Posted on January 25, 2016 in Personal Growth by Sandra Bienkowski
I was in a weekly session of talk therapy when my psychologist said, “You didn’t learn about self-compassion in your childhood.” Tears welled up in my eyes. Just hearing that sentence soothed me. My head was like a boxing match — me against me. And he understood. I was in my mid-20s at the time, and my mind was a hostile place of self-criticism, brooding, and self-loathing. Unfortunately, my inner critic accompanied me everywhere.
I had this incredible talent of quickly identifying the best traits in others, while knocking myself down with the worst traits in me. My parents were extremely critical and now they were in my head. “You aren’t even close to kind to yourself,” my psychologist said. He helped me realize my ability to comfort myself didn’t even exist.
It was a pivotal moment for me in therapy. Of course life felt hard. I was beating myself up all the time! Why did I easily have compassion and kindness for others (including my own pets) and have none for me?
Living without self-compassion is like driving a car you never take in for regular maintenance. Eventually your car won’t work right and it breaks down. Self-compassion is an emotional tool that builds resilience and mental toughness. With practice, self-compassion can build up your inner strength and ward off depression and anxiety.
Here are five ways self-compassion can turn a painful life into a happy one.
1. Your head shifts from foe to friend. Compassion is kindness. When things don’t go right, you coach yourself back up again. You are gentle with yourself. Don’t replay events endlessly in your head to make yourself feel crappy. You talk to yourself in kind ways and say things like, “I did the best I could in the moment with the knowledge I had at the time.” Give yourself support and encouraging words. Drop the negative voice who scrutinizes your every move, and be a friend to yourself. Most of us operate better when someone believes in us. Let that someone be you.
Posted on December 28, 2015 in Personal Growth by Sandra Bienkowski
I was in my early twenties, and I knew something was wrong with me. I was too uncomfortable with myself to even enjoy just one night alone. I worried something might happen that I couldn’t handle. So I spent a lot of time losing myself in T.V., food or dating bad men. I was afraid to be quiet with my own thoughts, and had about zero ability to comfort myself.
The healthiest thought I had was knowing that I needed help. Tired of feeling deeply alone, I found a psychologist who fired a gazillion questions at me in hour one on the first session.
He didn’t accept patients unless he knew he could help them. He was blunt and kind of a smart ass. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my day one of digging my way out of the crushing hole that is depression.
I answered a gazillion more written questions in a standardized psychological assessment about my tumultuous childhood and about me. Around session three, he described me back to me: chronic depression, fear of abandonment, angry but afraid to show it, and lack of boundaries in relationships (people pleaser).
With talk therapy one hour a week for several years, my depression became a thing of the past. My solution wasn’t a quick fix, but it has been lasting.
Call me a student of depression. I’d drive home from those sessions, type up things he said while still fresh in my mind, and place my notes in a three-ring binder. I slowly got healthier, and life got better. I hope what I learned can help you too.
Here are five lasting changes in how you think and behave that will help you heal from depression.
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