Self-compassion

An interesting link can be found here: Beginner’s Guide to Self-Compassion.

I liked it and have saved it to remind myself when necessary. I also saw the following, shared by a friend on Facebook yesterday:

No automatic alt text available.

Image description: drawing of Pooh and Piglet of Hundred Acre Wood. They are sitting on a log, with green grass nearby and blue sky behind them. 

Léx Lacchın

“Piglet?” said Pooh.

“Yes Pooh?” said Piglet.

“Do you ever have days when everything feels… Not Very Okay At All? And sometimes you don’t even know why you feel Not Very Okay At All, you just know that you do.”

Piglet nodded his head sagely. “Oh yes,” said Piglet. “I definitely have those days.”

“Really?” said Pooh in surprise. “I would never have thought that. You always seem so happy and like you have got everything in life all sorted out.”

“Ah,” said Piglet. “Well here’s the thing. There are two things that you need to know, Pooh. The first thing is that even those pigs, and bears, and people, who seem to have got everything in life all sorted out… they probably haven’t. Actually, everyone has days when they feel Not Very Okay At All. Some people are just better at hiding it than others.

“And the second thing you need to know… is that it’s okay to feel Not Very Okay At All. It can be quite normal, in fact. And all you need to do, on those days when you feel Not Very Okay At All, is come and find me, and tell me. Don’t ever feel like you have to hide the fact you’re feeling Not Very Okay At All. Always come and tell me. Because I will always be there.”

#mentalhealthawarenessweek

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A good reminder of friendship.

Hope you’re having a good week, full of friendship and supportive people even if you have to be busy and/or do hard things.

 

[Reblogged] Guest Post: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

Interesting stuff in the Captain Awkward archives. Reminds me a bit of some of the things (like stress buckets and activity scheduling) we looked at in my mental health subject earlier this year. So I am sharing it and bookmarking it. Check it out.

Also: five days in a row of blogging last week, yay! That is down to scheduling and while I know I can’t always do it, it’s nice when it happens.

via Guest Post: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

Thinking, Judging, Feeling

Recently I’ve been re-reading a few interesting blog posts that I rediscovered when looking through my inbox. They’re about self-criticism/self-care, judgement and emotions.

Milliemonday’s post about self-criticism got me thinking about how, while (as she says) it’s natural to be somewhat self-critical, if one isn’t careful it can become harmful. We do need to have some sort of self-check – with no self-monitoring we’d end up burning a lot of bridges very quickly and might also forget to take proper physical care of ourselves. However, there’s a line that can be crossed, after which our self-criticisms are no longer healthy but actually harm our mental and emotional health. Like Millie, I know I’m a “big” talker – “could talk underwater” and all that. Sometimes external criticism of my verbosity results, even if meant in a gentle/helpful way. So I start trying to monitor my own output more. Sometimes that works – but as soon as I become excited/ passionate about something, then I talk more again. Afterwards I can be self-critical and worry that I’ve talked too much or been too opinionated. Lately I’ve noticed this occurs now after seemingly mundane conversations. But that’s not really healthy, is it?

I’ve been given strategies to help monitor my rate of talking to the other person or persons in the conversation – like, “only reveal as much about yourself as the other person does about themselves” as part of a give-and-take conversational process. These are given because I tend to be a bit more self-expressive than some others around me – and so I’m told to monitor it, lest I wear out my welcome too much. Or at least, that’s what it seems to me. It does create another worry though – “have I said too much about myself?” … but “too much” is different for different people, really.

I think I need to break free of some of these “conversation scripts”. Though I should say, I understand that those scripts were given to try and help me – they weren’t meant in a nasty way or anything. The other day, my boyfriend gave me a new perspective on that, by reminding me that we all see life through our own experiences/personalities. When I do something that’s a bit “out there” (i.e. obviously extraverted), the people around me who are less inclined to be comfortable “cringe on my behalf” at how I’m exposing myself. This leads some of them to try and make me aware of how that seems so that I can “protect myself” from potential embarrassment. Often in the past I haven’t quite got that, because I’m comfortable being a little bit “out there” – so the message, while appreciated, can end up making me feel like I’m being asked to box myself up. I don’t really know how not to be extraverted – though as I’ve grown up I’ve become more aware of the appropriate times, shall we say.

I realised something when thinking about this the other day. No friends have ever told me I need to shut up and let others speak or anything. And since entering uni I haven’t really experienced the old “I’m going to pretend to listen but really just think you’re weird” reaction that used to occur at times in high school among peers. Even then, though, I still had a group of friends who didn’t seem to care if I occasionally got a bit long-winded.

We all want to be liked – that’s where a lot of the self-criticism can stem from, our fears of being liked causing us to feel awkward when we express ourselves. I saw this summarised in a really beautiful way when rereading another blog post (from the wishingwell): sometimes, we have to let other people judge us, or rather let the possibly of judgement not stop us from being true to ourselves. To quote directly:

“accepting that what other people think of you is none of your business. … Ultimately, if I’m living according to my values and the values of my chosen community, it shouldn’t matter if I’m “weird.” Whatever that means.”

This also means accepting our own emotions, which I’ve touched on in previous blog posts. Here’s a great blogpost from Brianna about the power of tears. Emotional tears can actually help reduce stress, due to the way they facilitate the release of certain hormones, did you know? Those effects are increased, too, if the crying person is given emotional/ social support rather than condemnation…

I think it’s just a matter of finding the right balance between talking and listening, being “out there” and stepping back. Like I talked about last week, I’m aware of that. We’re all works-in-progress…we just need to cut ourselves and each other some slack.

