This article provides an excellent infographic on self-compassion and how self-criticalness is not self-compassion. Click on the link below to go to the article:
Emotions Are a Strength, Not a Design Flaw By Joanna Warwick (orginal blog post link:) http://tinybuddha.com/blog/emotions-strength-not-design-flaw/
Eyes that do not cry, do not see.” ~Swedish Proverb
Just get over it; don’t be so sensitive. You should toughen up and grow a thicker skin…
I’ve heard this advice so much over my life, but I’ve never seen it make anyone happy.
Advised to toughen up with thicker skins so we can protect ourselves, we end up just bottling it up inside and pushing away how we feel, hoping it looks like we’re strong.
It’s like trying to avoid our own shadow; believing it’s gone because it’s behind us, but it’s totally visible to anyone else who cares to look.
Instead of becoming stronger, this denying and rejecting behavior makes us more susceptible to danger, more fearful and wary, resulting in confusion and unhappiness, because we’ve thrown away the information we need to survive and thrive.
The Rhino’s Lesson While I was volunteering in South Africa for an animal conversation charity, I found myself in close proximity to a wild rhino in the early hours of the morning.
She was beautiful.
With only a few feet between us, and little shrub to block her path, she did not seek to fight or flee; she just stood there.
Although rhinos are quite blind, they have other strong senses, including smell, hearing, taste, external touch, and instinctual felt sense (internal and external nervous systems).
They have thick, layered, armored skin that protects them from sharp, thorny bushes, but they are not insensitive and tough.
In fact, their survival and ability to thrive is wholly dependent on their sensitivity.
She didn’t run or charge because she didn’t feel I was a threat.
Sensitivity Is Power Sensitivity means to be connected and aware of all our senses.
Our bodies are descendants of mammals, so we’re sensory beings.
This means, like the rhino, we are designed to use sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and felt sense to navigate the world around us and survive.
This sensory information creates an internal response to everything, including danger and safety, separation and bonding, otherwise known as emotions.
It’s a fact: we’re all emotional, male and female!
Unlike our animal cousins, though, we have an evolved conscious awareness to this emotional information, so they become defined as feelings—the language of emotions to which we attach judgment.
Instead of responding naturally and appropriately to this navigation system, we stress ourselves out, worry, shame, analyze, get embarrassed, get scared, get stuck, don’t act, ignore, or do the total opposite of what our body tells us to do.
The rhino does not question the sensory information the brain collects, it just acts appropriately either by running away and avoiding the danger, or standing still to assess and inquire.
Or, by running toward it, threatening with their full force of size, strength, weight, and their strong, sharp horn, not because they are bad tempered, but because they must still protect their well-being, even though they are naturally shy, curious, and non-predatory.
Confusing Safety and Danger Our brain continually processes sensory information to inform our responses to a situation or person by encouraging slowing down, moving toward or further away.
Teaching us to ignore, shame, disregard, and disconnect from this emotional sensory information leaves us unarmed, unprotected, and unsafe. It’s like being in conversation but only talking, never listening, and assuming what the other person thinks and feels.
How A War Zone Becomes Your Norm This behavior is most obvious in adults who experienced abusive childhoods or were parented inconsistently by alcoholics, drug addicts, or the mentally unstable, and if they were conditioned to be good girls and boys and shamed for expressing anger, desire, or tears.
In these environments, a child absorbs the message “Don’t express how you truly feel.”
If they accepted the sensory information they received, they would have had to accept that their home environment, where they needed to be cared and protected for survival, actually felt unsafe and rejecting to live in.
It’s unimaginable for a child to acknowledge that the parents who they love might not be safe, even if they come to see a difference in other families.
They learn not to respond appropriately, as it would result in possible physical danger, punishment and abandonment, so they disconnect, desensitize, do as they are told, try to please to make it safer, and stop trusting their feelings, because they lie and let them down.
If they continue this behavior into adulthood, they will keep seeking out the familiar—hurtful, disappointing, painful, unstable, rejecting, or even dangerous relationships and circumstances, to mirror the feelings of childhood.
Getting Emotionally Reconnected I used think women who cried were pathetic. I thought they should just get over it and pull themselves together, as this was how I saw my own emotions.
Every feeling I had was buried away, unspoken, and unshared, branded as either a sign of weakness, as regards to crying, or unacceptable, if it was anger. I considered every other feeling bad and dangerous.
My exterior had toughened up until I was cold and as hard as an ice queen.
I chose abusive lovers, friends, and bosses over and over again, even though when I met them all I had the same uncomfortable, sickie, withdrawing feelings. I just ignored them and believed I must be wrong; and I jumped into, at worst, dangerous and, at best, rejecting and unloving environments.
Part of my self-discovery was learning to get out of my judgmental head and back into my body; and trusting its natural ability to know my boundaries and how to protect myself, so I could begin to make the right choices for my health, well-being, and happiness.
