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Physician wellness, Episode 3: The science of self-compassion

In this episode, host Tony Passalacqua and guests Dr. Charlotte Howard and Dr. Tori Olds discuss how exercising self-compassion can help you prevent burnout and improve performance. Common myths surrounding self-compassion are explored and a guided self-compassion exercise is included. (33:58)

Also available on Apple, Google podcasts, and Spotify. A transcript of this podcast is found below.


Additional episodes in this series:

Episode 1: Physician wellness and burnout

Episode 2: Mindfulness

Episode 4: Physician healing and getting the most out of therapy


Tony Passalacqua: Our special guests, Dr. Charlotte Howard and Dr. Tori Olds are sisters and licensed psychologists and started Deep Eddy Psychotherapy, the second largest psychology practice in Texas. Deep Eddy helps thousands of clients work through such issues as anxiety, stress management, relationship issues, depression, trauma, and grief.

Dr. Howard currently serves on the Deep Eddy board and Dr. Tori Olds leads international training group, and you can search for Dr. Tori Olds on YouTube by searching for Dr. Tori Olds. T-O-R-I-O-L-D-S. Thank you for listening to this series. 

Uh, the next topic that we are going to cover is the science of self-compassion.

Charlotte or Tori, would one of you guys like to go ahead and lead us into this topic? 

Charlotte Howard: Sure. So, our last podcast was on mindfulness. And This is essentially mindful self-compassion. You have to be mindful to have self-compassion because you have to be aware of what you're experiencing. And so, we're really just building on mindfulness here to talk about self-compassion.

But self-compassion, similar to mindfulness, has all sorts of incredible research done on it and just positive outcomes across the board. So, self-compassion is incredibly healing, physically and mentally, and just leads to a more fulfilling life, and resiliency, and so, this is not just a woo woo thing, it's scientifically proven to help on pretty much every level.

Tori Olds: Yeah. It's, it's, it's like, it's similar to mindfulness. It's one of those things that we've just discovered that has a huge impact on our well-being. Um, you know, in the early days we did a lot with self-esteem, but we sort of moved past that a little bit because self-esteem has some good things. It's okay to have some self-esteem, but it has drawbacks as well because it's still conditional.

It's like, “I'm proud of this,” that I'm smart. I know I'm beautiful. You know, I have a, I esteem myself, you know. But that's actually not so powerful for mental health.

Charlotte: But self-compassion is huge because it's robust and no one can take it away from you. Yeah, yeah, right. One reason besides that it's just so incredibly important in wellness and this is about physician wellness, that we wanted to bring this up with physicians is that it would be a key factor in in preventing burnout and helping you manage your work because again, It, it combats perfectionism, and, you know, being… 

Tori: Perfection or critic.

Charlotte: Exactly. All of those things that doctors a lot of times do face, and anxiety, and depression. So, this is a really huge component, and specifically would be very helpful for physicians if you, and in the field, if everyone could have a lot more compassion. Yeah. But it really starts with compassion for yourself.

Tori: Yeah, we talked in that first podcast about compassion for others and the neural circuitry of compassion and things, but yeah, compassion for the self is, is really huge. And, and, and again, I was kind of comparing it to self-esteem. It's like, we're used to trying to build up our child's self-esteem and each other's self-esteem.

But the thing is right when self-esteem drops us or fails us is when self-compassion picks us up, when we've made a mistake. You know, when we've had a loss, when we've had a, you know, we got fired from our job, or we may, you know, something didn't go our way. It is hard to feel self-esteem in that moment, but it is possible to feel self-compassion. 

That's when Charlotte said it's more robust. It's like, it's not a fair-weather friend. It's like an always reliable friend for you if you can develop it. But before we talk about the steps of self-compassion, which we'll go through something called the self-compassion break, which has these three steps that are researched.

This is all coming out of Krista Neff's research out of UT. Uh, you know, she talks about these myths that she's run into that we have resistance to the idea of self-compassion, which I think is so interesting. We have such a funny way of thinking about things. Sometimes it just, something like self-compassion, which is it's really so straightforward and it's drawing on our evolutionary skills of care and everything. 

But because of our culture, our upbringing, you know, we can feel like, oh, maybe that's kind of touchy feely. Like maybe that'll make me lose my edge. Or maybe there's something like, I don't want to love myself too much or be too loving with myself, et cetera.

Charlotte: It's just bad for some reason. We have like this guilt about it. (Laughs.)

Tori: I don't know why. I remember telling my client, this sweet little 21-year-old girl, basically woman, but, you know, you know about love and she's like, well, isn't that bad? I was like, I love myself and she just looked at me like, what? And I was like, does that sound bad to you?

She's like, yeah. I was like, wow, that's so interesting. Like, why would I love, you know, anyway, so, um, So I just want to go through some of the common things that you might not even consciously have resistance toward, but as you say, like, yeah, I kind of did feel like it was a little narcissistic or something. So, the number one, I'll just go through these really quick.

They've all been researched. The science has proven them all, you know, to be incorrect. You know, these assumptions we have. So, the one, self-compassion is narcissistic. It'll make myself self-preoccupied or arrogant, but self-compassion is kind of the opposite. You know, the moment you feel like you need self-compassion is an acknowledgement that you're someone that needs self-compassion, that needs compassion. You know that you aren't a god, that you aren't perfect, that you aren't above needing, you know, a moment of care. Like, it's actually kind of humbling. It's a humble thing actually. It's like, I'm just, I'm like everybody else. I'm not above people. Like, I deserve some compassion. 

Charlotte: With narcissism, what's under it is actually a tremendous amount of shame and often fragility. And self-compassion makes us more resilient and strong. So when we are compassionate with ourselves, we're much more likely to be compassionate with other people as well.

Tori: Narcissism is more fragility and a defensive structure to cover up. A lot of fragility. 

Charlotte: Defensive arrogance kind of. Yeah. Because you don't feel big inside, so you make yourself feel big on the outside. 

Tori: Yeah, but the self-compassion really fills us up in a way that we're sort of complete and we're okay with ourselves and in that, in doing that, we have no need to be narcissistic.

Charlotte: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 

Tori: Okay, the second myth is self-compassion kind of sounds easy to people, like it's kind of a soft thing. Maybe it'll make me weak or lose my edge, but it, Charlotte said, fills us up in a way that makes us more resilient. Makes us tougher, makes us more able to get into the game and recover.

There was one, uh, study showed for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that their level of self-compassion was more strongly predictive of their likelihood of developing PTSD one year later than was their amount of combat exposure. So that's huge. Self-compassion makes a huge difference in how likely we are to experiencing things as traumatic, you know, stress is traumatic.

Charlotte: Preventing trauma… 

Tori: And just general stress, you know, resiliency. 

Charlotte: And it's not easy to do. Yeah, it's not easy. It's not just, oh yeah, you're just taking the easy road out. You know, a lot of people really struggle to have self-compassion, and it's such an incredible, incredibly beautiful, and noble thing to do to try to work on because then it allows you to give more to others as well, which we'll get to. Um, but it's, it's hard. 

Tori: Yeah, if you, if you heard a parent say, you know, when I'm about, I'm about to have a child and what I really want to do is make every effort to be compassionate when they're struggling and like, be patient with them and have their back, you wouldn't be like, Oh, that sounds a little bit easy. You know, that's taking the easy way. Like it's going to be, you know, no, it's hard to work to be like, okay, come back to compassion. That is like a mature, you know, committed, disciplined kind of thing. Um, okay. 

So, myth number three, that self-compassion is self-indulgence. If I'm compassionate with myself, I'll let myself have that extra bowl of ice cream.

But again, we come back to the parenting, you know, comparison. If you're loving and compassionate and care about your child. That does not mean you give them the extra bowl of ice cream, right? It means you care enough to set boundaries and to be clear and to support actual health and long-term health.

Charlotte: And it's actually not self-indulgent at all because when we're more self-compassionate, we're less likely to need to indulge in things. Because it's when we're hard on ourselves that we want to go numb by, like Tori said, eating another bowl of ice cream, or staying up late numbing out with TV, or numbing out with alcohol, or drugs, or other things.

There's a lot of ways we harm ourselves when we don't feel good about ourselves, and we mistreat ourselves when we feel bad about ourselves, naturally, just unconsciously. 

Tori: It's like, if we're not taking care of ourself, then the drug will take care of us. Yeah. And it's better to take that back into our life. 

Charlotte: It's just so painful. Yeah. It's so painful. And we're like ourselves. We just got to get out of that experience. I know that is through numbing our TV or screens or, you know, just get away from our experience. But when we're filled with love and self-compassion, we have much less need to go you know, overeat, or stay up too late or whatever it is.

And because we love ourselves, we take care of ourselves. Like, “Oh, we got this, we are a gem. Let's, let's go to sleep sweetie and stop overworking.” Um, so it's actually, um, the opposite of self-indulgence. It leads to much less self-indulgence. 

Tori: Yeah, the research is true. Super clear, you know. People high in self-compassion are more likely to exercise, have a healthy diet, stop eating when full, [make] more frequent visits to the doctor, you know, et cetera.

Charlotte: So, the fourth myth is that self-compassion is selfish. And again, the research has shown the complete opposite, that people who have more self-compassion are more philanthropic, actually. 

Tori: Yeah, you know, the research shows people high in self-compassion are rated by their partners as being more giving, intimate, supportive of autonomy, less angry. So just like Charlotte was saying, when we develop self-compassion, it's really a gift for everybody. 

Charlotte: It makes sense, because when we're hard on ourselves, we're much more likely to be hard on somebody else. Yeah. You know, if you spent your morning trying on 15 outfits, and you had to get it perfect, and you had to, you know, iron your shirt to you know, and you walk out and someone's wearing, like, some wrinkly old thing. You know, you're much like, uh, what do they do? 

Or you feel some cognitive dissonance there, like, why am I spending all this time on this, if it's meaningless? So, you've got to have it be important, or else you feel weird about the fact that you spent so much time on it. So, if it's important, then they're doing it wrong.

You know, or just anything like that. I mean, the more we're compassionate with ourselves and feel okay about who we are, it's just so natural to extend that to other people. And, you know, we already know that. And we have something to give. We're judgmental and catty because we don't feel good about ourselves.

Tori: Right. Yes. That's that point, and then the other point that you touched on is that we just have something to give. Right. Because our cup is filled up. 

Charlotte: Exactly. We've given to ourselves and then we have more to give. So, the next myth is that it would make us less responsible or moral. Kind of ties into what we've already said.

Tori: I think the only thing that's maybe an interesting point about this is if we're compelled, that is the way that it makes it safe, emotionally safe, to own our mistakes. Because if we're going to attack ourselves every time we make a mistake, we're not going to want to own those mistakes. We're not, we're going to dig in our heels with our partner and, you know, like, that was not my fault and that was you and you're the one, you know, but if it's like, okay, look, this is not a big deal to make mistakes. 

Charlotte: Because I'm not going to shame myself. I'm okay making mistakes. I'm much more comfortable telling my partner, you know what? I really messed up on that. But if you're going to say, oh I messed up. I'm horrible. I'm so horrible. Then there's high stakes there to avoid taking responsibility. 

Tori: And it's also harder when, let's say in a personal example, to show up If we're in, like, let's say we don't go into the defensive one and we go into a shame spiral, but that's also not able to really deal with the mistake either.

Like, I know we've all had the experience where we tell someone, like, hey, that hurt my feelings, and if they're like, oh, I know, I'm so bad, and like, you know, it's like, oh, thank you for not focusing on yourself. I was needing something from you right then. I didn't need your, like, shame spiral, you know, so it really does allow us to show up and say, okay, yes. Now I can be in a state where I can give and make this better and make a repair and do what I need to do to fix the problem. You know, it is true that we do need like an inner monitor that just makes sure we're living to our values and that we're doing a good job. But there's no reason that that inner monitor doesn't have to be kind.

You can just think of this exactly like a good coach, like in sports. A good coach, yeah, they kick your butt, they have you out there, but they like the ideal coach that you would want coaching your kids soccer game or something would be like one that has their back. If they fall down, they're right there like, “Hey man, you did your best. Get up again. I've got your back. Like we're on this together.” They don't shame them and berate them and say, “You idiot loser,” you know what I mean? That's not a good coach. 

Charlotte: This ties into myth number six - that self-compassion would make you less motivated. So just like a good coach, and there are coaches, a lot of coaches, unfortunately. God, I've been hearing a lot about it from clients and different athletes my kids play with. Um, yeah, that coaches can be awful. But actually demoralizes people and makes them less likely to perform well. It actually doesn't work. 

Tori: It works in the short term. So, the fear tactic can work in the short term. And that's why we kind of like, get addicted to it. Like we think like, oh that's, it worked one time when I was a kid. I was really hard on myself through high school. Then I did well. It just, it has a lot of costs. And then it ends up petering out or backfiring. Or then we just are like, oh, forget it. You know, now I'm just like…

Charlotte: It's hard to sustain. But even if you do, it's demoralizing. It's just not a happy life. 

Tori: Yeah, exactly. And, and compassion, actually, you know, when people are in a compassionate state, their motor cortex lights up. Like compassion, like we talked about in the first one, it motivates it. It is a motivational force. It is plenty of motivation to get up and want to do the hard things out of self-love. So, when we're in our compassion network, you know, when compassion, self-compassion is flowing, our motor cortex lights up.

In other words, we want to act. You know, self-compassion is motivational. It is, in its core, a motivation to, you know, end our own suffering in this case. You know, make our lives better, care for ourselves. 

Charlotte: So, it actually decreases procrastination and increases performance. Yeah, exactly. It decreases procrastination.

And it allows us to try again after failure. And the research shows all of those things. Yeah, that's right. Um, just like in work, you know, we don't want to work hard for a critical boss. Yeah. And people…

Tori: For a little while we will and then we'll quit. Yeah. 

Charlotte: People stay in jobs longer, even regardless of pay, if they're appreciated.

Tori: Yeah. That's right. That's right. Yeah. 

Charlotte: One example of, of how what we resist persists in a way that you can engage with your feelings and be compassionate with them, then a lot of times they just dissolve faster is I was, I got home from work, and it was just such a long day. And my husband hadn't done dishes, so the sink was like full. And, and I, he was just sitting on the couch, so I was feeling judgmental of him in that moment. 

Tori: We've all been there. Yeah. (Laughs.)

Charlotte: So, I started doing dishes, but I was really just, oh, angry. And I was kind of criticizing him in my head. And, um, and then I thought, gosh, this is such bad energy. Like reset, like think about something good, like move on.

And so, then I would start thinking, I would just consciously try to choose something else and start thinking about it. Like, okay, well, I'm going to think about my weekend or my blog. And then I would notice, oh wait, I'm right back to criticizing him. And you know, the same thoughts would just come back without me even noticing.

And I would just be back to this bad, like kind of negative energy on that. Um, and finally, I thought I'd tried that twice because I was really trying to get out of the energy. 

Tori: The “be positive” method. 

Charlotte: Exactly. And it really wasn't working. No. And, um, and then I realized, oh my gosh, I teach [this to] people this all day.

Let me just be compassionate with where I am. And so, I kind of tuned into myself and said, “Oh, like you're really mad. Oh, you're so mad. And that was just such a hard day. You worked so hard and now you're doing dishes.” And I didn't even notice, but my mind flitted off to something else and never returned to it.

It wasn't until later that night that I thought, “Oh! That whole energy just went away, but so fast, I didn't even notice there.” Um, whereas the opposite was true when I was trying to avoid it and it just kept, I just kept returning to it because it wasn't resolved. 

Tori: I love…I think that's such a great example. And I just want to highlight that piece because so many clients come in, if they're in a negative mindset, they try to be positive. That method just…there, there's some positive things we can do, like when we're feeling good, savoring, and taking time with the positive, and meditating on the positive. There's some wonderful things with positive psychology.

But the way Charlotte was doing, she was just fighting with herself. It was just another way of ignoring herself. Like, she was in pain, she'd had a hard day, she just needed a, like a metaphorical hug, right? Like she was saying, oh I'm so sorry, you know? But instead of doing that for herself, she was just trying to tell herself to get over it. 

Charlotte: Which is just basically bad parent. 

Tori: It's kind of neat, like just ignoring herself. Like, just get positive again. Like it's just like extracting more of out of yourself, like rude, you know what I mean? You're leaving yourself alone, as we've talked about. It's so dismissive. Yeah. It's just like, okay, yeah.

Forget that you had a hard day. Ignore that. Ignore that. That's difficult. That's difficult stuff, so just ignore it. And so, she, that didn't work, obviously, and I just want to highlight that because I know so many of us try that. Instead, the moment that it really, just naturally, completely, all the way down to its core, resolved was the moment she just gave herself a little bit of, like, well, compassion, not empathy, but compassion. But you know, it's like, “Oh, I'm so sorry.”

Like, yeah, I feel you. Like, oh, you know, just that, that moment of like, yeah, that was really hard. I'm sorry. Like, you know, then everything could like melt from its root. Like, we just want someone to acknowledge our self. 

Charlotte: You might notice it's a lot like being a good parent to yourself. It's just, and again, we've talked about how the nervous system responds to touch and tone, but again, it's like, oh, you know, you can't just say, you've had a hard day, blah, blah, blah, you know. Oh, that was hard, you're feeling sad, you know, and move on and expect that to work.

It's not about what you're saying to yourself, it's about the intention, the quality. 

Tori: “Sweetie, that was hard.” You know, and just how you would be with a little, like a little, little kid. Like, just soften it. And it's that tone of nurturance that is actually what's really needed, because it's kind and it allows your nervous system to relax.

Charlotte: Yeah, yeah, perfect. 

Tori: Okay, so let's just make this a little more practical now. I'll just teach you something called the self-compassion break that is just a very easy… You know, you know, you might want to do some longer moments of self-compassion like inner work around it. But this is kind of the quick and dirty way of like returning to that state if you just have like a minute or two minutes between meetings.

Charlotte: And one thing, kind of related to what we resist, persist, and also related to self-compassion is letting yourself be your true self. That is such an important part of having a fulfilling life and being able to enjoy life. And one of the most useful things I think that Brené Brown talks about is belonging versus fitting in.

Well, what our beings really long for is belonging. But the only way you can have belonging is if you are yourself. Because belonging means that your true self belongs. As a place. So, if you're never being yourself, you will never have belonging. And the next best thing is fitting in, which we can try to fit in, which kind of imitates belonging and that's what a lot of people do to try to feel a sense of belonging.

But we definitely know the difference. The best-case scenario is we get to fit in, which means our false self fits in. That didn't give us belonging. And the worst-case scenario is we get rejected and we still feel bad because we couldn't fit in. So, we failed at fitting in. Um, but belonging, we, if you know, if you can be your real self, you actually have a shot at belonging.

If your goal is to be yourself, then you know even if you're not accepted by certain people, they weren't your people. And you've actually already succeeded at your goal because you are yourself! But on the upside, you could fit in. You know you could actually belong, find your people, and then have belonging. I just think that is so important.

So, it's related to self-compassion It's how much we just can embrace ourselves and allow us to be our real self, and then we might be able to get and probably will. Because also people are attracted to people who are authentic. We might be able to get that deep inner need for belonging met. 

And one other thing, because I think this relates so much to physicians, and is so important with the perfectionism I see, and with the high standards I see in the physician clients that I have, um, I really love this big research study where they had a, a video of a professor in two scenarios. And it was the exact same lecture, and they showed it to hundreds of college students.

And in one of the lectures, they just spliced in that she spilled a cup of water all over her table. And then just kind of, “Oops!” And you know, picked it back up and went on with her lecture. And otherwise, they were identical. And so, one group of college students saw one video and one group saw the other.

And this was a large study. The group that saw the video where she spilled rated her higher on everything, including intelligence, competence, um, you know, how good the lecturer is, how much they learned, kind of, you know, they rated her. I don't remember exactly all the things they rated, but across the board, she got higher ratings. And, um, you know, it is so important for us to feel a human connection with someone in order to like them.

And so, if we're perfect, we're kind of like a robot. And, um, or maybe she should see the Barbie movie and learn her struggle. But as long as we're perfect, you know, Barbie chooses to be more authentic and have the range of experience. 

Tori: Don't give away the ending! (Laughs.) 

Charlotte: But in any case. Yeah, if we're too perfect, others can't really relate to us and they don't really connect and really, in this case, rate us very highly. So, we've talked about how just being nurturing to yourself and with touch and tone and aww and just have compassion like you would for a friend is how to have self-compassion.

But I will say that Kristin Neff and the self-compassion gurus, you know, that started this whole movement, um, list three steps for self-compassion. So, the first one is mindfulness, and we did our whole last podcast on mindfulness, which means that you're non-judgmentally aware in the moment. And you really can't be compassionate if you're not noticing what's going on.

So, the first step is to notice, like, how am I feeling, or what just happened, or what's going on inside me and around me? You have to notice before you can feel compassionate about it. So, first step is mindfulness. 

And then the second step is an acknowledgment of universal humanity. So, when we feel pain, we have an instinctive drive or just an instinctive impulse to feel alone.

And we feel the pain and somehow, we feel like that disconnects us from people. But the truth is that suffering connects us more to others and not less. Because suffering is a core foundational human experience that everyone has experienced. So, when we're suffering, we are not alone. Struggling is… 

Tori: And we're not different. You know, it's like, it's like when we're, when we have that weird, you know, that, that, that difficulty; we made that embarrassing mistake or whatever. We're just having a hard time, or we can't figure out life. You know, I think, like Charlotte was saying, there's just this moment where I think our training is to turn away and feel, it's almost like we want to bury our head in the sand, you know, like maybe it's a shame response, but it's like, it's like, Oh, I'm the only one.

Like, we, we feel like we're the only one. We're different. Like we're broken. And that is like, it's almost like that demotes us from like access or the right to be part of the human family. 

Charlotte: Yeah. And so, struggling is the one thing we all share. It's the one thing. And it's part of what it is to be human.

Tori: Literally to struggle is probably the thing that we all have in common. It's like the one thing we all have in common, right? It's like one of the few things, you know. And so it's like, oh, in that moment to remind ourself of that. It's like, oh, this is normal. 

Charlotte: Yeah, no matter how bad it was.

Tori: No, this is normal. Like, what I'm experiencing, suffering is a part of life. Everybody suffers. Everybody makes mistakes. This is not weird. This is not me. This is not embarrassing. Okay, this is universal. 

Charlotte: This is humanity. 

Tori: This is part of being alive and being a human. 

Charlotte: And it connects me to humanity. Yeah. So, first, mindfulness, Then, you acknowledge universal humanity. Like, okay, just join the human race. Just, right. I made that mistake. I'm human. 

And, and then the third is to have compassionate care. Sending love, loving care to ourselves and being kind in response to our experience. Just like you would to a friend and to like the nurturing and just like, well, yeah, you messed up and that's okay. That's a universal experience. 

Tony: Tori, you were talking earlier about a self-compassion break. Could you go ahead and lead us through one of those exercises? 

Tori: Yeah, this is a great thing to learn because it's so user-friendly like in the middle of the day. You might not have a time to do a whole meditation, but you can probably do a self-compassion break.

Give yourself that break, right? So, what I'll invite you to do, um, you know, if you're in a place where you're sitting, you know, just begin to kind of take a breath. You know, find your, your, your body in your present moment. Um, but what I'll invite you to do is just think of some area in your life where you're experiencing some level of struggle, but not like an overwhelming level of struggle.

I know we have those too, but for the sake of this practice, maybe on a scale of 10, don't pick like an eight, pick like a four or five. You know, something that's maybe even a three — an annoyance, a dynamic you have with someone at work. Just something where you're feeling not emotional, you know, huge suffering, but it is difficult. 

And just for a moment, it's like, like we talked about with mindfulness, it's just showing up. Like, hey, what's going on? So just the first step, just begin to tune into that situation, you know, remember it like, oh, what was that? What was it that happened? Or what am I worried will happen? And just really just bringing that situation a bit to life in your mind's eye. 

Now as we've kind of opened that up, next I'm going to move you through using three phrases sort of designed to help us remember the three parts of self-compassion. And I'm just going to give example phrases, but I'm going to actually ask you to like tweak it and try to find a phrase that works perfect for you. This just fits you perfect for each of these reminders. Because then I'll invite you to use them later, for those to be like your phrases. So, the first one would be something along the lines of, this is a moment of suffering. And that, this particular phrase is capturing the mindfulness piece. I'm mindfully allowing myself to be aware of the difficulty here. I'm not turning away from my suffering, I'm turning toward my suffering. 

Now, I find the phrase, “this is a moment of suffering,” a little bit formal. So, you might just try simply saying, this is hard, you know, or I'm really struggling. I don't like this. This is difficult. You know, something like that. So just play for a moment, just play inside to see like when you're thinking about the situation, what phrase feels like the most acknowledging of your emotional experience of the difficulty. Wow, this is, I'm suffering here. 

And you can just see how that feels to do for a moment. 

And then next I'm going to guide, we're going to move to the second part, which is that pivot away from the illusion that suffering makes us weird and effective, toward the remembering that suffering makes us normal, just like everybody else. So, one phrase you might try is, suffering is just a part of life. Or suffering is a part of everyone's life. 

You might try, it's not abnormal to struggle like this, but we all struggle. 

So just try a few phrases until you land on one that your heart says “yes” to. 

Everybody struggles. 

And then the last little step, again, like Charlotte said, I don't know if the words matter as much as the intention. And you can do what's called the compassionate touch. That's what Charlotte's been talking about all along, where you put a hand on your heart, or over your other hand. You know, some people like to kind of like, almost like, hold their own hand.

You know, what you can find that’s, that's a useful thing to spend some time with anyway. Like, what touch for you feels the most supportive? What kind of touch, if any? So, you can do the compassionate touch. And something that's, you know, the classical way would be like, “May I be kind to myself in this moment?”

But for me, that does feel a little bit formal, so it could just be like, “Aw, I'm so sorry.” Or “I’m here.”

Whatever you would say that's tender, like “It'll be okay, you're okay, I love you.” You know, it could be anything that's like, just caring. Even just the sound, “Aww, I'm so sorry. This is hard.” And you can feel the warmth through your hand and just the intent, that quality of support. 

Just play with finding the right way, the right, everyone's different, so just find for you, how to send that signal that says, “I don't want you to suffer self, like I do care about you… I do want to be here for you.”

And once you find that way, just try doing it and see how it feels. 

Just notice how your body feels, how your breath and how your heart space, you know, changes. And just allow whatever you notice actually to be there. 

So, I invite you to use this in the future. And again, the three things you're moving through is some, and you might want to write it down or practice it or play with it. You know, find your own way. As long as you're finding first, like, some way to acknowledge what you're going through. “This is suffering. It's okay, it's normal to suffer. It does not make me defective or weird. Like, everyone suffers. This is suffering. Everyone suffers. It's hard, you know. But it's normal to have a hard time.” 

And then something that sends some kind of loving message to yourself. Like, “I'm really, you know, I, um, I'm going to be kind. Like, that, uh, I'm here. You know, I care. I'm sorry.” 

And maybe with a touch at that moment with it, you know, as well. 

And as you develop that practice, you'll find you can probably, you know, it's almost like any skill. It’s kind of weird to call it a skill, but any skill you get better with over time and with repetition and it gets deeper and more established in your brain and your heart and your mind.

So, you know, you might practice it and maybe the words will change but having something that's really in your back pocket for those hard moments where you just need to step away for a moment. And I, I imagine you'll find that it really helps to, to reset. 

Tony: Thank you for leading us through that exercise, Tori. What's the last thing that you'd like our listeners to leave with? Uh, Charlotte, would you like to go ahead and start? 

Charlotte: Sure. You know, I just wanted to say compassion is where loving kindness meets suffering. And it's just better to access our mammalian caretaking part of the brain than have this big cortisol. (Laughs.)

And, um, and I also wanted to acknowledge, um, that listening to this podcast right now on self-compassion is an act of self-compassion. And you taking time to learn to do something for yourself or just to grow personally is a huge deal and it's a big first step and we deeply honor that, that longing in you that is allowing you to listen to this podcast.

And I just wanted to honor it as a fellow sufferer and, uh, say that it's a beautiful act of self-compassion and we appreciate your, time and your listening to this today. 

Tori: Yeah, I think I would just, you know, just the acknowledgement that things are really… there's a lot right now that we're holding as a human race. Even apart from our individual lives. And it's not always easy to be human, to be alive, to be dealing with all that we're dealing with. And so, there's nothing weak or unusual about just needing some care and support. 

Charlotte: And we're all in it together. (Laughs.)

Tori: We're all in it together. 

Charlotte: Hopefully compassionately. 

Tony: Well, thank you guys. And thank you for listening to this podcast. If you are a policyholder, please feel free to contact us with any questions by calling 1-800-580 -658 or check out our resources at and clicking on our Resource Hub.