Be Kind to Yourself

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle
Plato

A common characteristic of people in early sobriety, or still in the grips of an addiction or self-defeating behaviour, is how hard they are on themselves. This tendency emanates from feelings of remorse, guilt, hopelessness and in some cases shame. I have heard clients describe themselves in very negative ways, as they wrestle with the obsession and the compulsion of addiction.

heart wallAddictions are like prisons, dark places that trap people in soul-destroying loops of craving, using, regretting using and then craving again. In this cycle, it’s very difficult to be kind to oneself, and all too easy to judge. Sometimes this is compounded by the judgments of others who can’t understand why the person doesn’t just stop drinking or using.

How to be kind to oneself? One way to tap into a rich vein of kindness is to consider beings in your life to whom you already extend unconditional kindness, perhaps a child, or an animal. Spend a moment or two, sending kindness their way. Picture their face, their eyes, the ease with which they let your kindness land. Now picture yourself receiving that same kindness. coveyBreathe it in. Let it wash over you. Rick Hanson, the brilliant author of Buddha’s Brain, suggests a physical way to experience kindness: try putting your hand on your cheek or heart to stimulate the embodied experience of receiving compassion.  When you catch yourself in negative thinking, try this sometime. It’s simple and surprisingly powerful.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
Dalai Lama

progress not pA key element to kindness is patience. Being patient with anything, especially in early recovery, can be difficult. See if you can catch moments of impatience with yourself.

Shifting from: I can’t believe I haven’t figured this out yet. To: There’s no rush. I’m doing my best here. I am learning everything I can in this moment.

not perfectNote the distinction between doing one’s best and being perfect. Unkindness and impatience have their roots in perfectionism and the need for control. Letting go of being the General Manager of the Universe (GMU) is another way to be kind to yourself and, well, everyone else too. Let’s face it, you really aren’t qualified for that job

Expectations for perfection breed impatience, disappointment and self- judgment. We are innately incapable of perfection. Join us imperfect humans – it’s sunny and warm over here 🙂

result of thoughtsBeing kind to yourself doesn’t mean being a doormat or having low standards or wavering from your values. Boundaries are a very important component of self-kindness. Boundaries are about not allowing someone to walk through your mind with dirty with dirty feet, as Gandhi said. Sometimes self-kindness is about saying No. No is a complete sentence after all.

Kindness is a wonderful foundation from which to create a successful recovery. It’s very difficult to extend kindness to others unless you are extending it to yourself. Fuel yourself with kindness so you can be kind to others.

If you had a friend who talked to you like you sometimes talk to yourself, would you continue to hang around with that person?
Rob Bremer

Invitation

hand on heartThis month, do whatever you can to be kind to yourself. We are all fragile, imperfect humans and even without the challenges of early recovery, we can benefit from self-compassion.

Practice physical self-kindness: place a hand on your cheek or over your heart and send kindness inward.

Experience the energy of kindness: Extend to yourself the same kindness you would to a child or a beloved animal.

Resource for You

Just One Thing: Neuropsychologist genius guy, Rick Hanson, provides simple and powerful ways to re-wire our brains using mindfulness and compassion. I recommend his work all the time. His newsletter is also great: http://www.rickhanson.net