I sought people who showed me how to demonstrate my emotions openly and gave me permission to feel angry and cry. I came to understand my body’s language, so, if I felt something, I got real and responded appropriately.
If I felt happy and safe, I smiled.
If I felt safe and laughed, I opened my mouth wide and laughed wholeheartedly from my belly.
If someone tried to disrespect me, I called them on it or walked away.
If I felt desire to touch and be touch, I trusted my intuition.
No longer confused and distrusting of my sensitivity, I didn’t need to waste my energy fighting and denying how I felt.
I was now open to love and intimacy, no longer terrified of it as dangerous, or afraid of rejection, because I felt safe in my ability to know and accept the truth.
I was now listening to the whole conversation and all the information I was receiving, so that like the beautiful rhino I could own our greatest strength of all: our emotional instinct to navigate the wilderness and know who is part of our herd.
By Joanna Warwick http://tinybuddha.com/blog/emotions-strength-not-design-flaw/
Following up on yesterday's R.A.I.N post; here is "See, Touch, Go".....R.A.I.N and See, Touch, Go are both simple, yet effective ways to work with emotions through a more accepting, compassionate stance. "If all you did was put your hand on your heart, and wish yourself well, it would be a moment well spent" ~ Elisha Goldstein. His article, published in mindful.org, is below. (Link to original article is at the end.)
3 Ways to Train the Compassionate Brain ~ Elisha Goldstein, Phd
When you’re focused on any activity, whether it’s your email, listening to a friend, or sitting in a formal meditation practice, your mind is bound to wander. In The Now Effect, I introduce the phrase “See, Touch, Go” as a way to remember how to work with the wandering mind. When it wanders we “See” that it wandered, then we “Touch” or spend a moment with the thought, and “Gently Go” back to the initial intention. Recently, a friend opened my eyes to how this phrase can be adapted to be a simple and practical way to strengthen a more compassionate brain.
I can’t wait to share it with you.
One day my friend Robin and I were discussing the power of “See, Touch, Go” to help stay focused on what matters. We talked about how it’s made us better listeners, more focused at work and less judgmental of ourselves when we veer from our intentions. She also told me that the other night she had an idea that adapted it for compassion. She said that the other night she was having a particularly difficult conversation with a friend and in that moment was able to See her own frustration arising and because she was aware of this she took an opportunity to Touch her heart to ignite a more loving awareness and decided to Go from there.
This transformed the moment from a battle to seeing the person in front of her as a woman with her own moment of struggling and that behind her eyes she had the same needs of wanting to feel understand and cared about. Wanting to feel accepted and have a sense of belonging.
With this compassionate awareness, Robin dropped down from her mental chatter and decided to listen to her friend and try and understand what she needed. The conversation went a whole lot better from there.
We can use this version of “See, Touch, Go” with self-compassion too. In a moment we that the volume in our minds is turned up with self-criticism and self-judgment, we can See what is happening, Touch our hearts as a gesture of self-kindness, maybe even asking what we actually need in that moment and Go from there. Instead of allowing the ruminative mind to spiral, maybe we step into a loving kindness practice to connect deeper to our hearts, or maybe a forgiveness practice to practice letting go. Or maybe what we need is to connect with another person so we call a friend, or get some space by taking a walk outside.
This reminds me of a saying in The Now Effect:
If all you did was put your hand on your heart and wish yourself well, it would be a moment well spent.
Here is the compassionate version of “See, Touch, Go” spelled out:
• See the struggle that is there, within you or within the relationship in the moment.
• Touch your heart either mentally or physically. Sensing into this area of the body is likely turn the volume down on the chatter and connect you to what really matters in the moment.
• Go from there, Go from the heart. Ask yourself, what do I need in this moment? What really matters? What action will align with what I need or what matters? Then do it.
It’s easy to see where this can come into play with ourselves, in parenting, at work, or in many of our relationships. Play with this practice with yourself and with others in the days to come and fine tune the skill of self-compassion and compassion. Allow your experience to enlighten you.
If we set the intention to practice the compassionate version of “See, Touch, Go” throughout the day I guarantee you that not only will you find more moments of love and joy, but the world would be a better place.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and conducts a private practice in West Los Angeles. He is author of book The Now Effect (Atria Books, 2012), Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler (Atria Books, 2013), and co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger, 2010).
New video posted on "The Power of Empathy", narrated by Brene Brown. Two and a half (or so) minutes full of information, insight, and practical "how to's". Check it out under the Ted Talks and Other Helpful Videos link on the side bar menu.
Many challenging feelings and moods, not only depression, respond to empathy.....from others, and from ourselves. This is wonderful blog post by Seth Adam Smith on empathy and depression. "My heart softened, and suddenly, the sadness didn't feel as strong. You see, depression thrives in secrecy but shrinks in empathy...." Check out Seth's blog post on Huffington Post (click on link below) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-adam-smith/depression_b_5169620.html