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The other day, during a rather tense discussion my wife and I were having…(okay, it devolved into an argument…let me be honest here), it turned from the topic we were “discussing” to how I’m difficult to communicate with.  This led me to build up some defensive fortifications (which doesn’t generally help the situation, in my experience) and eventually led me down the dark and lonely path of despair and shame.  There, I said it – the S word.  This nasty little bugger that creeps into my life now and again to rear its ugly head. 

“I’m no good at this communication stuff”. 

“When will I learn?”

“In what other relationships am I like this in?”

“All of them”

“Now what?”

Well, one of the things that helps dissipate shame’s energy sucking power is to shine a light on it.  Done. 

I wish I could say that I was able to flip the script in that moment and mend things with my wife, but if I did, I’d be lying.  We did eventually get there but it took some time.  

The next day, as I was reflecting on what had gone down, and the feelings that were coming up for me, I was reminded of Kristen Neff’s teaching on Self-Compassion.  I tried to find the Dan Harris podcast where he interviews her to listen to on my way to work.  No dice.  

When I arrived at work, I instinctively open a notebook I hadn’t opened in months.  The first page…notes from the podcast.  The universe conspires.  

A couple notes I’d like to share in hopes that it serves you well.

We give ourselves compassion, not to feel better but because we feel bad

Self-compassion isn’t meant to make the pain go away.  It’s meant to hold it in a loving way rather than getting pissed we have it in the first place!  

Make friends with yourself.  Speak to yourself like you’d speak to a friend.  How would you speak to a friend going through the same thing as you? 

Would ya tell a friend they’re no good at communicating?  Uhhhh, no? 

Negative emotions narrow our focus, positive emotions broaden our focus

Shame, is one of those narrowing focus emotions – making seeing the “big picture” and a broader perspective almost impossible.  

You have to hold shame with kindness.  “Pain doesn’t need to be healed it needs to be held” – (thanks Jeff Foster)

And, lastly…

There are 3 components of Self-Compassion

  • Self-kindness
    • Beating ourselves up doesn’t best facilitate changing behaviors we want changed or moving in the direction we’d like
  • Common Humanity
    • We’re not alone.  Everyone is interconnected in that we all are perfectly flawed human beings, making mistakes, and experiencing hardships in some form or another 
  • Mindfulness
    • Being present with what we’re experiencing and feeling.  Not pushing it away or stuffing it down.  Rather, being open to the reality of the present moment and turning toward and acknowledging that we’re suffering

Thanks to Kristin Neff, Jeff Foster and their work in inspiring and creating learnings for me, and others.

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