Our Therapists, Dr.Tina Fernandes is interview Estelle Franklin help us understand what self-compassion is and how we can practice and experience it in our daily lives. This is part 2 of the interview. For Part 1 go here
Estelle asks Dr. Tina: What does compassion make possible for us?
Dr.Tina says, Self-compassion allows us to tune in, make us more willing to acknowledge, accept , allow and experience all those difficult feelings with care and kindness. Self-compassion helps us to process and let go some of those painful experiences in the moment and feel them a little fully, it’s so nice to know that it’s not necessary for us to stuff our feelings and it’s okay to admit how much of pain you are in, can you offer, can you hold , can you give the gift of patience and kindness , a non-judgemental understanding to others as well as to one self.
Being the teacher that I am, I looked at research and research has shown when you treat yourself with compassion, one might reduce negative emotions and self blaming cognitions, ideas, beliefs, experiences experienced in response to things we did or we have to do or things we did not do.
Practicing self-compassion entails inhibiting and exhibiting self-kindness , mindful awareness of internal experience of negative thoughts, emotions or discomfort without being engulfed without being overwhelmed without being caught by them and understanding internal experiences as universal for all humans, thereby, encouraging self-forgiveness. Self-compassion is regarded as an adaptive stance towards the self, that improves psychological functioning and increased psychological and emotional well-being as well as intrinsically motivated behaviour. Several self-compassion interventions have shown improvement in self-esteem via self-soothing or nurturing , encouraging positive self-talk as well as improvements in self-regulation, health promoting behaviours and stress.
Studies have also shown an increase in resiliency and curiosity to encourage positive risk-taking, thee seems to be an increased acceptance of oneself even in response to failure which can heighten self-efficacy which in turn helps us to reach our goals and commit once again to some of the goals that we have planned. Especially like goal directed behaviours, eating behaviours, tough goals, not able to stop smoking, weight loss. Researchers are discovering that compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience availability to us. It helps us to survive and helps us and encourages us to thrive and flourish.
According to Dalai Lama, if you want others to be happy, practice compassion, but if you want to be happy, practice compassion.
Estelle says, that was a beautiful piece ma’am and when you spoke about negative thoughts, I was thinking of how criticism comes into the picture and when self-criticism or Mr.Critique/Miss.Critique like most clients call it, steps in, how do we hold space for that?
Dr.Tina says, self-criticism is so common and a very common problem and probably it plays a very important role in our day to day life, many of us struggle with our inner critical voice or voices, it could be the voice of our father,mother, teacher or preacher.
Chronic self criticism arouses the sympathetic nervous system and most of the times the threats are due and are created in our minds, when we mercilessly judge and criticise ourselves for various inadequacies and shortcomings, it’s things like “I’m fat, I’m dark, I’m short, I’m ugly, I’m lazy, I’m not smart enough, I’m not tall enough, I’m not good enough. These messages seem to be born of internalised messages. We have lived these internalised messages throughout our lives and we have received these messages from our significant others growing up, from our agents of socialisation, society, media and institution that have influenced us, our actions, our attitudes, our beliefs and our behaviours , at this moment I would like “ I just don’t know, I just keep wondering wherever it comes from , what can I do about it? Can I give some room for myself, for my self-critique , can I hold space for this voice, for me holding space is being fully ther, listening intently and being fully present, friends and loved ones cannot be with me all the time, cannot be with us all the time and they are not available when I/we need them, so can I hold space for my critique.
Why does my critique push me so hard? I wouldn’t treat someone else like that.
Why do I allow Mr.Critique to do that for me?yes, in my sessions I’ve started giving names and some of them have called the Inner critique as Mr.Critique or Madam Judgy or Mr.Mean ,Mr.Monster or Madam Cruela. Can I spend some time knowing all these Mr and Mrs that attack me all the time. Can I know the purpose of them in my life? What kind of a job does Mr.Critique do? Can I listen to these answers knowing that “I see myself as worthy of attention, kindness and generosity. Can I tell the voice that you understand that it is nervous , anxious or worried about getting hurt but that it is causing you unnecessary pain. Can I acknowledge the function of the critique who is protecting me in a wonky way, can I offer this part , this part of me, the gift of loving kindness, can I make peace with my inner critique.
