What is compassionate? It is the willingness to experience your feelings without blaming yourself or others. The biggest impediment to creating compassion is the feeling of shame. Shame doesn’t get a lot of press because it’s difficult to talk about it. People usually confuse guilt with shame. Guilt is a feeling that you have done something wrong whereas shame says I am bad. When we feel shame we want to hide and we certainly do not want to talk about it. This is where compassion comes in to help with these difficult feelings.
- Ask yourself what am I feeling? It’s important to label or acknowledge the feeling state. Feeling reside in the body. Locate where in your body you are have feelings or sensations. I usually say to clients are you feeling mad, sad, glad or scared? There are many feeling words but these four cover the range.
- You may notice that after you identify the feeling there are thoughts of blame, revenge, hopeless, despair and so on.
- Acknowledge the thought by saying silently these are just thoughts. My thoughts are not who am I. They are just thoughts.
- You may notice the urge or feeling to act on your feelings of jealousy, revenge, or self loathing. That’s okay. Allow yourself to have these feelings AND at the same time decide to not act on them. How do I do that? Read the next step.
- Writing helps with strong urges. Talking with a trusted friend can help. If you find that your friends don’t want to hear it anymore that means your friends have gone as far as they can with you on your journey of self discovery. It’s doesn’t mean they are no longer a friend they simply can’t travel any deeper with you. If you find this is happening then it’s time to talk with a professional. There are many roads to self discovery and healing and psychotherapy is only ONE road.
- Remember the blaming of self or others is what keeps the negative feelings going. A feeling only last 90 seconds in reality. The feeling stays around because of the thoughts that we attach to the feeling state. This is your story. You can re-story can time you want. However, if you think there is benefit in keeping the story even though it brings pain, disappointment, heartache then the story will stay. Remember your story serves a purpose even if the purpose is negative.
- If you don’t know what you feel, blame yourself for some transgression or think others are the cause of your misery then there can be no compassion. Compassion says I know what I feel and I’m not buying into the negative beliefs that accompany my downer feelings. Remember a feeling is just a feeling. We make it more because of our beliefs.
If find you are critical of others then that same voice is operating on you. This is a good place to begin by acknowledging this critical voice and deciding to practice compassion.