Yesterday I mentioned the importance of compassion when I was writing about how we over react to everyday stress and I thought I’d explain today the importance of compassion and kindness. The best way I know to explain this is to give a scenario.
If you’ve been in session with me you’ve probably heard this before, but I like to repeat it, as it actually happened to me! I was driving to work and someone on a motorbike was coming toward me. I stopped long before the ‘lolly pop’ lady was going to come up to help children across the road. This (or something else) clearly upset the man riding the motor bike as he slowed down, almost stopped, leaned in my drivers window to flip me the bird (that was the politeness phrase I could find on the internet for that!)
My immediate reaction; heart pounding, surprise, bit annoyed, which I thought was fair enough. Now here are the scenarios.
I get angry and react to that anger, by getting out of my car, but he had already gone. I could have been angry all the way to work. There would be no end to what I could with it in my head
How dare he?
What did I do to him? etc
I could have been upset, and spoke about it over dinner when I came home and got angry all over again.
I let it go. How? Compassion. For many people when psychologists start talking about compassion, I think this gets interpreted as 1970’s sandal wearing flower power, so let me explain it, you might find it useful!
Compassion for the man who flipped me the bird.
Maybe he was having a bad day. Now before you say, he had no right to do that to me, bad day or no bad day, yes I agree, but it doesn’t help me move on. If you were in the car with me and we got into that debate, we keep the bad incident alive, when really it’s more helpful to let it go as quickly as possible.
Compassion helps you to let things go. Compassion for the other person, and for yourself.
Maybe he has problems with anger, maybe he wasn’t taught the things that you or I were taught when we were younger. Whatever the reasons, if I show a bit of compassion towards him, the following happens with me
- It becomes less personal
- I am not angry, and
- I move on
How to show compassion to others
Respond, not react If I continue with the guy on the motorbike, if I reacted, that would be anger. In this instance, you might find it helpful to think of reacting, as an emotional reaction, something that is immediate.
In order to respond, I have to take a step back, not just react to my emotions, but stand back and have the conscious thought, what do I need to do to be effective in this situation. Basically, rather than the immediate reaction, I choose what to do next, what is going to be most helpful. If you read yesterdays post, being able to respond, should result in me not getting stressed over small things.
How to show kindness and compassion towards yourself
Let’s say, for the sake of the example, that I didn’t respond the way I did. That I shouted and swore out the car window and was upset with myself later.
Now I am not sure how you do ‘upset with yourself’ but I generally go something like this;
I play it over and over again in my head. I feel the emotion again. I call myself names inside my head, or out loud if I am telling someone about it. Thanks to how my mind works, this feeling of, now shame, triggers other scenarios in my mind, and I can bring them back to life again in my head.
None of this is helpful, and it will stop, when you start to become compassionate with yourself.
Remind yourself you did the best you could. Think of it this way. If I had told you about the guy on the motorbike and then was telling you how annoyed I was with myself for being upset, would you agree, and tell me “you’re absolutely right Elaine, you should be ashamed of yourself for getting angry.” No. Well why would you do it to yourself?
If you would not do it to me, I shall assume that it’s because you can show compassion and kindness towards me.
Isn’t it about time that you tried to show some of that compassion and kindness toward yourself?