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Self-compassion and Self-care


It is very difficult to accept, but it is a well-established fact that one of the greatest contributors to the struggle of living with a chronic illness or disability is the inner rejection of our condition. From the moment we decide that the condition of our body is our enemy, we establish a deep inner emotional and psychological conflict. This inner conflict is largely caused by our negative judgment of our condition against what we think ‘should be’. The conflict between the fact of our condition that ‘shouldn’t be’ on the one hand, and the previous state of affairs which is no longer, but ‘should be’ on the other, is a dead-end avenue where we crash into a wall.

In this, it could be a challenging exercise to examine where our ideas of what ‘should’ and ‘should not’ be originate. What conditions, and consequently, what expectations and demands have we placed on our life and on ourselves? Again, where do those conditions come from? Could they be conditionings, adopted from our upbringing, from early imposed beliefs and rules and from a society that is always running in order to perform and achieve?

 

Self-compassion
Elsewhere in this site, it is suggested that rehabilitation can happen on many levels. This involves establishing a functional life style within the possibilities of your illness, but includes also a measure of inner transformation. This could mean for example, changing your judgment and rejection of yourself and your condition. Self-compassion brings about inner peace and serenity. If you happen to struggle with chronic pain for example, you will find that reducing the inner resistance and conflict immediately reduces your pain. Emotional tension and stress become physical tension and stress; inner ease and stillness become physical ease and stillness.

Letting go of rejection and protest would imply that you are giving in, giving up. But there is a great difference.

To let go of rejection and negative judgment involves coming to acceptance which, as we know, is really very difficult. Usually, we accept something that we agree with to say the least, but better still, something we like.  Thus, we feel that accepting our condition and the associated limitations and effects would mean that we agree with them. But sometimes you simply have to accept something because, right then, that very moment, it is a fact and cannot, right then, be changed. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with it, it doesn’t mean you have to like it or love it. It doesn’t mean you stop your search for improvement. But for now, this very moment, defuse your inner conflict and accept what is.

Self-compassion furthermore includes:

  • to understand your condition and its associated effects and limitations.
  • to know and acknowledge your needs; physical, emotional and psychological.
  • to remind yourself frequently that, given your circumstances and ordeals, you are doing the best you can and that, in truth, you are quite an amazing person.


Self-care

If there is inner conflict, that dynamic will extend into your choice of care.

When you act from a place of protest and rejection you are likely to get locked into a box of your diagnosis as a life sentence and view your condition as your enemy. As a result, you will engage in prescriptive medications and medical interventions that fight your condition.

When you come from a place of self-compassion, you are open to consider that your diagnosis can be another term for the care that you need, and that such care will be found in methods, therapies and remedies that support your whole person wellness. Again, this is not giving up, but a shift in attitude, whereby you are willing to accommodate a shift from pathology to path.

When a chronic condition enters your biography, you can take the approach that something is happening ‘to’ you. You can say that here is a pathological condition, caused by external factors such as bacteria and viruses, an accident, genetics or the breakdown of a physical-biochemical system, none of which you have any control over.

When you believe that you have no control, all that remains is to resort to other, likewise external remedies such as drugs, operations, chemo-therapy, radiation, etc. in the hope that they will fix the problem. And yes, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.

But is it possible, and maybe even necessary, to include yourself into the event, and ask yourself: “Why is this happening to me? Could there be an imbalance in my life style, in my emotional life? Have I ignored my needs? What could be the meaning with regard to how I need to treat myself from now on?” When you employ this approach, you retain a certain amount of power over your wellbeing and you open the door to participating in your healing.

That is self-care.

Self-care furthermore includes:

  • pacing yourself and your activities.
  • not hiding your condition.
  • setting up a support structure.
  • attend to your needs; physical, emotional and psychological.
  • stick to your therapy and medication routine.
  • maintain a healthy diet.
  • going with the bad days – rest, read soul-nourishing stories, listen to music, write a bit, paint, etc.
  • join a support group, either in your direct environment or on-line.
  • ask yourself: what do I need right now, and who or what can help me bring that about?

 

There is an enormous amount of information available that deals with self-care methods and programmes, and HEART AND SOUL can support you with a wide range of guidelines, assisted self-help programmes and supportive articles. But in all this, the bottom line is: you care for yourself to the degree you feel you deserve. So, if there is any form of neglect or denial in the area of your care, please ask yourself why that is.