Posts from the ‘Self-Compassion’ category

I recently completed the Mindful Self-Compassion teacher training this past June with Christopher Germer, Dawn MacDonald, & Michelle Becker. While mindfulness is quite the buzz word these days, most people are left not really having an understanding of what this self-compassion business is about.

First of all, mindfulness and self-compassion complement one another and are actually meant to be practiced together. Think of a plant in a pot. The mindfulness would be the moment-by-moment changes in our awareness of what is happening with the plant. The self-compassion would be the pot and soil, providing a container that nourishes the plant. (and for the purpose of my compassionate plant analogy here, the pot and soil are very gently and lovingly holding this awareness of the plant). In sum, the self-compassion is HOW we relate to ourselves, as we observe WHAT is arising in our awareness.

Second of all, self-compassion is slightly (maybe more than slightly) neglected in our culture. Most of us never really learned that it is OK to be kind and gentle toward ourselves and the complexities involved in being a human being. (Where was the “how to” guide??). How many of us experienced consistent messages in school or from our parents that we were loveable even if we were mediocre with our academic performance, athletic skills, or (fill in the blank quality) ____________? Consequently, we can at times be our own worst critic, self-policing to be better, and beating ourselves up when we perceive we’ve fallen short… Enter the need for self-compassion (i.e., to be gentle with our flaws and humanness).

Self-Compassion research is actually relatively new (within the past two decades). The focus has historically been on self-esteem and how to raise self-esteem in children. But what the research has showed us is that self-esteem doesn’t actually promote a stable sense of self-worth. In fact, it has be found to promote narcissistic tendencies, thereby preventing us from really being able to look at ourselves honestly and be vulnerable in our relationships. Self-esteem says that we’re good enough when we are making the mark, but leaves us quite defeated during periods of mediocrity, mistakes, and “failure” – all of which are a natural part of this journey of being a human being. Self-compassion on the other hand, says that we are worthy of kindness just for being human, independent of what we *do* or accomplish.

The Self-Compassion research has been pioneered by research psychologist Kristen Neff. She combined forces with clinical psychologist Christopher Germer and they created an 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion Course designed to teach human beings to re-learn how to relate to themselves with kindness. (Links to their books below)

There are Mindful Self-Compassion courses offered online (https://centerformsc.org/lomsc/). I also plan to offer an in-person group in Thunder Bay in January of 2019. Stay tuned for details!

For more information on Mindful Self-Compassion, check out the websites and books of Kristen and Chris:

KRISTEN NEFF:
Website: http://www.selfcompassion.org/
Book: Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself (2011)

CHRISTOPHER GERMER:
Website: https://chrisgermer.com/
Book:The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions (2009)

Shame is a very difficult, universal human emotion. We all feel it. And it’s normal to not like feeling it. So naturally we resist shame when it arises in our lives. The same way we close up over an open wound or the muscles around an injured part of the body tighten or clench.

Shame is different than guilt, where guilt says “I did something bad” shame says, “I am bad.” Nobody really likes to talk about shame, because the very nature of shame is to keep it secret. Brene Brown talks about the three conditions necessary to “grow” shame: Secrecy, Silence, and Judgement. Don’t talk about it, lock it in the vault, and judge yourself harshly for it.

But self compassion researchers, Chris Germer and Kristen Neff have found that despite shame being a challenge for most of us, that many paradoxes exist when we look a little closer. These include:

1. Shame feels blameworthy, but it is an innocent emotion. The need to be loved and belong is one of the strongest desires that human beings have. Shame makes us believe that some part or all of us is unloveable, that we are too flawed to be accepted by others. So shame actually comes from our innocent desire to belong, to be approved of, and to be accepted. If we can have compassion for our desire to belong, it can take us out of the self-blame story.

2. Shame makes us feel separate and alone, but it connects us to the rest of humanity. The majority of humans all across the world, no matter what their differences experience shame. Despite being something that makes us “feel” different, it actually indicates that we are “more alike” other humans than we are different.

3. Shame feels old and all-encompassing, but it is a temporary state- like all emotions- that reflects just a part or who we are. Emotions come and go. But because we resist shame and don’t like to feel it, it can feel like “why is this still here?! What’s wrong with me?” When really, shame will always be there, just like all the other emotions that come and go.

So next time you find yourself in shame, see if reflecting on any one of these paradoxes helps you to feel some compassion for your shame, or perhaps less alone and more connected to your humanity.