough.  One person’s cool is another person’s dork, anyway.  Not to mention the fact that sometimes it is really cool to be dorky.  If you want to live a good life, just be sure to surround yourself with people, who support your journey to be the most sincere, fulfilled you possible.  What could be cooler than that?

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 259.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For The Insecure People In Your Life

Self-Compassion For The Insecure People In Your Life

Insecure People

We need self-compassion for the insecure people in our lives.  For years, patients have come in to see my freaked out by unforeseen flaws and shortcomings.  Upon further inspection, we often discover that these new attributes are those carried by their friends.  This is what happens with our insecure friends.  Life causes them anxiety, and because they lack the security to self-soothe, they need to get rid of these worries by projecting them on to us.  Sometimes, they give us these disempowering characteristics because it makes them feel empowered or needed.

I imagine that you are flashing back to old friendships, old discussions, painful criticisms that you carried, and perhaps still carry.  Maybe you are thinking of a recent discussion with a current friend.  The important thing is that you are able to see that these people do not do these things on purpose, but rather unconsciously to protect themselves.  It is equally important that you are able to unload these burdensome characterizations, which might be frustrating if you have been trying to correct them for some time.

A Portrait Of An Insecure Interaction

Let me paint a picture to make this process a little more tangible for you.  You are having an innocent conversation with a friend, and happen to mention that you had an argument with your boyfriend/girlfriend.  They respond by saying, “I don’t know why you are such a doormat.  It’s never going to get you anywhere.”  And poof, just like that, you start to doubt yourself.  You think about whether you really do lie down for your relational partners, and give in to their wants.  It had never occurred to you before, but this is a good friend.  Why would they say something like that, if it was not true?  The answer is that they would say something like that if they were feeling anxious, lonely, or unhappy in their own relationship. 

Self-Compassion For The Insecure Friend

Despite how tempting it would be to validate our friends’ insights to make them feel less anxious or more worthy, you would actually be doing them a disservice.  People need to be given the opportunity to resolve their own problems. So, how can we deal with this insecure behavior self-compassionately?  If you are aware of what is happening in the moment, simply acknowledge your friend’s attempt to help you, and help direct their behavior in an affirming way.  Thank you for hearing me out.  I think it is the listening that helps so much.  Do not worry about me.  I am just venting.  It is actually better to ignore their mischaracterization (unless they really push it on you), so that you just reinforce the parts of their contributions that helped you.  Remember, what you reward, people will move toward.   What you ignore will happen no more.

If the harm has been done and your friend is long gone, then imagine their words, feelings, and thoughts.  Take out a box, and neatly package these things inside, making sure to tie a bow around it, so that nothing falls out.  Then, imagine giving it back to your friend.  They are, after all, things that belong to your friend, and best solved in their capable hands.  Then, give yourself permission to let these things go, and do something really kind for yourself.  The experience may not be enjoyable, but it will be a teachable one, and the more we are able to forgive them, the better we will be able to forgive ourselves in the future.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 258.  In The Books.  

Self-Compassion For Fake Friends

Self-Compassion For Fake Friends

Fake Friends

Managing Fake friends is one of those self-compassion topics that people ask me to address often.  Initially, I was a little hesitant because dwelling on unhealthy relationships is probably its own issue.  However, I do understand that people, who work in certain fields, and people who are isolated for long hours with their work are vulnerable to people, who pretend to be their friends.  So, what are fake friends?  Fake friends are any group of people, who use the term friend to describe you, but do not join you in your struggles or celebrations, and do not include you in theirs.

How To Spot A Fake Friend

How can you spot a fake friend?  A fake friend says they will call you, but they never do.  A fake friend says they will make plans with you, but they never do.  A fake friend fails to notice your ups and downs, but might comment after hearing others do so.  A fake friend tends to use the word friend to describe you, when they need something or when they are feeling lonely.  A fake friend knows way less about you than you do about them.  Sound like anybody you know?

When Fake Friends Cannot Be Avoided

As mentioned before, fake friends can simply be avoided if you have an abundance of friends and time to make new friends. However, if your efforts are limited by time consuming work or the nature of your work, where fake people are abundant or there are few if any people available to befriend, then fake friends becomes a serious problem.  If you have a million dollars, and I take a few, you might not even notice, but if you only have five dollars, and I take four or five, it is going to hurt.  In the case of friends, being friendless means feeling lonely, and perhaps unloved.

Self-Compassion Steps For Managing Fake Friends

So, how can we remedy this fake friend issue?  First, notice how you feel and name the problem.  Second, notice where there is tension in your body, and soften around these parts.  Third, notice how you have come by this issue naturally, so you can give yourself permission to let it go.  You are a well-meaning person, who is kind enough to share your time with others.  Everyone needs friends.  When these so-called friends abandon us, it hurts.  And, because it hurts, we are deserving of kindness and compassion.  Then, do something really kind for yourself, and find someone (even if they live really far away) to connect or perhaps reconnect with. 

