The word compassion means to “suffer with”….we all have the universal trait of being able to show compassion.
If you were walking along a sidewalk and someone in front of you fell to the ground. You become aware that this person may have an injury or need your assistance. You feel a human connection to this person - you know what it feels like to fall and be in pain, or embarrassed, or need help to get up. You offer to help them, give them words of encouragement, or if they are badly injured, you call 911 and assure them that you will stay with them until help arrives. We do this instinctively.
You are good with showing compassion to others, but how are you with self-compassion?
Self-compassion is showing yourself that same level of compassion as the woman on the sidewalk.
Self-compassion research done by Kristin Neff at the University of Texas, Austin, found three elements in the practice of self compassion: self kindness, common humanity, mindfulness.
These are the same three elements present when we show compassion to others. You become aware that some one is in pain, you feel a human connection to assist them, and you are able to show kindness to comfort their pain.
The practice below is one I developed to help me remember Kristin Neff's research when I am in a moment of suffering. I hope it helps you too.
C.O.C. - Curious, Others, Comfort
The C.O.C. is an acronym to help us remember the three elements of self-compassion. In a moment of pain, emotional or physical, apply the C.O.C. to your situation and it will guide you toward showing yourself the same compassion you so readily give to others.
Curious - get curious about how you are feeling, notice that you are in pain, sad, feeling alone, helpless, or upset. Quickly investigate what you are thinking, feeling, and experiencing in this moment.
Others - remind yourself that others have felt this same way, part of the human experience involves suffering, you are not alone in this pain, millions of people in human history have had a similar circumstance or experience, just as you are having right now.
Comfort - offer yourself kind words of encouragement, remind yourself that this feeling is temporary, give yourself hope that the situation can improve, allow yourself to see that you will be okay soon, ask yourself what you need to feel a sense of comfort.
Self-compassion is self-talk, or inner dialogue, that sounds similar to this:
I am hurting....in pain, afraid, frustrated, angry, anxious, or suffering.
What I am feeling right now is part of the human experience, other people feel this way too.
This will get better, I am on the road to recovery, it will all be okay.
I often notice I will run through the COC with language like this:
This is a hard thing to do and it makes sense that I am afraid.
Other people feel this way too.
Take a deep breath, I can do this.
I am feeling disappointed right now.
Other people get disappointed too.
I cared a lot about this and I want to try again.
My friend hurt my feelings tonight.
Other people have friends hurt them too.
I don't want to hold a grudge, I'll give her another chance.
The more you practice these three elements in sequence, the more natural self-compassion becomes. This is a go-to tool when you are feeling down and are looking for a way to help yourself.
Usually, if I am the one falling on the sidewalk, my inner chatter sounds like this: I’m hurting, this is bad, why wasn't I paying attention, how could I be so stupid, I knew I should not have worn these shoes, is anyone watching, how embarrassing, you are such a klutz, you are always running late, that is why these things happen, if you would just get up earlier....
Becoming aware of our self-talk and showing ourselves compassion is truly a game-changer for finding a sense of inner peace.
And, as you become more compassionate towards yourself, you naturally become more compassionate towards others.
One of the findings in the over 15 years of self-compassion research shows that a suicidal brain is not able to remember that others are suffering too. If we can remind our brain of this fact day to day, then when the feelings of isolation begin, we are more likely to remember that we are not alone in this pain. By practicing this tool often, it becomes more natural to help ourselves out of suffering and into hope.
This is a good tool to share with adolescents. As a human being, we are going to encounter struggles, but we can remember that it is part of being human and there is always hope if we know how to show ourselves a dose of compassion.
Sending you love,