Last night, satisfied but really tired, I got to rest after a few days intense work. Helping people find acceptance and self-compassion, is a big part of my job as a therapist. Many people are stuck in pain about the past, or anxiety about the future. Compassion and insight open the door to freedom.
I help people get what they want, which often means getting free of situations, thought-patterns, or moods they find intractable, so they can grow. Some of what I know, I learned through my own therapy, the rest through training and through doing the work for a long time.
I’m intensely curious about how people tick. Often I must feel around in the dark for missing pieces in the life puzzles they’re struggling with. Sometimes I need to cut through stuff they find impenetrable, to devise new methods and take fresh perspectives. Anyway, to cut to the chase, the stakes are high — it’s intense work.
To unwind, I watched a history show, then slept late before spending time with one of my kids. Everything was good, but then, my emotional intelligence took an unexpected holiday. Before I got hold of myself, I’d had a mini cranky attack about something meaningless. I’d squashed the vibe.
I felt the withdrawal of my kid’s connection and happiness, subtle, quiet, but noticeable. Regret smashed in.
How suddenly, completely and unexpectedly my wise mind can slip off her throne!
Old habit held out the dog-eared invitation I pull from the dusty drawer at such times – the invitation to beat myself up, to berate myself for my slip when I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER…
“I’ve been teaching this stuff to others repeatedly, for a long time, and NOW when I get home to rest and enjoy my family….look what I do…”
Mindfulness reinstalled immediately, with updates, not a moment too soon…
“Shhhh, thank you, but that thought is not helpful” I say to myself.
It’s the path of everyday compassion calling. Wise mind is back online.
I mentally take myself by the hand and remind myself that it’s OK, that our mindfulness lapses, our wisdom falls asleep and the task is to keep waking ourselves up. The work of compassion is not to maintain some weird, impossible perfection, but to lovingly pick up our pieces and have another go. That’s how life is.
Self-compassion is a simple idea, but it is not easy. In many ways it seems to go against the grain of striving.
Yet, in fact, it clears our path so we’re not incapacitated by fear of failing, or anxiety about being found unworthy. It gets the mean, distracting, punitive stuff we tend to entertain, out of our way.
Self-compassion is the voice that asks imprisoning self-doubt to step aside, and opens the door to greater emotional freedom.