Fall Greetings Y’All
I hope everyone is doing well. And I’m aware that many people are having a very difficult time right now because of the violence happening around the globe. Many of you may have immediate family members, relatives, or associates living in the most troubled areas. It is definitely a difficult time for all.
When difficulties come, it’s good to exercise our resiliency muscles! While there are many things that help us be more resilient, such as sustaining a positive mindset and making healthy choices, one skill that people don’t usually recognize as a “resiliency booster” is practicing self-empathy.
You might be thinking– with all this difficulty going on– it’s time to extend empathy to others! I would say, yes. Indeed, you are right! It is certainly time to be extending compassion and empathy to others! And what helps empathy flow more abundantly and freely from us, is having empathy for our own difficulties– with what is going on now, or perhaps from our past.
Practicing self-empathy towards our past mistakes, failures, or current difficulties not only helps us lighten up within ourselves. It also heals the burden of our own struggles. Practicing self-empathy elicits healing– deep down inside of us.
Then, when we find our self with someone experiencing great difficulty, our sensitivity and empathy flows towards them more naturally, more spontaneously. It gets expressed with more skill and grace. As we all know, practice makes perfect. So, if we practice extending empathy towards ourselves, it’s likely that we will be more successful when extending it towards others. The greater our skill in expressing empathy, the more the recipient of our empathy will heal! So … let the healing begin!
To help relieve the mounting troubles in and around us, I’d like to share with you a few thoughts and tips on self-empathy.
You may have observed through watching someone else (or through your own experience) how quickly a crying child recovers from a scraped knee, or some other “booboo”, when a loving adult empathizes, “Oh, sweetie! That must hurt!”
As the adult empathizes and allows the child to express emotions freely, the child quickly calms down and is soon running off to play again. Or maybe you have applied this type of sensitivity to a sick pet. We all know how to do empathy.
How Empathy Works
Empathy comes with the territory of being human, hard-wired into the brain. Like laughter, it can be infectious. It also generates greater understanding and connection with others. When we’re fully present with others going through difficult emotions, our empathy becomes a healing balm, helping those suffering to recover more quickly.
Many of us are good at giving empathy to an upset child or wounded pet. Some of us are well-versed at giving empathy to our relatives and close friends, even our coworkers, in times of trouble. But most of us are not so adept at extending empathy to ourselves, particularly when we experience our own proverbial “scraped knee,” (or worse).
When we experience pain, either emotionally, spiritually or physically, sometimes there’s no one around whom we feel safe enough with to share our difficulties. Sometimes, the difficulty is just too harsh to talk about. Sometimes, we’ve never even considered that extending empathy to ourselves is an option.
Knowing that empathy works with others, it’s relatively easy to consider that it can also work with ourselves! All we have to do is take a step back, take a “time-out” and take an aim to practice self-empathy. Then, we too can heal more quickly and let the wonder of healing continue.
Helpful Tips to Practicing Self-Empathy
Self-empathy is about extending the same understanding and kindness towards ourselves, our challenges and our mistakes, as we extend toward others’ difficulties. You can practice self-empathy anywhere, any time. It only takes a few moments to be present with yourself in full acceptance of whatever you are feeling, emoting, or experiencing.
1. Find a safe and quiet place.
2. Bring to mind the hardship, loss or failure confronting you.
3. As best you can, extend acceptance to your situation and to whatever arises. (This means to simply witness your inner experience, and allow the free flow of your emotions and responses.)
4. No judging. And no criticizing or pushing away whatever you feel is happening. No acting-out in ways that hurt or harm yourself or others either. This is all about kindness.
5. Approaching this process with a heartfelt sense of “forgiveness” will significantly increase the effectiveness of your practice.
6. Make space and allow your feelings to flow, even if those feelings are difficult (frustration, rage, tears, etc.).
As you sit with yourself in the midst of your true difficulty, compassion toward self will naturally arise within you. Let it flow, and feel it. Notice what it’s like to feel the empathy moving in and around you. Notice how it relaxes the tension in your body, and quiets your mind. Notice how it softens and opens your heart.
For each of us, as we look upon our difficult situation, we will feel that it was, or is, unfortunate, sad, maddening, scary, etc. Allowing yourself to actually feel these difficult emotions will elicit a palpable flow of compassion. Understandings around circumstances of your situation may also arise. This “flow” is what naturally starts to move within us, and that’s when the healing happens.
When practicing self-empathy, it’s good to keep in mind that we human beings are designed to make mistakes, fail, and encounter challenges. This is how we learn and grow. This is the human condition. Remembering this helps us let go of any guilt, shame and blaming ourselves or others for our shortcomings, mistakes and hardships. Remembering we are designed to stumble, fall and get up again makes it so much easier to provide empathy to ourselves.
When we practice self-empathy, we can magically come back into balance, into strength, clarity and resolve. We can then spring back and move forward.
So, the next time you feel despondent about what’s going on in the world, take a few minutes alone and go through the steps here. Afterwards, sense your body- your arms and legs, your chest and belly. Notice how the flow of empathy inside of you impacts your sense of presence, tenderness and strength. Notice how you feel more resilient. Cherish this! These qualities will help you navigate through these difficult times with much greater success, skill and ease. Good luck!
Want More Inspiration?
Listen in on the LifeBite podcast aired this week.
“Building Resiliency: Navigating Life’s Challenges — A Guided Journey with Peggy O’Neill”