Self-Compassion :: Strategies for Clinicians



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Part Two

A recap of April 13th’s webinar with The Collective’s Dr. Monisha Vasa + Mindfulness Facilitator Cayce Howe.

What is self compassion?  Self compassion is a genuine wish for ourselves to be free from suffering.  

Why is self compassion especially important for clinician resilience right now?  

-A greater percentage of our clients might be at a “10” in terms of the intensity of their emotions, and we ourselves might also be at a “10.”  

-We may not be able to access our usual outlets and support systems.

-This is a time where we cannot “fix” the problem.  Self compassion is especially important when the problems we are faced with don’t have a clear or easy solution.  

-Self compassion expands our bandwidth or capacity to hold difficult emotions–both ours, and those of others (our clients, friends, family, etc).  

-Self care can be considered the “actionable” version of this–the associated behaviors.  But unless our underlying intention is one of self compassion, the behaviors may not necessarily provide relief.  

-How do we know we are suffering?  What are our “red flag” signs?  “Shoulds” reflective of self criticism, maladaptive coping (distraction), worsening anxiety/depression/irritability (awareness)

Self Compassion Break (Created by Dr. Kristen Neff, a psychologist in San Diego):  an operational way to practice self compassion anytime, anywhere.  

1.  Recognizing this is a moment of suffering.  This naming can be difficult for therapists to do for ourselves since we are so attuned to the suffering of others.  

2.  Remembering–We all suffer.  Suffering is a fundamental part of the human experience, like joy, love, fear, etc.  We are not alone.  Often the experience of suffering feels worse when we feel we are alone.  

3.  Offering ourselves a kind word or a kind gesture (such as placing your hand on your heart, or putting one hand in the other).  May I be free from suffering.  We would not walk past a loved one who is suffering; similarly, we do not want to abandon ourselves in our own suffering.  

Pema Chodron:  “In essence, the practice is always the same:  instead of falling prey to a chain reaction of revenge or self hatred, we gradually learn to catch the emotional reaction and drop the storylines.  Then we feel the bodily sensation completely.  One way of doing this is to breathe it into our hearts.  By acknowledging the emotion, dropping whatever story we are telling ourselves about it, and feeling the energy of the moment, we cultivate compassion for ourselves.  Then we could take this a step further.  We could recognize that there are millions who are feeling the way we are and breathe in the emotion for all of us with the wish that we could all be free of confusion and limiting habitual reactions.  When we can recognize our own confusion with compassion, we can extend that compassion to others who are equally confused.  This widens our circle of compassion.”  


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