21
JUL
2014

What Am I Telling Myself – Self-Empathy

Posted By : maryellenmc@gmail.comComments : Off

What am I telling myself? Self Empathy

The other day, I got home feeling a little tired but also pretty satisfied with my day. Things had gone well and I arrived home in good spirits. My husband greeted me with the news that the Vet had called because our little Westie, Rosie had missed her appointment to get her shots.

Immediately my stomach tightened, my head whirled briefly and then I remembered, yes there is it was on the calendar; my satisfied mood evaporated. I grabbed the phone and managed to convince the Vet to stay until I got there. Little Rosie got her shots but I was a mess.

My body sensations are often the first cues that let me know that all is not well. Cues like dry mouth, tension in various body parts, uncomfortable feelings and thoughts often speeding and castastrophizing. But why was I panicked? Its not like the appointment couldn’t be re scheduled for next week or next month!

I am not connected to reason at this point, however, I have ‘flipped my lid’ according to Daniel Siegel in his book ‘Mindsight’. I am disconnected from my thinking brain, my feelings are swirling and my thoughts racing.

So what are those thoughts? What am I telling myself? DSCF1171_2

“How could I forget about this? Obviously it just wasn’t that important to me…She’s at the bottom of the list! Poor Rosie! But I did manage to get her there…Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I shouldn’t feel so bad about it. But there I go… talking myself out of my feelings… using the word should! The most violent word in the English language!  But what does this mean about me? Am I losing it? Have I got Alzheimer’s? Why do I forget things like this? Maybe I’m losing it! In two years I won’t be able to work and then they’ll put me in a home …”

What am I feeling? Agitated, stressed, confused, ashamed, afraid, regretful, sad

I need some ease, reassurance, understanding, clarity, compassion, empathy, peace, health, equanimity, order, health, balance, relaxation, care.

Rosie was very understanding about the whole thing by the way and seemed to have no judgments about me at all, which was helpful.

I will often use a step-by-step flow sheet, designed in collaboration with Penny Wassman and Katrina Kaneda (link at the bottom or it’s also on my website maryellenmcnaughton.com) to help me remember each of these steps so that I can synthesize all the information into a self-empathy statement. The statement begins with the two words NO WONDER.

I really love these two words because they give me space and the permission to feel. Have you ever noticed how we are encouraged from an early age NOT to feel? We hear things like “oh you shouldn’t feel that way or don’t feel that way or you should move beyond that or be above that”.

My body sings when I hear myself say “NO WONDER you feel that way! Of course you feel that way! Anybody would feel that way! Any normal person would feel that way!”

As I scan my sheet, the feelings that light up for me are agitation and regret and the needs that really resonate are ease and care.

No Wonder I feel regret and agitation because it is so important to me to have ease and care in my life.

Einstein tells us that the imagination is more powerful than the intellect because the body can’t tell the difference between what we imagine and what is really happening. As I imagine my needs for ease and care totally met I feel as sense of relief and peace.

Ahh… I’m feeling connected to myself again. My body begins to relax and I breathe easier as I drink in empathy for myself!

Click here to download the Self Empathy sheet.

maryellenmc@gmail.com
About the Author
Mary Ellen McNaughton, has a Masters in Counselling Psychology from UBC and has been incorporating the frame of NVC into her counselling practice since her introduction to it in 1999. Working with individuals, couples and families Mary Ellen focuses on the communication we have in our own head or ‘self-talk’, often with the help of a step by step debriefing or self-empathy flow sheet as well as shifting communication patterns between people. She also does bereavement counselling on contract with the Central Okanagan Hospice Association and collaborative coaching with the Okanagan Collaborative Family Law Association. As an adjunct professor at UBCO she teaches nonviolent communication in the context of Relational Practice to nursing students. She is on the board of BCNCC and does workshops and trainings in NVC by request in the Okanagan.