The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Chris Germer
Read the following simple mantra or prayer below. Copy it down and keep it with you to take out and read when you are suffering.
This is a moment of suffering Suffering is a part of life May I be kind to myself in this moment May I be compassionate with myself through this pain
This mantra is really about acceptance, which is a good starting point for developing selfcompassion. Accepting where you are right now without judgment and kindly helping yourself to do better is how you would treat any other human being in your situation. It is important to recognize you are a human being too, and you need to give to yourself what you give others.
Putting It All Together
The connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can be very difficult to detect at first, but will become clearer overtime. With practice, becoming a witness to your thoughts and challenging them as well as accepting, tolerating, and transforming your feelings, will get increasingly easier.
You might find challenging your thoughts helps in making better decisions right away, or you might first find yourself getting lost in an endless mind battle. You might need to attend more to transforming the feelings in your body in order to respond in a healthier way. It is up to you to try out the ideas we share and find what works best for you.
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS: STRATEGIES FOR HANDLING THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
Learning to manage feelings is something we all work on and struggle with to some extent. When trying to come up with examples of how to deal with difficult feelings, we realized that we both have different strategies and decided it might be helpful to share these with you.
Gwen: The first thing I do when I want to transform anger is to try to understand what feeling is underneath the anger so I know what I need to do to help myself. The feelings under my anger are almost always hurt, guilt, or fear. I tend to be a very cerebral person, so working with my thoughts and feelings helps me. My strategies for each are a bit different, so identifying what is under my anger is crucial. If I realize fear is under my anger, I take some deep breaths and reassure myself that everything will be okay. I remind myself that anger doesn’t help me and can make others around me feel attacked or blamed, which isn’t what I want. I will usually take responsibility for this out loud, which helps me as well as anyone around me.
If I realize that guilt is lurking under my anger, I take a look at my boundaries. If I am setting boundaries, like saying no, and feeling guilty about it, I know my guilt isn’t really guilt, but actually anxiety and will go away quickly. If I feel angry because I’m not setting boundaries so others are doing things I don’t like, I remind myself that it is my job to teach people how to treat me and if I’m not doing that, it’s not really fair to be angry at them. Regardless of what feeling is under my anger, to transform it, I always try to take responsibility for any part that is mine, see the other person’s perspective and search for any reason to feel compassion toward that person. Compassion seems to quell anger pretty quickly for me. If I am still angry after that, I let some time pass because I know I tend to let go of anger after a few days, even when I want to hold onto it. I intentionally do not allow myself to engage until time has passed and my emotions have lessened. I often say to myself, œIf it’s a good idea to say this today, it will still be a good idea three days from now. Eventually, if I still think it’s necessary and appropriate, I will set up a time to talk and hopefully resolve the conflict.
Carolyn: I had a wonderful, loving mom who allowed me to express myself freely. I felt heard and validated. However, there was an exception to this that I did not even know about until I was an adult. After I developed an eating disorder, my mother told me that she had not been comfortable with anger and found it particularly difficult in females. She actually apologized to me, saying, œWhen you were young and fought with your brother it was uncomfortable for me to see anger in a little girl. I actually treated you and your brother differently in regards to this. I would grab you and pull you away from the situation.
This helped me understand that my reaction of turning anger to sadness, as discussed earlier, must have been, at least partially, influenced by my mother’s discomfort with anger. In the long run, I have found this very useful because hurt and sadness are the primary emotions underneath anger, and the sooner you get to them, the better.
The first thing I do when I feel angry is stop and pay attention to my body. I feel myself want to get still and feel what I feel. Most of the time what happens next is that I feel sad and I cry. This clears the negative energy, paving the way for me to discuss my feelings calmly. Sometimes the anger stays with me and I know I need to get it out of my body before I can be productive. Trying to think about another person’s perspective, or see my own part in the situation, will be too influenced by what my body is feeling. Therefore, I try to do something to cool off, calm down, and get my body back to neutral before trying to figure things out or communicate my feelings. I might listen to music or go for a walk in nature. Occasionally I want to talk to someone to help me discharge the anger, and if so, I try to prepare the person for my angry energy. I have always found it helps both the other person as well as myself when I give warning before using them to discharge my emotions.