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Mindful Self-Compassion...sort of

Hello all. Late Friday afternoon I went to a 'Mindfulness and Self-Compassion' group therapy type event held at my therapists offices but held by a different therapist. The center specializes in trauma, especially severe trauma. I looked forward to going, despite failing sandbox as a child (re: doesn't work well with others), but it quickly became frustrating. Nevertheless, I came away with some good questions that I'm trying to sort through now and would be grateful for help.

At the end of the therapists definitions, explanations and exercises, she asked us four questions. They were, from recollection, we did not get a written copy:

  1. What would you say to a friend or a loved one that was going through a hard time?
  2. How do you talk to yourself when you are going through a hard time?
  3. Do you talk to yourself the same way that you talk to friends and loved ones?
  4. What would your life look like if you talked to yourself the same way that you talked to a loved one?

First of all, as short as the questions were, I can't follow a sentence the first time through. I've known that about myself for quite some time. If the cooking directions on the package of whatever it is that I'm cooking has three steps, I'll refer to the directions about eight times. Some here have suggested that I may have Aspergers – don't know if my problem with directions are related but it may be. One thing that I've noticed is that if I know in advance how many words, sentences, or seconds the direction is going to be – I will have it memorized regardless of how long it is. Without that information before hand, I'm lost.

This might be too much information but since I find it fascinating, I'll give another example: To get to my house, go down Maple Street for a half mile, turn left on Main Street and I'm the third house on the left is simple, but it seems that I'm always prepared for ninety-nine steps. Discovering that the directions are over after 'third house on the left' - I'm lost. Tell me in advance that there are twenty-seven turns and I'll be able to recite them back to you verbatim. Give me two steps without an advance directive and I can't do it. (So, Mrs. Yagr gave me the questions for this post).

So first problem I had was, I couldn't remember the question to be able to write my answer. Second problem I had was more challenging. We were given a minute to write our answer down. Thirty seconds were spent trying to reconstruct the question to the best of my ability, second thirty seconds were spent trying to contemplate the question because really, often the way I would answer such questions is in accordance with my values and beliefs rather than a reflection of the reality of the situation. What is the value in spontaneous responses without being given time to contemplate? ← real question, would love speculation.

As for question one, I did discover something about myself that I suspect was unintended. My answer was, “It depends what tone of voice and mannerisms I think will communicate most effectively and be most helpful.” At times I will speak softly and gently; at other times I may raise my voice. There is very little spontaneous about my reactions. For example, my then three year old daughter was playing in the yard one afternoon and the ball she was playing with rolled between two parked cars and into the street where a car was coming. She ran after it. Obviously, as she was three years old, she was pretty close to the street already for her three year old foot to be able to kick it into the street – she was not a fledgling football player, so I had very little time to react.

Once I got her safely back in the yard I raised my voice at her. I rarely did so, but I wanted to impress upon her the seriousness of running into the street and so I reacted in a way that I knew would be memorable to her by raising my voice. To be sure, I had been scared, but it was not fear that caused me to raise my voice – it was a choice. I do the same thing with loved ones even now. How I react, particularly with a show of emotion, is almost always a choice. Interesting stuff – probably an aspect of hyper-vigilance but I'll think more on it.

Next, how do I talk to myself. I tend to dismiss any and all emotions and make a decision based on what I think will yield the desired results. The third question was, to me, very clearly 'no', which brought me to the fourth question: What would my life look like if I spoke to myself the same way I speak to loved ones? Well, that doesn't work at all! My first thought was that it would be like throwing fertilizer on any self-loathing lingering around and probably kill myself within a week. Talking to myself in such a way as to get a positive result seems incredibly patronizing.

Which brought me to the question, am I patronizing my loved ones by modifying my response and reactions in order to be heard and understood? What would an alternative look like? As for 'right speech', many of the ways in which I could communicate with them instantly becomes undesired (by them) if I match my words to my interpretation of their experience. I mean, we probably all have a friend or loved one who has, at one time or another, succumbed to self-pity. While we may have nothing but compassion for their situation, and even understand where this is coming from and think that we might fall into the same trap that they are currently in if we were going through the same thing – a swift kick in the backside might be what they need at that moment rather than commiseration. Don't know...rather confused. Looking for clarity on any of this. Incidentally, it took me all day to write this in between three naps so please be patient if you ask a question and I can't respond for a bit. I am very interested in responses but can't always do so in a timely manner. Thanks.

Comments

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 7

    Most of what you describe--choosing a response based on effectiveness & what you want to achieve--is the essence of "skillfull means" in Buddhism. Congratulations! You're well on your way as a practitioner.

    If you needed more time to answer the questions, did you ask the instructor if you could have a little extra time for each? It seems to me that if she knew she was dealing with a group of people who had a history of trauma, she should have known--or at least accommodated, when asked--that some people might need more time. 1 minute doesn't sound like much.

