The reason compassion for others is missing in our world might be because we lack compassion for ourselves. And the reason why we lack compassion for ourselves is because it was never given to us. I am not talking sympathy or flattery here. I am talking about REAL COMPASSION. Compassion is relating to other’s pain and listening to it without the need to fix them. Our culture has been programming us since birth to not feel sorry for ourselves, so we wind up abandoning ourselves. And we have abandoned ourselves to such an extent that when we see other’s in pain, we need to stop them. We need to shut them up, calm them down, repair them, give advice that does not match the energetic place someone is in…. because we were taught to shut up ourselves. I’d say it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to suggest that most people have never really been understood or validated in their own pain.
I don’t call it feeling sorry for the self. I call it compassion. That’s really what it is. And our culture has gone out of it’s way to keep people from actually getting through their problems because of this very damaging notion that self-pity is bad. What is self-pity? Self-pity is reacting emotionally to stress and trauma. Nobody ever gets stuck there if they are ALLOWED to be there and take as long as they need. Since we are not allowed to process our traumas in this culture; since we are not allowed to react, THAT IS WHY WE GET STUCK.
Since we are not allowed to process trauma or are allowed to react to it, THAT IS WHY WE GET STUCK.
THAT IS WHY WE GET STUCK.
By telling others to stop feeling sorry for themselves when they are reacting, we keep them stuck.
I have a radical amount of compassion for myself. When I am physically or emotionally wounded, I allow the pain, the emotions, and my reaction to it. If I discipline myself (and I often don’t!), I feel my emotions all the way through. I am very self-nurturing and that is how I get through my problems. I am as strong, as free, and as wild and alive as I am because I am a really badass mother to myself. And I do not associate with ANYONE who rejects my humanity. That’s how I do it. Boundaries are critical here. You have to have those boundaries if you want to be sane and heal. I love my humanity. And I require humanity from others. And I also realize I am here to learn how to be HUMAN. I choose humanity because that is how I am able to move past my problems and become better and more compassionate. More Human. Because that’s what all this is about for me.
The reason you see people stuck in their problems is because they don’t have self-compassion and therefore do not react to their problems all the way through. What is a reaction? A reaction is not about beating someone else up. It’s about giving full expression to the rage, the sadness, the terror, the grief, the hopelessness, the powerlessness, and the shame and doing it using the whole body. For example, when feeling rage, I scream, kick, thrash or punch a pillow in my closet. That usually allows the sadness beneath it, so it often turns to tears and then I am able to move forward. If you acknowledge any emotion, believe me when I say this: You have every reason in the world to feel that way.
When you suppress your innate natural reaction to stress, you suppress growth which results in stagnancy and that only invites the same emotions surfacing again and again and again to be acknowledged and felt with the whole body and soul.
If you have never been given the gift of compassion from anybody, you don’t know what you’re missing. I only started developing my own self-compassion because my husband was the first person who taught me what it was by giving it to me. What you are not given, you cannot create inside yourself. You can create an illusion of that and the illusion is important to create the real thing later on.
When you give compassion to others, they learn how to give it to themselves. This causes a ripple effect because if I give you compassion, you not only learn to eventually give it to yourself, but you are much likelier to pass it on to others. This is really the secret to changing the world. If you can just find ONE person to give compassion to in a GENUINE way (and again I am not talking about that fake cultural obligational sympathy cavity-causing flattery scenario), you do change people’s lives and the world.
Real success, in my opinion, is all about how well we can relate to people. I am not there yet. A lot of us are not and that is OK. But compassion is the real success your elders didn’t tell you about.