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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris.


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OK, let's do today's episode, I don't know about you, but there have been many times during this wrenching year where I have made my pain even worse by adding on layers and layers and layers of self-criticism.


There's a notion that is deeply ingrained in our culture that the only way to succeed or even to survive is to liberally apply and internal cattle prod.


But there is research that strongly suggests that this approach simply leads to extra anxiety and that there is a more successful approach, which is called self compassion. My guest today has been at the forefront of this research. She has empirically demonstrated the value of self compassion. She's shown that it doesn't have to lead to passivity, self-absorption or cheesiness. And as you will hear, she has practiced what she preaches in extremely difficult circumstances in her own life.


All of this makes Kristin Neff, in my opinion, a figure of incalculable importance, I should say, before we dive in here, that we recorded this interview back in 2000 19, and it actually contributed to a major turning point in my own meditation practice and in my life where reposting it now, because as we head into the New Year, which is a time when many of us embark on self-improvement projects based consciously or subconsciously in self-loathing, we could all use a little kryptonite for the inner critic.


So here we go with Kristin F.. Nice to see you. Thank you for doing this. I've been wanting to talk to you for a while, actually, because I'm actually writing a book about kindness right now. And I want to do a chapter about self compassion. So you are the you are the leading expert.


So before we get to self compassion, though, I want to I want to hear how you got interested in meditation in the first place.


Right. So it was my last year of graduate school. I was finishing up my Ph.D. at Berkeley. And then basically my life was a mess. I had gotten out of a divorce.


It was a very messy divorce. I was feeling a lot of shame. And I was also feeling a lot of stress, not so much about what I finished my PhD, but more after seven years of my life. But I get a job in. The job market is really tight. And so I thought, you know, well, I've heard that meditation is is good for stress. And it was Berkeley. So right down the street for me was a meditation group.


I was lucky that I don't write down every street. Write down every street. Yeah.


In Berkeley so that, you know, on every corner. But luckily, the one I chose to go to, the woman leading the group, it was actually a tick, not hon songa reason it's important is because some meditation teachers, mindfulness teachers wouldn't necessarily talk about self compassion. Taking on one thing that's unique about him is he's really emphasizes the qualities of practice, especially since he's a Vietnamese Zen master and Zen doesn't talk a lot about compassion.


Full stop, as I understand it.


But he does in particular. Right. And so I started in his tradition and the very the very first night I went, the woman talked about having compassion for yourself, that you needed to actively cultivate compassion for yourself as well as others. And so I was also learning mindfulness. But because my life was such a mess, because I was such a mess, you know, almost immediately I saw the difference it made when I turned toward myself with this kind of kind warm, supportive attitude.


I just saw my own experience. It really made a difference. So and then I started practicing more in the insight meditation tradition. I think because I am a scientist, it just was a little more compatible with my. Way of approaching things with people like Jack Kornfield, The Path with Heart, Sharon Salzberg, loving kindness. So I was always I was always really drawn to the integration of, you might say, the spaciousness of mindfulness with the heart opening qualities of compassion.


And I was I was fortunate because it was there at my practice from the very beginning, and that was about 20 years ago.


And let me just jump in and define terms for people, because some people.


Yes, I just never know. We have a lot of experienced meditators who listen for new folks who are coming every week, you know, in once you start to meditate, there are lots of ways to measure, lots of ways to meditate.


And within Buddhism, there are, I would say, at least two big skills we're trying to teach. One is mindfulness, which is put simply the ability not to be yanked around by your emotions.


Yes, like that. The other is compassion. Or if you're if you're afraid, as I am, of gooey words, you can just translate that into friendliness. Just kind of us.


Exactly. A cooler, calmer, nicer attitude toward external and internal phenomena. Oh, can I replace the word cooler with warmer?


Sure. Yes, better. I mean, I know. I know what you mean. I know what you mean, but fair enough. So it sounds like you pivoted from the initial Zen tradition into what's known as the insight tradition, which is just another form of Buddhist meditation. That's actually the school I've trained in and stumbled upon teachers like Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, both of whom have written a lot about, yes, mindfulness.


Again, just being able to be nonjudgmental, aware of stuff and compassion, which is adding in the not just nonjudgmental aware, but having a certain element of warmth in the awareness.


Right. And so so the mindfulness is aimed at holding experience in a nonjudgmental manner. So the compassion is aimed at holding the experiencer in a friendly manner. And so they have slightly different targets. And so both need to be practiced. It can actually almost appear to conflict sometimes because you accept your experience as it is, including the fact that it's painful at the same time that you're wishing yourself well and you want to help. And so it almost forms a bit of a paradox.


Actually, one of the sayings we like to say is we give ourselves compassion not to feel better, but because we feel bad. So you have to allow the experience to be, as it is at the same time as toward the experience, because you're friendly, because you care, you do what you can to help. So one paradox is, since Sarah Lucy, if I can restate that, and I'm also thinking that there may be yet another paradox, probably one paradox is you in mindfulness meditation.


We are not trying to control anything. We're just trying to see things as they are.


Right. See clearly insight. You know, we're seeing whatever is happening so that it doesn't own us. Right.


But in this case, when you add in the compassion layer, you're trying to notice that there's suffering there.


Yes. And you're not trying to alleviate it per say. You're just sending warmth toward the suffering as it is. Right.


You aren't trying to manipulate your experience because if you use compassion to try to make the pain go away, it's actually just another form of resistance. So you have to fully accept the fact that this is painful, this hurts, you know, and that's the mindfulness validating and accepting the fact that this is really painful right now. And at the same time, we give ourselves warmth and kindness. You know, I'm so sorry. It's so painful. Is there anything I can do to help and support myself in this moment?


Right. And so the targeted kind of at two different targets. So they have to be both held together and, you know, they say compassion and wisdom. There are two wings of a bird. We need both wings. We need to tend toward ourselves at the same time we accept our experience. All right.


Well, I was just going to ask you how we do this, because I think most of the listeners will understand basic mindfulness meditation where you can pick the breath as our object. We sit and try to feel the breath every time we get distracted, which will happen a million times we start again. Compassion, meditation or self compassion.


Meditation involves a little bit more kind of discursive thinking or not discursive thinking, targeted thinking where you are sending well wishes toward yourself. And you did this little thing where you said, I'm so sorry you're feeling this way. Is there anything I can do? And that for me, as a typical Western raised in patriarchal system, I think I think I'm not going to say that to me. Right. Right, right. Well, I have to do that.


You don't have to do it that way. You can you can give yourself like a you know, you can you do it physically. So what we're doing is, um, where there's really two different safety systems. So we're activating the care safety system because as mammals, you know, when we come out of the womb, the way we feel safe is by connection with other people. Right. Connection, love, warmth. That's what allows us to feel safe.


And so what we're doing is we're kind of intentionally targeting the care system and you can do it with language. But it's true that language doesn't work for everyone. You can do with physical touch. So like, you know, putting your hand on your body in a way that feels supportive. You can just do it with with friendliness like, hey, it's OK. You can call yourself buddy if you want whatever works. The language is, does it really matter what the language is?


What matters is the attitude of caring and warmth. And that can be expressed in a lot of ways. But mindfulness is not intended to be a stand alone practice, where it's just about accepting experience completely as it is. The reason we practice is because we want to alleviate suffering. Right, and so, ironically, when we practice, we have to accept what's happening, because if we don't, it's going to make things worse. But at the same time, it's really helpful.


So, for instance, there's some research that shows if you teach people some self compassion before they learn mindfulness meditation, they're more likely to stick with it. Because what happens is, you know, the mind starts saying, oh, I can't do this. I'm so bad at this. And it starts judging. You know, we start judging ourselves. And although it's it is we want to accept that and just see them as thought, it really makes a difference if you give yourself some kindness.


Oh, and that that's kind of hard. I mean, it's OK. You know, the friendliness, the warmth, the human connection.


