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Mindful : February 2019
give it a try,” he told himself. “I know you can do it.” And he imagined what his trainer would say when a setback occurred: “Hang in there, bro. We’ve got this.” Bill slowly began to discover his compassionate voice and learned how to support rather than sabotage himself. Eventually he quit his com- pany job, found the venture capital needed to start his new project, and started liv- ing the life he needed to live— one that made him happy. Sometimes Life Is Hard. Can You Be Kind to Yourself? Pain in life—loss, worry, heartbreak, hardship—is inevitable, but when we resist the pain, it usually just makes the pain more intense. It’s this add-on pain that can be equated with suffering. We suffer not only because it’s painful in the moment, but because we bang our head against the wall of reality—get- ting frustrated because we think things should be other than they are. Another common form of resistance is denial. We hope that if we don’t think about a problem, it will go away. Research shows that when we try to suppress our unwanted thoughts or feel- ings, however, they just get stronger. Moreover, when we avoid or suppress painful thoughts and emotions, we can’t see them clearly and respond with compassion. Mindfulness and self-compassion are resources that give us the safety needed to meet dif- ficult experience with less resistance. Just imagine how you would feel if you were overwhelmed and a friend walked into the room, gave you a hug, sat down beside you, listened to your distress, and then helped you work out a plan of action. Thankfully, that mindful and compassionate friend can be you. It begins by opening to what is, with- out resistance. After practicing speaking to herself compassionately for some months, Rafaella learned to hold herself and her anxiety with mindful- ness and compassion, rather than fighting the experience. When she became anxious or even a little panicky, her inner dialog ue went some- thing like this, spoken from a compassionate part of herself: “I know you feel really scared right now. I wish things weren’t so difficult, but they are. I know there is tighten- ing in your throat and some dizziness in your head. Still, I care for you and I’m here for you. You are not alone. We’ll get through this.” With a new, more compassionate inner voice, Rafaella’s panic attacks receded and she found she was much more capable of working with her anxiety than she had realized. In a moment of struggle, we don’t practice to be free of our pain—we prac- tice compassion because sometimes it’s hard to be a human being. Radical acceptance is like a parent comforting a child who has the 48-hour flu. The parent doesn’t care for the child to try to drive the flu away—the flu is going to leave in its own time. But because the child has a fever and feels bad, the parent comforts her as a natural response to suf- fering while the process of heal- ing occurs. It’s like this when we try to comfort ourselves, too. When we fully accept the reality that we are imper- fect human beings, prone to make mistakes and strug- gle, our hearts naturally begin to soften. We still feel pain, but we also feel the love holding the pain, and it’s more bearable. Together, mindfulness and self-compassion form a state of warmhearted, connected presence that strengthens us during diffi- cult moments in our lives. ● ABOUT THE AUTHORS Kristin Neff, PhD, is Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin and a pioneer in self-compassion research. She is the author of Self-Compassion and the audio program Self-Compassion: Step by Step, and cocreator of the online course “The Power of Self-Compassion.” Christopher Germer, PhD, has a private prac tice in mindfulness and compassion-based psychotherapy and is a psychiatry lecturer at the Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance. He is a founding faculty member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and of the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and cocreator of the online course “The Power of Self-Compassion.” WHEN WE FULLY ACCEPT THE REALITY THAT WE ARE IMPERFECT HUMAN BEINGS, PRONE TO MAKE MISTAKES AND STRUGGLE, OUR HEARTS NATURALLY BEGIN TO SOFTEN. Excerpted from The Mindful Self- Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff, PhD, and Christopher Germer, PhD. © 2018 Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer. Reprinted by permission of Guilford Press. 48 mindful February 2019 self-compassion