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Compassion Episode 3


Compassion is a biological necessity. It’s separate from sympathy or empathy, and as Bowlby puts it, “our brains are biologically designed to respond to the care and kindness of others”.

· 39:51


Full episode

[00:00:00] Mark: I've got a nice lyric today,

[00:00:02] Anya: Hmm.

[00:00:02] Mark: um, that I did, that I did choose because it's one of my favorite songs and I think it's apt, but we'll see. Here we go.

[00:00:11] When you are standing at the crossroads and don't know which path to choose, let me come along cuz even if you are wrong, I'll stand by you.

[00:00:20] The words I believe of Chrissie Hynde of, uh, the Pretenders or just Pretenders.

[00:00:24] Anya: I I, I'm a fan of, um, Stan Tatkin's work, and he does an awful lot on the neurobiology of, uh, relationships and dating, and he talked about a good relationship being someone who shares the same foxhole as you.

[00:00:37] Mark: Oh.

[00:00:38] Anya: Yeah, that's, that's quite a, cuz so many times we can be almost adversarial and we have a challenge between us, but actually, you know, this idea of being together in stuff, you know, I'll stand by you even if you are wrong.

[00:00:52] Mark: When it, when it matters most or when it's when it's tested the most. Um, and this doesn't have to be relational in, you know, in relation to another person. It could be something that you say to yourself.

[00:01:03] Anya: Yeah. And, you know, kind of, you know, wrong in whose

[00:01:06] Mark: Mm-hmm.

[00:01:07] Anya: you know, and this always made you think of that thing, you know, uh, do you wanna be right or do you wanna be happy?

[00:01:11] Mark: Welcome to the A to Z of Happiness with Anya Pearse and me Mark Steadman. Join us as we unpack the science of happiness, one letter at a time. This week it's C for compassion.

[00:01:27] Can you give us the, the, uh, person who stands up at the, uh, at the best man's speech and does the Oxford, the Oxford English Dictionary defines love as?

[00:01:39] Anya: Well, yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm not gonna go with the Oxford English dictionary, uh, soy dictionary fans. I, I, I, I, I know that you were, you were waiting for me to do that. I'm actually gonna, I know if they haven't already, um, , but I, I really am drawing on. A definition that Dr. Paul Gilbert has come up with, and he is, you know, a wonderful, lovely chap who has been, you know, a practicing clinical psychologist for, for, for many decades.

[00:02:11] And he's developed something called compassion focused Therapy because he's, you know, he's, Realized that having compassion, particularly for ourselves is fundamental. And you know, and there's like, there's a fancy way of saying it, which I will share, but there's the one which like he puts in his introduction to the Compassionate Mind, which is a much more user friendly version.

[00:02:36] And he says that compassion can be defined in many ways, but its essence is a basic kind. With a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and other long beings, coupled with the wish and effort to relieve it. You know, the, the, the, the version he puts in his clinical book is, um, a sensitivity to, uh, the suffering of self and others, and a desire to prevent or alleviate it.

[00:03:06] which is, you know, more of a, more of a clinical thing cuz it has then the, the emotional aspect, you know, the empathy of what's going on, but also the action aspect. Um, and this is why there's a lot of talk about compassion fatigue very often. And I'll, I'll, you know, it's actually more empathy fatigue because when you have compassion, you're able to take agency on things.

[00:03:30] Um, but.

[00:03:32] Mark: That always reminds me of, uh, any time I hear the phrase compassion fatigue. I'm taken back to a, a, a very early comic relief bit, uh, segment, um, out in, in Africa, uh, by Billy Connolly, and there had obviously been. at the time of him recording it. Some backlash probably in the right wing, probably in the daily mail, about compassion fatigue, and I think a sense perhaps in the, I guess it would've been mid eighties, mid to late eighties, that. We were done. We, you know, we, we'd, we'd given all we can or we we're being asked to give too much and we're all exhausted and, and, and we don't have anything more to give. And, and he sort of, he had this, this thing of, you know, looking at, uh, A, you know, starving child in Africa and going, don't talk to me about compassion for, well, absolute nonsense, compassion fatigue.

[00:04:30] Um, but it's, you know, that's, that's what it reminds me of. So you, you mentioned empathy. Um, what, so we, we've got, I guess we've got a, a trifecta, uh, uh, a little triangle here between sympathy, empathy, and compassion. I remember talking about it in a level English. Can we, El Elevate that discussion a little bit to to to grownups.

[00:04:53] Anya: Well, well, I dunno whether I'm gonna elevate it, but certainly, you know, this is something which we talk about, um, at the museum, you know, the differences. And Verne Brown does this, you know, love, there's a love little animation by the Royal Society of the Art, which talks about, um, em difference between empathy and sympathy in particular, but sympathy tends to be a cognitive thing.

[00:05:14] It's kind of like I, I can see your suffer. Oh, glad I'm not you,

[00:05:19] Mark: Hmm.

[00:05:20] Anya: really? And, and the effect of sympathy can actually be quite isolating. Um, you know, I've had. I've explained my, my illness and my limitations. I've had sympathetic responses. Even if I've actually not said that I'm suffering, it's kind of, oh, oh, poor you, oh dear.

[00:05:38] You know, and that can I just seen your face?

[00:05:42] Mark: Dear listener, my skin is crawling.

[00:05:46] Anya: And I never knew you could actually sit. That was a visible phenomenon with people, um,

[00:05:53] and so and so. Yeah. You know, it's, there's, there's an intellectual, maybe not intellectual, but, but a head-based aspect to that. You know, I, I, I can see you in that, that situation. Yeah. Um, empathy is, is the feeling with, um, And you know, in, in the animation, uh, it shows like someone climbing. If, imagine if, you know, just mentioned if you were in a foxhole or in a, in, down, deep in a hole, a pit of depression, whatever.

[00:06:26] It's someone taking a ladder and climbing down beside

[00:06:29] Mark: That's exactly what I was thinking of it, is that, is that old, I dunno if it was a joke or whatever the um, It's, you know, someone falls down a well and someone comes down after and says, at least I'm down here with you.

[00:06:39] Anya: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And actually, you know, one of the great parts of empathy is, you know, revealing experiences to the other person, which show that they are not alone. And that requires, you know, an emotional attunement that requires vulnerability. That requires exposure actually, because, you know, one of the challenges is, you know, someone might say, and with the best will in the world, you know, oh, I know exactly how you're feeling,

[00:07:09] Mark: Mm.

[00:07:10] Anya: unfortunately.

[00:07:12] Yeah. It's . It's, it's, it's, it's, it's not like physically, biologically possible as, as far as I know. But what you can say is, you know, when I went through this, I felt like this. , you know, or if I, you know, if I were you, I couldn't, I completely understand why you're feeling the way that you're feeling.

[00:07:30] Mark: Yeah.

[00:07:32] Anya: you know, so there has to be an element of, but it's very much, you know, we have, we end up, we have these things called, you know, WANs and we can end up, you know, having the same physiological response.

[00:07:45] We become attuned to someone and if they are in a very, um, dark, difficult place and we have just got empathy, we can actually come outta the situation feeling. Pretty lousy ourselves because we have, you know, our, our, you're not, you're nodding,

[00:08:02] Mark: Because we're down here. We're, we're down in the hole with them. You know, we we're, we're, that's, that's the thing. We're we are in there, we are experiencing it as well. And that's as draining as, as, as being in the hole. Cuz you're in

[00:08:12] Anya: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and so that like, and you're saying about, you know, yeah, at least I'm down here too. The compassion one is, you know, What we've just talked about. Yeah. I'm down in the hole with you. Here's my experience and look, I came down on a ladder. I reckon that we can probably climb up it to get back out. It's the action part. It's having the, the agency, the, the desire to alleviate or prevent suffering, you know, rather than this is where the difference between compassion and empathy when it comes to fatigue, you know, empathy fatigue is, as you've just said, if we're down in that hole as well, you know, that is going to deplete our resources as, uh, you know, as, as much as the other person.

[00:08:55] But if we have compass. We have, we're able, it's like a jewel aspect. We are able to be completely emotionally attuned and hold onto, you know, the rung of the ladder, the end of the rope, uh, a torch to point ourselves, both of us outta there, or to at least to, if not take the other person out, because actually, You know, one of the things which, um, I wanna talk about is how stuff doesn't necessarily need to be healed.

[00:09:26] It just needs to be held.

[00:09:27] Mark: Mm.

[00:09:28] Anya: And actually there can be something about two pairs of eyes down in that dark pit, both of them getting used to the change in light. And then both being able to see a way out. Just by just sitting there and becoming, just being with the experience. And so trying to take some of the, the active, the, the, the, the, the, the energy out of, you know, the, the fixing energy out of these things.

[00:10:02] You know, cuz very often if we want to heal something or we fix or we want to fix something that has an unconscious message that it's broken. . And that in and of itself can cause people to feel shame, you know? But actually just being with them, you know, um, I don't wanna get too much into self-compassion right now, but one of the pillars of self-compassion is common humanity.

[00:10:31] And just again, this feeling of, you know, you are not alone in your experience. And that can be huge.

[00:10:37] Mark: How important is because, okay, so we, we can, we can understand this from, it's nice. It's, it's nice to be nice. Is there more to it than that in terms of, of, of its importance?

[00:10:55] Anya: Yeah, I mean, you know, I've been just drawing again from uh, Dr. Paul Gilbert's book, A Compassionate Mind. He spends a considerable amount of it just pointing out that compassion is a biological necessity. , you know, he, he, you know, talks about how bulby, you know, the, the attachment theory side of things. So basically, you know, the experience we have in our formative years when our brain is at, its at its most plastic when it's still forming.

[00:11:24] You know, that's when the primary period of our brains being, you know, biologically designed to respond to the care and kindness of. You know, and there's been results, you know, um, research shown that, you know, depending on the levels of care an infant has in those early years actually affects the development of the brain, particularly the, the, the executive centers at the fund.

[00:11:50] But throughout our lives, you know, I mentioned I think in our Be for Belonging, you know, Brene Brown saying we are hardwired for love and belonging and connection, and without it we suffer, we pain, we. You know, throughout our lives, you know, whether we are, you know, a mulling infant in the first hour of birth to, you know, the last hour of our breaths on, on this planet before we go to wherever it is that we go when we die. You know, there is, as a social species, a need for care and love and compassion, you know, and things like affectionate relationships. You know, show less stress hormones in the parties involved than in, you know, uh, relationships full of conflict. And you think about, You know, the chemical soup that we are bathing ourselves in through these experiences.

[00:12:52] You know, um, we are biologically designed to have short periods of acute stress, not long periods of low level chronic stress. You know this, I always talk about it as like emotional inflammation. You know, and having a low level of it, you know, if you think about someone who, um, a a a friend of mine has, has eczema and, you know, is, is really sensitive to, um, dust and feathers and, you know, has, has a packet of histamines on hand consistently, you know, and, and his, his, his.

[00:13:30] Biological body is always primed for threat. And so even the smallest thing coming in will trigger a flare up, you know, and I think it's the same with us, with our emotional bodies. You know, having this low level of emotional inflammation means that when things come, and they will, and they do because we're human.

[00:13:51] Um, our, our, our emotional immune system, if you like, is already tax. It's already under like low level stress. And so it's, it's, it's human and inevitable that these things can trigger us more than perhaps might be, uh, proportional just because we're already like halfway to. To, to, to exploding, to crying, to, to, to, to, to dissociating.

[00:14:20] You know, we don't have much capacity. Our window of tolerance, as they call it, our window of tolerance is already like, you know, like a fricking letter box. It's not a window anymore. You know, it's like . You can't get, you can't get much through in there, you know, parcels over parcels, over certain size.

[00:14:37] They're gonna need a knock on the door. So, you know,

[00:14:41] Mark: That that, that reminds me, I dunno if it's, if it's opposite, but it reminds me of those moments where if I've been. A little bit sad about something and maybe sitting and being contemplative

[00:14:53] Anya: Hmm.

[00:14:54] Mark: and someone comes along and asks the genuine question, you know, I, I remember being wow, 18, 17 or 18 and, and just, you know, being a gloomy, su, you know, overthinking teenager

[00:15:12] Anya: Mm-hmm.

[00:15:12] Mark: out into the countryside.

[00:15:14] And, uh, someone came up to. And, and very kindly someone, you know, I didn't necessarily speak to all, all that, all, all that much. Um, but someone I knew and, and, and just showed some kindness and, you know, asked how I was after, asked if I was okay and the, the, the dam just opened, you know, uh, and I just burst into tears.

[00:15:35] Um, and it's, there was something about that expression of, you know, uh, of, of sort of, of compass.

[00:15:45] Anya: Hmm.

[00:15:46] Mark: attentiveness or affection or something, was, was sort of the one thing that just went, you know, and I think I, I, I think, I think that's, uh, somewhat hereditary, uh, in my experience, . Um, there's something in my family that, uh, we have that reaction, but I, I, I'm going to imagine that it is not that.

[00:16:08] Anya: Yeah. You know, I was gonna, one of the things I'd love, you know, if you're, if you know you're, you're listening to this, I'd love you to think, you know, For all of us really, you know, how comfortable are we with giving or receiving compassion, you know, i, i e this, you know, friendly care patients and a sense of connectedness because this can be a.

[00:16:29] Your level of comfort, particularly receiving it? Cause I think a lot of people are, or, or may, or maybe it's just the, maybe I just move in very lucky circles, but I tend to hang out with people who give a shit about other people you know, try and be compassionate and kind and things. Um, and it's surprising how many of them fi find it far more difficult to be on the receiving.

[00:16:58] of that. And I think actually, you know, I've definitely been in ti in situations and moments when I've, I think I might have actually have said, please don't be kind to me right now. And you know, this, Brene Brown talks about this in Rising Strong. She talks about it, you know, hurt and the fear of high centering.

[00:17:17] You know, she's, there's this idea of, you know, denying our feeling. Um, because if they reco, if we recognize our hurt or anger, you know, even if we engage just a little, we can't, aren't able to move back and pretend that it doesn't matter. But moving forward might actually open a floodgate of emotions that we can't control.

[00:17:37] I've just seen that that's really landed . I'll give you the, I'll give you the page number in a bit. Um, you're welcome. Um, you know, because it then, cuz that triggers a feeling of helplessness, you know, and as she puts it, you know, recognizing emotion leads to feeling it. And what if I recognize the emotion and it dislodges something and I can't maintain control.

[00:18:03] I don't want to cry at work around the battlefield or when I'm with my parents. Getting high centered is the worst because we feel a total loss of control. We feel powerless.

[00:18:15] Mark: That Connects with something I was, I was, uh, curious about around vulnerability and why sometimes that expression of compassion might feel uncomfortable because it is an acknowledgement of us needing that compassion. It's, it's an acknowledgement that we are vulnerable as if. We all went around as completely invulnerable human beings.

[00:18:43] You know, I think it can be very difficult for some people to recognize that they need to be, they, they need things, you know, they, they, they need, as you said earlier, and as, I think what we'll talk about, uh, perhaps now is needing to be.

[00:19:01] Anya: Yeah.

[00:19:02] Mark: of needing to be fixed so that, you know, that that feeling needing to be, needing to be held.

[00:19:06] And, um, I think to, to maybe side us into that is something that I, I quote often cuz it, it was the, it was my first, uh, understanding of the, the first time I'd encountered this. Uh, and it's one reason I think Mike Shore is probably one of, uh, America's great sitcom creators because he. this really interesting understanding of the human condition or, or works with people who have an understanding of the human human condition and then somehow manages to work that into a 22 minute sitcom. And the one that comes to mind is from. The show with Amy Poller, which is currently, uh, has, has, has left my mind, but it'll come back to me in a moment. If I keep talking, it'll be fine. Um, and it's, and it's, it's, uh, it's, uh, parks and Recreation and it's, um, a few, it, it, it's a conversation with her best friend, um, the nurse and Rob. Famous, beautiful man actor and beautiful famous man actor. Every time the nurse has a problem, he wants to try and fix it and figure out, cuz he's very action orientated. He's very, okay, what can we do? How can we solve this problem? You know, action stations, what do we do? Can we run it off? Can we, you know, he's just, he's all action and it takes a couple of friends to say to.

[00:20:30] What she wants is for you to get a pot of ice cream and sit with her and go, that sucks, doesn't it?

[00:20:37] Anya: Yeah.

[00:20:38] Mark: And that's all she's looking for. Is is that moment to go That sucks, doesn't it? That it's, it's, it's to actually be heard and to actually be held. And when he realizes that and, and he's able to play that moment out, it's this lovely thing.

[00:20:52] Uh, and, and you know, that was, I dunno, 10 and 10 years ago. Uh, and since, you know, th this guy's gone on to make a show actually about the human condition of what happens when we die, you know? Um, but there, there's something very real in that, and that's always. Me.

[00:21:06] Anya: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don't, you know, at the risk of plugging another podcast, there's an episode on, uh, one called Multi Amory, which is. Know, encompasses all different kinds of relationships, not just kind of, you know, the, the, the traditional dyad, shall we say, and they talk about the triforce of communication.