And I know people get confused because it's self compassion, but compassion is inherently connected. The word compassion in the lat means to suffer with. And so when you give yourself compassion, it's not really aimed at yourself, it's just opening up, you're actually becoming less self ish or your focus is less on the self. And just remembering that all people are imperfect, all people suffer. It's not just me. And that's what some of the feelings of connectedness comes.


So connectedness and kindness and mindfulness, those three components, at least the way I think about it, make up the experience of compassion.


I want to get back to literally how we do this. Yes, because that's where I that's what I've been spending the last 10 years doing.


Yeah. And I can't imagine myself giving myself a hug. So but before before we go there, I just want to get back to the because I said earlier that there was a second paradox. Yeah. And you just touched on it, which is in mindfulness meditation, especially in the Buddhist tradition.


One of the goals they hold out, which is very confusing for people, is that you will ultimately see through the illusion of the self. Absolutely.


And yet here you are talking about self compassion. Yes. Yeah, that's right. And so it's it's confusing. So, for instance, I was talking to one Buddhist teacher who said you didn't even better. Nine oh, you just mean inner compassion, if you think of it, is inwardly directed compassion as opposed to just outwardly directed compassion. And of course, compassion is unidirectional inside and outside. Then it makes sense. The word self is like a heuristic.


You don't need an actual sense of separate self to give yourself inner compassion.


Does anybody outside of academia use the word heuristic?


I mean, I love the word of great and probably not paisleys intellectual concept.


It's yeah, it's so useful. I think of it as useful. It's a useful tool. We don't have to take it very seriously.


I just want to congratulate you for that. I think being the first person on nearly 200 episodes to use the word cure is there. No, it's great. I'm not even teasing. I think it's awesome.


Anyway, yeah, there are a lot of paradoxes. But, you know, so going back to and I'm really glad you're bringing this up because in a way, one of the big blocks, especially for men to practicing self compassion and which is a shame because it's we know from the research is one of the most powerful sources of strength, coping and resilience we have available to us. One of the blocks, especially for men, is it goes against gender roles.


It seems too feminine. It seems weak. It seems floury. Right. Or like just uncomfortable. Uncomfortable yet because men especially are socialized against expressing this this type of warmth and tenderness, even outwardly.


Even outwardly. Yeah. And even outwardly. But especially when you add the word self. I mean, isn't self a woman's magazine, for goodness sake? Right.


I don't know that I thought that. But I mean, I have a four year old is the first time my first and our first and only child. I'm really tender with him, although I also like roughhouse with him and, you know, yes, I guess fat thighs and all that stuff.


But that's the first time in my life other than maybe with cats or their dogs, that I've been really tender and probably with cats and dogs, but nobody's looking.


So the idea, the proposition that you have already articulated here that I should say these super warm things that I would I've never probably other than to my son said out loud or to hug myself, it's just hard. It's uncomfortable by it, but it's. Yeah, yeah, it is.


And, you know, and again, you find ways of doing it that are more comfortable, for instance. So the beauty of a University of Texas at Austin and so the Longhorn men's basketball team asked me to come in and give the guys training.


How'd that go?


Great, because I didn't use the word self compassion once because it's triggering this note does know the word something special about the word. I talked about inner resilience and inner strength training. And so basically. So when you're out there, when you're playing, you know what mental voice you want in your head, do you want to coach is saying you suck, you can't do it. You know, you're crap. You should be ashamed of yourself. I can't believe you miss that shot.


Or do you want to coach saying, hey, it's OK, this is maybe what went wrong.


We can work, we can do this. I'm here. I'm supportive. So kind of an encouraging, supportive, kind voice. It doesn't have to take a particular form of the form. The kindness takes depends on what you need. And maybe what you need is not a hug. Maybe that's not going to be helpful for you that maybe you need, you know, just kind of a little encouragement or a little understanding or just a little sense of acceptance.


Right. And so people find their own way into self compassion that the goal is just to be a supportive, kind, encouraging, helpful, beneficial, friendly presence. Right. And to see if you if the word friendliness works for you, that that works for me. So, for instance, in our training program for teens, we call it making friends with yourself. And so you could absolutely use that metaphor and you can think, what would you say to a friend?


So the types of things, let's say you had a friend, maybe one of your buddies come to you and say, you know, Dan, I'm so upset. This is happening or I got a cancer diagnosis or something like that. What types of things would you say to support your friend? Because that's the language that probably works for you and you can try to use that type of language with yourself. The language itself is not important. What's important is this feeling of support, encouragement and kindness.


What if I don't like myself? Right. So and, you know, in a way, this is what self compassion is exactly designed to address. I mean, it's helpful for everyone. But many people internalize this idea that I'm not good enough, you know, I'm flawed. Or maybe maybe you rejected by your parents.


So. Well, first of all, the first thing self compassion does is tune in to the pain of that, you know, wow, that's that's kind of hard, right? If you don't like yourself and it's not about saying it's not self-esteem. Self-esteem is I judged myself positively or I judge myself negatively or compared to other people and also compared to other people.


And self-esteem is really contingent is dependent on success. If you don't succeed your self-esteem, you. It's a fair weather friend.


So self compassion, this kind of more unconditionally friendly attitude just says, you know, hey, everyone's imperfect.


That's part of the human experience. One thing we like to say is the goal of practice is simply to become a compassionate mess.


You still a mess. You know, you do what you can, but you're a human. So by definition, you're going to be a mess. But can you hold that mess with kindness, with friendliness? Because if you don't if you take it, if you take is again, another paradox.


If you take that your imperfection or messiness personally, if you identify with it as who you are, then you aren't seeing the whole picture, because as you know, when you really start getting into practice, the reality of who we are is so much bigger than this particular moment in time. And, you know, we identify we reified this experience into a sense of solid self when reality. This is just what's unfolding. Right. And so you might say we hold this unfolding mess with great compassion and kindness and friendliness and the warmth is important.


And again, just going back to the physiology. We are mammals, right, and we've got ESP. human mammals, we humans are born the most immature. It takes 25 to 27 years for the prefrontal cortex to fully mature. And I like my cases taken nearly. Yeah.


And I like to joke it may take another five years for the kids to actually leave home. You know, and the reason that's because the human brain is so plastic and able to, you know, change and evolve that that's why we're such slow developers. But physiologically, we needed a system in place that would prompt the infant or the, you know, the child to be safe by being taken care of by parents or people who elders who take care of them.


And that would also prompt the parents to take care of the child. So we have the very evolved care system is part of our physiology. And so we know again from the science is when you're when you're kind yourself, when you're friendly towards yourself, which is one way to do it, other ways to do it as well. You actually lower the cortisol levels, you reduce the sympathetic nervous reactivity and you actually activate things like heart rate variability, probably oxytocin.


The dots haven't been totally connected. So but most likely you're increasing oxytocin, you're actually activating this physiological system that's designed to make us feel safe. The problem with not liking yourself is it's very threatening and you feel isolated.


And so remembering that, hey, everyone's imperfect, you know, it's OK to make mistakes. Can I learn from it? What we find is that friendly, supportive attitude is all sorts of benefits. It increases motivation. It allows you to cope. So just just for an example, there was one study done of soldiers who had come back from Iraq and Afghanistan and actually seen action overseas. And they found that how soldiers treated themselves, how compassionate they were to themselves around that the real trauma they had experienced was a very powerful predictor of whether or not they developed PTSD nine months later, post-traumatic stress disorder.


And in fact, it was more powerful than how much action they had seen.


So more important than what you experience in life is how you relate to yourself in the midst of that experience, when it's when it's really traumatic or difficult. And so, you know, when people say self compassion is a weakness, not for these soldiers, you know, and if you think again, to use a metaphor, if you think of life as a battle, in some ways it's challenging. It's really hard to be a human being. You know, it always has been.


But you might say, even especially now, when you go into these challenges or when you go into battle, who do you want inside your head? Do you want an ally? You're saying I'm on your side, I'm here to support you. Do you want to be a friend? That kind of that warmth, that care that I'm going to do what I can to try to meet your needs as best I can. Do you want that voice inside your head or do you want a voice that shames you and say it says you're not good enough and you're good at as good as this other person?


