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The Portals Into Self-Compassion

                                                                                            

                                                           

     THE PORTALS INTO SELF COMPASSION

 Developed by Nate Terrell, LCSW

 

I grew up in a Quaker family where I was taught to serve others and consequently became a social worker which has brought great meaning into my life. However, until recently, I was never as good to myself as I was to others. As a result, I often felt depleted and even “burned out.” Fortunately, I listened to the wisdom of my teenage son and began to take better care of myself and treat myself with the same compassion I had for others.

I was gratified to discover that my efforts filled me with an abundance of happiness and inner peace I could pass onto others. I have been on a mission ever since to spread the wonders of self-compassion far and wide through the use of the following portals. I have witnessed and experienced the healing and transformative power of these portals in my work with clients and my own quest to be more self-compassionate.

BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND

If you “beat up” on yourself in a harsh, judgmental manner, begin speaking to yourself inside your head or out loud in a caring and helpful manner, just like you are your own best friend. For instance, when you are going through a hard time, you could say to yourself, “Hang in there, I am behind you all the way!”

DEVELOP BELIEFS THAT WORK FOR YOU

You may hold onto beliefs that cause you unhappiness, stress, etc.  One of the keys to self-compassion is to identify the beliefs that are not working and replace them with ones that are more functional like you are shedding an old skin. In fact, one of the key components of my work with clients is to encourage them to “try on” new beliefs to see how well they work.

KNOW THAT YOU ARE INHERENTLY WORTHWHILE

Many people mistakenly believe that they are not worthy because they fail to live up to their own expectations, the bad treatment they have received from others or the mistakes they have made. However, worth is not something we need to achieve. We are all inherently worthy and knowing this fills us with a lightness of spirit that spreads through our entire being.

DO NOT PROJECT YOUR NEEDS ON TO OTHERS

We often make the mistake of projecting our needs onto others and feel hurt or even angry when these people do not provide us with what we are looking for. However, it is impossible for anyone else to know us well enough to consistently meet our needs. We alone know best what we need and are generally much better able to give it to ourselves than anyone else.

GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFTS OF HAPPINESS AND PEACE OF MIND

People often believe that they need their unhappiness and stress to motivate them to make changes in themselves and their lives. However, this is not the case. These negative emotional states deplete our energy and diminish our quality of life. We can strive to choose happiness and peace of mind, regardless of the challenges we face.

I learned this important lesson 30 years ago when my wife and I attended a treatment program for help with our daughter, Nicole, who has Rett Syndrome (a form of autism). Our counselor encouraged us to give up the unhappiness, stress, etc. we were experiencing because of Nicole’s lack of development and choose happiness and peace of mind instead. I eagerly made this choice because I was stuck in a painful dead end and had no other place to go.

I was amazed and relieved to discover that I was filled with positive energy I could use to make a real difference in my daughter’s life rather than drowning in my internal angst. I also realized that I could let go of my unhappiness in many other less challenging situations which led me to experience previously unknown levels of well-being and serenity.

TAKE GREAT CARE OF YOURSELF

One of the most self-compassionate things we can do is to take great care of our physical, emotional and social needs. In fact, each day presents us with countless choices about how to spend our time and focus our energies. When we respond to these opportunities in ways that bring us meaning, pleasure, comfort and good health, we feel satisfied with our lives. When we ignore our needs, we feel frustrated and even depressed. TUNE INTO

YOUR “AUTHENTIC SELF”

We all have an inner realm we can access by transcending our thoughts and feelings which enables us to experience inner peace and hear our inner voice amidst the noise in our heads and the world around us. It is a permanent part of us that does not change as we experience life’s challenges or develop different outward identities. In a nutshell, it is who we are at our most basic level.

ELIMINATE NEGATIVE REACTIONS

It is very freeing to train ourselves to respond to difficult life situations in a calm and focused manner rather than with anger, frustration, etc. The key to this challenge is to recognize the visceral, physiological sensations we experience just before we have a negative emotional response and to tell ourselves in no uncertain terms that we have the choice not to act on these sensations.

APPRECIATE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE

A major key to happiness is to appreciate all the good things in our lives. Whether we are marveling at the unconditional love our dogs give us or appreciating the joy of reconnecting with an old friend, our ability to bask in life’s pleasures significantly improves the quality of our precious time on this earth. In fact, one of the most important decisions I have ever made is to totally appreciate every good aspect of my life.

ENJOY THE PRESENT MOMENT

There are a variety of portals into the moment that are always accessible. One is to switch our focus from our thoughts to what we are experiencing through our senses which opens us up to an entirely different world. We can also “lose ourselves” in activities (often called flow) that fully capture our attention and enable us to operate from the most expansive parts of ourselves. Finally, we can view the moments of our lives as opportunities to be savored rather than stepping stones to getting to some other place.

PASS YOUR COMPASSION ONTO OTHERS

One of the best things about achieving self-compassion it that it gives us more compassion for others. As a result, we are compelled to do what we can for our fellow human beings and build a better world by eliminating suffering and injustice.

Many people believe that it is selfish to be self-compassionate. However, there is nothing selfish about eliminating self-criticism, treating yourself with kindness, being happy, transcending your worries, finding a peaceful place within or savoring the good things in your life. In fact, your positive energy and spirit will attract others to you and inspire them to become their best selves and let their own light shine.

I invite you to experiment with these portals into self-compassion to discover which ones work best for you - it will be your gift to yourself. I hope they change your life as they have mine!

 

Nate Terrell, LCSW, is the author of “Achieving Self-Compassion: Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace."  Nate invites you to check out his website, www.achievingselfcompassion.com where you can sign up for his newsletter and/or self-compassion coaching. He also invites you to share your experiences on his Facebook page, “Achieving Self-Compassion.

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Overcoming Male Shame

 

 

                                                                                  

         OVERCOMING MALE SHAME                     

Nate Terrell, LCSW

 

The toughest challenge I have experienced in my life is ridding myself of the pervasive shame I have experienced from my childhood. Although my father was viewed as a saint by many because of his passion for creating world peace, he did not demonstrate his benevolence on the home front.

He frequently criticized my mother for all her perceived faults and sometimes yelled at her for hours without pause. I was deeply ashamed of my father’s behavior and grew up terrified that I would turn out like him.

Despite my fears, I developed a bad temper and would inevitably experience a “shame attack” whenever I lost my cool.

 CAUSES OF MALE SHAME

I also see the toxic and insidious impact of male shame in many of my clients and friends. It usually stems from childhood trauma such as physical or sexual abuse, the psychic cost of the mistakes they have made and/or their failure to live up to the “man code.”

If you are not familiar with this concept, the “man code” is the expectation that men display a sufficient level of manliness by not showing too much vulnerability, acting “tough,” etc. When men fail to live up to the “man code” they often experience shame or are shamed by others.

Men are also trapped in a box they can’t escape due to the conflicting expectations placed on them by significant others in their lives. They are criticized for not letting down their guards and expressing their feelings and vulnerabilities.

However, when they do so, they are often shamed for not being “manly” and called a variety of words that are too ugly to write. Their response to this quagmire is often to shut down, lash out at others or drown their frustrations in alcohol or other addictions.

 WORKING WITH MEN WHO ARE DROWNING IN SHAME

I can spot male shame a mile away although it is usually evident in the way men slump down in the big green chair in my office and look at me with the quiet desperation which Thoreau so aptly described. They are often caught off guard when I inquire about their level of shame (often within the first 15 minutes of our session) since they have worked so hard to hide it: “real men” are not supposed to feel shame.

Given this opening, stories tumble out about abusive fathers, childhood bullying, cut off relationships with children, the impact of their bad tempers, work failures, medical problems and the inability to perform in the bedroom (the ultimate violation of the “man code”).

