asc logo

Achieving Self-Compassion Blog

Useful information and resources for you

Recent blog posts

Posted by on in General

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 becomes activated to help you protect yourself.

     I learned this experientially 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 be 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 world 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.

    In order to achieve 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 function more effectively and enjoy a deeper sense of well-being. With enough practice, this choice will become a self-compassionate habit that prevents you from ever responding to challenging situations with stress. Why would you when you realize your stress serves no purpose?

    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 peace of mind.

    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 have consequently 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 when I needed some respite from the challenges I faced. However, I am happy 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, LCSW, is the author of Achieving Self-Compassion: Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace.  He invites you to share your experiences with self-compassion on his face book page, "Achieving Self-Compassion." He looks forward to hearing from you!

Hits: 68
0

Posted by on in General

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 priviledge 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 facebook page, Achieving Self-Compassion where you can discuss your own experiences with self-compassion.  He looks forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

Hits: 73
0

Posted by on in General

     We all 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 feeling of pulling the blankets up to our necks on a cold winter’s night or the joy of reconnecting to an old friend, our ability to bask in life’s pleasures magically improves the quality of our lives. 

     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 petal. 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 lessons 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 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 check our his website at www.achievingselfcompassion.com.

  •     
Hits: 1344
0

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 onto 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 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 more 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.  I look forward to reading about your experiences with self-compassion on my "achieving self-compassion" facebook page or in the forum section of my website, www.achievingselfcompassion.com.

Hits: 4536
0