Five steps to increase self-compassion, improving self-talk and healing trauma

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Dr. Skinner with you. I am excited to be able to spend this time with you today. We’re going to be talking about self-compassion, as a part of the healing process and it’s , uh, always good to be with you. 

I want to start off with why self-compassion is so, so critical and we’re gonna talk about some of the barriers. 

All right, here we go. Can you guys see my screen now? And if you can please put your thumb up. Okay. So I want to talk a little bit about , um, how to incorporate self compassion into your healing. And, my primary focus is, is there’s three parts. I’m going to talk about the barriers to self-compassion and then I’m gonna talk about why self compassion is critical to your healing. And then I’m gonna close off by talking about five strategies to increase your self-compassion. 

So, One of the things that I’d like to share, it’s something that came from my research, and , uh, as I’ve been doing research on, on the healing and the recovery process, one of the things that has consistently come up is what we call a criteria D of posttraumatic stress, so, uh, PTSD symptoms. A threat to life is, is, is criteria A. Reliving it is criteria B the reliving the event or the events and your mind replays them. So triggers would be there. Criteria C is avoidance. Avoiding people, places or situations that remind you of, of what the, what happened. And then criteria D is what we call a negative mood and cognitions.

And the more I began looking at criteria D the more I began to see, I started seeing look, there is a lot of individuals who are feeling overwhelmed by their negative self-talk. And now many people say, I know it, wasn’t my fault, what my partner did. And yet, what my research is showing is it is actually way more than people realize.

So, I’m going to share some of that. And, , uh, let me just start off by talking about this. That is a core barrier. And the reason why I call it as a core barrier to developing self-compassion is because when you’re stuck in the shame of feeling inadequate, feeling unloved, it’s harder to have self-compassion because those are not compatible. And yet, if we don’t have self-compassion, it’s my belief that we’re much less likely to heal. And so I want to talk about this concept of the shame of betrayal. And we typically think about shame in the betraying partner, but not as much in the betrayed partner. And yet in my research, the more I started gathering research data on criteria D, which is negative mood and cognition, I started seeing shame played over and over and over again in the betrayed partner.

The Research

And so I wanted to talk a little bit about that because , uh, in my research, and I’ll show you some of the research, , uh, this is just one of those examples, uh, how often do you feel like your partner acts out because you’re not good enough? Now you can see never, never is a little over 10%, which would mean over 85%.

Of individuals some times about half the time, more often than not, or always are feeling like they’re not good enough. And, and, And, think about it in this context. Well Over what would be 30% said. I feel like I’m not good enough, but because of my partner’s behavior. And so you begin to see this internalize, I’m not good enough.

Well, As the more I, I saw that in the research, I began to realize we have to start addressing this in the healing process to help our clients get through the betrayal trauma. Because once you have a belief, I’m not good enough, how does that influence how you interact with other people? Maybe even in your own parenting or maybe at work? If you begin to question, I’m not good enough, am I good enough for anybody? And that’s one of the things that I saw, and, and, and looking at the research, it was starting to manifest itself quite frequently. So the next one is, is I often hear people will say , well, it’s not my fault. I, it’s not my fault what they did.

And yet, my research would suggest that about 83 to 84% of individuals say sometimes or more, they think it’s their fault. If I would have done XYZ, or if I would’ve been more of this, more attentive, more caring, more, da, da,  then this wouldn’t have happened. And so you begin to see, even this internalization is it’s my fault. I did something, whatever it is, and that’s why they acted out. 

Now that internalization, right? I’m not good enough, it’s my fault. You can start to see the shame of there is something wrong with me. I’m not enough, I’m not lovable. And, And again, those types of statements are exactly the opposite of what we’re looking for with self-compassion.

So, the antidote that I’m gonna be talking about is going to be self compassion, but we need to understand how pervasive these negative core beliefs actually are. So I’m going to share with you a couple of other findings that I have. Um, how often do you feel ashamed because of your partner’s sexual behaviors and, and here over 50% said they always feel ashamed because of what their partner did. Uh, So, other people are going to be looking at me. I wasn’t enough to keep my partner, whatever it is. And so you begin to see how pervasive this really is. 

