Friday, July 13, 2012
Be Compassionate to Yourself
One of the best books I have read on the subject of Anxiety is From Panic To Power by Lucinda Bassett. She is the founder of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. It is a very realistic book on the subject as the first portion of the book she shares her story of her battle with anxiety related disorders. Then she offers a variety of practical helps for individuals with anxiety or therapists can use these helping ideas with clients.
I want to focus in on one of recovery techniques she shares. In chapter 8 she discusses Compassionate Self-Talk. I am a big believer in the importance of Positive Self-Talk which is the same thing but the term compassionate intrigued me. If we think about it and ponder over the negatives things we say to ourselves we are often more compassionate to others than to ourselves. We can often be our harshest critics. We stop our selves from progressing in our work or activities we want to do because we put ourselves down. Thoughts such as “someone else could do better than me”; “there is no way I can be successful with that”; “There are so many better writers, painters, singers,…than me”. The negative critic inside stops us from what we can really do. If we heard our best friend say these things we would stop them and help them think in a more positive way. But living with inner self we continue to tear ourselves down with negative self-talk.
Ms. Bassett says of compassionate self-talk, “it is any message or dialogue with yourself or someone else that makes you feel good, strong, happy, confident, relaxed, capable, loving, energetic, peaceful or motivated.” It is the messages we tell ourselves that can overcome and help us flourish in our daily walk. We need to understand that our thought life is powerful enough to motivate ourselves to do great things, to overcome depression and anxiety, to gain power in difficult times, and to rise above being a passive victim and conquer the difficulties.
We first have to understand the level of our negative self-talk. She recommends carrying a small spiral notebook, ( I call these my brain on paper), and when you hear yourself say something negative like, “I feel too blah to go to work today” or “I can’t volunteer at the Summer camp, what if I make a fool of myself?” Write the statement down. After a week look over the statements. Is there a theme? Are you a “what ifer”? Such as “what if I fail, what if I look foolish”. Funny thing about what ifs is that they rarely come true. Or maybe you’re an “I Can’tr” Phrases like “I can’t do that” come up over and over again in your self-talk. As you look at the list consider how negative is what you are saying to yourself. How harmful are the statements? How are they defeating you or stopping your success.
In your notebook Ms. Bassett says to rewrite thought replacements. Take the time to write what you should say instead the negative things you are saying. This is like re-writing the scripts for your life. In being compassionate in your rewriting of negative self-talk be realistic. If you are feeling depressed because your car was wrecked don’t try to negate a true feeling by saying, “I am not depressed I am cheerful and happy. I am gald my car got totaled.” Instead say “I am feeling down about the car but I can be thankful I wasn’t hurt.” In understanding compassionate thought replacement we need to understand our thoughts can make us bitter or better. They can cause our emotions to spiral down in the dumps or spiral upwards to a energetic triumph over our difficulties.
Reflection: Spend 15 minutes thinking over your most recent thoughts from the past few days. Jot down a few of the negative scripts you say to yourself. Imagine you heard your best friend saying these same things. What would you tell your friend out of a spirit of compassion to help them say things that are more positive? Be more compassionate to yourself!