Have you ever watched a movie that is a tear jerker and felt your heart be moved to the point of “suffering with” the character in the story who is struggling? The “suffering with” is your ability to feel compassion and empathy? Your experience of “suffering with” is a key to self-compassion. Why is self-compassion important? It can lead to emotional healing. Another perspective taken from Dr Annette Colby’s blog, The Devine Self, is that self-compassion equals self-love which can enhance physical health.
Here is another scenario a little closer to home. At times I hear family or friends say judgemental negative things about themselves. They put themselves down and are hard on themselves, especially when they make a mistake or are facing a new situation. My spirit is stirred to “being with” the person as they open the door to their heartache. My desire is to offer comfort.
I want you to try the following experiment. Imagine you are listening to a friend or an acquaintance that you like. Or imagine a family member or a colleague whom you care for. Take one or two minutes to form a picture in your mind of the person. Do you have a person in your mind? Take as long as you need to connect to the person. When you are ready, imagine looking into their eyes as they are saying one or more of the following statements.
- I am so stupid! An idiot. Why did I ever do that? I should have known better.
- I am nothing but a failure and I will never be good at anything.
- I feel worthless and a burden and don’t belong here.
- Why would anybody love me? I am not good enough
- When I look in the mirror I think I am ugly and not good looking at all.
When you hear or read the above statements what do you notice about your own thoughts and feelings. Do you have an urge to soften the situation? What comes up for you? It may be anger or frustration. Then again it might be feelings of sorrow or fear. Just notice.
For the next part of this experiment you will need to check back next week. Meanwhile, over the next several days or so notice when you or when someone else says judgemental statements that are negative in tone. If you have time take a few notes of what you experience. Your task is to observe both the judgemental and the reaction to the judgemental.
If you care to leave any comments I welcome your conversation.
Melanie Greenberg says
Thanks for a very thought-provoking and interactive post. My first impulse is to want to reassure the person, but I know, as a therapist this won’t necessarily convince them. . When I did the imagery, I had an image of hugging my friend and just holding them silently, as I did with my child when she was little and hurt herself. Karl Rogers said that warmth was one of the requisites for therapeutic change. i think successful therapy gives the patient a virtual hug. Learning to give oneself that virtual hug is harder but gets easier with practice.
Brenda Bomgardner says
I have been a fan of your blog (marinpsychologist.blogspot.com) for some time now and appreciate you dropping in to leave a comment. As you pointed out, warmth is an aspect of attunement between baby and caregiver. You provided a nice description on how you wanted to hold your little child when they were hurt. The same kind of warmth can be shared between lover and partner or best friends. Attunement between therapist and client is receiving attention in research as a change agent for the therapeutic process.
Thank you for the thoughtful comment. Drop by anytime!