Here are some tips for developing self-compassion:
+ Start with mindful breathing.
Breathe slowly and deeply. Breathe into your body, wherever it hurts most. Imagine your breath flowing into and around the pain; feel yourself opening up around it.
+ Place a hand on the area that is most painful.
Imagine this is a healing hand—the hand of a loving doctor, nurse, or parent. Feel the warmth flow from your hand to your body. Imagine your body softening around the pain. Hold the pain gently, as if it is an injured puppy or a crying baby.
+ Talk kindly to yourself.
Suppose someone you love were suffering in the very same way as you are; what would you say to let them know that you care? Try saying these very same words to yourself.
+ Imagine yourself as a young child.
Imagine that child is hurting as much as you. What might you say to him, if you wanted to let him know how much you care? Say something similar to yourself, with the same attitude of care, concern, and kindness.
+ Acknowledge that you’re human.
If you’re beating yourself up for screwing up, then remind yourself, “Yes. I’m a human being. Like everybody else on the planet, I am imperfect.”
+ Draw on your curiosity.
Ask yourself, “What does this teach me about what it is to be human?” and “What insight does this give me into friends, family, and all other humans that suffer?”
+ Remember what your pain tells you.
This pain tells you three important things:
1. You’re alive: that’s a good start.
2. You’re human: this is what humans feel when they suffer.
3. You have a heart: if you didn’t care about anything, you wouldn’t be having these painful feelings.
Self-compassion won’t solve these painful issues, but it will help you to cope much better with the stress. Then you can focus on … getting unstuck.
Excerpt from ACT WITH LOVE: Stop Struggling, Reconcile Differences, and Strengthen Your Relationship with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (New Harbinger Publications)
Russ Harris, MD, is an acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) trainer and the author of The Happiness Trap. He travels around the world training psychologists and other health professionals in ACT, a revolutionary new approach to human happiness.