234: Hugging the tiger within

Somewhere along the line we decided that speaking to ourselves in a critical and judgmental way is OK. In fact the way we talk to ourselves is often worse than when we would speak to some one we don’t actually like. Talking to ourselves in this manner is not an act of compassion, it is the opposite, an act of cruelty, yet somehow we have deemed it fine.

compassionWhen we are suffering the first step to recognise is that it’s OK to be here and to beat yourself up more is a double whammy. Knowing how to administer self compassion is an essential skill for when we  think the world has turned against us. Just like a mother soothes their child or a cat purrs to its kitten, we too can learn to self soothe on the bumpy road.

One of my favourite times of teaching yoga is when I have my students lay on their back and place one hand on their heart and one on their belly. Truth ( the belly) and love ( the heart) receive a lovely gesture, a pat. This has immediate physiological effects. The hormone oxytocin is released into the system to soothe the students and the effect is one of group melting. On the other hand berating yourself verbally has the opposite effect, it releases cortisol into your blood stream which activates the stress response. So it follows that continually berating yourself is bad for your overall well-being both physical and mental.

Of course you can’t go round just touching yourself willy-nilly at work or in public if you feel yourself on the outer. However you can make a few adjustments to give yourself a hug just like your mother would. A hand on the stomach if you feel anxious or a hidden hug ( crossing your arms but holding your sides) when you feel alone or abandoned will do the trick. A massage on your neck when you feel stress or tension or holding your face will comfort you. Some people also like to use terms of endearment to themselves.

Practice for today: If life throws you a curve ball just taking the time to remember that suffering is universal and you can do something to soothe yourself is essential. Too often we get caught up in the story of the situation which leads to more suffering. Self soothe today, administer compassion and dose yourself with compassion. Stat.

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