Archive | December 18, 2011

The Importance of Self-Compassion

It is only selfishness that breeds poverty of the heart, the mind, the soul and the physicalThe Importance of Self-Compassion

 

By Hwaa Irfan

Do unto others that which one would like done to one’ s self is one of the many teachings in the unadulterated Christian book the Bible , and in Islamic teachings one of essential components to any action is one’s intentions. However, as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) emphasized in the raising of children are to be treated with much kindness because love is the conduit through which learning takes place.

One of the most unfortunate components today in social relations is however the opposite, and this opposition shapes all relations whether personal, domestic, or between countries. Perfection has a globalist context, and that globalist context has a cultural and Gross National Product paradigm. We are taught to reach out to his “perfection” and in so doing, denigrate parts of our worthy selves that do not match up to the common currency of “perfection”. In so doing we learn far too early to be not compassionate with ourselves, and therefore our fellow man – family and strangers alike. We have even learnt to not be compassionate in love, making love a conditional issue that leads to much pain both for the uncompassionate, and the victims of our lack of compassion.

Therefore what we need to learn is to be compassionate with ourselves!

It is not as easy as it may see at first because we have been entrained to view ourselves through the eyes of others. In doing so an ongoing battle ensues between our lower selves and our higher selves, but as the Unity of all life – the unity of the universe and its Creator reminds us everyday, what goes round comes round. Energy recycles itself just as the earth does so do our thoughts. Nothing is wasted except the material things that we take for granted, and even then, once we have disposed/neglected those material things they go back into the environment in one form or another.

The basis of self love is:

  • Self acceptance
  • Self care (not to the point of obsession/selfishness)

Self Acceptance

 

When we see ourselves through the eyes of others we neglect the innate gifts that we are all born with. We become competitive for that acceptance by others, sometimes to the extent of going against our true nature – then we wonder why we are never happy. We falter, we reprimand ourselves, and may even punish ourselves either materially, physically, or emotionally. We may even relate to God on the same terms, which in so doing instills in us a sense of failure. One of the essential teachings of the traditional indigenous Australian is the same lesson that Prophet Muhammed (SAW) teaches in the raising of children, and that is they must never be allowed to feel bad about themselves! Can you imagine never feeling bad about one’s self – what a liberating experience. In this way one learns to self monitor, self learn, and go through the developmental stages which help us to work out our issues, weakening the lower self for the higher self. Our much better it is to not feel like a failure because we feel free to be open to this process, we feel more complete in ourselves, more fulfilled in whatever simple things we may choose to do.

The U.S.-based Institute of HeartMaths have done extensive research on an issue to discover what most faiths of spiritual practice have been teaching for a long time for negative emotions not just towards others, but also towards our selves, has a profound impact on our sense of well-being, our health.

The Psychology and Physiology of Self Compassion

In the research for HeartMath carried out by Glen Rein, Mike Atkinson and Rollin McCraty 31 volunteers were measured for anger by testing their salivary, heart rate and mood. They were also measured according to what arose from within, and what was caused by external influences. The findings are familiar to many.

It was found that anger produces a significant change in mood disturbance, but not in the salivary, whereas positive emotions had a significance in the salivary. Anger inhibits the S-IgA of the salivary, whereas positive emotions stimulated and increased the S-IgA.

The reason why the S-IgA was measured is because it is an immunoglobulin, an antibody present in our mucous secretions. S-IgA is our first line of defense against disease forming pathogens in our upper respiratory tract, our gastrointestinal system, and the urinary tract. That explains the bad feeling we get in our stomachs! When we experience stress in our lives like a death, anxiety, the need to control, our S-IgA level decreases!

When we experience warm relations, social support, our S-IgA level increases!

It is the small stressors rather than the large stressors that correlate to disease, probably because we take the impact of the small stressors for granted, while all the time they are accumulating and we are reacting physiologically, and psychologically.

In the HeartMath research, the 31 healthy participants (aged 17 – 50) were randomly assigned to smaller groups while maintaining their normal lifestyles. However, to reduce external stressors from habits, 8 hours before being tested each time, they were not allowed to smoke, exercise, eat/drink accept for water. They were all trained in the stress management technique Freeze-Frame.

Self-induced emotional states were achieved through instructions:

  • To sit quietly
  • To not intentionally affect their emotional state
  • To experience a specific emotional state for a series of 15 minutes

After which, saliva samples were collected, and they had to fill in a self report questionnaire on their level of emotional arousal. The samples collected were frozen in liquid nitrogen.

The outcome was quite uniform when it came to the self-reporting and the measurements of heart rate from watching something violent – a war video, but the expression varied. Amongst women, the expression was more of compassion, especially regarding scenes that involved children. In fact, 40% did not feel anger, and of those who did express anger, it was short-lived, but maybe over a long period of time, that ratio would change. Participants reported light- medium level of tension/ irritation in the stomach but this could be affected by to what extent participants are in touch with their own feelings.

The above outcome differed when it came to self inducement. All participants felt anger without little conflicting emotions. The emotions that were felt were one of frustration or resentment – that feeling of a knot in the stomach, and one person felt tearful.

Care and compassion was felt 90% of both groups, but both groups could not distinguish between care and compassion.

Those who felt care and compassion and anger and frustration had a significant increase in their S-IgA, i.e. their salivary immune mechanism much more so than the control group. The self induced anger group had a significant increase in their S-IgA unlike those who watched a video. But the self induced care and compassion group had a greater (80%) increase of their S-IgA than the self induced Anger and frustration group (60%). It has already been established that recalling an experience acts as a basis of response to future similar responses, so therefore the reaction/expression would be greater. A direct link was found between the lapse of time that took place between the experience and the measurement of the immune response thus affecting the outcome.

Increasing Self –Compassion

Self-compassion is a very strong form of positive energy, and positive energy is life giving rather than depletes the life force, so it is only natural that it has a regenerative affect on the human physiological system. As such, when we experience compassion, we are more able to practice compassion like forgiving one’s self after experience anger.

The HeartMath technique for increasing self-compassion is called Heart Lock-In. It involves the following steps which with practice, becomes easier as one establishes a nee pattern of response.

  • Recognize what you are feeling.
  • Focus in your heart area and breathe in love for about a minute.
  • Now breathe self-compassion through the heart area and throughout your entire body for a few minutes.
  • Find a still, quiet place inside where you can feel this compassion. If negative thoughts or feelings about yourself arise in the mind, gently return your focus to the heart area.

Source:

Rein, G. et al. “The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Compassion and Anger.” Journal of Advancement in Medicine. 1995; 8(2): 87-105.

Related Topics:

Love and Time

The Intelligent Heart

Where Did Compassion Go?

To Stand With Pride and Compassion

Occupying Love in Oakland

What is Love?

The Power of Love: Four Women

Giving Birth to Unconditional Love

Coping With Negative Emotions

A Tool to Refocus Your Emotions

Is Your Heart as Strong as it is Big?

An Appreciative Heart is Good Medicine

Fire in the Heart

The Flowering Tree

The House of Three Rooms

What Men Live By!

The Rose Within…

Self Love is a Journey

The Charity of Love

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