Self-empathy as a practice

empathy finalThis month our LifeBook theme is healing and authenticity.  Expressing myself authentically is so important to me and the healing part seems especially relevant since I have been very demanding of myself lately…. like to the point of trying to keep myself awake at night to get more done and also not letting myself have any quiet time, which is essential for me.

In addition to whisking myself off for a chat with my therapist, Tamara‘s LifeBook lesson, “Embracing All of You,” helped me tremendously.

Tamara guided us in listing 5 aspects of ourselves that we are happy about, 5 that we are unhappy about, and then 5 hopes and dreams… with the goal of embracing ALL OF THEM.  It’s all about empathy.empathy love

She introduced us to her own self-empathy practice. I think some of this comes from MasonLaporte Conflict Transformation and some from a process used in Nonviolent Communication, and some of this is what works for Tamara.

There are 5 steps to this self-empathy process.  It is about clearing our heads of  judgement of our negative aspects so we can listen to our own unmet needs with kindness and reframe the situation.  We are to ask ourselves 4 questions:

  • What am I observing?
  • What am I feeling?
  • What am I needing right now?
  • Do I have a request of myself or someone else?

empathy wavesMy list of aspects of myself I am unhappy with seemed to be all connected to each other!  I wrote “perfectionist, high expectations, rigidity, judgmental, negative and lacking perspective when tired.”

1) Observation: A specific event that caused me distress (described without judgement): I lost my calm with my daughter one afternoon last week.  We both were tired and not getting what we wanted (she wanted to go swimming; I wanted to have a quiet afternoon at home).  We were at an impasse and she was whining rather loudly and hanging on me and I raised my voice to shout “enough of this!” and then walked away from her.  She then started crying.

2) Feeling: In that moment, I felt annoyed, exasperated, tired, frustrated, impatient, tense, and overwhelmed.

3) Need: Connect the feeling to a need and ask yourself what need is not being met. For me it was rest, support, cooperation.

4) Time: Sit with those needs.  Notice their importance to you.  Acknowledge how hard it was for you not to have them met in that moment.  This is the crucial self-empathy part.  

5) Request: A doable action request.  I invited myself to let go of the requirement to be patient 100% of the time.  I apologized to my daughter (2 minutes after the situation, actually).  I went to bed early for a couple nights to ensure I had rest and could regain a healthy perspective.

empathy girlPart of my issue is that I feel that since I have chosen to be a stay-at-home-mom, I should always make my daughter my priority.  I feel guilty when I want to be away from her.  I would often rather create art, read a book, or organize a closet than play “grocery store” one more time.  Some of what I want to do can be done with her nearby, but most of it cannot.  I am trying to get her to be comfortable doing her own activities while I do mine, but it is very slow-going.  She is an only child and wants me to be her constant playmate.  I am an introvert and want quiet and space.  Hmm.

Forgiveness is also about healing from these actions and being kinder and more loving to myself and others in turn.

empathy cloudsTamara said that by looking at circumstances on a deeper level during a stressful event and moving away from judgement, you can let go and forgive yourself.  You are much better able to transform your behavior from that place rather than from one of judgement.

As far as those aspects of myself that come up in other situations, I am trying to remember that it really is ok to forget to do something or to leave things undone on purpose.  As long as someone else isn’t relying on it, what does it really matter? And, I want to be aware of the aspects of myself I am happy with (focused/determined, intuitive, capacity to empathy, organized/efficient, creative imagination) and keep the entire lists balanced.  No short order, I know.empathy creating

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9 Responses to Self-empathy as a practice

  1. stacie says:

    I so remember those days with my kids. It’s really tough not to lose your calm at times & I do know that awful feeling you have when you do lose it. I used to apologize to my kids too. It’s funny my Mom would say that I shouldn’t apologize to my kids because then I would lose the control as a parent. What a strange concept? I wonder how many other parents feel like that. I always feel that apologizing when I do something that I feel was wrong is a great teaching example for my children. I’m so glad that you were able to work through your feelings with Lifebook 🙂

  2. i love how you give such care
    to tending the garden
    of your soul:)
    beautiful art, beautiful heart.
    Jennifer Richardson recently posted…a healing tide….My Profile

  3. Amy Putkonen says:

    Sweet, Naomi.

    I am a mother of a single daughter too. My daughter is 12 and is just starting to give us that “alien from another planet” brush-off. Sigh. I am trying to be calm and remain kind. She also still likes to snuggle, so she is a little between both worlds.

    This precious time you are in won’t last long.

    I sorta wished that I had played grocery store more often. I was never one to play much either. Is your daughter interested in art? Perhaps you could teach her some art stuff that would be fun for both of you.

    I think that both ignoring them somewhat and paying attention to them and treasuring those years have validity. There is no one right way. My parents (and my husband’s parents) were of an era when parents basically shooed children outside and told them to go and play. I was NEVER inside growing up and I believe that has taught me an appreciation of nature that I never would have gotten had they wanted to hang with me and play lincoln logs or Barbies or something.

    On the other hand, it would be nice to have more memories of playing with my parents. They almost went too far with us. I have three sisters (two older) and I think by the time I was the age to remember any of it, my mom was a bit overwhelmed by the whole parenting thing.

    So this summer is the first summer that Tatia is not in some form of child care. Eric works from home, so at a certain time each day he gets her up and then an hour or so after her chores are done, he shooes her out the door. Granted, she doesn’t go and catch salamanders in the woods like I did but she at least is not opposed to riding her bike down to the library and has the independence to go to the park with her friends.

    I read somewhere recently that in those cultures where they encourage children to go and play outside, climb trees, learn how to cut vegetables with real knives, etc, that these children end up safer because they have had exposure to these things and know what to do when faced with hazards. In the US, we are rather protective of our children and I am not sure that has the best impact on them. I say this because letting them figure things out on their own (by “ignoring” them) does help them to grow. I think it is good for them. So, all in all, you are parenting her perfectly! lol…
    Amy Putkonen recently posted…The Fear of Death is UnnaturalMy Profile

  4. Amy Putkonen says:

    PS. Did you use those little colorful balls that are used on top of cupcakes and cakes to get the texture on that turquoise part of your piece? It looks like it. That is so cool. I love your little girl in the piece. She is beautiful.
    Amy Putkonen recently posted…The Fear of Death is UnnaturalMy Profile

  5. Naomi says:

    Lol. I used something similar to modeling paste called Glass Beads. You can mix them with paint and brush them on. 🙂

  6. Naomi says:

    What you write here has helped shape my perspective in a big way, so thank you. I can see that we MAY be ending the difficult times soon… the having to lay with her at bedtime, the whininess, etc. I am definitely trying to get her to be more independent and it’s hard for me to push back, but I find that she goes with it after awhile. And it’s safe in our backyard with both gates locked, but I would worry about just letting her wander out front. Different times for sure. I don’t want to coddle her, but I do want her to have the experience of problem solving on her own. I must remember that she is 4! She acts like she’s 20 most of the time. 🙂

  7. Naomi says:

    Oh I’m with you on the being honest/teaching the right emotions kind of thing. If we model what’s right and apologize when we slip up, they will have learned perfectly.

  8. I love how willing you are to look at your stuff. That’s such a big step in itself. Your 5 steps are really helpful too! I’ll be using those here moving forward! Thank you for sharing them.
    Michele Bergh recently posted…Top Ways to Increase Engagement on FacebookMy Profile

  9. Pingback: Healing through authenticity, empathy, and mindfulness: Life Book recap |

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