When you are having a hard time, there are several ways to treat yourself. On the one side you can choose not to allow and accept that you feel what you feel. This may involve deminishing your experience (“It isn’t important, focus on something else!”). It can also mean becoming self-critical and yelling at yourself for being in pain (“Get yourself together, don’t be so stupid!”). Both to trivialize or to criticize what you feel can be seen as an attempt to move forward. Unfortunately, it is very demotivating and shameful to be scolded or to not be allowed to feel what you feel. Rather then helping yourself get going to manage your life, you end up kicking yourself while already on the ground.
Another way to deal with your emotions is with self-pity, which is, in some way, cultivating the pain of emotions without taking responsibility for them. Often, self-pity is characterized by the fact that you experience your emotions as caused by someone else (“You make me angry” instead of “I get angry when you do that”). When you don’t treat your emotions with agency (treating your emotions as information about yourself in the world), you will at the same time risk placing the responsibility of your emotions on others. Another problematic aspect of self-pity is that your feelings are often experienced as something unique and personal that only you can understand (“It’s just me who has these experiences, and you can’t possibly understand how painful it is”). This is problematic because you then also deprive yourself of the possibility of getting the understanding and comfort from others.
Between these two – not accepting and greeting your emotions or dwell in self-pity – you can find self-compassion . Self-compassion involves allowing your feelings to be there, and meeting them with wonder, curiosity and affirmation. You really do several things when you are self-compassionate:
- You allow the emotion to be there.
- You try to understand it and make sense of it.
- You affirm that it is understandable and human to feel that way.
- You try to put words to what you need
“Now I’m sad, and I’m allowed to. I’m sad because I miss my mother. It’s no wonder I miss her because she meant a lot to me. I wish I had someone I could talk to. I need comfort and support!”
If you want to practice meeting yourself with self-compassion you can click here to find an exercise that is about comforting yourself with self-compassion. .