A good friend of mine recommended a book by Kristin Neff called ‘Self Compassion’ which she said was great for improving how we deal with difficult situations. I thought it sounded like an excellent idea worth checking out for my clients but was also very intrigued to learn more about this for myself.
Many of us are really good at being compassionate to others. However, when it comes to ourselves we often judge ourselves harshly. Too easily we can decide we are not good enough and not handling things well enough. It doesn’t take long before we and can slump into feelings of low self-worth and depression. We beat ourselves up for our perceived failings and these destructive emotional patterns reduce our effectiveness and happiness.
How we treat ourselves when things don’t go to plan
The book argues that we cannot control what happens to us but we can control how we react to the situations by how we treat ourselves in the moments when things don’t go to plan.
Kristin Neff says in her book that there are 3 core elements of self compassion:
- Being kind to ourselves – This involves being gentle and understanding with ourselves, rather than harshly critical and judgmental. When things are tricky, we can give ourselves a chance to reflect and consider by saying to ourselves ‘This is really difficult right now. How can I care for and comfort myself in this moment?’
- Recognising the common human experience – This is where we feel connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated in our suffering. A useful reminder to ourselves when we are going through a difficult time is to think ‘other people feel this too’
- Mindful acceptance of reality – To do this we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. The idea is that we need to see things as they really are – no more, no less – in order to respond to our current situation in the most compassionate – and therefore effective – manner.
Experiencing the full spectrum of life
Taking on board these three elements of self compassion we can start to:
- Relate to everything with kindness as we go on the rollercoaster of life
- Feel interconnectedness with everyone and everything
- Become aware of the present moment without judgment
This enables us to experience the full spectrum of life without needing to change it.
I really enjoyed reading this book, as it is a way to embrace the joys and sorrows of being human. When things are too hard to change or circumstances are against us, then having compassion for that feeling is an excellent starting place. If you get a chance to read this book, I think it will be time well spent.