I’m often in a kind of prison cell,
Because I don’t always love myself that well
Gonna break free from that shame and blame,
Free myself from that ball and chain…
Gotta love myself, love myself, love myself harder…
from “Lover Harder,” by DK&theJoyMachine
I continue to be impressed with the power of empathy–how transformative in and of itself it can be. I see this regularly with myself, with my coaching clients, and in leading workshops and trainings. We have all been taught, so earnestly and repeatedly, that we change things is by critiquing—you identify what’s “wrong” and then you fix it. I think this is one of the biggest hoaxes going. I don’t think self-criticism ever got me to make any changes in my life—or gave me any greater peace or competency or effectiveness. It just made more more discouraged and miserable. And I see working with others, how it also brings them into a downward spiral–draining us of energy, hope, or vision. I now believe this is probably the greatest form of social change I can help generate in the world: by supporting others in their simply having more loving kindness for themselves.
When I am discouraged or sad, it can be easy to go into familiar stories—“What’s the use?” “I’ll never get it right!” “It’s pointless.” “How could I have done that!” Yuck! None of this feels good, including in my body. It’s what I’d call toxic stories. Yet if I can drop down out of the stories, into what I’m simply feeling (as hard and scary as that can sometimes seem), this is what will give me transformation and relief: to notice that I’m feeling sad or hurt or discouraged ..and be ok with it. If you think about, this is the simplest form of observation (the first step in the NVC model and a power-house in itself). I find it helpful to connect with the needs that are up for me. I also like go now into what I call deep, radical self-compassion–simply speaking to myself with the same gentleness and kindness that I’d want from a trusted friend: “It’s not always easy to make the best decision, it’s hard some time, even when you want to be effective…”
Sometimes, when what’s triggered is old stuff, it also helps to look around my situation right now and remind myself that it’s ok. “It’s a little scary..and you’re sad about it…and you’re ok. You’re safe.” Even what can seem mundane in the present moment can stir up old hurts and traumas that are not even fully conscious. So I like to acknowledge how I’m feeling, connect with the needs up for me (be it understanding, or acceptance, or being seen for my intentions, or another need), speak kindly and compassionately to myself about it, and remind myself of where I am now: it’s a beautiful sunny spring day, I’m out here in the park (where ever I am)–my present situation, in this moment, is safe.
When I am in that place of equilibrium, when I have some peace and my system is soothed, then I have much more capacity for making a request of myself: Are there any actions that I want to take about this now? I break that “looping” cycle–of repeating in my mind the same stories, and the same blame. I gain perspective, and can better focus on an action that is not re-active but truly grounded in my own truth.
Passionate about self-compassion and sharing these practices that I’ve been fine-tuning for a decade, I’m very excited about the programs I’ll be offering in a few weeks in Germany (July 5th-8th): a two day workshop on radical self-acceptance followed by a two-day program on Somatic-Based Empathy (a deep healing and NVC practice based on somatic awareness and empathy). I’ll be offering a concert the night before too—Friday, July 4th—at the Happiness Cafe in Frankfurt (performing Love Harder—the song quoted above–among others). Would love to see you in Frankfurt, and please tell your friends and family there!
Want to start practicing some radical self-empathy right now? The next time you notice going into a story or judgments, pause and notice:
1) How does it feel in your body, when you think of that story or judgment? Are you clenching or tensing up?
2) Drop out of the story. Notice what you’re feeling. Stay with the feeling- even if tempting to go back into the story. Speak to yourself the way you would to a young child you care about, or how a best friend who’s really listening. “Yeah, I’m really scared right now.. ” or “I’m so frustrated!!”
3) Thinking about the situation (observation), go into radical self-acceptance, again speaking to yourself with gentleness and kindness. “It’s hard sometimes when X happens….”
4) What are you needing? You may wish to check the needs list. Or jut consider what’s “driving” this situation for you–and what are you longing for. Is it understanding, patience, acceptance, relief.. of some other need?
5) You may wish to journal about what’s coming up for you to speak with an empathy buddy about it, as a way to externalize (express/release) your experiences
Thanks for reading! And see you soon…and friendly reminder: Love yourself harder! 🙂