Highly relieved that another human being (and a fellow man to boot) has heard their story and treated them with compassion rather than judgment, men are almost always eager to learn strategies they can use to overcome their shame.

HOW MEN CAN OVERCOME SHAME

1) We can know that we do not have to bear the “sins” bested upon us by our fathers.

Regardless of the mistakes our fathers have made, we are free to choose our own paths in life. Indeed, we can honor our fathers even as we strive to become better fathers than they were, thereby helping to create a better world.

Fortunately, I have learned to curb my temper and remain calm (at least most of the time). I am joyful that I am not destined to repeat my father’s mistakes and able to face my future with resilience and optimism rather than shame.

2) We can recognize that our shame does not erase the mistakes we have made or compel us to become better people.

We do not need shame to make amends for our past failings. In fact, when we are filled with shame, we are highly self-absorbed and therefore less able to be sensitive to the needs of those we have hurt.

My work with Joe (not his real name) illustrates this point. He had made some poor decisions which were hurtful to his wife and left him drowning in shame. Whenever his wife brought up what he had done, his shame led him to protect himself by either withdrawing from her or lashing out at her in anger.

I pointed out to him that how his shame was destructive to him and his marriage and encouraged him to make amends to his wife by letting it go, listening attentively to her feelings and focusing on meeting her needs rather than his. His ability to achieve these goals enabled him and his wife to regain their mutual trust and emotional connection.

3) We can stop trying to live up to the “man code” which has led too many of us to feel inadequate and suffer in shame.

Instead, we can live with integrity and use our power as “fierce gentlemen” to effectively serve rather than dominate others, fight for causes we believe in and therefore help make this a better world for all of us.

When we escape from the shackles of the “man code,” we are also free to grow into our best selves and express our humanity rather than just our toughness.

4) We can treat ourselves with self-compassion which eliminates our shame and fills us with happiness and inner peace.

Rather than beating up on ourselves for our inadequacies or mistakes, we can talk to ourselves in a caring manner, just like we are our own best friend.  

We can also rid ourselves of self-judgments and know that we are inherently worthy. Finally, we can choose to avoid unhealthy behaviors and take great care of ourselves.

For most of my life, I believed it was selfish to be self-compassionate and that the main purpose of life was to take care of others. However, upon the wise advice of my teenage son, I began to treat myself with greater self-compassion a few years ago.

I was happy to discover that my efforts filled me with an abundance of positive energy, goodwill and serenity that I could pass onto others. Indeed, the inner light my self-compassion has given me has eliminated the darkness of my shame and changed my life profoundly.

If you have a father, partner, son, husband or friend who you suspect suffers from male shame, I encourage you to ask him about it. The discussion that ensues might help you understand him on a whole new level.

If you suffer from male shame (I am now speaking to most of the men on this planet), I am behind you all the way in your efforts to eliminate this emotional toxin and enjoy a shame-free life. It will be your gift to yourself, those that love you and the world at large!

 

If you would like to learn more about the wonders of self-compassion, I encourage you to check out my book, Achieving Self-Compassion: Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace. I also invite you to sign up for my newsletter and/or self-compassion coaching on my website, www.achievingselfcompassion.com.  Finally, I would love to hear about your own experiences on my Facebook page, “Achieving Self-Compassion.”

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We Are All Inherently Worthwhile

 

 

WE ARE ALL INHERENTLY WORTHWHILE

By Nate Terrell, LCSW

 

If you do not feel worthwhile, you may suffer from depression, torment yourself with self-criticism and/or lack the confidence you need to get where you want to in your life. 

You may feel unworthy because:

1)  Your parents or caretakers treated you as if you were not lovable during your formative years

As a result, you may have developed the perception that something was wrong with you, failing to realize that the uncaring treatment you received was caused by your parent’s unhappiness, emotional limitations, etc. rather than your unworthiness.

2)  You do not measure up to the expectations that you or others have regarding your physical appearance, professional success, economic status and so on

You may mistakenly believe that you need to “earn” your worth by meeting these expectations and that feeling unworthy will somehow propel you to become the person you want to be.

3)  You constantly compare yourself negatively to others;

There will always be people who are more talented, accomplished, wealthier, better looking, etc. than each one of us.  When we compare ourselves to them, we are left feeling inadequate and unworthy.

4You are afraid to give yourself the gift of self-worth because you fear it will cause you to be self-centered

I assure you - there is nothing self-centered or selfish about knowing we are inherently worthwhile.  In fact, people who feel worthy and whole within themselves have no need to be self-centered and can instead turn their energies to caring for others.

However, I have great news:  we are all worthy and this includes you!

This conviction is based on my Quaker belief that every human being has value and an “inner light” which can never be extinguished.  This light is the source of our best qualities, such as kindness and goodwill.  It also helps us maintain our spirit and find our way during difficult times. 

When I work with clients who suffer from low self-worth and the unhappiness it creates, I look them directly in their eyes and tell them flat out:

You are inherently worthy and lovable, regardless of how others have treated you, your imperfections or the mistakes you have made.” 

I will always remember the response I received when I said this to a young women who had lived her entire life under what she described as a “black cloud” of depression and low self-worth.  She looked at me intently as tears rolled down her cheek and whispered with a look of hope and possibility, “I want to believe it.”

"Try on Worthiness"

I then encourage my clients to “try on” the belief that they are worthwhile until we meet again.

Although they rarely come into our next session bursting with self-love, my clients almost always report they have enjoyed at least some relief from their unhappiness.  It’s as if they have been sitting in a dark room all their lives and their budding self-worth has cracked open the door, letting in a highly welcome sliver of light.  Our work then turns to how they can open this door wider through more effective self-care.

If you do not feel worthy, I hope you will also “try on” self-worth to see how well it fits.  You can then build on the increased well-being and inner peace you will experience by:

  • Talking to yourself in a kind and caring manner,
  • Eliminating your inner critic
  • Showering yourself with self-acceptance and hopefully even self-love
  • Appreciating your good qualities
  • Taking great care of yourself
  • Forgiving yourself for your past mistakes
  • Eliminating guilt and shame
  • Ending toxic relationships
  • Always treating yourself with self-compassion

If you have been haunted by low self-worth throughout your life, it is likely that it will take the persistent practice of these and other self-help strategies to feel good about yourself.

However, as you replace the shackles of inadequacy with an abiding sense of self-worth, you will experience a lightness of spirit that spreads through your entire being, bathing you in happiness and serenity.  You will also have a burst of new energy to overcome the challenges you face and grow into your best self.

Finally, you will be filled with an abundance of goodwill that you can pass on to others, thereby helping to create a better world!

 

 Nate Terrell, LCSW, is the author of “Achieving Self-Compassion:  Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace” which you can purchase on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Achieving-Self-Compassion-Giving-Yourself-Happiness/dp/1504949013

He also invites you to check out his website, www.achievingselfcompassion.com where you can sign up for his newsletter and/or coaching.  Finally, he hopes you discuss your own experiences on his Facebook page, “Achieving Self-Compassion.”

    

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Give Yourself the Gift of Inner Peace

         

                 

GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF INNER PEACE

    By Nate Terrell, LCSW

 

You probably experience some level of stress as you grapple to overcome the challenges you face and meet your responsibilities.

In fact, you may believe that you need this stress to motivate you to accomplish your goals or make the changes you want in your life. However, this is not the case. Stress only depletes your energy and serves no purpose outside of dangerous situations when your limbic system automatically becomes activated to help you protect yourself.

I learned this experientially many years ago when my wife and I attended a treatment program for families with children with autism along with our daughter, Nikki, who has Rett syndrome. We discussed the high level of stress and anxiety we were experiencing with our counselor as we struggled to meet Nikki’s needs and overcome our intense fears about her lack of development.

She then surprised us by asking what we were afraid would happen if we let go of our stress. I was momentarily speechless (for one of the only times in my life) because it had never occurred to me that I had any other choice than being upset about Nikki’s situation. I eventually responded that maybe I needed my stress to take good care of Nikki or to demonstrate how much I wanted to help her.

Our counselor then asked us, “Why don’t you choose to be peaceful and happy, regardless of the challenges you face with Nikki.” This simple question compelled me to experience a life-changing epiphany: my stress wasn’t benefitting Nikki or me in any way. It was as if a door was cracked open, allowing me to escape from a dark room and venture into a new realm of light and possibility.

I eagerly took the risk of letting go of my stress and was excited to find that I was much more focused and effective with Nikki when I gave myself the gift of inner peace.

In fact, I had a renewed vigor that enabled me to join my wife in a very intensive home-based treatment program we developed for Nikki which enabled her to learn how to do many new things and brought great meaning into my life.

I have asked many of my therapy clients similar questions when they are stressed out. They are initially as puzzled as I was and generally respond that they are afraid that greater inner peace would make them complacent and take away their drive towards self-improvement.

I assure them that if feeling peaceful causes them to stay in bed all day and ignore their responsibilities, they can always go back to being stressed. However, this never happens. Instead, they always have greater energy to solve their problems and grow into their best selves.

If you seek inner peace, I encourage you to ask yourself why you are “choosing” stress every time you experience it.

At first, this might be challenging, especially if you have labored under the erroneous belief that your stress is caused by the challenges you face rather than your reaction to them. However, simply asking yourself this question reminds you that you have control over your reactions to difficult situations.

You can then focus on choosing inner peace which will enable you to function more effectively and enjoy a deeper sense of well-being. With enough practice, this compelling choice will become a highly effective habit that prevents you from ever responding to challenging situations with stress. Why would you when you realize your stress serves no purpose?

Practice Choosing Inner Peace

If your life is filled with stress rather than inner peace, I encourage you to practice choosing inner peace at every opportunity to make it a habit and begin the process of rewiring your brain to a healthier mindset. Here are some effective strategies you can use to grease your path towards greater inner peace.

You could talk to yourself in a calm and loving manner, just like you are your own best friend.

When my stressed out clients ask me how many times they should do this, I suggest that they start with a million and then re-evaluate how this strategy is working for them. After years of practice, I do this automatically every time I begin to experience stress and consequently have enjoyed previously unknown levels of inner peace.

You could also transcend your thoughts and feelings and tune into you “authentic self,” which is who you are at your most basic level.

You can go this inner realm any time you choose to experience a sense of quiet and presence amidst the noise in your head and the world around you. I used to access my authentic self only when I needed some respite from the challenges I faced. However, I am joyful to have discovered that I can stay in this tranquil place almost all the time and still live an effective life in the outside world. I wish the same for you!

Finally, you could visualize that you are in a peaceful place, such as sitting on a sunny beach.

While there, imagine everything you are picking up through your senses. What does the hot sun feel like on your skin or how do the ocean waves sound? Practice going to your “beach” whenever you experience stress and you will be surprised how quickly it dissipates.

I am behind you all the way in your efforts to choose inner peace over stress and hope that your efforts will enable you to live your life with a sense of serenity and happiness that you can pass onto others, thereby helping to create a more peaceful world!

 

Nate Terrell is the author of "Achieving Self-Compassion:  Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace."  He invites you to check out his website, www.achievingselfcompassion where you can sign up for his newsletter and/or self-compassion coaching.  He also encourages you to share your experiences with self-compassion on his Facebook page, "achieving Self-Compassion." 

 

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Smart People Are Not Better!

 

 

 

 

 

   SMART PEOPLE ARE NOT BETTER 

     By Nate Terrell, LCSW

 

Dumb, stupid, idiotic - these words that I hear every day haunt me because they expose the prejudice that exists towards people who are perceived to not be smart.

If this prejudice did not exist, these words would have no power and therefore never be used. This would be fine with me since I experience them like fingernails on a blackboard!

The belief that intelligent people are superior to others is so deeply ingrained that it is simply viewed as a fact by most people and rarely questioned.

I see this illustrated by the puzzled response I receive when I tell people that these words are highly offensive and request that they not use them.

I have nothing against highly intelligent people. They generally contribute a great deal to society with their new ideas, innovative solutions to problems, etc. In fact, I am joyful that we have a smart president! However, I am unclear why such a high value is placed on a quality we are basically born with, unlike kindness or sensitivity which we can develop. This is illustrated by the fact that people who are brilliant, but insensitive are often more admired than kind people with significant cognitive challenges.

Societal attitudes towards people who are perceived as not smart are illustrated in movies such as Forrest Gump. Just as the African-American Sidney Poitier in the movie classic, "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner," had to have numerous advanced degrees to qualify to marry a white women, Forrest makes up for his lack of being smart by running back and forth across the country, exhibiting valor in Vietnam and loving a women who shuns him until she is dying. The message is clear: people who are not sufficiently smart must be superhuman in other ways to make the grade.

However, smart people are not better than those who are determined not to be.

We are all inherently worthy and capable, regardless of how quick-witted we are. In fact, I would love to live in a world where we are all celebrated for our unique individuality and basic humanity as much as our intelligence. In this new world, people with cognitive challenges would feel appreciated and vital, rather than victims of the discomfort or derision of others.

I have not always had this perspective. I grew up in a highly intellectual family where people were judged by how smart and talented they were. In fact, my father often described people as “sharp” which was for him a highly valued trait. Consequently, I assumed my worth was dependent on my accomplishments and intellectual ability and felt uncomfortable when I encountered others who I perceived to be significantly less smart than I was.

My worldview was dramatically changed with the birth of my daughter, Nicole, twenty-eight years ago.

Just like all of us, she has different abilities. She has a loving and gentle spirit and does not even have the capacity to be mean or judgmental. She loves to eat, walk in the woods and have her back rubbed. She has also never learned to talk and will never be able to live independently. However, taking care of her is a privilege that has brought great meaning and purpose into my life.

Nikki is not slow or delayed, simply going at her own pace.

She is not disabled, rather highly abled in her ability to teach us important lessons about unconditional love, living in the present and the appreciating the little pleasures in life, which she does continually. Yes, she has special needs, but who doesn’t?
Nikki is perfect just as she is and is doing the best she can in life, just like all the rest of us.

How people view Nikki is a reflection of how they see themselves. People who are highly judgmental and laboring under the false belief that that intelligence determines worth are often uncomfortable with Nikki because she reminds of their own perceived deficits. People who love and accept themselves view Nikki as the whole and complete person she is.

Unfortunately, people like Nikki are not generally effective in confronting the prejudices others have towards those they believe are lacking in intelligence.

They are unable to organize a movement to counter the ways in which they are demeaned or advocate for the elimination of commonly used words like moron. Therefore the deep prejudices towards people like her remain unchallenged or even ever discussed as a valid societal issue.

However, I am on a mission to change how people view others who they perceive to have less intelligence.

I am looking for fellow travelers who can join with me to help create a world where people like my dear Nikki are celebrated for the unique beauty of their being and never judged to be lacking in any way. With your help, this new movement has the potential to profoundly change how people like Nikki are viewed and therefore experience the world around them.

To get things rolling, I have a request for anyone reading this.

Please eliminate negative judgments towards people who you believe are not adequately intelligent and recognize on a deep level that we are all sufficiently worthwhile. Let your family and friends know that you are offended by words like stupid, retarded, idiot, etc. and do not tolerate them being used in your presence.

Most importantly, if you ever encounter Nikki, take the time to tune into her deeply accepting and loving spirit. It will be her gift to you!

 

Nate Terrell, LCSW is the author of "Achieving Self-Compassion: Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace." He invites you to check out his website, www.achievingselfcompassion where you can sign up for his newsletter and/or self-compassion coaching.  He also encourages you to visit his Facebook page, Achieving Self-Compassion where you can discuss your own experiences with self-compassion. He looks forward to hearing from you!

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The Magic of Total Appreciation

                    

          THE MAGIC OF TOTAL APPRECIATION             

Most of us know that a major portal to happiness is to appreciate the good things in our lives.  Whether we are marveling at the unconditional love our dogs give us, the comfort of pulling the blankets up to our neck on a cold winter's night or the joy of reconnecting to an old friend, our ability to bask in life's pleasures significantly improves the quality of our precious time on this earth.

I recently enjoyed a lecture by Dr. Rick Hanson, who wrote the best-selling book, Hardwiring Happiness:  The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence.  He discussed the evolutionary reasons we are programmed to focus on the negative rather than positive aspects of our lives.  He then challenged us to overcome this inherent bias by significantly increasing our focus on what is good about our lives.  I left Dr. Hanson’s powerful lecture inspired to make total appreciation one of the cornerstones of my life.

I began this quest on my two hour ride home by being continually thankful for everything I was experiencing which included the beating of my heart, the music of Springsteen blasting from my car speakers and the fact that all I had to do to get my car to move forward was to press gently on the gas pedal.  I also created a mental list of the best things that have happened in my life and remembered each one in as much detail as I could muster.  I wrapped up my trip by visualizing that I was sitting on the front porch of my beloved family cabin in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, gazing at the cedar stream meandering by and basking in the wonders of nature.

I have continued to totally appreciate every good thing in my life and have relished the increased happiness and joy it has brought me.  I have found many new things to be grateful for that I had previously not paid enough attention to such as the sounds of the peeping frogs in a nearby pond as the evening sets in, the fact that my body is healing a small cut on my finger without any effort on my part and the beauty of the sun shining down on the Buddha statue in my front yard.

Ongoing appreciation does not negate the challenging or painful aspects of our l lives.  However, it fills us with a sense of inner abundance that we can use to overcome the hurdles we face and lessens the sting of loss, disappointment and even trauma.  In fact, our level of happiness at any given moment is largely determined by our ability to focus on the positive rather than negative aspects of our lives. 

If you want to prove to yourself how much control you have over your happiness, spend a few minutes thinking about everything that is wrong with your life.  Very likely, you will begin to feel a bit down.  Now, switch your focus to what you are grateful for and your mood will immediately brighten.  I sometimes do this in ten-second intervals, watching my mood bounce up and down like a yo-yo.

I often ask my depressed clients to at list five things that they appreciate. I enjoy seeing their spirits lighten as they ponder what they are grateful for and consequently develop a more positive perspective on their lives.  I also encourage my clients to bathe themselves in gratitude in between our sessions like it is water cascading down over them from a waterfall. 

Whenever I encounter people who appear to be very happy, I ask them what their secret is.  They generally cite their appreciation for the fact that they woke up that morning and/or note that they have a lot to be thankful for which increases the quality of their lives.  I wish everyone was able to be this grateful - the world would certainly be a happier place!

Many people are unable to be thankful for what they have because they mistakenly believe that they need something else in their lives to be happy such as finding the right partner, losing weight or making more money.  However, happiness is not an elusive goal to be reached at some future point, but a wonderful gift we can give ourselves at any moment through our ongoing gratitude.

Over the course of my life, I have experimented with many different strategies to experience greater well-being and peace of mind.  Although they have all been helpful, my new focus on total appreciation has enabled me to soar to new heights.  I wish the same for you - the view is terrific from up here!