Emotional Learning

This post gets a bit lengthy because my tired brain (when writing it last night) surprised me by turning it from a uni-focused post to something a bit deeper. Firstly though – you know how on Saturday I talked about MIV? Well, the first of the 11 bullsheets has dropped. Go over here to check it out: http://us15.campaign-archive2.com/?u=76fbc0d21b849c256d862b386&id=afde62249d&e=460cb7de0c and subscribe to MIV2018‘s mailing list to keep up-to-date! (You can follow on Facebook and Twitter too!)

Now, onwards…

In class the other day, our facilitator talked about how we use ourselves as therapists to help our clients/ patients.

She talked about how an OT’s enthusiasm can provide hope by being a spark of light in someone else’s darkness – their confusion and hurt at being unable to quite get to where they want to go. We’re not doing this in a patronising way, but in a way that guides the client to see their own way. We do not enforce or coerce but empathise, collaborate with, encourage, instruct, advocate for and problem-solve with the client to instill hope and achieve our joint goals. We are not “doing to” but “working with” them. In occupational therapy, the client is the centre, after all. We enable the client to move forwards towards a future of their choosing, or one that is as close to that as possible.

The facilitator reminded us that all that we’re all different personalities, with different life experiences, and so we’ll all be different therapists, even though the class is studying the same theory. The person with a naturally bright/bubbly personality might approach a client and their situation from a slightly different angle than the approach adopted by someone who is naturally a calm, softly-spoken listener.  The best way we can practice occupational therapy is to always strive to be the best we can be.

We’d just done some role-plays of different client-therapist situations and I could see what our facilitator meant. During the role-plays, there were plenty of moments when I thought, as an observer, “Oh, I would’ve done that differently”. The facilitator’s words brought home to me the fact that I don’t have to be any sort of OT except who I am and want to be.

I’m naturally someone who empathises easily with others (even when I’m annoyed at them, depending on the person 😛 ). I also happen to be a bit of a talker. One skill I’m working on honing is learning when to “shut up and listen” and be guided by my intuition/ gut feeling. The times I’ve done that – listened to hear and not just respond, then reacted with empathy to the person’s situation – have resulted in really powerful moments for me. Moments of human connection at its best. That’s just with friends and not in the role of therapist yet, but it’s something I know I can bring into practice.

I first realised this properly last year, but I’d had insight into the feeling before then, from high school onwards, or even before that maybe? I seem to be one of those people who gets told personal things. Learning how to respond to those things is where I’ve learnt the “shut up and listen, then follow your gut” response. I like being able to have words to comfort – but when someone’s just told you something that’s visibly upsetting or frustrating, words can wait. Often words fail in those times. They need a listening ear (to get it off their chest) and then physical support, like the offer of a hug and the understanding that emotional expression is acceptable.

That brings me to another point. Human society is weird about emotions. Expressing them in public can be seen as a bit shameful – especially if it’s expressions like tears of sadness, or loud joyous laughter – except in tightly regulated situations, like at a sporting match, public performance or public memorial. I think one reason why outbursts of public mourning have become so prevalent relatively recently (though it’s been “a thing” for a few years now), aside from social media connecting people, is that it’s an acknowledgement of public emotion. It’s an acknowledgement that emotions are okay.

This is a really important thing, because there’s still so much stigma around the visibly of public – and even private – emotional expression. Like the outdated idea that men aren’t supposed to be emotional – it’s being challenged but I still see the shadow of the idea manifest in how some people, particularly men, are uncomfortable if someone starts crying in front of them. They want to “fix the problem”, a.k.a. the tears and the tears’ cause, but they sometimes don’t get that the tears have to be expressed in order for the situation to resolve. Then there’s the other end of the stereotype – the idea that women are “over-emotional”. This is, I believe, where some of the whole “special snowflake SJWs” stems from. When women become passionate, frustrated, angry, upset – others can’t deal with that. They tell us to calm down, say that we don’t make sense because we’re using our emotions, and so on. *shakes head* Not cool, people. Stop it.

Sometimes, we can’t help but get emotional, including tears. We don’t want to be told to just “calm down” – acknowledge our emotions and the reasons behind them first, please. Or you can piss off.

Some people – women AND men – are more emotionally sensitive than others. I call it being more “attuned to the emotional quality of a room”. We’re the sort of people who might get a little agitated by conflict – and therefore find it a little tricky when we have to stand up for ourselves and others. But stand up, we do, because our emotions tell us when something smells of bulls**t. We probably cry more easily than others too. We’re also the sort of people who get “over-excited” by things and accidentally embarrass other less-emotionally sensitive people by reacting just a bit too obviously to something. When that happens, we may well be told to bottle up those feelings because others can’t deal with the pure expression of ourselves. It’s a bit much for people. That can cause us/me to feel guilty about things. Is it our fault for being a bit different – or is it really the fault of society, shaping others to see our differences as abnormal? (Rhetorical question.)

I used to call myself an extrovert, though it didn’t sit quite right with me. While I do like to talk and enjoy the social environment, I also find it easy to spend hours at a time engrossed in a good book. A couple of years ago, I took one of those online quizzes about personality. I’d had to do some for a psychology subject I was taking, the Five-Factor Theorem ones. They’re interesting, but not as easy perhaps to understand as one I took for fun around the same time, a Myers-Briggs personality test. The one that splits people into Extroversion/Introversion; Intuition/Sensing; Feeling/Thinking; Judging/Perceiving groups. It’s just one test of course, which can be influenced by different factors (including your mood on the day of the test, wishful thinking/self-selection bias and things like that).

But the test showed me a few things. While I was definitely an Extrovert, it said that was a moderate preference. Of the four groups, the only one that had a distinct difference was Feeling over Thinking. That got me thinking and I realised that it did make sense in a lot of ways. Now, it’s a skill I want to cultivate further as I think it will be helpful in my future practice – I just have make sure my Extraversion takes a step back.

Just the awareness of this is helping, I think.