Action 95

Use “self-compassion” and “loving kindness” meditations and activities toward myself and toward others. I learn to walk away from hate and the desire for revenge. Instead, I can engage in a Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM) and Compassion Meditation (CM) towards others, as well as toward myself. The LKM aims to develop an emotional state of unconditional kindness to people. The CM is designed to cultivate compassion or sympathy for those stricken with misfortune. I can work on creating a mental kindness to all beings, including myself. Self-directed self-compassion toward my own suffering, being mindful when considering negative aspects of myself and recognizing my shared humanity can enhance resilience. Cultivating self-compassion and self-acceptance in response to self-critical thoughts by envisioning forms of loving kindness (good deeds), can engender well-being and resilience.

Preliminary neuroendocrine studies indicate that practicing and engaging in LKM and CM can reduce stress and improve immune responses. Individuals engage in self-compassion by envisioning the type of person they want to be, rather than berating themselves for failures, quelling their “inner critic” and developing the capacity for self-soothing and self-nurturing acts of understanding and kindness toward themselves. Individuals high in self-compassion tend to see their fallibilities and weaknesses as part of the larger human condition (‘Not alone in struggling with flaws and failures’), and recognizing their connections with others. In contrast, individuals low in self-compassion tend to avoid thinking about weaknesses and failures or they engage in “tunnel vision” that prevents deep experiencing of the present moment. Such avoidant behaviors intensify negative emotions; sacrifices self-understanding and can contribute to self isolation.

Individuals high in self-compassion tend to have greater life satisfaction, higher emotional intelligence, greater social connectedness, less anxiety and depression, less fear of failure, lower job burnout and higher well-being.

The following are suggestions on ways to enhance your level of self-compassion.:

  1. Try a self-directed Compassionate Mind Training exercise. Envision a friend or relative who is in the same situation you are in. He or she has come to you for help. Think about ways you could listen non-judgmentally and with compassion. What would you say? What would you do? Could you use the same understanding, kindness, warmth, and support toward yourself that you would offer your friend or relative? Can you introduce your “Compassionate Self” to your “Suffering Self?” Think about ways to move forward without self-blaming, self-criticizing and self-injurious behaviors? You are in charge of your rate of progress, your journey to resilience and personal growth.
  2. Be patient and non-judgmental toward aspects of yourself. Be kinder toward yourself. Self-criticism engenders isolation.
  3. Use visualization to further develop self-compassion. View yourself as a kind and caring person toward others and toward yourself. Accept negative feelings and take actions, despite them. Challenge your self-judgmental “toxic beliefs,” learn to tolerate, acknowledge, label and embrace any thoughts and feelings, rather than react to or avoid them. In fact, there is a psychotherapy approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that teaches these mindfulness skills.
  4. Finally, when can acts of kindness toward self and others have harmful effects? If individuals are too committed to engaging in acts of kindness, they may avoid providing criticism, negative feedback during conflict and problem-solving situations. The constructive feedback about specific bothersome partner behaviors, especially during disputes, has been found to contribute to long-term marital satisfaction. In an attempt to be kind, individuals may “sweep contentious issues under the rug” and avoid bringing up issues, thus, putting their relationship in jeopardy. When acts of unkindness are met with conscientious efforts to learn from and correct interpersonal mistakes, they have the potential to contribute to interpersonal well-being.

Quotable Quotes

“Opportunities to find deep powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

—Joseph Campbell

“I have learned the meaning of suffering.”

“I felt so burdened by hatred and a drive for revenge. I gradually came to understand that if I really wanted to be free in my heart, I needed to learn to forgive others, as well as myself.”

Action 96