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.

What Happens Next? : The Thought We Cannot Live Without.

Self-Compassion Blog.  What Happens Next? The Question We Cannot Live Without.

What Happens Next?

What happens next? is the one thought we cannot live without.  Our minds are constantly abuzz with this question, and savvy people all over the world cash in by writing and reporting half-finished stories. Like the all-but-forgotten Arabian Nights, television shows and films, alike, have become a series of to be continueds.  What happens to the main characters?  Do they live happily ever after?  Are they divorced within a year?  Did they actually die or are they simply wounded just enough to cause us doubt, but not enough to escape the sequel?  What is happening with politics, with sports, with celebrity drama?  How will it end?  What will people say?  Do these wives know about their cheating husbands?  Do these husbands know about their cheating wives?  How much money do these people really make?

Binge Attention

The result is binge attention.  We spend thousands of seconds, minutes, and hours focused on the lives and stories of others, manipulated by the ever present cliff hangers, clinging to any hope of resolution like a Charlie and The Chocolate factory character wishing, wanting, nearly pleading for one single golden ticket (ie: a resolution to these stories).  Part of this drive has to do with a desire to avoid the conflicts or obstacles in our own lives, but our fundamental propensity for curious investigation is equally involved.

If things were not innately difficult enough, we now have more access to celebrities, athletes, politicians, and television shows than we have ever had.  For years, we have been clamoring to know the unknowable.  These prized figures of sports and entertainment, whose true identity has eluded us for so long.  Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube all claim to have the answers to our quandaries, and like famished babies, we simply cannot get enough, filling our brains to the brim with scandal, secrets, spoiled endings, and emerging storylines.

An Unexpected U-Turn

Ironically, we find ourselves on an unexpected U-Turn.  This adventure outwards leads us inwards with fears that others are judging our lives in similar fashion, restricting the freedom with which we might have otherwise lived.  As a result, we spend far too much time wondering whether we need scandal or blandness to add value to our experience. As our work and relationships suffer from inattention, we think about how we might make changes in either domain, finding quizzically that the only answers we seem to possess come from an amalgamation of the stories and people on which we have been binging. 

As you can imagine, these inclinations fail us, but perhaps not for the reasons you would guess.  You see, work and relationships are about connection – what happens between two people – and mainstream media highlights the individual.  Of this you can be sure, not one action you take, no place you travel, nor extraordinary selfie that you craft will somehow transform from individual effort into relational success.  Thus, our efforts to mind social media leave us with few answers about how to live a relationally meaningful life.

The Parachute

We need a way out, a parachute if you will, and I have good news.  You do not have to change your underlying drives.  You simply need to accept them, and decide if they are serving your goals at that very moment.  You will have a tough choice between intrigue and happiness, but a wise man once said it is not what you love, but how you love that counts.  To truly love yourself, you must love others, and if by extension you love all people, then your mind will shift to the What Happens Next question that is truly important: how to live in a way that gives positive meaning to your life and the lives of the people you love.  Most people have this epiphany in life. It just tends to come after near death experiences, trauma, or terminal illness.  We can all think of a handful of people, who lived an inspiring life, when time starts running out.  There is literally a song about it called, Live Like You Are Dying by Tim McGraw.

Do not wait.  Grab your life by the horns, and kiss it right on the mouth.  Share with this world that which makes you unique, and also the common struggles and hopes that bind you to all people.  Solve this age-old problem with one simple phrase you can say to yourself: I’m sorry to have neglected you, your wishes for yourself and the world need attending, and I am here now to do what I can to address both.  Do small things.  Big things never really get done, unless you count the number of small things that lead to big things.  You decide what happens next for you, and see if even the most minimal effort does not help you feel a little lighter, a little more powerful, and a lot more content.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 263.  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 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.

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.

Self-Compassion For Our Wish To Be All Things At All Times For Our Family And Friends

Our Wish To Be All Things At All Times For Family And Friends

 Self-Compassion For Our Wish To Be All Things At All Times For Our Family And Friends sounds like a lengthy title, but somehow people know what I am talking about immediately.  When we love other people, we don’t simply wish to be around them.  We hurt for them.  We want for them.  We pray for them.  We want to show up for them, and include them in every facet of our lives.  Let’s be honest.  We are greedy, and trying to keep up with all those wishes and wants leaves us feeling a little ragged. 

Too Much Compassion

Prior to becoming a psychologist, I might have told you that you can never be too compassionate, but working with people of varying caring professions, and important family roles, I can say honestly that this is not true.  If your self-compassion does not make up half the compassion you give, then you are definitely giving too much.  Think of it this way.  The heart gives compassion, which, despite its virtue, results in fatigue.  Self-Compassion gives the heart time to heal and recover.  Without this time, the heart will experience injury, and require substantial time to heal.

Lost In Our Love For Others

I like this topic because it is easy to get lost in our love for others, especially since we live in a world that underrates the amount of work it takes to do so, and the recovery required to love others with consistency.  It does not serve us to pretend tasks are easier than they are because the body experiences all, and you cannot lie to it.  When the body is exhausted, it will simply collapse, no matter how many efforts you make to convince it that it is not tired, or should not be because others say so.  In this way, it is not personal as it applies to all people, and very personal because the effects it will have on you will be unique.

Self-Compassion For Our Wishes To Be Present To Friends And Family

So, how can we make this love last, and take care of ourselves at the same time?  First, notice how you feel in your body right now, and soften around the parts of you that are tense.  Acknowledge that you come by this fatigue and stress naturally, simply because you desire to be a positive influence and companion in the lives of others.  Then, make a list of priorities.  The pen is your friend.  From this list, list two people (if this is realistic) that you can respond to in a day, then write down a few things you need to take care of for work or school, leaving enough space for recovery, and kindness. 

When this is done, go take a walk.  Listen to some relaxing music.  Read a book or watch something that sets you at ease, and gives you a break from your need to assist or be conversive with others.  Before you go to sleep, take some time to breath, noting with each breath, May this breath be enough.  May my efforts be enough.  May my love be enough.  May I be enough.  Then, let this work go, and give yourself permission to let the day pass, as you drift off to sleep.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 251.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Your Desire To Leave A Legacy

Self-Compassion For Your Desire To Leave A Legacy

Your Desire To Leave A Legacy

We need self-compassion for our desire to leave a legacy.  Since the dawn of mankind, people have tried to leave reminders of their presence in statues, buildings, monuments, and even crudely carved initials or drawings.  To balance the difficulties that life throws at us, we would like recognition for our efforts in life and death.  For some, leaving lasting change is not only something that gives their life meaning, it is something that helps them get through every day.  And yet, because life is so unpredictable, some days we feel our work has gone unnoticed, and our legacy motivations become legacy stressors.  In these very moments, what we need most is self-compassion.

The Trouble With Legacies

It is easy to look at well-known artists, authors, inventors, those involved with business and politics, and say, “I think I could do that.  What could be more gratifying than creating lasting change?”  However, most of these people suffered greatly in their tasks, and were not fully recognized (or recognized at all) until years after they died. Transforming some part of the world means that you will have to work through very tough days without recognition.  Fortunately, you can use self-compassion to ensure that you get the rewards and care you need to persevere through these trying times.

Self-Compassion Steps For Managing Legacy Problems  

During those days in which you feel overlooked, stressed, and disappointed in others or your own efforts, name one of these feelings.  Notice where there is tension in your body, and soften around these parts.  Note how you have come by these feelings naturally.  It is so hard to work at creating change, and even harder to feel that your efforts are not valued.  Because it would be futile to try to control the future, instead we are going to focus on creating opportunities for change, since that is the one thing we can control.  Regardless of the outcome, we are going to reward ourselves for having the courage to act.  Slowly, your mind and body will get the sense that there is someone, who will always recognize and reward them for their efforts, someone they can always count on, you.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 250.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Setting Reachable Goals, And 3 Easy Steps To Achieve Them

Setting Goals

If there is a time for self-compassion, it is when people are setting goals.  We tend to set broad, very unrealistic goals that require superhuman will power and energy to complete them.  I do not know who we picture working to accomplish these goals, but I hope it is not us.  We are only human, and such goals would probably cause us a lot of pain and anguish.  I do not know how you feel about pain, and anguish, but I am against them.  And, yet, it is really important to set short and long-term goals that are in keeping with our values, if we are to live an inspiring, and meaningful life.  Geesh!  What should we do?

Giving Up

This is normally the point in which people become stressed, and give up on their goals.  Netflix has shows waiting for them, and they have gone minutes since checking their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.  But, later that night, they find that they cannot sleep.  They toss, and turn, and then toss, and turn some more.  Something is gnawing at them, and they turn on the light to get some clarity.  Annoyed, they ask themselves what the big idea is.  The mind inquires, “What are you doing with your life?”  Immediately, their brain brings them back to the moment in which they were so overwhelmed with planning that they gave up, and they start to feel disappointed, and dejected.

Finding Your Way Back To Hopefulness With Self-Compassion

As you might imagine, this is a great time for self-compassion.  You could give yourself self-compassion for not being able to sleep, or self-compassion for worrying about your life, or self-compassion for how hard it is to erect a manageable blueprint for one’s goals.  You might find yourself with a little more well-being, and be able to return to bed.  Of course, when you wake up the question is still there, but not because you are seeking more disappointment or self-criticism.  This question reappears because deep down inside you have a formidable wish that is not easily scared off.  This wish is for you to live an inspiring and meaningful life.

Self-Compassion For Your Goal Concerns And 3 Quick Steps To Goal Success

Remembering the self-compassion you practiced last night, you think to yourself about how you might use self-compassion to plan your goals.  This is what you do.  You notice the anxiety that comes up with this burden, and you name it.  You notice the areas of your body that are tense and you soften around them.  You notice how you have come by this stress naturally, and you bring compassion and kindness to your experience. 

Then, you do the following three things.  Pick one goal that allows you to be present and full of love at work, with friends, and at home.  Then, write down two things that are necessary to complete this goal.  Finally, make a plan to work on one of them, and take a picture of your long- term goal that you keep on your phone or print and laminate to keep in your wallet or pocket.  When the worries about your life re-emerge, and they will, return to the self-compassion practice, acknowledge the action that you are taking, and take a look at your picture.  The best part about this process is that literally anybody can do it, and the few that do will find greater fulfillment, inspiration, and ease than they have experienced in a long time.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 239.  In The Books.