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How to learn to treat yourself with kindness in difficult times?

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Think for a moment about a time when a person you really appreciate is suffering in some way, for health, sentimental or work reasons... How do you usually respond to these people in situations of this type? What do you say to them? In what tone are you heading? What is your body posture and non-verbal communication?

Now think of an occasion in which you have suffered for a similar reason and see if your way of responding to yourself, speaking to yourself and acting is similar or, on the contrary, is different. Identify the pattern difference.

More than likely you will be among a vast majority of the population that is much more compassionate towards others than towards itself, as revealed in a 2016 study conducted in the United States by University of Texas researchers Kristin Neff (co-creator of the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program and Marissa Knox: 78% of the general US population are more compassionate towards others than themselves, 6% are more compassionate towards themselves than others, and 16% are equally compassionate.

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What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion involves treating yourself as you would treat a friend who is experiencing suffering because he is going through a difficult time, a painful situation, for whatever reason. It may be that you feel guilty or inadequate or that you have been forced to face a very difficult situation. Just as Western culture tends to focus on treating others with kindness, it does not propose the same when the one who is in trouble is oneself. Self-compassion is a practice that opens the door for us to be more understanding with ourselves when we suffer, when we feel inadequate.

Core elements of self-compassion

Self-compassion is not just the ability to treat ourselves in a friendlier way, but the concept encompasses three core elements that act as mechanisms of the machinery of self-pity and that are activated when we feel pain:

  • Full attention or mindfulness: the awareness of the suffering we are experiencing; realizing that we are having a hard time is the first step so that the rest of the elements of self-compassion can unfold.
  • Shared humanity: the recognition that we all make mistakes and feel pain, we are not alone in the experience of suffering.
  • Kindness with oneself: instead of releasing harsh, unscrupulous self-criticism, giving ourselves kindness, acceptance unconditional and comforting ourselves makes it easier for us to calm down when circumstances are complicated and difficult to deal with. endure.

The mindfulness element answers the question, “What am I experiencing?” (aware of what is happening, without resisting the experience). On the other hand, self-compassion focuses on caring for those who are living the experience with the question “What do I need right now?”

  • You may be interested: "Unconditional self-acceptance: what it is and why it improves our mental health"

An example of self-compassion in a real situation

Imagine that your best friend calls you after having an argument with his boss. in the office and you just got fired.

"Hello" - you answer, picking up the phone. "How are you?"

"I'm devastated," he says, between sobs. “But what happened?” you ask.

“Do you remember that I had told you that I did not feel that my boss valued my work and that he also constantly put me under a lot of pressure? Today she asked me to stop what I was doing to attend to some tasks of another colleague who has started her vacations and I have exploded. I've gotten angry and I've told him everything at the top of my voice. The rest of the people in the office have turned to hear my screams and then I have been in shock. I got fired. What am I going to do now?".

After listening to your friend, you sigh and say: “For a change, you have done it in the worst possible way. You have always been a loudmouth, unable to control your impulses to be and not knowing how to defend yourself when someone abuses you. That's how life has been for you."

Would you ever speak this way to someone you care about? The answer is clear: you never would. Interestingly though, this is the language we tend to use with ourselves in such situations. If we train self-compassion we can talk to ourselves as a good friend with words like these:

"So sorry. It's hard to go through what happened to you. I want you to know that I am here for you and that you are very important to me. Is there anything I can do to help?"

  • Related article: "Personal Development: 5 reasons for self-reflection"

The false myths about self-compassion and the scientific evidence that debunks them

Let's see the five most widespread myths about self-compassion and what various scientific studies have shown in this regard, dismantling these myths.

1. Self-compassion is a way of feeling sorry for oneself

While many people think of self-compassion as feeling sorry for oneself, in fact, self-compassion increases our ability to accept, experience, and acknowledge difficult feelings with kindness, which paradoxically helps us to process and let go of them more fully. (Neff & Pommier, 2013, Raes, 2010). While self-pity would tell us “Poor me”, self-pity makes us more aware that life is hard for everyone and helps us not to exaggerate the dimension of our concerns.

