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Mindful Self-compassion

This video explores how you can approach dealing with difficult emotions in 5 stages: resisting, exploring, tolerating, allowing, accepting.
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There are many resources to support our wellbeing, and one of my personal favourites is self-compassion. Drawing on the work of Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, I’ll share with you the practice of meeting emotions. Life can be a rollercoaster, bringing challenges and the associated emotions, such as fear, anger, worry and grief. Our default may be to turn away from these emotions. Yet, research from neuroscientists shows that when we turn towards difficult emotions, labelling and responding with self-compassion, we can make sense of them more easily. And by doing this, we’re less likely to trigger the stress response or the amygdala hijack.
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Once we can recognise and acknowledge the difficult emotions we’re all experiencing as human beings, we can respond gently with kindness and self-compassion. I found this quote from Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl illuminating and quite profound. During his time in the concentration camp, he describes how small, almost trivial interactions could have a huge impact on him, such as a guard throwing him a scrap of bread. He realised he could not control what was happening around him, but he could make choices about how to react, about what is within our control and what gives us freedom. Thinking about meeting emotion, Neff describes how we begin by noticing, by self-awareness. How am I feeling right now? What is going on?
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And for many people, that may start with resistance. A kind of burying your head in the sand of, “I’m fine.” Resisting is a protective mechanism and is normal. Yet, the phrase “resist it persists” may resonate. Instead, we can notice and explore our emotions with curiosity. What am I feeling here? Then we move to tolerating. Here, we are more able to hold the emotion before allowing the feelings and letting go. Finally, the model describes befriending, where we can perhaps see the value in the experience. For example, in grieving for my mum last year, I found the ability to recognise, explore, and allow the sadness I felt to be a kind, compassionate way to meet and manage my emotions.
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Phrases such as, “Name it, you tame it” and “Feel it, you heal it” help to succinctly capture these ideas. To summarise, I want to share this guest house metaphor as described by Christine Brähler in 2015, which depicts five stages of meeting emotion. The first stage is resisting, which is about struggling against what comes about, as if you were hiding in the house locking the door or telling guests to go away. Second is exploring, turning towards that discomfort with curiosity, looking through the peephole in the door to see who’s arrived. Tolerating is the third stage, which is about holding. It’s about inviting the guest in and asking them to remain in the entrance hall.
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The fourth stage is allowing, where we can let feelings come and go. The guest can go wherever they want to in the house. And finally, in the acceptance stage, it’s about recognising and valuing all the experiences that we have. Sitting down with the guest and listening to what they have to say.

Self-awareness and self-compassion both play an important part in the process of meeting your emotions in an effective way.

This video explores how you can approach dealing with difficult emotions, which can be summarised in five stages:

  1. Resisting.
  2. Exploring.
  3. Tolerating.
  4. Allowing.
  5. Acceptance.
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