Can I accept, comfort,support myself and tap into the power of self-compassion. Can we hold our pain, our brokenness in a caring and compassionate way? In a caring and comforting way which helps deactivate our sympathetic nervous system and helps us relax so that there is a release of oxytocin , that helps me to heal. Can I awaken and turn my Inner critique to be my inner encourager? , the gentle supporter. Can this gentle supporter, gentle compassionate being, gentle inner encourager whisper to myself, I am worthy of love.
Estelle acknowledges what Dr.Tina shared and adds by saying, I’m sure all of our viewers are learning as you say these things – I am worthy of love, if we were only taught to acknowledge the presence of our inner critique and create space for our inner encourager, how all of us would be in better spaces and it’s never too late, we’re learning now through this interview with you of how we can beautifully hold space for ourselves and others, in times where our inner critique speaks out aloud, how we can bring in the other part of us that is an encourager , is someone who can hold space for ourselves and I’m also thinking of how there are other times where we do things that we absolutely not okay and we need to hold ourselves accountable for that and so how can one be accountable and also be compassionate?
Dr.Tina nods and adds, I know, because no matter how hard we try, we will mess up, we will fail, we will blow it and we will step out of time and step out of line and we will bash ourselves up and sometimes bash somebody else up. But admitting that we are fallible human beings , doing the best we can and being compassionate to ourselves in the face of our miss-deeds actually allows us to take more responsibility for our actions. First of all, when we relate to ourselves kindly even when we have behaved badly , it is safely faced the truth of myself and ourselves. We don’t need to deny what we have done or distort the dent and we don’t need to start the blame game. Self-Compassion helps us to listen deeply to ourselves and when we are reflecting we can also own to it, do the right thing for us and the right thing for others.
One can own up: to what I’ve done without fear because admitting I’m wrong and taking responsibility doesn’t now require criticising myself or bashing myself or being harsh and means towards myself or self judging and self-condemning , rather it doesn’t even mean being punitive with myself and rebuking myself. Since self-compassion is all about being turned with the elevation of suffering , our own and that of the others, we’ve will be causing further suffering if we know and knew that we are harming other people and denying our responsibility for our action. We then will keep ourselves stuck in the same unproductive cycle of behaviour that will torture us over and over again, that’s why self-compassion helps us to take responsibility to correct our mistakes because we’ve care and because we want to thrive and we want to flourish.
Estelle shares what Dr.Tina shared was so beautifully put and checks in with how Dr.Tina is feeling as she shared all of this.
Dr.Tina shares, that she feels her heart is opening up , because self compassion is all about the heart, the heart opening up and just being there for myself and as well as being there for others and it’s been an easier journey , it’s a practice and an easier journey to be there for myself , and of course I do lose it, I do go into my auto-pilot , of course I do go and just forget where I am at this moment but checking in “that self-compassionate pause” makes me come back and check-in ,how is my breath, what am I feeling right now , what do I need right now? What can I give myself right now?
Estelle replies by saying “just as you shared self-compassion is all about the heart, mostly it’s what I’m feeling right now- there is an opening of how I am feeling and bringing and allowing self-compassion in my life, in sessions and how I can take it forth and of course we all get back into “auto-poilot” , get back into listening to our inner-critique and how we can use little ways of allowing our inner-encourager to allow and create space for self-compassion. She moves to ask Dr.Tina the last question : Is there one word that stood out for you from what you have shared or what we have shared today? Would you like to share that with us?
I don’t have a word but a sentence: In this journey of life , self-compassion is a warm fuzzy that gives me the courage and strength to face my struggle and do what is needed to alleviate my hurt and my pain.
Estelle concludes by adding in how she finds what Dr.Tina shared so beautiful and heart touching and when you said warm and fuzzy it reminds me of a warm little blanket that you want to wrap around yourself , a little practice of giving yourself that kindness and compassion that you need.
To listen to our podcast of this interview you can click here