Welcome to this week’s In Therapy post.
Thanks to those that messaged me about what they might want to see me write about, and here it is.
Do keep the feedback coming as it helps me know what material will be useful to you, my readers.
Let’s get right to it…
Compassion is a word we hear often, but do we know its real meaning and benefits for our lives?
What is it exactly?
Compassion means to suffer together. It is similar and close to empathy, but it’s not empathy. It’s not altruism either.
Compassion leads us to have empathy and be altruistic.
Compassion is not pity or self-pity (“woe is me”, “I’m the only one struggling with this”, “aww poor you”); it certainly isn’t self-indulgence (“I’m feeling sorry for myself so will curl up in a ball and watch tv all day”).
Compassion is about understanding, giving yourself -and others – a break from judgement and high expectations, or any expectations really.
Forgiveness is a big part of compassion.
Practicing it will lead to increased happiness in your life and relationships.
Compassion has physical and mental benefits – the release of certain hormones and neurotransmitters increases that “good” feeling in our bodies. (here is an article talking a bit more about this)
Being compassionate will allow us to be kinder to ourselves and others, and therefore change our perspective and thoughts about ourselves to more positive and understanding ones, hence increasing or keeping mental health in a good place.
We are human, we are not perfect and shouldn’t be expected to be – either by ourselves or by others.
Honour, accept and work with this lack of perfection.
Being human comes with a list of disappointments and a list of ‘unpredictables’.
Nature versus nurture comes into play with compassion, as it does with other learned or innate behaviours.
What were we born with?
Were some of us wired to be more compassionate than others?
How was this affected by our upbringing?
The way we were brought up might allow us to more easily access our self-compassion, or it might make it really difficult for us to even feel a smidge of self-compassion and be critical instead.
Have a think – which side of that coin are you in?
are you more halfway down that spectrum? Has anything changed since you left your family home?
Who has influenced you to be more compassionate to self and others?
If you find it difficult to turn off the critical voice in your mind, try to think about yourself as a third person and see how you would treat them under similar circumstances…
Would you be more understanding and kind and caring about their predicament or would you judge them critically like you do yourself?
Would your opinion of who they are as a whole person change or stay the same in spite of the current situation?
Would you be able to show forgiveness to them for what’s happened?
There are a lot of topics rolled into one in this post!
Here’s another one…
What do you do when you are struggling with strong emotions and difficult situations?
Do you tell yourself to get on with it or do you find ways to work through it at your pace instead of rushing through it because we are told or pressured to not dwell on things for too long…
Being kind and understanding of where we are at this particular moment in our lives will allow us to re-think the judgement and the criticism and the punishing thoughts that might come more often than not…more often than thinking of forgiving ourselves or allowing ourselves to miss the mark and be less than perfect.
When we are compassionate with ourselves and others, we are more aware of the suffering that is happening.
We are more likely to embrace what is going on and work at it and work through it in a way that will allow growth and positive change in your life and the life of those you end up helping.
We can empathise with our and others’ suffering and want to do something about it, to relieve it in one way or another, instead of making it worse by judging or being unforgiving or unkind.
Compassion leads to healthier and a more balanced life and relationships.
Having self-compassion will mean our self-worth comes from within ourselves and not needing others to validate our worth.
Our boundaries – or lack of them – and the way we treat ourselves will show others how they can treat us.
Also, the way we treat ourselves will be reflected in the way we treat others – whether we are critical or kind.
I’d choose the latter.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the first part of this Mini-Series on Compassion.
Let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you!