Self-Compassion

Accept and love yourself with all your beauty and imperfections.  Be kind to your body and your soul.  Embrace your feelings, tend to your needs with care and compassion.  Only by loving yourself will you be able to love others.  Dr. Kristin Neff

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about self-compassion. What does it mean to offer compassion to ourselves? I believe we are practicing self-compassion when we make the choice to be kinder to ourselves and remember we are human and worthy of love.  To extend this level of grace to ourselves involves the choice to practice self-compassion when we make mistakes, or even when someone else is being hard on us. I’m not sure about you, but on this earthly journey, I struggle with being hard on myself, and I also worry about how others perceive me. But I am learning that the antidote to judgment, whether this judgment comes from an internal place or external one, is self-compassion. We must offer ourselves kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, and cut ourselves a break, even if others in our life don’t.  A therapist I work with has a voice message that says, “Remember to treat yourself with kindness and give yourself an abundance of grace.”  We are human and we will make mistakes and fall short on this journey.  But our mistakes and imperfections are what it means to be alive and human and our fallibilities can actually be gifts that helps us to grow.  So if we feel like we have said the wrong words or made a bad decision, we definitely want to learn from our mistakes, but we must also stop beating ourselves up and offer ourselves love and grace.  We have to remind ourselves that we don’t have to be perfect.  We are human and no matter what flaws or mistakes we have made, we are worthy of love and forgiveness.

I encourage you to consider recommitting yourself today to the practice of being kind to yourself through the thoughts you have about yourself and the words you speak out loud. Part of self-compassion is also about making time for ourselves. We not only need to have kind thoughts and words towards ourselves, but we must practice compassion for ourselves by making time for ourselves and remembering that we matter. Do you have a self-care practice?  A self-care practice is simply making time each day for you by doing something you love!  I enjoy journaling, walking, yoga, and spending time with loved ones.  What makes you come alive?

I am a licensed therapist and so many people wrongly assume that I have the journey of self-love all figured out. But the truth is that self-compassion is hard work, and it is a life-long dance that we must all practice and commit ourselves to doing.  Beyond being kind to myself and practicing self-care, I also know I experience a greater level of self-love when I admit my shortcomings with trusted loved ones.  I find when I am vulnerable with my friends and family about my growing edges and mistakes (or perceived ones), then they too open up about their own struggles. And then after we commiserate about whatever trials we are facing, we often normalize to one another that we are human and then we affirm the need to be kinder and gentler with ourselves.

The best part of self-compassion, is that when we practice offering it to ourselves, it is usually easier to offer this kind of love and acceptance to others in our life. So when we start mindfully treating ourselves with love, this can serve as a barometer to how we treat others in our lives.  Yesterday, I found myself being grumpy with a colleague and I realized I was being short with her because I had not practiced as much self-care and self-compassion in the past week as I usually do.  So I believe there is a definitive correlation between how we treat ourselves and how we treat one another.

I invite you to bring the palm of one hand to your heart.  Listen to the beat of your heart.  Remind yourself that you matter.  May this simple symbol serve as a tangible reminder to be kind to yourself.  Tend to your heart in the day ahead by offering yourself love and grace.  Perhaps say out loud:

In this day ahead, may I offer myself compassion.  May I extend myself kindness and an abundance of grace. I am enough. I am worthy of love. 

Let’s commit ourselves to the practice of self-compassion,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Avoiding Triangles in Relationships

“Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.”  Pema Chodron

The concept of triangulation was introduced by Dr. Murray Bowen. Bowen observed that when people in relationships experience conflict, they avoid dealing directly with the conflict by addressing it with one another, and instead they draw in a third party as a way to ease the anxiety. Bowen called this triangulation. Triangulation can be a way to diffuse a tense situation through venting and yet going to a third party can often complicate our relationship with the person we are upset at. The obvious fix for triangulation is to go to the person we are in conflict with and address it with them directly.  However, often people are reluctant to directly address problems with one another and unfortunately triangulation can cause much strife among friends and family members and can lead to years of avoidance and this learned behavior can be passed down from generation to generation.

When we choose to see someone as the problem, oppose their views, blame them, or choose not see anything redemptive in another person than we are behaving in an emotionally reactive posture. So if we find ourselves demonizing or blaming someone and venting to another person about this person, we need to be aware we have found ourselves in a triangle.

It is important to recognize the potential for triangulation in our relationships and to avoid participating in triangles when possible. We must work to de-triangulate in situations where we find triangulation already exists. Anytime we find ourselves agreeing with the communicator about a third party or defending the third party we have been triangled.  We also have been triangled when we lose our ability to maintain neutrality about the involved parties or when we find ourselves taking sides.

The best way to behave when someone invites us into a triangle is to not attack or defend someone but to have a neutral response. A non-anxious response is an emotionally mature response and non-anxious people are often well-liked and very successful. The key to de-triangling is to remain in contact with the people in the triangle, while controlling our own response so that we are emotionally neutral. When we de-triangle we are able to listen deeply and hear someone vent about another person or situation, but this does not mean we have to defame anyone or choose sides in a situation. If we are sought out for advice, we need to make sure that we do not say things to the advice seeker that we would not say directly all parties in the triangle.