Nate Terrell, LCSW, is the author of Achieving Self-Compassion: Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace.  He invites you to go to www.achievingselfcompassion.com. where you can sign up for his newsletter and/or self-compassion coaching.  He also encourages you to discuss your experiences with self-compassion on his Facebook page, "Achieving Self-Compassion."  He looks forward to hearing from you!

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It is Not Selfish to Be Self-Compassionate

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IT IS NOT SELFISH TO BE SELF-COMPASSIONATE

By Nate Terrell, LCSW

 

 When I tell people I have written a book on achieving self-compassion, they often ask, "Isn't it selfish to be self-compassionate?"

I always respond that there is nothing selfish about being our own best friend, knowing we are inherently worthy, choosing happiness or enjoying the present moment, which are the cornerstones of self-compassion.

In contrast to self-compassion which is simply about treating ourselves well, selfishness is about being self-centered and meeting our needs at the expense of others. Selfish people put themselves first and are driven by self-preservation rather than fairness.

Consequently, they feel a sense of entitlement which leads them to promote their interests even this causes others to suffer. In fact, most of the problems in this world are caused by the destructive behavior of selfish people who lack the empathy they need to be caring and sensitive human beings.

Self-compassion is vastly different from selfishness because it fills us with happiness and peace of mind that we can pass on to others.

Highly self-compassionate people live their lives with fulfillment rather than scarcity and therefore have no need to be self-centered or selfish in their quest to get their needs met. They know that they do not need to choose between being compassionate to themselves or others. They can do both at the same time and enjoy the rewards that both have to offer.

For much of my life, I also believed that it was selfish to focus on meeting my own needs and that the main purpose of life was to help others.

Not surprisingly, I became a social worker which has brought great meaning into my life and enabled me to be a guide to others as they overcome the challenges they face. I routinely put my needs aside as I ministered to others which often led me to feel depleted or even burned out.

My conviction that I was responsible for the happiness of others was challenged by my son, Darqui, who my wife and I adopted when he was nine.

As a result of the trauma he experienced before he joined our family, Darqui often sank into dark and angry moods where he seemed beyond our reach. When this occurred, I would hover around him, trying desperately to help him overcome his inner demons and find the happiness he deserved.

During a particularly difficult time in our relationship four years ago, he informed me that he hated me trying to make him happy, that he had the right to feel however he wanted and that there was nothing I could do about it. He also told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to leave him alone and worry about my own life.

Although hurt by this rebuff, I began to realize that it was grandiose for me to believe that I could make Darqui - or anyone else for that matter - happy.

I gave Darqui the space he demanded and reinvested the energy that I had using trying to rescue him from himself to better meet my own needs. I spent more time in the woods by myself, began meditating on a regular basis and most importantly, listened to my own inner voice that knew what was best for me at any given moment.

After not speaking to me for a couple of months, Darqui finally wandered into my home office one day and began to talk. I asked him how I had done leaving him alone and he congratulated me on my efforts. Although I am devoted to doing everything within my domain to help Darqui,

I have never again taken on the responsibility for his happiness which has helped our relationship immeasurably. Although we are very close, he never fails to remind me when I need to back off and let him be.

I have continued to take better care of myself and treat myself with the same self-compassion I have always tried to extend to others.

Rather than make me more selfish, I have more positive energy to serve others and help them become their best selves. As a result, I feel even better about myself which has created a cycle of increasing abundance in my life that I treasure.

I hope you are also able to recognize that there is nothing selfish about taking great care of yourself.

Rather than take my word for it, prove it to yourself by experimenting with the strategies I discuss in the book that Darqui inspired me to write entitled, Achieving Self-Compassion: Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace. I have no doubt that you will become more rather than less caring and giving to others as a result!

 

Nate Terrell invites you to view his website, www.achievingselfcompassion.com where you can sign up for his newsletter and/or self-compassion coaching.  He also encourages you to visit his Facebook page, achieving self-compassion, where you can discuss your experiences with self-compassion.  He looks forward to hearing from you!

 

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