Overwhelmed by suffering? Take a Self-Compassionate Break.
Updated: Feb 20, 2022
It's about taking the time to be kind to yourself and changing your relationship to your own suffering.
In this activity, I'll be introducing a practice that you can try out during times of deep suffering.
It's called the Self Compassionate Break.
Self-Compassion is one of our many personality traits. Undoubtedly, all of us experience pain and suffering from time to time in different shapes, forms and intensities.
How self-compassionate you are determines how well you can be kind to yourself during times of suffering.
The less self-compassionate you are, the more likely you are to blame yourself for your own suffering. It amplifies the suffering, making it last longer and more intensely.
It makes your suffering worse.
The Self-Compassionate pause is a five minute activity created by Psychologist, Dr. Kristen Neff.
When we aren't being self-compassionate and simply let suffering run its course in our minds, we unconsciously subject ourselves to the harsh judgment of our own minds.
You know this very well.
Our own minds might tell us that we deserve to suffer, or that we are the cause of this suffering. It might tell us that we are worthless or that we are not good a person. We judge ourselves harshly for our own sufferings and we are our own victims.
The Self-compassion Break encourages us to approach our inner hurt in a non-judgmental and compassionate way.
In this activity, we'll be recalling a recent or present suffering that we are going through, and to change our relationship toward it, by looking at it through a lens of self-compassion.
Important Note: You might think this exercise sounds cheesy to practice. However, look at it from this view. Would you not say the same things and hold a loved one's hand while they are going through their own suffering?
Below is a three-step written guide on the Self-Compassion Pause, as well as a guided one by Dr. Kristen Neff herself.
Link to the guided meditation:
1. Think of a situation in your life that is currently or recently causing you stress or grief.
Recall this situation in your mind and see if you can actually feel the discomfort, whether emotional or as a physical sensation on your body. You might even feel discomfort in specific areas of your body, like your chest or abdomen.
Now turn to the suffering and feel it. Let whatever feeling you're going through grow in your body. You'll find that the more your feel it and become open to it, the less of a hold it has on you.
You can add in a phrase to encourage this, such as "Yes, I am suffering right now". Say whatever is comfortable and in your own words, for example:
This really, really hurts.
This is a time of suffering for me.
This is so difficult.
2. Next, express your understanding that suffering is universal.
Even though another person's suffering is different from yours, everyone still goes through suffering, one form or another. It's part of being human.
Say to yourself a phrase to appreciate this, such as "Suffering is a part of life", or otherwise:
I'm not alone in this.
Every person suffers as well.
We all go through suffering.
3. Lastly, put your hands on your heart and feel the warmth and gentle, comforting touch of your own hands.
Really take the time to feel that you are comforting yourself. Think about what you need to hear right now to express kindness to yourself.
Some phrases of encouragement you can give yourself are:
May I be kind to myself.
May I love myself more.
May I learn to forgive myself.
May I be strong
May I accept myself.
Go through each of the three segments slowly. You can say as many phrases during each time, as long as it helps you to accept the suffering that you are going through.
You'll find a better sense of peace after the activity. Why not practice being kind to yourself more often?
I hope you enjoyed this short activity. If you enjoyed it, do try and practice it whenever you feel stressed and could use a little bit of kindness to yourself. Remember, it only takes five minutes of your time.