It, you know, kind of a very defeatist voice and and and strong self-criticism. People thinks think it makes them stronger. It actually doesn't. You're actually pulling out the rug from underneath yourself. Now, again, that doesn't mean it's like Stewart Smiley. I'm great. I'm wonderful. Yeah. Know what you're saying is I acknowledge I'm a flawed human being. Everyone is a flawed human being. I'm going to try to be as friendly and supportive as I can.


I'm going to try to learn from my mistakes as opposed to taking my mistakes personally.


How what can I learn from this? And that kind of attitude of learning and growth actually is a very powerful way to to actually succeed and be more motivated. So it makes you more strong, not weaker, it makes you more motivated, not less, and actually allows you to feel more connected, not more isolated. Right. A lot of people have misconceptions about self compassion that is, you know, leads to self pity or self-indulgence. They are all completely the opposite.


Says it's the entire practice in a weird way is paradoxical.


I just was taking some notes here because I realized there about six things I need to follow. OK, that's a sign of a good guess, by the way. So I don't say that to criticize. I know I've been promising the listener that we'll dive into the nitty gritty of how to actually do this thing. Yes, but you've raised a couple of things I do think we need to chase down. You talked about Stuart Smalley. Yes.


That is a character from Saturday Night Live played by the now, I guess, former senator resigned under a cloud. Al Franken from Minnesota. Back in his acting comedian days, he was on SNL and he played a character named Stuart Smalley would look in the mirror and say something like, I'm good enough, I'm smart enough.


And, doggone it, people like me. Yes.


So that is not what you're talking about. That's right. Yeah. It's not positive thinking. It's actually it's not about judgments or evaluation at all. It's just I'm you know, I'm a human being. I'm flawed. I'm imperfect. I'm trying to learn and grow. I'm doing the best I can. And it's really about a supportive, friendly attitude toward oneself. And that support is a tremendous source of strength, coping and resilience, and it's one that, you know, it's really kind of it's it makes me a bit sad that in our society we don't utilize the strength.


You know, we don't realize that we can actually give ourselves a lot of the support we need. Not completely. We are automatons, but we're so reliant on other people to meet our needs, to make us feel loved, to make us feel supported, to make us feel OK. You know, they've got their own stuff going on. They can't always be there for ourselves. You know, some people like to describe self compassion as a way of reparenting yourself.


So the ideal parents, you know, met your needs consistently. They are warm. They were accepting. They also help guide you and pointed out where you made mistakes to help you learn and grow and, you know, become the person. Hopefully, that that would be the. The ideal person we all want to be, but of course, no one has perfect parents, people who who who have more supportive, warm, kind, caring parents, they do tend to have more natural self compassion.


They internalize that. And people whose parents weren't warm and supportive, you know, they have insecure attachments a little it's a little harder, naturally, your less self compassionate. The beautiful thing about this is you can learn it as a skill. This is not just a naturally occurring personality trait. I mean, it is, but it's also a practice. You can actually do this. You can actually cultivate the ability to be kinder and more supportive to yourself, especially when you're struggling.


I mean, that's that's the really exciting thing about self compassion is there's a lot of research that shows this is actually trainable skill.


It's interesting you talked about the role of your parents. I had and have very warm and supportive parents, and yet I have a very nasty inner narrator. Right. Maybe because I descended from a long line of depressives and anxious people and alcoholics, et cetera. Yeah, yeah.


And one of the stories I told myself for a long time before getting into meditation was my father has an expression, which is the price of security is insecurity and which we venerate worrying, especially in the Jewish side of my um.


And actually, that's not his personal motto I learned later. He made that up to make me feel better about the fact that it was worrying all the time, OK?


And I told myself that any success I was experiencing here in the hallways of ABC News, where I've been for 19 years now and has traditionally been a very tough place, less so now, but was very, very tough when I first got here was because I was worrying all the time and and had had very high standards, et cetera, et cetera.


And I think a lot of people tell this story. You address this a little bit, but I want you to I just want to go back to it. This internal cattle prod that many of us have. Yes.


How do you what do you say to folks and I'm sure you hear the argument all the time, like this is the thing that's keeping me afloat.


Right. And and, you know, there's a way in which it is true. Right. So, for instance, if you have a very I like to use this example. Let's say a parent is trying to motivate their child. And so in some ways, we are our own parent and our own child. Right. Self disaffiliating. There's two ways to motivate a child to do better. So let's say the child comes home with a failing math grade and the parent tries once, once the child to go to college.


So you can motivate that child with fear. You can be really harsh. I'm ashamed of you. You're a good for nothing loser. You know, I'm going to ground you for ten months now.


That will kind of work. The child will probably work harder and study more next time because they're afraid of getting that negative reaction. So it kind of works, but there are a lot of unintended consequences. For instance, performance anxiety. They may be so anxious the next time they take the test, it's actually going to allow that's going to undermine their ability to do peak performance, fear of failure. You know, it just you might develop so much fear that you're going to fail and get, you know, your parents criticism and, you know, grounding or whatever punishment that you get for your failure and then eventually you might give up.


So there's another way to motivate that child, and that's with encouragement and support. First of all, hey, I'm so sorry you filled out bummer. You know, kind of it's OK. I love you anyway. It doesn't affect my love for you. The bottom line is, it's OK. You're human, you fail. But because I care about you and I know you want to go to college, what can I do to help you? How can I support you?


Can we look and see your study patterns? Maybe this didn't work out so well. Gee, we hiring a tutor. You know, I believe in you. How can I support you to reach your goals? So the goals of self compassionate people are just as high as everyone else is because of course, you care about yourself. You want to you want to reach your goals. But what happens when you don't meet them? That's the big difference.


So, yes, fear, punishment. And kind of in a way, this inner critic is kind of harsh. Self punishment kind of works. But then it might lead to anxiety, neuroticism, depression. You know, look at the epidemic of suicide. I mean, there's a lot of negative consequences. You can reach the same heights from this kind, encouraging, supportive approach and also, you know, what we share with the research shows is when you feel safe, because this kind of bottom line, even if I fail, it's going to be OK.


That what we know is you probably know this. Negative emotions narrow our focus and positive emotions broaden our focus. So when you feel safe and you've got the positive emotion of kindness and we know that compassion actually is rewarding emotion, it actually allows you to see more possibilities. Maybe you didn't, you know, when you were so threat focused, you didn't see this opportunity. But when she feels safe. Oh, I see. Maybe there's a completely different way to approach I didn't even think about.


So it allows for more what they call an, you know, acceptance and commitment therapy.


It allows for more psychological flexibility, which, of course, is going to make you safer because you're going to make you safer and it's going to help you, you know, so so actually, you know, we used to believe that the best way to motivate our children was through harsh corporal punishment. Spare the rod, spoil the child.


And we know pretty we know well now through a lot of research that actually that's not the best way to motivate our children. It works, but it causes so much damage as other ways to motivate our children. Doesn't mean you're complacent. It doesn't mean yeah, do whatever you want. That's not healthy. But how do we learn? How do we grow? How do we, you know, recover from our mistakes and do better next time? All in the context of the bottom line is, I love you.


You know, we actually can learn to do that with ourselves. It does feel weird at first.


I'm not going to lie if if you spent your whole life relating to yourself in a particular way, um, you know, kind of with this harshness, it feels a little strange to be more friendly toward yourself.


But you can practice it and it does get easier with time. And I really encourage people to find their own authentic voice. Again, for you, Dan, I'm not going to suggest you hug yourself. It's not going to work.


But there may be, you know, some other ways.


What works for you, what helps you feel more accepted, you know, more encouraged, more cared for.


And using those pathways in I was going to tell a story that I don't know if I've told this in the podcast before. So if you've heard this before, I apologize, but I. About 10, 11 months ago. No, maybe nine months ago, I camera anyway, not that long ago, did a retreat as part of this book that I'm writing about kindness I did a one on, I convinced one of my favorite meditation teachers who has a real focus on compassion and self compassion.


Her name is Spring Washam.