All right. So I’m hoping that this will pull up and then we’ll be able to see it this way a little bit, maybe a little bit bigger. All right. So then we go to the next question, and this is a fundamental question. I feel stupid for not discovering , um, my partner’s behaviors earlier than I did. And you can see 60%. How did I miss it? Right. But when you say never, you can see less than 5% haven’t ever felt that way. But sometimes all the way up to always, well over 95% somehow feels stupid. I didn’t figure it out. 

Now. These are over a thousand people, thousands of people who’ve answered these questions and are answering this way. So this is a big sample and you can see, I feel stupid. I feel like I’m not good enough. I feel ashamed by my partner’s behaviors and you can start to see the shame and these negative beliefs settling.

And that in my opinion is where the trauma gets trapped because it’s, I’m not enough and there’s nothing I can do. Right. I feel stupid. I’m not enough. And that’s where the trauma gets trapped in these beliefs of not being enough, not being lovable, feeling stupid. 

And then I had one other , um, since discovering your partner’s behaviors, how often do you feel unlovable?

And , uh, and, and again, this is just to me, this is significant, always 30%, more often than not the 27, 28%. Right. And you start to see these and we’re again, over 90%, over 90%, I feel unlovable sometimes they’re more. I’m not lovable. And to me, that’s the damage of betrayal trauma, is these beliefs that begin to settle into what I would refer to as a virus being downloaded into the system. I’m not enough, I’m not lovable. And that to me is the virus that we need to treat in order for us to transition into a healing place. 

Why Self Compassion is So Critical-the Antidote

So I want to talk about why it’s so critical and why self-compassion is so critical to your healing, because if we don’t have self-compassion, then we’re going to be stuck in that shame that we just talked about. And that’s, I mean, based upon my research, we have to find the antidote to those negative core beliefs. And I believe that the answer comes in self-compassion and if we define self-compassion, obviously self is with me, the calm is with, so, with self. Compassion, the passion is actually suffering. So if we look and break down the word compassionate means with suffering. So I’m with my own suffering. And I believe that that is a critical part of the healing process. 

There’s a quote here by Christopher Germer. Uh, He said 

“first, we need to recognize that we deserve to feel better when we feel really bad most of us engage in self punishment rather than self compassion. We heap self criticism. This wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t so stupid.”

Upon ourselves. And so Christopher Germer saying here, what happens if instead of self punishment, I’m stupid. I’m not enough. I’m unlovable that in that self-criticism. What if it was self compassion? So, what we really need to engage in is this self-compassion. And self-compassion then as long as, our, your mind is being self critical. It can’t show loving kindness towards itself. It’s hard to heal when you’re on your own you’re your own worst critic. Right. It’s hard to heal when you are your own worst critic, because you don’t need other people. You don’t need your betraying partner. You don’t need them. You’re doing it all by yourself, once you’ve inherited that core belief. So healing then, in my belief, healing comes when we develop this self compassion and we, so to speak, take out that virus. I’m not enough, I’m not lovable. I’m stupid. And we apply self compassion. 

Healing occurs when you know you are enough, when you know that you matter, and that you are lovable. 

That’s the part where you begin to accelerate into your healing, which is why we practice loving kindness, meditation, which is why we approach the healing from this channel is not just removing the negative core beliefs of not being enough, but it’s implementing self compassion. That then accelerates the healing process. I am enough. I do matter. And I am loveable. 

Five Strategies to Increase Self-Compassion

All right. So I want to talk about five strategies , uh, to help you increase your self-compassion. And I’ll go through each of these strategies for a couple of minutes. Um, but first of all, I want to say that if you will practice these strategies, you will begin to develop more compassion for self and, and , uh, Christopher Neff, in her book self-compassion, she talks about how as we have self-compassion we’re more likely to have compassion for others. 

