Putting Some Muscles into Mindful Self-Compassion
This post is a direct pass-through of a message from my mentor, teacher, and the co-developer of the Mindful Self-Compassion protocol, Kristin Neff. Kristin pioneered the research demonstrating the power of self-compassion to help people cope more resiliently by facing the hard, yucky things in life, and our reactions to those stressful experiences, with more kindness to ourselves in the moment, no matter if in the moment we were overwhelmed or going ballistic. [See Linda’s review of Kristin’s book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.]
Kristin is now offering her new audio recording through Sounds True of The Yin and Yang of Self-Compassion: Cultivating Kindness and Strength in the Face of Difficulty. Balancing the yin of self-compassion – the emotional friendliness to ourselves when we’re truly having a hard time with life – with the fiercer yang of self-compassion, practices to protect and motivate ourselves when the going gets tough.
Here’s her message and a sample exercise of the “muscle-ier” side of self-compassion:
After teaching and researching self-compassion for many years, I realized that as a practice, it was a little more complex than I had previously thought. I had been teaching self-compassion as a way to be there with yourself in a tender, nurturing way, which you might say is the yin side of self-compassion. But there was also a powerful, strong, active component of self-compassion: the yang side of self-compassion. Both of these energies of self-compassion are absolutely needed if we are going to take care of ourselves and alleviate our own suffering.
Yin self-compassion is embodied by a loving, connected presence. It is about being with our emotions, whatever they are, and with whatever arises. Being accepting of ourselves as we are. While yang self-compassion actually has three components: protecting, providing for, and motivating ourselves.
This new approach is really the concentration of my work recently: teaching people how to integrate and balance these two sides of self-compassion. Whether you are new to self-compassion or have been working with self-compassion as a practice for a while, you will find practices in my new audio program, The Yin and Yang of Self-Compassion: Cultivating Kindness and Strength in the Face of Difficulty, that help you to balance your different energies of self-compassion.
Research shows that the number one block to self-compassion is the belief that it undermines our motivation. We believe we need to be harsh and critical to get ourselves moving to reach our goals. But in fact, self-compassion inspires motivation. If we care about our well-being, we are able to a) reach our full potential, and also b) change habits and behaviors that may be harming ourselves.
I share a short practice below that addresses this aspect of yang energy that motivates change and helps us to alleviate suffering and bad habits:
- Gather a journal or piece of paper and a writing utensil.
- Write down a behavior you would like to change, along with maybe some of the problems it is causing in your life.
- Next, write down how your inner critic is expressing itself when this behavior arises, and try to be as descriptive as possible.
- Now take a moment to get in touch with part of you that feels criticized. Write down how this feels and how you have been impacted.
- If it feels right, call up some yin energy now to give yourself a moment of comfort, to recognize that it is hard to receive this criticism. Take a few moments to write any words of kindness, validation, and understanding for the pain you have experienced because of your own inner criticism.
- Turn toward your inner critic with some curiosity. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this to myself? What is motivating this behavior? Is my inner critic actually trying to help or protect me?”
- If you have found a way your inner critic may be trying to help or protect, try to write some words of thanks to your inner critic.
- Now that your inner critic has been heard and thanked, you can make space for a voice that is motivating and compassionate. Take a few moments and get in touch with your compassionate yang energy, your voice of encouragement and accepting inner wisdom. Feel into this part of yourself. From this place, can you see any patterns or reasons why you may be stuck? Are there any contextual factors? Maybe it is associated with stress? Maybe it is a learned behavior from your past? Can you learn from what has gone wrong in the past and think about how you can do things differently in the future? When you are ready, write down your answers to some of these questions.
- Once you feel ready, write some final words of kind encouragement for how you might make a change from this new perspective to close the practice.
May you find Kristin’s new recording, very affordable and spot on, helpful to you and yours.