Oh, yeah, yeah. She's great. But she's a phenomenal human being and has been on the on the show a couple of times. And she and I did a one on one compassion retreat. OK, so this was not just self compassion but compassion writ large. And obviously self compassion is a huge focus. Yeah. And so we did. I had never I done self compassion practices before or and compassion practices before, but it was a little bit of like a side interest, not the main dish.


And so for 10 days we did nothing with that and actually filmed a lot of it because we're going to use it in the 10 percent have your app.


Anyway, at the beginning she was saying, you know, when you're sending compassion to yourself, you know, you maybe you put your hand on your heart. And I was like, there is no I love spring, but there's no way I'm doing that. And then by day five or six, there was a moment and I'm embarrassed to say I was on camera probably because I think it happened repeatedly where I was. I noticed something coming up. Maybe some of my inner repeated hobgoblins are sort of a rushing sense.


You know, new patients are suffering. That comes from like not wanting to be here right now and looking for the next thing. And then also a lot of self criticism like, oh, wow, you were just off your game for the last ten minutes or you're some memory surfaces of me being horrible in someone way.


And I actually did say, all right, it's OK. And I put my hand, I felt my hand go to my heart. And what I notice is actually there once I was once all the inner chatter had come down.


Yeah. Because I was on retreat and I didn't have a lot to think about. Yeah.


And I was more aware of what was going on when I felt bad, it actually manifested in the area around my heart.


So that actually hurt there. So anyway, yeah, you're right, I'm not the kind of guy traditionally who would hug himself. And yet here I was on this retreat with my hand on my arm, sending myself well wishes. Right. And I would never I would you know, I'm reluctant to admit that publicly, but here we are. And I do admit it probably because I think actually it will be useful for other men. Yeah, I would resist this type of thing.




Yeah. The difference between loving kindness and compassion, you know, there are two sides of the same coin, but loving kindness, more gamwell, wishing yourself well to be happy and peaceful. Compassion is specifically by definition aimed at suffering, aimed at pain. So one practice we teach, which is actually very useful, is if you're if you're feeling something difficult, maybe anger or fear or sadness or grief or confusion to the extent that you can locate it in your body.


And that's one of the gifts of mindfulness practice, is the ability to actually physically see that great new study by Richie Davidson. They found that the ability to actually know where the emotion is manifested in your body. So so this congruence between knowing what you're feeling and where it is in your body, that that in and of itself leads to wellbeing. It's called interception.


Well, interception is the actually the ability to feel things in your body, but the ability to feel your difficult emotions as a bodily sensation and track. When I'm more anxious, my body feels this way. Yeah. When I'm, you know.


So just track the changes in your body as kind of attuned with your body, as a manifestation of your emotions. It's actually it's a really useful skill.


But anyway, so if you didn't say that for me as a meditator, that happened quickly. Yes. That I just instead of being fully engulfed and overwhelmed by an emotion for me, mostly anger or self-pity, um, I was switching to noticing how it felt.


Right. OK, and so what you can do if you can just put a hand wherever that emotion is experienced, might be in your gut. It might be in your throat. It might be in your head. It may be in your heart. You know, it almost doesn't matter. And then so what happens is when you put a warm hand here, again, part of this is just physiology.


You know, we just think about it. When babies are born, they have no language touch for human beings. It's this great research on touch in the care system touches one of the primary access points for compassion, for feeling safe or feeling cared for.


Our whole parasympathetic nervous system is very closely linked to touch. And so, you know, it's sad because, yes, it is touchy feely, but nonetheless, literally as human beings that we are that's the way we're designed physiologically.


So there are other ways to access it. But it seems a shame to miss out on that really powerful tool just because it feels uncomfortable, because as human beings, that's the way our bodies and. Our brains are designed that were designed to react, to touch. This is not set your tone of voice. I was just going to say this is why I think you're told that. OK, OK. I want to give you a compliment. This is what I think.


You're such a successful. Communicator on this, because you do have a style that is a little touchy feely, but you back it up with so many basic biological and scientific facts that even somebody like me who has such a powerful allergy to that kind of style.


Yeah, I have to listen. All right, well, thank you. Well, I think it in some ways that's the integration of the masculine and feminine, right? So sadly, why do we not like touchy feely? Because it's kind of seen to be feminine qualities and science and hard logic is supposed to be a masculine quality. And, you know, to succeed, we're supposed to be masculine. And I'm both, you know, and that's know both simultaneously.


That's kind of we all are, right? We all are.


But here's the thing is men are socialized. They aren't allowed to be in touch with the kind of more warm.


You know, I said earlier, I'm kind of referring to this as the yin and yang of self compassion. There's a receptive tender side and there's also the action oriented kind of more fierce side. And both are necessary for all human beings. I really work hard to integrate both, to honor both. But in what context? The young, the kind of masculine is honored and valued and the more feminine isn't. And that's a real disadvantage to women. But the way men suffer is because in the relational field, they're socialized not to be in touch with those more tender sighs.


And that hurts men, too. Yes. You know, and so we're all being harmed by not being able to be our true, authentic selves, which is both masculine and feminine, both active and passive, both receptive and, you know, goal oriented. These essential dialectic. We need both simultaneously all the time. And I think maybe that's what you're picking up on. When I'm a touchy feely scientist, you know, I'm integrating my left and right brain and both are really important.


I feel seven SLAC, who's a teacher. I really was a friend and a teacher I really like. She also teaches a lot on the temperament to have your app.


And so she has mentioned something like you think you're thinking your thoughts.


This is a quote. She's used to somebody else, but you're you think you're thinking your thoughts, but you're actually thinking the culture's thoughts. That's right. And so for me, I mean, I don't want to think of myself as sexist because obviously that's one of the worst things you can be in our society right now.


And yet, obviously, this analogy I have to the touchy feely is sexist in many ways and that we are socialized to be that way because the feminine has less power.


That's one of the outcomes of patriarchy. Is this this side of human nature, when it's devalued by patriarchy, it means that so not you, Dan, as a person. But in terms of the larger cultural context, which is which is operating in you unconsciously, you know, you aren't choosing to be this way. But when you think touchy feely, what it's triggering is less powerful. If I'm touchy feely, I am less powerful because I'm moving more toward the feminine where there's less power, and that's that's damaging to men.


Yeah, well, I guess consciously I'm not thinking that consciously. It's just annoying.


You aren't consciously doing this. See, that's what we know about it. And biases are all implicit. They're unconscious, whether it's about race or gender. These things are operating outside of our awareness. And one of the beautiful things about mindfulness is that it does give us more clarity.


I mean, we've talked about it a lot on this show, and I know it's sort of a little bit off topic for what you've come here to discuss, but bringing into the sunlight, which is a painful process, embarrassing, humiliating CEO.


Wow, wow. I just reached the snap judgment about somebody based on their pigmentation.


That's pretty negative. Yeah.


And that that's in you, if you can see that. And as you said before, not take it personally. Yes. And you're not owned by it. And then you're avoiding a whole many, many worst mistakes.


Yes, exactly. But that's why you ask again, this is the yin and the yang. The young kind of gives us clarity. And it's kind of the slightly more masculine energy that you also have to, like, be kind to yourself.


You didn't choose to be prejudice like I signed up for you. I want to be prejudice. You know, this this is part of the larger culture. And so you have to be able to hold the pain. And so so these to these this dialectic of self compassion. So so the yin energy allows us to kind of be with ourselves in a compassionate way to kind of validate ourselves, to accept ourselves as we are. It's very powerful. It's especially powerful for dealing with shame.


How do you hold shame? Shame drives so much negative behavior, so much destructive behavior. People can't even begin to touch their shame. So they act out. They start shooting people. I mean, it's really destructive. And actually, you know, there's a little bit of gender and shame as well because it manifests differently. But a lot of men's behavior. What we know psychologically is driven by the avoidance of shame.


How do you hold the shame that the intense pain you have to hold it with kindness. You know, hey, this is part of being human. Everyone feels as everyone's imperfect. Everyone makes mistakes. You know, the mass of shame. We need to hold it with compassion and so that the healing power of self compassion is more part of the you know, it's not totally either orbit is part more part of the inside the mind of being with ourselves and a kind accepting, warmly loving way, if I can use that word scientist.