And so here are five strategies that you can implement to help you increase your self compassion. First of all, you need to pay attention to your self-talk. Um, I gave you some examples from my research , uh, stupid, unlovable, ashamed, right. not good enough. 

So, we want to pay attention to how often those thoughts are coming into our mental pathways or a mental path. How often am I seeing, or hearing or feeling I’m not enough, I’m unlovable, I don’t matter? How often are they coming in? Because if you can pay attention to your self-talk, ,you’re going to begin this process of increased awareness. And right now in the first step, I just want you to increase your awareness. How often am I being critical? Then, what we want to do is we want to listen to what your body is feeling or the body sensations when you are being that kind of negative. 

What does it feel like thinking to yourself you’re stupid or feeling unlovable? What does your body feel in that mindset? Now again, one of the core things that we do know is that trauma is trapped in the body. The body, as Bessel van der Kolk said, is the body keeps the score. It stores inside of it, the trapped trauma, and so learning to listen to the way that it influences your body is a really important part of the healing process.

The body. The body is what teaches you where the trauma is. It might be in your neck, it might be in your stomach, it might be again, wherever it is. We know that the body keeps that trauma stored inside of us. So if I asked you, where does those, where do those negative thoughts or emotions,. Where are they stored? How it’s in my stomach or it’s in my throat or my chest. It’s up here in my prefrontal cortex, my head. 

Right? And so we want to identify that. Now that by itself is, is an awareness. And then we can practice things through step number three, which is a mindful awareness. It’s it’s literally just being mindful of.

Oh, I see that. I’m feeling that in my chest, I’m feeling that tightness that tension. Oh, I’m feeling it in my, in my throat or my head and now I’m just a tuning to it. And I might practice a breathing exercise , uh, even a compassionate or loving kindness meditation for self may I find peace. May I find healing. May I find my call. And so you can actually practice a loving kindness meditation. 

If you want some examples of that. Uh, Tara Brach B R A C H. She has a wonderful website with many resources on mindfulness and loving kindness meditations. 

So the mindful awareness is bringing it into your awareness, right? So we’re paying attention to our self-talk, we’re identifying it in our body. We’re being mindful and gathering this awareness of where we feel it, what’s happening to our body, and then we’re going to practice a loving kindness meditation. And, we’re going to do that because we’re intentionally trying to over ride or overwrite the negative core beliefs, unlovable, stupid. 

Now many times that’s a starting point. But in my professional experience, we need to take it a step further. And I wanted to now talk about step number five, which is processing the negative self-talk. 

If we’re going to heal from trauma, we have to practice changing the traumatic memories or experiences in a way that we can reprocess them completely in a different way. Let me give you an example. 

So when I was younger , um, and I, and I wrote about this to my book, I shared it in my Ted talk , uh, the other side of infidelity. But I shared a story where my , uh, parents , uh, met in an intersection. I was in the back of my mom’s car, my older brother in the front seat, my dad and another woman we’re in his truck and we came to a four way stop. And my parents , uh, my mom saw that my dad was with another woman. My mom and dad got out of the car in the intersection and talked for a little bit. Now, you can do that where I grew up in Southeastern Idaho, because it’s not a very busy street. 