Learn to treat yourself with kindness
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2. self pity is weak

Researchers are discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of inner strength that makes us more resilient when faced with significant difficulties, such as divorce or chronic pain (Sbarra, Smith & Mehl, 2012, Hiraoka et al., 2015, Wren et al, 2012).

3. self pity is selfish

Contrary to the idea that self-pity is selfish, research has proven that self-compassionate people tend to be more caring and supportive in relationships (Neff & Beretvas, 2013), are more likely to engage in relationship problems (Yarnell & Neff, 2013), are more compassionate towards others and are able to forgive earlier those who have caused them pain (Neff & Pommier, 2013).

4. Self-pity is self-indulgent

Compassion advocates long-term health, not short-term pleasure (just like a compassionate mother doesn't let her child eat all the sweets she wants, but tells her to "eat the vegetables"). Self-compassionate people engage in healthier behaviors such as exercise (Magnus, Kowalski & McHugh, 2010), eating well (Schoenefeld & Webb, 2013), and seeing a doctor more regularly (Terry et al., 2013).

  • Related article: "6 limiting beliefs, and how they harm us on a daily basis"

5. Self-pity is a way of making excuses

Self-compassion gives you the confidence to admit mistakes, instead of blaming other people for them.. Research has also proven that self-compassionate people take more personal responsibility for their actions (Leary et al., 2007) and are more likely to apologize if they have offended someone (Brienes & Chen, 2012).

6. Self-pity will hurt motivation

Most people believe that self-criticism is an effective motivator, but it actually undermines self-confidence and can lead to fear of failure. Motivation with self-compassion comes from the desire for health and wellness and becomes the emotional lever for change. Research shows that self-compassionate people have high personal standards; they do not punish themselves when they fail (Neff, 2003b); hence, they are less afraid of failure (Neff, Hseih, & Dejitthirat, 2007) and more likely to try again and persist in their efforts after failure (Breines & Chen, 2012).

  • You may be interested: "Types of motivation: the 8 motivational sources"

The Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program, a worldwide benchmark

MSC was co-developed in 2010 by Christopher Germer, PhD, a leading psychologist in integrating mindfulness into psychotherapy, and Kristin Neff, PhD, a pioneering researcher in the field of self-compassion. The program is taught in 24 countries and 12 languages. To participate in an MSC course it is not necessary to have previous experience in mindfulness or meditation.

In fact, keep in mind that MSC is primarily a compassion training program rather than a mindfulness training program, although mindfulness is the foundation of self-compassion. MSC is also not psychotherapy insofar as the focus is on building emotional resources rather than uncovering old wounds. The change produced by the integration of self-compassion throughout the course is progressive, in As we develop the ability to be with ourselves in a more compassionate. The program consists of sessions of about 2 hours 30 minutes in which meditations, exercises, presentations on the various topics that are addressed, group discussions and practices for House. The objective is that the participants can integrate self-compassion with experiences of their daily lives..

By participating in an MSC course you will learn to:

  • Apply self-compassion in your daily life in a practical way.
  • Understand the benefits of self-compassion, according to scientific studies.
  • Motivate yourself in a kinder way and without so much self-criticism.
  • Manage difficult emotions more easily.
  • Better cope with difficult relationships.
  • Better manage caregiver fatigue.
  • Practice the art of enjoying every moment and self-appreciation.

Next October 4th we start in PSYCHOTOOLS the autumn edition of the official 8-week MSC course in face-to-face format with limited places.

If you want to sign up or find out about our personalized mindfulness and/or self-compassion training, contact our instructor Ferran through the PSICOTOOLS contact form. García de Palau, accredited teacher of the MSC (Mindful Self-Compassion), MBSR (Mindfulness Stress Reduction) programs and the Eline Snel Method training for children and adolescents. Ferran has extensive experience and offers services to companies, professional groups and individuals. Contact us and Ferran will guide you based on your needs and your vital moment.
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