Tag Archives: emotions

Self-Compassion

No, you haven’t entered into a netherworld, this is about ‘Self-Compassion’.  What is this strange term that I hear you ask?  Well, take a seat and let me explain 🙂

When I was in hospital last year, I attended a course on self-compassion.  I attended with the obligatory cynicism, and indeed, managed to get through the whole course maintaining this cynicism.  I was so proud that I hadn’t been brain washed into self indulgence.  Self-compassion is the realm of those who believe they are worth a damn.  Those self-indulgent people who chose to look after themselves and sometimes (shock of all shocks) put their needs ahead of others.  Like anyone could ever persuade me this was a good thing.

Except that now, many months later I finally get it.  I actually get it, and I am trying to do it.  And I’m getting there.  I still feel a bit guilty, a bit self-indulgent, and sometimes a bit silly, but I get it and I’m trying it.

Let’s take a step back and explain.  Self-compassion is about allowing yourself to be treated in the same way that you treat others.  Allowing yourself comfort, from others and from yourself.  If a friend told me they were feeling low, I would drop everything to help them out.  I wouldn’t think twice about it.  I would want to provide them the comfort and support they needed at that time.  If they needed to talk I would listen.  If they needed comfort I would hug.  Turn the tables round to me though and you have a different story.  I would never call for help.  I didn’t deserve help.  I was wallowing in my own self-pity and needed a good kick to get me out of it.  I was weak and just needed to (wo)man up.  No-one would want to listen to my misery anyway.

Reading this back now makes me feel sad, although these thoughts can still inhabit my mind from time to time.  I’ve been seeing a counsellor for years and really thought I was opening up to her.  I thought I was allowing her in to help me and I was paying her to do so.  The payment was important as this was a business transaction and not someone putting themself out for me.  I thought we were doing good work and she was certainly, for the most part, keeping me on an even keel.  But I realise now, that I was just telling her things, with a general feeling associated with it.

It’s only since my hospital admission, and subsequent treatment, that I have really understood what letting people in means.  And when I talk about letting people in, I include myself.  I’ve shut myself out of this as well.  It’s not about remembering past experiences and saying how awful or great they were.  It’s remembering past experiences and remembering how you actually felt at that time.  Sad, helpless, proud, ashamed, inspired, happy, worthless, worthy….the list goes on.  And experiences do generally involve a huge mix of emotions, some of them even contrasting.  

So, with encouragement, I have slowly started connecting with some of these feelings, and sharing them with close friends and family.  I don’t mean just rushing everything out…but if they ask how I am, I stop and think, and try to tell them how I am actually feeling.  And no one has run away from me, or told me to stop wallowing.  I haven’t gone as far as letting them comfort me but we are taking steps in the right direction.  I have to be honest, thinking about and identifying emotions is one of the hardest things I am having to do.

The other change I have made is that I provide myself a little comfort and try not to feel guilty.  I booked a day off work when I felt things were getting a bit much, and spent the day watching movies.  I even made popcorn and really indulged….or at least as much as a novice can.  I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty and self indulgent but I would remind myself why we were doing this (‘we’ being my old and new self).  I make myself a list of ‘healthy’ activities each day, and make sure I do them in an effort to take care of myself and maintain my health.  If I don’t do one of them, I don’t berate myself and wallow in guilt, but think about how I can fit it in the next day.  I went to a jewellery shop and bought myself my first ever piece of ‘proper’ jewellery, just because I could.  I wear and notice it every day.  It reminds be to be kind to myself and start to believe that I might actually be worth it.

So, how does this resonate with you?  Are you a doubter, believing this is the realm of self-indulgence?  Or are you an advocate and implementing some self care and spoiling?

 

Healthy Emotions

One of the most revealing courses I attended was called ‘Healthy Emotions’.  The course focussed on the four key emotions: Happiness; Sadness; Anger; Fear (others are available depending where you look).  Each week sees a different emotion being explored.  Such a simple topic and not one that I expected to get much from.  How wrong could I be?  I’m a grown woman, I used to be a nurse, I get ‘emotional’ on a regular basis…what could anyone tell me about emotions?

