Thursday, November 4, 2010

Self-Compassion Introduction: Why Is This Important?

Most of us would love to be happy, patient, peaceful people. Most of us would love to be the type of person that is just wonderful to have nearby. And we'd like to be this way no matter what - good times or bad, especially the bad. But ... most of us also struggle to be that person.

So this why self-compassion is important. And to understand this, we can begin to notice what happens when we are NOT self-compassionate.

  1. Our bodies suffer: tension, poor exercise and eating habits and general stress wear us down.
  2. We tend to notice and remember our difficult, unpleasant emotions more than neutral and pleasant emotions. We have trouble being content and happy.
  3. We tend to pay increasing attention to and think about only the difficult things happening in our lives.
  4. We fantasize about and have to hold in check desires for revenge.
  5. Our behaviors risk making situations worse.
  6. And all of this creates habits and reinforces automatic thinking and feeling – making it more likely that we will react in similar ways in the future
And for many, that description is also a fair summary of what happens during conflict and is one of the chief reasons why stress or conflict can destroy relationships, opportunities, or even organizations.

As human beings dealing with less than perfect circumstances, developing personal skills for dealing with stress and conflict is foundational for helping others. Self-awareness and self-empathy open the doors for awareness and empathy of others, skills that become a crucial part of finding and sharing peace and joy in the midst of stress and conflict. We must be peace to bring peace.

It is easy to postpone this peace, to feel like there is something more urgent, and to put our own peace and joy off another day. After all, there are a lot of urgent things that need doing. We have plenty of excuses to put it off, and our habits run deep. And there is usually a strong illusion that we can build tomorrow's peace and happiness on the foundation of today's conflict and coercion. "Once I finish this degree, get that promotion, find the perfect lover.... then, I can be happy." So peace and happiness become another one of those things that we never get around to or that we touch only briefly.

So if we stop a moment, we might see that an urgent need in the world is for more compassionate people. It is our own need, a daily need for empathy and compassion, as well as a daily discipline.

There are three skills for being compassionate people: 1) expressing compassion to others, 2) receiving compassion from others, and 3) cultivating compassion for our selves.

This workbook is meant to be an invitation to each of us to renew our attention to this pressing need and to build skills for coaching ourselves and others in self-compassion.