It is important to avoid drawing in others and trying to get them on our side. Rather, we should take our concerns directly to the person we feel has wronged us or with whom we are feeling frustration. If addressing the conflict directly is difficult for us and we find ourselves feeling like we need to draw others in to the conflict, we must evaluate what is making us feel anxious enough that we feel the need to create a triangle to alleviate our anxiety.  If we have tried addressing the conflict and feel like this was not well-received, it may help us to discuss the situation with an uninvolved third party with the intention of processing how we can better address the situation with the person we are in conflict with.

Let’s reflect on the following questions?

  • Do we ever gossip about a third party?
  • Is it more important to feel like we are “in the right” instead of addressing the problem with the person who has upset us?
  • Do we tend to focus on a perceived flaw we see in someone else and talk to others about this person?
  • Do we tend to vent to others we are mad at in order to make ourselves feel better?
  • When do we triangle in someone or something else?
  • Is it possible to relate to someone without involving a third person or issue?
  • How can we avoid triangulation in our relationships?
  • Can you imagine being calm, not taking sides, or becoming emotionally reactive when a family member vents to you about another member of your family?

The reality is we are all human and find ourselves in triangles from time to time.  I know at times I find myself in triangles that I have created or that someone has pulled me into, but we grow emotionally as we learn how to avoid generating them and how to find our way out of them when others invite us to be in one.  As we learn how to avoid producing triangles or how to de-triangle ourselves when a friend, co-worker, or family member comes to us to blow some steam, we exhibit our emotional maturity and our ability to be a calm presence in the midst of the anxiety of life.

Let’s try our best to avoid dysfunctional triangles,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

 

One Cure for Loneliness

Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.  Martha Beck

I once met with a dying patient, whose name I have changed to Jack. Jack’s doctors told his daughters to call in the rest of the family, because he was probably only hours away from the end of his life.  Jack’s large family included many grandchildren, great grandchildren, children, nieces and nephews. When his family heard he was not responsive and likely dying some members of his family drove hundreds of miles to be with Jack, in what they assumed would be the last few hours of his life.  Jack told me during his comatose state, he was not able to respond verbally to his family, but he did hear everything his family was saying.  He heard his loved ones say “I love you,”  share special stories, and he listened as they spoke affirming words about his life. Jack smiled as he told me this experience with his family was almost like being present for his own funeral.  He said it was so nice to hear his family’s life-giving words and to have all of them with him.  Jack believed that the love and presence of his family brought him back to life, even if only for a little while.  He admitted that before his family showed up he had been lonely and when they all came it made him want to live for a little while longer.

Jack’s words struck me when he said the love and presence of his family brought him back to life.  I think it is imperative that we do not underestimate the power living in a connected way can have on a person. Our spiritual connections are very important in all stages of our lives. Unfortunately, we currently live in very disconnected culture.  We might be very connected to Facebook, Twitter, email messages, Instagram, Cable TV, Netflix and various forms of technology but we are now lonelier than ever.

This past week a terrible tragedy happened in Las Vegas, when 58 people attending a concert were violently shot to death. We don’t know a lot about the perpetrator, Stephen Paddock, but we are told through media reports is that he was a private person who tended to isolate himself from others. I believe a lot of the violence that is happening in our world could be lessened if we would live in more connected ways.  If we were more connected to God, others, our bodies, creation, and ourselves we would probably treat one another, the world, and ourselves in a kinder way.  If our culture encouraged real connections, instead of superficial ones, I wonder if Stephen Paddock might not have acted out in such a horrifying manner.  But unfortunately, he had to be disconnected from his own soul and the life buzzing around him in order to do something so vile.  Amit Ray believes, “Suffering is due to our disconnection with our inner soul.”  Our soul comes back to life when we connect through prayer, meditation, yoga, hiking, spending time with friends, volunteering, and participating in our favorite past-times.

The theologian Paul Tillich said, “Grace is the reunion of life with life, the reconciliation of the self with itself. Grace is the acceptance of that which is rejected.” Therefore, for Tillich to live in a state of grace is to work towards being reunited with God, others, and our selves.  We must forge real and meaningful connections with ourselves, one another, nature, and our higher power in order to live life to the fullest.  Once we start to connect we recognize our interconnectedness to the eco-system and all of humanity.  Love and connection brought the dying patient, Jack, literally back to life, but the choice to connect can also bring us back to life and serve as an antidote for our loneliness.  Let’s explore the following examples of ways we can connect:

  • The Divine                    (Worship, Prayer, Meditation)
  • Your Body                    (Yoga, Sensate Focus, Deep Breathing)
  • The Created World (Bird-watching, Hiking, Gardening)
  • Self                                  (Counseling, Expressing feelings, Journaling)
  • Others                            (Volunteering, Dining with a friend)

What do you need to do in the day and week ahead to connect?

Let’s find some new ways to connect to life,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health