But it is it's an expression of love. But then there's also the action side, you know, think of a firefighter who jumps into a burning building to save people who are, you know, about to go up in flames or service servicemen and women who who actually risked their own lives to protect people. That is an ultimate act of compassion, you know, but it's it's the other side of it.


It is taking action or motivator, a coach who motivates the kid to achieve their goals or teachers or people who work three jobs to put food on their table for the kids. All these stem from care. But so sometimes care requires being with acceptance. Sometimes care requires taking action to try to alleviate suffering. And that's slightly more more the young side of self compassion that people first of all, they're confused. They don't realize is there. And that's why they think it's weak.


That's why I think it's selfish. They don't realize that glasshouses action qualities. And then and then that's where gender comes in. All right. So A men aren't allowed to be men and women aren't allowed to be young.


We all need boats or kind of both messed up because of it, you know?


And so self compassion is a way to hold all of it. You can hold the pain of things like patriarchy and make sure you don't want to be patriarchal, but you're a white man and so some of you didn't choose to be this way. But this is part of the larger culture that is actually encoded in your brain patterns. Right. So how do you how do you deal with that? Well, first of all, you have to have a lot of kindness.


You have to have a lot of forgiveness. You have a lot have to have a lot of acceptance, and you have to be able to touch the pain of it. You know, and I'm sure my my colleague, Chris Girma, we were talking about this issue and he just is a white male. He broke down and cried because he touched the pain of that. He's such a kind guy. And when he really opened to the pain of his own privilege, you know, it was just, yeah, it's really touching.


But he but because he he he developed all these self compassion practices with me, he was able to hold it. So he didn't have to defend himself. He did have to pretend I was not there already.


I don't know. I'm not privilege.


You know, he could open to it. And then you have to open to the pain, the end, hold it with kindness before you can take action, which is the thing, and do something about it. And both are both are really needed. And the the flip side is for women and I'm a woman, so my next book is actually going to be called Fierce Self Compassion for Women. It's kind of I think women really need to cultivate this young energy.


We need to protect ourselves. We need to say no more. We we're going to stop subordinating our needs. Now, you can't sexually harass me. No, you can abuse me. No, you can't pay me less. No, you know, it has to be more equal. I'm not just going to, like, give up everything that's valuable to me to meet other people's needs. That that that socialization, you know, you may call me names, but I'm not going to buy it.


You know, women really need to rise up and claim their power, which has been stripped for them in large part because they aren't allowed to have this more yáng energy, you know, and so everyone really needs both. And I think the beautiful thing about compassion is it is both. There's there's mama and there's mama bear.


You know, on this gang or young or whatever gang Goyang aversion to sort of fierce self compassion, I think of my wife.


I'll have to ask her permission because it's personal. I watch with her dealing. I don't think we've referred to it as struggling with the anxiety of self compassion.


But I do watch her struggle with how to draw boundaries with me, with our son, with her bosses. Yeah.


And she's really uncomfortable with it. And then sometimes maybe she feels she takes it too far and is overly harsh and like, yes. High trading. That is really tricky and. Right. I have compassion for that.


Yeah. Yeah. And so, you know, I'm similar. So I'm a successful academic and usually in many any male dominated field to be successful, you've got to really draw on your young side. You know, you're kind of more masculine and competitive. Strong side. We get called names for it. This is this is the double bind women are in. To succeed, we have to be young, but we aren't personally liked when we're young. People like us when we're in.


But we can't succeed, you know? And so that's why I just do away with the double bind. I don't care. I'm going to do it anyway. But see, this is the thing. If you use the energy, the drawing boundaries or the protecting yourself or saying, no, I need to meet my needs, if you do it from a place of care, I to refer to it. It's caring for us. You're being forceful, but it's not aggressive.


It's not personal. You aren't you aren't like blaming people. You're just the force that mama bear energy comes from a very pure, loving place of care and kindness. And when you when you remember that when you integrate both energies, then it's clean, then you don't then you don't just explode. You know, you can targeted and say, no, that's not OK, but it doesn't mean that you aren't OK. But no, that behavior is not OK.


And so when integration is allowed to occur, it just it just works a lot better. It's also a lot more effective, you know. But we're going to have to confront gender roles in order for both men and woman to be able to be our full, authentic selves because there's so much pain in the world, you know. Much more of my conversation with Kristin Neff right after this. Staying informed has never been more important. Information is coming at us faster than ever.


So how do you make sense of it all? Start here. Hey, I'm Brad Noki from ABC News. And every weekday we will break down the latest headlines in just 20 minutes. Straightforward reporting, dynamic interviews and analysis from experts you can trust. Always credible, always solid. Start here from ABC News 20 minutes every weekday on your smart speaker or your favourite podcast app. I owe you something which is at some point I cut us off and I cut you off and sent us down a tangent.


OK. You were about to say something about tone of voice. Oh, yes. All right.


OK, so so what we know from the research and this is a lot I don't you've probably interviewed Dr. Keltner from UC Berkeley. I have, yeah.


Happened on the show. Keltner, Dacher Keltner. I don't know how you pronounce his, but it's a Cracker Jack Reacher calendar.


OK, so Dacher, I did a piece on him for Nightline about 10 years ago.


He was a pretty good of the greater center and also basically a lab that studies compassion, self compassion, but all in all forms of compassion.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Really cool guy. I've actually really eager to have him on the show, so you should have listened.


He'd be great. Come to New York. Yeah, but yeah. So he's doing some great research on this, showing that basically the triggers of the care system, the triggers of compassion, there are different ones like so touch we talked about. Touch is a powerful trigger, but tone of voice. So his research shows that around the world, universally, regardless of what culture you go to, is the same sound of compassion, which is I'm going to ask you to do it.


Then what's the sound of compassion? So if I'm talking to my son and he's hurt himself, yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, if anyone if anyone was hurt, what would you naturally say? Are you OK? Did. No, it was put to the sound without words, make a sound sound. Oh, yes, yeah. There's not a single culture where it's like, well, who you hurt. It's not, like, typical.


Well, among my teenage boys, we would laugh at each other if we were hurt.


So, yeah, passion part of our brain and not right.


But as it is so there's a particular sound and there's some term for that. Oh that kind of up and down and animals do it too is actually again, this is part of our physiology. We remember when we come out of the womb, we don't have language. So so those first couple of years of life are so important. And this is where our whole when our whole attachment system is formed, probably verbally. So what are communicators? That we're safe and we're loved and cared for and things like touch and tone of voice.


Also gaze is another one. And this little less research on gays, but tone of voice. So for some people, you know, maybe they don't say particularly harsh things to themselves, but their tone is really cold. So warming up the tone, you know, internally for yourself, internally, you can actually it's it's not just what you say, it's how you say it.


It's also your body posture. Is your body posture, posture tense, like are you being tense and tight with yourself and kind of cold or you be more relaxed and more warm with yourself.


And that's why I made the joke earlier, that it's about warming things up is about as opposed to cooling, but cool that there is something about warmth, you know, and again, this is just our physiology. So we need to. You know, it's it's really it's not about it's not a mental practice, compassion is not a mental practice. There is a mental component, but it's really an embodied practice. It's about feeling, you know, it's about, you know, often when we teach people self compassion, we say, see if you can is going to drop out of your head and your mind in the storyline and just drop into your body.


You know, and what we're doing in a way is, is if you want to be scientific about it, is the parasympathetic nervous system or calming down cortisol is reducing, you know, less adrenaline. Your heart rate becomes more variable, more flexible. Oxytocin is being released. And this is actually an embodied experience.


And so that's why I think it's really useful to come to compassion, not just through the mind. Yes, words are important, this one pathway, and you can actually approach it as an embodied practice.


So we've now teamed up to finally get how to do it.


So it seemed I'm guessing based on I'm not guessing based on my experience, there are kind of two ways. One is the formals seated or practice and the other is free range on the go.


