Mindful Self-Compassion

Most of us will react to things going wrong in our lives with shame and self-criticism. We ask ourselves what our problem is and why can’t we cope. This just creates further emotional distress and we seem to dig ourselves a hole that gets bigger and bigger with more emotions such as anger, despair, confusion, fear joining the party. We feel overwhelmed, miserable and broken. The more we resist these emotions the more entangled we get. It is a bit like getting caught in a spider web – fighting the web only leads to a disastrous outcome! Fighting these emotions lead to destructive and maladaptive behaviours as a way of coping with them.

Why is it that when we have a friend of a loved one struggling we extend grace and compassion yet we are unable to do that for ourselves when we make a mistake, or are experiencing difficult emotions? When we can open ourselves to emotional distress with compassion and kindness, it is a game changer. When we can go from criticising and blaming, to compassion and self-acceptance it is like we drop out of that spider web. Our self-esteem improves, anxiety and depression reduce and peace returns. We are no longer fighting the web, feeling distressed and panicked.

When we are so consumed by our own emotional distress it causes a war inside and we become self-absorbed, isolated and critical of ourselves and others.

What is mindful self-compassion then? Mindfulness is a common term used in mental health/psychological circles and it can be simply defined as ” being aware of and accepting your current experience”. Meld that with compassion and it means being aware of your current experience and emotions and choosing to respond to them with compassion and self-acceptance rather than criticism and shame.

We naturally want to avoid pain and will fight it. Pain can induce anxiety and panic yet we can learn to sit with it and actually embrace it. Pain is inevitable in this life and each painful experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. Suffering though is optional. When we resist or avoid pain it has a tendency to cause more suffering. The aim of mindful self-compassion is being conscious of the responses pain causes in us, accepting it and then letting it go. I know, easier said that done, but the more you practice it, the easier it gets. Ultimately self-compassion and self-acceptance leads to FREEDOM.

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