My Problem with Inanimate Objects
The Power of Self-Compassion
Lately, I have been having trouble with inanimate objects. They just don't want to cooperate. I can't believe how stupid the kitchen knife was when I nicked my finger. "Stupid knife!" Or how about my phone? OK, I know it is a few versions old, but you'd think it would still work when I open it up. "Stupid phone." But the real kicker was when my boots came untied on a walk, and I almost tripped and fell on the ice. "Stupid boots."
Oh! It doesn't stop there. I have many stupid plants that spill water out when I try to give them a drink. Or how about the stupid snow that keeps piling up? And the weather, don't get me started on the weather. Why can't it just decide whether it's going to be cold or warm? Why couldn't we have had snow on Christmas instead of the beginning of February? "Stupid weather!"
I find it so much easier to blame something else and even someone else. I am quick to assign guilt because I am slow to give myself the benefit of the doubt. These days the air seems filled with blame. I often feel overwhelmed by what appears to be forces beyond my control. Taking a moment to stop and name my reactions gives me the freedom to decide if I would like to try on a new response, maybe one not so harsh or filled with fear and judgment.
I could laugh at myself, smile at my errors.
I could recognize that as often as I make mistakes, I also do things right.
I could take a moment to breathe, and instead of reacting to whatever is happening, stop and do nothing.
I could say to myself, "Oh! This is interesting. I wonder what will happen next." Responding with curiosity instead of harsh judgment.
Dr. Kristen Neff (Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself; William Morrow; 2011) tells us that the first step toward self-compassion is to recognize my own suffering, not with self-pity or self-indulgence but by practicing a forgiving attitude; replacing criticism with kindness.
What's the payoff? According to Dr. Neff, the result of self-compassion is more fulfilling relationships, less burnout, increased optimism and happiness.
Why not embrace life as filled with both light and shadow, an adventure in living? The practice of self-compassion can help.
Something to try!
If I sit around too long, I stew in my toxic thoughts. Moving helps, especially getting up and getting outside. It is more challenging these days with snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. But it is not impossible. And while I am out walking, I find myself better able to clear my mind.
Dr. Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan, in an article, "Self-Talk . . . How You Do It Matters," writes that we all have a monologue going on in our head that is often critical. He suggests talking to ourselves in a new and kinder way. If we address ourselves using "you" or saying our name, it can be like a close friend walking and talking to us.
Here's how I do it.
First, I pick a good time in the day to get outside.
Second, I take it slow. I just begin walking and noticing everything and everyone around me.
Third, after a few minutes, I repeat these loving-kindness phrases to myself:
Mike, may you be safe.
Mike, may you be happy.
Mike, may you be healthy and strong.
Mike, may you be at peace.
And it really is as if I am listening to a good friend talking to me. I am always surprised at how much better I feel after a ten-minute walk using this practice. Sometimes I can't even remember what I was so upset about. I hope you try it.