• Shuree Waggoner LMHC

Why you need to know about self-compassion

Kristen Neff is one of the world's leading experts in self-compassion and is greatly respected for her work because it works! Here is an article where she introduces her Self-Compassion Workbook.




Tips for self-compassion practice - by Kristen Neff


Self-compassion is often a radically new way of relating to ourselves. Research shows that the more we practice being kind and compassionate with ourselves, either using informal practices such as the Self-Compassion Break, or formal meditation practices such as Affectionate Breathing – the more we’ll increase the habit of self-compassion.


There are a few tips to practicing self-compassion that are important to keep in mind for novice and experienced practitioners alike. Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill, not good feelings. In other words, even though the friendly, supportive stance of self-compassion is aimed at the alleviation of suffering, we can’t always control the way things are. If we use self-compassion practice to try to make our pain go away by suppressing it or fighting against it, things will likely just get worse. With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. This allows us to hold ourselves in love and connection, giving ourselves the support and comfort needed to bear the pain, while providing the optimal conditions for growth and transformation.


Some people find that when they practice self-compassion, their pain actually increases at first. We call this phenomena backdraft, a firefighting term that describes what happens when a door in a burning house is opened – oxygen goes in, and flames rush out. A similar process can occur when we open the door of our hearts – love goes in, and old pain comes out. There are a couple sayings that describe this process: “When we give ourselves unconditional love, we discover the conditions under which we were unloved” or “Love reveals everything unlike itself.” Fortunately, we can meet old pain with the resources of mindfulness and self-compassion and the heart will naturally begin to heal. Still, it means we have to allow ourselves to be slow learners when it comes to practicing self-compassion. And if we ever feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions, the most self-compassionate response may be to pull back temporarily – focus on the breath, the sensation of the soles of our feet on the ground, or engage in ordinary, behavioral acts of self-care such as having a cup of tea or petting the cat. By doing so we reinforce the habit of self-compassion – giving ourselves what we need in the moment – planting seeds that will eventually blossom and grow.


Note:

You don’t decrease the negative thoughts or thought content, but you are decreasing the consequences of the negative thinking. How you relate to the truth that is difficult – harshly with criticism, I’m so stupid, shouldn’t have happened, shouldn’t feel this way, or with self-compassion which relates to the person having the negative experience with kindness, care, connectedness, encouragement, understanding, mindfully accept, with presence.


The following is a recommendation for a workbook that practices self-compassion

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer


Exercise 1: How would you treat a friend?

How do you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when he or she is suffering? This exercise walks you through it.

Exercise 2: Self-Compassion Break

This exercise can be used any time of day or night and will help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion in the moment you need it most. Also available as an mp3.

Exercise 3: Exploring self-compassion through writing

Everybody has something about themselves that they don’t like; something that causes them to feel shame, to feel insecure, or not “good enough.” This exercise will help you write a letter to yourself about this issue from a place of acceptance and compassion.

Exercise 4: The criticizer, the criticized, and the compassionate observer

In this exercise, you will sit in different chairs to help get in touch with different, often conflicting parts of yourself (the criticizer, the criticized, and the compassionate observer), experiencing how each aspect feels in the present moment.

Exercise 5: Changing your critical self-talk

By acknowledging your self-critical voice and reframing its observations in a more friendly way, you will eventually form the blueprint for changing how you relate to yourself long-term. This exercise will help you learn how to do it.

Exercise 6: Self-Compassion Journal

Keeping a daily journal in which, you process the difficult events of your day through a lens of self-compassion can enhance both mental and physical well-being. This exercise will help make self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness part of your daily life.

Exercise 7: Identifying what we really want

Remember that if you really want to motivate yourself, love is more powerful than fear. In this exercise, you’ll reframe your inner dialogue so that it is more encouraging and supportive.

Exercise 8: Taking care of the caregiver

This exercise will allow you to keep your heart open and help you care for and nurture yourself at the same time you’re caring for and nurturing others.


The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer: The seeds of self-compassion already lie within you—this workbook will help you uncover this inner resource and transform your life.

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