Self-compassion + Action = Joy

Do you feel like you are invisible?

Do you feel like a failure?

Are you a fixer, a perfectionist?

Do you feel stuck in the pain?

Many newly separated or divorced men and women often feel invisible and like a failure. They want to fix their marriage, make it work for the children, and try their best to make things “perfect.” It’s easy to get caught up in the pain but you can transcend.

According to the dictionary, transcend means to go beyond limit, surpass something, and be independent of world. Visual expression along with self-compassion can provide transcendence. The creative process is conducive to individuation. Art making can help us make sense of the world and resolve heartbreak. Through the art activity offers the opportunity for growth and change, and the ability to reach your full potential.

Life is full of loss and disappointment. But life is not ALL loss and disappointment. There is always something that was saved. It could be the creation of your children.

Remember too, that you always have your SELF. You have a purpose beyond being a wife or a husband. You have your self-respect, your dignity, and your character. Your character is what you choose to do when no one is looking. You can also rediscover things you enjoy, that spark joy, and bring you happiness.

Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is rooted in Buddhism and comes from three concepts – self-kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity.

Compassion for our self is usually a struggle for most of us. However, it can be learned and cultivated. Self-compassion is coming to look at yourself as a dear friend, providing tenderness and forthcoming to acceptance of your own suffering, inadequacies and failures without getting deeper into your pain.

Self-kindness

Self-compassion begins with treating our self kindly and with tenderness during painful experiences and transitional, uncertain periods in our lives.

Benefits of Self -kindness

Self-kindness increases many positive features of our self while decreasing many negative aspects of our self. Research by Kristin Neff and colleagues have demonstrated over the years the following benefits.

Improves:

  • Life satisfaction
  • Wisdom
  • Happiness
  • Optimism
  • Curiosity
  • Learning goals
  • Social connectedness
  • Personal responsibility
  • Emotional resilience

Decreases:

  • Self-criticism
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Rumination
  • Thought suppression
  • Perfectionism

Part of self-kindness is to stop beating our self up and forgive our self for things we may have done and for things we may not have done. Here is a visual experiential exercise on cultivating self-love to help in the process of loving kindness.

Self-love

Love is more powerful than fear.

  1. Exercise – draw/paint/collage a picture that depicts your critical voice; the self-criticism used as a motivator because you think being hard on your self will help you change. The image may be of a saboteur, an ugly monster, or some scary image. In the image get in touch with the emotional pain that your self-criticism causes. Use color and words to describe that suffering.
  2. Create another image where you explore a kinder, more caring way to motivate your self. What words and supportive language would a wise and nurturing friend, teacher, parent, or mentor use to gently point out your self-criticism as unproductive while encouraging you to think of a message that is in line with your underlying wish to be healthy and happy.
  3. Put the images together so that every time you catch yourself being judgmental about your self, you first notice your pain of your self-judgment and give your self-compassion. Next reframe the judging message into a more encouraging and supportive dialogue.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another component of self-compassion. According to Greater Good a science-based magazine developed by Berkeley University, mindfulness is maintaining a non-judging moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It is the psychological process of bringing your attention to experiences that are occurring in the present moment.

Here is another visual expression exercise to help you learn to accept painful experiences in a balanced and non-judgmental manner.

Allow your emotions to surface, experience them, and we let them pass without getting sucked up in your own pain or wallowing in your own suffering.

  1. Exercise – draw an outline of your body or of a large heart. Name the emotions you are feeling and either locate them in your body and color in the word with the color that represents that feeling to you.
  2. If you draw the heart image, write all the emotions you are feeling inside the heart. Color in the heart associating each emotion with a different color and in the size of how much you are feeling it right now.

Common Humanity

One of the most fundamental elements of self-compassion is the perception of our shared humanity. By definition, compassion is relational and implies a basic mutuality in the experience of suffering.

The human experience is imperfect. We are all fallible. It’s the reason the adage, “it’s only human” is said to comfort someone who has made an error.

Common humanity is the universal concept that feelings of inadequacy and disappointment are everywhere. This concept distinguishes self-compassion from self-pity. Self-pity utters “poor me,” while self-compassion acknowledges suffering is part of the shared human experience.

Common humanity understands your experience as something bigger than your self. You learn to cultivate common humanity and universal experience to understand that you are not the first person to be divorced and am certainly not the last person to be divorced.

  1. Exercise – if you feel comfortable share with a friend or group of trusted comrades your images and experience creating the images in the exercise above. Explain what it was like getting in touch with your inner critic, naming it, and then reframing the dialogue into forming a kinder inner voice.

It is possible to envision and imagine new possibilities as you put into practice self-compassion. Self-compassion arises to self-kindness, mindfulness, and a sense of common humanity. With time, you can allow yourself to grieve the loss and create new possibilities and transcend finding joy, playfulness, and creativity again.