Well, for starters, I wasn’t really connected to any of them.  I knew about happiness, I just wasn’t really experiencing it.  Anger was fine as I never get angry. That is surely a good thing.  Fear and sadness…did we really need to spend time on these?  They’re a bit depressing.

If I tell you now that the course resulted on me being recommended for anger management, you may get a sense of how this course went.

For each emotion, we first looked at the purpose of the emotion.  Each one relates back to our survival as a species.  We then went on to identify the internal physical sensations associated with that emotion, how it is displayed through body language and facial expression and then words that are used to describe that emotion.  The next activity was to develop a ‘1-10 scale’ for that emotion.  As an example, for anger, 1 might be annoyed with 10 being rage.  Finally, we would use an experiential activity to help explore the experience of each emotion.

The first emotion we explored was anger, and this is where a little flag started fluttering in the back of my mind.  I remember sitting there feeling quite content (may I say smug) that I was never angry.  Anger is a bad thing and shows a lack of control.  Angry people are aggressive and intimidating.  I was almost smug when the facilitator went round the room asking us to provide examples of when we have felt anger.   I happily reported that I didn’t have an example as I was never angry.  It was when I received the raised eyebrows from the facilitator that I started to worry.   I then remembered the first appointment with my consultant when he suggested I had a lot of anger held up inside of me.  I had almost laughed, but here it was again.  Then there was that other time in a different group when I made a statement and the therapist gave me a look (I got a lot of those in the beginning) and said she sensed a lot of anger and shame in me.  I was so proud of myself when I looked her in the eye and confidently said that those weren’t the words I would have chosen!!  I was definitely sensing a theme.

The first few exercises were fine and I dutifully called out some answers to show willing.  My flag started really flapping when we got on to the descriptive words.  ‘Frustration’ was the word that did it for me.  How many times had I told people I was frustrated?  Not angry, just frustrated.   This was probably one of my best used words.  I was always frustrated by people.   Did that mean I was angry?  The group agreed that frustration was probably a 2 on the anger spectrum.  I had to stop myself from jumping in to say they obviously didn’t get as frustrated as I did.

And that is when it hit me.  I did indeed experience anger.  I did have a huge amount of anger inside me.   Why had nobody told me this before? I am ashamed to say that I did actually think that. Lesson 1,  sometimes you need to see something yourself before you can acknowledge and deal with it.

Naturally I refused to do the experiential activity, as I was still denying that I knew about anger to everyone else in the room.  I left the room a little shaken and with a lot on my mind.  How was I going to fix this one.  I didn’t want to be an angry person.  This was really bad!!!

I’ll deal with my anger management in a future post, as for now I want to wrap up the Healthy Emotions part.  Just be aware that I now realise that all four emotions (including anger) are positive experiences.  You need to be in touch with your mind and your body so that you can notice your experience of these emotions and truly understand how you are feeling.

Other than my anger lesson, my key learnings from this course are as follows:

–  All emotions are good.  It is your experience of them that might need adjusting.

– I imagine the four emotions as a cross with ‘contentment’ sitting in the middle as a zero starting each emotion.  You need to work on your life to achieve contentment…your body can’t cope with constant happiness…..unless you can be happy with being content with your life.

– When your mood changes, take a moment to try to determine the emotion you are experiencing and what might have triggered it.  The more you practice this, the easier it gets.

– There are lots of other emotions and they tend to be a combination of two or more of the primary emotions.

– Never disagree with a therapist (not out loud anyway)…they are generally (and annoyingly) always right.

– I am able to experience each emotion and recognise it!!!

I am very aware that I haven’t talked much about the emotions themselves, just the way the course was run and my experience of it.  I’m not an ‘emotion’ expert and don’t want to misinform.  Feel free to research the web for more information and post in the comments.

If you would like to practice identifying with your emotions, I can highly recommend a website called ‘Moodscope.com’.  I am not sponsored by them!!  It was recommended to me by my GP and I have found it an excellent tool.  The site enables you to track your mood by rating 20 different cards with different emotions/feelings written on them.  Really think about the words (they provide a description) and how you are experiencing them (if you are).  The site itself is intended to allow users to measure their mood on a daily basis which has been found to be highly beneficial for people with depressive type illnesses.

Thanks for reading x