I suspect some of you may be wondering why showing myself self-compassion has resulted in frequent cry-fests. Isn’t the point of being kind to myself to feel better?
I practice self-compassion when I’m in a situation that is conjuring strong emotions. Usually I’ve had a really draining altercation with my husband, or struggled to manage my kids challenging behaviors, or gotten a biting, blaming email from a parent, or identified some way in which I’ve failed to meet a goal. Before self-compassion I would either get angry, or resentful or guilt-ridden or some combination of the three, and then ultimately I would push down my negative feelings and go on my not-so-merry way.
Now, instead of getting angry or resentful or guilt-ridden, I validate the difficulty of the situation and how it makes me feel. Then I show myself kindness, assure myself that I’m worthy of love, and remember that all humans struggle. Suffering is a share human experience–the ultimate common denominator.
You might expect I could inform this little ritual and move on, but most of the time those steps are only the beginning. For some reason, validating my struggle and showing myself compassion usually touche some deep, long-ignored pain. It turns out I’ve spent a lot of years berating myself for not being the person I expect myself to be, for not sucking it up, for not being grateful enough, for not putting my suffering into perspective. I have belittled my feelings by comparing my circumstances to the truly unfortunate, found my own struggles lacking, and felt shame for my lack of emotional fortitude. Clearly I was told (or it was modeled) growing up that the acceptable course of action was to suck it up, and get over it.
All this denying my shameful feelings has led to a lot of repressed hurt. When I acknowledge my pain and disappointment, it activates similar pain and disappointment that I pushed down, and in some cases the activation is profoundly deep. Right now, showing myself love and compassion requires the lancing and irrigating old wounds. In the moment it’s an excruciating exercise, but it is also allowing deep, fester hurts to finally heal.
And healing does happen. I am starting to experience situations that always triggered a certain response in surprisingly different ways. I’m starting to see entrenched behaviors for what they are, without a bruised ego making excuses or blaming others. Hurts I didn’t know I was harboring are healing. Patterns are changing, or at least being recognized. Yes I am crying a lot, but they are ultimately productive tears, and I have faith that soon touching those old wounds won’t cause quite so much pain, and eventually practicing self-compassion won’t trigger a sob fest.