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  • Writer's pictureThalien Colenbrander

SELF-COMPASSION - debunking common misconceptions

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

Until a few years ago, the term self-compassion gave me a queasy feeling. I associated it with meekness, self-indulgence, over emotionality, complacency, ignorance, and the nastiest of all: self-pity. IEEEWW. Basically letting myself off the hook when really I needed to 'wake up and smell the coffee'! I’ve always loved that expression ☕😆

But after my eating disorder relapse a few years ago, I knew I needed the support of a spiritual-oriented addiction recovery community to get out of the hole I had dug myself into. I had drifted away from my Overeaters Anonymous 12-steps group many years prior and intuitively, I knew there was a better fit for me out there this time around. Recovery Dharma turned out to be it: a peer-led and non-theistic approach to recovery based on Buddhist principles. Not that I knew much about Buddhism, but what I knew intrigued me, and frankly I was quite desperate for a solution. So I jumped right in and - over time - found relief.


Conceptually, the notion of impermanence and the understanding that life ultimately is unsatisfactory and impersonal brought tremendous relief. It meant I could end the exhausting effort to insist that life should be any different from what it was, at that moment. There’s so much space and lightness in that admission. Writing this, and re-realising this lived truth, I sigh again with relief.


Spiritually, the focus on compassion and self-compassion in particular, pointed to a journey that didn’t really appeal to me: The journey from the head to the heart. Ugh. Really, what would I do? Take selfies on the barren land-mined terrain? 💣 If there’s one thing that addiction strips you of is, it’s self-trust. And anyone who’s been on a journey of any sort, knows you need to at least be able to trust the primary vehicle you find yourself in: your mind. Well, most days mine seemed like a bad neighbourhood at it’s worst and a chihuahua circus at its best.


Nevertheless, I did the Recovery Dharma compassion a.k.a. ‘metta’ meditations. And I found myself tolerating them. Appreciating them. Adoring them. These days, my head and heart and the places in-between and beyond are pretty chill hangout spots. And I am currently working through Kristin Neff’s research-driven Self-compassion Workbook together with some of my Dharma Recovery buddies.


When we explore the attributes that are at play in self-compassion, we find both the feminine and the masculine—just as all people embody both feminine and masculine qualities. In traditional Chinese philosophy, this duality is represented by yin and yang. Sometimes self-compassionate care takes the form of solace and a soft leaning in to difficult emotions (comforting), sometimes it involves a stern “no!” and turning away from danger (protecting). Sometimes it involves letting our bodies know everything is okay with warmth and tenderness (soothing), and sometimes it means figuring out what we need and giving it to ourselves (providing). Sometimes self-compassion requires being accepting and open to what is (validating), and sometimes it means we need to jump up and do something about it (motivating).

  • The yin of self-compassion contains the attributes of “being with” ourselves in a compassionate way—comforting, soothing, validating ourselves.

  • The yang of self-compassion is about “acting in the world”—protecting, providing, and motivating ourselves.

f you'd like to dive deeper into the yin and yang of self-compassion with me, and learn how to integrate it into your life, consider joining The Healing Habits Retreat, 21-26 January in Andalusia, Spain. It's a small & intimate retreat, offering mindfulness techniques, Dharma, music, yoga, meditation, sound healing and compassionate self enquiry as ways & means to gain some perspective and insight, taking steps toward healing self-defeating habits and developing gentler self-care. We're including a workshop on self-compassion based on Neff's work and other self-compassion teachers in the field like Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.


Aside from the self-compassion workshop, we're offering a gorgeous blend of insightful dharma talks, powerful brain hacks, nourishing yoga, mindfulness practices, sound healing, dance, delicious food and so much more! January is the perfect time to assess, align our habits in accordance with our intentions for 2023.


A €100 discount is valid till January 9th 2023. Click here for all the details.


P.S. Which of these 6 common self-compassion misgivings below can you relate to most? For me, it was definitely the blue and grey (on self-indulgence and self-pity). IEEWW! ;-)


Love, Thalien xx



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