Do you find that when you spend time with family, you regress to old behaviors? You are not alone. In this article, we will explore how Self Empathy can provide profound self-understanding and transform your behaviors and your relationship with self and others.

Neither option is effective, yet our long-term trigger patterns and self-protective strategies take over.

Whenever we focus on what we don’t like, we create resistance and lose connection to our values, thus preventing us from taking actions that will meet them. This often causes us to re-act rather than act. Conversely, the more we uphold a consciousness of needs or values as motivators of our actions, the more we empower ourselves to choose responses in line with our values.

The question is: how do I empower myself to live from a value-based consciousness? One strategy is Self-Empathy.

The first step of the process is to acknowledge that while events and people (stimuli) may stimulate our feelings, they are not the cause of them. The cause is our reaction to the stimulus.

Our reaction is the mental processing (the assignment of meaning) that goes on internally in the aftermath of the stimulus, and is linked to some form of assessment of needs as “met or unmet.”

Self-Empathy, then, is a powerful process to pause and offer ourselves the space between the stimulus and our response, thus empowering ourselves to be at choice and reduce reactive behaviors.

Here is how it works:

Start by taking a few deep breaths. Physiologically this calms the body/mind system allowing a more integrated brain functioning.

Then, observe and accept your judgments without censoring them or identifying with them.

Finally, connect to your feelings and needs or values underneath the judgments. What am I longing for in this situation?

It takes time and practice to develop the skills and spaciousness to observe without identifying with our reactive mind, initiate an inner connection with our feelings and needs, hold with compassion the life energy that is alive in us in the moment, and consequently experience inner relief, self-understanding, and self-care.

From a brain science standpoint, we know that stress causes distorted and confused thinking, compromises short term memory, brings us back into the past or leads us to project fear into the future, taking us out of the present moment. The shutting down of the higher processes of the brain leaves us with intense emotions; impulsive, rigid and repetitive reactions; lack of self-reflection and inability to consider the other person’s point of view.

Connecting to our feelings and needs through Self Empathy empowers us to:

  • Realign ourselves with the life within us and our deepest intentions and values.
  • Tap into our own inner resources and ground ourselves in the present.
  • Open our heart compassionately towards the person whose behaviour stimulated uncomfortable feelings.

So, if you notice yourself feeling tense with your loved ones, how about pushing the Self-Empathy Pause Button?