I am going back to Anger Management classes. One of the most beautiful things I learned was the exercise of self compassion.
The instructor had us think of a situation that is difficult or causing us stress. When she first offered the suggestion I couldn’t think of anything right away. I think it was the awareness wheels I had been completing. Just as I was having a mini celebration in my head that I was improving she went on to the next step. Before I could stop myself I blurted out, “Wait I don’t have anything yet!”
In hind site I wished I had just let her continue on with the activity because the lesson that followed was humiliating. But often that is when we are best ready to learn what we need to know.
As I closed my eyes and really thought about a stressful situation, I could feel the emotional discomfort in my body. (Imagination and pretending have always been a strength.) My body was tense and I could sense my brow was starting to furrow.
The first thing I did was identify the feeling. However, you choose to do it is fine but I can’t do this exercise without praying… So I would say something like … “Heavenly Father, God, this is ____________. (stress, hurt, anxiety, fatigue or pain).
The second step is acknowledge that it is a common humanity. I might sound like this. “Hurt is part of mortality.” or “Everyone feels this way sometimes.” “It’s part of creation to feel this way.”
The third step is where I placed my hands over my heart, I felt the warmth and gentleness of my hands. Then I said something as simple as, “May I be kind to myself. May I accept myself as I am. May I forgive myself. May I be strong. May I be patient. May I learn to accept myself as I am.” I don’t repeat all those just the ones that apply.
The instructor had us open our eyes and tell about the experience. I was embarrassed because tears flowed down my cheeks and tears were collecting on the desk. What has just happened? Why was this experience so foreign to me? Why was I crying and why had I not let her continue on in this activity without fully participating?
I realized sitting in that room was one of the first times that I allowed myself the same compassion that I was naturally extend to others. I have one of the harshest voices in my head. It holds me to an impossible standard one that I would never impose on anyone else. But it was the first time I acknowledged my limitations in a kind, caring way.
The way I pray started to change. I started saying, “Dear Father, I feel _______. This is a mortal feeling. But I am not only mortal. Help me remember my spiritual self too. Help me remember that I am created in your image and this feeling doesn’t have to stay forever. That I can choose to let it go and choose to replace it with joy, patience, love, kindness or long-suffering.
I would recommend you try this activity. It may increase your joy and you might remember everyone, yourself included is deserving of your compassion.