Self-Compassion

Update: I just did my weekly video on this subject.

In the last week or two, I’ve learned some interesting things about myself. I learned that, among the various ‘voices’ that I have running around in my head, there are two in particular that are responsible for a great deal of my suffering. I call them ‘worry voice’ and ‘critic voice’. They have been there for a very, very long time, making my life miserable, and I was mostly unaware of what they were doing.

The ‘critic voice’ is a mean mother fucker. He tears me down in the most horrible ways and says things to me that I would never say to anyone else in a million years. The only saving grace is that he doesn’t speak too often though I want to get it to the point where he speaks as little as possible (however much that might be).

The ‘worry voice’ is the voice that wakes me up every morning. As soon as my brain fires up in the morning, he is the first one to start in about all of the things that I need to be anxious about. ‘Worry voice’ is much more chronic than ‘critic voice’ and is responsible for my constantly clenched jaw, extreme tension in my chest and leaves me exhausted by mid-afternoon every day.

So, I’ve got these voices and they make me want to kill myself. I’m not speaking metaphorically. These guys are the driving forces behind a lot of my suicidal ideation. What do I do about them? It’s not as if I can tell them to ‘go away’ and expect smooth sailing for the rest of my life. They are there. They’re part of me. They are largely responsible for my BPD symptoms.

I stopped fighting them and chose to love them instead.

It was not easy.

The ‘critic voice’, being much more sporadic, is a little easier to deal with. When he pipes up, it is very obvious and I’m usually pretty quick to catch him and quiet him down. I start by validating him. He came into existence to protect me. I’m not sure how this particular maladaptive coping mechanism came to be but, at one point, he served a purpose. I tell him that and I tell him that I appreciate what he has done for me in the past and what he is trying to do for me know but that it’s really no longer necessary. I tell him to keep paying attention for me doing things that deserve legitimate criticism but that I’m going to challenge him if the criticism seems undeserved.

The ‘worry voice’ is a bit trickier. Like the ‘critic voice’, I validate the ‘worry voice’. I thank him (a lot). There are plenty of challenges in my life that I need to be aware of and sometimes directly address and this voice is very good at identifying those challenges. It’s just that this voice will lock on to one or more of these challenges and not let me do anything other than think about the challenge. This makes getting shit done difficult. In defense of my ‘worry voice’, I have dropped the ball a lot over the last several years because I’ve been sick and I do validate the voice with respect to that as well. In the last few days, ‘worry voice’ has started to trust me more or so it seems. I also write down all of the things ‘worry voice’ is concerned about so he knows that I’m addressing everything.

I’ve also modified my meditations to improve my self-compassion. At the moment, I’m meditating at least twice a day: one meditation is always a Metta (loving-kindness) meditation where I throw loving kindness at both of these voices. The other meditation is a mindfulness meditation to help me be accepting and non-judgmental of these voices. I’ve also discovered an excellent meditation for handling strong negative emotions that I’ve been using to augment the other two,

All of this work has combined in such a way that I’m now on day 3 of a positive phase that’s somewhat different from past periods where I’ve felt good. I had my weekly game night two nights ago and had the most enjoyable evening that I have had in years. Normally, it’s rare for me to make it three days with a positive mood. This morning, ‘worry voice’ tried to knock me back down a notch (it still is, actually) but it’s failing… and it needs some love so it knows things will be ok.

I’m trying not to get too excited because I have in the past when things seem to be going my way and then wound up being disappointed. This time feels different though. I’ll still have episodes of negative emotion but I think the chronic, free-floating anxiety that I deal with may actually be being brought under control. The reason I’m more confident is that what I’ve done is not get rid of the anxiety (it’s definitely still there). Instead, I’ve just changed the way I relate to the anxiety in such a way that it’s no longer as debilitating. I guess that may be a form of equanimity?

I did an I Ching reading on this latest development and it is also telling me to chill and keep a low profile. That’s fine with me. I love and accept myself exactly as I am.

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