Skill Level Beginner
- This is an audio course. No need to watch, just listen. Welcome to the latest addition to LinkedIn learning, podcasts. We've curated some of the best business podcasts and made them even easier to listen to. Each episode is split into sections. Use the links in the contents area to skip to whichever section you like. We're always looking for new ways to help you learn and we'd appreciate your feedback. Thanks for listening. (upbeat guitar music) - Sounds True presents the science of compassion a modern approach for cultivating empathy, love and connection with Health Psychologist and Stanford University lecturer Kelly McGonigal. Our program continues with session eight. The courage of self-compassion. (upbeat guitar music) - You may have heard the saying you can't love anyone until you love yourself, or that there's no compassion for others without self-compassion. It's a nice theory, but science doesn't support this idea, at least not in any simple way. Several studies have looked at the relationship between compassion for self and for others and found that there is little to no correlation between self-compassion and empathy or compassion for others. It is possible to have compassion for others and experience self-hate. It's possible to care deeply about your loved one suffering while denying your own pain, and it's possible to be highly self-critical even as you offer forgiveness and acceptance to others. In fact, whenever I ask a group if it's harder to be compassionate to yourself or to others almost every hand in the room goes up to say, yep it's a lot harder to be compassionate to myself. Now, this doesn't mean that self compassion isn't important as Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield has said "If your compassion does not include yourself "it is incomplete". But even as we acknowledge the value of self-compassion it's important to honor how difficult it can be. Otherwise you can fall into a shame spiral thinking that your challenges relating to your own suffering reveal something deeply flawed about yourself and your capacity to care for others. The goal of this session is to bring some compassion to how difficult self-compassion can be. We're going to try to find a way to meet self-criticism, self-doubt or self-denial with self-compassion. And so let's start by going a little bit deeper into the question, why is it so hard to feel compassion for ourselves? The first reason is there's a lot of confusion about what it means to be self-compassionate. We hear the word self-compassion but we think self-centered, self-indulgent, self-pity, or just plain selfish. And this message that caring for ourselves is selfish, it can come from many directions. As children we might've been scolded for wallowing in our own happiness, women are often rewarded for putting other people's needs ahead of their own so many of our cultural heroes and inspirational figures are people who sacrifice themselves for the sake of others and friend of mine who served in the military, he told me that his main obstacle to self-compassion was the mantra service before self that was drilled into him during his training in deployment. The idea that self-care is self-indulgent reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what self-compassion is something that we'll explore more when we talk about how to cultivate self-compassion. But first I want to consider what I think is the fundamental challenge to self-compassion that even those who understand the value of self-compassion face, and that's how incredibly difficult it is to be in relationship to your own suffering rather than fully immersed in your suffering. To understand this challenge we need to go back to the definition of compassion and if you remember, I defined compassion as awareness of suffering, which is often followed by a brief period of empathic distress where you are upset about the suffering. And this moves into a sense of caring for and connection to the one who is suffering, a desire to relieve that suffering and a willingness to respond. And this kind of compassion is rooted in the caregiving instinct, which is really a response to witnessing not directly experiencing pain or suffering. One of the reasons self-compassion is so difficult has to do with how do we achieve the sense of connection to the one who is suffering when we are the one who is suffering? How can you be both at the same time? Be the one who is suffering and be in relationship to the one who is suffering because this is what self-compassion really requires. In the previous session, we talked about how empathic distress can become a barrier to compassion. It's hard to be compassionate when you're lost in your own suffering and that's because we have other instincts to relate to our own pain and suffering, instincts that are very strong and the instinct to avoid and escape pain, and also emotions like grief and sadness and the instinct to withdraw when we're experiencing grief or sadness. And also the instincts of shame and self-criticism which are really about wanting to belong and wanting to connect and the very same instinct that might lead us to feel compassion for someone else because we care and because we want to belong. That same instinct can lead us to feel shame and self-criticism when the suffering and pain is our own. The key to self-compassion seems to be finding a way to get into a relationship with the part of you who is suffering while staying grounded in some part of you who's bigger than that suffering. If you think back when we were talking about how to transform empathic distress, we talked about how important it was to have a self other distinction. And I know it can sound kind of crazy to think, well how am I going to have a self other distinction in relationship to my own pain and suffering it's mine and I'm the one suffering. And the key seems to be that when we're in pain and when we are suffering there is still some part of us who can observe and witness that pain and suffering and can hold in a kind of bigger awareness that pain and suffering.