Friday, 17 February 2012

I, Me,& Mine = The misery of taking things personally

Case 1- If you get a hit on the back of your head and then spin around and see that it was caused by a small tree branch that fell, then how do you feel?
Case 2- If you get the exact same hitting sensation on the back of your head and then spin around and see that it was because you were struck by someone holding a small tree branch in their hand, then how do you feel?

Do you quickly rub your head and then get on with your day in the first case?
Do you take the second case personally and does it then result in a rush of intense potentially long lasting negative uncomfortable feelings compared to the first case?

What does it mean to take things “personally” and all the unwanted baggage that goes with that?

“How could she talk to me like that!”
“I can’t believe he treated me that way!”
“Who do they think they are?!”

Is it possible that being unhappy/miserable/suffering boils to down to taking things personally? But how could I not take things personally when someone just did or said something to ME?

I think this points to the question of who we think we are (and sometimes we are even told exactly that (often in a very loud voice) as in; “Who (the hell) do you think you are!” Maybe the best answer to that is; “Good question!”

Who am I?
  • Am I my body? – If so then if certain body parts are removed or change am I less myself?
  • Am I my thoughts? – If so then my thoughts (and even core beliefs) have changed since I was born – does that mean I am not “me” anymore?
  • Am I the totality of my life experiences? – If so then would I not be “me” (the me inside that observes & remembers) if I had had different experiences (e.g. grew up in a different country)?
  • Ask the same question (i.e. “Am I this, Am I that?) and the answer always comes back as  “Well,  yes and no”. It seems that nowhere I look do I find a stable enduring sense of “me” other than just this “feeling”.

Have I said and done things I never imagined I would ever say or do (answer = for sure!).
So is it possible that even I myself am not 100% sure who “I am”?
I think so.

If even I myself am not sure who “me” is then how could anyone else really know who “I am”?

If no one else can know who I am then how could anything they ever do really be “to me”? Whatever they do is, at worse, being done to their version of who they think I am, as opposed to the “real” me – which is not even really knowable anyway.
Add to this that most of us spend our time worrying and thinking about how everything relates back to ourselves (the internal narrative that is mostly an ongoing story of “me”). Given all that then whatever goes on is likely not really about “me” at all. That does not mean that things are to be ignored but rather that seeing them for what they really are means seeing that things happen as a result of all kinds of factors that do not all revolve around “me”.

So if you come at me with a stick I will still run or turn to defend myself, but I will do so with trying to see what is happening from an understanding that trying to hurt  me is not so much about “me” and likely more about what is going on in the other person. Taking things less personally in this way feels like a path to less misery. At least it has for me so far  as I continue in my “n of 1 trial” that is trying to answer/live out the question: “How to live?”

What do you (whoever “you” really are!) think?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Self-compassion=The opposite of being selfish

Although last week's post was about what mindful speaking might look like, alert readers pointed out that my using the term "personal failure" was harsh at best, and they are correct. 
So what does it mean to be so self-critical? Is it possible that there is a direct connection between self-criticism/self harshness and judging others? 
I think so. 

Maybe I need to re-read the textbook chapter on "professional self care" that I co-wrote where i say that "Care of others begins with caring for ourselves".
If we are harsh with ourselves and self judge  then why should we expect to be able to be open and non-judgmental of others?
If we cannot laugh at our own foibles and little failures then do we really expect that we can do the same for others?
Wouldn't it be the wiser path to practice being compassionate with the one person we are always around?
Why not be kind to ourselves as a way to practice being kind to others?

Self compassion is not the same as self esteem as outlined by this quote taken from the website of Kristen Neff  - her website is a great resource - You can even take a self-compassion quiz to see how you score for yourself! (From Kristin Neff's website -

"Although self-compassion may seem similar to self-esteem, they are different in many ways.  Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves. While there is little doubt that low self-esteem is problematic and often leads to depression and lack of motivation, trying to have higher self-esteem can also be problematic.  In modern Western culture, self-esteem is often based on how much we are different from others, how much we stand out or are special.  It is not okay to be average, we have to feel above average to feel good about ourselves.  This means that attempts to raise self-esteem may result in narcissistic, self-absorbed behavior, or lead us to put others down in order to feel better about ourselves.  We also tend to get angry and aggressive towards those who have said or done anything that potentially makes us feel bad about ourselves.  The need for high self-esteem may encourage us to ignore, distort or hide personal shortcomings so that we can’t see ourselves clearly and accurately. Finally, our self-esteem is often contingent on our latest success or failure, meaning that our self-esteem fluctuates depending on ever-changing circumstances.

In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on). This means that with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself.  Self-compassion also allows for greater self-clarity, because personal failings can be acknowledged with kindness and do not need to be hidden. Moreover, self-compassion isn’t dependent on external circumstances, it’s always available – especially when you fall flat on your face!  Research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger."

Be well,


Friday, 3 February 2012

Me talk good: Right speech

Last week's post was an example (of my personal failure) of the struggle to speak mindfully. 
So what then might speaking mindfully look like? 
How can we know if what we are about to say is "mindful" or not? 
What follows is paraphrased &  attributed to someone named Sid(-dhartha) a few thousand years ago
It is a pithy & revealing set of suggestions for thinking critically about how we use speech.

"[1] In the case of words that I know to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, I do  not say them.

[2] In the case of words that I know to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, I do not say them.

[3] In the case of words that I know to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, I have  a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that I know to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, I do  not say them.

[5] In the case of words that I know to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, I do not say them.

[6] In the case of words that I know to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, I have a sense of the proper time for saying them. 

Why is that? Because I have sympathy for living beings."

An good additional question to ask is: 
"Do I speak with a kindly heart, or am I inwardly malicious?

Be well,