Plan some time into your schedule to meet new people without the obligation of making new friends, but with the wish to do so, and the effort to simply make yourself available.  Do not settle for fake friends.  Such an act only convinces you that you are not worthy of genuine love and affection.  Nothing could be farther from the truth, and it works to your advantage to keep this nonsense far from your heart.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 256.  In The Books.

Five Self-Compassion Steps To Overcome Social Media Rejection

Five Self-Compassion Steps To Overcome Social Media Rejection

Social Media Rejection

Recently, I learned about a phenomenon called social media rejection, and how much people need self-compassion for it.  Social Media Rejection is the phenomenon in which you lose a significant other, a close friendship, or are left out of social invitations or appreciations via a social media update, as indicated by a new status or picture.

Social Media Rejection is unique in many ways.  It shows up as a public artifact; something that is available to large groups of people, and can be accessed an infinite number of times until it is deleted.  Before social media, the reach of such humiliation was less, and your ability to block it was greater.  It is also much easier for people to get access to you with support, gossip, or feigned support.  Of all of these things, it is the shock of seeing it that many find so upsetting.  Because this information has not come from a direct communication with the source, it feels devious, but also potentially unresolvable.  To put it bluntly, if this person wished to resolve this problem with you, then chances are they would have done it directly.

Sometimes, this rejection is indirect, as is the case, when friends or family of the person rejecting you post the new pictures or statuses.  Their intentions play a role in the effects of their actions, but, overall, the response tends to be the same: sadness, loneliness, and hurt. 

The Motivation Behind Social Media Rejection

Why do people resort to such villainy? They mostly do so because it is easy.  Prior to social media, many people chose to no longer include some people in their friendship groups or broke up with them, by letting the frequency of their communications decline until there were no communications at all.  This strategy of avoidance has not changed.  Again, there is no contact from this person.  What has changed is that people feel that social media documentation is necessary for life events to feel real, so without thinking about the potential side effects of doing so, they post their statuses and pictures like they do on all other days.  Of course, the effects are much different. 

Five Self-Compassion Steps To Overcome Social Media Rejection

So, how can we respond with self-compassion to Social Media Rejection?  The first thing you need to do is to take the day off of social media.  When dealing with an open wound, your initial recourse must be to stop the bleeding.  The second thing you need to do is to contact others for support, so that you are not alone with this feeling.  Rejection is strongest, when its prey is a party of one.  Its power lies in its ability to convince you that you are unlovable, which is greatly diminished by the company of others.  

The third thing you need to do is to label this feeling, and allow yourself to feel it.  This will stop your brain from making this one experience a much bigger problem than it is.  The fourth thing you need to do is to accept that you come by this experience naturally, that you are undeserving of its pain, and let it pass through you. 

Lastly, you want to do something really kind for yourself.  You heard me. Get out of your house, and go some place that you feel loved.  Make sure this place has enough going on to capture your attention in a positive way.  Do not avoid your feelings.  When they show up, they show up.  Simply acknowledge them.  Let them pass, and return to the love you have summoned inside and out.  Never forget that you are more than enough no matter your experience. 

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 255.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Non-Morning People Working Early Morning Hours

Early Morning

We need self-compassion for the early morning, especially when we are not morning people.  Early in my career, I would see people early in the morning, and they would often remark, “I simply cannot deal with the morning.  There are so many demands, and I am no where close to being awake!”  Internally, I would be nodding my head.  I understood.  The morning is tough for me too.

Morning People VS. Night People

I used to have a mentor, who was a very seasoned psychiatrist.  He told me that blood flow and the body’s tendency towards warmth at certain times during the day would determine whether someone was a morning person or a night person.  I think he would laugh now if I asked him what one should do if they have to wake up early and go to bed late, and were no longer sure that they were an any time of the day person.  Although I kid, the truth is that I still find the energy to be very productive and to develop good relationships, which I attribute to ample self-compassion and love for other people.  

My Self-Compassion Routine For The Early Morning

As you wake up, notice how you feel, and allow yourself to have these feelings without apologizing or trying to change them.  Like a stick floating in the sea, allow these feelings to pass by, observing them as they present themselves and then fade away.  As my old supervisor, Amir, was fond of saying, “They’re just passing by.”  Find a self-compassion routine that both embraces your fatigue, and helps you feel steadily more awake in a nurturing way.  I used to start the day with an espresso and a shower, but after much time spent practicing mindfulness I realized that I was rushing to feel awake.

Now, I give myself a full hour to wake up, and make coffee and a protein shake that I can slowly sip, as my mind warms up gently with mindless videos.   I used to try to wake up with an inspired reading.  Boy, did my brain dislike that!  Once, I am more awake, I take a shower, and dress in clothes that I have put out the night before.  Less work in the morning means less stress, and more well-being.  Finally, I rely on mellow music, and my ride into work to put the final touches on my preparation for the day.  I try to begin each one with a quiet promise to make the best of it.  My mantra is: “Who knows?  Could be fun?”  Then, I  show up, and let the day do the heavy lifting.

What’s Your Routine?

This routine has helped me, and my clients, but I would love to hear about your routines.  Let me know if there is a particular routine that allows you to be aware and at home with how you feel naturally, and gives you permission to respond to this experience with compassion and inspiration.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 253.  In The Books.