Sometimes the most profound statements come out of children’s books. One of my favorite Dr Seuss books is Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It seems to tell the story of what it is like to be human. It brings you through all the experiences in life: the triumphs, the doubts, the confusions, the depressions, the fearful moments and the moments you stare your difficulties in the face and overcome them.
Another fantastic book that goes straight to the truth of it all is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
If you haven’t read it, it’s a picture book where a family goes on a bear hunt and they keep coming across these obstacles from tall grass, to swamp, to spooky forest, etc.. and each time they say, “You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you’ve got to go through it.”
This is life.
As it’s said, life is full of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. Try as we might to avoid those sorrows, we often have to allow them to pass through. Optimally we do this as a training ground to build the muscle of self-compassion.
Here are some powerful anti-depressant and anti-anxiety (and happiness) side effects of Self-Compassion:
1) Personal Control – We start to understand that the power to work with difficulty or enjoy life is within us.
2) Self-love and self-worth – As we pay attention to ourselves in a supportive way, we continue to practice caring about ourselves and being worthy of loving attention. What we practice and repeat starts to become automatic.
3) Confidence – There comes a point where we understand that no matter what comes our way, “I can handle it and it’s going to be okay.”
That is why mindfulness and self-compassion are the foundations for Uncovering Happiness. One gives us awareness, the ability to see clearly what’s happening and what we need. The other gives us the soothing nutrients to deepen into balance and heal.
Life is always going to provide us with challenges and it’s going to be our impulse to try and move away from them. Ultimately, where we grow these incredible and powerful skills is by learning how to go through them.
Bring some mindfulness to pleasant and unpleasant events. If you notice pleasant events, bring awareness to how it feels in your body, smile and allow it linger (get those neurons firing toward joy). If it’s an unpleasant event, know that this is one of the 10,000 sorrows, it’s impermanent. Remember, ultimately going through it is where our gifts grow. Ask yourself, “What am I needing right now?” More often than not it’s some form of self-love.
What you practice and repeat becomes automatic, what would the days, weeks and months ahead be like if self-love was more automatic?
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy