Compassion: Part 2

Written by: Meaghan Highway, LMHC

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” (Jack Kornfield)

What we tell ourselves, in crucial moments and in everyday experiences, can shape our lives. In part one of this miniseries, we talked about the innate potential each one of us instilled within us by God, and how this is a reflection of His love. Next, we will unpack how what we say to ourselves can be a crucial tool in how we go about our days.

Everyone talks to themselves, and we often aren’t even consciously aware of it (unless we happen to actually speak out loud while in public!). This isn’t a good or bad thing; it’s simply one way of our mind’s processing what’s going on around us. However, if we are unconsciously speaking negative things to ourselves, we are probably unwittingly contributing to any ongoing sadness or anxiety we experience. Sadness and anxiety have many facets, and can’t be explained by one reason – but what we tell ourselves about what goes on in our lives can often help these issues stay alive.

With this in mind, here are some concrete suggestions for becoming more aware of what you’re saying to yourself over time (and this often contributes to what we say to ourselves at crucial moments, like when faced with an emergency or in a major life shift):

  1. Get a small notebook and pen and keep it with you (or start a new document on your tablet or phone). If it’s helpful, try to set an alarm on your phone to go off at regular intervals (i.e. once every hour, to start).
  2. Now that you have the tools, consider this experiment: when the alarm goes off, bring your conscious awareness to what you’re doing at that moment. For example, if it’s a catch-up Saturday for you, perhaps you are doing loads of laundry, dishes, yard-work, etc. As you go about the day, when the alarm goes off, where are you in the list you’ve created for yourself? For example: the alarm goes off as you are switching one load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. You pause in mid-motion, wet clothes in hand, as you hear the alarm go off. You draw your consciousness to what is around your body – the feel of the wet clothes in your hands, your feet pivoting on the floor, the steady in-and-out of your breath.
  3. Finally, as you practice becoming aware of what you’re doing in the moment, begin to add the next step of becoming aware of what you’re thinking in that moment. For example: As you’re holding the wet laundry in your hands, perhaps your thoughts are going something like this: “I have so much to do, next I need to start baking for the school sale, how am I going to get this all done by Monday, this is too much for one person, why do I always let myself get wrapped up in all these obligations, I won’t have enough time to prepare for the business meeting this week, maybe I can get someone else to take it for me, but no – I signed up to be a part of it and I don’t want to be a slacker if I call off, I can’t believe I always get myself into these situations…” etc.

Consider the ‘theme’ of the thoughts suggested above that may happen at any time, even while doing something as simple as laundry. It suggests that there is stress, too much obligation, self derogatory commentary, and resignation coloring inner (often unconscious) thoughts. If this is an example of what could be a constant theme, no wonder we find ourselves often immersed in stress!

Having compassion with others is often natural to many people – we know how to be supportive, sacrificing and encouraging to others. But what about showing compassion to ourselves, in the daily grind? By becoming aware of what we tell ourselves over time, we better equip ourselves to begin replacing these negative thoughts with positive, self-affirming and compassionate ones. For now, try doing this experiment over a week or so and note what you are doing and thinking when the alarm goes off. See if you notice any trends – are there particular events or situations that trigger more negative thoughts, or more positive ones?

As you are practicing this experiment in bringing more awareness into your life, be sure to have compassion on yourself – particularly if you’re starting to realize how negativity may color your self-perception! Consider Psalm 139:3 – 6, 11 – 13, 16 – 17:

“You know everything I do in more detail than even I know. You know what I’m going to say long before I say it. It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone. You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me, and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder. It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out; the realization of it is so great that I cannot comprehend it. Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me, the light around me will soon be turned to night,” You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes. For You the night is just as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes. For You shaped me, inside and out. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; every detail of my life was already written in Your book; You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them! How grand in scope! How many in number!” (The Voice Translation)

As you continue to grow, keep these verses in mind to bring your awareness back around to what is true and life affirming, for this is yet another way to have compassion with yourself. God is waiting to help you as you practice awareness, and that He views you with more love and compassion than you could ever comprehend.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is intended to educate, inform and entertain. This does not represent psychotherapy, therapeutic assessment, or any other form of therapeutic intervention. This should not be used as a substitute for consultation and treatment with a licensed mental health professional. If you have questions related to the material contained in this site please contact CCM or a licensed mental health professional of your choice.

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