Guest Blog by Anne Sutton, MA LPC, HAVEN – Counseling Program
“Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.” – Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion
Self-Compassion as a daily practice can be very difficult for survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. Trauma alters our inner self-talk, increasing our critical voices and muting our loving compassionate voices. The negative voice can become so strong it becomes a bully. It bellows and overwhelms our quieter, loving voices.
Survivors’ representations of the “inner bully,” their negative self-talk
It is important to train our compassionate self because that’s the part of us that is most helpful. If we only listen to the anxious/angry/self-critical part of ourselves, we get a biased view.
We all want to be more loving to ourselves but HOW? What are the tools? What can help us to remember to have self-compassion for ourselves? What can help us quiet our inner bully?
The group members in HAVEN’S on going trauma support group, Surviving and Thriving through Trauma began a lengthy group project focused on increasing feelings of self-compassion and developing a daily self-compassion practice. Each group member developed a personal handbook of self-compassion by creating an Altered Book.
Altered books are an art therapy technique that takes an old hard cover book, destroys it and transforms it into something completely different, something amazingly beautiful and personal.
The group started on this project in early May, 2016 and had a final celebration of their hard work in September. The women started by destroying the original books (most were brought from home or garage sales) to craft pages to create upon. We ripped out pages in the books, leaving large gaps in the books and filling the group room with discarded pages.
We then glued the remaining pages together leaving 10-12 thick and solid pages. These became our foundation to paint, draw, write and collage upon. The group members spent the next 10 weeks reflecting upon and making creative representations of ten key aspects of self-compassion:
- May I be kind to myself
- My inner bully
- Compassionate people in my life
- A compassionate place
- A compassionate color
- My perfect nurturer
Here are some more amazing creations:
The project became a fun, messy and very creative way to address a difficult issue for trauma survivors, learning to be loving to ourselves.
Self-compassion is an important part of ALL of our lives. The group and I would like to share with you one of our favorite self-compassion meditation practices (from Kristen Neff) to use when your inner bully shouts at you or life is just hard:
This is a moment of suffering
Suffering is a part of living
May I be kind to myself
May I give myself the compassion I need
May I learn to accept myself as I am
May I be strong
May I be safe
If you’d like to learn more about the HAVEN Counseling Program, click here.