Yeah, yeah. And so what we find actually in our research, so we've developed this training program called the Mindful Self Compassion Program, and we find it doesn't matter which one you do the equivalent. They're both effective. So you can sit in meditation. We know that lovingkindness meditation increases self compassion. We have other meditations like using the breath as a way to kind of common soothe yourself or we actually we actually teach a practice where we tailor the phrases to be a little more aimed at your pain because loving kindness and it can be hard to throw friendly wishes when you're just in a lot of pain.


If you can actually with compassion, you need to turn toward the pain directly and just kind of validate that it hurts, that kind of kind that, oh, that type of attitude hurt the pain. So you can do that and sitting meditation. But there are a lot of informal practices. So we do teach people to find a touch that feels supportive. Hand on heart works are about 50 percent of people, about 50 percent. It doesn't. Some people like hands on the solar plexus.


Some people like putting a hand on your face, some people just holding their own hand. I mean, people have to find a way in the type of touch that works. But that's one way I'm learning to speak to yourself in a more friendly and supportive manner. For many people, the best way is to think about what would I say to a close friend who who who I really cared about, who was going through the exact same situation I'm in, you know, what would I more naturally say, especially if I was at my most compassionate?


What would I say to support them, to help them, to let them know that I cared about them and this in their time of struggle. So you can use that as a template for yourself. You can also imagine what an ideally compassionate person would say to you or spiritual figure. You know, if people say, what would Jesus say?


In a way, what would Jesus say? Is itself compassion, practice? You know, can I model my inner dialogue based on what I would imagine someone like Jesus would say? You know, so this work with religion, it can also be separate from it. Compassionate letter writing. You're probably like this. There was one study that showed if you wrote a self compassionate letter for seven days straight, it reduced depression for three months and increased happiness for six months.


Write that very simple act and I think there's a lot of reasons of how it operates. One thing, your perspective taking. So to be lost in the pain, you're stepping outside of yourself and doing perspective taking and saying, wow, you really having a hard time? Is there anything I can do to help? By doing that, you decide densifying with the pain, which in and of itself is powerful. That's kind of the mindfulness. But then you're also adding the sense of connectedness, hey, it happens to everyone.


Imperfection is the human experience. It's not just you, you know, and we forget that when we make a mistake or we get that call from the doctor, we think something has gone wrong. Like this is the plan I signed up for. So everyone else is is being perfect. It has a perfect life. And it's just me who's struggling. It's reminding yourself how common humanity this is normal and this is part of being human. You aren't alone.


And then the kindness, the warmth, the kindness, the care aspect, all three elements are really important. So another way you can you can practice self compassion is just reminding yourself of those three components. We have something called the self compassion break. First, use mindfulness. You just remember, wow, this is I'm struggling. You might think that's obvious. It's really not. A lot of people aren't even aware that they're struggling. They're so lost in the struggle or trying to fix the struggle or, you know, they don't have any perspective.


They're totally identify with it. They can't help themselves when they're lost in the pain. So first is mindfulness. Oh, I see. This is the moment where I'm really having a tough time. And then you remind yourself of common humanity. Well, this is part of life. It's not just me. It's not abnormal to be struggling. You know, the sense of isolation that we get when we when we fall into the illusion that everyone else is perfect and we aren't.


So it's debilitating. You know, they say in evolutionary biology alone, monkey is a dead monkey. Yeah, right. You know, so that feeling isolated because you made a mistake is really, really detrimental to remember. Hey, this is this is part of how we learn. And this is normal. It's natural. There's nothing wrong to make a mistake and then bringing in the kindness, you know, what can I say to let myself. So even though I'm struggling, I care, I mean there for myself, I could support myself, I'm not going to abandon myself.


I mean, think about that. Don't we do that? We abandon ourselves when we struggle. We just you know, our minds don't even go there. We have this ability when we're in pain to actually give ourselves care, support and kindness. And we just abandon it. We don't even use it.


We just we it's like this we've got this incredible, powerful tool that all we need to do is remember to use it and we don't. And so you can just think, well, what my really good friends say to me right now or what would I say to a really good friend right now, or what would Jesus say?


Whatever, whatever, you know, image you have of compassion, just remembering the kindness when you put those three together. So, you know, these are the three components of self compassion and my model, the mindfulness, the common humanity and the kindness, but if you want to talk about how it feels in a moment of your own self compassion, it feels like loving, connected presence. You're holding your pain in loving, connected presence.


Right. Sometimes the pain is because you need to protect yourself. It's different, it feels like fierce, empowered clarity. This is not OK. I'm going to stand together with my brothers and sisters and I'm going to say no. Me too. Me, too. Exactly. And so the face, the the manifestation of this caring force may vary, but it's all coming from the same place, you know, and mindfulness and compassion are kind of they aren't exactly the same because, again, they have a slightly different targets, but they is part of the same dance.


You know, at some point it's just open heart, mind. And when your heart is open and your mind is open, you are connected with everything.


So you just you talked about a lot of approaches we could take.


But I'm still I'm just wondering for the listener here, who many of whom are met at many, if not all of whom are meditators, can you can you describe how we would do self compassion as part of our meditation?


Yes. Which I would only imagine.


Right. Fuels the ability to. Oh, absolutely. I mean, we know meditation is one of the best ways you can actually train your brain and change your inner structure. So it's it's it's very powerful. It's not the only way to do it is equally important to integrate it in your daily life. But so if you're meditating. So, for instance, we teach meditation in the Mindful Self Compassion Program. Some is like what you do when your mind wanders.


You can use the wandering mind as the opportunity for self compassion. So not only do you notice that your mind has wandered, you might you might actually use that to say, oh, you know, just like I just imagine, like, your your mind's like a little toddler who wandered off. You just hold the hand of that toddler gently bring it back to where it's supposed to be. Of course it wanders. You know, it's just that's what it does.


But I can still be kind to the wandering mind. You can actually use any sort of frustration that occurs in practice. So you fall asleep. You can't focus your you know, whatever you are in that lovely peaceful state, the people like you can use that as an opportunity to practice compassion, give yourself some kindness and acceptance, and remember that this is just part of the human experience. So that's one way you can do it. You can also, for instance, the breath, the breath can be used to kind of calm the mind and settle the mind as as a focus of attention.


But there's also a quality to the breath that you can focus in on. The breath itself can be very soothing, very comforting. Paul Gilbert actually talks about the soothing rhythm of the breath. You know, you can actually notice it. It's the strange way in which this is internal rocking motion that you can rest in. You can allow yourself to be cared for by the breath. So that's another just little slant on it you can use to activate this.


Another practice, which is actually my favorite practice, is that, again, using the breath, we imagine that we're breathing with each in breath. You're breathing in compassion for yourself. And with each out breath, you breathe out compassion for others.


It's a derivation of the it's like, yeah, it's Tibetan plan.


But that practice is a little more is a beautiful practice. But you breathe in suffering of the world and you transform it and you breathe out compassion.


So if your if your aim is to actually cultivate self compassion, we find it's actually a little more useful, a little less challenging. Just breathe in for yourself. This is hard for me. Breathe out for others. This is a really good practice for caregivers. We teach like doctors and nurses or teachers. You know, it's hard. These jobs are hard, is hard to care for others.


I feel burnt out. I feel overwhelmed breathing compassion for yourself. It's hard to feel this empathic distress. It's hard to do what I do. I feel overwhelmed. I feel burnt out, breathing, compassion for yourself, validate your own pain. And then when you breathe out, breathe out compassion for the person you're caring for, they're struggling, too. And the nice thing about breathing, compassion in and out, it's it's very connecting. It's it's a it's a practice.


It's very connecting. Could breath in, breath out. You can focus a little more on yourself if your pain's more salient or focused more on the other of their pain is more salient. But this idea that it's this flow inward and outward, it's why it's a it's a really nice practice. All these meditations I have on my website, people can access what's the website?


Self Compassion Dog. If you Google, if you Google self compassion, you'll find me.


I will also put it in the show, of course. But what about the repetition of phrases like may I be happy?


Yeah, so, so loving kindness. We do justice loving kindness. So again, my colleague Chris Graham, I think he's brilliant.


He developed a way of helping people find personally meaningful phrases that really helped to the things that they need to hear. The standard phrases are fine and they work for a lot of people. But, you know, maybe safe, maybe peaceful, maybe healthy may live with these.


If if you're if you're devastated because you've just lost your son or something like that, it feels kind of a little. Incongruence, they may be safe, maybe happy, maybe peaceful with these and is so actually you guys people through an exercise where you actually think, what do I need to hear right now? You know, if I had someone who could whisper in my ear in this moment exactly what I need to hear, what would that be? And then use that as your phrase.


So it's a little more personalized and also can be a little more targeted toward what you need to hear is addressing the real pain you're in. Then you can, you know, accept myself as I am, you know, may support myself, you know, I'm OK.


Whatever it is you need to hear, you actually personalize your phrases that the touch that directly. So that's one way we we kind of work with the lovingkindness practice. How is this practice?


I mean, you got interested in self compassion. There was something that that Zen teacher in Berkeley lo these many years said about self compassion that turned you on. And it's become your life.


Your livelihood. Yeah. Your career. Yeah. How was it played out in your life?


You know, you mentioned a son. You have a son who is. Yes. And how has this all worked for you. Yeah.


Well yeah. So I talk a lot about my son because he's really my, my best teacher. Um so yeah. So my son is autistic and I had about seven years of pretty dedicated self compassion practice under my belt by the time he got diagnosed. Um, and I can't even imagine how I would have gotten through without I would have, but it helped me tremendously. So it helped me both, not only the mindfulness practice of accepting my feelings, you know, allowing the grief to be there, allowing the feelings of disappointment to be there without judging them, without making them go away.


But what really helped was, in addition to that, giving myself that, you know, it's really hard. It's just really hard. You know, I would actually give myself that that that love, that kindness, that care, especially like when he was having a earsplitting tantrum, you know, even though he's in pain, I made sure he was safe. But that's what I would do. My breathing in compassion practice. I would just so hard breathe in for me.


This is so hard. I feel overwhelmed. I don't know what to do. And I feel like I want to jump out a window, you know, and it's, you know, and the kind of game myself that love and support and that care. And then I was able to also breathe out for him. And, you know, so that allowed me to stay connected in those moments where and just focusing on him or, you know, just being overwhelmed.


So it's really it's really helped me in that practice. Just really everything I've gone through. I mean, at this point, self compassion is is is it is it has become a habit, you know, occasionally. Yeah, sure. Thoughts will come up. Feelings of failure and stuff come up and there's pain. But now my my habit is to just recognize it as pain and to do whatever I need to do to be there for myself in the moment.


Again, whether that's I need some acceptance in some soothing, some comforting, some validating or whether that's action. You know, it's helped me, you might say. Well, you know, so I'm an academic and there's there's there's been some struggles in the in my academic career as well. It's really helped me. The fact that I can integrate the care with the taking action, it's helped me be more stable and more balanced even in times of challenge.


I'm not I'm still a mess. Don't get me wrong yet. I'm still a mess. But I am a compassionate mess. That is an achievable goal. I mean, that's the beauty of it. I a joke. I'm glad I'm a compassion teacher, not a mindfulness teacher, because I don't always have equanimity. I'm not always aware I get lost, but I can pretty quickly. Now I'm in the habit of whatever pain, whatever mess is happening.


I just hold that with compassion.


That's the name of your book, by the way. Compassionate mess.


That's the name I was thinking that I would say. I think it's going to be fierce self compassion for me. But I also like the idea of compassion. And it's a really it's a nice idea because, you know, it kind of explains what it is. And that actually is the goal.


Rob Nairn actually says to your editor, OK, Demi, more like an airport. That's right. But remember my books for a woman I know. I think women I know a lot of women, OK? I've sold a lot of books to women. OK, so we can we can we can maybe have two titles. But I agree.


I love that phrase because it just really it captures that so high self-esteem is not an achievable goal, you know, maybe not even a desirable goal.


Yeah, exactly. But compassionate mess is. And when you hold things and compassion, anything becomes workable. This thing, it becomes workable and you can actually learn. It sounds strange, but you actually learn to rest your awareness in the loving, connected presence, in the compassion, holding the pain, as opposed to your awareness being identified with the well.


So let's walk walk me through that and see how this works in a moment. In your mind. Freeman So for me, I have lots of I don't want to guess at what you're little, you know, daily thorns in your side may be.


But for me it's like, yeah, I have the whole self critical thing around. I have more belly fat that I want to have. I'm a skinny guy, but I wish I had the abs I had in my mid thirties right now. Well coming up, I'm forty eight and they're not there anymore in any discernible way. And so every time I pass a reflective surface when I'm I was just at the beach for a week with my family, there was a lot of like, oh my God, looking at myself, what in that moment how would things work?


So OK, so and this is why the three components of mindfulness, common humanity and kindness are helpful, because they actually look almost like a little mini instruction guide of what to do. So first, it has to always start with mindfulness. Mindfulness is the foundation. You got to notice that hurts. Instead of being lost in the thought that I wish I had to have a six pack is like the pain that this does. You know, that hurts whether or not it should hurt, whether or not, you know, whatever, if it doesn't matter because it does hurt.


So you look in the mirror. Oh, wow, that's painful. I mean, look, I'm fifty two, you know, I'm past my prime.


That's not fun, you know, but it's the reality.


Right. So you look in the mirror and you say, oh my God, I'm getting jowls or whatever it is. So identifying the pain of it. Right. And then then the common humanity. I just remember well, this is it's part of being human is part of aging. Everyone, you know, nothing's last forever. This is actually part of the human experience. There is no human being alive that that didn't get older, you know, and these things are body start changing.


And that's not what it means to be human. It's not just me. There's a tendency in the moment to think that every other man in the world, they're all GQ supermodels, aren't they?


Their friends who are older than me who are ripped. So that's on my mind. Yeah, OK.


But but but they too they too eventually, you know, they'll get old and they'll die. Sorry to break the news down.


I'm well aware of that news.


I'm just what's happening cognitively for me is I know I'm going to die. I know everybody I know is going to die, but I feel too young to be at the point. Right. Right. OK, so but so nonetheless. So maybe some people that's maybe your friends who managed to keep the six pack at age fifty, whatever it may be, that's not their particular thing they struggle with. But surely it's something the human experience is about. We struggle with our imperfection.


The human experience is not about perfection. That's an Instagram illusion. You know, it really is.


Isn't it true? Yeah, maybe it's not maybe not autism, but it's something else. Maybe it's not that they don't have a six pack, but it's something else. Everyone struggles in their own way.


I've thought about starting an Instagram account of only of my son's tantrums. Right.


Yeah, so but. So what you really opening to? It's not your opening to a particular thing. You're opening to the just the. Act of human imperfection, it's normal, you know, this this is new aren't abnormal or something bad or wrong about not having a Six-Pack. You know, again, if you want to, that's fine. That's your goal. Is nothing wrong with it. But just remembering that, you know, that your humanness, remembering your humanness, letting go of the idea of perfection, which is which is false and an illusion.


Right. Causes a lot of suffering but is false and it's illusion. So just opening to the reality that human being human isn't about me, you know that you know, it's reminding yourself of it and then I know it in theory. I know it for other people, you know.


Yeah. So so you but you forget it, right? It's not that you you know it and but you don't in the moment you've forgotten it.


It feels like a recipe for complacency. It feels like and I know you're going to rebut this, but let me just. Yeah. If right. Yes, I it feels to me, especially as it pertains to the belly, OK, I can't believe we're dwelling this long on my you know.


It's good. It's good. It's nice that, you know, like if I hit the gym harder or if I hadn't eaten half of my son's plate of French fries, this wouldn't be this way.


Right. OK, so what you're doing in that moment is you're kind of falling into the illusion of complete self-control. It's actually we aren't able to control things and have them be perfect. Now, if it really is important to you and also you feel healthier and stronger. Absolutely. Go to the gym, do more sit ups. Right. If it's important to you. And it's an important goal. And if it's going to make you happy and it's going to help you relieve the suffering, you know, then then you then you bring in the kindness.


The kindness goes a couple of ways, depending on what you need, the kindness, maybe. You know, I just I really feel so much better on my body. If I did more sit sit ups, what can I do? Maybe I can make it easier for myself. I like me. I hire my pay my yoga teacher to come to me. So to actually go to class, you know, if it's important to you and you think it'll help alleviate your suffering or help you be well, you find creative ways, maybe thinking about it differently.


You know what's not working in my right now? How I can be different. That may be a way you go. It may be at some point that the way you go is, well, I'm just going to accept it again. It's acceptance or change. You know, it's a matter of wisdom, right. What's the right action to take?


And I can't tell you the wise thing to do, but the thing is that getting down on yourself and shaming yourself and feeling bad about yourself or not having the six pack you want. Here's what happens, right?


Maybe let me know if this is true, you think that in the moment and you feel bad about yourself and then because you feel bad about yourself, boy, that glass of wine looks pretty nice or, you know, you want to comfort yourself to kind of counteract it, feeling bad about yourself. And it actually ends up working against you. Yes. Shame. Shame is not the best motivating force. Wouldn't you agree when you feeling shame?


I will agree when you feel ashamed. Is it really get up and go attitude?


No, but there's some like a dry eyed, sort of clear eyed analysis of deficiencies does help. Absolutely.


That's that's the mindfulness. That's a clear sign. Constructive criticism is incredibly helpful. Kindness leads to constructive criticism, judgment and shame leads to harsh, destructive criticism. We know for a fact that constructive criticism is more helpful than just saying you're a fat loser. Who does that help you? So, again, the motivational power of it is because it hurts so much to call yourself a fat loser. You might you have some motivation to try to avoid that self whip, you know, but at the end of the day, it's probably going to undermine your efforts because you're going to be so feel so bad about yourself.


You're going to have that extra glass of wine or that piece of chocolate cake. Right. The thinking?


Well, you know, actually, this this will make me happy. I can see clearly I could open to the pain of it. How can I constructively do something different to help myself achieve my goal so that and that.


And that's the kindness. That's the kind of kindness is not yet kindness. Sometimes kindness can be yin or yang. Kindness sometimes is you know, it's time. I just have to accept it. But the kindness also might be the young. OK, what can change to make things better? How can I help you? How can I help you? We should say to yourself, how can I help myself reach my goals and an effective, realistic manner and and warmth and feelings of safety are actually going to be more supportive of you being able to reach your goals than just shame.


And lots of dumping, lots of negative feelings on yourself that is actually pulling the rug out beneath yourself doesn't ultimately help very much. So we got a little we got a little off track, but so it's important that these three elements, we need to be mindful. Mindfulness is the core. We need to be aware. We need to remember our connectedness. We aren't alone, the feelings, feelings of isolation against one of the most psychologically debilitating states we can be in when we feel all alone.


So we need to remember our connectedness in the struggle of human life, in our connectedness, in the mess. I'm not the only compassionate mess where we're all messes. You're a mess. I'm a mess.


Everyone's a mess. You know, that's just part of being human. And then the kindness and how how might that kindness manifest? Sometimes kindness is tough love. Sometimes the kindness is accepting love. Sometimes the kindness is encouragement. Sometimes the kindness is, you know, I just really need I'm overworked. I need to cut back on my hours so I have more time to work. Life balance, you know, again, wisdom knows what the right thing to do is.


But what's important is the friendliness, that intention, the kindness, the kindness is always aimed at helping alleviating suffering, you know, and so you can actually just go through those steps.


And it's a very easy thing to do. You can do in the moment I teach, we teach something called the Self Compassion Break where you find language that works for you because people are really different. And once you get, like, phrases that work for you, it's almost like a mantra. And you can just repeat those phrases. Sometimes you some touch can just automatically set it off. Right. You can use the breath. There's lots of different ways.


And so I think mindful self compassion, um, I think we have 37 different practices. You know, some work for some people.


Some don't, um. But I think it's really worth spending the time to find out what works for you. Mean, I'm talking to you as a human being right now if you struggle with this, you know. What works for you, what's what doorway actually opens that door to this loving, connected presence to this to this feeling of oneness, this feeling of well-being, this feeling of care, because, you know, you want that we all want that we're human beings.


And so what? Doorways open that for you. And it's actually worth spending some time asking that question. There's no right or wrong answer. But once you start habitually entering that doorway becomes that door becomes easier and easier to open, you know?


It's incredibly intriguing and attractive and probably not going to land it right now. But I do think. Well, you already have a meditation practice.


Yes. So it's just a matter of just kind of reminding yourself that it's not just about the awareness, it's also about the connectedness and it's about the care about the war.


Yeah, I think I just need a little phrase that gets me in that door. Yes, exactly. And what that phrase is, you know, only, you know, really.


No, it's a great thing to think about. And Explorer, there are two questions I want to ask before I go, both of which can be short if you want. But that's up to you. One of them is is there something I should have asked but didn't?


We covered a lot of ground inaptly. I think, Brooke, I think we covered a broad range of it go, so then the final question is, I always do this kind of semi facetious thing at the end, which is to ask people to step into what I call the plug zone. Can you unabashedly plug and I'm giving you permission here. Yes. Plug everything, all the resources that are out there where you are on social media, blah, blah, blah, again.


Yeah. Yeah.


So I can because like I said, basically the last 10 years of my life with my colleague Chris Cuomo, we've been developing the technology.


He's actually connect with Harvard, Harvard of Boston, that we've been developing the technology of how to teach self compassion. It's not just a good idea. We know the technology, the pedagogy of how to help people be more self compassionate. And it's it was developed in the Mindful Self Compassion Program and it's taught all over the world. You could either go to the center for M.S. and find a teacher. You can take it online. But the cool thing is our workbook just came out in August.


It was the number one bestseller. But the workbook has it all in there, and it's only like, you know, 15 bucks or something and actually guide you through the sequence and it has helped you do all the practice safely. It's a very accessible way to access these practices, the Mindful Self Compassion Workbook. And that, you know, a year ago that one would have been available. You would have just had to have someone in your area.


You've had to spend a lot more time and money to learn the practices. And now it's just one click away.


And your website, again, is self compassion. Self compassion, Doug. Yeah. And do you have a Twitter or Instagram or anything?


But I do have a Twitter. I have someone who tweets for me. I am embarrassed to say I remember Twitter handle is I think that's a badge of honor.


I can send it to you also on Facebook, but probably the easiest way place to go is if you just Google self compassion, because I've got videos, I've got a TED talk, I've got you can take your own self compassion and test your own self compassion level with the scale I've got. For those of you science nerds listening, I've got the original PDF of probably like well over a thousand articles, research on self compassion organized by category. I put a lot of work into this to try to facilitate the research.


So if you want to know what's been done with self compassion and body image issues, I've got a section on self compassion and body image with all the original PDF of the scientific articles. So if you're a scientist, that's a place to go. If you want to use the scale and research, you've want to take the skills. I've got practice guided meditations, written exercises. It's kind of I've tried to design it as a one stop shopping, so to speak.


So if anyone's interested, they can find that resource. You did a great job with this. Thank you very much. Thank you. That's my kind and friendly voice. At least I'm directing it to you. Yes, I learn how to do it to myself at some point. Yes. Thank you.


Welcome. You're welcome. Big thanks to Kristen, big thanks as always, to the team who worked so hard to make this show a reality. Samuel Johns is our senior producer, DJ Cashmeres. Our producer Jules Dodson is our A.P. Our sound designer is Matt Boynton of Ultraviolet Audio. Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. We get an enormous amount of insight and input from our colleagues such as Jen Point, Nate, Toby, Ben Rubin and Liz Levin. And of course, as always, a big thank you to my ABC News comrade's Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen.


We'll see you all on Friday for a bonus.