Risk is an inevitable part of human life. Ups and downs, gains and losses, meeting and parting, sickness and health, success and failure are all inevitable experiences in a human life. How do we meet our own pain and suffering? And how does that impact how we meet the pain and suffering of those around us? Self-Compassion is an attitude of kindness, support, generosity, and care for ourselves when we're in pain, or when we're suffering -- when we've lost to the game of "risk" that we can't help but play.
The research-supported method of Mindful Self-Compassion defines the practice as having 3 major parts: Mindfulness, Self-Kindness, and Common Humanity -- and, generally speaking, exists in contrast to self-blame and harsh self-criticism.
Mindfulness (vs. over-identification) is the practice of becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions. When we're mindful of thoughts of emotions, we have a little bit of "space" from them and can see them from other perspectives. We are less "cognitively fused" -- which means less entangled with our thoughts and ‘pushed around by them’ (Russ Harris (Links to an external site.)). One way to employ mindfulness in a moment of struggle is to bring some acknowledgment to your experience, create order out of chaos, by simply saying to yourself: This is a moment of suffering. You can further develop a more mindful relationship to emotions through a process of naming/labeling and differentiating specific emotions -- asking "what else?" as Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener suggests in this lecture (Links to an external site.).
Self-Kindness (vs. harsh self-criticism) is the practice of treating ourselves like we'd treat someone we love and care about, when they're going through a hard time. We give ourselves care and support. This might come in the form of supportive touch (hand to the heart/belly), deep breaths, kind words toward ourselves: May I be kind to myself or I'm here for you, or kind acts in support of our well-being -- for example, taking a break when we need a break or getting out in nature when we need to recharge.
Common Humanity (vs. isolation) is a simple remembrance or reminder to ourselves that all human beings struggle and experience pain and suffering. Our situation is unique in its own way, but others, too, experience similar emotions. This pillar seeks to remind us that we're connected through our humanity (our ups and downs) -- not isolated by them. A simple phrase of reminder might be: May I know I'm not alone.
This week, practice the ~5-minute self-compassion break 3-4 times... you can try it as a daily practice or implement it when you hit a rough spot in your day. You have your choice of meditation guide below (both practices are the same). Reflect on the effects of the practice:
Self-Compassion Break guided by Dr. Kristen Neff - MSC Founder (5:20)
Self-Compassion Break guided by Dr. Christopher Germer - MSC Founder (6:24)