    In my observation, the problem with highly intelligent people who are required to take tests or do exercises designed for average people, is that their minds tend to think in nuances, so they sometimes become paralyzed, and are unable to do the simple task. Or conversely, if it's a puzzle-type of test, they'll do it in seconds while others struggle, and then the instructor wonders if they cheated, or had already been given that puzzle before. lol

    Don't worry, OP. You're doing fine. :) You just don't fit in a boring, normative box.

    yagrlobstersilverdhammachick
  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Dakini said:
    Most of what you describe--choosing a response based on effectiveness & what you want to achieve--is the essence of "skillfull means" in Buddhism. Congratulations! You're well on your way as a practitioner.

    Thanks for responding. I realize that I do things a bit differently than most people - in particular my mental processes are different. I referenced the Asperger possibility, which my wife and I both think is rather obvious to both of us, but I have not been diagnosed with, simply because I know I take rather unusual paths to answers and it can be difficult to determine what may be because of unusual ways of thinking - which it can be productive to find ways to compensate for, and what may be a more Buddhist way of thinking that I do NOT want to compensate for.

    As I wrote my original post, I found myself thinking of the parallels that I find within the recent 'racism' thread. Rather than spending a good deal of effort trying to act more 'white' to get along, I spend a good deal of time trying to act more 'normal' to get along. Immediately, for instance, I realize that so many possible responses to that (including some I might make myself to someone else) would be about forgetting trying to be 'normal' and just be yourself. I do get that - but it can be difficult to communicate with people without making adjustments. Too, there are times that it can be dangerous to be different.

    So, pretty much I was trying to differentiate between healthy but different ways of thinking based on my culture and philosophical differences and disordered thinking.

    If you needed more time to answer the questions, did you ask the instructor if you could have a little extra time for each? It seems to me that if she knew she was dealing with a group of people who had a history of trauma, she should have known--or at least accommodated, when asked--that some people might need more time. 1 minute doesn't sound like much.

    I did not ask for more time. First, we were running out of time. Second, I could see the goal she was trying to achieve and while it didn't serve me very well, it did serve the group. I believe that her giving only a minute to respond was to short-circuit the tendency that people have to find the 'right' answer. Kind of koan-like.

    In my observation, the problem with highly intelligent people who are required to take tests or do exercises designed for average people, is that their minds tend to think in nuances, so they sometimes become paralyzed, and are unable to do the simple task. Or conversely, if it's a puzzle-type of test, they'll do it in seconds while others struggle, and then the instructor wonders if they cheated, or had already been given that puzzle before. lol

    A funny example came to mind immediately when I read this. I was in grade school and the teacher needed some time to grade a spelling test so she gave us a 'keep busy' task. Add up all the numbers between one and a hundred. She looked up a moment after she gave us the task and noticed that I wasn't scribbling away furiously like the rest of my class. "Get busy yagr," she said. "I'm done," I replied. She got up, walked over and looked at my paper where I had written the answer down without showing any work. "You've done this before," she stated matter-of-factly. "No." She then said the words that started the problem, "Don't lie to me!"

    My father was a stickler for honesty and would defend me to the hilt, often more than I wanted him to, if he knew I was telling the truth. The only time I had permission to talk back to an adult was if they accused me of lying and I had told the truth. Then he expected me to. He got called to the school after my disrespectful response to the teacher. So there I was in the principal's office with the teacher, dad, and the principal. The principal asked me if I could add up one to a thousand as easily. "50,500," I said after a moment's thought.

    I just added (1+99) + (2+98) +...(48+52) + (49+51) = 4900 + 100 + 50 = 5050. One to a thousand is pretty much the same thing. Anyway, out of trouble and an apology from the teacher at dad's insistence. Cute memory I haven't thought about for some time - thanks for prompting it - and responding. :)

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I think I could write an entire page on each question! For me, not so much about getting to the right answer but in trying to adequately explain my POV because there is little I hate more than being misunderstood. Thus why my posts are always so long!

    I find it a complex issue. It's easy for most people to say "Just be yourself" and I give the same advice to myself and others. But in reality, even those closest to us aren't always comfortable with that. I can read people pretty well, especially those I know, and as a result I can usually tell what answers they are looking for. They almost always want validation and/or commiseration. They might ask a question like "I don't understand what is wrong with me!" and while tempted to answer I realize of course that isn't what they really want to hear, and instead are looking for a hug and a pat and someone to tell them "Nothing is wrong with you!' even though something may very well be. It's hard to be in that position because most people really don't want to hear the truth even though they appear to be asking. So I find handling people and their emotions difficult because of that and often do feel like I am patronizing them as a result. But that seems to be what they want.

    I have learned over the years to be kinder to myself about how I feel. I was forever told growing up that I was wrong, and it lead to a lot of problems developing who I really was because I then spent all my growing up years looking for the right way, which in my family included not being too sensitive, not expressing feelings when they made someone else uncomfortable and so on. So I still deal with figuring out that aspect and allowing it to come out. I have gotten better, but it hasn't come easy.

    My oldest son has Asperger's and while I can pinpoint anything you said compared to him, the overall feel of your post reminds me a lot of him, so that could be in play for you as well. the way he follows directions especially. He understands incredibly complex math and physics problems, skipping steps but able to see the answer in his mind all the same. But he cannot follow a 5 step mac cheese recipe I sent him because it is not as structured. It is a challenge, for sure, but I have learned a lot by learning how to attempt to see things from his point of view.

    yagr
  • yagryagr Veteran

    @karasti said:
    But he cannot follow a 5 step mac cheese recipe I sent him because it is not as structured. It is a challenge, for sure, but I have learned a lot by learning how to attempt to see things from his point of view.

    Ironically, it was a macaroni and cheese recipe that I thought of when I gave that cooking example. I can make it easily if I just decide to make it without looking at the directions, but if I try to follow the directions...it is incredibly frustrating. Thank you so much for weighing in on this thread karasti; I always appreciate your feedback.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 7

    @yagr said:

    I just added (1+99) + (2+98) +...(48+52) + (49+51) = 4900 + 100 + 50 = 5050. One to a thousand is pretty much the same thing. Anyway, out of trouble and an apology from the teacher at dad's insistence. Cute memory I haven't thought about for some time - thanks for prompting it - and responding. :)

    :surprised:

    Never mind. I'm not a math person. :surprised: :eh:

    The math example aside (way over my head!), it sounds like you have a different cognitive style than the average person, though not that unusual. There are two basic cognitive styles, I was told once: the linear logic style, and a branching style, where a person can think of multiple possibilities branching out from one fact or question. The branching style is probably a hallmark of highly creative people, but it can get in the way of simple problem-solving tasks, especially in an exam setting, where there's a limited time frame. It can really trip people up who are taking simple tests for psychological or aptitude evaluation (I've experienced this a lot), because they're not able to take an exam question at face value; they attach contingencies to it, imagining different scenarios in which a simple question could not apply, or could have a dozen outcomes.

    It's not "bad" or "wrong", though; it's just different, and can be highly productive in certain contexts.

    P.S. Have you ever tried counting cards at a casino card game, to win big cash? :lol:

    yagr
  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Dakini said:

    P.S. Have you ever tried counting cards at a casino card game, to win big cash? :lol:

    I was one of the last people who got blacklisted from blackjack in Vegas back in the day. These days they 'flat-bet' you, which means that you can continue to play but must choose a single denomination to wager and can't vary your bet. From there I moved to poker and played professionally for twenty-four years. My black-listing happened after a particularly good session - began with $1000, got thrown out four hours later and went and bought a new corvette with the winnings. :) Seemed like a good idea at 23 years old.

    I figured out a way to beat Caribbean stud about ten years ago as well. The casino believed that they had a 2.55% edge, but I found a way to flip it to a very small (0.53%) player edge. I played full time for about nine months with gave me a $4.77 positive expectation at a $900 average bet. It wasn't much of an advantage at that much of a wager but at thirty hands per hour it yielded an $1145 expected profit over eight hours. It took them nine months but eventually all of the MGM properties (where I played) stopped spreading the game.

    That year, at the Sixth Annual International Gaming Convention, their contracted mathematicians explained how I was beating it. It's almost impossible to find a Caribbean Stud game anywhere in the United States any more.

    I went off on a tangent, didn't I? Ah well, such is my way. :)

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @yagr Next stop: Japan, Taiwan, Monte Carlo. :chuffed:

    dhammachickyagr
  • mosquitomosquito Explorer

    @yagr said:
    So there I was in the principal's office with the teacher, dad, and the principal. The principal asked me if I could add up one to a thousand as easily. "50,500," I said after a moment's thought. I just added (1+99) + (2+98) +...(48+52) + (49+51) = 4900 + 100 + 50 = 5050. One to a thousand is pretty much the same thing.

    That's brilliant! And do you know that there's at least one more guy who as a kid came up with the same idea? It's Carl Friedrich Gauss - https://nzmaths.co.nz/gauss-trick-staff-seminar - so you are in a good companion!

    And as to the original topic of the post - the question if you are patronizing your loved ones by modifying your response and reactions in order to be heard and understood. And what would be the alternative?

    It's a very general question, with the slippery potential of strenghtening the sense of self (which entails dukkha). What I consider more productive (and truly releasing) is just dealing with every case that's in front of you separately, without a strategy, but with others' best interest in view (and after that - letting go, just to be fully in the new moment).

    <3 , yagr.

    yagr
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran

    @yagr, I can relate. Being self-directed myself (as you evidently are too) I not only am not good at following certain directions, but also resent a lot of them. Do I really need to be told what to do and when to do it —as though I were some sort of small child?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Nirvana in my son's case (not speaking for @yagr) there are things he WANTS to do but cannot conceive of how to do them himself nor can he follow directions. His resentment is not the directions themselves but his inability to follow what most people deem as simple instructions for basic, easy life tasks (like following a recipe). Some things he needs no direction for, and then yes he gets frustrated at the suggestion he needs help or directions. But the most simple of things most people take for granted, he cannot follow and it greatly impacts his life in many ways.

  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran

    We all have limitations. Accepting them both in ourselves and in others is the essence of compassion, IMO.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Nirvana yes, I don't disagree. I was just explaining a difference I noted. But at the same time, learning how to work through or with limitations is important, too. Many things can be improved on and learned.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 11

    I think Sherman Alexie should base a character in one of his novels on @yagr. There's some great coyote material there, and lots of food for thought about Life. That is one movie I'd really enjoy seeing. :) :)

    Thanx for sharing your stories, OP.

    yagr
  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Dakini said:
    I think Sherman Alexie should base a character in one of his novels on @yagr. There's some great coyote material there, and lots of food for thought about Life. That is one movie I'd really enjoy seeing. :) :)

    Thanx for sharing your stories, OP.

    Ironically, Sherman Alexie is my wife's cousin.

  • yagryagr Veteran
    edited May 11

    @karasti said:
    @Nirvana in my son's case (not speaking for @yagr) there are things he WANTS to do but cannot conceive of how to do them himself nor can he follow directions. His resentment is not the directions themselves but his inability to follow what most people deem as simple instructions for basic, easy life tasks (like following a recipe). Some things he needs no direction for, and then yes he gets frustrated at the suggestion he needs help or directions. But the most simple of things most people take for granted, he cannot follow and it greatly impacts his life in many ways.

    Pretty spot on @karasti. Perhaps it is splitting hairs - I think it might be for most folks but doesn't seem inconsequential to me - but I think what I struggle with the most, in terms of resentment, is ... well let's forget being gentle with others here and I'll be blunt for clarity's sake:

    Struggling with instructions, for instance, is frustrating because I find the instructions ambiguous - or even flat out wrong, the way it reads. That itself is not the point of resentment. Explain how I find it illogical or paradoxical to either the person who wrote the instructions themselves or someone who has just followed the instructions as they were intended - that person acknowledges the inconsistency in the directions, acknowledges that it actually does mean exactly what I read...and STILL can't figure out how I read it that way - or why I can't just understand it like everyone else.

    I resent being deemed 'The Problem' when it comes to comprehension of a poorly worded and inaccurate question or set of instructions. I resent having to be constantly vigilant in order to understand and be understood. And, like your son perhaps (you used the word frustrated rather than resentment so I'm guessing) I resent people treating me like I would treat them if I thought they were a dullard by offering help or directions on simple things (you know, like quantum physics or something ;) )

    I'm reminded of the 'racism' thread, where the concept of black folks exerting quite a lot of effort in order to act more white in order to get along. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to act more 'normal' in my thinking in order to just get along. For someone struggling to be authentic with others, having to act in order to get along in the world does real damage.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @yagr Yes, I understand exactly what you are saying (as well as I can anyhow, lol). My son has to do the same. What most people learn just by being part of the world, he has to observe, "take notes" an often practice before it resembles something remotely natural to the rest of the world. He does a pretty good job being himself and just shrugging when the world doesn't accept him that way. He finds his niches for friends and interests and does pretty well. But interacting with the larger world is hard. He puts out that he has a pretty thick skin, but I absolutely believe what you said that it is damaging to a person to have to shift and change constantly to meet the demands of a world they don't even really understand. His dad was like that as well. It wasn't a case of a lack of intelligence for understanding, but perhaps a case of a very high level of intelligence causing a shift in a world view. It made it very hard for him to live in this world, and I have no doubt that was a major player in his drug and alcohol abuse and eventual death. He simply saw much more of the world than most people, and I don't think that is an easy thing to deal with.

    yagr
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    C'Mon let's go eat Grandma!

    C'mon, let's go eat, Grandma!

    A Woman without her man is nothing.

    A Woman: without her, Man is nothing.

    A Woman without her Man, is nothing.

    yagr
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 12

    @yagr said:

    @Dakini said:
    I think Sherman Alexie should base a character in one of his novels on @yagr. There's some great coyote material there, and lots of food for thought about Life. That is one movie I'd really enjoy seeing. :) :)

    Thanx for sharing your stories, OP.

    Ironically, Sherman Alexie is my wife's cousin.

    Then he's missed some good material, right under his nose. Let us know when the movie comes out. ;) You've already got a fan base.

    yagr
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