Each of us must care and love ourselves before we can love others.
(Apologies if this post rambles around a bit!)
Dr. Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion. Dr. Neff has a website over at Self-Compassion.org. If you go to that site you will quickly read (And while I have copied and pasted it 100% as found on that webpage, I have modified the layout to make it easier to read from a visual point-of-view.):
Definition of Self-Compassion:
Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like.
First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is.
Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly.
Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.”
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.
Let me highlight a small section from this:
“ ….having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us.”
This is the human condition; whatever one’s gender, status in life or age!
There is no question that I learnt something from my cycling accident last November 22nd and my subsequent emergency admission to hospital for sub-dural bleeding on December 24th. Something that I would not otherwise have understood so clearly and so starkly.
The remarkable power of the brain to heal itself; albeit very slowly compared with some minor physical injuries.
The BBC science series Horizon broadcast earlier this year the story of ‘Richard’. The full title was My Amazing Brain: Richard’s War.
Horizon follows the story of Richard Gray and his remarkable recovery from a life-changing, catastrophic stroke. Recorded by his documentary film-maker wife Fiona over four years, this film provides a rare account of the hard work that goes into post-stroke rehabilitation.
Initially bed bound and unable to do anything, including speak, the initial outlook was bleak, yet occasionally small glimmers of hope emerged. Armed always with her camera, Fiona captures the moment Richard moves his fingers for the first time, and then over months she documents his struggle to relearn how to walk again.
The story also features poignant footage delivered in a series of flashbacks, in which we see and hear Richard at his professional best. He was a peacekeeper with the United Nations, immersed in the brutal war in Sarajevo, Bosnia. We also hear from the surgeons and clinicians who were integral to Richard’s remarkable recovery, from describing life-saving, high-risk reconstructive surgery to intensive rehabilitation programmes that push the former soldier to his limits.
As the film starts, Fiona asks ‘will Richard, my Richard still be there?’ By the end the answer is clear.
Unfortunately unless you are in the UK it is not possible to watch the programme.
But Fiona, Richard’s wife, has produced a YouTube video. It so much deserves to be watched:
Moving on, yet again.
I am of no doubt that most, if not all, of us at some point in our lives wonder what on earth is the point in what we are doing or where we are at the stage in our own life’s journey. Certainly has applied to me in the past.
Frequently when we are a bit lost as to where on earth we are heading it helps enormously to hang on the shirt-tails of others.
Professor Clayton Christiansen has some really fabulous shirt-tails. For now just watch his presentation given at TEDx
“It’s actually really important that you succeed at what you’re succeeding at, but that isn’t going to be the measure of your life.”
For a slightly different perspective, watch Adam Leipzig.
Being human means a journey from birth through maturity and thence to death. It is likely that the last phase generates the greatest fear for us. But let’s not dwell on that for now!
Because I want to close my introspective journey by returning to self-compassion.
Or rather for our compassion for this beautiful planet that is the one and only home we have.
Dear Carl Sagan sums it up as perfectly as one could ever ask for.
Alright folks! I’m through!
Must go and hug a dog! (Or, more accurately, a dog memory!)
Tomorrow a clutch of dog recall advisories that have come in recently!
As they say a change is as good as a rest!
Once again I must say that I hold no qualifications whatsoever in the fields of psychiatry, psychology or any related disciplines. If you have found yourself to be affected to the point where you think you need proper counselling then, please, do seek help.