They got out of the car and , uh, my mom came back to crying. Instead of finishing our trip into town that day, um, my mom drove us to my Grandma and Grandpa Skinners. We didn’t talk about that experience for 35 years. Now, that little boy in me had that specific memory related to my parents’ divorce. And when I was doing some, , uh, I was being trained to do become a certified sex addiction therapist, and then being trained to do EMDR eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing. I chose to do that specific memory when I was being trained to do EMDR. What occurred is that little boy got out of the car, in as while I was doing the eye movement, and processed that specific memory, which was that mom and dad getting out of the car, mom crying. The belief was I’m not important, I don’t matter. And, when the little boy got out of the car, he literally , I, I, and I, when you do something like EMDR, you’re processing , what, what, in your mind, what could, would have happened if you could have had a voice and that little boy that day got out of the car, I don’t know how, because it was a two-door car, but he did get out. He went to the middle of that intersection, turned to his dad and it was extremely angry. Extremely angry, yelling at his dad. What are you doing? You are destroying my family! Now that boy didn’t have that opportunity at age seven or eight to do that. But 35 years, years later in my forties, I did have that experience, here. I reprocessed that experience, that specific belief being not important, not mattering, because if I mattered, my dad would not do what he’s doing. And, that processing reprocessing took away the disturbance, took away the painful memory, he, that little boy had the voice. He was given the voice in that experience of what he needed to do. And that situation, it was an anger, a deeper anger than I’d ever felt. I mean, Literally I was enraged. But after a few more bilateral stimulations, that belief I didn’t matter I saw my grandparents. My grandma making me clothes, sewing me clothes. I saw the love of my aunts and uncles. My mom, I saw my dad at my baseball games. I saw my dad doing other things and I realized I do matter. And I am important. 

Now that’s my personal story with processing negative self-talk I didn’t matter. But that was a buried memory that came up from my childhood when I was doing some of my own work. Now, that then shifts what happens when I recognize I am important. I am enough. I do matter. I am lovable. Then those loving kindness meditations have more power. 

I know the truth. 

The mindfulness has more meaning because I’m able to sit there and be with my self in that experience, realizing that negative belief, that’s just not true. And I knew it wasn’t true. I had reprocessed it so what was once a disturbing memory? No longer has power. It’s not as disturbing. In fact, it went from a six of disturbance to that little boy being able to speak his truth. To the point where, in terms of levels of disturbance, I can honestly say it’s a zero. I no longer feel disturbed by that specific memory.

Subsequently, my father apologized to my mother. He apologized to me. He apologized to my siblings. That for me, was another step in the healing process. 

So as we talk about self-compassion, it’s easier to have self-compassion when I work through my negative core beliefs. So, if we are going to help you heal and help you develop, a literally a self compassion, we need to recognize that there may be experiences that we need to process through.

We are, We are stuck. For me, it was that little boy in that painful memory. Being able to reprocess it with a traumatic , uh, intervention or an intervention that helps us deal with traumas. 

Now that’s just my personal experience. Some of you may have already had an experience with EMDR, but that’s the concept that I applied to with the trauma memories with my clients.

Now let me say something before I go on here. That’s just one approach. It’s one that I found to be effective. I also have found that bringing key figures into those difficult memories, maybe it was a loving grandparent, maybe it was a loving friend who helps in those difficult memories, I have found that that is also effective as you apply these principles as you practice.

What begins to happen as you feel more confident, you feel more self belief? I am lovable and I am enough. 

All right. I want to , uh, just say thank you for , uh, spending this time with me. On These are some of the core strategies that I would talk or share with you today. Uh, it looks like there’s some questions in the chat.

Uh, It looks like we’ve got some links there. Great, great, great. Okay. Uh, any final questions? Uh, Angie, you have a question? Yeah. Um, on average, do you happen to know how much EMDR sessions , um, seem to start helping the betrayed partner start healing? 

Yeah, I think it depends on a couple of variables. I think one of them actually has to do with the betraying spouse and whether we’re working on this relationship, if we’re not working on the relationship, I think it may actually, it can be accelerated because the core belief is what we’re still after. But if I’m still in the relationship say, my partner is still acting out and not taking accountability, then I may not be able to work through that, that specific memory or experience, but I may need to bring in a loving figure. Uh, a parent or grandparent, somebody who is nurturing to me into that memory to help me reprocess what I came to believe about myself. And I’ve done that with clients whose spouse can’t be there, but say a grandparent, a nurturing person can be there. And I found that that can be effective within one or two or even three EMDR sessions. 

Thank you. 

Any other questions? Thanks for asking your question by the way. Thanks for being with us.

All right, everybody. Thank you so much for spending this time with us today. It’s always good to be with you. May you guys be blessed and I appreciate you taking time to be with us.

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