Don’t Take the Payoff: Developing Compassion for Ourselves

Harville Hendrix, one of my mentors, once remarked that self hatred, or a lack of compassion for oneself, is so deeply entrenched for most people that moving to a true love of oneself is extremely difficult. It follows that compassion for others will be equally challenging if we consciously or unconsciously hate ourselves at a deep level. We may hold this contempt for self because, no matter how hard we try, we can not change behaviors that we KNOW are destructive to ourselves or to our relationships.

A little known secret about developing compassion for ourselves is what I refer to as “refusing to take the payoff.”

Here is what I mean.

When we beat ourselves up for “screwing up yet again,” whatever the ugly behavior might be, we are actually reinforcing that behavior rather than changing it. Beating ourselves up actually “feeds the beast” (the detested behavior) rather than eliminating it! The way it works is that beating ourselves up for our bad behavior keeps the negative loop going and reinforces and sets up the next round of the same behavior we want to change. Punishing ourselves is the “payoff.”change blvd and same old street

When we decline to beat ourselves up, we refuse to take the payoff and act more compassionately toward ourselves. It’s not that we are condoning the problem behavior. It’s just that we are no longer willing to punish ourselves, and therefore are less likely to punish others.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The New Cathedrals: Awaken Awe and Inspire Us

It is significant that Dr. Victor Weisskopf, the former director of CERN, recently likened the monumental efforts of the world scientific community to build the Large Hadron Collider to the earlier efforts of humanity to build the great gothic cathedrals of Europe.

universeThe same spirit that led us to build spires that reached to the heavens is leading us to inquire into the smallest particles of all that exists.

While it’s not likely that we will fall on our knees to acknowledge the apparent discovery at CERN of the Higgs-Boson particle, sometimes referred to as the “god particle,” there is certainly reason to celebrate this amazing achievement. The great cathedrals and the great colliders have this in common.

They hopefully awaken awe in us and inspire us to not only reach for the stars but also to strive to understand, as much as we can, what everything in this awesome universe is all about.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Loving Impermanence: Witness What is Going on Both Within and Around us

The reality of the impermanence of things is challenging for most of us.

I came home from a walk the other day and found myself very happy and delighted going from room to room in our home. Truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder because our house is aging and many parts of it are in need of repair. Come to think of it, not unlike myself.

Part of me definitely wants to keep things the way they are, even if they are in reality changing all the time.

individual observing surroundingsIn order to love impermanence and not just be freaked out by the impermanence of things, I think we need to be able to at least step back from time to time and just witness what is going on around us. Witnessing our lives, our home, our possessions and the world around us allows us to become a little more detached from that which we have no control over anyway. Being detached doesn’t mean we have to become indifferent. I was able to be detached and delighted by my surroundings at the same time.

We can practice and develop our ability to witness what is going on both within and around us and in doing so hopefully increase our peace of mind.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker