We all need compassion in order to thrive: we need to feel seen and heard, we need to feel soothed, we need to feel as if we matter to ourselves and to others especially when times are tough.
Self-compassion gives us the safety net needed to show up authentically to feel empowered by who we are at our authentic core regardless of bumps in the road. Self-compassion continually confirms our inherent self-worth and gives us permission to be. The path through self-compassion is part of the journey to self-empowerment.
Self-Empowerment and Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is a response to suffering that involves:
- noticing what we are feeling and what we need in times of stress, and then
- skillfully taking action to tend to those needs.
Self-empowerment is a response to oppression that involves:
- decreasing the control others have over us, including the inner oppression we feel from internalizing oppressive forces;
- increasing our ability to control our own life through setting boundaries, motivating ourselves from a place of love, feeling belonging and working with our strengths to realize our values; and
- acting in accordance with our own right to thrive.
To move away from oppression and towards empowerment, we need to be able to notice what we are feeling and respond to our own needs rather than always being motivated by our internalization of what others are feeling and what we need to do to make them feel OK about themselves. Self-compassion offers us the self-support and self-trust we need to move us away from being other-focussed and launch us toward self-empowerment.
Some of us are on this path from childhood, feeling safe and connected to ourselves, our inner wisdom and our ability to support ourselves through thick and thin. Others of us were not launched from a place of safety, and will need to re-parent ourselves with tools of self-compassion if we want to find our place of empowerment.
Becoming empowered is a personal journey. It’s the initiation into ourselves that comes from the deep work of:
- honoring our body, and
- claiming our gifts, talents and strengths.
Grieving and Dreaming
If we’re on the path of re-parenting ourselves, honoring our body and claiming our gifts often requires grieving and dreaming first. We grieve the ways we have felt dishonor in our body including the stories of abuse and neglect that surround our body.
We are born honoring our body and somewhere along our story many of us learn that we need to start dishonoring our body, neglecting our needs, pushing away our inner wisdom, because the messages from our body do not vibe with the messages we are getting from our external environment. Somewhere in our story we learn that in order to survive we need to put more attention and effort on what other people need us to be, and in that process we leave our body wisdom behind because it is not helping us to align ourselves with what other people need us to be. We learn to become someone other people need us to be rather than being our inherent person.
And so we may need to grieve this loss of our inherent person. We may need to tend to the wounds of a dishonored body and soul. We may need:
- to rage;
- to sob;
- to be confused;
- to not even know where the light is;
- to process with a therapist;
- to start clumsy conversations with our beloveds;
- to spend time in nature.
We may need to travel the dark night of the soul for many decades. But we do this because we know somewhere, deep in our being, that we care about ourselves and we want to claim our empowerment. We know that our dream might have been buried, but it is still alive and waiting to be reclaimed.
Honoring our Body
Honoring our body is what Somatic Self-Compassion is all about:
- learning about the origins of our stress;
- learning about the ways this dear vessel, our body, likes to be soothed;
- learning to hear the requests and the wisdom in our body; and
- growing away from external expectation and into internal permission.
Claiming our Gifts
As we honor our body, we can also claim our gifts, strengths and talents more and more. Developing interoception – having access to physical and emotional material in our body – and caring for our body, frees up the enormous amount of energy required to resist our body.
It’s takes a lot of hard work to ignore emotional and physical pain. As we move from a place of active resistance, through affectionate awareness and courageous connection with ourselves, toward a new radical response of presence, stillness, and honoring pleasure, our practice can midwife us into a place of more ease, comfort, self-nurturing and confidence in our body.
From that place of support where our needs for physical comfort, safety, and belonging to ourselves are taken care of, we can move toward claiming our innate talents and using them more and more in the world for our benefit and the benefit of others. As we learn that it’s safe to be our own inherent person, we have the opportunity to re-discover our own inherent gifts.
And we can start to claim these gifts as unique and special and so needed in our community. Gifts and talents we might have taken for granted can become our easy ride as we align ourselves more and more with the values and sense of purpose that we are reconnecting with. As we support ourselves through soothing and hedonic pleasure, we are freed up to look forward to more eudaemonic pursuits around:
- creativity, and
The Journey Begins
This is not a simple journey, nor is it a usual one. Culture often tells us that it’s easier to continue to ignore our inherent person and to fit in with the scripts handed to us by others.
We all have the capacity to honor our body and claim our gifts and strengths. This is the hope of the human condition and the faith in the path of Somatic Self-Compassion. Somatic Self-Compassion is the map I’m working on to chart a path to empowerment, and I hope you’ll join me on that journey.
- Boyett, K.R. “Practicing Empowerment” in Schaaf, K., Lindahl, K., Hurty, K.S., and Cheen, G. (2012)
Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power
- Estes, C.P. Heart of the Wounded Healer training, 2018
- Imani, M. Grieving and Dreaming ritual, WisdomWomen gathering 2016 at Tara Mandala
- Ryff, C. D. (1995). Psychological well-being in adult life in Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 99–104.
- Seligman, M. (2011) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
- Self-Inquiry As Self-Compassion Practice - February 16, 2019
- Stress, Shame, and Somatic Self Compassion - February 9, 2019
- Becoming Empowered Through Somatic Self-Compassion - February 8, 2019
- Meet my Inner Little Nervous Projectionist - February 3, 2019
- Breathe Contentment - January 31, 2019