Oct 25, 2013 by

 how do you feel

Probably not. Why? From womb to tomb we are controlled by others (parents, teachers, bosses) in each of our social institutions. Those in legal or other forms of power have a vested interest in keeping us dependent on them for a myriad of reasons. The fact that to the degree we do need them keeps us dependent.

Unfortunately, how we see ourselves is mostly determined by what they say or do to us and so they create the person we believe we are. If what they believe about us goes against our genetic predispositions or acquired interests we usually give in – it’s safer.I have spent my life trying to undo the harm done – especially those who told them -”It’s for your own good!”

When I read Self-Compassion by Dr.Kristin Neff, a proponent and expert in self-compassion, I smiled and remembered how I taught my students to like themselves. I’d have them wrap their arms around and give themselves a big hug. I did this from elementary to university. 

Silly? I’d first demonstrate by hugging myself and they’d laugh. Then I’d tell them a number of things I did that I was proud of or what I liked to do. When I’d asked students to take a turn, stand up and tell the class what made them unique or what they liked about themselves, there were many who’d slowly stand and say nothing until I gently told them they could sit.

Many were shy, but most felt that it was bragging and that was socially unacceptable. We discussed how so many people put them down that they didn’t think they were good at anything – or worthwhile. By developing a safe classroom and a sense of community they began to steadily encourage each other with honest compliments. Very soon everyone could stand proudly and comfortably tell of good things she or he’d done. They liked themselves and found it easier to express how they liked others. It’s not rocket science rather it’s uncommon civility. After finding the good in themselves they were eager to do the same for others.

However, self-compassion is based on solid scientific research and evidence. In an article “Self-compassion, Interpersonal Conflict Resolutions, and Well-being ,“ Lisa M. Yarnell and Kristin D.Neff  discuss Self-Compassion.

This study examined the link between self-compassion and the balance of the needs of self and others in conflict situations.College undergraduates were asked to provide an example of a time in which their needs conflicted with those of their mother, father, best friend or romantic partner. They found that those who exhibited the highest levels of self-compassion also felt better about themselves and therefore found it easier (like my students did) without resorting to degrading others, to find ways to resolve conflicts through their ability to compromise and “feel” the others’ POV.

Dr. Neff defined three main components of self-compassion.Self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. 

The more I taught my students to understand that what went on in their minds and bodies were “normal” and not to believe that ‘“bad thoughts” meant they were bad. They learned that mistakes should be seen as learning opportunities and not indications of inferiority or stupidity. They watched me publicly admit my mistakes (and apologize if I hurt anyone) and so they became more kind about their mistakes – and then those of others. In our daily class discussions and within their “dream communities” of six (they self selected the group) they heard how their fears and problems were shared by others. They laughed and cried about how parents, teachers, and classmates did many bad things, but also there were many good things. Relations between their parents, teachers, and peers improved.

Mindfulness, living in the moment, was harder to teach or deal with. Children are taught to constantly think about preparing for that unknown (and unknowable) future. The hippie movement was an unbalanced attempt at counteracting this. Any kind of binge behavior and often the escapism attempted in many vacations are mindless.

By teaching them about how their brains and minds work I was able to get them to listen to their bodies, which is why I allowed them to get a drink or go to the restroom when they needed. Yes, at first some abused this, but once they knew what and why I gave them that freedom it seldom was abused. We have a nation of people who are suffering from dehydration and bodily problems because they have either never had or lost the ability to listen to their bodies and minds. Mindlessness.

Because they could listen my students learned to use their minds to focus on getting rid of headaches, stomach aches, body aches, even menstrual cramps (girls) so it was another reason I had the highest daily attendance. Mindfulness, living in each moment results in improved physical and emotional health.

The research demonstrated that five positive traits of mental health were higher with those with high self-compassion; these traits are agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and lack of neuroticism. These show they like themselves and others because they are likable.

Another research with adults showed they didn’t have the need to control others, were more emotionally supportive, trustworthy, and able to balance their needs and their partner’s.

In a study of romantic relationships three things help develop intimacy

and mutual support. They are autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Autonomy refers to the person’s ability to believe in and make choices that are necessary or important for his self-confidence. This self confidence is based on his proven record of competency so that s/he is comfortable with her/his choice. Relatedness, the ability to create strong, meaningful, and stable

interpersonal relationships needs to be develop in the home, church, and school. The prejudices and learning from adults to be judgmental causes children to be very critical of themselves and others and friendship patterns become fragile.

Refer to Dr.Neff’s site and learn more about what it takes to – LIKE YOUR SELF.

Dr. Robert Rose, THE COMPLETE TEACHER, 2009.

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