Self-Compassion: Turning Self-Hate into Self-Love

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We were trained to be hard on ourselves, to reach for the stars and kick our own ass’s if we didn’t touch them. We normalized trash talk in sports, and looked our girlfriends up and down to make sure they were cool enough to be seen with us. We watched our weight, we watched our friend’s weight, and we persecuted ourselves if the scale tipped in the wrong direction. In school we either got great grades or flunked every class and we made certain that everyone knew how fantastic we were or that we were anarchist losers ready to take down the system, and when we slipped in our roles…well that’s when we were the hardest on ourselves.

Each year one in five students has thoughts of killing themselves, making suicide the number two cause of death among students age 15-24. Our children are suffering from test anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, depression, and so much more. It’s time that we taught ourselves and our children to be kind to the person we’ve become. It’s time we chose kindness over toughness because none of us are tough enough to face the pressures of today without a lot of support and self-love.

Self-Compassion is not a new concept but it is being presented in a new way by Dr. Kristin Neff in her book, The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. This is the single most effective self-help book I have ever read. All my negative self-talk is gone. I have to repeat that. All of my negative self-talk IS GONE! After years of not feeling thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, good enough, worthy enough, outgoing enough, I now know that I am enough exactly as I am.

In the opening chapter Dr. Neff says, “Self-Compassion involves treating yourself the way you would treat a friend who is having a hard time.” It’s that simple. From there the book leads you through meaningful practices in mindfulness, releasing resistance, developing loving-kindness, and so much more. And if you’re worried that this may be one of those impossibly difficult to read books, it’s not. It reads like a child’s how to, on the proper care of a kitten. I think I loved that best about this book. It took the thing that tortures and kills us every day, our lack of self-worth, and it solved it with a practice so easy to follow that a child can understand it. Everything about Dr. Neff’s The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, is loving, simple, and above all, compassionate.

We really don’t have a choice anymore. Our mental health impacts our physical health, our spiritual health and the overall health of our families and our community. As I travel through my own healing journey, I will share with you what has worked and what has not. For me, Dr. Neff’s The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook is a must read/must practice book to keep with you all your life. Share it with your family, share it with your friends, share it with the world. We only have one life in this body. Let’s live it with more love and Self-Compassion.

You are Strong. You are Worthy. You were made for these times.

I love you. Keep going. You got this.

Self-regulation and the baby steps to joy

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Why do we hurt? Why is trauma so emblazoned in our memory that to touch it with thought is to relive it, moment by torturous moment, until we sink under the weight of the memory. The loss of a grandparent, the loss of a friend, a miscarriage, a rape, a breakup with the person you thought was the one. Why do we hurt until we break, even years after the moment of pain has passed? Whoever said time heals all wounds was never traumatized, and never felt a loss so acute that sixty years later just a fragment of the memory is a punch to the gut.

Two people can witness the same traumatic event, a car crashes into a pole at high speed. The first viewer is troubled, talks to the police, talks to his family and friends and lets the incident slip into his past. The second viewer is traumatized, cries when he talks to the police, can not discuss the incident with his family or friends, avoids the place where the accident occurred and is shaken every time he sees a car similar in color and type to the one in the accident.

Why did both people come to such different places in terms of how they reacted to the incident? First is the preconditioning of the nervous system. The first viewer has self-regulation, few past traumas and a set sense of self and the world around him. The second viewer has a dysregulated nervous system, lives in high alert, and has a poor sense of self and the world around him. He has been traumatized before, and the world is a scary and uncertain place for him.

What makes the memory so physically painful for viewer two is the amount of emotion he was flooded with when the incident occurred. His preprogrammed heightened arousal to danger, his low self-regulation, and high sense of uncertainty etched the car crash into his memory in horrifying detail. It is the amount of emotion experienced by the perceiver that decides whether an incident is traumatic or just simply troubling.

Self-regulation is key to managing trauma and stopping new trauma from forming. We self-regulate by talking to a qualified trauma specialist, doing deep breathing work to regulate the nervous system, going regularly to yoga or tai chi classes, managing stress, practicing prayer and meditation, and above all by surrounding ourselves with people and environments that help us feel calm and supported. Calming and regulating the nervous system is key to self-regulation and regulating the emotional brain.

So, turn off the news, cut out toxic people that leave you feeling weakened and drained, do not watch movies that are fear based, and lastly have faith in the creator who made you. Dr. Brene’ Brown says, we dress rehearse tragedy to beat vulnerability to the punch, meaning we live in a constant state of expecting our next trauma because it is too terrifying to believe that joy just might be our next great experience. To experience joy, we must first be vulnerable and willing to be open to change. I ask you to lean into your Creator, lean into healthy love, lean into gratitude, lean into your healing work, and prepare yourself for joy; After all, joy was once your natural state of being.

Keep going-You got this-I love you