Kindness heals when we start being kind with ourselves, we calm the inner critic and then start caring for others. This in turn causes a ripple effect of encouraging community kindness and who knows how far we can go.
What is this self inside us, this silent observer, severe and speechless critic, who can terrorise us and urge us on to a futile activity and in the end, judge us still more severely for the errors into which his own reproaches drove us? T.S. Eliot, The elder Statesman
Does kindness Heal? Does T.S. Eliot’s words resonate with you? If they do, then you are not alone in the world. I find that I am far more harsh with myself that I would ever be with anyone I know. Why do I do this to myself, and how can I stop? On discovered a book called Self Compassion, stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind by Kristin Neff, PhD, I found some answers. https://www.mindful.org/the-transformative-effects-of-mindful-self-compassion/
Why do we self criticize – when kindness heals
One of the critical points she makes is that this is a natural and universal ego cycle, she says we come by this dysfunction honestly, and it is not our choice, it is part of our human inheritance. The reason for this is we want to be safe. Our development as a species and as individuals is for basic survival.
So if this is our human condition do I accept that I am going to stay critical of myself, making my life a misery for the rest of my life. Kristin says, Thankfully not. I have had to work hard at this, but understanding that its part of my natural being, helps me realise that it is only a protective mechanism and so when I get into a negative state I can become aware that is what I am doing and start rephrasing my words in my head.
The three components to the kindness healing process
Kristin’s three tips.
- Common humanity
Kristin maintains get actively involved in comforting yourself – as you would to a dear friend. Allow yourself to be emotionally moved by your pain – say to yourself, “This is difficult right now, How can I care for and comfort myself at this moment?” With self-kindness, we learn how to self soothe. I tend to expect the worst regularly and in doing so, cut myself off from happiness. Kristin says these inner workings are not etched in stone and can be changed. When we consistently give ourselves empathy and support we learn to trust that help is always at hand. We wrap ourselves in the warm embrace of self-kindness; we feel safe and secure. http://lovinglylivelife.com/2019/10/11/what-steals-my-joy/
Research has shown that increased levels of oxytocin sharply increase feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity and connectedness and also facilitate the ability to feel warmth and compassion for ourselves. Oxytocin reduces fear and anxiety and can counteract the increased blood pressure and cortisol associated with stress. Hence self-compassion may be a powerful trigger for the release of oxytocin. Apparently hugs work too.
The amygdala is the oldest part of our brain and detects threats in the environment. When we experience threatening situations, the fight-or-flight response is triggered. Over time the increased cortisol levels lead to depression by depleting various neurotransmitters involved in the ability to experience pleasure.
When we experience warm and tender feelings towards ourselves, we alter our bodies as well as our minds.
Being Kind To others and how it heals
The second fundamental element of self-compassion is recognition of the standard human experience, she says. When we remember our common humanity, we recognise that feelings of inadequacy and disappointment are shared by all. Thinking of our selves, we feel ‘poor me’; kindness to ourselves remembers that everyone suffers, and it offers comfort because everyone is human. Being in our ‘poor me’ place, I isolate myself from others, and it is as if the rest of humanity does not exist. She says this is a logical thought process but is an emotional tunnel vision. We feel as though we are suffering alone.
Kindness is a community healing
As I stated in my previous blog, just a walk on the beach, seeing other people, helps me start feeling more connected to the outside world and starts lessening my feelings of isolation. Noticing the needs of others, someone in a wheelchair, litter on the beach, a homeless person, I begin to see that my problems are not as significant as others, and I can start reaching out to others, instead of being wrapped up in my problems.
The needs around me are great, and I can then go in the opposite direction, feeling overwhelmed by that need, so it is essential to focus on one need at a time.
Mindfulness in healing kindness
To give ourselves compassion, Kristin says we first have to recognise that we are suffering. We can’t heal what we cannot feel. We need to know the exact emotion, be it guilt, defectiveness, sadness, loneliness etc. Just stop and analyse that we are having a hard time and that our pain is deserving of a kind caring response. Otherwise, our suffering will go unattended, and our feelings of stress and worry will only mount.
- So we first have to try and not run away from painful feeling, harder said than done.
- Secondly, to notice our pain without exaggeration.
- Try and be in the here and now. Like brushing your teeth, notice the feeling of the toothbrush brushing your teeth, the taste of the toothpaste, the feeling of the water as you rinse the water out of your mouth.
I know how hard this is but to stop the train of thought, instead take a step back and say, this is what I am thinking, I am not my thoughts. When you focus on the fact that you have specific ideas and feelings you are no longer lost in them.
Kindness to others brings healing to ourselves
I was delighted to see that my kindness blog coincides with World Kindness day on Wednesday 13 November and an organisation called Search Inside yourself Leadership Institute is launching a #PracticeKindness day, a movement to connect with our common humanity and spread kindness. This I found on Facebook so google if you are interested.
Coming across a study on the World Economic Forum, shows a survey of whether kindness, love and a strong sense of community actually makes you healthier and happier, apparently it does. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/10/according-doctor-biggest-contributor-health?fbclid=IwAR1g7iEqJAvcIBG0dR3AqeU_SveVsYqut_HCS8caVICnwGdgeybHhugiGGI
“You can probably toss out your human resources manual and just rewrite it as, ‘be kind’. Kelli Harding – Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Centre
I think because I feel I am living in such tough times with negativity all around me I turn into this irritable, angry, anxiety and become an isolated person. No more, I am not going to let outside circumstances influence my inner kindness.
Life is like throwing a stone into a pond watching the ripples – if all the ripples expanding are expanding with negativity, negativity grows, if all the ripples are expanding with kindness, kindness grows.
I love the #I’m staying in South Africa movement. It shows just how much kindness is out there, which in turn, starts other people wanting to be kind. I want to live in a world like that. Don’t you?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and repetition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4 6:7 NIV
How amazing is that? This verse gently reminds me of the kindness of God. When I am self-critical and allowing my thoughts to run away with me I become anxious. This, in turn, raises my cortisol levels and puts me in a state of flight or fright situation leaving me with the inability to think about others, and I feel lonely and isolated. All I need to do is meditate on these words. Feeling less anxious, knowing that I can bring all my requests to God, and he will bring me peace that will transcend all understanding is the ultimate kindness.
Neff. K. PhD. 2011. Self Compassion, Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. Hodder & Stoughton. REFERENCES:-