Healing Starts With Self-Compassion

“It is only kindness that makes sense anymore.”

This is the quote that a friend has at the bottom of her email. Every time I see it, I pause and think about it. It’s worth thinking about.

Why? Because we NEED kindness. Just look in and around you. I think about the world and its need for love…the need that so many people who are suffering on this planet have for care, affection, attention, and in many cases action. It is impossible to deny the cruelty that exists. In fact it is compassion, which starts with self-compassion, that is needed here.

I also think about myself and my own waves of suffering and well-being, which are quite hard to admit to but – in fact – suffering is part of the human experience. For quite awhile now (decades), I have been examining the nature of suffering and the importance of love. I finally came to terms with the fact that my last name bears this word ‘Love’ at the front end of it, and for me…that must mean something. Time to dedicate myself more deeply to addressing the suffering that exists in this world, in the spheres where I can make a difference.

The quote above, for your information, comes from a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye called ‘Kindness‘. Self-compassion gathered attention recently, largely because of the research of Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, whom I have been a fan of for a few years now. But much of their work is derived from the basic principles of Buddhism, which acknowledges that suffering is an inevitable fact of life to be dealt with through the practices of loving-kindness and meditation. There are other teachers who have done a splendid job of raising the consciousness of people who want to do something to heal themselves and others…there are Jon Kabat-Zinn, Tara Brach, and Pema Chodron. In fact, there are too many people to name, but these are people who have been at the fore of research on how Self-Compassion and Mindfulness (which I’ll talk about in more detail another time) work to heal the mind and body, affecting not only individuals but communities. Many are engaged in this work. I would like to think of myself as a filter for your learning. Take what I have learned and apply it to yourself, if you think it will help.

Now, a simple question:

Isn’t that something? Here is where the rubber hits the road:

If you have been reading the How Women Heal blog posts for awhile, you’ll know that much of the work we’re doing here relates to loss, grief, regret, and the subsequent feelings of isolation, aloneness, loneliness, numbness, self-recrimination, self-blame and shame that can come in the wake of a personal tragedy. Not every day is filled with the darkness of tragedy upon tragedy, but when darkness overtakes hope and a sense of balance and normality fade in memory, there is a need for love…a specific kind of love: self-compassion.

Self-compassion involves recognizing but not exaggerating the suffering you feel, recognizing that many people suffer similarly (so you are not alone with this pain and nor should you feel alone). It also involves learning to empathize with yourself and treat yourself as you would a friend who is in need. These are fundamental practices that support healing. One of the factors that affects the way you may practice self-compassion is your ‘personality type’, or shall we say…your tendencies. Now, I’m a believer in educational psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck’s theory and evidence that shows that you are not fixed in who you are…you can choose to counter impulses with patience and, ahem, self-compassion and care. Dweck refers to this as ‘mindset’. You can change your mind about something, become motivated and encouraged, and change things, accomplishing great things! What if we could accomplish what we’ve always wanted to? Successful people have not only drive, but a positive or willing mindset. My personal belief is that this is hard to sustain without self-compassion, the ability to be kind to yourself, the ability to be loving towards yourself.

So, our focus this month is self-compassion.

My aim through the coming programs via How Women Heal is to make a small but palpable difference on this planet by providing a safe place for women who are in the throes of suffering to look at their pain, understand it, and change the way they relate to it. If you aren’t looking after you, then how can you be sure anyone else is? Let me be clear: this isn’t only for women who are in the dregs and clutches of their personal demons…though you might be. Grief comes and goes like waves…for years. It’s normal. April is the time of spring and renewal in the northern hemisphere at least, and we’re going to use this to focus on self-compassion, looking at how we self-sabotage ourselves and how we can turn some of that around…to create a future that really feels good!

How might you relate to this? If it is easier to turn on yourself when you’re hurting badly than it is to befriend yourself and treat yourself kindly and with self-compassion and self care, then this is going to be a slow and steady month of re-thinking how you look after you.  This month is dedicated to the woman who struggles to do this for herself, and to those who are leaders in this work.

Enjoy the work in the Facebook Group – and I look forward to engaging with you and helping you to develop a more self-compassionate way of being.

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