When we’re caught up in our pain, we also go to war against ourselves. The body protects itself against danger through fight, flight, or freeze (staying frozen in place), but when we’re challenged emotionally, these reactions become an unholy trinity of self-criticism, self-isolation, and self-absorption. A healing alternative is to cultivate a new relationship to ourselves described by research psychologist Kristin Neff as self-kindness, a sense of connection with the rest of humanity, and balanced awareness. That’s self-compassion.
. The Dalai Lama said, “[Compassion] is the state of wishing that the object of our compassion be free of suffering…. Yourself first, and then in a more advanced way the aspiration will embrace others.” It makes sense, doesn’t it, that we won’t be able to empathize with others if we can’t tolerate the same feelings—despair, fear, failure, shame—occurring within ourselves? And how can we pay the slightest attention to others when we’re absorbed in our own internal struggles?