Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

New Year’s Thoughts

Self-Compassion and Kindness, Aspirations and Hope…

I don’t know about you, but I have begun pondering what this coming New Year means to me. What would be something I could incorporate into my life that truly filled my spirit and lifted me, daily, out of the quagmire of self-doubt and gloom?

My counselor is constantly challenging me to find moments of self-compassion during my day. Self-compassion. What is that, and what does it look like? I know that when you do not see yourself the way the world sees you, learning self-compassion can feel rather “woo woo”. 

But according to Dr. Kristin Neff:

“Self-compassion is simply the process of turning inward. We are kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical when we fail, make mistakes, or feel inadequate. We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold and judgmental when challenges and difficulty arise in our lives. Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience we have available to us, radically improving our mental and physical well-being. It motivates us to make changes and reach our goals not because we are inadequate, but because we care and want to be happy.”

Instead of mercilessly self-judging and criticizing ourselves for various inadequacies or short comings, if we are kind and understanding with ourselves when confronted with personal failings, we are demonstrating self-compassion for ourselves. Whoever said we were supposed to be “perfect” anyway? Only those nonstop unwelcome voices in our head. If we are warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate (like all the time) we are demonstrating self-compassion. Instead of ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism (I am an expert at this. Are you?), we embrace the wound and give ourselves the same kindness and care we would give to a good friend. This is self-compassion.

According to Tara Brach, PhD “bringing compassion into your life can lead to trust and from trust to aliveness.” When we are triggered (and the Holidays can carry many triggers for most of us) we are no longer in balance. This internal sense of Warning! Warning! is in conflict with an integrated brain. We tend to lose contact with the part of our brain that has perspective. The part of the brain that experiences empathy. When we are caught in fear, we become hijacked by our survival brain.

In order to regain that sense of balance, exercising self-compassion through mindfulness can strengthen the activation of the frontal cortex and get us back online. It helps us to ground ourselves in the present moment and in what is real. But how do we do this, particularly when we are swept away in emotion? Undoubtedly, you know exactly what I am talking about.

I talk about the breath all the time, but our breath is our lifeline. Taking note of your breathing or not breathing is the first place to start. Self-regulation and the calming of the nervous system begins with our focus on the breath. Our breath is our connection to our source, our yes. Slowly breathe in and slowly exhale. You may want to breathe in for four, hold it for four and exhale for four. Play with it. See what works for you. You can also ask yourself if you can name your emotion.  Can you bring a simple kindness to it? Another option is to do a body scan. What can you feel? What can you smell? What can you touch or hear or see? Be gentle with yourself removing any judgement. Replace the judgement with kindness. Loving kindness. All of these things are helping you build a toolkit for those times when we feel so lost and so alone. Finding your way back to what is real. Finding your way back to the here and now. Finding your way back to you.

I know it is hard. Oh, how I know.

Mark Nepo, in his book The Book of Awakeningencourages us to breathe into our truth.

“Whatever truth we feel compelled to withhold, no matter how unthinkable it is to imagine ourselves telling it, not to is a way of spiritually holding our breath. You can only do it for so long. Of course, the longer we keep our truth hidden, the more difficult it is to give it voice, or so it seems, because while the pressure is building, we are running out of air. But we are never more than a heartbeat from freeing ourselves of that awful isolation, never more than a gulp and a cough from falling back into the open.

All the while, the power of being hidden keeps us from the vitality of living, and so the healing value of telling the truth is in how it returns us to the pulse of what is sacred. Just as important as the respect and trust gained for telling the truth is the release of that terrible pressure that keeps us hidden and isolated. This is the embodied gift of truth which like breathing keeps us alive.”

As we look through the window into the coming New Year, let us stretch our breath. Let us put our hands on our hearts, feeling the spirit of you breathe into this new coming. Let that breath allow you to be seen in all its beauty, wounds, and all. Tattered and broken. Struggling and shaking. Questioning and wondering. Self-compassion and kindness. Kindness.

I leave you with this as we walk into the New Year:

“Following a star can become a tale of life’s experiences for most of us. We can travel through life in hope towards the goals that inspire and sustain us. Perhaps the journeying in hope is almost more important than the arrival. Perhaps we will learn more about ourselves on the journey than by staying close to familiar haunts and habits. Let us reflect on the aspirations and hopes that have driven our lives, but also think of the promises that the big Yes makes to us. By what are we guided in our own lives?”

An Advent Book of Days, by Gregory Kenneth Cameron

Until next time, friends.

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