Despite attempting to practice what I preach and having a lot of tools at my disposal for maintaining a positive outlook and building my mental health, there are still always situations that floor me and create great opportunities to learn and grow.  Last week I had a bit of a mini meltdown and slipped into the ‘loop of doom’ for an evening and part of the following morning, I really got myself in a bad place and as usual, the brain loved the challenge of goading myself on to feel worse and worse.  The cause was nothing of any magnitude, but the effect was quite extreme.

\"\"I had visited the gundog trainer with Ruaridi (and he met his Dad) and had come to realise that I had let Ruaridi hunt and run too freely and as a consequence he had lost the drive to retrieve dummies, dull and boring in his mind, but essential for training and developing the control needed to work him properly.  I resolved to tackle the problem the following day with a bit of a plan that involved working both of my dogs, but it didn’t go to plan, it was an utter disaster and left me despondent, angry, frustrated, anxious and sad!  It was also, on reflection, a rubbish plan badly executed.

That evening and overnight the narrative running through my head ranged across all sorts of extremes and was so desperately unhelpful, the brain really does like a good fight with itself and a chance to prove what an absolute eejit one can be! ☹ By the following morning I was still fed up, but self-aware enough to think that I had to do something about it – so using the Positive Focus exercise (what am I proud of in the last few weeks) and a Gratitude Journal (what am I grateful for) I managed to gain some perspective and quell the negative and harmful narrative.

What makes this all the more interesting is that I have been exploring a great workbook in the last few weeks, recommended by a good friend\"\" – The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer.  This is a really interesting and practical guide to becoming better at accepting yourself and building inner strength to thrive……..mmmmm…….. that is if you take the opportunity to utilise the mindset and resources in the moment – still work in progress.  I went back to the book after my episode for some insight and was struck by the chapter on Self-Criticism.  Now the book is predicated on three core elements:

Self-Kindness – being caring and generous to yourself

Common Humanity – recognising that as a human we are flawed works in progress

Mindfulness – being aware of and in the present moment

What I read after the event in that chapter was textbook – when you get into a stressful situation like I had done, often the fight-flight-freeze response is triggered and great self-compassion creates the chance to de-regulate that response.  However, the opposite is often more likely and so powerful and, in my case, absolutely what happened. Instead of showing myself self-kindness, recognising I was human and staying in the moment I…….

  • became self-critical, I beat myself up for doing a bad job of training Ruaridi, not listening to Geoff (the gundog trainer) and sabotaging any chance of him realising his potential.
  • isolated myself from anyone else – didn’t talk, share how I was feeling with anyone and ignored it when people offered support.
  • ruminated long and hard – allowed myself to cast my mind forwards and imagine disaster and backwards with anger at all of the things I had failed to do, I got stuck inside my head thinking and over thinking!

It was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me with such a poignant practical example to reflect on and really reinforced the power of self-compassion, but also how hardwired we are to do the opposite sadly.  I have posed this question before, but why on earth do we treat ourselves with such negativity and venom when we would be so caring, supportive and generous to our friends and loved ones.

\"\"Whilst these musings are always helpful to me as they get me to revisit stuff I know, I would really hope that this blog acts as a bit of a spark for you to reflect on your own levels of self-compassion and how well you pay attention to the 3 core elements I shared above.  How can you treat yourself more kindly, where do you need to remind yourself that you are only human and how can you build a better level of self-awareness and being in the moment.

To quote one of the authors of the book – “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”  Christopher Germer


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