[00:21:24] So the three of them, the first one is sharing just to communicate information. And so it's kind of like, okay, so this is happening. Don't need any kind of response from you. Just let you know this, this is, this is going on. The second one is that, you know, I'm sharing this with you because I want emotional support.

[00:21:39] So that, you know, bring the ice cream, just tell me that it sucks. Be loving and caring. That's all I

[00:21:45] Mark: of my family's Facebook, uh, posts, genuinely, like there's so much of that and I don't know that it's realized. Anyway, sorry. But there's the third thing I imagine. Sorry.

[00:21:54] Anya: Well, just, and just just to finish the trip, the, the tree, the tree, the tri, the, the, yeah. So the triad. And, and the third one is, you know, I'm sharing this with you because actually I, I need some ideas on solutions, but, but actually having the, um, the framework so you can actually say, okay, this, you know, this, this is one, two, or three.

[00:22:14] You know, actually making the bones of communication a little bit more, um, visibil. Can in and of itself be, you know, a compassionate act for both people. Cuz then, you know, cuz we all tend to have, tend to move towards one or the other as a more of a default or an expectation, I think. You know, and sometimes, you know, and, and I've been guilty of it myself.

[00:22:35] Just last night I was having a conversation with someone and at, at a certain point they were in a fetal position on their sofa and I went, Ooh, okay, I, I need to stop asking them questions, which they really, really wish. They were very topical about their relationship right now,

[00:22:49] Mark: Okay. Okay.

[00:22:52] Anya: actually they just, and you know, fair, fair play to them.

[00:22:54] They were very much kind of like, you are asking really great questions. I just. Don't know how to answer them, you know, and, and I'll come back to them. But, you know, the second half of the conversation was a lot easier when I, I, I, I stopped, you know, punching them against the, the ropes of the ring . Um, with, with, with, with ideas and solutions and sometimes even solutions.

[00:23:16] Not even solutions, just in questions which. in some way action orientated or, um, require reflection, um, rather than, you know, a warm blanket, a warm hug, which is like Triforce two. Um, cuz, cuz yeah. One of the things is, you know, I love, you know what, Jeff Foster is a lovely video. It's only like eight minutes and you see him realizing stuff.

[00:23:43] He's a non-duality teacher. And you know, I do, you know, would. I love this idea of, you know, what's asking to be held rather than healed. Because, you know, that was the thing which he realized in the conversation with someone who was saying, you know, why I've been doing all these practices for the last 20 years, you know, following a spiritual path.

[00:24:06] You know, I had a very traumatic childhood. Why aren't I better yet? Why am I still getting upset? You know, she's the, the person is like getting upset, even just talking about this, and he just has this realization that, you know, these parts of ourselves. Are like children, hurt children and actually they don't need, these things don't need to be healed.

[00:24:27] They actually just need to be welcomed in and just held. And by being held by, you know that thing of being in the bottom of that pit, actually just sitting with these things sometimes, because again, there can be an unconscious violence against these aspects of our. If we feel that, oh, you are, yeah, you are not right as you are, you, you need to be different for me to accept you.

[00:24:52] You know, we would feel incredibly hurt if someone explicitly or implicitly, uh, implied that to us, and yet we do that to our parts of ourselves as well. You know, and we, one of the things which, you know, I'm really mindful of. None of us asked to be here having these lives. You know, this is something that, again, you know, Paul Gilbert talks about in the beginning of his book, he spends a lot of time talking about how we have, you know, evolved.

[00:25:25] A brain that is, has, has been. It's built on old programming. I, I remember complaining to a friend, um, using a, the, the, the software that my university use uses for teaching. And I said, it's like, it's based on Windows 3.1, you know, the way. And he said, and my friend who was actually doing a master's in.

[00:25:48] Understanding these, these, these softwares. But yeah, essentially it is, each time they update it, they just build on the old stuff. And so you get all this weird legacy shit rather than starting it all afresh. And it's the same with our brains. You know, we've got, we've got. Was it 3.1 95? You know, at Vista, you know, we've got all kinds of, like, there's, if, if, if you press the wrong button in the wrong way, you get a C prompt unexpectedly.

[00:26:16] I mean, this is our brains, you know, we have these old brains, which are, you know, . I think Rich Hall puts it, you know, basic, you know, it's at this idea of can I fight it? Oh, can I fuck it? You know? Um, You know, and to be fair, there's a lot of school ball comedies from the forties and onwards, which is like people who are fighting and then realizing actually there's an attraction there.

[00:26:41] So, you know, there's so, so it plays out, um, plus this modern, this newer mind, this newer brain, which is brilliant at imagining things and you know, of, of inventing and being creative. And it's connected to a brain which has, you know, all, all these old primal desires, fears, and, and, and aggressions. And so it just ends up being amplified and, you know, it's part of, part of compassion for ourselves and others, I think is just recognizing that

[00:27:19] we all have this old brain and this new brain, this, this old mind and this new mind we all have the part of us, which is an animal, which is concerned with safety and scarcity, and are you a friend or foe? Are you a potential mate? You know, why have they got more than I have? et cetera, et cetera, connected to this phenomenal capacity for imagination, for self-reflection, for self-awareness, for awareness of others to, to ruminate, to replay. You know, it's, it's the, the tool itself isn't problematic. You know, it's, it's a phenomenal capacity and it's connected to something which churns out stuff, which in the modern day and age we find problematic.

[00:28:14] Mark: Hmm.

[00:28:15] Anya: You know, and we all have these impulses, you know, of wanting to check out when things get too tough. Cuz that's, that's the primal aspect of, you know, the reptilian aspect of playing dead. You know, we have this dissociation, the level of dissociation, which for some of us is complete, but some of us is just a little dimmer switch and we just wanna just dial down our experience of being alive just a little bit.

[00:28:40] Then we all have this, this much more energizing, but also much more life-threatening, you know, uh, fight or flight response, which is feels really great at times because it's really energizing, but it means that, you know, it's not something which is sustain. and then we have this, this drive capacity, you know, this, this, this, wanting and chasing.

[00:29:03] We get the dopamine hits and again, that feels good, but you know, if we, if in that, that, that stage too long, we burn out. And at the center of all this is our, no matter how much time you spend in these other places, these other territories, we all have within us an area. Of connection, of fe, of safeness, of feeling safe, of being warm and receptive and presence to others and content.

[00:29:39] Being content, and just knowing that for all of us, we're bouncing in and outta these different places, you know? Throughout the day, and some of us, you know, have set up house in some of these, you know, more outer lying areas, , shall we say, you know, and, and, and that's that, that, that is how we are, you know, we're designed, you know, we're this idea of, you know, we're all doing the best we can, giving the level of thinking that seems real to us.

[00:30:12] you know? And if our thinking is angry, if our thinking is sad, if our thinking is insecure and we think that's real, well of course we're gonna act in ways which, you know, on a good day and a good night, sleep in a full belly. We'll go, why did I act like that? Why did they act like that? And it's because, you know, we are complicated creature.

[00:30:37] With complex ever shifting systems and seasons within us, and all we can really do right now is just take a breath and recognize that, hey, you're not alone. This is being human folks.

[00:30:54] Mark: So you've, you've, you've, you've made, you've made the case for greater compassion. what can it, what can it unlock for us?

[00:31:04] Anya: there is so much that we can be avoiding in our lives. You know, um, I, I am a huge fan of acceptance and commitment training.

[00:31:17] Mark: Huh.

[00:31:17] Anya: I'm, I'm I, which, which is kinda like, I dunno, is it, is it fourth or fifth wave cognitive behavioral therapy Now? I dunno. It, it, it basically like, regular C B T says, okay, you know, is that true?

[00:31:28] And that just Connects into that, you know, the, the old brain and new brain kind of like fitting, cuz. Our old brain just feels that things are true. And then our new brain just comes up with a whole ton of reasons, you know, to to, to consolidate that belief. Um, but ACT says, does it help? You know, and it's really about experiential avoidance and actually, Being able to be tender with ourselves and compassionate and giving ourselves, you know, that friendly care, that that patience, that generosity, allows us to

[00:32:12] be more with the things that are painful. Rather than avoid them and let go of the things that we feel are protecting us from those experiences. And when I say those things, they could be thoughts, beliefs, memories, et cetera, et cetera. And I just think that the amount of energy that can be released that is normally expended when we are pushing some things away and gripping titling onto others, I think that's what it can unlock.

[00:32:42] And it's is different for different people. You know, I'm talking in particular about, you know, self-compassion, but I know for myself some of the biggest changes, biggest shifts, um, have come from when I have stopped pushing away my experience of someone and stopped letting and stopped holding onto what I wanted from them.

[00:33:08] um, you know, to be really personal, this was what happened with my mom. Um, she was, she did her best. And, um, I had what I describe as a counter building upbringing. Um, and, you know, there was a period when we were estranged, when I was very conscious that she wasn't the person, she wasn't the mother who I, who I wanted Essent.

[00:33:35] and being able to be compassionate to myself for, for that, for that need and, and to her, for her experience and her upbringing, allowed me to stop avoiding who she was at that time and actually fall in love with her with that, and it meant that I was able to release my grip. I will always wish that my childhood had been d.

[00:34:01] I think, you know, I have a number of adverse in the adverse Childhood experiences score. I. I think four or five out of 10. And I think four and above is associated with, with, with ill health consequences, mental health consequences. And I've been disabled by chronic illness for the last 16 years. Who knows what would've, who knows how differently I would've turned out, had the roots my formative years started in, been, been nourished and nurtured in a different way.

[00:34:31] However, being able to accept who she was through Compass. To patience and generosity and friendly care. I was able to have a relationship with her in the last few years of her life, which was beautiful in and of itself. And I think it's that kind of unlocking both for ourselves of just loosening the knots of shame that we have for aspects of ourselves we don't feel are accepted by others, and also the compassion for others.

[00:35:04] That means that we can. Start anew with a fresh, with a, with a friendship, with a relationship, with a, with a, with a connection, and meet them as if we are meeting them for the first time, rather than bringing the emotional baggage and emotional resentment that, um, is inevitably collected as we, as we go through being human.

[00:35:26] Mark: Gosh. Well, as, as we, uh, as, as, as we bring this home, um, what can we, uh, what can we offer our, our listener to, um, perhaps help as, as, as the, as the. Uh, vernacular would have it. And I understand now to close this container.

[00:35:48] Anya: Ooh,

[00:35:48] Mark: word that we use now, apparently, which makes me think of Tupperware, but apparently we call things containers now.

[00:35:57] Anya: I, I, I, I, I just have to have a, a moment of like humble bag, like, so someone came and stayed at me recently and one of the things that they rhapsodies over the most was the fact they opened one of my kitchen drawers and all my Tupperware was like neatly. Like stacked and the lids all together and everything like size wise, insert, uh, it's just apparently it's a thing of beauty. I, I will send you a photo later.

[00:36:18] Mark: it is. It is also correct

[00:36:21] Anya: Yeah. But yeah, to, to close this topware in a loving and kind way. I would love to just guide everyone. I would love to guide you in a brief, loving kindness meditation. Um, So, yeah, if you are listening right now, I just love you too. And if it's safe to do so, you know, perhaps close your eyes. Just allow yourself to settle and call to mind someone right now who is easy, easy to love, someone you know has your best interest at heart.

[00:36:58] They're, they're human too. When they have struggles, they also have this complicated relationship in their minds and their bodies, and just wishing them some well wishes right now, may you be safe, may you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free of suffering. And now we're just going. Expand this little circle of compassion just a little bit more so you can step in beside them because you are also doing your best, the best that you can.

[00:37:38] And you too deserve love and compassion. And as Jack Cornfield says, if your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. And so I would love to invite you to send these kind wishes to yourself. May I be safe? May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free of suffering? And now, because compassion, it's an infinite resource, I'm gonna invite us to just spread this circle wider, wider, and wider, encompassing people that we, we may not know well.

[00:38:22] People that we're neutral about complete strangers until it encompasses the whole world. All the beings, all the creatures, every stone, every blade of grass, every atom.

[00:38:39] And we're gonna send compassionate well wishes to everyone, to everything on this planet. May we be safe? May we be happy, may we be healthy, and may we be free of suffering. And that is our wish when you send it with love to everyone and everything in the world.

[00:39:09] Mark: The A to Z of Happiness is presented by Anya Pearse and me, Mark Steadman. It's produced by Origin and you can find us at atozofhappiness.com, where you'll also find links to the things we discussed. If you know someone who could benefit from hearing this episode, please share it with them, whichever way is easiest for you. Take care and do join us again next week on the A to Z of Happiness.

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Creators and Guests

Anya Pearse
Anya Pearse
Intuitive adviser, facilitator, and positive psychology practitioner.
Mark Steadman
Mark Steadman
Coach helping digital creatives with big feelings


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